March 28, 2012
The global conflict of 1914-1918 was the most destructive military clash in history, surpassed only by World War II. The war that American historian George F. Kennan called “the original catastrophe” not only brought destruction, misery and death to millions, it shattered the seemingly secure Western world order. It broke the confidence of Europeans in themselves and their long-held values, brought down dynasties that had ruled for centuries in Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany, and forced a drastic reassessment of cherished assumptions about life and society. The leaders of the major European countries that plunged their countries into protracted, fratricidal war were not evil or stupid men. But they were short sighted, and they badly miscalculated. The fighting ended with solemn assurances by the victorious leaders of the US, Britain and France, who then betrayed their pledges, thereby laying the foundation for an even more devastating second world war.
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