Armed Hostilities

America and the Great War

The Great War (also known as the First World War) was sparked by the sudden assassination of Austria-Este’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 (Lowe, 2012). However, the outstanding fact is that numerous forces played a critical role towards the development of the war. Historians have argued that the rivalries experienced in Europe within the past two centuries led to the war. This essay gives a detailed analysis of the issues surrounding the development and aftermath of the Great War.

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Forces Leading to the War

Several forces led to the World War I. The first force was militarism. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Great Powers in Europe began to strengthen their armies. The countries also began to increase their military expenditures. More people were recruited to join different armies in Britain, Germany, and France. A new “naval arms race emerged between Germany and Britain due to the increasing level of colonial rivalry” (Ersoy, 2012, p. 24). The creation of superior armies therefore catalyzed the war.

Nationalism gained a new meaning throughout the 19th century. In a country like Germany, the desire to become a global power was extremely high. France’s “craving for revenge over Lorraine was extremely strong” (Lowe, 2012, p. 29). It is agreeable that different European countries wanted to assert power and dominion across Europe. This kind of development created a new atmosphere for a major conflict.

The other potential cause of the war was the wave of imperialism. For very many years, Britain, Germany, and France were focusing on new colonies in different parts of the world. France and Britain had acquired the greatest number of colonies in Africa (Lowe, 2012). This achievement made it easier for the nations to amass wealth. This issue led to increased rivalry between Britain and Germany.

Pan-Slavism was another potential force that led to the Great War. The ideologies and tendencies experienced in the Balkans increased the tensions experienced in Europe. Nationalism also became evident on both sides. This issue escalated nervousness on the two sides. Consequently, Russia and France designed a new war plan against Germany (Lowe, 2012). That being the case, Pan-Slavism in Europe catalyzed new waves of nationalism in German-speaking nations.

The Alliance System

The origin of the Great War cannot be clearly understood without analyzing the role played by the alliance system. Before 1914, many nations had signed agreements and ententes in order to pursue their common goals. Some of the alliances were formulated secretly (Ersoy, 2012). This practice led to suspicions and tensions across the continent. For example, the Dual Alliance of 1879 was formed by Austria-Hungary and Germany. The alliance required the two nations “to support each other in case they were attacked by Russia” (Lowe, 2012, p. 29). The Triple Alliance was signed in 1882. The alliance brought together Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Germany. The alliance was catalyzed by anti-Russian and anti-French sentiments (Lowe, 2012). Similarly, the Franco-Russian Alliance was formed in the year 1894.

Britain and France signed a series of friendly agreements given the name the Entente Cordiale in 1904. The formations were motivated by specific issues such as the presence of common enemies. After the end of the 19th century, Russia, France, and Britain overcame their past differences and formed a new entente (Lowe, 2012).

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United States and the Great War

Why America Remained Neutral

The United States remained neutral during the early years of the war. This was the case because it was not “a signatory to the major agreements and alliances that led to the conflict” (Hynes, 2014, p. 12). The American president, Woodrow Wilson, brokered a peace agreement especially after the sinking of Lusitania in the year 1915 by Germany. During the same time, Germany agreed to stop attacking passenger ships. This agreement explains why America decided to retain its neutrality.

Ethnicity and America’s Neutrality

America’s neutrality during the early years of the Great War originated from the issue of ethnicity. During the time of the war, over 30 percent of the American citizens had a European background. This fact explains why the immigrants sympathized with their people back in Europe (Hynes, 2014). It was inappropriate to support one country and not the other.

America’s Entrance into the War

Several events can be used to describe why the United States chose to join the war. To begin with, the Germans continued to engage in submarine warfare. This malpractice resulted in several disputes between the US and Germany. By 1917, many American ships had been sunk by Germany’s u-boats (Ersoy, 2012). These attacks, according to the US, were unacceptable and inhumane. The second event was the infamous Zimmerman Telegram. The telegram was aimed at inviting Mexico to the war and ensuring that the US did not assist the Allies (Hynes, 2014). Germany had also “offered to return every lost land to Mexico” (Lowe, 2012, p. 63).

America’s Contributions

The entry of the United States into the Great War played a significant role towards reshaping the future of the war. The Americans presented powerful naval vessels that transformed the war effort in Europe. The Americans also facilitated transportation thereby making it easier for the Allies to win the war. Ersoy (2012) believes strongly that “the key to the end of the war was morale” (p. 26). The morale of the American soldiers combined with adequate resources played a major role towards rewriting history. The increased supplies empowered the fighters throughout the war period. The defeat of the Germans led to the end of the war.

Defeat of the Treaty of Versailles

After the end of the war, President Wilson proposed fourteen points aimed at creating a peaceful world. He also wanted the world to have a powerful organization capable of preventing internal conflicts (Slavicek, 2010). Unfortunately, the Europeans had already outlined their ideas that differed significantly from those of Woodrow Wilson.

The United States “failed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and join the League of Nations” (Slavicek, 2010, p. 22). According to the opinions of many experts, the country failed to ratify it because of the enmity between Woodrow Wilson and Henry Lodge (Hynes, 2014). Wilson’s worsening health condition made it impossible for him to support the treaty. The ethnic groups in the country were also against the document. For instance, the German Americans were against the treaty because it treated their fatherland harshly (Slavicek, 2010). The treaty also failed to consider the independence of Ireland. Eventually, Wilson advised members of his party to devastate the treaty.

After the failure of the League of Nations, the United States was “forced to come into terms with the ineffective League of Nations and the unfair Treaty of Versailles” (Slavicek, 2010, p. 49). Consequently, the US would be forced intervene in a bloodier and overwhelming conflict in the name of the Second World War.

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Ersoy, E. (2012). An unconventional approach to the historiography of World War I. Atılım Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 2(2), 21-36.

Hynes, S. (2014). The unsubstantial air: American fliers in the First World War. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Lowe, J. (2012). The Great Powers, imperialism and the German problem 1865-1925. New York, NY: Rutledge.

Slavicek, L. (2010). The Treaty of Versailles. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers.

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