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Preventing the First World War

Preventing the First World War



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Published by Adam Smith

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Published by: Adam Smith on Dec 15, 2006
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 Adam Smith17.42, Spring 2004David Art
Preventing the First World War
The historical and political science communities have both shed light on the origins of theFirst World War; many papers and books have been published.
In this paper we will turn to thequestion of design. That is, now that we have a good understanding of the dynamics of WWI,how could they be manipulated to prevent it from occurring?
In the conclusion, we will havediscovered a host of manipulable causes, some of which are more important than others. Thesmaller points of interest include: publishing literature explaining specific dangers of the pre-WWI situation; and assassinating the members of the Black Hand who would otherwise kill theAustrian archduke and spawn the July crisis.
The most critical actions to take are: changing the“cult of the offensive” paradigm of many European countries’ populations; and evoking the samechange in the European leaderships, probably using assassination instead of relying ontransformation.We will step through these manipulable causes, and address how each can be manipulatedas well as what effects those manipulations should have.
 Addressing National Misperceptions and Blunders
The single work which will be referenced the most is
Military Strategy and the Origins of the First World War 
, anInternational Security Reader which is composed of papers representing a diverse sampling of perspectives. We willrefer to this work as
throughout the footnotes.
There is a slight technicality here. If we just wanted to prevent this specific war from happening, i.e. a war spawned from the July crisis of 1914, there are very simple ways that this could be done. On the contrary, in this paper we are interested in preventing the main causes of the war from developing, hopefully preventing anyEuropean war around that time period.
As outlined in footnote2, if we are successful, preventing the archduke’s assassination shouldn’t be necessary. Onthe other hand, we include it for thoroughness.
Throughout the time leading up to World War I there were several pervasive misperceptions aboutthe world which brought countries to take actions which hurt international stability. In order to remedythis cause, we will publish several pieces of academic literature explaining why these ideas were indeedmisperceptions. Taking the time to publish this literature, would be beneficial for many reasons. Theseinclude generating even more discussion among scholars, to pressure governmental elites into thoroughlyconsidering their doctrines, to motivate populations to try to understand the dynamics, and mostimportantly, to prime populations for a later (more simplistically expressed) information campaign. Wenow step through each idea to be expressed in the series of literature, in roughly the same order that theyshould be published.
Security Dilemma and Alliances
How could a limited conflict between Austria and Serbia turn into a war with millions of casualties? The answer is simple: offensive and defensive alliances. Austria knew that if it wentto war, Germany would back it. Likewise, Serbia was an ally of Russia, who was also alliedwith the French.The chief observation advanced by historians about pre-1914 alliances (i.e. the TripleEntente and Central Alliance) is that they were “blank checks.” That is to say that, allianceswere unconditional, so any country with many allies could consider its allies’ forces to be on itsside, even if they pick a fight.
This is in contrast to the vast network of defensive alliances set up by Bismark. It turnsout that Europe was very peaceful during this time.
The thesis of this discussion should be that offensive alliances are a bad thing for everyone. This can be easily shown by using security dilemma and spiral model arguments.
Most of these topics are from the list of causes given in Van Evera, p. 69.
More discussion can be found in Van Evera, p. 91-101.
As described in Prof. Van Evera’s lectures.
That is, in the case of security dilemma, as countries gain offensive power they threaten other countries more. Using the spiral model, we can illustrate that as the other countries arethreatened more, they are likely to respond by making an effort to increase their forces in order to preserve their own security.
 Defensive Advantages of Military Technology
Despite the defensive advantage caused by the current military technology, leaders inEurope strongly favored offense over defense. Stephen Van Evera writes, “They largelyoverlooked the lessons of the American Civil War, the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, the Boer War, and the Russo-Japanese War, which had demonstrated the power of the new defensivetechnologies.”
This lesson should be apparent to early twentieth century leaders, but is not being takeninto serious consideration. The only thing that we can do here is to distill all of the historicalrecords into a single paper which describes in detail the lessons we want the readers to learn.This should lower the energy required to digest these ideas, making them more accessible toleaders and the masses.
The Dangers of Mobilization
The first point to be made in this paper is that there are not any large payoffs for mobilizing first, despite the overwhelming opposite view held by military elites. One Germananalyst said, with the Schlieffen plan in mind, “A delay of a single day … can scarcely ever berectified.”
This was indeed not true.
Van Evera, p. 60
Eyre Crowe, on July 27, quoted in Geiss,
 July 1914
, p. 251.
Rationale for this assertion can be found in Van Evera, p. 72-76. The arguments to be presenting in our paper mirror those presented in this referenced work, specifically addressing the Schlieffen plan.

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