Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Military Space News .

Walker's World: 1914 and today
by Martin Walker
London (UPI) Dec 2, 2013

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

The latest flurry of claims, counterclaims and saber-rattling over the disputed islands between China, Japan and South Korea has been made more serious by the decision of the U.S. government to challenge China's assertion of control with a flight of B-52 bombers.

It has been for some years a commonplace for historically minded commentators to suggest that the rise of China is reminiscent of the rise of the Kaiser's Germany in the years before 1914.

In its different times, each country enjoyed dramatic economic growth, equally dramatic increases in military budgets, an assertive foreign policy and a deep resentment that other countries had and continued to conspire to keep them down.

The sudden crisis that has loomed over the islands that Japan calls the Senkakus and that China calls the Diaoyus (not forgetting the reef Koreans call Ieodo) thus triggers memories of the various diplomatic spats that erupted in the Balkans, Morocco and elsewhere in the years before 1914.

This parallel is the more charged because next year sees the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the first world war, an unqualified human catastrophe that destroyed the German, Russian, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, produced the Russian revolution of 1917 and laid the seeds of the current instabilities across the Middle East.

The war, which saw the Japanese taking German islands and outposts in the Pacific, British and German troops fighting in East and Southwest Africa and the deployment of U.S., Brazilian, Indian and Senegalese troops on the Western front, resulted in the deaths of at least 9 million combatants.

A number of recent books on the outbreak of the war have drawn special attention to the way that the world of 1914 is uncomfortably close to our own. With an eye on the potent consequences of 9/11, the military historian Max Hastings reminds that the war was triggered by a terrorist assassination at Sarajevo.

Christopher Clark, professor of modern history at Cambridge University, points out that with the end of the Cold War "a system of global bipolar stability had made way for a more complex and unpredictable array of forces, including declining empires and rising powers."

The parallel with our own day is uncomfortably close. The rise of China, the setbacks to U.S. power in Iraq and Afghanistan and the long economic stagnation of Japan suggest tectonic shifts are under way in the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States' long naval dominance is being challenged by China's new aircraft carrier and submarines and by its evident interest in space weaponry.

Margaret MacMillan, a distinguished Canadian academic now at Oxford, suggests "our world is facing similar challenges, some revolutionary and ideological such as the rise of militant religions or social protest movements, others coming from the stress between rising and declining nations such as China and the U.S."

And like our world, simultaneously thrilling and reeling to the pace of technological, social and economic change, the people of 1914 felt they were living through revolutionary times. In the years since 1890, average real wages in Britain, France and Germany had almost doubled and in that earlier phase of globalization world trade had grown even faster.

Everything seemed both full of promise and in flux, from the new art movements of cubism and expressionism and the new music of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," which provoked riots at its 1913 premiere in Paris, to the waves of strikes and public protests launched by the newly powerful labor unions and suffragettes. From the new mass media and the cinema to the coming of the automobile and airplane, the era was pregnant with change.

Our own world seems to be changing and exciting and alarming in much the same way and now we have a regional crisis and alarm that recall those of the years before 1914. China, under new leadership that makes a point of nationalist rhetoric about "the Chinese dream," appears determined to assert its dominance in its region and offshore waters.

The United States, aware that its prestige had been diminished by its wretchedly unsuccessful operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, seems equally determined to challenge China's aspirations and to support its Japanese ally.

One voice hasn't yet been heard from in this shuffling of the Asian chessboard -- India. And just as the Helmuth von Moltke, the German army's chief of staff, argued in 1914 that Germany should crush the rising power of Russia while it had the chance and the military superiority, so many Chinese strategists now argue that their real rival isn't the waning United States but a rising India.

How worried should we be? Not very, at least in the short run, is the immediate answer. We aren't trapped by the complex skein of alliances that locked the 1914 European powers into obligations of mutual military support and the implacable timetables of the railway trains to mobilize and take millions of troops to the frontiers.

But human folly and geopolitical rivalry, military calculations and political prestige remain very much a part of today's world. And when B-52s start flying to assert U.S. power in the face of Chinese ambition, it is worth recalling what 1914 meant, what it lost and what it launched.

("The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914" by Margaret MacMillan, Random House, 683 pages, $35.)

("Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War" by Max Hastings, Knopf, 640 pages, $35.)

("The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914" by Christopher Clark, HarperCollins, 697 pages, $29.99.)


Related Links
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Canadian arrested on spying for China charges
Montreal (AFP) Dec 01, 2013
A Canadian naval engineer was arrested and charged for taking steps to transmit sensitive information to China related to shipbuilding procurement strategy, police said Sunday. Authorities say Toronto resident Qing Quentin Huang, 53, shared details about the country's shipbuilding procurement strategy, including patrol ships, frigates, naval auxiliary vessels, science research vessels and ic ... read more

IBCS Completes US Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense Demonstration

Patriot performance excels in PAC-3 test firing

Israel moves closer to missile defense shield

US has time to boost bid for Turkey missile system: FM

Raytheon Delivers High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile Control Units

Israel tests short range missile defence system

Javelin Joint Venture awarded contract for Javelin Weapon System

Russia and Egypt on verge of missile deal: Moscow

Thousands rally in Pakistan against US drone attacks

Northrop Grumman Delivers Additional MQ-8C Fire Scout to the US Navy

A new, flying jellyfish-like machine

Thousands rally against US drone strikes in Pakistan

Boeing Tests Validate Performance of FAB-T Satellite Communications Program

Intelsat General To Provide Satellite Services To US Marines

Manpack Radios in Arctic Connect with MUOS Satellites Orbiting Equator

Self-correcting crystal may unleash the next generation of advanced communications

Much of Venezuela's Russian arms said to be faulty

Airbus and Cassidian play key role in Perseus maritime surveillance program

US firm claims first 3D-printed metal gun

Chemical arms treaty meets love-gone-wrong in US high court

Israel eyes big arms deals with longtime buyer India

Russia opens criminal probe against ex-defence minister

Bribery scandal: a US naval officer's fall from grace

Egypt said to edge closer to Russian arms package

China media urges countermeasures against Japan planes

Biden to meet Japan leaders amid China tensions

Walker's World: 1914 and today

Cameron heads to China aiming to end Dalai Lama row

Graphene nanoribbons for 'reading' DNA

New hologram technology created with tiny nanoantennas

Nano magnets arise at 2-D boundaries

Structure of bacterial nanowire protein hints at secrets of conduction

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement