World War I Century

It is challenging to mark the 100th Anniversary of WWI with an essay or OPED. However, it is also essential that people consider the how, why, and where of an event that killed over 15 million people and halted a “golden age” of technical progress.  When the war ended, Russia had become the Soviet Union, the Middle East was re-organized, and the seeds for WWII were planted.

The August Guns of World War I began with a series of seemingly minor events.  The Serbian plot by anarchist Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914 that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo cemented an alliance between Germany and Austria.  Russia supported Serbia.  France supported Russia. When Germany invades neutral Belgium, England sends an Expeditionary Force to help France. Soon Ottoman Turkey joined with Germany, Austria, and then Hungary. A new generation of weapons that included large artillery, the machine gun, tanks, the airplane, and eventually poison gas inflected carnage on an industrial scale.

With the exception of England and France, the combatants were ruled by authoritarians. Czar Nickolas II of Russia was an ally of Serbia.  Austria might not have invaded Serbia without the German support from Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Germany might not have invaded Belgium if the strength of England’s Alliance with France were better established.  After President Wilson campaigned in 1916 against intervention, the US finally entered WW I and tipped the balance for the defeat of Germany, etc.  Could there be lessons for the Middle East that today looks a lot like Europe a hundred years ago…?