WW I: 100 Years Ago Today

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from The Gray Area:

100 years ago today, 28 June 1914, an obscure assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, set off a diplomatic crisis that led to World War I, the Great War, “the war to end all wars”.

Gavrillo Princip

First lets pay tribute this day to all those who fought and those who died in WWI, of which none of alive today.

There were many things that came out of WWI,not all were bad. What did we learn from the “war to end all wars“? A war that created 37 million casualties and was possibly history’s worst catastrophe. Three things. One, evil exists. Two, finish it!. Three, stay out of foreign wars (but, read lesson #1).

1. Evil exists. To our sad acceptance, evil in the world is a reality. Despite our desire to believe that as a modern human species we have evolved out of such a primitive emotional state, evil still exists. As much as we don’t want to admit it or even see it when it emerges, evil continues to exist in the human condition, and we must address it as early as possible. Before it is addressed though, it must be clearly identified And when the evil is addressed, complete destruction and unconditional surrender of the evil is the only successful end. WWI had no real evil identified to be fought. The “Central Powers” were the focus, but never defeated, only angered by the Treaty of Versailles.

In WWI the evil was not clearly identified. Interlocking treaties, entangled alliances and bad decisions got everyone involved in WWI. The failed Treaty of Versailles, was a negotiated end, which did not leave the losers vanquished, but left both the winners and losers angry. By not handling WW I properly, it planted the seeds for evil to emerge.

In WWII the evil was clearly identified, Nazi Germany and imperialist Japan, that clear identification got everyone into the fight.

Evil existed throughout the 20th Century (Nazism, Fascism, Imperialism, Communism, Maoism, Colonialism,, dictators like Idi Amin, Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Pinochet, Milosevic, etc.). And, into the 21st Century (Marxism, Islamic extremism, African warlords, totalitarian regimes, nationalism, etc.). There is no denying its presence. How should we handle evil? Evil must be destroyed. If not, it grows and gets stronger like a cancer. It doesn’t just go away because you wish it would. It grows.

Today’s evils must now be clearly identified and universally accepted.
– Until the US, European governments, Russia, China, Japan and some Middle eastern governments all agree that Islamic extremism is an evil to destroy, the world will be subject to its torture, extortion and horror.
– Until the US, European governments, Russia, China, Japan and some Middle eastern governments all agree that African warlords must be eradicated as an evil to human existence, the peoples of Africa will continue to be subject to the worst oppression and slaughter imaginable.
– Until the US, European governments, Russia, China, Japan and some Middle eastern governments all agree that we are on this plane together, and ideological differences like Marxism and local identities leading to nationalism, must not lead to combat or the threat of combat, a perpetual “Cold War” will continue in the world.
– Until we create an international organization (like the UN) that recognizes evil and keeps it out, we cannot collectively police the above.
– Until a leader emerges (the US in the 20th Century) that stands for peace, prosperity and the right to life, liberty an the pursuit of happiness for all peoples of the world, it will not happen.
– Until that leader or group of leaders destroys all current evils …
Then evil will control our world and we will live going from one crisis to another.

2. Finish it! The failed Treaty of Versailles from WWI made it clear that only unconditional surrender of the clear evils of WWII, Nazi Germany and imperialist Japan, would suffice as an end. This vanquished the evils and gave the world a feeling of success and peace – finally. But, that feeling was short lived before another evil, Communism, raised its ugly head. To stay out of another “foreign war” we fought the Cold War, a strategy of containment. Eventually we won the Cold War with the use of financial and military strength, without direct combat and a consistent counter-balance of power. Good and bad decisions along the way, but nonetheless, it was won. Some evils vanquished, though some were not, and some battles did not leave a good taste in the mouths of those caught in the middle (think the Middle East, Vietnam, Cuba, and others).

With the United States’ new found position of sole leader in the world, we could have stepped up to the responsibility or we could fumble away the victory. We have unfortunately fumbled the ball and others, less worthy, are fighting for a piece of the world leadership pie.

3. Stay out of foreign wars (read lesson #1). The loss of life in WWI is estimated at 17 million with another 20 million wounded. Britain, France and Germany squandered the youth of their countries in this war. But, even the great success of WWII did not correct all the mistakes of WWI and the Treaty of Versailles.

As TIME Magazine wrote, “As haunting as the threat of a terrorist haven may be, the significance of the ISIS victories goes far beyond the threat it poses to Baghdad or the West. With lightning speed, ISIS has begun to erase the Middle East map drawn by Europeans a century ago. In 1916, Mark Sykes, a young British politician, and François Georges-Picot, France’s former counsel in Beirut, agreed to divide the region to suit Western goals. With an eye to the death of the Ottoman Empire–on the losing side of WW I–the two diplomats slashed a diagonal line across a map of the region, from the southwest to the northeast, and divided the empire between their countries. “What do you mean to give them, exactly?” British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour asked Sykes during a meeting at 10 Downing Street, according to James Barr’s 2012 book, A Line in the Sand. “I should like to draw a line,” Sykes said, as he ran his finger along the map of the Middle East, “from the ‘e’ in Acre to the last ‘k’ in Kirkuk.” After crossing the line between Syria and Iraq, ISIS fighters took a bulldozer to the berm that marked that border. Other borders could also be in danger. Western Iraq abuts the kingdom of Jordan, a vital U.S. ally and oasis of regional moderation. So does Lebanon, a sectarian tinderbox. Syria, meanwhile, may be melting into unofficial quasi-states.”

Staying out of these foreign skirmishes may seem like the smart short term strategy, but we have learned in 4 short years, it is a losing long term strategy. It abdicates leadership to anyone who wants to take it. For all the problems of fighting a Cold War, we are better for having stayed the course. Fighting no battles leads to the realization that we must, read and heed lesson #1. If no one is fighting evil, then evil assumes the leadership void. And, we just wait until evil comes to our door, and then it is too late.

WWI was an unnecessary, catastrophic war. One we should have found another way to handle, or have finished it with better decisions. The loss of life and loss of the potential of a generation of youth during an exploding industrial time in the world’s history is shameful and tragic. Knowing when to fight and when not to, is one of the secrets to our individual lives and to the life of the world community. Now is another of those times.