If there were to be a World War III, would the alliances mirror that of World War I? Part 1: History of the events that led to the Great War

Source: Getty Research Institute
Source: Getty Research Institute

The importance of this current Presidential election, unfortunately, overshadows the present decline in detente between the current superpower states.  Before the breakout of the Great War, otherwise known as World War I, in 1914, the peace that succeeded the end of the Franco-Prussian war collapsed in an unforeseeable way.  The leaders of these different empires were all oblivious to the fact that the cooperation in Europe was in decline.  German Emperor and Kaiser Wilhelm II was on a cruise at the start of the war.  Czar Nicholas II of Russia and his family were on their summer vacation at their palace in the Gulf of Finland, while British foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey was purportedly trout fishing.  Austria-Hungary’s Emperor Franz Joseph I, at the age of 84, spent most of his days with his mistress on the Adriatic Sea.

Are we currently in the same period of uncertainty as the superpowers were in the Summer of 1914?  Who or what will play the part of the Austria-Hungary’s heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand, who was assassinated by Serbian nationals in modern day Sarajevo in which historians claim led directly to the start of the first war?  Which state, like Austria-Hungary, will act first and start the next war?  These are questions that lead only to speculation, and before you rush to call me a tin-foil wearing conspiracist, hear me out.  No real, educated international relations scholar could honestly argue against the fact that world order is nearing a point of no return, and if continued deterioration in this order occurs, the potentiality of a third world war is no longer farfetched.

In the first war, the world was one of bipolarity.  There were essentially two factions of empires in cooperation, the Triple Entente; Ottoman-Turks, Austria-Hungary, and Germany butted heads with the Triple Alliance; France, Russia, and Great Britain.  These alliances were unorthodox in nature, considering many factors were in play in their formations.  The reason why World War I is very tragic, as opposed to following World War II, is because it should have never occurred.  No drama flick in the world can do the tragedies of the first war any justice.  The leaders of Great Britain (Triple Alliance), Russia (Triple Alliance) and Germany (Triple Entente) were all first cousins.  During the preceding events that led to the first world war, the exchange of correspondence between King George V of Great Britain, Czar Nicholas II of Russia and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany occurred quite frequently.  Another real tragedy was the fact that the assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was the heir to the throne of the Austria-Hungary Empire, was known to be a reformer.  Ferdinand had the foresight and knowledge that one day Austria and Hungary would split apart and remain friendly and cooperative.  Many scholars believe that had the Serbian nationals not succeeded in assassinating Ferdinand, there would have never been a Great War, and even worse, there would be no premise as to the start of the deadliest war in the history of humankind, World War II.

World War I began when the Austria-Hungary Empire invaded the Kingdom of Serbia, in retaliation for the murder of their apparent heir Ferdinand.  Austrian Field Marshal and Chief of the General Staff of the Austria-Hungary armed forces  Baron Conrad von Hotzendorf played an influential part in the outbreak of the first war.  Emperor Franz Joseph I, mentioned above, at the time of the war, was 84.  At this age, Joseph was a senior who knew there was not much longer to live, which is why he chose to spend as much time with his mistresses.  Much of the decision-making at this point was delegated to Conrad, and when the Archduke was assassinated, Joseph was over five hours away from the capital city of Vienna, and Conrad had made the hasty decision to invade the Kingdom of Serbia.  With everything that Joseph had seen in his 84 years of experience, he questioned the decision as he knew that the Russians would not take such an act of aggression lightly.  Emperor Franz Joseph I was right.  Russia, being allied with Serbia, mobilized their troops, to which Germany responded by invading the neutral state of Belgium and Luxembourg, which then sparked the entrance of Great Britain into the war.  Everything occurred by way of a domino effect, and no one at the time understood the implications of the events that were unfolding in real time.

World War I was a tragedy of massive proportions, not just for the fact that almost 40 million people perished but because it changed the world forever by being the precursor to the Second World War, which caused the death of over 60 million inhabitants.  In Part Two, I’ll get into the war itself and what transpired at the end of the war, then going into World War II.  Then, in Part Three, I’ll sum up everything and apply it to the grim events unfolding today.

This is Part one of a three-part series to this article.  Subscribe to my page to get notified when part’s Two and Three are published.  Thank you.  

