The Origins Of World War I

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The Origins of World War I:
Domestic Troubles and Diversionary War
Drew Miller
HON 394: Causes of War
5 May, 2015
Most people, when prompted, will respond that the “cause” of World War I was the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand—and they would not be wrong. Killing the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire was, without a doubt, the spark that ignited the explosion that was the Great War. However, anyone who is well-versed in the history of World
War I knows that the reasons for its outbreak were far more complex. Scholars have made legitimate arguments that the war came about because of a widespread “cult of the offensive,” a complex system of alliances, and even as a complete accident. However, I contend that
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2 Van Evera, “Cult of the Offensive,” p. 56.
One reason for this doctrine, according to Snyder, was that the military took it for granted that physical conflict was almost always required for the resolution of problems; in light of this philosophy, “prudential calculations are slanted in favor of preventive wars and preemptive strikes.” Thus, militaries became convinced that destroying t 3 he enemy as quickly as possible was the most effective way to win a war. The common argument in regards to World War I is that these attack-oriented militaries and their emphases on “first-strike” advantages encouraged rapid mobilization plans, military build-ups, and arms races; this behavior led to aggressive foreign policy and severely reduced the likelihood of diplomatic resolution, ultimately making war more likely. However, I believe that while the cult of the offensive did play a major role in the rapid
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