How did militarism help lead to the beginning of World War I?
After the Franco-Prussian war all the European nations adopted the German plan for universal military conscription. Thus by 1914 there were approximately three and a half million men in the standing armies and millions more in the trained reserves.
Each nation, of course, claimed that its preparations were merely for defensive purposes. Statesmen, too, were less willing to negotiate in good faith as long as they felt they had some military might back of them.
But perhaps the most dangerous effect was the frame of mind this building up of armaments developed. Militarism tends to impart an attitude of approval of war as an elevating, ennobling occupation. In each country the aim was carefully to prepare the population, physically and mentally, for the eventuality of war.
Thus, when Serbia angered Austria, Austria determined to punish Serbia, but then Russia backed Serbia, thus seemingly threatening Austria. Austria sought German support, while Russia, in turn, invoked French aid, and finally Great Britain came to the support of France. The wheels were turning and the world slipped mindlessly into war, without regard to the awful consequences.