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Old 13 February 2014, 11:14 PM
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Johnny Slick Johnny Slick is offline
 
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It's a hard situation to read but Europe circa 1914 was a powder keg waiting for someone to set it off. Those situations don't *always* end up in war but they sure do a lot of the time. The labyrinthine system of alliances and co-alliances that had kept Europe out of a major war with herself since Napoleon had pretty well broken down by then, or rather had broken up into sides. The sheer length of time since the Napoleonic wars caused a lot of people to just plain forget how bloody and savage war could be, and then on top of that technology had managed to make it a whole lot worse without a lot of Europeans really accepting that (the US Civil War had demonstrated this, as well as to a very small extent the Crimean War, but even so, a *lot* of early accounts of the war talk about soldiers fretting that they won't be able to join in on the "glory" and so on, words that nobody who has ever actually experienced modern warfare would ever say).

Out of that I think Germany maybe takes the *lead* in blame but there's a lot of it to go around. France had been sore over their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71 (which, as a war, was more or less over right after it started, with Napoleon III and Paris being captured weeks after hostilities broke out) and had been openly devising strategies as to how to get Alsace and Lorraine back. Britain and Germany had been engaging in what might be the first modern arms race. Even Russia's attempts to bring peace to everybody was seen (with a great deal of evidentiary support) as them trying to avoid being bankrupted by the march of military tech while also not falling so far behind the rest of the continent that they could be easily overwhelmed.

Basically, the way that Austro-Hungary triggered the war was that Russia declared that they would defend Serbia, Germany declared they'd defend Austro-Hungary, and then France and England declared they'd defend Russia. See, right there it's just plain not clear to me that that makes Germany the aggressor. Yes, they were the first country to actually declare war on everyone else (outside of A-H/Serbia), but even there, this was much due to a necessity on their part (the Schlieffen Plan called for them to knock out France before Russia could mobilize) as a counter-necessity for the Allies to not appear to be the aggressors (although all three of France, England, and Russia certainly mobilized for war as though they were declaring it, whether they were the first to declare or not).

I think our history tends to be clouded by the fact that in World War II it really was Germany (and to a lesser extent Japan) inciting a relatively peaceful world into war. The First World War is a completely different situation: even if you will say that Germany was the big aggressor, it was only just so, and this is one of these situations where it's very, very hard to argue that there wouldn't be a massive continental war had Gavrilo Princip not gotten lucky / Russia hadn't elected to go to war with Austro-Hungary / Germany hadn't mobilized all to heck.
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