World War One: First war was impossible, then inevitable

By Anatole Kaletsky
June 27, 2014

British troops advance during the battle of the Somme in this 1916 handout picture

Why does the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand — the event that lit the fuse of World War One 100 years ago Saturday — still resonate so powerfully? Virtually nobody believes World War Three will be triggered by recent the military conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq or the China seas, yet many factors today mirror those that led to the catastrophe in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.

The pace of globalization was almost as dramatic and confusing in 1914 as it is today. Fear of random terrorism was also widespread — the black-hatted anarchist clutching a fizzing bomb was a cartoon cliché then just as the Islamic jihadist is today. Yet the crucial parallel may be the complacent certainty that economic interdependence and prosperity had made war inconceivable — at least in Europe.

An undated archive picture shows German soldiers offering to surrender to French troops, seen from a listening post in a trench at Massiges, northeastern FranceA 1910 best-selling book, The Great Illusion, used economic arguments to demonstrate that territorial conquest had become unprofitable, and therefore global capitalism had removed the risk of major wars. This view, broadly analogous to the modern factoid that there has never been a war between two countries with a MacDonald’s outlet, became so well established that, less than a year before the Great War broke out, the Economist reassured its readers with an editorial titled “War Becomes Impossible in Civilized World.”

“The powerful bonds of commercial interest between ourselves and Germany,” the Economist insisted, “have been immensely strengthened in recent years … removing Germany from the list of our possible foes.”

The real “Great Illusion,” of course, turned out to be the idea that economic self-interest made wars obsolete. Yet a variant of this naïve materialism has returned. It underlies, for example, the Western foreign policy that presents economic sanctions on Russia or Iran as a substitute for political compromise or military intervention.

The truth, as the world discovered in 1914 and is re-discovering today in Ukraine, the Middle East and the China seas, is that economic interests are swept aside once the genie of nationalist or religious militarism is released. As I pointed out in this column, Russia has in past conflicts withstood economic losses unimaginable to politicians and diplomats in the Western world — and the same is true of Iran and China. Thus the U.S. strategy of “escalating economic costs” cannot be expected to achieve major geopolitical objectives, such as preserving Ukraine’s borders or Japan’s uninhabited islands. Either territory must be open to renegotiation or the West must be prepared to fight to protect the “sanctity” of borders, which shows the really unsettling parallels with the world of 1914.

kaiser_czar (2)Though historians continue to debate World War One’s proximate causes, two key destabilizing features of early 20th-century geopolitics created the necessary conditions for the sudden spiral into all-consuming conflict: the rise and fall of great powers, and the over-zealous observance of mutual-defense treaties. These features are now returning to destabilize geopolitics a century later.

The great power rotation of 1914 saw the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire in decline with Germany ascendant. Meanwhile, Britain, with France and Russia as junior partners, sought to maintain dominance in Europe. But their money, military resources and political perseverance were running out.

Today, Russia is a declining power and China is rising, while the United States is trying to maintain the 20th-century balance of power, with Europe and Japan as junior partners. Under these conditions, both rising and declining powers often conflict with nations currently in control.

The rising powers want to extend their territory or correct perceived historic wrongs. They challenge the status quo — as China is doing in its neighboring seas. The declining powers, meanwhile, want to prevent territorial erosion and avoid diplomatic humiliations. Countries like Russia today or Austria-Hungary in 1914 clash with the dominant powers presiding over what seems to them a natural and inevitable decline. The United States and Europe see no reason why Russia should object to the enlargement of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But to Russia this looks like territorial aggression and encirclement by hostile forces.

An archive picture shows French soldiers standing in German trenches seized after being shelled on the Somme front, northern FranceRising and declining powers naturally tend to unite against the status quo leaders. In 1914, for example, Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire did this against France, Britain and Russia; today it is logical for China and Russia to collaborate against the United States, the European Union and Japan.

This logic has been reinforced recently by the Obama administration’s odd decision to re-emphasize its support for Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in their territorial disputes with China, at the same time as it confronts Russia in Ukraine.

Which brings me to the clearest lesson from 1914: the pernicious nexus of treaties and alliances that commit great powers to fight on behalf of other countries. This turned localized conflicts into regional or global wars — and did so with terrifying speed and unpredictability.

