Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

War by chain reaction

As is so often true in war, the historian’s cited proximate cause proves really no more than a rationalization seized upon as a casus belli by unscrupulous ambition. In this case, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand made a long-awaited excuse for Austria-Hungary to settle an old score with rival Serbia by allowing the former to enlist the aid of Germany to deter any possible intervention by Russia.

Europe at start of World War I

Europe at start of World War I: The board is set.
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Even then, the struggle could well have been sharp but limited, had Europe and its allies and networks of colonies not bound themselves to one another by precisely the kinds of treaties that Thomas Jefferson and other early American leaders scorned as “entangling alliances”: Like a Rube Goldberg machine gone fatally awry, the continent fell into global war by chain reaction as each declaration of war required by treaty precipitated a counter-declaration required by another treaty.

Originally published as a review of a historical article on the causes of World War I.

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