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World War I and Factors Leading to Its Termination

On 28th June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the one who was expected to inherit the throne in Austria-Hungary was assassinated in Sarajevo by trained assassins who are believed to have been from Serbia. In an earlier attempt during that day of his assassination, the assassins had missed their target subjecting several people to injury. After giving his speech that very day, the archduke met with his death on his way to hospital to visit the victims of his foiled attempt. The assassins had reassembled and reinvented their strategies. The best shot among the assassins took the initiative of accomplishing the intended aim and this time, he was right on target. Both the Archduke and his wife were killed. This event marked the beginning of one of the world’s greatest wars ever fought; The World War I.

Aron and Mahoney posit that war, “is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will” (21). This proposition is greatly evidenced in the intentions and aims of the participants in the First World War. Each side of the fighting alliances had, as its ultimate objective, the need to have the opponents fulfill their will. Equally, it was the same spirit of fighting for given objectives that led to the end of the War. On his part, Slantchev (1) points out that the willingness by initiators of a given war to make concessions on their aims to start a war determines the duration by which the war might be fought. Further still, the war itself determines the willingness of the initiators to make concessions of their aims.

To understand the real factors that led to the end of the war, it is imperative that the international Relations theories are considered on the backdrop of the events that took place towards the end of the War. This will give an insight to the comprehension of the termination. This paper will highlight the events that took place and analyze them in relation to the international relations and hence give meaning to why the First World War was brought to an end.

As stated above, the assassination of the Archduke of Austria-Hungary marked the beginning of the First World War. The event had irritated many Serbs. A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. This declaration marked the beginning of the war that later involved all the major powers of the world during that time. The war took place from 1914 to 1918 after which a solution was found. Basically, this war was fought between the Allies and the Central powers. Between the two opposing powers, an approximated 70 million military personnel were used 60 million of them from Europe. The rest was from other parts of the world including the United States and Asian countries. In addition, this war accounted for the death of more than 15 million people.

To set the war rolling, the opening attacks were by Germany, who invaded Belgium, Luxembourg and France while Austria-Hungary on its part made their first attack on Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. At the same time, Russia on the other hand made its leap towards Prussia. The German army was able to move into France where they were later stopped from further advance into Paris forming a trench line that remained the war system until 1917. On the other side, the Russians were successful in fighting the Austro-Hungarian army until later when the German forces joined the war in support of the later. This forced the Russian forces to withdraw slightly towards their own territory. The war continued to witness new entrants. For instance, 1914 witnessed the entry into the battle by the Ottoman Empire. A year later witnessed the entry into war by the Italians before Romania signed its entry into war in 1916. Witnessing a great number of deaths and other catastrophes, the war continued until the first withdrawal by Russia in 1917. In 1918, an offensive by the German forces triggered the involvement into war by the Americans. This strengthened the alliance leading to subsequent defeats on the German army who were forced to withdraw after several successful offensives by the alliance. On 11th November, 1918, also referred to as the Armistice Day, the German forces surrendered leading to the end of the First World War.

The overview of the war above brings forth several factors that could be considered in an effort to understand the termination of the war. Consequently, this section of the paper will try to analyze the contemporary theories of international relations to explain these events and their eventual cause of the end of world war I.

One of the International relations theories that can be used to explain the termination of World War I is the Neo-realism theory. Neorealism is the theory developed by Kenneth Waltz from the classical realism of Hans Morgenthau. However, the two theories are rooted in the original realism theory that was developed in 5th Century B.C by Thucydides. In his book, Theory of International Politics, Waltz makes certain improvements on the classical realism theory by giving it some scientific touch. Basically, realism argues that the best way to define international relations is through defining the world and the way it really is as opposed to other studies that define it in the way it is supposed to be. According to realists, the power politics on the international platform lead to wars and conflicts. Therefore, the security of a state and the balance of power are the basic instruments that analysts use to determine the state and hence the international society.

Considering the instruments mentioned it is clear that the only agent that can wield such powers is the state. This brings out the second argument on the neorealist perspective of international relations. According to Waltz, the international affairs are basically determined by the state. It is the principle actor. This means that the states that have power advantage are able to determined the affairs on the international scene. Furthermore, raison d’etat and rational egoism determine each state’s interests and hence define the state’s behavior. Finally, through these tools and instruments of the state, different countries have varying powers. Therefore, those that are advantaged to be more powerful tend to define the state of the international affairs. The international outcomes are hence determined by the way these powerful states are distributed. These form the basic arguments of realism as a block.

