‘First world war centenary: let’s remember a world, rather than a British, conflict’ | M. Strohn- The Guardian

‘First world war centenary: let’s remember a world, rather than a British, conflict’ | M. Strohn- The Guardian

The first world war is still highly controversial. For many years the prevailing view was that it had been a futile war, in which lions led by donkeys died horrific deaths in the trenches. This view has been challenged, which is good: all countries and their armies fought wars and battles that at the time seemed far from futile to them, and most of the generals were not the half-wits portrayed in Blackadder. In reality the British fought to defend Britain and to preserve the status quo in western Europe; and the German soldiers believed they were fighting a defensive war against a “world of enemies” – a world that German politicians had partly created themselves by clumsy foreign policy. However, it is too easy to put the sole blame on Germany. Yes, Germany’s politicians did not act very competently in the years leading up to the war, and without doubt imperial Germany has to take responsibility for the invasion of Belgium. But Russia, Austria-Hungary and France played significant roles; and the Balkan countries were a powder keg waiting to be ignited. Of all the great powers, Britain was probably the least belligerent, and the most honest broker in the July crisis which resulted in war.

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