The obvious examples today are NATO and the U.S.-Japanese mutual defense treaty, which in theory commit the United States to launch wars against Russia or China if they encroached on disputed territories in Eastern Europe or the East China Sea. Could such treaties act as a hair-trigger for global war, as in 1914?

Consider this statement by General Sir Richard Shirreff, formerly NATO’s second most senior military officer at a debate about Russia: “Everyone surely agrees that we would be ready to go to war to defend Britain’s borders. Well, as a NATO member, Britain’s borders are now in Latvia.”

archduckIt may seem almost impossible that Washington would go to war against Beijing to defend some uninhabited Japanese islands. Or against Moscow over some decrepit mining towns in Donbas, if Ukraine ever joined NATO. In early 1914, though, it seemed almost impossible that Britain and France would go to war with Germany to defend Russia against Austria-Hungary over a dispute with Serbia.

Yet by June 28, war moved straight from impossible to inevitable — without ever passing through improbable. Four years later, 10 million people had died.

 

 

PHOTO (TOP): British troops advancing. Battle of the Somme 1916. REUTERS/Archive of Modern Conflict

PHOTO (INSERT 1): German soldiers (rear) offering to surrender to French troops, seen from a listening post in a trench at Massiges, northeastern France. REUTERS/Collection Odette Carrez

PHOTO (INSERT 2): German Kaiser Wilhelm II and Russian Czar Nicholas II are seen in a combination photo.  REUTERS/Library of Congress and Armed Forces Press Service

PHOTO (INSERT): French soldiers standing in German trenches seized after being shelled on the Somme front, northern France in 1916. REUTERS/Collection Odette Carrez

PHOTO (INSERT ): Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (1863-1914) with his children.  REUTERS/Library of Congress

34 comments

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The restaurant chain is spelled McDonald’s, not MacDonalds, and three years after Tom Friedman wrote that column, there was a war between two countries with McDonald’s restaurants, when the US bombed Serbia. The Washington Post published an article about how a Serbian McDonald’s dealt with the bombing campaign, and the hostility that was directed at it by Serbians as a result.

Posted by Dave_Pinsen | Report as abusive

By the end of the 20th Century, there was a lot less romanticization of war, especially in the Western World. Maybe this was a result of the industrialization of war represented by World War I; maybe it was a result of the industrialization of genocide represented by World War II; or maybe it was just a result of increases in education and freedom of the press. Whatever the reason, people increasingly realize that, even when governments are very evil and autocratic, widespread violent chaos (whether in the form or national war, civil war, or revolution) can be predicted to make things worse, not better.

If one sees World War I and World War II as two peaks of a single, long-term event, then maybe we can view the Cold War, which followed, as a great accomplishment. The great accomplishment of the Cold War is that it did not turn into a hot war. Yes, there were proxy wars like the one in Vietnam. And there were spy wars. But the two sides, armed with the nuclear weapons of inconceivable power, consistently found reasons not to go to war even though all sides made a lot of mistakes. As a result, they avoided dooming the planet.

Let’s cheer the 20th Century for a lesson in the value of muddling through.

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive

Amen! Bob9999.

Posted by jim.e.k. | Report as abusive

Only the dead have seen the end of wars. Plato

Posted by 0okm9ijn | Report as abusive

I agree with his main argument that it’s wrong to think economic trade will prevent war, but kind of disagree with the points he makes, below:

“As I pointed out in this column, Russia has in past conflicts withstood economic losses unimaginable to politicians and diplomats in the Western world — and the same is true of Iran and China. Thus the U.S. strategy of “escalating economic costs” cannot be expected to achieve major geopolitical objectives, such as preserving Ukraine’s borders or Japan’s uninhabited islands. Either territory must be open to renegotiation or the West must be prepared to fight to protect the “sanctity” of borders, which shows the really unsettling parallels with the world of 1914.”

Remember, though, the Russia of today isn’t necessarily the Russia of 70 years ago. What caused the Arab spring affects Russia, too. People in Russia get on Twitter and Facebook just like people in Egypt, so who’s to say that the Russian people will line up behind their leader as their economy worsens under sanctions? That’s a big assumption. Sanctions against Iran worked, at least to some extent. The real problem is the perception that Obama is weak. It encourages China’s aggressive moves. Tough sanctions against Russia haven’t even been tried yet.

