The American civil war till date is usually considered the American defining moment. It took place from 1861 until 1865 and is usually at times referred to as the war between states. At this time there were eleven southern slave states that had declared their intention to secede from the United States. They formed the Confederate States of America that was also known as the Confederacy. Under the leadership of one Jefferson Davies, they fought against the US that was also at the time referred to as the Union. The Union was supported by all the Free States where slavery had been abolished. They were also supported by another five slave states that were later referred to as the Border States.
The First World War also popularly known as the Great War on its part was a military conflict that took place in Europe. The battle began in 1914 and lasted for four years. It involved all the world’s great powers that were organized in two opposing unions. It is considered one of the largest wars in the history of the world that involved over 70 million military men and another mobilized 60 million Europeans. It also recorded one of the largest deaths as over 9 million combatants were killed. This huge number of deaths was considered to be as a result of the great technological advances in military facilities and has been regarded as the second deadliest conflict in history.
These two wars have been considered by different people to have been a failure and therefore in this paper I am going to discuss the root causes and the critical factors that led to the failure of these two wars.
The First World War on the other hand can be said to have been a failure since the initiators of the war had lost the war and also failed to achieve their tactical mission and specific goals. The First World War had ended with the allies of Britain, France and Russia being considered the successful winners of the Great War (Strachan, 2005). There were a number of reasons why Germany lost the war at the hand of these allies. One of the major reasons was the negative effects that the long war had on the German economy. Other reasons that were very evident were the unified alliance systems, the allied naval blockade on Germany, the development of the tank towards the end of the war together with its leadership (Strachan, 2005).
I would like to mention at this point that after the unity that brought together Germany as one, the country was becoming one of the wealthiest and powerful countries in the world. Most of its industries were mainly steel and coal based. And this was one of the major factors that played a great role in their lead up to becoming rich. For this reason therefore they became strong and their hunger for more colonies, land and money started. This was motivated by their belief that they deserved more colonies like any of the other so called powerful nation (Strachan, 2005). At this point therefore they started the war on an upper hand as compared to the other powerful nations that were to actively participate in this war. Unfortunately for them, as the war started things started going wrong.
First and foremost since they had to start the war fighting on two fronts i.e. France and Russia, their intention was to destroy the earlier quickly and then turn their resources towards the latter. At this point they had underestimated Britain with the belief that they would only be effective on sea and become inactive on the European war.
This German plan completely failed since the French resistance proved to be a hard nut to crack. They were hungry to revenge against the Germans for stealing the Alsace-Lorraine away from them in 1870 when they lost the war against Germany. For this reason Germany were attacked from two fronts with the British whom they had underestimated at the beginning surprising them by the fact that they were actually properly trained to fight on land hence causing a lot of problems to the Germans. There economy as a result continued to decline as the war continued wearing them down (Strachan, 2005).
Another critical factor that caused problems to the Germans was the alliance problem. The strong allies that Britain had, managed to help them duly in this war. In 1917 the great USA also managed to join the war. They provided great manpower and very vital resources that was to make a difference in the battle. On the other hand it is important to note that Germany’s allies were in a way quite useless since they were not able to provide the same support that the British allies provided. Another major challenge for Germany was the change of sides by Italy as soon as the war broke out (Strachan, 2005).
Another critical factor that worked against the Germans was the Allied Naval blockade. It must be noted that only the northern part of Germany faced the sea with few major ports. Britain managed to take advantage of this fact and blocked supplies from getting into Germany through the sea (Strachan, 2005).
The reason why some people consider the American civil war to have been successful was because of the new political dispensation that it brought about. The end of the war came about with the passage of three major constitutional amendments that; one, abolished slavery completely and termed it illegal; two, granted citizenship to millions of freed slaves; and last but not least a few years after the end of the war granted the freed slaves the right to vote. For this reason we can say there was success on the battlefield but on the other hand they failed to achieve the tactical goals of the war simply because the end of the war did not mark an end to the underlying issues such as inequality and racial discrimination (Gallagher, 2003). As we are going to see, the constitutional change was not enough and therefore more had to be done to achieve complete equality.
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The African-American community had suffered a lot at the hands of the slave traders. This was very evident in an event where a few years before the congressional abolition of slavery, the supreme court had made a ruling in the Dred Scott case that the black community whether free or slaves had no right to attain full or even partial citizenship. This is where the struggle started when the black community wrote to the Chief Justice questioning whether justice was administered in that ruling. The black community therefore continued to suffer from this kind of discrimination for a while where they were not even thought of or spoken about but just viewed as property. They were viewed as people of an inferior being and therefore unfit to mix, socialize and associate with the white race both in terms of political and social matters. There inferiority went to the extent of being deemed worthless that no white man was considered bound to respect them (Gallagher, 2003).
Sadly enough, through out the country both north and south and even within the entire political system, there was no political support that was geared towards the abolishment of this discriminative institution. In fact, before the start of the war congress was on record for trying to block the secession movement. In doing this they passed the first 13th amendment that guaranteed the African American slavery. Fortunately this law was abolished in 1865 at the end of the civil war and the institution of slavery was finally abolished completely and ended completely the question of secession (Gallagher, 2003).
This war was one that was very challenging since achieving political equity on paper alone was not enough as dictated by the 14th and the 15th amendments that I had earlier mentioned. This was an institution whose foundation had been built on a deep and embedded racism towards the black community on the belief that the white race was supreme and there was no way they were to associate with the black race (Gallagher, 2003).
The failure to enforce the 13th, 14th and the 15th amendment to the constitution was the major failure of not only the southern but the entire American government and the nation. For this reason, over the next few years after the war the rights of the African-Americans continued to slowly erode throughout the south of America. This was largely attributed to the enactment of the Jim Crow’s laws that discriminated and segregated the entire black population both socially, economically and politically. The white supremacy that was popular before the war was as evident as ever. From 1890 and for the next three decades statistics had shown that three black Americans were murdered every week somewhere in the south of America. Even though they were forced to pay taxes, they were denied even the most basics benefits that were enjoyed by their white counterparts. They were only afforded inferior public schools and transportation facilities that were segregated, and were exposed to physical intimidation for a whole century following the war (Gallagher, 2003).
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A lot of valuable lessons can be learnt from these two wars that can be applicable in the struggles we are facing today such as terrorism. One of the most important lessons we can take from this analysis is the power of unity just like the saying goes “together we stand and divided we fall”. Britain’s reliable allies the unity they shared enabled them to come out successful conquerors in the great war at the expense of Germany who did not share a common interest in the battle. This lesson should be taken seriously by the nations of the world today, both who have suffered at the hands of the terrorists and those who have not. For this is the only way to succeed in this struggle to end this act.