On July 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian empire declared war on Serbia and began a four-year-long war which engulfed Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, North America, Asia and Australia. The conflict came to be known as World War I, the Great War, the war to end all wars. World War I brought such horrors as trench warfare, the use of aviation as a weapon, poison gas attacks and the flame thrower. Technological advances were used to evil effect against millions of people.
Only twenty years later another war was fought throughout the world. From 1939 to 1945 human beings died on nearly every continent and it ended only when the United States unleashed the power of the atom on Japan. This is still the only nation to have used nuclear weapons against human beings.
World War II was followed by the Cold War among the United States and other western nations and the Soviet Union and its allies. For nearly fifty years proxy wars and crises took place between the two sides until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. During those decades humanity feared a hot war and the use of nuclear weapons but the competition ended without the military conflict that the world dreaded. The break-up of the USSR brought temporary hope that there would never be another catastrophic conflict.
The worldwide commemoration of the World War I centenary is celebrated amongst eerie circumstances, as the world’s most powerful nations are locked in the dangerous type of embrace which preceded past conflagrations. Most Americans learn a litany of shallow and simplistic explanations for the first great war, such as the assassination of an archduke and the sinking of the Lusitania. The textbook explanations omit that the quest for expansion and economic competition among the powerful nations led the world into disaster. That cycle ominously appears to be repeating itself in 2014.
The fall of the Soviet Union wasn’t the beginning of a new and better age. Americans never got the “peace dividend” they expected as the threat of war seemed to end. Instead, they got ever increasing military spending which now dwarfs that of the rest of the world’s nations combined. Capitalism is supposedly at its end stage but it seems that it won’t go down without a fight in an endless series of collapsing “bubbles” and austerity measures which punish the victims of worldwide capital and their collaborators in governments around the world.
The absence of a competing power only emboldened the United States to renew its long history of intervention, invasion and aggression. The Russian Federation was promised by a succession of American presidents that its former allies would not be used against them. Those words meant nothing as former Soviet bloc states were entreated to join NATO and the European Union.
The weaker nations of the world fare even worse. They face outright naked aggression from the United States. Iraq has suffered from two American invasions in twenty years. Nations that were ignored are instead attacked by Western nations or their surrogates and then face years of destruction and chaos. Somalia, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and the Congo are now shells of their former selves, racked by continuing bloodshed as the West turns them all to ruin. The rush to conquest creates odd alliances such as that which began in Afghanistan thirty years ago. The inevitable ending of the relationship between the United States and jihadists resulted in blowback culminating in the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Like a child having a meltdown, the bad behavior of the United States doesn’t just continue. It gets worse and worse. Its own goals risk being undone by the same people it once called friends. Iraq is being destroyed yet again as one-time friends represented by ISIS threaten the entire imperial project in the region.
Now the United States and European nations aren’t content to attack the weak. They openly declare war on Russia. When they backed a coup in Ukraine they happily threw gasoline onto a fire but the fantasy was easier than the reality. Russia is a tough nut to crack and the instigation of civil war in Ukraine brought more than the West anticipated.
The alliances between Germany, Austria and the Ottoman empire on one side and France, Britain and Russia seem quaint in comparison to the United States upending regimes all over the world as its allies follow dutifully along. Malaysian airlines flight MH17 may be the Lusitania of the modern era. Had the West not caused conflict on Russia’s doorstep, the incident would not have taken place but the propagandists are hard at work evading responsibility and assigning blame they ought to share.
It is impossible to look into the future and see how these conflicts will end. It is clear that they can’t go on forever and that great changes are coming. Only defeat will stop massacres in Gaza and regime change around the world. Of course, those defeats will bring great suffering to the masses of people. Ironically, that suffering is the only certainty as the chaos continues.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.com.