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The current essay provides explanations of wars of aggression, wars of refusal, and wars of retribution. Examples of all these wars will be given in the current work to present deeper understanding of these catastrophes. Much attention will be paid to causes of these conflicts and behaviors of aggressors. All of the provided examples are closely connected with World War I. This Great War combines characteristics of aggression, refusal, and retribution military conflicts because various states involved in this catastrophe have had different interests. All the provided information will be based on relevant sources.

The Global Catastrophe

World War I, also known as the Great War, was the unique event because it combined various political and social processes. Each country involved in this war had its particular interest: protection of its territory, prevention of aggression from the neighboring countries, expanding the territory, realization of imperial ambitions, and retribution. World War I can be considered the combination of wars of aggression, wars of refusal, and wars of retribution. The description of the political, economic and social processes of each of these wars is very important for the understanding the causes and consequences of this global catastrophe.

Wars of Aggression

Wars of aggression are the conflicts based on the defiance of the country (or countries) for gaining some particular political purposes other than self-defense. These military flare-ups can have the aim to escalate the political conflicts in the region, expand the territory, or increase the political influence on some area. The invasion of armed forces on the territory of other state can be performed with or without the declaration of war. Aggressors want to show their power and strength. This power can be reflected by means of big land army, large fleet, or strong position on the political arena. Wars of aggression are usually started by states that feel their strengths against states that are considered weak.

Some wars of aggression have nationalistic character. They may reflect the aggression of one nation towards another one due to several reasons: religious and ethical differences, affiliation to some particular nation or group of individuals. David Fromkin, in his work Europe’s Last Summer: Who started the Great War in 1914?, described the nationalistic paradox that existed on the territory of Europe in the beginning of the 20th century. On the one hand, there was the strong understanding that every nation “had the right to become independent and to rule itself” (Fromkin 24). However, on the other hand, there was a belief that “nonmembers of the nation should assimilate, be denied civic rights, be expelled, or even be killed” (Fromkin 25). Some of wars of aggression can be based on the imperceptions of one nation by the other.

Sometimes, wars of aggression have the aim to advance actions of states that may pose threat to the aggressor-state. Michael Doyle, in his work Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism, stated that the weakness and fear were among the major factors that could lead to war (219). Aggression of the government that fears other states is based on its attempts to prevent the intervention on its territory by making outstrip invasion. Usually, such aggression based on the fear is closely connected with the internal weakness of the state. The example of the state that took the major role in the establishment of war of aggression (World War I) is Germany.

The government of this country clearly understood the growing threat caused by the development of other European countries. The United Kingdom had the biggest and the strongest navy. At the same time, this state was the wealthiest and the most powerful country in the world in the beginning of the 20th century (Fromkin 18). Russia was the world’s largest country with the rapidly developing industry. France had strong economy and it even provided financial help to Russia. At the same time, almost 90% of Germany’s budget was directed at the strengthening of its army and navy, instead of social, economic, and industrial development (Fromkin 67). This state had poor taxation system and it only got deeper into the debt pit. The government of Germany clearly understood that the country became weaker, when other European states became stronger. This understanding formed the background of fear and the necessity of performing advanced aggressive actions: “Germany … had the fear of potential power of Russia” (Magagna). This war of aggression had the following purposes: outstripping the aggression from the side of other states, showing the power, strengthening state’s political position, acquisition of new territories, and obtaining additional sources of funding.

Wars of Refusal

Wars of refusal are military conflicts that reflect the disagreement of the country or countries regarding some established matters or facts. World War I can be the example of the war of refusal. Germany did not agree with the existing alignment of political forces on the territory of Europe and Northern Africa (Fromkin 19). This country had one of the biggest armies and navy in Europe. The developing economy and growing military force created the background for Germany’s enormous hunger to become the empire. Until the beginning of the 20th century, Germany supported France in its overseas policy. This support was reflected in facilitation of expending of French political influence on Morocco. The German government believed that French expansion in Africa would transit attention of the French government from European political processes. However, the German government was changed in the beginning of the 20th century. New politicians turned their attention to the expansion to Morocco, but it was too late. The majority of the great forces (the UK and Russia) supported French policy. The government of Germany considered that the only way to change the situation and to expand its political influence on the territory of this African country was the open conflict. World War I became the war of refusal of Germany to accept French dominance in Morocco.

