Thursday, July 31, 2014

Echoes of the Great War Resonate a Century Later

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Echoes of the Great War Resonate a Century Later

On July 28, 1914, exactly one month after Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were shot dead, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The stage was set for World War I, an inevitable result of decades of political maneuvering, militarization, alliances and planning for a conflict that would shatter the great European epoch, laying waste to empires and ascendant nations.

At the heart of World War I was the rise of Germany and the question of its place in the European balance of power. Prussian statesman Otto Von Bismarck had painstakingly crafted a modern, unified German nation through fire and blood, ensuring its survival through shrewd realpolitik diplomacy. The new unified Germany remained wary of potential threats from east and west, a concern reciprocated by nearby states, which harbored deep-seated concerns and fears over Germany's rise that even Bismarck could not allay. With the coronation of Kaiser Wilhelm II, a man known to be possessed of unbridled ambition, the German question increasingly demanded an answer.

With the possibility of a pan-European conflict growing, the Great Powers set about drawing up strategic war plans. Each nation made its plans based on its unique geopolitical position, but the grand designs were also deeply affected by a host of secondary considerations. Constrained by a historic legacy of conquests, alliances and rivalries, and shaped by emotional and political ideology, the war plans of the Great Powers were a clash between seemingly sound strategy and each nation's unique and subjective interests.

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