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Causes of WWI and WWII: Comparing and Contrasting Essay


The First World War, as well as the Second World War, are regarded as the most devastating military conflicts in the history of humanity. The First World Ward is also known as the Great War. It was the first global conflict between Central Powers and Allied Powers. Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany, and Ottoman Empire comprised Central Powers. Russia, France, Italy, and Great Britain were the primary forces of Allied Powers. World War I commenced in 1914 and ended in 1918. More than nine million people were killed during four years of war (“World War I” par. 1). More countries took part in World War II than in WWI, and its destructive outcomes were worse too. The primary aggressors of WWII were Germany, Italy, and Japan. France, Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the United States became Allies. WWI started in 1939 and lasted until 1945. The approximate number of deaths comprised more than fifty million (“World War II” par. 2).

Numerous scientists have investigated the causes of both wars. In the following paper, Kenneth Waltz’s levels of analysis will be used for the comparison and contrast of causes of WWI and WWII. Kenneth Waltz was a founder of structural realism or neorealism who suggested three levels of analysis for the evaluation of causes of war in his book “Man, the State, the War”. The first level of analysis concerns particular individuals.

Thus, wars can be caused by the specific intentions and behaviors of leaders. The second level deals with the examination of domestic factors that may cause war. The situation within the country, the existence and activities of pressure groups belong to this level of analysis. The third level is global. It is the international level of analysis, and it examines international relations between states as a potential cause for war (Dooley 261-263).

The third level of analysis is systemic as far as it presents the highest level of evaluation. According to Waltz, the structure of international politics, power distribution, and national interests are primary causes of wars on the third level of analysis (Dibek par. 2). Waltz believed that the structure of the international system was anarchic. He used the word “anarchy” to describe the absence of absolute world power or the highest government rather than the state of chaos. Thus, at the highest level of their autonomy, countries are on their own. Consequently, they aim at improving their positions and defending national interests.

The first similarity between both WWI and WWII refers to the similar structure of wars. Thus, both wars were represented by Allied countries that opposed the German aggression and its supporters. One can conclude that there was a state of anarchy before wars. The second similarity refers to the distribution of power and the division of world order. In both wars, Germany believed that it should receive a better position on the global level.

Although the distribution of power and opposition to aggressors occurred between almost the same countries, wars had different ground. World War I was caused by the instability of Austro-Hungarian Empire. Serbia wanted to become an independent nation. After the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Russia supported Serbia while Germany — the Empire. The separation of Serbia was catastrophic for Empire’s might and dominance.

The conflict was based on the division of territories. Also, countries fought for national pride (“World War I & II Compare and Contrast” 11-12). In contrast, Adolf Hitler, who believed in the superiority of the Aryan race, initiated WWII. As a result, the war occurred because of the clash of two ideologies such as Fascism and Communism. These differences exemplify various processes of both conflicts. WWI comprised of fighting for territories and countries. WWII included acts of massive slaughtering of people who did not belong to the Aryan race.

According to Waltz, specialized international organizations should monitor the instability in the particular region. Some scholars believe that the lack of such authority as the League of Nations is the primary cause for WWI. The participants of WWI failed to follow rules of diplomatic negotiations. When the WWI was over, the League of Nations was created to promote peace and diplomacy in the world. The history showed that the League of Nations did not possess necessary power and influence to control intentions of Germany and other aggressors before WWII. Still, the presence of such organization and countries’ refusal to follow new principles of diplomacy are primary distinctive features of causes of WWII (“Comparing and Contrasting WW1 and WW2” par. 4).

The usage of the first and second levels of analysis would help me to improve my explanation of causes of WWII. As far as the first level describes individuals, it is directly connected with Adolf Hitler. His individuality, personal preferences, and beliefs were crucial for the beginning of WWII. The second level of analysis, domestic, can be useful for the evaluation of the propaganda of Nazi ideology among people. Hitler had to inspire his nation to follow his idea. The propaganda of the superiority of the Aryan race and the need to make the society clear was essential for the commencement of the war.

Works Cited

Comparing and Contrasting WW1 and WW2. n.d. Web.

Dibek, Elif. What are the Basic Concepts of Neorealism? n.d. Web.

Dooley, Kevin. Why Politics Matter: An Introduction to Political Science. Boston, Massachusetts: Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.

World War I. n.d. Web.

World War I & II Compare and Contrast. n.d. Web.

World War II. n.d. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, June 29). Causes of WWI and WWII: Comparing and Contrasting. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/causes-of-wwi-and-wwii-comparing-and-contrasting/

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"Causes of WWI and WWII: Comparing and Contrasting." IvyPanda, 29 June 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/causes-of-wwi-and-wwii-comparing-and-contrasting/.

1. IvyPanda. "Causes of WWI and WWII: Comparing and Contrasting." June 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/causes-of-wwi-and-wwii-comparing-and-contrasting/.


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IvyPanda. "Causes of WWI and WWII: Comparing and Contrasting." June 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/causes-of-wwi-and-wwii-comparing-and-contrasting/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Causes of WWI and WWII: Comparing and Contrasting." June 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/causes-of-wwi-and-wwii-comparing-and-contrasting/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Causes of WWI and WWII: Comparing and Contrasting'. 29 June.

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