Balance of Power and the Origins of World War I
The balance of power highlights the view that national security is enhanced in cases where military capabilities are distributed effectively in such a way that no state is strong enough to dominate others. The balance of power is concerned with the aspect of foreign policy and it is based on the status of the country, including a status quo country, a rising country, or a declining power country. Accordingly, the balance of power could help in the understanding of the origins of World War I because it facilitates the understanding of aspects such as imperialism, the arms race, the rise of nationalism, and the explanations behind the consequences of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. The emergence of the war was based on the position and the security status of most European countries. For instance, Germany was on the rise at the fastest rate possible, but it did not want to be perceived the main cause of the war. As much as suspicion grew across Europe, every country seemed to avoid being associated with the emergence of the war. With this in mind, the balance of power helps in the understanding of the origins of World War I by establishing the reactions of every country to its potential enemies in the region. This essay explicates the view that the balance of power helps in the understanding of the origins of World War I because of its focus on the rising powers and declining powers, and their subsequent reactions to the potential external threats.
Firstly, the balance of power is of great importance in the understanding of the origins of World War I because it explains the domestic political factors of the rising countries and their feelings about cementing their own positions as superpowers through attacks on their weaker enemies. Countries such as Germany and Russia were on the rise in terms of their status. For instance, the victory of Left-wing parties in most seats during the elections in a government dominated by Prussian Junkers seemed to unsettle matters. Therefore, they felt that an external war would have been the most appropriate way to distract the population and eliminate the patriotic support for the incumbent government. Both the German military leaders and the Prussian conservative leaders perceived external war desirable and the most effective way to distract the population. With the upward mobility of these countries, they needed to protect their domestic and external interests and believed that this would be more realistic through an external war by establishing their position as some of the strongest countries. From the perspective of balance of power, this explains the origins of the First World War because these strong states were focused on taking advantage of their strength and attack weaker neighbors as they deemed fit. This highlights the relationship that stronger countries had with their weaker enemies immediately before the onset of the war. The necessity of the war was aimed at accommodating German weakness rather than its strength as the Kaiser and other leaders thought that it was still on the road toward gaining individual strength. The balance of power obviously facilitates the understanding of the origins of World War I through its focus on the explosive nature of Germany and its feelings about the need for an external war. All these were anchored on the popular belief that the country would have the opportunity to distract the population and explore its perceived ‘weaknesses’ through any form of external war, which subsequently became the First World War.
Secondly, by knowing the theory of balance of power, one can understand of the origins of World War I through the exploration of the arms race and the need for countries to protect their borders against external aggression. Since the balance of power is concerned with foreign policy and the perception of countries toward each other, it sets out perfect examples of arms preparations, especially with countries such as Germany. Accordingly, Germany was on the rise at the fastest rate in terms of its economy and it felt it more appropriate to join the arms race with the aim of beating Great Britain at its own game as a former superpower in the region. The balance of power theory plays an instrumental role in explaining the reactions of other countries to events such as arms race and their subsequent events. Therefore, countries such as France, Austria-Hungary, and Russia were not left behind in this development. The acceleration in the arms race set the ground for aggression among countries and this was followed up by the First World War. Arms race was especially important because it was one of the building blocks for the establishment of larger armies and powerful artillery for war against any country coming up against them. In essence, the balance of power theory explains factors motivating the adoption of arms among countries and the effect of the increased competition between Germany and Britain. The war automatically originated from the fact that each of these countries felt fully prepared for the war because of the increased military power and the highest level of protection in terms of their boundaries.
Thirdly, the theory of balance of power facilitates the understanding of the origins of World War I through its focus on the formation of alliances that were perceived a critical part in the emergence of the war. With the rising political temperatures in Europe, the balance of power theory is helpful in finding the origins of World War I because it brings out the reasons for the establishment and existence of powerful alliances such as the Entente powers opposed to the Central powers. For instance, it explains that the Entente powers made up of the British Empire, the French Republic, and the Russian Empire came up because of their strength and their desire to fight against other strong powers such as Germany. Other weaker nations such as Belgium, Greece, and Montenegro are indicative of weaker nations joining stronger forces with the desire of being protected against external aggression. On the other hand, Austria-Hungary was desperate for a closer alliance with Germany aimed at its own security and increased protection against potential attacks. From the perspective of the balance of power theory, these alliances were an appropriate strategy to get into the war and ensure that a high level of support was available to both stronger states and weaker states across Europe. The alliances set the pace for increased animosity between countries. These alliances also indicate the height of international relations before the immediate onset of World War I, hence helping in the understanding of all factors surrounding its emergence. The nature of the war would have been quite difficult without the presence of such alliances as explained by the balance of powers and its approach to international relations.
More so, it helps in the understanding of the origins of World War I because of its position on imperialism and the subsequent effects of imperialism, especially where weaker countries feel dominated by stronger countries in the course of their activities. The balance of power theory looks into the relationship that countries might have been in and the position of every country in such a relationship. With the existence of imperialism, it is clear that there was a high level of inequality between dominant European powers and weak African and Asian states. Britain is the key example of a country that had declared its spheres of interest across Africa and Asia. This gave it the opportunity to grow strong in terms of its markets, foreign resources, territories, and its people. This did not go down well with countries such as Germany because it felt that it was being left behind in terms of acquiring dominance over other smaller global countries. The net result of this imperialism by 1914 was the emergence of the war because of the animosity and competition that developed among the different European powers themselves. One of the key events indicating the road toward the war was Otto Von Bismarck’s dislike of the overseas empire and his pursuance of colonial policy to respond to domestic political demands. He approved France’s colonization of the African continent because he felt that this shifted its attention from Europe, hence giving it the opportunity to remain dominant in the region. In the overall sense, the balance of powers helps in the understanding of the origins of World War I by revealing the enmity that was brewed through imperialism and the subsequent control that seemed to be achieved from this.
Lastly, the balance of power is helpful in the understanding of the origins of World War I through the reflection on events following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo. From the balance of power, it is easier to understand the nature of the decisions during the July Crisis of 1914, which subsequently formed the basis of World War I. It is easier to understand the tensions existing between the Kingdom of Serbia and the Austro-Hungarian government, especially with the lack of a clear statement on who had sent the assassin. The extension of tension to countries such as Germany and the Great Britain based on their support of these two countries also reveal how negative international relations had the potential of leading to the war. In this sense, the balance of power helps individuals understand the origins of World War I by indicating the breach of diplomatic relationships between countries and increased external interests from powerful countries such as Germany and Great Britain during this time. This bred increased animosity, which led to the war.
In conclusion, the element of balance of power helps in the understanding of the origin of World War I because of its particular focus on the element of national security and the initiative taking by individual countries to protect their interests through strengthened military capabilities distributed across their borders. The best thing about the balance of power is that it simplifies the overall subject on the causes of the First World War by focusing on the nature and effect of domestic politics of the major players in the war. The internal politics in Germany set the ground for the emergence of the war because leaders felt that some form of external war would be a strong sign of progression and realization of their weaknesses. More so, the theory of balance of powers is critical in the explanation of the arms race that was happening across Europe and their effect in terms of creating enmity and the war. It is also vital in leading to the understanding of the origins of the war because it reflects on the alliances that come about because of international cooperation among countries. Both stronger and weaker countries combined with countries such as Greece joining these alliances to be protected against aggression. In the overall sense, the emergence of World War I lies in the understanding of foreign policy and international relations that are easily captured by the balance of powers.