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Who Was Blamed for World War 1: Critical Essay

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Germany's desire for Austria-Hungary to enter the war was motivated by their aim to become a superpower since they believed it would be able to cripple Russia and France in a short war. They were eager to wipe out Russia before it had time to mobilize and then wanted to focus on France with Russia eliminated, thus negating the risk of Germany facing a war on two fronts. Britain's quick involvement should not be questioned since German victory would have dire consequences for the whole of Europe and Hastings argues that it is highly likely that if France and Russia fought Germany alone then the highly militarised state of Germany would have been in charge which would have been disastrous for European's freedom and democracy. Hastings thinks that Germany is the only country involved in World War One that desired a war but not the 'big war that they got' since they were hoping for a Balkan war which 'led to everything else' that they 'could've prevented at any moment in June or July by telling the Austrians to stop.'

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Hastings believes that Germany should not be responsible for 100% of the blame but should accept most blame since 'even if it did not conspire to bring war about, it declined to exercise its power to prevent the outbreak by restraining Austria'[2]. He also mentions the fact that there had been evidence of major massacres repeatedly committed by the Alliance side and how the triple entente never went to such extremes during the war. Despite this, Hastings holds generals of Germany responsible for some of the war's failures, such as the Schlieffen plan, which allowed Germany to pursue a successful two-front war that failed catastrophically because the Russian army attacked Germany while invading France. As argued by Hillgruber, Germany's intentions were not for a war to occur, but by pursuing a 'high-risk diplomatic strategy' of causing what it thought would be a relatively small war in the Balkans, which had unfortunately transformed into a World War.

Germany had been on Austria's side leading up to the whole July crisis, providing promises and support that it would back them through a war with Serbia and Russia if either declared war. However, it was only when the outbreak of war was hours away that Germany decided that they would try to 'dissuade Austria-Hungary at the last hour, the civilian leadership recognized the failure of its political strategy.' if only Germany had recognized that war was going to outbreak so soon, they may have considered their actions and not been so belligerent in its support of Austria-Hungary. Hastings and Hillgruber both agree that although not one country alone can be assigned the full blame for the outbreak of World War One, Germany is certainly the most prolific when it comes to gathering evidence as to who were the aggressors and who got involved because they near enough had no other choice. They both also believe that Austria was partly to blame Germany was not forcing it to do anything against its will. Nonetheless, the argument for German culpability is contradicted by historians Mombauer and Williamson who believe that Austria-Hungary was culpable.

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Who Was Blamed for World War 1: Critical Essay. (2023, September 19). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
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