Explain the causes of World War I. Why did America get involved? How did the war affect the United States, both during and after?

A

Officially, the First World War started after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at the hands of Serbian radicals in June 1914. However, the conflict was brooding for a long while, as various territorial, political, and economic conflicts between the Triple Entente (Russia, Britain, France) and the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy) remained unresolved due to the crisis of defensive alliances. Some of the unresolved issues included the Balkan conflict, the Alsace-Lorraine dispute, and Britain-Germany economic rivalry (Keegan 33). The US decided to stay out of the conflict, for various reasons. The country had diplomatic and trade relations with both sides of the conflict, meaning that taking a side would cause severe economic drawbacks. At the same time, as the casualties piled up, a good portion of the US populace felt terrified by the prospect of sending young American soldiers to die in distant Europe for a cause that was not theirs. However, the US was forced into war by Germany, which targeted supply convoys and merchant ships. An additional reason to declare war against Germany was given by the Zimmerman Telegram, which was a secret proposal of an alliance between Germany and Mexico in the event of war (Keegan 16). As the US had territorial disputes with Mexico over the status of Texas, the secret alliance was considered as a declaration of war.

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