Involving countries in military conflicts always implies certain circumstances that directly affect the specific interests of states. World War I is an example of how political ideologies and movements can influence the course of history and people’s perception of current events. The participation of different countries in this global conflict was due to a divergence in many views on the world order. The role of the United States in this war also proved significant, despite America’s temporary neutrality. The force-based methods of resolving political disagreements may lead to serious consequences, and the example of World War I proves that alliances for fighting opponents can be crucial in the context of conflicts’ outcomes.
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Prerequisites of War in the Context of Nationalism, Imperialism, and Militarism
The growing demand for the supply of raw materials and new markets forced the UK, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Japan, and the United States to enter the intense competition (Morrow, 2016). The purpose was the final division of the world space into the spheres of influence. It was largely explained by purely internal social problems in the Western European states where the labor movement spread.
Therefore, imperialist foreign expansion was considered by many politicians not only as a means of accumulating capital and raising the rate of profit but also as a fail-safe way of solving the social issue within the country. Despite rather developed industry systems in the aforementioned countries, the lack of resources led to the need to look for new ways of gaining credibility. As a result, disagreements led to hostilities, and the world became involved in the global conflict.
Political Movements and Their Effect
At the beginning of the last century, united Germany that was not modernized capitalistically turned into a formidable force. A strong militaristic structure multiplied by broad national-chauvinistic sentiments among people advanced this European country to the path of open military aggression. Morrow (2016) gives the example of “continental imperialists,” in particular, Pan-Germans and Pan-Slavs (p. 10). The purpose of raising these movements was to rally the people of the same ideology for the sake of strengthening common views and ideas. Both in Eastern Europe and in the German-speaking states, there were different approaches to the perception of an ideal society.
World War I was the first total conflict that was provoked by the national-chauvinistic and militaristic ideas of those who refused to live according to the principles of liberal democracy. According to Morrow (2016), “the Great War is a landmark history that firmly places the First World War in the context of imperialism” (p. xi). As a result of mixing all these political movements, serious contradictions acquired an open forum, and a significant part of countries became embroiled in military actions that had severe outcomes.
Impact of the Alliance System
Unification with the purpose of achieving goals at any cost led to the emergence of large alliances, and it was this system of military operations that were maintained throughout the global conflict. As a result of the separation of views and rivalry, two major political associations emerged. Germany created the first in Europe military-political block – Triple Alliance that included Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary (Morrow, 2016).
The representatives of the other side were Russia, France, and the USA that joined the latter, and the name of this group was Entente (Morrow, 2016). Due to the fear of isolation, all the members of the unions sought to establish a system of mutual assistance to the allies. The use of such a system greatly influenced the course of the war and its outcomes.
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America’s Role in World War I
When the hostilities of gigantic proportions broke out in Europe, the US government declared its neutrality immediately and maintained this status until April 1917 (Brock, 2015). This situation was due to several factors, for instance, an isolationist tradition deeply rooted in the minds of Americans and the relative weakness of the military component of the US power. The country’s armed forces, in particular, the land army, were clearly inferior to all the great powers.
However, most importantly, neutrality was extremely beneficial to the United States. According to Brock (2015), huge military supplies to Europe allowed the US to turn into a worldwide creditor by the end of the war, brought profits to American corporations, and helped to solve or at least significantly alleviate many social problems. While the war exhausted the country’s main competitors in the international arena, the United States, while not participating in the war, strengthened its position as one of the leading world powers steadily.
The US Contribution and the Defeat of the Treaty of Versailles
By the end of 1916, the attitude of the American leadership to what happened in Europe began to change. Woodrow Wilson won the presidential elections for the second time in November 1916 (Link, 2017). Later, he began to incline to the fact that the victory of Germany in this war would not be in line with the interests of the United States. Using all possible means, Wilson started to prepare public opinion for the fact that opponents’ extremely aggressive behavior and their disregard for the rights of neutral states forced the United States to seek adequate measures to protect its interests.
America entered the war in April 1917; however, Wilson’s administration had to solve the whole complex of challenges (Link, 2017). The first block of questions was related to the implementation of mobilization measures. The second one concerned those principles that were necessary to ensure the smooth operation of the economy in the emergency conditions of wartime. Quite soon, it became obvious to the US authorities that without the strict regulation of various economic aspects, it was impossible not to cause the aggravation of social problems. The federal authorities took over the regulation of the markets for food, raw materials, fuel, and labor relations.
The entry of the USA into the war improved the prospects for the Entente to win. As Link (2017) notes, in January 1918, Wilson made the public statement of the American plans for the postwar world order until 1930. The proposal to create the League of Nations was the key point of this program. The committee was planned as a universal international organization designed to ensure the stable and sustainable development of the postwar system of international relations.
Years after the war were marked by crises in European countries and, in particular, in Germany. According to the results of the Versailles Treaty, significant restrictions were imposed on the country, but ultimately, the pact was defeated, which resulted in the further development of nationalist ideas (Neiberg, 2017). Many countries considered this Treaty to be demeaning; therefore, it could not receive enough recognition, and America continued to be one of the world leaders.
In accordance with the analysis of the political situation in the world on the eve and during World War I, it can be noted that alliances were the typical practice of fighting with opponents. The US’s role in the victory was tangible, but the country did not enter the war for a long time. Important proposals were made by President Wilson regarding the strengthening of peace and the creation of an advanced control system over the violation of established procedures. The spheres of influence changed significantly, but such political movements as imperialism, nationalism, and militarism continued to exist in the future.
Brock, P. (2015). Pacifism in the United States: From the colonial era to the First World War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Link, A. S. (2017). Woodrow Wilson and a revolutionary world, 1913-1921. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press Books.
Morrow, J. (2016). The Great War: An imperial history. New York, NY: Routledge.
Neiberg, M. S. (2017). The Treaty of Versailles: A concise history. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.