Origins of wwi essay

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Origins of wwi essay

  1. 1. Yenning Lee Period 8 March 15, 2010 “‘Germany was responsible for the First World War’. Show how far you agree with this assertion” The First World War, starting from 1914 saw European nations of the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance fight each other in a total war that brought upon devastating results. Weltpolitik or “World Policy”, the German foreign policy which included goals for European hegemony are exhibited in Germany’s many actions regarding its interactions with foreign nations. The September Program, a document which displayed Germany’s ambitions for its control over Europe, along with accounts of militarism, colonial rivalry and general nationalism are evidences that account for the argument for the blame of Germany as the cause of the First World War. The September Program stated that France would be stripped of all its funds for military armament and must depend on Germany for economic support. Belgium was to become a vassal state to Germany and open up its coasts and ports for German military use, the nation was to essentially become “economically a German province”. A central European economic association was to be created. All participating nations in said economic association would submit to German leadership and are obligated to “stabilize Germany’s economic dominance over Mitteleuropa”. Germany’s emphasis on economic control over Europe is part of their weltpolitik ideology. By being the center of economic activity in Europe, Germany would be able to ascend to the status of a world power. In order to compete with Britain and France in terms of colonial reaches, the program stated that Germany was to acquire colonies in Central Africa. Additional colonies for Germany imply that Germany would be able to increase trade and raw materials for the good of the nation. The September Program ultimately exhibits German ambitions for hegemony over Europe, which would explain the reasons for its actions in the events leading up to the beginning of the First World War. Militarism can be accounted for the accusations of Germany’s responsibility for the war. Britain’s Royal Navy expansion to equal the combined size of two of
  2. 2. Europe’s strongest navies or the “two-power standard” created an obstacle for the German navy. As the Dreadnought sets out to sea, Germany needed to find a way to match up to Britain’s powerful navy and rise its status to a world power. Admiral Tirpitz’s plan for the “risk theory”, or strategy to increase the German navy’s size enough to pose a threat to Britain’s much large naval force can be seen as a plan to go to war. The German naval expansion was to keep British navy in its ports after being damaged in battles with German naval fleets. However, Britain needed the navy to protect its colonies and trade routes. As much as the German navy would continue to increase in size and power, Tirppitz’s “risk theory” would have only worked if Britain’s navy was dispersed to protect its imperial colonies and to oppose its enemies. Germany’s naval expenditures had created a rivalry with Britain and increased antagonistic vies from the British to the Germans Germany’s Schlieffen plan made an assumption that had the Russians gone to war with Germany, France would be supporting Russia and the German army would have to fight a war on two fronts. The plan would be for Germany to invade France through Belgium, assuming the Belgians would not resist their invasion, defeat France within six weeks then whip back to the Eastern front ready to fight the Russians, who would have still been preparing for war due to its underdeveloped transportation system. According to the plan, Germany would have been attacking France anyways even if it had never intended to support Russia. Germany only assumed that France would join in the war because of their obligations as allies, however if France had never intended to join the war, Germany would have been creating unnecessary conflict. Germany however, had not considered Britain’s involvement in the war. As the Germans initiated the Schlieffen plan in the early outbreak of the war on August 2, 1914, the Germans soon realized that they had greatly miscalculated their plans. Russia declared war and mobilized much quicker than Germany had expected, upsetting the entire plan. As German troops advanced through Belgium, they were faced with retaliation from Belgians and Britain, bound by an age old promise to protect Belgium became involved with the war (however, the mention of the promise may have just been a way to justify their entry in the war). The Schlieffen plan’s offensive defense only assured Germany that the war that was to happen would guarantee to involve many players. Germany’s concern over the affiliation between Britain and France caused it to test their relationship during the Tangier Crisis of 1905. Although France had the
  3. 3. approval of Britain, Spain and Italy to impose its spheres of influence on Morocco, Kaiser Wilhelm II offered the Sultan of Morocco to prevent the French takeover. Wilhelm had no intention of helping the Moroccans but was just trying to see if France would declare war on Germany and whether or not Britain would arrive to aid France in its conflict. The following Algeciras Conference of 1906 in Spain, it became clear that Britain is willing to support France in its claims over Morocco, confirming their bond with each other. War seemed to be nearing in 1911 during the Agadir Crisis in which Kaiser Wilhelm II once again interfered with Morocco. While the Moroccan town of Fez came under attack from rebels, the French government sent soldiers to soothe the issue and drive out the rebels. Seeing the act as an invasion of Morocco, Kaiser Wilhelm felt justified to send out a warship to Agadir, a port in Morocco which was near the British navy base of Gibraltar. Alarmed by the mobilization of the Germans, the British prepared themselves for war at sea. Although the crisis had been averted by Germany’s withdrawal of the German Navy, the event encouraged both Britain and Germany to intensify their naval race. By interfering with the issues of France, Germany had only created conflict for itself against France and Britain and antagonized itself to the two nations. To examine the short term causes of World War One, the justification of the alliance system is an issue. Austria had only confidently took action against Serbia for the assassination of Franz Ferdinand after Germany promised Austria that it would fully support its ally. Germany’s “Blank Cheque” telegram to Austria which assured its unconditional support gave Austria the confidence to declare war on Serbia. If it had not been for Germany’s assurance of support, Austria would not have taken action because Austria was weak militarily and feared that Russia would come to the aid of Serbia because of its similar Slavic population. However, Germany’s Blank Cheque should also be examined. Contradictory to what Germany had claimed, the telegram did not entirely suggest unconditional support. In an extract, the document read “as far as concerns Serbia, His Majesty [Kaiser Wilhelm II], of course cannot interfere in the dispute now going on between Austria-Hungary and [Serbia], as it is a matter not within his competence” which clearly states that Germany did not want to involve itself issues between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. However, the telegram goes on to say “The Emperor Francis Joseph…will faithfully stand by Austria- Hungary, as is required by the obligations of his alliance and of his ancient friendship”, exhibiting that although Germany wanted nothing to do with the issue
  4. 4. between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, it was still obligated to go to war simply because Germany and Austria-Hungary were allies. However, the support between allies could have just been another reason to justify Germany’s willingness to go to war. German historian Fritz Fischer viewed the cause of the First World War as completely at Germany’s fault and said that “After eliminating France as a great power, excluding British influence from the Continent and thrusting Russia back, Germany purposed to establish her own hegemony over Europe”. According to Fischer, Germany had its own agenda for it planned to dominate Europe as a world power. Germany committed its actions despite knowing all the risks of war because Germany had a “will to war”. On another viewpoint, American historian Sidney Bradshaw Fay argued that not only was Germany to blame for the cause of the First World War, but all of Europe had equal responsibilities to the outbreak of the war, as exhibited by his quote “A European War broke out. Why? Because in each country political and military leaders did certain things, which led to mobilizations and declarations of war, or failed to do certain things which might have prevented them. In this sense, all the European countries, in a greater or less degree, were responsible.” Though the troubles between Austria-Hungary and the Balkans can be accounted for the cause of the First World War, Germany’s fearful ambitions for the domination of Europe and hostility towards The Triple Entente sparked an obvious antagonism between each other. The Schlieffen Plan had also caught the involvement of more nations because of Germany’s hasty assumptions. In conclusion, although it may be true that all nations involved with the First World War may in one way or another, be responsible for the outbreak of the war, it was Germany that had intensified the hostility between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente.

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