Long and Short Term Causes of WWI
There were several long-term events that led to the outbreak of World War One. The most prominent factors include: nationalism, militarism, imperialism, the Balkan and Morocco crises, and the alliance system. Ironically, these things were either started in response to, or upheld because of, one of the other factors. The alliance system
was one of the last factors to emerge before the war. Consequentially, the contributions of this system to the beginning of the Great War have to be considered. Although the alliance system was a main cause of the First World War, it arose because of several other factors, and did not cause the war single handedly.
Nationalism, the love and support of one's country, has always existed. In this era, however, it was to take part in the creation of one of the most famous wars in history. Since so much pride was devoted to countries, it made the possibilities of peace between past rivals less probable. It also meant that most nations, especially the great powers
, would rather fight a war than back down from a rival's diplomatic provocation. In effect, nationalism was also a contributing factor to the alliance system. No country feels comfortable being in a war alone, and with the growing militaries in almost every country, allies provided much comfort.
The supreme present of militarism, "a policy of aggressive military preparedness" , in this period of time gave all countries great reason to feel the heavy weight of an oncoming war. Great Britain's naval policy (to always be twice as big as the next two largest navies put together), along with the predominate feeling of war provided countries with a strong reason to try and create an incredibly strong military force. This led to an arms race
, which made the impending war seem inevitable. The military planning in some countries also caused an increased fear of war. Since military machines were being developed, each country was appointing a general staff of experts. The greatest problem with this was that there was a fear that "some chief of staff, in order to maintain the schedule on his 'timetable', might force an order of mobilization and thus precipitate war." These two factors also led, in part, to the alliance system. If two or more countries are allied with each other then they have a better chance of defeating their common enemy if war is declared. They also have a higher probability of winning in a war on more than one front if they have alliances providing support.
Imperialism is defined as the control of one people by another politically, economic exploitation, or the imposition of culture on another group. This not only played a large part in the creation of the alliance system, but it also created enemies for many countries, which led to solid grounds for war. For example, Austria wanted to dominate the Balkans in order to check he propaganda coming from Serbia. Germany supported Austria in its Balkan policy because it wanted to exploit the rich recourses of Asia Minor, and had to have a peaceful route through the Balkans to get there. In this way, it led to the alliance of Germany and Austria when war was impending. Imperialism led countries to have conflicting national interests, which also led to war, as each country thought that they were right and wanted to convert other cultures to be more like their own.
With nationalism, militarism, and imperialism all showing large presences at the same period in time, a solid ground was formed for the alliance system to build itself on. The Dual Alliance between Germany and Austria was formed, the Triple Alliance between Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Italy was created, and the Triple Entente was created between France, Russia, and Great Britain. Although the Triple Entente was not an official alliance, they all maintained a very close understanding, and were viewed by many as a threat.
The crises in Morocco and the Balkans had a devastating result only because these crises occurred one directly after another. The several crises in these regions followed by what is known as the "third Balkan crisis" led to what most would say was the immediate cause of the war. It was what caused the most damage, possibly only because it was following soon after the first two. On June 28, 1914, the Black Hand, a Bosnian revolutionary, assassinated the heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Francis Ferdinand. As a form of retaliation, Austria decided to end the South Slav separatism, and issued an ultimatum: Austrian officials must be allowed to collaborate in the investigation and punishment of the assassinators. Austria, with the support of Germany, then declared war against the Serbs, since they had refused the ultimatum. Then, on August 1, 1914, Germany demanded that Russia's military mobilization cease, and when Russia refused, Germany declared war. Russia then declared war on France, convinced that it would enter anyway. Germany was ten devastated when Great Britain entered the war, too. As one country declared war on another all alliances were brought into the war, too, and the First World War soon resulted. Thus, the alliance system was holds the greatest responsibility for the breakout of a world war. However, the alliance system might have never occurred had it not been for nationalism, militarism, and imperialism. Furthermore, the Morocco and Balkan crises did not directly cause the war, but they were used as justification for the war to begin. Hence, many factors contributed to the formation of the alliance system, which led to feeling of tension between enemy countries, and the third Balkan crisis paved the way for the war to begin.