Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Lest we forget

The Tragic Futility of World War I: A century on, we're still paying the price.
If you find human behavior discouraging today, consider what happened a century ago. A Martian might have gazed down upon Europe in 1914 and seen a peaceful, prosperous continent with a shared culture. Pretty much everyone had enough to eat. The English listened to Wagner, Germans savored Shakespeare, Russian aristocrats mimicked the French, Mozart and Italian opera were loved by all. Then, Europe imploded.

Ten days before Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914, prompting the descent into the Great War, “people everywhere were working, resting, eating, sleeping, dreaming of nothing less than of war,” a British political scientist wrote in The Atlantic the following year. “War came upon them like a thunderclap.”

I particularly like this paragraph:
It was a sad, pointless war, for which we’re still paying a price. A hard-hearted peace treaty and a ravaged economy produced a “lost generation” of young Germans and led directly to the rise of Hitler and an even uglier worldwide conflagration. The secret Sykes-Picot Agreement reached by Britain and France in 1916 drew arbitrary boundary lines across the postwar Middle East—around Iraq, for instance—that are returning deadly dividends to this day. The toppling of the Russian monarchy and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire created a balkanized Europe that, as recently as the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over strife-torn Ukraine, pains us still. The world was a nastier place after the war than before it.
100 years since World War I: Could it happen again today?
One hundred years ago today, Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in retaliation for the assassination one month earlier of his heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by a Serbian pan-Slavic nationalist. What might otherwise have remained a regional conflict between the dying Hapsburg Empire and one of its former holdings instead became, through a tangle of alliances and a global power imbalance, two world wars that began in 1914 and ended in 1945, with a 21-year intermission for the Jazz Age and the Great Depression. Civilian and military casualties for the two wars approached 100 million – roughly the entire population of the United States as of July 1914.
3 important lessons learned from World War I

The hallowed ground of World War I, then and now uses an interesting technique to show pictures of the time, and swiping to pictures of the same areas now.

World War One: Every Man Remembered database launched
The Royal British Legion has started an online campaign to gather tributes to every Commonwealth serviceman and woman who died in World War One.

A total of 1,117,077 service personnel from what was then the British Empire died in the war, which began in 1914.
The outbreak of the First World War reminds us why we need a peace movement
Today marks one hundred years since Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. And so began four years of hell in Europe. The failure of diplomacy to prevent war and the inability of elites to prophesy its cost was an indictment of absolutism. Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia – whose combined ambitions in the East largely engineered the war – were monarchies in which too few people of too little calibre enjoyed too much power.
My first thought when I the news of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 broke was of the Lusitania. The thing about being trained as a historian is that you think in patterns, in waves of repetition, and analyse the similarities and difference in historical events. I may not remember what I ate for lunch yesterday, but my historical memory is long, and the things other people forget over time seem very real to me.

I'm not saying we'll be drawn into the Ukrainian conflict like we were into World War I, or that our world is heading for another World War. But there are things that historians hold their breath for when they encounter them in the present, wondering if diplomacy will hold, wondering if we've never quite escaped, as the one piece put it, nations 'in which too few people of too little calibre enjoyed too much power'. There's a general unrest among the have-nots these days, and the haves seem to get fewer and more out of touch from the have-nots. There are fine, noble people using their wealth to better humanity and our world--but increasingly it is less about wealth of individuals and more about corporations. Our food, our water, our very lives, are controlled by corporations that flood our political agendas with money for their own good, engineer our food, frak our resources, market to our children, and in many ways they own our leaders. And so in many ways, today's world has a much scarier potential for conflicts to escalate than we have seen in years. It is, in fact, one of the reasons I remind myself of the good in people, of those who hold to peace. But things that seem to repeat history or which can act as a flashpoint still trouble me greatly.

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