Posted by Calfri | Report as abusive

This analysis is interesting and basically sound except two obvious mistakes. First, even in 1914 some public figures were wise enough to foresee the real and growing possibility and scale of an all-European (although still not global) military conflict. Second, Russia, unlike the USSR of 1980-s, is a rising power whose economic and military potential is quickly increasing (which, from my point of view, is very fortunate!).

Posted by Denouncer | Report as abusive

I don’t have a solution for current geopolitical conflicts. The author believes he has some profound insights – he doesn’t. However, believing that you have the answer, when you don’t, is a surefire way to cause trouble.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive

Economic interests never were much of anything. Here today, gone tomorrow in a good windstorm.

Posted by fred5407 | Report as abusive

A couple of years ago there was the situation where Assad’s forces, or some said rebels, had used chemical weapons in Damascus.
The US president was pressured to strike the Syrian military and government with cruise missiles due to a “red line crossed” causus belli.
So the US Navy had ships off the Syrian coast ready to fire.
And the Russian Navy had guided missile cruisers and escorts off the Syrian coast with S600 anti-missile systems which could intercept the American missiles, or engage the USN.
And the Israelis fired intermediate range missiles for a “missile test” into the area.
Then there was the agreement to remove Syrian military chemical weapons.
So we don’t seem to really know what is happening, and where the dangers are.

Posted by Neurochuck | Report as abusive

Great article. Wars are a natural part of global ecosystem. Like wild fires they serve critical function for the environment’s balance and re-balance.
I’d love to see Mr. Kaletsky continues his analysis into how to manage through wars. Most reasonable people have passed the debate that death is inevitable and started estate planning. We should expect similar wisdom from brains of countries, right?

Posted by Whatsgoingon | Report as abusive

Pretty tame analysis that leaves out the most important facet of the original conflict. The problem was that there were two equally strong yet opposed military alliances at the time – does/can anything equal the combined might of NATO, SKorea and Japan? China is getting pushback from smaller unallied nations like Vietnam and the Philippines. The 2nd is the flash point: it may seem a stretch, but the assassination of the heir to an empire and his wife was tantamount to 9/11 – an utterly shocking event. That A-H was determined to finally crush Serbian terrorism afterwards was no surprise, but that Russia would actually intervene on the Serbos behalf was what set the whole thing off. Imagine in 2001 if Russia came to the defense of Afghanistan on some nationalist line and gave a full-throated military defense of the American-led invasion… you don’t think things would have escalated quickly there as well? It’s not about the British and French empires coming to the defense of Russia, it’s about Russia intervening on behalf of Serbian terrorists.

Posted by CDN_Rebel | Report as abusive

Thank you for an excellent synopsis, Mr. Kaletsky. In America OUR votes will decide if the United States wages war and the majority of Americans want nothing to do with more war. People all over the world must realize that ALL wars benefit only the insatiably power-hungry top 1% global financial elite. War destroys communities and life for average people. WE must stand up and say, “Not one more dime of MY hard-earned taxpayer money for these ridiculous wars, that are based only on religious or nationalist dogma used to incite average people to kill each other.”

Posted by njglea | Report as abusive

WW1 should have taught us , to prevent ww2..but it did not…WW2, should have taught us how to prevent WW3..but based on current events, with our current defeatist president, it has not….we need to learn “duck and cover ” allover again…what a disgusting development….

Posted by sabrefencer | Report as abusive

Very interesting parallels, but as always, the realities are more complex, complicated and debatable. One famous and worthy of overuse quote by Albert Einstein came to mind, though, that might add another spin to this discussion: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Posted by UauS | Report as abusive

It is so tempting to draw parallels between 1914 and 2014. It’s a stuff begging to be written.
However, this analysis is “extra-light.”
The Habsburgs fell due to the internal weakness of Austro-Hungary. To compare today’s Russia with its almost 80% ethnic Russian population, and united as never before, – with Austro-Hungary or the Russian Empire would be completely irrelevant.
As a Russian, I see wishful thinking here in this piece, rather than anything what could be called “valuable substance.”
And yes, let us not forget about nukes as the main factor.
I have never been Mr. Kaletsky’s fan. But this opinion is too predictable and superficial.

