How Europe Went to War in 1914.
(2013-03-19). Harper Collins. Kindle Edition.
One of my resolves for the centennial to commemorate the beginning of World War I was to read something of value on the topic during 2014. I picked two books on the basis of recommendations received and eventually settled on this great work, explaining how WWI came about. My only regret is that time got away from me and just now was I able to finish the reading. Clark is writing about WWI, but you will excuse me if I draw all kinds of parallels to today, what some people refer to as the prelude to WWIII. This brief section on Serbian nationalism speaks loads to me about Russian imperialism or about all the turmoil in the Middle East today:
"However, it was also true that the partisan warfare of irregular militias and guerrilla bands which was such a central theme in the story of Serbia’s emergence as an independent nation owed its durability to the persistence of a peasant culture that remained wary of the regular army. For a government confronted with an increasingly arrogant military culture and lacking the organic connection with a large and prosperous educated class that underpinned other nineteenth-century parliamentary systems, nationalism represented the single most potent political instrument and cultural force. The almost universal enthusiasm for the annexation of yet unredeemed Serb lands drew not only on the mythical passions embedded in popular culture, but also on the land-hunger of a peasantry whose plots were growing smaller and less productive. Under these conditions, the argument – however dubious – that Serbia’s economic woes were the fault of Vienna’s punitive tariffs and the stranglehold of Austrian and Hungarian capital could not fail to meet with the most enthusiastic approbation. These constraints also fed Belgrade’s obsession with securing an outlet to the sea that would supposedly enable it to break out of backwardness. The relative weakness of commercial and industrial development ensured that Serbia’s rulers remained dependent upon international finance for the military expenditures they required in order to pursue an active foreign policy. And this in turn helps to explain the deepening integration of Serbia into France’s web of alliances after 1905, which was rooted in both financial and geopolitical imperatives." (p. 33)
I don't know if the reader might consider the historical moment for dedicating time to such a reading as long past, but I would encourage you to rethink and perhaps take up this tome: if you are a history lover, then simply for the entertainment, if you are a thinking person, then for what you might gain as insight into the once workings which could be today's paltry machinations and hence a ponderous risk for our world.
When one thinks of the millions who died in the 19th Century's Crimean War and again millions in World War I, looking at what stands behind either conflict for human ignominy, it becomes difficult to dismiss as little more than misbehavior the actions of certain figures who to no lesser degree are putting our world at risk.
As wrong as it is for a Christian to succumb to hysteria or despair, me thinks we are obliged to demand accountability from both elected politicians and self-appointed leaders.
Although I am still far from settled here in my new home in Switzerland, I am hoping to get back on a regular reading schedule. I have a couple super books in the hopper, I hope to share before long.