Just an update

keep-calm-i-ll-be-back-soon-2

Hey guys and gals!  So it’s midterm season, and I have been quite busy studying and writing papers for grad school.  I’ve got quite of few topics lined up, hopefully to be out within the next few days and then afterwards.  Once this week is over, there will be 3-4 blog posts per week, guaranteed, you can hold me to it!!  Thanks for your patience, take care.

 

-Dan

How do we solve the North Korean mess?

151010114808-02-north-korea-military-parade-super-169
Source: Associated Press

 

Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, which resulted in the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, Korean people have been living in agony on both sides of the border.  In the 50’s, not many in the West knew much about the East, and as time continued, foreign policy towards Asian was never of utmost concern as the Cold War was in full force.  Communism was our enemy, and the Soviet Union was the catalyst of the ideology that we considered the antithesis to a free and democratic world.  The agony of the Korean people was not on anyone’s mind.  Why should it be, right?  Who cares about the fact that families were split apart with no chance of ever coming back together, and with the reality that many passed away without ever knowing what happened to their families.  Who cares about the citizens of North Korea living in poverty, where forced adulation of the leadership and lack of human rights was a staple.  The United States, being the leader of the free world, fought incredibly hard during the Cold War to spread their form of governance, with the assumption that if the entire World adhered to democracy, it would be a more peaceful place.  The only issue with that is, many regions of the World were left by the wayside, and their concerns were ignored.

This is the unfortunate history of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a name not very fitting for the hermit kingdom.  With the current threat of an unstable and menacing North Korea, who happens to possess nuclear weapons, it’s understandable why U.S. President Barrack Obama had made the Asian pivot.  The DPRK is not the only reason as to why Obama implemented this pivot, legacy also plays a significant role in this decision, as well as the threat of a rising China.  However, outside of a few other state or nonstate actors, the DPRK is one of the greater threats to World peace and security.  When a country that is unpredictable, not interdependent or reliant on global institutions, and led by a psychopathic dictator who is willing to go to any lengths to put his nation on the map, we must address their concerns.  North Korea spends 22.9% of GDP on defense, the highest of any nation on Earth.  It is also a defiant state and continues to test nuclear weapons regardless of the multitude of unilateral and multilateral sanctions.  Even the DPRK’s only ally, arguably, had voted for the recent U.N. Security Council Resolution, which brought about the most stringent sanctions ever before seen.  However, the issue with resolution 2270 is that it is not at all useful.  The DPRK has never felt any pain with any of the sanctions placed on them since the end of the Korean War, primarily because it finds no need to be connected to the global economy, which is where sanctions would be effective.  It is abundant with several natural resources, from coal to rare earth minerals.  A new approach to finding peace with North Korean is necessary.

One of the disappointing aspects of foreign policy, especially within the United States, is that many times we do not understand the concerns of different states worldwide.  The United States being a hegemonic power, often imposes its will on the world, and very often ignores the interests of other countries.  In a realist view, it’s understandable why North Korea is recalcitrant because a state is responsible for the security of its people, and when other countries begin to impose their ways, a response is rational.  Like in the Cold War, both superpowers had their interests in mind, and it revolved mainly around ideology.  One can say the same notion applies to contemporary times, especially with regards to North Korea.  Apparently, North Korea had been trying to talk to the United States since 1974, so where have we failed?  I would posit that the constant use of hard power, and the lack of flexibility in U.S. foreign policy towards the East, ran counter to the results expected.  Our recent displays of joint military drills with South Korea only further aggravates an already paranoid dictator who, it seems, is more than willing to push the nuclear button.  Perhaps it is time to adhere to Joseph Nye Jr,’s theory of smart power.  There is a chance to utilize soft power in talks with the North Koreans, backed by hard power in case negotiations go awry.  It’s time to acknowledge the concerns of the leadership of North Korea, no matter how dangerous they may seem.  It’s possible that a short-term goal of opening diplomatic connections could lead to the long-term goal of nuclear disarmament and adherence to the NPT.  This continued display of foreign policy towards North Korea only makes them more defiant.  It’s time for carrots as well, not only just sticks.

 

Why foreign policy matters, and why you should pay attention.

