Saturday, June 28, 2014

World War I Started 100 Years Ago

One person can change the world. Or two. Or six. Or one wrong turn. Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo 100 years ago on June 28, 1914. World War I was triggered that day. One teenager, Gavrilo, fired the shots that started The War to End All Wars. One Bosnian Serb nationalist ignited The Great War. Gavrilo acted with five co-conspirators, whose goal was a unified Serbia. He fired the shots, but another man made a mistake that gave Gavrilo the unexpected chance to carry out the conspiracy. The Archduke and his party came to Sarajevo to dedicate a new hospital in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The six conspirators unsuccessfully attacked the Archduke on the ride to the hospital. The royal entourage continued to the hospital. A failure of communications occurred on the way back. The driver took the wrong turn, driving past Gavrilo. The assassin took advantage of the surprise moment of opportunity. The tragedy of World War I followed. 9.4 million soldiers and sailors died, and 21 million were wounded. 17.5% of the uniformed French died, 15% of the Germans, and 10% of the British. The Australians and New Zealanders suffered heavily at Gallipoli. Flanders Field, The Somme, Verdun, the Lusitania, the Marne, The Zimmerman Telegram, mustard gas, the Stab in the Back, the sealed train, Lawrence of Arabia. World War I with all its tragedy was but a dress rehearsal to the greater tragedy of World War II. The weapons of World War II, with the exception of the atomic bomb and radar, were tested in the first war. The Germans unveiled the U Boat and submarine warfare. Great Britain flew warplanes off an aircraft carrier. Destroyers, sonar, depth charges, and convoys responded to the submarines. Tanks appeared near the end of the war. Airplanes, aerial surveillance, bombs flew over the battlefield. The word “genocide” arose out of the Armenian Genocide. Four empires collapsed and four dynasties died. The Ottoman Empire, the “Sick Man of Europe” for 2 centuries, finally gasped its last. The House of Osman paid the price for the decision of the Young Turks to join the war on the side of the Austrians and Germans. The Russians joined the winning Allies, but collapsed in 1917. The Romanovs paid with their lives. The world paid with the November Revolution of November 2017, when a few Bolsheviks seized the Winter Palace and thrust Communism onto the world. Arabia, the Balkans, and the Black Sea never had fixed borders prior to World War I since boundaries changed with the rise and fall of conquerors. Egypt, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia had wrestled free from the Ottomans. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia had become part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Out of the detritus of the Ottomans came Iraq and Syria, which did not reflect their history, religion, and ethnicities, and the whole new countries of Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. Arbitrary boundary lines threw Christians, Orthodox, Kurds, Shia, and Sunni together in “nations” that could not survive the test of time. The Ottomans were defeated, but not the Turks under Ataturk. The Austrians succeeded in crushing Serbia, but the Hapsburgs fell. The end of the war resulted in a greater Serbia, called Yugoslavia. The inevitable collapse of Yugoslavia resulted in genocide eight decades later at Srebrenica by Serbs against Bosnians. Kaiser Wilhelm II wanted war, but the Holenzollens lost. The ensuing Weimar Republic collapsed. Hitler rose. The world, the Jews, the Gypsies, and humanity paid the price. 20 million Europeans dead in World War I, 60 million more in World War II, and tens of millions more displaced. More boundaries shifted. World War I started the collapse of the British Empire. Australia, New Zealand, and Canada saw their way to independence. Gandhi, Nehru and Ali Jinnah started India on the road to independence. The economic costs of the war, followed by the reparations imposed on Germany, led to the Great Depression and the collapse of he world’s economy. America rose to prominence in the war. Technically, a historian will say that World War I did not start on June 28, 1914. Sarajevo was not the formal start of the war. Austria did not declare war on Serbia until July 28. Russia mobilized on July 30. Germany declared war on Russia on August I and invaded neutral Belgium on August 4. England declared war on August 4. Technically, a historian will say that World War I was destined. The great powers desired a war. Germany had easily defeated France in the 1870 Franco-German War. The Kaiser wanted Germany to extend its power. Austria wanted to squash Serbia, but in light of the assassination, wanted vengeance. Russia wanted redemption after the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. Great Britain always believed in the balance of powers on the Continent. Thus, two possibilities: Sarajevo was the trigger, the catalyst, the spark of a preordained war. Garviro Princep had his 15 minutes of infamy and should be forgotten. The second approach: The tragedy of World War I need not have happened. If that’s true, then one man changed the world, causing the horrors of the Twentieth Century. May Garviro Princep rot in Hell!

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