The Cause of the Great War: World War I Essay

The Cause of the Great War: World War I Essay

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World War I was a conflict that claimed over 10 million peoples’ lives, ravaged all of Europe and engineered modern warfare, as it is know today. The Great War has been scrutinized and examined through many complex theories in order to understand how such a conflict escalated to one of the most epic wars in history. This essay, like many works before it, looks to examine WWI and determine its causes through two distinct levels of analysis, individual and systemic. The individual level of analysis locates the cause of conflicts in individual leaders or decision makers within a particular country, focusing on the characteristics of human decision-making. The systemic level of analysis explains the causation of a conflict from a system wide level that includes all states, taking in to account the distribution of power and the interaction of states in the international system.
I am looking to examine WWI from each level of analysis using a theory to explain actors’ decision-making. I argue that through the individual level of analysis WWI was caused primarily through psychological explanations. Decision making actors from each state made errors when processing information and events, this forced leaders to develop biases and beliefs that pointed towards war. While, through the systemic level of analysis WWI was caused by the cult of the offensive. Each state believed that their offensive advantages were so great that a defending force would have no hope of repelling an attack, only opting for offensive military strategies. Through this examination I hope to explain why WWI escalated to the conflict it became and potentially how it could have been avoided.
Lastly, I also seek to analyze this conflict from a modern perspective. Answer...


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...egain/gain land/properties. The system only needed a minor spark to light the wick. That spark was the Balkan region.
The Sarajevo assignation of Austria-Hungarian archduke Franz Ferdinand was all that was needed to plunge the European nations in to war. The assassination lead to powerful nations drawing lines in the sand and provide unwavering support of their allies in the event of conflict. German support if Austria-Hungary provides a strong example of offensive minded states that is using the situation to instigate a clash between its enemies. The evidence that no nation made significant attempts to diplomatically solve the problem and that militaries were mobilizing before war had even been declared, proves that offensive minded strategy was being implemented.
The period before the July crisis is exemplary of how states were undoubtedly preparing for war.

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