However, the main point of argument of this paper is the way neo-realist approach can explain the termination of World War I. the events that led to the termination of World War I bring certain features of Waltz definition of neo-realism into place. In his approach, Waltz posits that the power of a state is made up of the territorial vastness and the state’s population. Secondly, the resource availability of the state defines it power. Other factors that determine the power of a state is the economic power and position of the state, its military capacity and finally how competent and stable the political outfit of the state is. If the outfit of the mentioned factors are positive, the state is very likely to be powerful. Consequently, its powerful nature gives it the ability to determine the political outcomes of the international affairs. This argument leads us to one question; how did the power of the state as an actor lead to the termination of the first world war?

From the events of the War, it clear that prior to the war, Germany was a powerful state. It was ready to utilize its military power (which, according to Waltz, is one of the factors that determine the strength of a state) to attack France, Luxembourg and match into neutral Belgium without fear. on the other side, France and Russia knew that they could not stop the Germans and therefore formed a coalition that would strengthen their military strength. The outcome was a balanced form of military strength that made the war continue fledging. On their part, the United States had kept aloof. They had opted for the policy of not getting involved. given the military strength, the territorial vastness, the political stability and the resource endowment of the state, it could be considered a powerful nation. Given the neo-realist approach, such states have the power to determine the outcomes of the international affairs. How true are these allegations?

The continuous war between the allies and the Central Powers had strongly weakened the participants’ military capabilities. Germany had lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers and military weapons. On the other side, France, Britain and Russia had been greatly wounded militarily, politically and economically. when a country that was enjoying economic, political and military strength engaged into the fight, it decided on the war. The United States of America decided to participate in the war on the side of the Allies after Germany sank most of their ships in their U-boat campaign. Being powerful, based on the defining factors of power according to neorealism, the end to World War I was defined by the participation of this country. Germany, whose military strength had been weakened by consistent war could not resist the powers of the allies who were enjoying the military back up of the United States that had a strong military base. Therefore, the United States defined the end of World War I because of its power as a state and its power was defined by its military strength as related to the weakened Central powers’ military capabilities, its territorial vastness and their political stability.

On the other side, Russia was a country that had had been subjected to turmoil immediately after their decision to enter the War. From the beginning, their military strength is weakened greatly by the death of hundreds of thousands of their soldiers during the Tannenberg War. In addition, the railway and generally transport crisis led to a weakened economic status of the country. Food became an issue leading to uprisings and revolts. Furthermore, the political atmosphere of Russia during the War had deteriorated greatly. It is during this period that the Bolsheviks are able to bring to an end the Csar leadership. Despite its vastness, it is clear that Russia was a country in turmoil. Considering the neo-realist approach, countries without military strength, economic endowment and political instability can only watch as their powerful counterparts make decisions. They cannot determine the outcome of the international affairs. This is very true considering the Russian affair during the War. Having considered the economic implications and their military incapacity, Russia decided to sign armistice with Germany. They were forced to pay for the prisoners of war that had been captured and also forfeit their dominion over the Balkans. A conspicuous fact here is that the war does not stop in 1917 after Russia’s withdrawal. This means that without power, a state could not determine the outcomes of the international affairs. The war was only terminated after a powerful state decided to participate in it.

Apart from arguing that the state is the principle actor on the international affairs, neo-realists also argue that the international system is characterized by a worldwide government. However, the block of the worldwide government is made up of several units that perform the functions of national defense and other roles like collecting tax. Despite this, each state wants its independence. While they may cooperate in-order to achieve better economic, social and political standards, they still put their national interests at the forefront. This argument by neo-realists points out that the international government is there to stay. Countries will always cooperate in order to improve on their own interests. However, the underlying concept is that despite the cooperation, each country is driven by national interests. How does this argument explain the termination of the First World War?

