The First World War

The First World War arose for a variety of reasons, some of which have been highlighted by political analysts. Some say it was because of Germany's ambition to control Europe; others say it was because of rivalry between European nations; and still others say it was because of the formation of alliances. The realist thesis summarizes the causes of the First World War; this view contends that when mankind are in a condition of anarchy, war is inevitable to erupt in an attempt to restore order and a uniform source of authority. Following a systemic level of analysis of WW1, one can perceive the truth spread by the realist theory. The different aspects of realism such as the need for security, the need for protection from enemies and the need to develop economically in pursuit of personal interests all explain the real cause of the world war.

To begin with, the countries involved in WW1 needed to secure their borders due to the growth of their neighbors. For instance, Germany was growing economically and also in terms of military strength and her neighbors viewed this as a form of threat. The United Kingdom had dominated Europe before the rise of Germany and owing to the perception that Germany was a threat; they had to take significant actions to ensure that one country did not control the whole of Europe. More to this, Russia was also growing in power hence challenging the dominant position that Germany had.

As a result of the growth in economic and militant power, the countries that felt threatened had to look for means to protect themselves from their perceived enemies. Britain felt threatened by Germany’s rise, and as a result, they formed an alliance with France. Later on, the alliance was expanded to include Russia hence forming the triple entente. On the other hand, Germany felt threatened by the alliance between Britain, France, and Russia; the Germans perceived that they were encircled by enemies, thereby they were vulnerable to attack. In this way, they also responded by forming alliances of their own; Germany strengthened their relations with Austria-Hungary. This interdependence between the nations was in an attempt to restore balance in power in the anarchical state the world existed.

Finally, the ambitions of some countries to grow economically in pursuit of personal interests also fuelled the war. For instance, Germany feared a future where there would be an imbalance of power largely due to the growing power of Russia. In this way, they sought to hinder Russia’s growth so that no future threats would occur. Britain on the other hand also had a personal interest to maintain control over Europe; as a previous superpower, they could not guarantee the security of Europe since their power had declined due to Germany’s growth.


In summary, following a systemic level of analysis, WW1 arose due to several interconnected factors. The first reason was that the world was in a state of anarchy and each nation sought to grow economically and militarily to impose a unipolar system of government over the world. The result of this was the formation of alliances in the hope that interdependence between the nations would result in a balance of power hence avoiding the war. Alliances were formed in order to gain a feeling of security and protection against enemies; however, these alliances worked differently than expected since they fuelled tension. A security dilemma occurred where each country felt less secure due to the alliances formed by their enemies, and therefore the countries went to war despite the fact that neither country wanted the war to break out.

Works Cited

Hewitson, Mark. Germany and the Causes of the First World War. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014. .

Levy, J. S. The outbreak of the First World War: Structure, politics, and decision-making. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014.

Zagare, Frank C. The Games of July: Explaining the Great War. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011.

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