Courtesy: Zero Hedge
Source: Zero Hedge

Once a day I like to check the various social media websites, just to see what is going on in everyone’s lives.  I don’t expect much. Obviously, it’s just space for people to vent, post their interests and other miscellaneous things.  Occasionally, you stumble across articles shared on diverse subjects, such as the election, police shootings, or celebrity divorces.  Once in a blue moon you even get articles on things that impact the lives of people.  Well this morning, I stumbled upon an item shared by someone, on Facebook, who typically makes posts on sports and often provides profound quotes from some brilliant people.  The post entailed a New York Post article that discussed the latest event in the US-Russia relations saga, one that is quite disturbing to someone like myself who studies International Relations with the concentration in Russian & Slavic Studies.  With the Syria peace talks now a nonentity, Russian nuclear-capable missiles moved into the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, Western calls for human right violations and war crime charges against Damascus and Moscow, and now Russian President Vladimir Putin recalling all Russian nationals home, one would think that society would be frightened.

Well, the world just moves on, posts about sports, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelorette, food, and cinema continue as if we weren’t on the brink of potential war with Russia.  I don’t, per se, have objections to this.  The whole premise of democracy is to vote in leaders whose primary job is to keep the nation secure and economically viable.  The citizenry shouldn’t have to worry about these events; they should be able to live life as free peoples who can do whatever they want, obviously within the confines of the law.  My objection, however, is the obliviousness of the people, and how quick they are to dismiss particular threats.  In this Facebook quote, a woman wrote the most ignorant and arrogant comment I have ever seen on an issue as pressing as a Cold War potentially going hot.  She posited that the United States should leave Russia be, that we “shouldn’t give a shit, let the Russians go on, and take China with them to hell as well” (not exactly verbatim, the comments had been deleted by the time of this writing).  I made the mistake of attempting to debate with the woman, and we know how Facebook discussions end up.  She accused me of being a ‘globalist’ and that she was worried about the future of this nation when someone like me, who apparently ‘preaches world order,’ would ever be in a leadership position.  Well, I thank you for the vote of confidence!

So why should foreign policy matter to those who do not study it?  Good question.  I would venture to guess that more people pay attention now because of the election cycle than they typically would, however,  the reason they are paying attention isn’t exactly a good one.  There is clearly a hint of pseudo-isolationism in the air because of what Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump has been saying.  Hillary Clinton has not added anything to the discussion either.  Both candidates have only divided the nation even more than it was already divided, and they’ve marginalized the masses on subjects of which they clearly lack understanding.  Case and point being this Facebook debate, or lack thereof, where apparently isolationism was a good thing, where giving up our hegemonic status would be beneficial to this country.  Right…

Whether globalization is a good or bad thing, well that’s a debate for another day.  From an international relations standpoint, and more specifically from a U.S. foreign policy view, the reason why we are a superpower is primarily due to our leadership in the world.  Whether you possess a realist view, or a liberal one, or perhaps one of the other theories in international relations, one must realize that our position in the world is what makes this country so great.  The fact that nations around the world look to us for the right answers, respect us for our decision making, and rising superpowers, like Russia and China, fear us, is what we want.  Our currency is still the primary currency of the world, our goods and services admired, and our stock market still the single greatest source of foreign investment.  The United States hard power, aka our military, is still the most influential in the world.  Our soft power, things like our culture, diplomacy, and ideals are still the hallmarks of our great nation.  Why would we want to ruin all of this with an isolationist stance?  That would just give way to Russia and China expanding their spheres of influence, and allowing for them to grow into a substantial force, that one day would be difficult to ward off.

The beauty of this country is that people can go on Facebook and post all the petty things they want.  They can waste away their entire Sunday watching NFL games, or sit down to watch the multitude of reality TV shows on our networks.  There are societies in this world that can’t do any of this, and they’d be willing to give everything to be able to vote, get access to clean drinking water and food, and all the other things we take for granted in a democracy.  As an aspiring foreign policy professional, I am willing to sacrifice my time and efforts so that people in this country can continue to do as they please, to live as free peoples.  I only ask that people educate themselves more on the subjects that influence their lives, because unless you’re a professional athlete, sports won’t do much for you besides personal gratification.  The whole premise of democracy is that a free people vote for their desired candidate into office to improve their lives for the better.  But when you have individuals who do not even read slightly about certain subjects, and are not willing to educate themselves on issues of substance, how confident can you be in them to vote the right person in, and then expect anything different?

How smart is smart power?