In addition, the government of Germany was dissatisfied by the disposition of political powers in Europe. In the beginning of the 20th century, the position of the Muslim Ottoman Empire on the European political area became considerably weaker. The country lost its influence in the Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Morocco, and Libya. The territories of these countries were redistributed within several years. As it was mentioned above, Italy expanded its political influence in Morocco. Austria-Hungary annexed the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Italian government ruled Libya. Balkans was divided between Serbia, Greece, and Bulgaria. Consequently, the government of Germany could not realize its imperial ambitions on the territory of Europe. World War I was the reflection of Germany’s refusal to accept the established redistribution of territories. Germany intended to use this conflict for annexation of some areas and increasing of its political influence in the region.

It should be mentioned, that in the beginning of the 20th century, Great Britain had the biggest and the strongest navy in Europe. The overseas expansion of this state was based on this power. However, the developing Germany also wanted to become the naval empire. This country had the most powerful land army and it financed the construction of new navy. In the beginning of the 20th century, almost 90% of Germany’s budget was directed at the strengthening of its armed forces (Fromkin 67). The purpose of this budgeting was pressing Great Britain during World War I and placing the position of the strongest naval empire in the world. This position could enable Germany to conquer new territories overseas.

World War I can be considered as the military conflict based on the refusal of the German government to accept the existing distribution of military influence in the world. German politicians did not want to accept the existing redistribution of European and African territories. In addition, they were against the domination of Great Britain on large lengths of seas. Germany did not accept the situation that existed in the beginning of the 20th century: being the developing country with the strongest and the biggest land forces, it had insufficient influence on the world political area.

The war of refusal is the reflection of rejection of some country against processes or orders. The background of war of refusal lies in the fast change of social, political, and economic processes in the country that rejects the established order. Newly formed society has new self-determination and it wants to express its power and state its position. This state desires to reflect its ideas and strength, to be adequately treated by other nations and countries. The understanding that the state cannot improve its position on the international scene facilitates the rejection of the established order.

Wars of Retribution

Wars of retribution are military conflicts between several states or group of states. In these conflicts, one party requites the other party for prejudice of the interests. Usually, infringement of interests is reflected in the annexation of territories. Wars of retribution are based on clear understanding that one state (or states united by common purpose) has the moral right to begin the conflict against another state (or states united by common purpose) for reestablishment of justice. These conflicts arise as responses to previous aggression reflected by other states. It should be noted that Michael W. Doyle, in his work Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism, stated that the feeling of revenge was one of the major features which could lead to war.

The example of the war of retribution is the First Balkan War. This military conflict took place in the Balkan Peninsula in 1912. This war was the response of the Balkan states to the aggression and land acquisition in the Balkan Peninsula performed by the Ottoman Empire in the end of 19th century – the beginning of the 20th century.

The political influence of the Ottoman Empire on the Balkan Peninsula became considerably weaker in the early 20th century. Such countries as Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Montenegro gained independence. However, considerable parts of their territories remained under the rule of Turkish state. Governments of these countries required retribution from the Ottoman Empire for the long-term expansion. These states also wanted to return their territories. These desires and intents formed the background of creation the Balkan League in 1912. This alliance was formed by Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Montenegro. Different factors instilled confidence in governments of these states that they could win in the First Balkan War. These factors are the following: the weakening of the strength of the Turkish army, poor governance, and insufficient political reforms in the Ottoman Empire, support of the Balkan League by the European Great force (Russia). It should be mentioned that the weak position and inability of the Ottoman Empire to stand against the European armies was reflected in its failure to withstand the French Army in Morocco prior to the war conflict on the Balkan Peninsula. In the First Balkan War, the Turkish army was defeated by the joint forces of the League. Hence, Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Montenegro obtained control of the whole peninsula and other European Ottoman territories, like Shkodra and Bizani.

This war of retribution represents the response of European countries to Turkish aggression. Usually, wars of retribution are based on the clear understanding of some particular nations that their rights were infringed by other state or states. These nations enhance their military forces and wait for the convenient moment when their offender becomes weaker. The affected parties often gain support of some stronger states for increasing their military force and the political influence on the aggressor. Wars of retribution, unlike wars of aggression, have the aim to defend political interests, return their territories, and punish the state-offender. These military conflicts are considered as the matters of the restoration of the justice


The current work provides the description of three different types of military conflicts: wars of aggression, wars of refusal, and wars of retribution. Aggression of some states against other states is reflected in the territorial invasion. Wars of refusal reflect the non-acceptance of some states of the existing political order and established redistribution of territories. Wars of retribution reflect the willingness of states to restore justice. Various examples of these military conflicts were presented in this essay. All of them are closely connected with World War I. This war was commenced by different states that had various purposes: expanding the territory, retribution and protection from aggressors, redistribution of political and military influence. Hence, the Great War combines the features of war of aggression, war of refusal, and war of retribution.

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