Quick quiz: What started World War I? An anarchist in Serbia shot and killed a visiting Austrian leader. But why would that shooting trigger the killing of millions, including one out of two young Frenchmen, in what we now know as World War I, which began a hundred years ago?
In his 1992 book, A History of the American People, British historian Paul Johnson writes, “The Great War of 1914-18 was the primal tragedy of modern world civilization, the main reason why the 20th century turned into a disastrous epoch for mankind” (p. 642).
A series of conflicting European alliances led to the bloodbath when the tinderbox was ignited.
Johnson explains how the shooting of the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand of Austria (6/28/1914) led to “the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia, the Russian decision to support the Serbs, the French decision to support Russia, the German decision to support Austria and fight a two-front war against Russia and France, and Germany’s consequential decision to send its armies through Belgium to enforce quick defeat of the French, and so the involvement of Britain and its dominion allies in support of Belgium” (p. 642).
World War I led to the deaths of millions of people---with millions more dying of a flu epidemic in the immediate wake of its devastation. Consider other consequences of WW I:
*the Russian Revolution, i.e., the collapse of czarist Russia and the rise of the Soviet Union, leading to the death of 20-40 million Russian people (in peace time).
*the end of the Ottoman Empire, which led a later secularized Turkey in 1924 to abolish the caliphate (which was not necessarily a bad development). Those events impact even our current situation. Al-Baghdadi, leader of the murderous ISIS/ISIL at the time of this writing, is viewed by his followers as the new caliph for the Muslim people.
*World War II. The winners after WW I made the armistice conditions so terribly difficult for the Germans in the Versailles Treaty that they sowed the seeds for WW II at the end of WW I. World War II soaked the globe in blood, killing some 55 million people.
*In the wake of WW II, Chairman Mao turned China into an atheistic Communist state, killing some 72 million Chinese in the process. This led to the fall of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
By any measure, World War I was a disaster for humanity, underscoring the depravity of man.
But could there be an additional factor in the causes of World War I that has been overlooked?