From the beginning of the war, countries formed coalitions that would help them gain their national interests. This led to the formation of the two principle enemies; the Central Powers and the Allies. A closer look at the cooperation reveals that while countries were forming co operations towards a common enemy, their national interests were at the forefront. The participation of the United States in the war, however, determines the end of it. After Germany decides to sink the American ships under the U-boat campaign, the Americans are not pleased. This prompts them into action. they decide to cooperate with the Allies to form a strong force that eventually bring the Germans and the Central Powers to their knees. This confirms the neorealist argument that the international society is made up a worldwide government that is made up of cooperation among the states. However, while the cooperation was made up of fighting a single enemy, The Central Powers, it is clear that the countries different aims for cooperating. The United States of America entered the war in cooperation with the Allies but with the sole interest of protecting their economic stability. Germany’s U-boat campaign had posed a threat to the economic stability of the country. They had to ensure that the sea routes that had been blocked by the German war ships were opened in order to facilitate their trade.

Liberals believe in equal rights as well as liberty. They support free trade, constitutions, democracies, market economy fair elections, free trade and human rights. Many political groups support these ideas as well even if they are do not have liberal ideology. The founder of liberalism John Locke believed that rule of law was the best and should replace autocratic governments. He saw the great potential for human progress in a civil modern society. He was of the notion that the capitalist economy would guarantee individual liberty. Therefore, liberalism would be the answer to the modern society. This is because liberalism is of the belief that is in human nature to collaborate. If countries collaborate domestically and internationally then the result would be greater benefits for all the participants.

This notion of liberalism may explain why the First World War ended. The liberal democracies of that time felt the need to defeat the autocratic states. Many dynasties and empires for instance the Russian monarchy had to be defeated. This is because liberalism values the relationship between the state and citizens. This relationship becomes very important in determining and explaining policy taken by the government. Thus, a democratic state gives its citizens a chance to voice their concerns and represents the interests of a wider group whereas a tyranny represents the wishes of a few individuals. This had to be done to maintain the world peace. This would be made possible by balancing the self-concerns of individual nations that engaged because clearly the nations had their self-interests before those of the common world.

The allied nations wanted to defeat German, which was very powerful in Europe. Thus, countries joined hands to bring Germany to its knees because they felt that it dominated the economy. This led to economic measures against Germany in the Versatilities Treaty. On the other hand, German was not willing to any peace compromise because it was jealous of the expansive British Empire. Germany believed it was a world leader in many spheres and it was not ready to relinquish this position. This led the United States to declare war o Germany in 1917. It did this to bring peace in Europe after having failed to bring about peace through negotiations. The United States aimed to promote social order as well as development. In addition, Italy could not hear of peace comprise because it had a strong desire for revenge and had a condition before it could engage I peace talks. The condition was to be given the South Austria region. Nonetheless, this did not bring about long lasting peace in Europe as it had been anticipated by ending the war. This is because less than a decade later Germany saw the rise of Adolf Hitler who unleashed violence throughout Europe.

The war had brought immense suffering to the people and something had to be done to alleviate this problem as liberalism believe in the prosperity of individuals and they cannot prosper in times of war. The British naval had blocked German ports and many people faced starvation, as food could not be brought to them. This led to resignation of Ludendorff and the eventual mutination of the German navy. This was a major sign that the war was about to end. In addition, poor supplies and lack of food left the Russian army on the wrong side of the war. Revolutions and unrests from railway workers, the bread revolution in Russia had led to soldiers disobeying orders. All these were clear-cut symptoms of defeat. However, German on the other hand was determined to crush Russia. As a result, the war had to continue. Germany knew that it had a higher probability in winning the war against Russia. As a result, their political demands were lifted. While the main reasons at the beginning of the war was to ensure that they stopped Russia from having dominion over the Balkans and hence having themselves dominate the region, the aims had taken a new turn. German had realized that the Russians were losing. Therefore, when the Russians could hold it no more, in 1917, they signed an Armistice with the Germans. Having needed only the dominion over the Balkans, Germany increased their demands to include stopping socialist campaigns against Germany and paying 300 million roubles so as to get back their imprisoned soldiers. On the other hand, Russia reduced their demands by accepting to surrender Poland, Ukraine and other regions. It also accepted to pay 300 million roubles and stop propagandas against Germany.

