Here we are, the summer of 2014, and the remembrances have begun. One hundred years ago this week, Austria declared war on Serbia, ending a month of inchoate diplomacy that followed the June 28 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, by a nationalist Serb. What began in a Balkan backwater cascaded, through a series of overlapping treaties, miscalculations, and misplaced loyalties, to sweep much of the world into war. Germany and its imperial allies were pitted against the British, French, and other empires – joined late in the game by the United States.
The idea that World War I can be viewed as something that happened between 1914-1918 is absurd: It is the war that has never ended. A few weeks ago in what used to be Mesopotamia, a group called ISIS cited the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement as a source of their many twisted grievances. A year earlier, Syria’s use of chemical weapons broke bans instituted after greater horrors during World War I. The Israelis and Palestinians, trading rockets and missiles anew, trace much of their dispute to the war. [Read more…]