Here’s a artistic essay on the question of “Who/what is to blame for WWI?”
Germany and Austro- Hungary are the easiest countries to blame for World War 1. Its the truth countries are easy to blame for war because some country does take the first move but what really should be blamed is the reason behind that move and that reason in often entirely based on nationalistic ideas or Nationalism. At some point in any country’s time, the leaders would feel patriotic and have an urge to defend their country’s honour and what better way to show that but war. WWI happened because of Nationalism which included factors such as but not limited to mobilisation, territorial expansion, treaties and alliances.
In the case for WWI, many points and events leading up to it, but everyone has agreed that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife by a Serb was the tipping point that drives the chain of events we now call WWI. Yes, that was the tipping point however the reason behind the assassination was that the heir to the throne was visiting a city that once belonged to Serbia but was now part of Austria-Hungary. This meant that this Serb was filled with Patriotism and Nationalism to defend their country and he decided that the best way to do that would be to murder Archduke Ferdinand, and he did exactly that. Now his murder was a huge loss to the Austro-Hungarian empire, but the actions that they took were filled with anything but grief. They wanted Serbia as part of their empire, and they had fought the Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913 and this was a golden opportunity to seize Serbia and destroy it served on a Silver Platter. Now assassinations of leaders have happened before, so they’re nothing new and nothing unknown but what was different about this one was, that this one led to a world war. The actions that Austro-Hungary took were the real reason behind the war because those actions were driven by Nationalism, they wanted to expand their territories and show Europe that they were a big baddie furthermore Austro-Hungary and Germany were fully aware that sending an impossible ultimatum to Serbia and then later declaring war would bring Russia and France to play. What is even more astonishing is that both Austro-Hungary and Germany thought they were capable of defeating Russia, France, Serbia and possibly Britain.
The Ultimatum sent to Serbia was impossible to accept however Serbia accepted as many terms as they could, but the anger that Austro-Hungary lashed out after it was returned was unnecessary, but ofcourse this anger and the idea of war was driven because of Nationalism yes, but also because of the Blank cheque. The Blank Cheque given to Austro-Hungary by Germany was something that continually pushed Austro-Hungary to push for war because they had the support of Germany. That blank cheque could’ve also stopped the war in its track (for the time being) since Germany had no obligation to give that cheque, they could’ve easily said no, but they didn’t because Germany thought a war would be beneficial for territorial expansion. But to also prove themselves the ultimate power in Europe because they knew that there was a chance that Britain and France would be in this war and they had the strongest naval and cavalry (respectively) in Europe. Although Russia didn’t want war, it was preparing for it the earliest because they knew that their mobilisation would take time and therefore they had to be ready to fight as soon as possible, again Nationalism. So Russia started mobilising which made Germany scared and they started too, which ultimately startled France who also sent troops to their border with Germany. Germany had a plan to attack both Russia and France through a plan which went through to the French, defeat the French and then make their way up to Russia back through Germany. However, there was a problem with that they couldn’t directly go through the French border because the French had heavy cavalry and it was at the border, so they could either go through Switzerland or Belgium. If they went through Switzerland, they would have to go through mountains and possibly fight armed people who could ski. So they decided Belgium which was easier however Belgium had a treaty with Britain, who had vowed to protect Belgium’s neutrality and it was signed. Germany fully aware of this treaty still decided to go through Belgium which brought Britain in, who sided with France and Russia. This tells us that Germany’s decision was based on Nationalism because they wanted to win the war and going through Switzerland would have decreased the chances of winning. So they did something in their best interests; however, they ignored a huge threat which ended up reducing their chances anyway, which shows you how Nationalism can blind someone to conflicts they could’ve prevented or stopped.
Territorial Expansion was also one of the main things that drove the war because all the empires wanted to increase their territory not only in Europe but in the whole world. There were empires in Europe who had colonies overseas, and once they were defeated in Europe, their colonies would be up for grabs perfect way to get more territory in Europe and out in the world. Austria-Hungary had always wanted Serbia, but due to conflicts and annexations they never really had gotten the chance it takes it all, but when the assassination happened, and some terms in the ultimatum were refused. They took the opportunity to have a war, which would allow them to take Serbia as part of Austro-Hungary which as a result would provide them with access to the other countries in that area but also access to the Ottoman Empire and Russia. This was all driven by Nationalism because wanting to conquer land and expanding their empires could only be beneficial to their countries and no one else. Although it was stupid of Germany to give the Blank Cheque to Austro-Hungary, they probably did it because if they won the war, Germany could easily conquer France and Russia and expand their empire and land as much as possible which would’ve been a huge threat for Britain if it hadn’t joined the war. This shows you how even the smallest of actions can be driven by Nationalism for a bigger goal for the benefit of the country.
Treaties and alliances were a huge part of WWI because it never would’ve turned into one because of them. The war could’ve been just the 3rd Balkan war, but it wasn’t because Russia was allied with Serbia and came to help when conflict arose. Similarly, France came in because Russia was going to war, again alliances. And finally, Britain came in because of a treaty with Belgium. This war could have also been a local European war, but it wasn’t because every nation was determined to win and they wanted the best army to do so, so they brought in people from their colonies around the world thus the name world war I. So if we wanted we could blame alliances for WWI but the alliances happened under Nationalism because these countries wanted support in case they ever went to war, they were trying to protect themselves and to be in alliances with other nations that could help was the perfect solution. Although the Treaties and alliances were the reason that the war turned into a worldwide one, the reasons behind these treaties and alliances say otherwise. In order to blame something for war, the events that lead up to it should be looked at, and in this case, the lead up to WWI could be blamed on alliances and treaties, these treaties were made to help each other in the case of war; they were made to protect the country’s interests and that falls under Nationalism. For example, France allied with Russia, the second Germany let them go, which shows how France wanted Russia to be on its side because Russia shared a border with Germany and in case of war it would be easy to attack Germany from both sides, making it a two-front war for Germany.
This shows how even though things look different Nationalism is driving urges and actions towards war and conflict right under our noses. WWI was a big conflict which could’ve been scaled down to just a European war or the 3rd Balkan war however many different factors affected, for example, mobilisation, alliances, treaties and Territorial expansion. The alliances and treaties brought in the whole world and mobilisation alerted the other nations however the one thing to really blame is nationalism because Nationalism is what drives these things, to be ready for war or to have support for a war. If you look at one conflict or another Nationalism will always be behind them. WWI could never have been prevented; it could’ve been stopped or slowed but never stopped because the countries involved wanted to expand territory and they wanted to be the best. And that would’ve always led to war because as much as anybody would’ve tried, they would never be able to stop a leader of an wanting to be the best. Because in the end, Nationalism will always foster war.
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