Were German militarism and diplomacy responsible for WWI?  

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There are many culprits among the great nations of Europe when it comes to assigning blame for World War I . It is impossible to solely blame any one country because the decisions that led to that disastrous war were spread throughout the European elite. That being said, yes, German...

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There are many culprits among the great nations of Europe when it comes to assigning blame for World War I. It is impossible to solely blame any one country because the decisions that led to that disastrous war were spread throughout the European elite. That being said, yes, German militarism and diplomacy were important contributing factors.

The problem, in hindsight, with German diplomacy is that it took a backseat to militarism. The country's leadership backed the military in the goal of a quick, knock-out win that would make Germany the undisputed power on the European continent and relegate Great Britain to second-class naval status with Germany dominating the high seas. This plan was, of course, known to the rival powers and did not endear Germany to them. Further, Germany, like the other European countries, engaged in secret treaties with other nations, increasing the possibility of a major war.

Underlying all of this was the growth of German militarism after the German states united as a single nation in 1870. Germany was a destabilizing influence in Europe because it wanted to use its newfound military and economic power to challenge Great Britain, the undisputed superpower at the time. Although weakening because of its own poor decisions, Britain had absolutely zero intention of passing the baton to an arrogant Germany, and it especially had no intention of giving up its naval dominance. It was fully prepared to, and did, fight a war to prevent Germany from taking greater power. If Germany had been less bent on swaggering dominance and more on power sharing, that might have helped avert a war.

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World War I began on July 28, 1914, and would last until an armistice with Germany was signed on November 11, 1918. The causes of this war cannot be attributed to any single country or policy, but to a culmination of many factors that reached a tipping point in 1914.

As I'm sure you already know, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was the spark that set the war in motion. Had this event been contained between Serbia, Bosnia, and Austria, it is doubtful that other nations would have gotten involved. To understand how this act of violence could prompt such a large scale war, one must first examine the system of alliances that were in place in Europe in the 1910s. During this time, many nations feared the growing military and technological power of their neighbors, prompting them to make strategic alliances to pool their power in case of a conflict. This eventually resulted in two divisive alliances being formed, with nearly every European country belonging to one side or the other. So, when a small conflict between two small nations on opposite sides of the alliance broke out, the larger nations felt obligated to support their allies, which effectively expanded the conflict on an exponential scale.

In short: The growth of German militarism in the 1910s contributed to the formation of strategic alliances across Europe, as well as the arms race, for many nations feared being less powerful than their neighbors. As for German diplomacy, their decisions to aid in Austria's retaliatory attacks on Serbia, and to declare war on Russia, succeeded in expanding the scale of World War I.

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