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World War I: History 10b Response Paper Five

World War I: History 10b Response Paper Five

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Published by: kathleen on Jan 21, 2010
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08/06/2010

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History 10b Spring 2007Kathleen FitzgeraldWeek 10: The Crucible of WarApril 16, 2007Study QuestionsHelenaT.F.Zuckmayer writes that, “in 1914, we still believed that a war would bring about the trueblossoming of the nation. Instead, everything withered.” Why was there such optimism,and why did it wither away?
“Some embraced [World War I] as a test of greatness, a purification of a society that had become lazy and complacent. When war did come in 1914, it was a choice, not anaccident.”
1
During the political battles of the early 20
th
century, many European nations believed afew quick skirmishes could be enough to trounce segments of their populations whichcontradicted nationalist sensibilities. This brief war method had been used successfullythroughout the nineteenth century, and it was thought to remain a reliable resource during thefirst years of the 20
th
century. In fact, by analyzing a cross-section of those countries which firstentered WWI (unlike those which entered later as a result of the ‘alliance domino effect’), oneunderstands how much nationalism fueled the flame of war. For instance, Austria-Hungary wentto war in the Balkans because it hoped to destroy subversive Serbian sub-populations in thatregion, thereby strengthening its own nation-state.
2
Similarly, Germany viewed World War I asa chance to permanently weaken its enemy, France, in order to ensure that Germany would notface a two-front war in the event that Russia ever attacked from the East; the German Kaiser  believed world war would permanently strengthen Germany’s geographic and geopoliticalsituation. After all, how bad could a war be if it were quick, decisive, and “over by Christmas,”yet still managed to solidify national security and identity?
3
 As a result of this hope for blossoming nationalism, “mass decisions” were made withineach WWI-fighting nation, and myriad young boys, like Germany’s Zuckmayer, flocked to
1
Kishlansky, “Civilization in the West: Volume II Since 1555,” p. 802.
2
Ibid., p. 805.
3
Ibid., p. 802.
1
 
volunteer for the front lines in order to free nations from threats to their existence.
4
With leaderslike Germany’s Kaiser claiming the state no longer recognized political parties, only Germans,the nationalist fervor reached a fever pitch all across Europe.
5
Unlike the war of 1870, whichhad brought unity to Germany, “the war of 1914 would bring her justice and freedom… [andwould unite Europe] culturally and politically under the aegis of the Germany spirit.”
6
In the beginning, every warring nation strongly believed that it was only acting against the enemy inself-defense and not for purely material ends or power-mongering.
7
Despite the initial optimism about blossoming of nations and nationalism, WWI wasstationary and long-lasting, unlike anything military strategists had planned for. A race to thesea resulted in fixed positions and trench warfare. “Ten million men were killed in the bizarreand deadly combination of old and new warfare
8
Ironically, technological advancement withweapons like mustard gas was often followed by the invention of antidotes like gas masks,thereby perpetuating a continued stalemate.
9
“The war that Europe experienced differed from all previous experiences and expectations of armed conflict. Technological advances, equallymatched on both sides, introduced a war of attrition, defensive and prolonged.”
Unlike the six-to-eight week wars of the nineteenth century, which often had low mortality rates, World War Imarked the first time that entire populations worked together (and masses of soldiers diedtogether) in order for long-term military victory to be attained.
 As history’s first “total war,” WWI involved not only armies but entire peoples. As thewar stretched onward, stoppages, strikes, and hording food during requisitioning became quite
4
Zuckmayer,“A Part of Myself: 1914-1918 I Had a Comrade” (HBJ, Inc., 1966), p. 148.
5
Ibid., p. 149.
6
Ibid., p. 149.
7
Ibid., p. 153.
8
Kishlansky, p. 806-807.
9
Ibid., p. 808.
10
Ibid., p. 814.
11
Ibid., p. 815.
2

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