Source: The Daily Telegraph
Source: The Daily Telegraph

 

In international relations, specifically in the Western world, we’ve seen a multitude of theories on how individuals, states, and global institutions govern.  Some of the main theories that everyone learns in international relations 101 include realism, liberalism, constructivism, and Marxism.  Then there are the concepts of hard and soft power, which were coined by one of the greatest contemporary minds in international relations theory, Joseph Nye, Jr.  Hard power as Nye wrote, is “the ability to use the carrots and sticks of economic and military might to make others follow your will,” in other words threat of military action, or economic sanctions. Soft power is the use of significant elements such as culture, political values, and foreign policies/diplomacy to appeal and attract others to your will.  In 2003, Nye developed the concept of smart power, to supplement the already two common ideas of state interaction.

The concept of smart power essentially combines both hard and soft power, for neither hard nor soft power alone is effective.  In Nye’s 2009 article, he wrote that there are three ways in which one can affect the behavior of another to get their way, they include coercion, payment, and attraction.  Where soft power mainly encompasses attraction, hard power mostly involves the use coercion and payment.  When Hillary Clinton was undergoing her confirmation hearing to become the 67th Secretary of State, she mentioned the concept of smart power.  Clinton said that “America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America… We must use what has been called ‘smart power,’ the full range of tools at our disposal.”  In World War II, the United States and the rest of the World mainly utilized hard power, however, soft power was always inconspicuously used in the form of the propaganda broadcasting institution Voice of America.  Voice of America broadcasted several news shows in German to give the Germans the idea that they were losing the war, and the hope was that the propaganda would counter that of the Nazi’s.  Clearly, the United States would not have been victorious only using soft power.

The period of the Cold War prompted, even more, use of soft power, as the West was in a war of ideas, and Western liberal democratic ideals needed to undercut communism.  At the same time, hard power was a key strategy of the West to deter Soviet aggression.  That’s where the concept of smart power became very efficient.  As Nye notes, “[when] the Berlin Wall finally collapsed, it was destroyed not by an artillery barrage but by hammers and bulldozers wielded by those who had lost faith in communism.”  The West was victorious because of their hard pressed utilization of smart power.  The hard power usage of military deterrence, combined with the soft power usage of creating internal cracks in the Soviet Union system led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the creation of a liberal world order that emphasized peace and prosperity.

Smart power could be quite useful in today’s global issues, specifically in the field of terrorism.  With ISIL growing more menacing to the international system, and other Islamic terror groups joining the fray, Joseph Nye, Jr.’s concept would be extremely effective.  The very struggle that the West faces with terror groups like ISIL is not necessarily a civilizational fracas; it is more of an ideological conflict within the religion of Islam.  As we’ve seen, placing boots on the ground in the Middle East only leads to more conflict and disarray in the region, and the use of drone strikes and bombing campaigns tends to lead more to collateral damage than the degrading of terror groups.  Perhaps it is time that the United States adhered to smart power.  To win the battle against ISIL, and Islamic extremism, the Muslims need to be a part of the solution.  The more military might used, the more the likelihood of a young Muslim male becoming extremist. Soft power could be a key to being victorious over Islamic terrorism, and if we haven’t learned from history yet, we never will.

Are we truly in a new Cold War?

Source: The Moscow Times
Source: The Moscow Times

 

The prominent Russian scholar, Stephen F. Cohen from the American Committee for East-West Accord has been a constant critic of U.S. foreign policy towards Russia.  Cohen believes that we’re in a new Cold War, and has been adamant about this issue every Tuesday on the John Batchelor show.  So I pose the question, is Dr. Cohen right?  Are we in fact in a new Cold War?  If so, is it as bad as the original Cold War, or perhaps worse? Dr. Cohen believes this Cold War is leaps and bounds more likely to turn hot, and he attributes it to the Obama administration.  Just today, former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev warned that the world is at “dangerous point,” and he contributes it to the collapse of the East-West relationship, and considers the current Syria crisis to be today’s Cuban Missile Crisis.

So what makes him so concerned?  Well, just in the last week alone there had been several signs of soaring tensions, and eventually, there will be a breaking point.  On October 3rd, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that months of talks with Russia on the Syrian crisis ended in suspension.  Kerry also began petitioning the international community to investigate Damascus and Moscow for war crimes and human rights violations, in which many in the West supported.  Russia responded with even more fervor, threatening the West with the shooting down of fighter jets if they entered Syrian airspace, which according to Russian President Vladimir Putin was illegal considering the Syrian government never allowed it to happen in the first place.  Putin also decided to shift nuclear-capable missiles to their Baltic enclave in the Suwalki Gap, Kaliningrad.  When you thought it couldn’t get worse, it did.  Russia announced that they were signing out of the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) which essentially mandates states to convert weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel for peaceful use.  Russia also announced that it was building a permanent naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus.  One could argue that this is simply political maneuvering by both nations to get what they want, but when rhetoric gets to a point where nuclear missiles are positioned closer to NATO states, it could get quite deadly, and especially if a mishap occurs.

