One of the mantras of the PC crowd is to repeatedly blame all the world’s problems on “dead white European males.” As a white male of European ancestry, I’ve often been irritated by this attitude. But after hearing a few things and doing some serious research, I think they just might be on to something.
I’ve taken a slightly-more-than-quick survey of the major problems, wars, conflicts, and other issues of the last 80 or so years, and I think I’ve managed to tie every single one of them to World War I. Which means that the “dead white European males” who were responsible for that fiasco managed to screw up the rest of the century, and we’re STILL dealing with the consequences of their bad decisions.
Obviously, the first bad consequence of World War I was World War II. The punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles destroyed Germany’s economy, setting the stage for Hitler’s rise to power and fueling the thirst for revenge among the German people. That’s pretty much a given.
But the other half of World War II was, in part, also triggered by World War I. Japan emerged as a world power, and was looking to get in on the imperialism game just as it was winding down. That, along with their own need for greater natural resources, led to their invasion of China and expansionist policies that came to a peak with their attack on the US at Pearl Harbor.
Russia was a fading empire when World War I came about. The Czar dove right in, and the resulting weaknesses and chaos helped fuel the revolution that eventually succumbed to the Communists, setting the stage for the Cold War.
Japan’s invasion of China in the 30’s led to two rival groups of Chinese fighting back, the Nationalists and the Communists. After the war, the Communists prevailed, while the Nationalists were forced to retreat to Taiwan.
China and Russia’s Communist ambitions led them to encourage similar revolutions around the world. Two such cases where they came into conflict with the US were in Korea and Viet Nam.
All that is pretty much common knowledge, but what really got me thinking was a talk show host saying that the war on terrorism was also a byblow of World War I. He didn’t elaborate, but it got me thinking — and that’s when I figured I’d tap the Wizbang readers for help.
Several of the books you folks recommended were quite helpful, but jd watson gave me precisely the book I need — “The Guns Of August.” It outlined just how and why Turkey got into the war, and that was exactly what I was looking for.
By the early decades of the 20th Century, the ancient Caliphate (The Islamic state) was dying. It was losing bits and pieces of itself, and it was called “the sick old man of Europe.” All the European powers were well aware that the complete collapse of the Ottomans was inevitable, and eagerly worked on dividing up its few remaining possessions.
Then World War I came. The Ottomans were not at all interested in getting involved — on the Allied side, Russia had a long history of hostility and England was treating them with the sheerest contempt. On the other side, though, Germany was playing nice, offering them support and the promise of a share of the spoils of war. That wasn’t enough, though, so Germany then engineered an attack on Russia by a nominally Turkish warship, and that was that — they were in.
(Brief background: Turkey had paid England to build two battleships for them. When the war broke out, England simply kept the ships, and Turkey’s money, with only the briefest of apologies. When a couple of German ships got trapped in the Mediterranean by Allied forces, Germany and Turkey arranged for Turkey to “buy” them from the Germans, and announce that had been the plan all along. Then, while they still had German crews, Germany ordered the Turkish-flagged ships to attack a Russian port. Russia, in return, declared war on Turkey, and that was that.)
After Germany surrendered the war, the Ottoman Empire was officially dismantled, and the Allies carved it up. The last remnants of the great Islamic Empire were scattered to the four winds.
The current borders of the Middle East were drawn up by the Allies, most notably England, and among those English was Winston Churchill. The history of most modern Middle East countries can be directly tied to the British Mandate from the League Of Nations after World War I — including the notion of establishing a Jewish state in their ancient homeland.
And it is this that Bin Laden and most of the Islamic extremists wish to undo. They want to dissolve the modern day borders of the Middle East and restore an Islamic nation-state.
The irony is that their brand of belief is pretty much in line with that the Ottomans fought so hard against. They were Muslim, but not militant. They were rather tolerant of Christians and Jews, and in fact they were a refuge during some of the worst persecutions of the Jews in Europe.
So, in essence, what they want to “restore” is something that never truly was. But I don’t recall reality ever being much of a problem for extremists.
A book I once read referred to World War I as “Big Mistake #1,” but it wasn’t until I really started digging into it that I saw just how accurate that term was. It was caused by an amazing series of mistakes, errors, misjudgments, and gross incompetence. LIkewise, it was fought in a similar and sloppy fashion, with millions of young men dying for no real reason. Finally, it was settled so ineptly, so short-sightedly, that it set the stage for nearly a century of further conflicts — and counting.
I know I’m succumbing to the pitfalls of hindsight here, looking backwards and second-guessing decisions made in the heat of the moment. But these dead white European males were supposed to be the best their era had to offer, and so many of them simply couldn’t look beyond their short-term goals or anticipate that things might not go quite as they planned — and we’re still paying the butcher’s bill on their mistakes.