Armed Hostilities

World War I: Nationalism and the US Impact

Table of Contents
  1. Alliances
  2. The US Interfering
  3. The US Impact
  4. References

Considering the belief that loyalty should be the greatest when it comes to nation and culture, nationalism is a way to describe this attitude. In the case of WWI, nationalism led to the development of a competitive worldwide environment where each country felt the urge to overpower its closest rivals. This increasing competition was maintained by a number of factors such as the market contention and the race for materials (Marshall, 2014). Another concept that contributed to the development of WWI was imperialism that made dominant countries search for resources more robustly after industrialization occurred. This led to an increase in demand and the advent of the term “militarism.” This concept adored military power and contributed to the development of the conflict between the countries that were ready to fight.

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The term “Pan-Slavism” stands for the willingness of Slav people with a common ethnic background to unite and achieve certain political and cultural objectives. This movement was created by the individuals that were responsible for creating and maintaining the sense of national identity (such as intellectuals, poets, and scholars) (Crocker, 2014). The radical nature of Pan-Slavists led to the development of opposing views that ultimately became the catalyst to the beginning of WWI.

In addition to this, German nationalism also contributed to the development of war premises. Considering the fact that Germany was a rather young nation at that time, the concept of unification and the process of dissemination of nationalist values were predictable (Herwig, 2014). German nationalism was also called Pan-Germanism due to its numerous similarities with the notion of Pan-Slavism. Accordingly, German nationalism was also supported by the country’s militarist attitude, and the strength of the German army defined the strength of its government at that time.


The problem with alliances consisted in the fact that they were verbalized behind closed doors. The public learned about those alliances only after they were signed. It was a common practice to negotiate without even consulting one’s partners. For example, Bismarck, Germany’s chancellor, failed to inform Austria-Hungary about Germany’s negotiations with Russia in 1887 (Van Ells, 2015). There were also secret clauses that were not recorded in any way and became known to the general public only after the end of WWI. This kind of reticent nature of alliances made former partners suspicious and contributed to the development of tensions between them. In addition to that, the changes in European alliances also increased the chances of war. The Dual Alliance of 1910, for example, claimed that Germany had to interfere with the state of affairs if Russia decided to attack Austro-Hungary. Therefore, the likelihood of the WWI was strengthened by an increasing level of militarization of alliances.

When it comes to the question of why the US took part in WWI, there are two main factors that can be discussed. First of all, it is the invasion of Belgium that was neutral throughout the whole war. Americans were outraged by the slaughters that were committed by Germans. The American press was overflooded with the stories of unarmed civilians being murdered. Regardless of heavy British propaganda, a strong anti-German feeling planted a seed of willingness to get involved in the WWI (Woodward, 2013). The second factor was a passenger ship titled Lusitania that was sunk by a German U-boat. In that incident, almost 130 American citizens were killed, and the country finally decided to intervene.

The US Interfering

The key premise to the US interfering with the WWI was the telegram that was sent to Mexico by the German Foreign Minister in 1917 (Crocker, 2014). It said that Mexico should declare war on America if the latter declared war on Germany. Nonetheless, the plan failed, and it led to the mobilization of US citizens against Germany. Regardless of the fact that Germany promised not to engage in any submarine warfare activity after the Lusitania incident, they torpedoed a ferry without warning shortly after that.

At the same time, the US chose to stay neutral at first due to its idealism. The fact of the US government seeing the WWI from a neutral perspective was unavoidable. This was the only option for the US because it chose not to join any alliances and this dogma became the key point of the US foreign policy. America’s neutrality was also maintained by the fact that approximately 30% of the country’s population consisted of individuals that were originally either born in Europe or were the descendants of European settlers (Van Ells, 2015). Quite a few European Americans sympathized with the European ally, but the majority of the American nation believed that it would be better to remain neutral.

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Wilson’s decision to impose his personal perspectives on the Congress was not the only reason that led to the agreement to interfere with the WWI. One of the key ideas that have to be reviewed here is the major impact of probable economic implications that would mean the shift in economic power on a global scale. Wilson realized that the industrial and financial aspects of war could be beneficial to the US (Marshall, 2014). As much as the trade was important to Europe, the US decided to intervene because it felt like their neutral stance would negatively affect the domestic economy. This decision was rationalized by the fact that not a single country involved in global business dealings could evade the WWI’s impact.

The US Impact

Even though at first the US did not have a big army, they managed to assemble a 2-million-man force in nineteen months. Those American troops majorly impacted the process of turning back the last German military of the WWI. Subsequently, it can be concluded that throughout the last stage of the WWI, the US served as the core attacking unit in quite a few battles (Marshall, 2014). The morale of German high command and frontline soldiers was devastated by the never-ending flow of American troops. Those actions also motivated France and Great Britain to develop more offensive operations that would later banish German troops from all the occupied territories.

The Treaty of Versailles failed due to the fact that there was a strict disagreement among the Allies regarding the best way to deal with Germany. Also, the terms of reparations were not approved by Germany. This led to the last reason that consisted of Germany’s refusal to accepts its guilt. When it comes to the discussion on the topic of the League of Nations and a failure to approve the Versailles Treaty, the hostility between Wilson and Lodge can be seen to play a critical role (Van Ells, 2015). President Wilson’s stubbornness led to the Republican party scuttling the treaty. In the end, there are several long-term consequences of these actions that led the League of Nations to a foreseeable failure. Throughout the next decades, the US could only be found on the sidelines of the Versailles Treaty that turned out to be unjust and provocative.


Crocker, H. W. (2014). The Yanks are coming: A military history of the United States in World War I. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing.

Herwig, H. H. (2014). The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918. London, UK: A&C Black.

Marshall, S. A. (2014). American heritage history of World War I. Boston, MA: New Word City.

Van Ells, M. D. (2015). America and World War I. Northampton, MA: Interlink Publishing.

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Woodward, D. (2013). America and World War I: A selected annotated bibliography of English-language sources. Florence, SC: Taylor and Francis.

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