World War I: This short essay reflects the basic causes of WWI and the United States reasoning for entering WWI
World War 1 was fought as a result of secret alliances formed in Europe in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The event which sparked the war was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand on June 28th 1914 at the hands of Gabriel Principe. Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was touring the nation of Serbia when a group of Bosnian nationalists named the Black Hand ordered his assassination. This act had a domino effect, and it quickly evolved into a war which spread rapidly through Europe.
Secret alliances in Europe, an ever changing definition of neutrality in the United States, cultural issues, military considerations, and an explosive chain of events between the U. S. and Germany led American President Woodrow Wilson to ask Congress to declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917. In order to understand WW1, you must first understand the secret alliances among European nations. Austria-Hungary and Germany were allies. Germany issued “carte blanche” to Austria-Hungary which prompted Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia in retaliation to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.
The Ottoman Empire entered the war on behalf of Austria-Hungary in order to gain territory from Russia and to gain control in the Balkans. Italy had a treaty with Germany, but later joined the allied powers in order to gain territory from Austria-Hungary. Serbia, which objected to Austria-Hungary’s demand to place troops within its borders, turned to Russia for support. When Russia mobilized its army, Germany demanded that it be demobilized. As a result of Russia’s refusal to do so, Germany attacked Russia. In reaction to Germany’s attack on Russia, France declared war on Germany because it had an alliance with Russia.
In the interim, the Belgians were at war with Germany because Germany marched through Belgium without their permission in order to attack France. As a result, England (which had a treaty with Belgium,) declared war on Germany. The end result of this web of alliances was two opposing coalitions. The Triple Entente, also known as the Allied Powers, included Britain, France, Russia, and eventually Italy, Japan, and the U. S. The Triple Alliance, also known as the Central Powers, included Germany, Austria-Hungary, and The Ottoman Empire. Most Americans adopted a policy of Isolationism during WW1.
They did not want wish to be involved in foreign affairs, least of all a war involving most of Europe. Pres. Wilson stated that the U. S. would remain neutral; however his definition of neutrality would change frequently during the course of the conflict. At the onset of the war, Wilson initiates a policy of complete neutrality. This means that not only would the U. S. refrain from assisting or trading with any of the warring nations, but it would ban private loans to them as well. By 1915, he realizes that this embargo could potentially plunge the U.
S. into a recession, so he redefines neutrality as the ability to trade with all of the warring nations. This policy quickly goes sour because Britain forms a blockade to prevent the U. S. from trading with Germany. Germany counteracts the British blockade by using U-boats to attack ships carrying cargo to Britain. On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat fired a torpedo at the British passenger ship Lusitania killing 1198 passengers, 128 of which were Americans. The Germans claimed that this sinking was justifiable because there were materials on board. Pres.
Wilson reacts by redefining neutrality as respecting the rights of neutral nations whether they decide to trade with everyone or no one. Germany initially complies with Pres. Wilsons wishes and pledges not to attack neutral ships. However, at this point in the conflict, the U. S. has ceased trade with Germany, and by 1916 is supplying the Allied Powers with 40% of their materiel in addition to loaning Britain and France money for the goods. In January 1917, Germany responds by adopting a policy of unconditional submarine warfare, targeting any ships it deemed a threat to its war effort. In the beginning of WW1, the U.
S. policy of neutrality seemed the only viable option in order to keep the country out of the war while maintaining its trade relationships with the warring nations. However, the emergence of a world economy made it difficult for America’s economy to flourish without trading with Europe. With both the Allied and Central Powers in a stalemate, the only chance for either side to advance was to block trade with the U. S. Inevitably; the U. S. had to decide with whom it would trade, eventually choosing the Allied Powers. Once this decision was apparent, the Germans announced they would resume unrestricted submarine warfare.
Subsequently, German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman sent a secret telegram to the German minister in Mexico, offering to help Mexico regain lost territory in the U. S. if Mexico declares war on the U. S. The “Zimmerman Telegram” was intercepted by the British on February 25, 1917 and the message was relayed to Pres. Wilson. Angered, Pres. Wilson asked Congress to approve an “armed neutrality” policy, allowing neutral ships to defend themselves against attackers. The following month, German U-boats sank 5 American ships off the coast of Britain, killing 66 Americans. Pres.
Wilson felt the only option was to declare war on Germany, and did so on April 6, 1917 with the permission of Congress. Personally I believe WWI was extremely unnecessary and a war best described as “carnage”, it was crucial that the U. S. entered the war. If we had not then the allies would have most likely lost. The Germans out of line behavior particularly angered the American populace. Specifically the assassination of Edith Cavell a British nurse in Belgium while under German control. She and her Belgian accomplices were executed by The Germans at a rifle range for helping sneak wounded British soldiers back home.
The Germans could have deported her back to the United Kingdom or kept her as a POW for her “war crimes”, but they chose to execute her instead. Even after the U. S. ambassador in Belgium at the time called German military officials and pleaded with them to spare their lives. It caused the Allied Powers to feel a great amount of disrespect. As well as the Zimmerman telegraph, which was Germany asking Mexico to give America trouble (Pancho Villa) and keep us out of their way, also left us feeling aggravated and disrespected towards Germany.
And obviously the sinking of the Lusitania was by far the primary reason. Not a military ship at all, but a passenger ship simply returning passengers from the U. S. back to Britain was attacked and sunk by German U-boats not only killing innocent British passengers but innocent Americans as well. Bodies of dead passengers were washing up on the British coast for weeks. In my opinion I think the last straw for Pres. Wilson was his telegraph sent to Europe where he proposed to go to Europe personally and help end everything was denied.
No winners no losers, just end all the nonsense now and start negotiating peace. It was turned down. After awhile all of these events compounded. We were being affected by the war before we were even in it, causing the majority of Americans to want to at that time. In fact we raised so much money selling liberty bonds to help fund the war the government had to ask the American people to stop buying and selling liberty bonds. There was more than enough support in entering and fighting in the war. We would have entered sooner, but Pres. Wilson put it off until he won his second election in 1916.