Armed Hostilities

Great War, US Participation, and Versailles Treaty


World War I was one of the most important wars in global history. The war led to the identification of world superpowers and showed how politics and economy are intertwined. Various reasons led to the start of the war. For instance, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was the breaking point for the war. Despite the numerous things that cause the breakout of the war, it is crucial for one to also understand some of the underlying factors that led to the war. Indeed, the buildup of the war started more than 20 years before WWI broke out. The essay will look into some of the elements that led to the buildup of the war. Additionally, the paper will provide a discussion on the role of the US in the war. Particularly, the discussion will seek to determine why America joined the war at the time it did. On the same note, the essay will give some reasons as to why the treaty of Versailles failed.

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Nationalism, Imperialism and Militarism

Nationalism, imperialism and militarism all had a role to play in the buildup to WWI. Experienced mainly in Germany, nationalism allowed Germany, specifically, to put its interest before the interests of other countries (Shepley, 2015). The feeling of nationalism was heavily inducted into the citizens that they were willing to die just to make sure that their country, Germany, realized its interests. Crucial to point out, pre-war, many countries in Europe had on many instances claimed to have superior military, culture and economies as compared to each other. Germany brought out the issue of nationalism as they were dedicated and passionate to fight and kill others to prove supremacy.

Imperialism was also cultivated pre-war and was one of the reasons why countries forged different alliances during the war. Since the different countries in Europe wanted to show their strength and importance, they felt the need to dominate each other. Mann (2016) explains that the rise of Pan-Slavism in Eastern Europe also enhanced a sense of imperialism. Countries in central Europe became worried that by joining forces through a cultural bond, the countries in Eastern Europe would have more power than those in Central Europe. Domination over the countries in Central Europe would have, therefore, been made easier. The countries in Central Europe, thus, decided to start putting up measures to defend themselves.

On the other hand, militarism was brought on by the alliance system. The system divided countries into two blocks, the central powers and the allied powers (Kidner, Bucur, Mathisen, McKee & Weeks, 2014). The central powers were made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Turkey (Kidner et al., 2014). On the other hand, the allied forces were made up of Russia, France, Great Britain, and the United States (Kidner et al., 2014).

Role of the US in World War I

Initially, the US was not part of the Allied forces of WWI. It was, however, pulled into the war due to several reasons. The first reason was the killing of 129 Americans after a German U-boat sank a British liner (Telegraph, 2014). Woodrow Wilson, the then president of America had just agreed to remain neutral in the war but after the death of the 129 Americans, the country decided that the war had to come to an end. As the US was still contemplating how they would help the war ended, the Zimmerman Telegraph was deciphered and it indicated that Germany was interested in giving out US territories to Mexico if they won the war (Telegraph, 2014). Important to note, even though nationalism was widespread in Europe, Americans also practiced it. It was this factor that allowed the presidency to acquire votes needed to declare war on Germany.

As mentioned, the US had initially agreed to remain neutral. There were several reasons why the country did not want anything to do with the war. The first reason is that the war had not had an impact on the country, or its interests, thus, was perceived to be a waste of time, money and human resource. It can also be argued that Americans did not want anything to do with Europe as they had already relocated and formed their own country. They did not want anything to do with ethnic battles that they had long escaped. It is only until the interests of the US were interfered with, and some US citizens were killed that the country joined the war in 1918. It can be argued that by joining the war, the US assured an ending of it. The US gave the Allied powers the human resource, and other resources they required to finish the war.

Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles was meant to end WWI after the US proposed 14 guidelines that Germany had to follow to maintain peace (Shepley, 2015). After deliberations, it was agreed that a peace framework would be developed to maintain peace after the war. However, both the US and Germany rejected the Treaty of Versailles. One of the reasons for rejecting the treaty was the fact that what had been agreed upon initially, was changed due to Germany’s allegations that the initial 14 points by the US were morally unacceptable.

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The failure of the Treaty of Versailles assured a more active role of the US in the next war. The US pledge to keep fighting for global liberation and they perceived that Germany would try to regain its power in the next war. Anticipating future war, the US started putting up measures to ensure success if a Second World War broke out. The failure of the Treaty of Versailles also acted as a surety of the Second World War.

President Woodrow Wilson played an important role in placing the US in the middle of the then global affairs. Before the war, he swayed the critical decision to keep off European politics. This worked advantageously for the US as the country did not use many resources. Also, during the war, it is Wilson who swayed the agreement to join the Allied forces and not the Central forces. After the war, and with the failure of the Treaty of Versailles, Wilson started discussions on the creation of the League of Nations, which eventually became the United Nations.


In conclusion, World War I began long before 1914. Countries in Europe had already started preparing for war in the early 1900s. Some of the elements that drove such decisions for preparation of war include nationalism, imperialism and militarism. The US, not interested in a war that did not affect any of its interests, opted to stay out until 1918, the last year of the war when 129 Americans were killed when a German sea vessel capsized a British boat that the Americans had boarded. This, and an intercepted call where Germany promised Mexico US territories encouraged declaration of war towards Germany by the US.


Kidner, L. F., Bucur, M., Mathisen, R., McKee, S., & Weeks, R. T. (2014). Making Europe: The story of the West, volume II: Since 1550, volume 2. Mason, OH: Cengage

Mann, L. T. (2016). World War I. New York, NY: Britannica Educational Publishing.

Shepley, N. (2015). Britain, France and Germany and the Treaty of Versailles: The failure of long term peace. London, UK: Andrews UK.

Telegraph. (2014, May 3). The war that launched the American Century. The Telegraph. Web.

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