In my (admittedly very questionable) study of history, I’ve come upon one fact: wars would be hilarious if it weren’t for the part about crazy amounts of people dying. That’s kind of a downer and I wish it didn’t happen so often. I’ve already written about how the Civil War was more like a break up than a serious political issue, and I’m sure Robert E. Lee’s Ghost loved it. We don’t talk much, me and Bobby Ghost-Lee (see what I did there?) so I’m just guessing. America is pretty susceptible to stupid wars. James K. Polk’s Mexican-American War was basically the childhood “I’m not touching you” car ride game. World War One began with pretty stupid reasoning, and that was in Europe, so America’s not the only country out there. Europeans… we all know, those are all some crazy characters.
Now, this is going to be an actual history lesson for a bit, so I’m sorry if that’s not your “deal”. Philistine. The main reasons for World War One can always be remembered by the acronym MAINS. Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, Nationalism, and Serbia. You may recognize that last one as the best country on that side of the Atlantic (sorry, Luxembourg), but the rest are mildly hefty terms. Militarism is the build-up of armies and navies and sometimes, for sandtable purposes, tiny little plastic cannons. Militarism was tied heavily with the Second Industrial Revolution which introduced steel, gasoline, and replaceable parts to the “Killing Each Other” parts of society. The Alliances we’ll cover later, because it’s the funny part.
|"We'll attack here, next to the drawing |
of a tiny sea monster!"
Imperialism might as well be called “Ugh, White People.” The conquest and exploitation of Africa is no laughing matter, except in sheer disbelief at how straight-up-evil people can be. The Berlin Conference of 1884 had European Powers dividing up Africa amongst themselves, completely ignoring the fact that people already lived there. Remember that movie Hotel Rwanda? It was a true story about ethnic violence and genocide between Husus and Tutsis, who only live in the same country because way back in 1884 some white guys decided that’d make exploitation easier. Ugh.
On that light note, Nationalism is the sociological equivalent to alcohol. A little is good for enjoying the World Cup or talking to strangers, but too much can cause loud yelling and stupid fighting. Nationalism grew from “I like my country!” to “Therefore I hate yours” faster than any other mindset in history.
So about these alliances. World War One can be summed up as a whole heap of drama. World War One is so ridiculously high school, it’s almost unbelievable. Germany is this new student, with his leather jacket, tight jeans, and Nate Ruess-ian hair style. He starts becoming the cool kid in class, making easy friends with Austria-Hungary, since they’re cousins. Sure, they had some troubles growing up, but that’s in the past. Germany even manages to make friends with Russia, the rich kid that still has a Playstation 2. Together, they formed their little clique and everyone called them the Three Emperors Alliance, cause there were three of them. Not everything in history is tough, folks.
Britain and France, meanwhile, like the catty women they are, say “This Germany kid isn’t even cool, or hot, and people should know that.” They put away centuries of drama, and sign the Entente Cordiale, basically a document that says “We’re totes besties now, OMG< I luv you XOXO #luckytohaveyou,” but, you know, teen girl slang added for the purposes of dramatic story telling.
|You just know France is the slutty one.|
Tensions begin to develop when Russia and Austria-Hungary both begin courting Bulgaria, part of the Balkans clique. Basically, the Balkans is that group of theater girls that are really hot and seem down for a lot, but you don’t think about as often as the popular ones. Serbia is the guy friend in the group, but he’s destined to be a late bloomer and doesn’t have the muscles or social skills to date any of them, like he wants.
So Russia and A-H begin the First Balkan Crisis about who gets to date Bulgaria and win influence over the clique. Naturally, Germany sides with Cousin A-H, although reluctantly. With a hardy “Not cool, man,” Russia still wins Bulgaria’s heart.
This makes Serbia mad and the Second Balkan Crisis happens when he gets in Bulgaria’s face about dating a loser, but you know it’s just jealousy. A-H backs up Serbia in the short war, and Germany once again backs up A-H. Russia has had enough, so he leaves the Three Emperors, and goes off to hang out by himself, enjoying GTA San Andreas and trying to convince his parents he needs to modernize his industries. He decides that he hates Germany as much as catty Britain and France do, and signs onto their Triple Entente.
Now that Russia’s won Bulgaria’s heart, A-H starts to annex Bosnia, Serbia’s neighbor and best friend, who he’s kinda been put in a friendzone by. In a fit of frustration because he’s not getting the respect he deserves, Serbia basically trapper-checks A-H in the crowded lunchroom on June 28th, 1914 (I guess Europe doesn’t have summer break). That’s right, assassinating the heir to the throne will now be known as “Trapper Checking” in allegorical-analytical geopolitics, a field I just made up.
In real life, a Bosnian Serb named Gavirilo Princip, destined to never be recognized by spellcheck, shot and killed Austrian Archduke/pop-punk band Franz Ferdinand while the Archduke was visiting Sarajevo, a thing that was silly for both of them to do.
Back in my strained high school metaphor, Serbia realizes what he’s just done to the big bad bully, and begins to stammer out apologies. But Austria Hungary isn’t having it and gets in his face, demanding Serbia pick it up and apologizes. Germany actually steps up and tells A-H to calm down, bro, don’t start nothing or he’ll lose that scholarship, but A-H doesn’t listen, and pushes Serbia down, declaring war on the Balkan state. Well, Russia’s right there in the lunchroom, and runs over to push A-H, who he never liked, declaring war on him! But Germany’s got to stand up for family and legally-binding international defensive pact treaties, so he declares war on Russia. And here come Britain and France, who have their trail of less popular girl colonies like India and Indochina following them, and begin to scratch at Germany, who never wanted this to happen.
|"Guys, we can get along, let's just beat up on|
the Jews! Come on, it was fun before!"
At the end of the lunch room fight (broken up thanks to Britain’s boyfriend visiting from another school, the U.S.), all the participants are sat down in the principal’s office in Versailles. Austria-Hungary is given detention, but he deserved it. Russia didn’t come to the office, because he ran away from the fight after realizing some important things about himself. The real crime is the punishment leveled on Germany- a full three weeks of in-school suspension!
Or you know, twenty years of terrible economic depression thanks to obscene reparations demanded by France and Britain, giving a swell environment for the creation of National Socialism (say what you will, at least it's an ethos) and the school’s new bully of Adolf Hitler.
Basically, what I’m saying is, no one (save Gavirilo Princip) can actually be blamed for World War One. Everyone was tied to everyone else in a big ol’ pit of Alliances, and started preparing for war thanks to their overactive Militarism, fueled on the back of Imperial conquests, and supported by Nationalism. That's what makes it kinda funny, it was a team effort to start such a terrible war. From what I hear, it was the War to End All Wars, so at least we’ve got that going for us.
What? There’s another one?! That explains the name…