When the center cannot hold

The War of the World, by Niall Ferguson, is one of the best histories of the 2oth century you’ll find.  The fourteen years before the Great War are often looked back upon with nostalgia, as a sort of golden age.  Globalism was triumphant, even more so than today.  But they were also troubled times.  Between 1900 and 1913 there were 40 political assassinations around the world, with our own President McKinley as one of the three Presidents killed, along with four kings and six prime ministers.  In the Balkans alone the victims included two kings, one queen, two prime minsters and the commander -in-chief of the Turkish Army.

Most of the world was ruled by multi-ethnic empires, such as Austro-Hungary.  The global elites were content, but when asked by what right they ruled, they had no satisfactory answer.  The nations of the world contained within the empires wanted self determination, and some were willing to die for it.

A Serb, Gavrilo Princip, was one of them.  He killed and died for a free Yugoslavia, and in this he succeeded.  My guess is that Serbs today still admire him.

The assassin in Dallas will soon be forgotten.  Whatever his goal may have been, it won’t be attained, any more than the goal of the moron who killed those people in a black church in Charleston.  I only found out about the shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana and Dallas a few hours ago.  I’ve been in the High Sierra for a couple days, out of touch.  I recommend it.

I’m still in the process of absorbing all that I learned in reading The War of the World.  Here’s a little factoid I’d been unaware of.  After utterly destroying its Navy and winning its war with Russia, Japan wanted to be treated as the Great Power that it was in the process of becoming.  It was on the winning side in the Great War, and was in Versailles to get in on the pickings.  It was rewarded with the German possessions in the Pacific, but came away feeling disrespected.  A Resolution had been proposed at the Peace Conference that all nations, regardless of race, deserved equal treatment, and it would have passed, on an 11-7 vote.  But Woodrow Wilson was a “no”, and he insisted on unanimity, so it failed.  Out of such humiliations wars are born.

I was reading by the shore of upper Virginia Lake, 9770 feet up, when I headed back to the camp ground.  A man and his wife were nearby, and he asked me if I caught any fish.  I said, no, I’d been reading, and he asked me what it was.  I told him The War of the World, about the wars of the twentieth century, and he asked me if I knew who Vladimir Putin was.  He seemed intelligent enough, so I walked back to him and we had a little talk.  It turned out we thought along the same lines.  Somehow we got onto Serbia, and he was saying he had a Croatian friend who hated the Serbs with a passion.  I told him they had a reason for feeling the way they do, but it didn’t mean beans to me, because I’m an American.

Even in the High Sierra it’s nice to be among fellow Americans.

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