The realists assume that individuals put state before self. On the other hand, liberals do not support the state policy or assume that it is superior to individuals because even private individuals calculate the benefits and losses that arise from foreign policy. This could explain why the citizens of United States urged their government to get involved in the war after their citizens were killed in a ship attack by the Germans. They felt that the government had stayed on the sidelines for too long and it needed to take action to prevent further loses of American lives. The involvement of the government would be a benefit to the Americans, as the other countries would appreciate its role in ending the conflict.

The government of the United States believed in peaceful transitions as this would be a good way to end the international conflict. If the nations involved in fighting would end the conflict this would lead to peace restoration, which would eventually lead to development in the region. This would be brought about by the rule of law, democratic institutions and liberal ideas. The USA would be in a better position if the conflict were resolved amicably as it did not want to get involved and fight against Britain even though it was opposed to its policy of colonialism. Fighting would have been too costly even though the United States had been supplying weapons to its allies who were involved in the war.

Finally, the liberal thinking was that terminating the war would lead to peace and stability. Eventually the war was terminated when the Allies made a push towards the German border in 1918. On the contrary, the Central Powers could not hold and started to collapse. Turkey signed the armistice followed by Austria-Hungry. The Germany army collapsed from within and eventually the world war came to an end. The decision by the United States to participate in the war had caused great victory for the allies. Germany realized that continuing with the war had no benefits at all and the probability of winning was low. They hence decided to terminate the war.

Annotated Bibliography

Goemans, Hein E. War and Punishment: The Causes of War Termination and the First World War. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

This is a research on a study that showed a reason which led to the termination of the First World War. Goemans’ hypothesis is based on four of the main catalysts of the war: Great Britain, Germany, Russia and France. His study put emphasis on the position of domestic politics and possession of the leader in the growth of the war. His study also showed that domestic politics played a key role to the break of the war at once and it was a neutralising factor to the termination of the war. Goemans believes that regimes are of three categories – dictatorship, mixed regimes, and democracies (39). Goemans described domestic cost as the punishment the leader faces if they lose a war and they devise strategies that may minimize the punishment. This book directly addresses the research question for the present study as it demonstrates the need the study the reason for termination of First World War from the international relations perspective as well as a plausible argument for the termination of the war.

Lieber, Keir A. “The New History of World War I and What It Means for International Relations Theory.” International Security Vol. 32, No. 2 (2007): 155–191

Lieber wrote an article that showed the traditionalist theory based on the defensive realism that means the concept based on security dilemma, spiral model, and offensive defensive balance (156) is not enough to answer the reason for the origin of the First World War in the face of new evidence. Lieber’s research points out that the Germans went to war with proper plan and strategy in place. The Germans plan was based on their determination to be the supreme’s of the Europeans. What they had on mind was the departure from the traditional belief of the origin of the conflict that dominated the international relations literature. Therefore any research on First World War, be it on the origin of the war or termination of the war, need to undertake the study conducted by Lieber.

Chang, Helen. “War and Punishment? Testing War Termination Theories” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISA’s 50th ANNUAL CONVENTION “EXPLORING THE PAST, ANTICIPATING THE FUTURE”, New York Marriott Marquis, NEW YORK CITY, NY, USA, 2009.

Most of the theories used to explain the termination of wars seems to have a flaw in one way or the other. As a result, Chan tries to point out the how the endogenous theory can be used to explain the end of World War One. Consequently, she uses the three main models of the endogenous theory and tests them against the Germany, Russia, France, Austria-Hungary and Great Britain as the main case studies to prove the legibility of the theorists. As a result, she shows how some of the models have weaknesses while others are able to explain well the situation and how the war was brought to an end.

Stein, Charles. Contested Social Orders and War Termination. In Skidmore, Charles. Conested Social Orders and International Politics. Berlin: Vanderbilt University Press

This article tries to identify the realist approaches to war termination. The author puts the realist approaches to test and points out that they are flawed. However, he tries to construct a more powerful way through which war termination can be explained. Therefore, he comes up with the social order theory that tries to fill up the loopholes left by the realist theorists. He then uses the Mexican-American war and the Russo-Prussian war to measure the legibility of his theory.

Reiter, Dan. How Wars End. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.

