Historical parallels WTC/WW1

I’ve done some reading on WW2, but not WW1. Current events lately have me extremely worried so a quick search turns up these sites:


reason for assasination

Basically, a minority of upstarts (OBL/Black Hand) have a gripe with another country’s foreign policies, and decide to do something about it (destroy Pentagon, WTC/assassinate Archduke Ferdinand). The offended countries (US/Austria) demand the hand over of the criminals. The hosts of criminals (Taliban/Serbia) refuse. (Britain/Germany) announce full support of reprisals.

The larger pictures of then and now don’t seem to be all that different. Is anybody else starting to see history repeat itself?

P.S. Any WWI first person narrative or interview type book suggestions would be appreciated.

Historical parallels are difficult things–we have to very careful not to allow ourselves to fall into the trap of simplification. Societies do not work from mathemetical equations that can be solved for X. A political assassination would likely be viewed by most people with a slightly difference context than the WTC attack (killing civilians who, for the most part, had little to no effect on US foreign policy).

Potentially there could be some sort of Arabic alliance against the West in this particular situation, but I honestly doubt that would happen anything like the out of control spiral of events that preceded WW1. (A close examination of the political and military administration in early 20th Century Europe compared to today’s will reveal considerable differences–political leaders, at least in the West, are far less likely to acquiesce to bellicose generals, for good reason.) Similarly, comparisons to Pearl Harbor, though almost certainly valid in the context of national outrage and call to action, inevitably fail when it comes to determining what action is actually appropriate.

It’s easy to say history repeats itself after the fact, as there are a plethora of examples to pull out when the last bomb has finally fallen. The main problem is that it never repeats exactly, rather, the future is a mystery casserole were no one can tell for sure what ingredients were added until after the thing has finished baking and we cut it open to examine the contents. All we can do in the meantime is smell carefully, get a limited look of developments as we open the oven to check things out, perhaps add a few herbs and spices, and try to time the removal correctly (without getting burned).

The analogy breaks down fairly quickly. In WWI, there was a complex network of antagonistic alliances that invevitably led to war between the world’s leading military powers.

By contrast, today all the world’s major military powers are on the same side, either explicitly or implicitly. OBL and the Taliban are disliked by Russia, the -istans, and China because of Muslim extremist support for insurgent/terrrorist groups in the region. Russia and the -istans have already declared varying levels of explicit support for the anti-terror effort, while China has made it clear it would not be upset if OBL and the Taliban went away. No one has outlined a clear scenario detailing how the current situation would lead to Russia or China fighting the US.

Even if OBL got his insane wish and the entire Muslim world were to rise up as one against the West, the resulting war still wouldn’t be a matchup in the military sense. Even the most advanced armies in the Muslim world lag behind the West technologically by a couple of decades. Pakistan has nukes, but no way to effectively deliver them against distant targets. Which isn’t to say it wouldn’t be a horrific, bloody war; it just wouldn’t be comparable to the clash of the world’s technological leaders that we saw in WWI and WWII.

Some historians reject the idea that entangling alliances were responsible for WWI. (I know this isn’t about the OP, but several people have cited the complex allainces as the reason for WWI.)

While the alliances were what triggered the war at that particular time, the various countries all wanted war (generally speaking). They thought it would be over quickly and they would have more territory and maybe some other concessions. The way most people (especially the leaders of the countries) at the time thought about war was as a quick and glorious method of aggrandizing themselves. So when an opportunity presented itself for the countries to go to war, they were happy to take advantage of it. The assasination was just a useful pretext for Austria to grab some of Serbia’s territory and perhaps some money as well.

When Russia mobilized to defend Serbia from the depredations of Austria (and maybe grab some Austrian or Ottoman territory) Germany got worried that a war was going to start and they wouldn’t be ready. They had a plan, the Schlieffen Plan (sp?), that was all worked out in case of a war. This called for attacking France first, then turning to take care of Russia (France’s Ally). Unfortunately this required attacking through Belgium, and the British had gauranteed Belgian Neutrality. The British might have stayed out of the war or at least not got in right away (and consequently the Americans probably would have stayed out too).

The French plan of attack was pretty stupid because it called for attacking with lots of elan but very little battle plan. They thought if you just charged quickly you’d win, but barbed wire and machine guns tended to get in the way.

The plans of the various countries were just as much responsible for WWI and its atrocities as the alliances. If they had had different plans the war might not have lasted as long and involved as many people as it had. Casualties might have been lower too. In any case war would have eventually occurred at some point around the time that it did because people were generally in favor of a war in all the countries involved.

(The preceding may or may not be accurate; I am not a historian, but I have read on the subject of WWI).

Not to mention that the Serbian government was nothing like the Taliban. Although at one time the Crown Prince (later King Aleksandar, the guy I have a crush on), tried to takeover the Black Hand-no dice.

This is really more of an IMHO thing, so I’ll shoot it over there.

I recommend two books by Barbara Tuchman
The Guns of August (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/034538623X/qid=1001718247/sr=2-1/ref=sr_2_7_1/104-2297966-3631126) - an excellent and comprehensive look at August 1914, both politically and militarily.
The Proud Tower (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345405013/qid=1001718534/sr=1-5/ref=sr_1_3_5/104-2297966-3631126) - An indepth look at the Western world in the 20 years leading up to the First World War.

pretty much anything else by Tuchman is good too…

Sorry… for some reason couldn’t get the links to show up

While I see the reasoning behind going ahead with a military action (show of force/retaliation), I don’t see what the objective would be. What do we stand to gain, if anything?