Posted by OUTPOST2012.NET | Report as abusive

Hmmm, I’ve read some of the comments in here claiming that the Cold War was a great restraint of force between two logical countries. Hmmmmm, but the only logical thing that the two countries (USA and USSR) agreed on is the fact that both of them would be annihilated if they go to war. You Don’t want war? You need to balance the power. And you can Balance that by arming yourselves with Nuclear Arsenals, enough that could neutralize or bring some significant damage to your foe. If Ukraine did not stop its nuclear program back in the 90s do you think Russia would just cruise in Crimea without blinking? Give them a reason not to go to war, and not because of money but the inevitable and total destruction of both sides.

Posted by Hennessy | Report as abusive

You say nationalist/religious factors will push aside economic reasons for not going to war but recent decades seems to illustrate that economic interests will masquerade behind nationalist and religious differences, and even aggravate them, so as to play on them for economic aims. Because, economic interests in their own right are not hot button enough, apparently, and are too easy to argue about because they tend to be too abstract and theoretical for most people to worry about, let alone fight, kill and die for, it means more visceral reasons have to be found to aggravate the fighting spirit in a population. The rewards don’t tend to filter down to those who tend to do the fighting. Corporate Boardrooms tend to be coolly calculating and they expect others to do the dirty work and support the extreme emotions.

Even the wars of nationalism and religion in the late middle ages and renaissance were really economic wars fought over incomes derived from religious affiliation, the ownership of confiscated church properties (fortunes in feudal rents) livings provided for clergy and other religious offices, and government payments to religious officials allied to royal and ducal courts. And that era also saw wars by nation states prosecuted to increase the tax rolls of the government. Governments went to war, spent fortunes in blood and treasure, with the expectation that victory would make it all back and far more. They also engaged in the looting, for the common foot soldier, and taking of spoils of war from the new territories. The nobility took lands. Today, spoils of war has been replaced by financial tools designed to capture the “conquered” of the “new democracy” in a web of economic agreements that are all really “offers they can’t refuse”. If the conquered government, a new government is made quickly enough to make sure an agreeable government is in place to sign the paper work.

That’s what we are closer to today in the ME and North Africa: to establish footholds to privatize nationalized resources and state property whenever possible. And that is probably the greatest resentment against the Russian attempt to make whole what really shouldn’t have been lost in Ukraine, and the fiercest interest in Iran – it’s nationalized oil fields. The agreeable and more “democratic” government in Iraq no long had the majority ownership stake in its own fields. Any future Iraqi government that tried to increase its stake would be immediately destabilized.

The fact that the sectarian rage the economic interest may have unleashed isn’t working as well as corporate boardroom planners may have wanted, and can’t easily be turned off, should have been expected.

The “Masters of the Universe” as Tom Woolfe called the denizens of Walls Street, may actually believe they are fit to rule the world now and everyone not as well off as they are is expendable?

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

Excuse me – to correct the last sentence of the second paragraph –

If the government is not agreeable enough or has ideas and priorities of its own, a new government can be installed by aggravating social wounds. Any party can inflame a mob through covert aid and the major powers all do it, and lie through their teeth about it.

And that’s how the pipe organ of democracy is being played today. Unfortunately for the corporate manipulators of nationalist/religious rage, the rage just might blow it up, because the common man tends to resent being slaughtered and rendered a refugee so some other guy can make a killing.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

The situation that started WW1 cannot be remotely compared to any of today hot spots.

By the turn of the 20th century, the great European empires have been around for a good 300 years. They colonized just about everywhere worth colonizing. They have become exceeding rich, and exceedingly arrogant packed solid with hubris. Into this, where the British Empire was top dog, emerged the Prussian/Austrian states hell bent to challenge the British on empire and technology. By 1910 Germany built a full battleship navy designed to fight the British navy. Other European states followed suit, hell bent to protect their empires.

WW1 was started by the big European empires fighting among themselves. Today the European empires are gone, destroyed by themselves.

No country in Asia has desire for empire, and none foolish to repeat the grand self-destructive mistakes of Europe that caused WW1 and WW2.