NATO has issues of its own.  Turkey, a NATO country, has had an uneasy relationship with the West, specifically over NATO’s lack of intervention during the Turkish Armed Forces coup against President Erdogan’s administration in July.  Just today, Erdogan and Putin met in Istanbul and signed an agreement to build two gas pipelines from Russia to Turkey.  NATO apparently did not see this as a warming sight.  Besides a gas deal, Turkey, and Russia both agreed that they needed to do their part to end the bloodshed in Syria, another blow to the West, as they view the Syrian crisis differently than Russia.

We’re living in perilous times, where liberal institutions like the European Union, NATO, and the United Nations seem to be showing cracks.  I believe it’s time that the United States and the West revisit their policies towards Russia.  Russia and the United States share common interests like nuclear disarmament, the war on terrorism, climate change, Arctic excursions and creating stability in the Middle East.  It’s not a question of whether we’re in a Cold War, because we are, the real danger lies in the question of how close we are to it going hot.  Like German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeyer said to the Germany newspaper, Bild, “it’s a fallacy to think that this is like the Cold War.  The current times are different and more dangerous.” Cohen hasn’t just been a broken record, nor has he been wrong this entire time, he has been a visionary and pioneer when it comes to US-Russia relations.  I’d suggest you visit his organization’s website today.  We need detente more now than ever, I have hope that ultimately cool heads will prevail and a crisis will be averted.

After watching the second Presidential debate, I realized, we’re completely finished.

Clinton, Trump pick up big wins
Courtesy: CNN.
So once again, barely anything of substance was said during the second presidential debate.  Foreign policy was virtually null in the debate and the few answers given were void.  With everything going on in the world today, thanks in large part to the inactions of the Obama administration, the CNN/ABC moderators, Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, were overwhelmed with the sidestepping of both candidates.  When Martha Raddatz asked Republican candidate Donald Trump about the Syrian humanitarian crisis, all he could talk about was how ‘we have to get ISIS,’ and then went on to bash Hillary Clinton on the Iranian nuclear deal, of which Clinton never negotiated.  Clinton continued with her usual talking points on Syria, which is essentially just anti-Russia rhetoric.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, the question of Russia arose.  Clinton presented nothing substantive at all on the topic of Russia.  When asked about how she’d deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, all she could say was that her administration would stand up to the Russian leader.  After giving us a three-second answer, she automatically skirted over to the conspiracy of Russian tampering in the electoral process, and how apparently Putin was campaigning for Trump.  Both candidates fail to adequately address the issue of Russian reassertion into the world order, and this is very disturbing.  With Russian aggression in Ukraine and Crimea, as well as their tampering in the Middle East, a more serious discussion ought to be brought up by both candidates in such a ‘serious’ debate.  As a foreign policy wonk, I honestly don’t feel confident with either candidate being the commander-in-chief.  When the entire world looks to the United States on a consistent basis, how confident can they be at all with the state of this election cycle?  Is this the best we have to offer? Godspeed.

Welcome to Daniel’s International Corner!

Welcome to my page!!  My name is Daniel Kurzyna, and I am currently a graduate student at New York University (NYU).  At NYU, I am working on completing my Magister Artium (M.A.) in International Relations with a concentration in Russian & Slavic Studies.  I am also an editor at NYU Journal of Political Inquiry and will be contributing to both the web and journal, check them out at http://jpinyu.com/.  My undergraduate degree is a Baccalaureus Scientiae (B.S.) in Criminal Justice, with a minor in Economics.  Being a first generation Polish-American, I understand first hand the importance of foreign policy, because without it I probably wouldn’t be here today!!  I hope that everyone finds this blog to be informative, exciting and worthwhile.  Although my specialization is in Eastern Europea/Russian foreign policy, I plan on writing on all topical issues of the day, not just foreign policy, because as William E. Gladstone said, “Here is my first principle of foreign policy: good government at home”.  Look forward to hearing from you!!  Take care.

-DK