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.
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