Posted by TomKi | Report as abusive

Statistics will show that both the UK and the USA are Welfare States. That fact is not widely appreciated. In the USA pop. of 320 million, only 101 million have full time work and the 77 million baby boomers are just starting to retire and burden Washington. Already 108 million are receiving some type of gov’t aid and 45 million need food stamps. The UK has 30% of families receiving 50% of their income from gov’t aid and 64% of families receive some type of aid. They too face a “baby boom” surge in retirements. They too have an increased burden on the gov’t. As other wars have shown, you cannot have both guns & butter. Trying to keep up with China’s growing wealth & military expenditures will bankrupt the USA.

Posted by whoisit | Report as abusive

War is just another way for the 1% to get richer. As long as government policy is mainly directed by their agenda we will continue to experience wars. As Americans our votes and our voices have no power. There were street marches, millions of people strong, against the Iraq war. The war machine ignored it, corporate media beat the drums for war.

Posted by oddmike | Report as abusive

I mean one could argue that these alliances are preventing war: the most clear case is in the Far East, where the U.S. is basically ready to go to war if China attacks Taiwan, attacks Japan, or if N. Korea attacks S. Korea. Without those guarantees, you can bet all of these countries would get nuclear weapons in short order. I don’t think most people would see that as a positive development for peace. Moreover, the perception that Obama is sending mixed messages in that part of the world about this may be why China has become more aggressive.

Posted by Calfri | Report as abusive

It’s always about economics. From the earliest civilizations as far back as 4000 B.C., it’s always been about economics. I want what you have and I’ll kill you for it. Check out the earliest empires. You’ll see.

Posted by Kahnie | Report as abusive

@TomKi: “No country in Asia has desire for empire, and none foolish to repeat the grand self-destructive mistake. . .”

Really? What is China doing in international waters trying to establish sovereignty? Playing with “Go Fish” with warships? It’s empire building with oil in mind. Once again, all about economics. Japan in 1933 was about resources on the mainland and OIL in the Dutch East Indies and markets for their goods. Think about it.

Posted by Kahnie | Report as abusive

Using the inadequacy of economic connections to argue against sanctions rather than military intervention is a curious way to prevent a world war. And then to top it off by pointing out the danger of alliances just compounds the mess.

I would say that there is a hidden agenda here, except that it is more muddled than hidden. Too much has been written about the causes of WW-I. It must pay well. That is the relevant economic interest.

Posted by Jim1648 | Report as abusive

Does anyone remember if it was May or June when Putin closed down MacDonald’s in Russia?

Posted by DetailsDetails | Report as abusive

We are always lulled by conditions in the most recent past. They were lulled in 1914 and we are lulled now. It’s a recency bias of the human mind.

But there is no end to war. The politically and economically powerful will always fail to settle their differences through negotiated compromise.

And, most ominously, the common people will always rush to wave the flag (whichever flag), don the uniforms and take up guns to kill and be killed in very large numbers.

It’s as if death in the battlefield were preferable to the tedium and pointlessness typical of ordinary lives. That’s what will have to be fixed if anyone ever hopes to end war. I doubt it can be done.

Posted by jrpardinas | Report as abusive

Can’t speak to World War I as you can write an entire book on the causes of that European monstrosity. On the “good” side no one ever doubts the causes of World War II…which of course matters a lot more than World War I.

The fact of the matter is not even mentioning the term “collective security” shows the author’s romaticized view of War…in particular “World War”…as well as his total ignorance of how the United States both a: aimed to solve the problem (the United Nations, NATO, dialogue, diplomacy, a professional military) and b: in fact did.

This has come at great cost mind you. But when I look at Ukraine and Iraq I do not see “World War I” at all but an understanding the failures of “Hiter and the Media” and how the State pushed back to defeat this pschyopathic menace to the human race.

It’s still slow going…but the going is going in the right direction. Away from “opinionators” and their Zionist masters.

Posted by lkofenglish | Report as abusive

On the “good” side no one ever doubts the causes of World War II… ??? Tell me what this is?
Was it Pearl Harbor 1941? or was it the German annexation of the Sudatenland 1938? Was it the burning down of the Germany Parliment, or the Crystal Naght (the burning of all the Jewish temples in Berlin). Or was it even earlier when the Japanese bombed the USS Panay on the Yangtze in China in 1937? or even before that when the Japanese decided (for economic reasons) that they needed all that iron ore that was in Manchuria and attacked in 1932?… So when do you say that WW2 began?
Frankly, I don’t see the US being able to fight the war that is surely coming. With the internal divisions what they are, both economically, socially, and politically I don’t think the US will be around to fight. It may be that some individual ‘states’ of the old US might participate, but to act as a whole is not in the cards anymore. There is too much distrust and division within our nation.

