World War I got started in earnest 101 years ago, when Russia and Germany declared a mutual state of war on August 1, 1914. France piled on a couple days later, and Britain did the same within hours.
The textbooks say that WWI was provoked a month earlier by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on June 28. The shots fired by a Bosnian Serb nationalist led to 20 million military and civilian deaths.
A more accurate understanding of the origins of the war—and any war—must include a recognition that the effective causes of war are the many, sometime independent and sometimes overlapping, incremental acts and plans of individuals and governments that finally make conflict seem “inevitable.”
The European powers, including Russia, had been jockeying for years for economic power and political hegemony or dominance on the continent. Britain and Germany had been openly competing for naval superiority on the seas and coastal waterways. The 19th century monarchical and dynastic powers were struggling to retain power in an increasingly hostile international environment.
The brutal fact is that the European powers had been preparing for war for a long time. It really wasn’t a great big surprise in the summer of 1914 when it started.
The bitter truth is that many leaders, and many of the people who would become cannon fodder, welcomed the advent of World War I.
The frightening reality is that human nature hasn’t changed in the last 100 years.
Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.