The state of the world in the time leading up to World War 1 was so close to the state of the modern world it should cause nightmares in politicians all over the globe.
World War 2 is a commonly studied conflict that has been the subject of movies, discussions, documentaries, and books. It is said that this conflict set the stage for the modern world.
But what happened to cause that conflict? It can be claimed with a lot of credibility that the signing of the armistice for World War 1 set the stage for Hitler’s rise to power, which ultimately caused that second conflict.
With that in mind, I wanted to understand the cause of World War 1 and what I found held such eerie parallels to the modern world they must be explained.
We all learned in school, on the one day they taught this part of history, that WW1 was started because of the assassination of the Archduke. Let’s face it, had that happened in isolation the nations of the world would not launch into a conflict that would lead to the death of more than 16,000,000 people.
Let’s look at the man who fired those two shots that sent the world into a tailspin.
He was a Bosnian student named Gavrilo Princia. When questioned he said many things, one of which seems relevant to this discussion: “I am an adherent of the radical anarchist idea which aims at destroying the present system through terrorism.”
Let that sink in.
After he fired those shots several world leaders were heard saying (or writing) something eerie. I will pull a direct quote from an German leader (translated to English), “We should go to war now, because its going to happen in the future anyway.”
Sure, so let’s ignore diplomacy, let’s not try to discuss anything, let’s just kill a lot of people.
While many historians have said the war was conceived in Berlin, it was also said that it was born in the Balkans. With that in mind we should understand the Balkan region of the world at that point in time, and the challenges these nations had with regard to getting along with one another. These nations were still ruled by various European Empires, and had been for years.
The modern day Balkan Nations are Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Romania, Servia, Slovenia, and Turkey.
When the assassination happened, the entire region went into what can only be described as national convulsions. Each nation started taking up sides. Mostly these nations had leadership and citizens who agreed which side of the conflict to align themselves with. With one exception, Greece. The people of Greece sided with Serbia, however the Queen of Greece was the only sister of the German Kaiser, and she sided with Austria.
For the most part world leaders could influence their citizens to go whichever way they wanted, that is what leaders do.
The challenge was that many people believed that the people of the Balkans should start to govern themselves, as in elect leaders, rather than being satellite nations of some European Empires who were still being ruled by descendants of the Hapsburgs. There was some thought that these nations should become states in some kind of nation resembling the United States. That would allow them to be self-governing, and if need be throw off some nation who came and wanted to attack and dominate them.
In a letter outlining this by a Liberal party leader of the Romanians it was said, “Out of the hatreds engendered by the domination over the liberty-loving Slavic people by arrogant Teutonic (German) minority grew the assassination at Sarajevo of the Archduke.” In other words, a vocal liberty espousing minority suppressed another group so greatly that group rose up and murdered a world leader.
He went on to warn that the people in the region just wanted a say in their government, and to throw off the dynasties that were happening. One can see dynasties occurring once again. How many families are responsible for multiple Presidents, generations of Senators, Congresspeople, etc. It happens in the United States today, as well as Europe. It was these “high born” groups that the people wanted to overthrow in favor of self government, which worked well when done properly.
The world leadership greatly resembled the stages we have set today. Generational dynasties, all feeling they are entitled to power. Husband and wife teams, father and son…There are examples of this all over the world.
In other words, the world was on a track that closely parallels where we are today from a world leadership and conflict standpoint (we must invade this other nation because of what they might do in the future). These parallels get a little more interesting if we look to the European population (not leadership, the populace) at the time.
There was a very important man by the name of Professor Masaryk who lives from 1850 to 1937. He spent some time and energy prior to World War 1 trying to get the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy to reform their empire into a federal state. That obviously didn’t work, and it was only broken up as a result of the war. After World War 1 he because the first President of Czechoslovakia.
In his attempts at diplomacy he pointed out that Europe had a huge problem at the time. There was a discrepancy between the number of nation states and the number of defined nationalities all over Europe. His tally showed that there were twenty seven nation states, but more than seventy accepted nationalities. Almost all states were a mix, and there was very little assimilation of cultures. Instead there were people trying to force their beliefs and ways of life on other people. He pointed out as an example that there were Romanians in Austria, but there was no Romania. There were even Romanians inside Austria who would openly claim that the Austrian leaders were not “their” leaders, and therefore rules passed, laws, policies, what have you did not apply to them.
If we look at the parallels of the populace of the world at that point in time, we can once again find an eerie parallel to what is going on around the world today.
One must only think, if the leadership of the world had parallels, the people of the world had parallels, and the statements of people had parallels what does that say about us today? Are we going to repeat history? Setting aside the fact that there was a large disagreement involved in World War 1 among Christian nations on how to deal with Muslim immigrants that also lead to some of the fervor and desire of people to be involved in this armed conflict, should we be concerned? Or is it enough to consider that three out of three major reasons for going to war seem exactly the same as what is going on today.
Given that the weapons at our disposal today are more efficient at killing than those available in the early 1900s, which might the next conflict have as a body count? We should consider things carefully before merely wishing to invade because of what might happen if we don’t.