Posted by edgyinchina | Report as abusive

We can never understand what is going on in the Ukraine if we foolishly believe the western media’s heavily published premise that Russia is the aggressor in this situation. After the way western media portrayed WMD situation in Iraq pre-2003, we should know better than that. (Fool me once, shame on you… etc.)

The scandalous recording of US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt’s phone call demonstrated two important points.

First, the US was involved in engineering the collapse of the Ukraine government. Second and more importantly, that there is a third major player hiding in the shadows in this situation.

The US knew perfectly well that if the government of the Ukraine collapsed, Russia would annex Crimea and instability in eastern Ukraine would ensue; Russia would try to maintain a buffer between its border and NATO countries.

If western media had any integrity it would not let anyone get away with feigning surprise while pointing their finger at Russia.

Western Ukraine is now more closely associated with the EU and ECB, so Russia’s gain of Crimea is more than offset by the shrinking of its buffer and instability on its border. We can see that instigating trouble in the Ukraine wasn’t in Russia’s interest.

The US had little to gain as a nation by the collapse of the Ukraine, but the Arab Spring demonstrated that the US has the technical ability to assist the collapse of certain governments. So if the US was not operating directly in its own interest, whose interest were they operating in? They were serving someone’s focused purpose. We can discover the answer to that question by discovering who gains the most by the collapse of the previous Ukraine government.

As I mentioned, the previously referenced phone call indicates the presence of third player in the background. Victoria Nuland’s infamous “F**K the EU” comment regarding EU diplomatic efforts, indicates that some EU diplomats were attempting to intervene. It’s inconceivable that the US would undertake such an effort in the Ukraine without colluding in some fashion with the EU, but some diplomats in EU obviously didn’t know what was going on, which also implies that some did.

Then who knew? I have given that matter some thought and I believe some high level people at the EU knew and most of rest who knew are more associated with the ECB and international corporations than with EU government. They have the most to gain, but sub rosa endeavors like the one in the Ukraine cannot be debated in the European Parliament and approved in broad daylight.

It’s likely that even Victoria Nuland and Ambassador Pyatt
were never informed of the big picture. Their phone call served (perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not) to deflect attention away from the group of people that wishes to remain in the shadows.

And that… major corporations and financial concerns angling for financial gain… is the greatest similarity between what is going on now and what happened a century ago. Geopolitical positioning and ethnicity are tools, not the underlying cause.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive

Of course economic self-interest doesn’t prevent all war…ask any divorced man with children. People aren’t entirely rational and economics are the dismal science for good reason.

Posted by sarkozyrocks | Report as abusive

@breezinthru: Well said, and agreed. However, my theory is much simpler – massively bruised egos: John Kerry feels cheated by history and finally this was his moment to shine on the world stage…thwarted by Putin. Same with Barack Obama…he was supposed to be the world’s great savior…thwarted and upstaged by Putin. Irrational, blinded payback supported by a US MSM that despises Putin’s anti-gay policies. The world loses.

Posted by sarkozyrocks | Report as abusive

I agree with you. In case of next international crisis countries should start to refuse automatic interventions due to treaties signed for defence purposes such as NATO till 1989 and the fall of URSS.
Presently NATO has shown unreasonable attitudes towards eastern enlargement .
We do not need a foreign policy like the one we had in the thirties. We ready have same economics and nobody is happy with it.

Posted by italianneutral | Report as abusive

[…] the meantime, mainstream media outlets like Reuters have begun publishing articles that warn that there is, in fact, the threat of a new world war […]

“In early 1914, though, it seemed almost impossible that Britain and France would go to war with Germany to defend Russia against Austria-Hungary over a dispute with Serbia.”

I think this is simply wrong.
Britain and France hungered for war with Germany in order
to curb German power. The Franco-Prussian war in 1870/71
in which France (that was believed to be the superior power) was swept away in a couple of months had been a shock to them. The German military and economy were growing fast and by 1914 Germany had become so powerful that it could only be defeated by a grand coalition.
Serbia was a warmonger and firestarter that was continously supported by France and Russia.

Posted by DonnyBurger | Report as abusive