By William S. Lind, Traditional Right
World War I ended with a global pandemic. Has the next world war begun with one? I pray not, but no historian can look upon the war in Ukraine and not see the ghost of 1914 rising wraithlike from it – a ghost which, I fear, bears a striking resemblance to Conrad. When was Przemsyl last in the news?
When we think back to World War I, to its origins, its course and its consequences, the parallels are frightening. The first is that, in 1914, no one expected war or wanted war – at least a general European war. Kaiser Wilhelm II certainly did not. On the contrary: as soon as he realized, too late, where events were leading, he made desperate efforts to head them off. He ordered a cable sent to Vienna telling Austria to take Belgrade and then stop, but the German Foreign Office did not send it. Tsar Nicholas only approved the order for mobilization with great reluctance; his war and Foreign Ministers acted before he could change his mind. The Kaiser even halted his army on the Belgian frontier when the British Foreign Secretary hinted Britain might stay out – but then Grey pushed the British cabinet in.
Are events today again running away from those who seek de-escalation? Russia expected a quick victory (like everyone in 1914), but now finds herself bogged down in a stalemate with no clear exit. As wars go on, they tend to spread. The West is upping the ante in the help it is extending to Ukraine. At what point does Russia start hitting Western weapons shipments while they are still on NATO’s soil? How long can China remain on the fence when Russia is her principal ally? If Russia uses chemical weapons in urban combat, does the U.S. wrongly declare them “Weapons of Mass Destruction” and thereby open the nuclear Pandora’s box? There are a lot of ways for this conflict to get bigger, fast.
The parallels do not end with the merely military. In 1914, the world had a global economy. Only in the last decade did the value of global trade reach 1914 levels, as a percentage of the global economy. But even before Russia invaded Ukraine, America’s use of economic sanctions as weapons was swiftly undermining Globalism, as did the Coronapanic and its effects on global supply chains. Now, every country is striving to “re-shore” whatever it can, in a security-driven race towards autarky.