Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars,
That make ambition virtue!
Othello, Act 3, Scene 3
Alternate history has always fascinated me, and Andrew Roberts, a great contemporary historian, I heartily recommend his recent biography of Churchill, does a good job of pointing out the traumas that arose in the wake of the grand blood-letting we call World War I, and how they may have been avoided if World War I had not occurred. Do I think World War I could have been avoided? Well, certainly the crisis over Sarajevo could have been settled peacefully if a modicum of common sense by Austria-Hungary and Germany had prevailed. However, Europe had enjoyed an unprecedented, up to that time, peace since Waterloo in 1815, interrupted only by relatively brief wars between the Great Powers, but by 1914 this vacation from history was manifestly breaking down. The Balkans had produced, since the closing decades of the 19th century, a series of minor wars that were always threatening to get out of hand and involve the Great Powers. For good reason Otto von Bismarck, the man who created Imperial Germany, had predicted the year before his death:“That one day the great European War would come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.” In the decades leading up to the Sarajevo Crisis, Europe had weathered a series of crises that threatened great power clashes. Below the surface of the stability of the Great Powers were revolutionary movements, waiting impatiently in the wings of contemporary history for their forthcoming moment on center stage. In retrospect it is not of note that the Great War came, but that its outbreak had been delayed so long by jury-rigged emergency diplomacy, a general hesitation among the Great Powers to risk all on a roll of the iron dice of war and, above all, good luck. When peace depends primarily on luck, sooner or later the good luck will run out.
Darryl Bates : What started it?
Col. Andy Tanner : I don’t know. Two toughest kids on the block, I guess. Sooner or later, they’re gonna fight.
Jed Eckert : That simple, is it?
Col. Andy Tanner : Or maybe somebody just forget what it was like.