In the rising part of the 20th century many issues come to mind, when it comes to what was the cause of WWI. Nationalism can be described as one s pride in their county or state. Loyalty was important in the early 20th century and that is why Nationalism was the cause of WWI.
During the early part of the 20th century the idealism of being an independent country was becoming a frequent activity. The annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary fueled this fire in the Balkan states. The annexation sparked the nationalistic idea to rise up against Austria-Hungary and become an independent state. Serbia, wanting to join with other Serbian nations outside their borders, was totally against coming under Austrian-Hungarian control. Serbia quickly called to Russia for help, but with Germany on the side of Austria-Hungary, they quickly stopped the Russian descent and Bosnia-Herzegovina had to recognize the annexation.
This situation leads to the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. With the Serbians mad at the Austrian-Hungarian government, the formation of some nationalistic groups such as The Black Hand took place. These organizations were a result of the rising nationalism that was taking place within the nation state. Fighting for their nation, they assassinated the Archduke in an attempt to acquire independence. The assassination unleashed a chain reaction of events, which caused Germany to declare war on Russia on June 28, 1914.
The rise of Nationalism was else where too. The Germans adopted the Schlieffen Plan which enabled them to fight and defeat France then move on to Russia. This plan, if executed right, allowed Germany to become the influential power in Europe. Becoming a European power was a nationalistic view throughout all of Germany in the post-war era.
The prime weakness in each of the other positions assumed is as follows: In the Alliance System there were no true treaties; they were only gentlemen s agreements. In keeping them secret, no one knew who was in conjunction with anybody else therefore making countries reluctant to attack. In Imperialism, each had its own domestic problems, which influenced foreign policy. The Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907 was not an alliance but a settlement over spheres of influence in Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet. Militarism could have never taken place without the other movements occurring first. Tension arose between countries due to the friction Imperialism caused. Therefore, in order to protect their economic influence in these nation states, countries began to build up their military forces.
The most damaging weakness in Nationalism is that Nationalism may cause a culture to consider itself superior to all other cultures. This in turn may be used as a justification to eliminate other groups. A prime example is that of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. But, on the other hand, this superior attitude towards other cultures could cause severe tension between whoever is involved, and in turn cause the inferior country to lash out causing a conflict or in this case war.
Many issues and ideals may have attributed to the cause of WWI, but if one would look at the whole picture, they would see that at the heart of each ideal leads them back to the one important movement in the post-war era: Nationalism.