Friday, August 8, 2014

World War 1: The "Accidental" War?

As noted in the article by Jonah Goldberg  on WW1 I linked to earlier, one of the popular perceptions of the war is that it started because "Countries and forgotten empires declared war on each other in no small part because a bunch of aristocrats in funny clothes said they had to."  The perception is that after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, all the leaders of Europe started making threats to overcompensate for their small dicks and then declared war on each other to see whose penis was truly the biggest.  The thinking seems to go if that we could have avoided this brief moment of insanity, the world would have remained stable and peaceful and would be a remarkably different place right now.

I think a war the type of WW1 was much more inevitable then others may think.  One bit of history that often seems to get overlooked are the two Balkan Wars that were fought in 1912 and 1913.  These wars were a  result of the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and while Austria-Hungary was not a participant, an enlarged Serbia would soon become a threat to that declining empire as well.

The period of time encompassing the late19th/early 20th centuries saw huge shifts in the balance of power with the rise of Germany and the decline of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.  While Germany is often looked at as the instigator of WW1, a solid argument could be made the war was really the death throes of Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans.  Their days as empires were over, and they were never going to die quietly, or without major repercussions that would be seen years down the road.

Also, when looking at the rush to war that took place after the Ferdinand assassination, I don't think we should be so naive as to assume the common citizens of the nations didn't want war just as much as the aristocrats.  The citizens of the dying Ottoman and Austria-Hungary empires likely wanted back their prestige on the world stage and saw war as the best way to accomplish that.  The Russians were still stinging from their defeat against the Japanese a decade earlier, and were looking for war victories that would revitalize them.  Even the French were likely looking for revenge for their defeat against Germany four decades earlier.

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