Was World War I really an avoidable tragedy? (2023)

key point: Imperial Germany wanted to be a superpower.

The centenary of the outbreak of World War I has revealed a huge gulf between the general public's perception of the war and that of historians, at least in the English-speaking world. Experts, commentators and politicians often say that World War I was an unnecessary and inevitable catastrophe, which is repeatedly linked to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serb terrorist in Sarajevo on the 28th. The general impression among the general public is that nobody was blamed for the greatest conflagration in world history before World War II. Literary and cinematic masterpieces like Remarguenothing new in the westand Kubrickpaths of gloryreinforced the perception that the conflict demonstrated the absurdity of war. The lesson is that war is like catastrophic climate change: a destructive force to be avoided and in which everyone is an accomplice.

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In the English-speaking world, this popular interpretation of the First World War has deep roots in isolationism, in the international peace campaigns of the early 20th century and, above all, in Woodrow Wilson's call for a "peace without victory". In the European Union it is certainly useful to treat World War I as a product of abstract forces like the arms race or nationalism in order to minimize national animosity.

But unlike lectures, most historians have published since Fritz FischerGermany's Goals in World War I(1961) tend to agree that the main cause of World War I was Imperial Germany's determination to become a "world power" or superpower by fighting Russia and France in what it hoped would be a short and decisive war, like the War Franco-Prussian of 1870. /71. After the Archduke's assassination, Berlin deliberately used the crisis in relations between its satellite Austria-Hungary and Russia's satellite Serbia as a pretext for a general war aimed at establishing German hegemony from Belgium to Baghdad. World War I started in 1914 for the same reason that World War II started in 1939: a government in Berlin wanted a war, but not the war it ended up with.

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The German government's secret "September Program" of 1914 envisaged separating territories from France and turning Germany's neighbors into "vassal states" (a term used for Belgium in the document). The 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, negotiated between Germany and the Soviet government it helped establish in Moscow, pulled Russia out of the war, gave Germany the Baltic states and part of Belarus, and turned an independent Ukraine into a satellite. German. Summing up the September program and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, one has a startling vision of a German continental empire as vast as Hitler envisioned, although in contrast to Hitler's genocidal empire of German colonists, the Kaiser's empire was a traditional vassals. German-dominated states.

Advocates of the "everyone's fault" interpretation of World War I point out that Germany's enemies also had expansive war aims, and that Britain and France divided the Ottoman Empire after the war. But that is beside the point. The alliance between Russia, France, and Britain was a defensive one, sparked by Germany's warmongering drive to become a global power, not just a regional one. There had been numerous wars in the Balkans in the preceding decades, and the conflict between Austria and Serbia might have been limited to the Balkans if Berlin had chosen that option. Instead, German rulers used Sarajevo as an excuse to do what they wanted to do anyway: become a "world power" by dominating Europe through war.

British historian Niall Ferguson once suggested that if Britain and the United States had stayed out of World War I, aEuropa Centralfounded by himEmpireIt could have evolved into something like the current European Union. Absurd. Within the German Empire, victory would have strengthened authoritarian militarists and weakened the forces of liberalism and democracy. The political culture would not have been that of today's bourgeois Germany, but that of a Latin American banana republic or that of today's Thailand or Egypt, illiberal regimes in which generals and colonels pull the strings.

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A German victory in World War I would have created a European superpower that, while less insane and murderous than Hitler's abortive superstate, would have been far more formidable than the Soviet Union. Soviet Russia was a backward nation that controlled the poorer half of Europe during the Cold War. Had it won World War I, Imperial Germany would have been the most advanced nation in Europe and would dominate the richest region in the world.

