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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
World War I has been regarded as the great of war of humanity. It started in 1914 and subsided in 1918. The war has indeed shaped history and took the world by surprise. Nations rising against other nations, countries forming alliances to take part in war against other alliances; it was indeed a dark moment for humanity. The implications of this war were devastating. About nine million people lost their lives. Scores of others were injured, maimed, crippled and paralyzed. Even those who did not suffer any physical injury suffered an untold psychological grief. It took a while for some sections of people to overcome the psychological terror and trauma that befell them. Countless number of property was lost and destroyed as the nations fought each other. This ordeal was purely man-made and it was in the simplest terms a catastrophe that man brought on himself. It changed the lives of numerous populations and the effects are still even felt in present time.
The origin of the war can be traced to Europe. It started out as mere conflict among European nations. According to Ross, this mere conflict degenerated into a full-blown war that has never been experienced before in the face of humanity. The underlying issues that caused the European countries to be at loggerheads could be narrowed down to; a wave of militarism, the sense of nationalism, imperialistic ideologies, and formation of alliances.
Militarism is mainly characterized by the taking up of arms and military equipment. The nations that were rapidly taking arms thought it was justified. They cited reasons such as protecting their territorial boundaries, colonial territories and improving national defense. Thus, the government policies of the day were skewed towards military expeditions, increase in size of the military and the naval forces. Public expenditure was mainly directed to this militarization. Force was considered the ultimate solution to problems. Thus, all other policies were suppressed.
The formation of alliances was another contributing factor to the war. Many alliances sprung up. Some were made secretly while others were pretty much public knowledge. Each was formed with the ultimate motive of protecting the interests of the states involved. Countries of the day were making pledges to protect each other. This trend caused lots of distrust among European nations. It brewed some suspicions that led to crises which ultimately contributed to the war. The diplomatic agents of some of the states were unable to come up with amicable solutions since they did not cater to the other parties.
Prior to World War I, there was a wave of imperialism in Europe. Most of the big states were on a mission to assert their authority in the entire globe. With the decrease of colonies globally, the European nations were eager to capture the remaining territories for themselves in order to have a larger territory to themselves. This led to an increase in activities such as colonialism; which brewed a lot of controversy among the nations over who was controlling a specific territory. This controversy later rose to contribute to World War I. Even people from the colonial territories were not spared. African colonies bore the brunt of the war too. Young African men were even picked to fight in the war.
Nationalism can be regarded as another cause of the war. As communities and groups became cohesive, they developed a bond of union. They would then differentiate themselves and would seek out to protect their heritage, way of life and norms. They would do all they could to better their interests collectively. This in many circles is referred to as nationalism. The love of one’s country can be applauded. In fact, it is a great trait that should be cultivated by everyone. But, great atrocities can be made in the name of nationalism. There is a political connotation to nationalism which when left unchecked, could lead to anarchy. The core belief of most nationalists is that one ethnic group should attain the status of statehood. This means that all other ethnic groups are not viable and are not worthy being given any status or privilege. This rise of nationalism led to the increased hatred of other countries which created a good breeding ground for the war to take place.
The above are some of the causes that are believed to have caused World War I. However, the immediate cause can be traced to the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand. He was the heir to the Austrian-Hungary throne. His assassination was marred with political overtones. The immediate suspects were the Serbians. Austria-Hungary chose to avenge and led a punitive retaliation to make a statement to the world.
World War 1 went on for about 4 years. The war had so many implications. As at the point at which the cease-fire was sounded (11/11/1918, at the 11th hour) there was massive loss of life, damage to property and countless losses that are felt until the present time. The social, political, cultural and economic impact was far-reaching. It literally changed the way people viewed life. Many theorists posit that World War I was a turning point in history. All other wars that happened later in the world are somehow connected to it. There is an argument that if World War I had not happened, probably subsequent wars in the world wouldn’t have happened. But in the words of Coetzee, for a long as war instills the spirit of revenge, no war will ever end war.