What The World Would Look Like If World War I Never Happened

Published: 24 January 2024

By Scott Williamson
via the Grunge web site

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World War I was the product of Europe’s principal powers forging webs of alliances, pledging to defend one another in the event any were invaded. These competing networks, combined with long-standing ethnic and border rivalries, exploded with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The war claimed the lives of 20 million people and lead to national, social, and technological changes that fundamentally defined the 20th and 21st centuries. What then, would the world be like if this massive conflict had never happened? Assuming a comparable war does not occur in its place, a world where World War I never happened would come with many positives and negatives.

Without the war, the more infamous genocides of the 20th century would not occur. In this scenario, Germany never sends Vladimir Lenin back from his Swiss exile to destabilize Russia, leading to the Soviet Union’s many purges and liquidations. Nor would the Nazi Party form (at least as it did) since its genocidal goals were shaped by anger toward Germany’s surrender and subsequent anti-Semitic explanations for why they lost (via Britannica). Even Italian fascism likely wouldn’t materialize, as the war is what led Mussolini to formulate his own dictatorial ambitions (via History). The Middle East would likely not see the chaos it has in our world either, since the 20th century Armenian Genocide and Franco-British carving of the region’s current borders were the result of the Ottoman Empire’s decline and defeat, respectively (via Smithsonian Magazine).

American Identity Would Be Different

World War I shaped the United States’ identity and paved the way for debates that still rage on today — most notably interventionism versus isolationism. President Woodrow Wilson supported the latter during his 1916 campaign and popularized the phrase “America First,” which has become a slogan for an isolationist U.S. policy stance. Understandably, his change of heart and decision to enter the country into WWI — a war not directly tied to American interests or on American soil — was controversial. It was opposed by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, who, like many today, believed that America should not be tied to or influenced by international bodies (like NATO) and be free to make decisions based on its own interests. The “America First” movement has seen multiple resurgences throughout the years, including in the 1930s amid tensions in Europe and in the 21st century thanks to former President Donald Trump.

Per the National Endowment for the Humanities, historian and writer A. Scott Berg said “modern America’s very identity was forged” during the Great War.

Read the entire article on the Grunge web site.
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