World War I 100 years later

Chicago Tribune: “The Great War” and “The war to end all war” proved to be neither. The conflict that would bleed to death some of Earth’s proudest empires — while killing 16.5 million soldiers and civilians — later would be christened World War I to distinguish it from the next, even deadlier slaughter. WWI also created a precedent and an image: If you wonder why Europe today relies on the U.S. and not, say, Brazil or China to help protect Ukraine, the answer traces back a century, to one battle in which American doughboys helped repel Germans grinding toward Paris.

PO WER OF ALLIANCES

One hundred years ago this week, the interlocking machinery of European alliances creaked into action: Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia on July 28; Russia mobilized to defend the Serbs; Austria’s ally, German Kaiser Wilhelm Hohenzollern, declared war against his cousin, Russian Czar Nicholas Romanov II; . War would ensnare France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire and eventually the U.S.

On Aug. 2, 1914, the Tribune editorial board wrote a piece titled, “The twilight of the kings.” It is trenchant and lyrical, foreshadowing not only the war’s “feudal slaughter” but also sclerotic monarchies, after centuries of family rule, finally yielding to democracies: “The republic marches east in Europe.” That editorial’s false prediction: “Western Europe of the people may be caught in this debacle, but never again.”


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