I will discuss the system of alliances between countries and the causes of World War I. What was the position of the United States at the beginning of the war? Why did the United States eventually end the war? How was the United States affected after the war?
The best known cause of World War I was the alliance system that developed in Europe in the half-century before World War I. An alliance is a formal political, military or economic agreement signed by two or more nations. Alliances are binding under international law, though they are frequently annulled or broken. Many alliances require signatory nations to provide support to other signatory nations in the event of war with an enemy power. This support may range from financial or logistic backing, such as the supply of materials or weapons, to military support or even a full declaration of war. Alliances may also contain economic conditions, such as trade agreements or investment. Alliances were hardly new in Europe. The continent had for centuries been a melting pot of old rivalries, political intrigue, competing territorial ambitions, military threats, nationalistic suspicion and paranoia. France and England were antagonists for centuries; several times this rivalry had erupted into open warfare. Bilateral relations between the French and Germans, the French and Russians and the British and Russians had also been strained. European leaders responded to these tensions by negotiating and signing alliances, both as a deterrent to war and to better protect their country should one break out.
As World War I erupts in Europe, President Woodrow Wilson formally proclaims the neutrality of the United States, a position that a vast majority of Americans favored, on August 4, 1914. (Berkin 2013, 617).
Wilson's initial hope that America could be "impartial in thought as well as in action" was soon compromised by Germany's attempted quarantine of the British Isles. Britain was one of America's closest trading partners, and tension arose between the United States and Germany when several U.S. ships traveling to Britain were damaged or sunk by German mines. Disagreements in Europe over territory and boundaries, among other issues, came to a head with the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria by a Serbian zealot on June 28, 1914. Exactly one month later, war broke out. In 1915, would be the sinking of the Lusitania, a British cruise ship, bound for Britain from New York. The German U-boat ring sought to sink all supply ships headed for Britain in order to starve the island. It sank the Lusitania as part of its efforts. 1195 people died, including 128 Americans. The Lusitania's sinking was the biggest influence on the American decision to enter the war.