Was this new superpower, created in a bloody war of aggression by Berlin, a power of the status quo? It seems more likely that the German imperial elite, emboldened by success, rushed to wage a Cold War against the British Empire and the US in the Western Hemisphere. In any hypothetical German-American Cold War, Imperial Germany could have mobilized superior scientific and technological resources, including areas such as chemistry and space science in which it was a world leader. And in contrast to the Hitler regime, a triumphal marchEmpirehe probably would not have allowed distinctions between "Jewish science" and "Aryan science" to stand in the way of developing nuclear weapons.

Bismarck's Germany was a status quo power. Post-Bismarck Germany was a rogue state. Wilhelm II did not dream of exterminating the Jews and enslaving the Slavs, but in his cruelty and radicalism he was a proto-Hitlerian. To achieve the goal of creating a German superpower, Wilhelm and his officers tried to paralyze Britain and France by fomenting a global Muslim jihad and to ensnare the US in a border war with Mexico (the Zimmerman Telegram). Last but not least, Imperial Germany successfully crippled Russia by supporting Lenin's Communist coup in October 1917. The Emperor and his soldiers and diplomats were not prudent Old World statesmen, chess players. They were radical revisionists who turned the tables and trampled on the pieces.

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for what? What was the alternative so horrible, so unimaginable that the Imperial Regime and then the Third Reich were willing to plunge the world into two wars that killed a total of 75 to 100 million people and devastated Germany in the process? The unthinkable alternative for the imperial German ruling class was that a peaceful status quo in Germany within its 1871 borders would be no more than the richest country in a rich and peaceful Europe enjoying cooperative relations with Britain and the United States. United.

in your bookEuropa Central[Central Europe] (1917) Friedrich Naumann - himself a moderate German national liberal - considered and discarded the option that Germany could be a European regional power linked to the English-speaking world:

For emotional reasons, despite all the "hate songs" of the war, it is easier for us to think of a lasting union with the British superpower [than an alliance with Russia]. In that case, as one of my friends says, we became a minority partner in the English World Company, supplying confidential agents and servants, building ships and sending masters to the colonies, supplying the English trading centers with German goods, well made and well made. done, paid for, speaking English outside your own four walls, enjoying English internationalism and fighting future English battles against Russia... All this would be resolved the English way in quite reasonable and pleasant ways, but our history of the German Reich would have become a territorial history, like that of Saxony today or that of Württemberg. A great nation only does this when there is nothing else to do. We know that most of the world's nations have no choice but to pursue this alliance, one way or the other, but a greater goal draws us through our strength and experience: to become a focal point ourselves!

(Video) Was World War I inevitable?

Nauman was wrong. Like the leaders of West Germany after World War II and of reunified Germany after the Cold War, the leaders of Germany a century ago should have chosen the alternative of being an honest, highly paid junior partner in "the company." -American. If they had, the world would have been spared World War I, World War II, and probably Soviet Communism and the Cold War as well.

It's time to dispel the myth that World War I was a senseless and preventable tragedy, while World War II was a just and necessary crusade. World War I and World War II had the same cause: the desire of German elites to transform Germany from a regional power into a world superpower through aggressive warfare, and the same result: the defeat of Germany at the hands of a defensive group. coalition of Russia, Great Britain, France and United Kingdom United States. If correct, the German conquest of Europe by theFührer, it was also correct to prevent the German conquest of Europe by the Kaiser. Fortunately, the world today had what the world needed in 1914 and 1939: a European Germany, not a German Europe.


Was the first world war avoidable? ›

World War I, however, didn't officially begin until a month after Ferdinand's assassination, and though tensions were high, the fight wasn't inevitable, according to Ronald Spector, professor of history and international affairs.

Why was World War One not avoidable? ›

The Unpreventable Great War World War I was one of the most devastating and destructive events that occurred during history. It was inevitable to happen due to three main factors including, militarism, nationalism, and alliances between certain countries.

Why is World War 1 considered a tragedy? ›

Other than the obvious, why is World War I considered a tragedy? Not much was accomplished so it was a useless war. So what was the immediate cause of the war? How long were the trenches used on the Western Front of the war?

