How Did Militarism Lead to WW1?
Due to the naval and arms race, militarism may have been the cause of the conflict. The naval rivalry that developed after 1900 was the primary cause of militarism, which led to World War One. The world’s most potent navy was that of Great Britain. The new Keiser Wilhelm declared his intention to increase the size of the German navy to rival that of Britain.
Modern technology significantly impacted WWI, especially the new mass-production methods for weapons. One of the four leading causes of WWI is militarism, which can be seen as a manifestation of modern technology.
Mass-production techniques began making weapons more affordable, so public opinion favored strong militaries. In addition, weak governments were perceived as weak, which pushed for the militarism that resulted in World War I.
Germany’s imperial ambitions
How did imperialism cause the First World War? Most historians agree that Germany’s desire to become a “world power” or a superpower triggered the conflict. They hoped for a quick and decisive war but failed to achieve this goal. Instead, Germany took advantage of a crisis between Austria-Hungary and Serbia to start a war that would ultimately defeat its defeat.
The September program, developed by Germany’s leaders, envisioned lopping off French and Belgian territory and turning them into vassal states. This program eventually led to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, a peace treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union, which removed Russia from the war and gave Germany the Baltic states and part of Belarus. It also made independent Ukraine into a satellite of Germany.
In 1871, Germany’s ruling class believed the alternative was a status quo Germany. This country would be rich and cooperative with Britain and America. Unfortunately, the alternative was not so desirable. As a result, Germany ended up occupying Belgium, northern France, and the rest of Europe. To make this dream a reality, the imperial German ruling class abandoned all principles of moderation.
By the war’s end, almost every African country had already committed to one side. Only the tiny Spanish territories remained neutral. The British, French, Italian, and Portuguese administrations and the Belgian government were allies against Germany’s colonial ambitions. However, this did not turn out as Bismarck intended, and the Scramble for Africa continued, despite the failure of Bismarck’s plans.
The German Schlieffen Plan
In the 1920s, partial writers concocted the myth of the Schlieffen Plan, hoping to use it to justify their war planning and show that the Germans were not to blame for WWI. Zuber and Hew Strachan supported this view. But did the myth hold up? Here are three main arguments against it. First, is the Schlieffen Plan a myth?
The Schlieffen Plan was a strategic plan Germany used to defeat France in 1905. The Schlieffen Plan called for the formation of four army groups on the German right: the Bataillon Carre, consisting of five cavalry divisions and 17 infantry corps. These corps were the backbone of the German Army, but they had lower equipment and training.
The rise of militarism across Europe created a situation that made war inevitable. As the arms race continued, the armies of France and Germany doubled between 1870 and 1914. Britain introduced a ‘Dreadnought’ battleship in 1906, and Germany followed suit. The Germans, who were the most aggressive, began to increase their military spending by 1908.
In December 1905, German army chief Alfred Graf von Schlieffen circulated a plan for a two-front war. The Schlieffen Plan had many implications, including the scope and conduct of the war. For example, it was the main reason Germany could not win a quick victory in the war. So, a successful strategy must be comprehensive and swift, and this plan had both elements.
Germany’s attempt to keep France from imposing a protectorate on Morocco
The French and German governments were at odds over whether France should impose a protectorate on Morocco. France feared the British would take advantage of its colonial wealth to build a protectorate in Morocco, and German officials were determined to prevent it. Germany was well aware of its colonial debts, but the French government did not want any more.
As a result, the German government sent the Panther to Agadir, where it would protect German firms. Initially, the Moroccan government had rejected this idea, and Germany was eager to stop the French from taking advantage of this situation. As a result, the French imposed a protectorate on Morocco like they did with Algeria and Iraq. In the end, France was forced to grant Morocco a neutral status in 1911.
In June 1904, the French banks granted a crippling loan to the Moroccan government. The sultan of Morocco, Abd al-Aziz, had a weakness for civilization and had already sunk his state budget into civilization. To avoid this fate, the French offered him a loan of 62 million francs, which was paid back over a decade. As security for the loan, 60% of Moroccan customs revenues were confiscated. In addition, a special debt administration was formed to monitor the loan.
After the French imposed their protectorate on Morocco, it was a matter of time before the French left. Throughout the French occupation of Morocco, France tried to suppress the independence of the country’s indigenous tribes. It occupied much of eastern Morocco, and the town of Oujda was the first city to fall. However, France used this as an excuse to occupy Casablanca, and Spain took control of the cape of Melilla.
It is easy to see how the idea of national sovereignty could contribute to the onset of WWI, but how did it contribute to the conflict? When Germany invaded neutral Belgium in 1914, Britain only entered the war because they argued that they were defending that country’s sovereignty. In the same way, Russia entered the war in defense of Serbia. As a result, both sides began building up their military forces.
Imperialism was another factor in the outbreak of the war. Several warring countries had imperial objectives in mind when they went to war. Partly, these objectives were driven by a desire to gain strategic advantage, such as control of the Straits of Dardanelles from the Ottoman Empire. France and Britain also wanted control over parts of the Ottoman Empire. At the same time, Japan joined the Entente side intending to seize German colonies in the Pacific Ocean. These imperial motives had economic aspects as well.
The armed forces of the countries involved in the war held varying degrees of influence over civilian society. Generals and military leaders tended to have limited influence over the government. Even Wilhelm II, the German king, had limited influence over the armed forces. This was not unlike the despotism of ancient times. But militarism was not absolute, and many instances of militarism existed in the pre-war world.
Modern technology played an important role in the development of weapons during WWI. In addition to developing more advanced military technology, new manufacturing methods also made mass-produced weapons possible. This made militarism one of the four causes of the conflict. Once military technology reached a new level, public opinion began to lean toward militarism. Governments were considered weak if they did not have a powerful army.
The origins of World War I can be traced back to a broader trend of popular militarism. During the nineteenth century, military-styled youth organizations began popping up across Great Britain. The Boy Scouts became the most famous of these organizations in 1908.
Nationalist sentiments were growing rapidly in many parts of the world, including Europe. Serbian nationalism, for example, played a big role in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, which was part of growing national pride and glory. Meanwhile, France hoped to defeat its German rivals by joining Russia in its war and reclaim territory lost to Germany in the previous conflict.
Despite this pro-militarist sentiment, public opinion was not driven by it. Many citizens did not feel threatened by external aggressors, but they did feel a sense of danger. However, a common fear of foreign attack prompted some to take action. Ultimately, public opinion did not lead to war; instead, the country’s militarism was the result of a perceived threat.
Imperialism was a key factor in the acceleration of World War I. Many warring nations had imperial goals in mind. The British, for instance, joined the war after German troops invaded neutral Belgium. The British argued that they were fighting to defend Belgian sovereignty, but this was only one of the many motives. Britain and France also wanted control of some of the Ottoman Empire’s colonies in the Pacific Ocean.
Before the outbreak of World War I, Serbia was more aggressive than Germany. It had a military coup in 1903 that killed its predecessor. In addition, Wilhelm II and his ministers often found themselves frustrated in the hands of an intransigent Reichstag. Their stance in this regard was exacerbated when the Swedish King forced out its Liberal Prime Minister over a disagreement about military spending.