Austin Bay

From 1911 to 1913, three little wars had involved the weakest of Europe's Great Powers, the Ottoman Turkey. The First Balkan War (1912-1913) and the Second Balkan War (1913) receive the most historical attention. In the First Balkan a shaky alliance of Balkan states attacked European Turkey (Macedonia and Thrace), and then divided the spoils. The Second Balkan pitted an aggrieved Bulgaria against its former "Christian" allies. Bulgaria lost territory. The Ottomans recovered a slice of Thrace.

The Turco-Italian War of 1911-1912 is the forgotten war in the series. Italy, an aspiring Great Power and would-be colonial power, seized Turkey's last North African province, what we now call Libya. The Ottoman Sultan was also Sunni Islam's Caliph, at east notionally the "successor" leader of all Sunni Muslims. To secure Arab and Berber tribal allies for the weak and isolated Ottoman units defending Tripoli, Benghazi and other coastal towns, the Caliph invoked Muslim solidarity. The Sultan-Caliph did not declare "jihad" in the al-Qaida-influenced sense, but the tribal warriors knew they were fighting infidels.

In March 1924, Turkey's post-World War One secular and nationalist revolutionaries abolished the Caliphate. Turkey's modernizers argued that the Caliphate was not a spiritual institution, but a corrupt, deceitful and denigrating propaganda tool for controlling the highly political, self-interested Sultan's faithful Arab Muslim subjects.

In 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has proclaimed jihad in Syria and Iraq. The ISIL wants to re-combine political and religious rule. Re-establish a global Sunni Muslim Caliphate. The ISIL's pitch is utopian. The ISIL's Caliphate will secure God's favor, and Muslims will rule the world -- Muslims led by the ISIL's political, self-interested commanders.

In summer 1914, political instability, institutional decline, fear and bitter grievance gripped Europe. In 2014, the same afflictions vex the globe. Perhaps World War One isn't over; it is just entering another phase.


Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
 
Be the first to read Austin Bay's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.

©Creators Syndicate