How was WWI not inevitable? ›

None of this however made war inevitable. It was the decisions taken by the individuals in response to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo that ignited the war, triggering a chain of alliances, which like NATO's Clause V, were actually designed to prevent it.

Is war ever avoidable? ›

While specific wars are not inevitable, war—the use of organized force to resist aggression or unbearable tyranny—will always be with us. The First World War was far from inevitable.

What was the most avoidable war? ›

Churchill often described World War II as avoidable.

Why did people not want ww1? ›

However, trade unions feared that their members might be replaced by cheaper foreign or female labour and opposed conscription. Some groups argued that the whole war was immoral, and it was unjust to force people to fight.

Is war a tragedy? ›

War is tragedy. The great war stories are tragedies. It's the failure of diplomacy. 'War and Peace,' 'A Farewell to Arms,' 'For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Was WW1 a pointless war? ›

It was a sad, pointless war, for which we're still paying a price. A hard-hearted peace treaty and a ravaged economy produced a “lost generation” of young Germans and led directly to the rise of Hitler and an even uglier worldwide conflagration.

What were the 3 main reasons for world war 1? ›

This increase in militarism helped push the countries involved into war. The immediate cause of World War I that made the aforementioned items come into play (alliances, imperialism, militarism, nationalism) was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary.

Why should we avoid a war? ›

War not only kills, it also mains people, separates family members, causes disease, hunger and other forms of deprivation. Toxic substances released by some weapons result in severe birth defects, long after wars are officially over.

Was ww1 avoidable Quora? ›

It was inevitable. The trigger was the assignation of the Arch Duke but in reality a war between Russia and Austria was inevitable over the Balkans.

Why war is ever justified? ›

Augustine said there were three just causes: defending against attack. recapturing things taken. punishing people who have done wrong.

How could wars be avoided? ›

The usual strategies suggested by political scientists and international relations experts to prevent war include arms control and diplomacy. Approaches to arms control and diplomacy vary in their actual and potential effectiveness.

Was WWII avoidable? ›

Conclusion. World War II was one of the most destructive global wars that could have been avoided. Millions of people were killed, including more than 6 million Jews. After the defeat of Germany in World War I, clauses were appended to the Treaty of Versailles to punish Germany as one of the main aggressors.

Why was WWII not inevitable? ›

Despite the simmering tensions around the globe at the time, World War II was not inevitable. It happened because people in power made decisions throughout the interwar period that helped set the fuse of conflict on fire, ultimately leading to an explosion.

What happened to people who refused to fight in WW1? ›

In the First World War, those who refused to fight in the conflict – known as conscientious objectors (COs) – were often treated harshly and vilified. These attitudes softened, however, over the course of the 20th century.

How did WW1 affect people? ›

Because of the war, many people suffered from disease and malnutrition because of food shortages brought about by a disruption in trade. Millions of men were also mobilized for the war, taking their labor away from farms, which cut down food production.

Who was not allowed to fight WW1? ›

In January 1916 the Military Service Act was passed. This imposed conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41, but exempted the medically unfit, clergymen, teachers and certain classes of industrial worker.

What was most tragic about the war? ›

Explanation: The most tragic about the war was that many people lost their lives,many women became widow and many new born babies died.

Can war ever be just explain? ›

A just war must be initiated by a political authority within a political system that allows distinctions of justice". Force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose—correcting a suffered wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain or maintaining economies is not.

Why is war not justified? ›

The act of war cannot be justified for three main reasons: the horrendous short term and long term effects, wars are fought for misguided ideas of power and of righteousness, and wars are fought because of the darkest or most evil part of human nature.

Was the First World War Successful Why or why not? ›

The Allies won World War I after four years of combat and the deaths of some 8.5 million soldiers as a result of battle wounds or disease. Read more about the Treaty of Versailles. In many ways, the peace treaty that ended World War I set the stage for World War II.

