One hundred years ago, The Great or First World War heralded humanity into a geopolitical New World Order by the demarcation of new borders, the collapse of old alliances and the forging of new ones, setting the stage for the global political chaos and instability we witness today.
Post war, two empires collapsed, The Hapsburg Empire- comprising of Germany and Austria-Hungary-had ruled Europe for nearly four hundred years and the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East which had also ruled for centuries. The Great War’s victors- Britain and France- were left to carve up the latter empire.
A patchwork of new states emerged- Jordan, Iraq and Syria- their individual mapped- out borders at odds with the ethnic and religious context of these regions.
This was only the beginning though, Europe was destabilised with millions of its populace displaced and rendered destitute.
It also made possible the Bolshevik Revolution- possibly financed by the lucrative sales of armaments- and ushered in an untested and obscure political philosophy known as Soviet Communism, adding another thirty seven million lives - to the total of The First World War-
sacrificed in order to achieve its objectives.
The First World War also laid the foundations for the Second, and the introduction of another ideology, National Socialism, - or communism with a difference- a race-based super state and the alliance of German corporatism within the Nazi state known as fascism.
Let’s focus now on the epic human tragedy of the Great War, otherwise known as the war to end all wars. The reasons for this travesty involving the wanton sacrifice of nine million human beings, with over double that number wounded, many of these permanently disabled, are loaded with deception and outright lies making it a worthy contender for ‘The Game of Throne’s T.V. series.
Consider the explanation provided in student history books citing the provocation for the war being the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Serious history scholars have poured over official war documents to examine the cause of the war for a century now.
Austria was thought to have been belligerent after its Archduke Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo in June of 1914. By early August, Europe was pushed to the brink.
German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck did accurately predict that “some damned foolish thing in the Balkans” could trigger multinational conflict. That universally accepted spark – the assassination- was not initially viewed as any kind of major event. Historian Zbynk Zeman later wrote: The event almost failed to make any impression whatsoever.
Historians have noted that war had been in the air for some time prior to 1914, with Germany arming itself to the teeth and Britain not far behind. Sporadic flare-ups in the Balkans also occurred. Most, if not all of these nations appeared to have wanted war and the assassination provided the spark or cover for this, depending in which light it’s viewed. Also Europe at that stage was a complex mixture of family monarchic ties and alliances which would ensure when one was attacked- for example the Hapsburg Empire nations of Germany and Austria –Hungary - against Great Britain France and Russia- the rest were obliged to be drawn into battle. This must have been common knowledge to the leaders at the time though making this calamity even more curious, as surely they could have pre-empted it by dousing the alleged fires of nationalism that arose in the wake of events.
The usual story of the unbridled lust for power and control must have played a huge role behind the scenes. Did all those leaders- statesman, diplomats, kings, generals and political leaders blunder their way to catastrophe- as some have suggested- or was there a more sinister plan concocted behind closed doors by evil and base men – to which these major players collectively yielded?
And if so, what was the purpose of this plan?
Could it have been for the consolidation of countries and their resources, and/or for future geopolitical gain?
When Kaiser Wilhelm the second signed orders to mobilise German troops and set off a chain of events which culminated in the killing fields of Europe, did he realise the impact that one decision would have not only then- but well into the future- on events that spanned the last century and this one.
The ordinary civilian turned- soldier accepted the peddled narrative for the war based on trust- not realising the duplicity and ambitions of their leaders- and committed to the sacrifice of life and limb in the name of nationalism, duty and honour, without the knowledge that Europe’s chief protagonists held to no such lofty ideals- especially the latter two.
Now that’s the real travesty.