The outbreak of WWI, brought directly to WWII, with all its catastrophic results. Yet, as contrary to the WWII, that was 100% German initiation, and here i blame not only the Fuhrer but the majority of Germans, who supported him actively or passively (i don’t speak only about the less educated masses, but also the authentic leading elites), the outbreak of WWI is much more complicated story.
We have to start to understand, Germany came to existence only few decades before the outbreak of WWI, after Prussians winning the 1871 war against France. Until then but also after the unification of Germany, the Germans felt inferior against the French. Paris was Paris and Berlin couldn’t come close to its importance. So they tried to cover up these feelings of inferiority with stories of superiority about the German race. After the unification, as Germany became a dominant force in Europe, it wanted to become also major worldwide player. This explains also the strong connection of German after 1871 to its traditional rival the Austrian empire, with whom they fought war just few years before the unification (1866). This also explains the German friendship to the declining Ottoman Empire, that caused enmity with Russia, that later became a decisive factor in the outbreak of WWI.
The unprecedented German economic rise in 40 years following the unification, made it the biggest European economy, while still remembering the history of continuous humiliations they had to absorb from France in the years previous to 1871. It made the Germans paranoid about losing their recently achieved dominant position in Europe. This feeling strengthened with the enormous Russian economic development, that started at late 19 century and got extra push with the political reforms following the revolution of 1905 and the French-Russian pact from 1892.
This was the psychological-emotional background, that made Germany paranoid and also aggressive. All the generals including Molkte (the hero of the Franch-Prussian war at 1871), wouldn’t be able to start a world war, if not the German feeling of being unjustly kept as the underdog of Europe.
Of course there were some additional unfortunate circumstances, like the murder of Ferdinand, who personally strongly opposed the war in the Balkans, and his murder weakened very much this opposition. Ferdinand was also close associate to Wilhelm II, and his murder provoked in psychologically not very stable Kaiser, state of unpredictability. And the last but not the least, the old monarch Franz Josef, aged 84 at 1914, couldn’t oppose the militarily activist intentions of Leopold Graf Berchtold von und zu Ungarschitz, Frättling und Püllütz or shortly Count Berchtold who was obsessed greatly with the Balkan wars.
Conclusion; emotions and psychology are the driving force behind the history and as so the human history is arbitrary and unpredictable. All the idea that there is causality in human history comes from the Bible and as so many other claims in the bible, it is also not correct.
I know with this statement above i will make angry many historians and rightly, because there are times, when i do think the history is predictable, like i would claim that the Arab revolution could have been predicted, and i have done it few month before its outbreak
still if you would ask me to where this revolution is heading too and what impact it will have on the world, i wouldn’t know.
So let us just stick to the notion, history is unpredictable, and better to be careful, not to start a WWIII.