What were the most important reasons why World War 1 begin? ›

Six Causes of World War I
  • European Expansionism. ...
  • Serbian Nationalism. ...
  • The Assassination of Franz Ferdinand. ...
  • Conflicts over Alliances. ...
  • The Blank Check Assurance: Conspired Plans of Germany and Austria-Hungary. ...
  • Germany Millenarianism – Spirit of 1914.
1 Aug 2017

What are 5 reasons ww1 began? ›

I use the acronym M.A.N.I.A to help my students remember the 5 major causes of WWI; they are Militarism, Alliances, Nationalism, Imperialism, and Assassination. Each of these topics played a significant role in the reasons why WWI would begin.

What was World War 1 and why was it important? ›

The First World War destroyed empires, created numerous new nation-states, encouraged independence movements in Europe's colonies, forced the United States to become a world power and led directly to Soviet communism and the rise of Hitler.

What happens if you refuse to fight in WW1? ›

Once drafted into the Army, men disobeying orders faced a court martial. Anyone who fled the front could be shot. 'Conchies', as they were known, attracted considerable stigma among peers, says WW1 historian Dr Gerry Oram.

Was the War of 1812 avoidable or necessary? ›

One indication that the War of 1812 could have been avoided is that all of the problems cited by Madison in justifying the war were long running concerns that had risen and fallen in importance over the previous two decades. The U.S. and Great Britain had managed their differences without resort to war.

Who didn't want WW1 to happen? ›

Groups opposed to the war included the Russian Bolsheviks, the Socialist Party of America, the Italian Socialist Party, and the socialist faction led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in Germany (later to become the Communist Party of Germany).

What are you called if you refuse to go to war? ›

A conscientious objector (often shortened to conchie) is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion.

What happens if you refuse to fight in war? ›

Those who don't receive such status but refuse to fight can face court-martial and penalties from dishonorable discharge to prison. Pro- and anti-war sentiment divided the USA during the Vietnam War. From 1965 to 1973, 2.15 million people served in Vietnam.

What did they call people who refused to go to war? ›

In the First World War, those who refused to fight in the conflict – known as conscientious objectors (COs) – were often treated harshly and vilified.

Was the War of 1812 really necessary explain why or why not? ›

Although often treated as a minor footnote to the bloody European war between France and Britain, the War of 1812 was crucial for the United States. First, it effectively destroyed the Indians' ability to resist American expansion east of the Mississippi River.

Who wanted to avoid the War of 1812? ›

Why did the Federalists oppose the War of 1812 so vehemently? Many viewed the whole conflict as an unnecessary one, manufactured by James Madison and his Republican Party to further their own political interests.

Was the War of 1812 a success or failure? ›

The U.S. also declared victory, having successfully negotiated an end to its first war as a sovereign nation, made humble the "conqueror of Europe," and acquired millions of acres of Indian territory to expand its borders.

Was world war 1 just or unjust? ›

Unlike the second world war, the bloodbath of 1914-18 was not a just war. It was a savage industrial slaughter perpetrated by a gang of predatory imperial powers, locked in a deadly struggle to capture and carve up territories, markets and resources.

Who deserves the most blame for ww1? ›

The Treaty of Versailles, signed following World War I, contained Article 231, commonly known as the “war guilt clause,” which placed all the blame for starting the war on Germany and its allies.

Why was the First World War Inevitable? ›

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the immediate cause of a war between two great powers—Russia and the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire.


1. All Quiet: How Many People Really Died In World War One? | Great War In Numbers | Timeline
(Timeline - World History Documentaries)
2. Who Started World War I: Crash Course World History 210
3. Why the Great War was Inevitable
4. An Avoidable Disaster - The Tragedy of Mass Effect Andromeda
5. Archdukes, Cynicism, and World War I: Crash Course World History #36
6. Challenger: The Real Story of an Avoidable Disaster


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