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
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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.
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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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