The book by Reiter is a study of causes of termination of wars brought about triumph. Reiter argues that two factors shape the war termination decisions – information regarding the balance of power and the distrust of the other side’s commitment to peace settlement. In case of First World War Reiter argues that it was to regain power of control over Europe and due to the distrust towards the British and French commitment to peace settlement, did Germany continue its aggression in the west even after securing peace with Russia. The importance of this book is it gives a different reason to why the World War 1 was terminated which had its basis on the anarchist theory of relations.

Slantchev, Branislav L. “How Initiators End Their Wars: The Duration of Warfare and the Terms of Peace.” American Journal of Political Science Vol. 48, No. 4 (2004): 813–829.

This article is based on the new theory of endogenous war termination and shows that initiators of war will have a greater chance to lose a war if their duration in it is longer. The research is based on the data available on warfare from 1816 to 1991. Slantchev argues that at least two states are required to start a war, and one of them has to misjudge in order to get an outcome of the war. However, this cost benefit analysis goes wrong for the state who miscalculates the outcomes. The study based on endogenous war termination theory suggests that initiators will initiate a war when they are certain of high chances of victory. The study findings demonstrate that there is a great connection between the might of the initiator and that of the delaying of the growth. Given this understanding of the endogenous war termination theory, the present article uses the theory to determine the possible causes that mat have moved Allied and the Central forces towards the termination of the First World War.

Stevenson, David. “1918 Revisited.” The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 28, No.1 (2005): 107 – 139.

Stevenson re-evaluates the reason for the termination of First World War by studying the origin of the armistice of 1918, by exploring the French, German, and British primary sources. Further, this article uses the previous theories developed by international relations scientists on war termination. Stevenson researched two potent questions – why Germany asks for the armistice and why the Allied powers grant it. Stevenson argues that the reason for the termination of the First World War was the German campaigning in early 1918 on the western front and the diplomatic mistrust between the German opponents viz. the US, Britain, and France. Stevenson believes that the tension was caused by the convergence of the interests among the parties. This article is important for this study because it provides the perceived convergence theory of the termination of the First World War.

Stevenson, David. “Britain, France and the Origins of German Disarmament, 1916–19.” The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 29, No. 2 (2006): 195 – 224.

This article studies the disarmament of Germans in the First World War by the terms of Treaty of Versailles of 1919. In this article, Stevenson points out that the British and French policy during the first word war and the nature of American diplomacy and the reasons for the forced disarmament of Germany and a proposal for a larger disarmament. In this article, Stevenson even more clearly shows that there was major mistrust among the Allied powers that destabilized the stability of the disarmament settlement. The article by Stevenson points out that the Allied powers were mistrustful of each other’s intentions and therefore led to an abrupt end of the First World War, even when they were sure that Germans would be defeated eventually.

Wilhelm II, Kaiser. “Over the top.” The journal of the First World War Vol. 2, No 1, (2008).

For thirty years, Wilhelm was King of Prussia and Kaiser was emperor in Germany until the day the First World War started. In this journal, Wilhelm reasons with himself if he was a good leader and how his leadership had effect on the war. The relevance of this journal is to determine whether his leadership had effect on the termination of the war.

Works Cited

Chang, Helen. “War and Punishment? Testing War Termination Theories” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISA’s 50th Annual Convention “EXPLORING THE PAST, ANTICIPATING THE FUTURE”, New York Marriott Marquis, NEW YORK CITY, NY, USA, 2009.

Goemans, Hein E. War and Punishment: The Causes of War Termination and the First World War. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Lieber, Keir A. “The New History of World War I and What It Means for International Relations Theory.” International Security Vol. 32, No. 2 (2007): 155–191 Reiter, Dan. How Wars End. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.

Stein, Charles. Contested Social Orders and War Termination. In Skidmore, Charles. ed Contested Social Orders and International Politics. Berlin: Vanderbilt University Press Slantchev, Branislav L. “How Initiators End Their Wars: The Duration of Warfare and the Terms of Peace.” American Journal of Political Science Vol. 48, No. 4 (2004): 813–829.

Stevenson, David. “1918 Revisited.” The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 28, No.1 (2005): 107 – 139.a

Stevenson, David. “Britain, France and the Origins of German Disarmament, 1916–19.” The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 29, No. 2 (2006): 195 – 224.b

Wilhelm II, Kaiser. “Over the top.” The journal of the First World War Vol. 2, No 1, (2008).

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