Thursday, July 28, 2011

European History For Dummies-WW I

This was it: the war to end all wars. World War I. How did it happen? In truth, it's way too complicated to describe, but imagine Europe controlled by the Republicans and Democrats-plus ten other parties. You get the picture. It was the most senseless war since whatever war the Europeans had fought before it.

In 1914, you had this archduke, you see. He was from Austria, that country that proved later in history that nothing ever good happens when an Austrian leaves Austria. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was part of the Hapsburg family that ruled what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand (reasonable facsimile)

That was the same dysfunctional family that sent Maximillian and Carlota to reign over Mexico in the previous century. That didn't end so well as old Maxie wound up in front of a firing squad and Carlota went insane-kinda like Nancy Pelosi.

Anyway, in June 1914, Ferdy made a big mistake; he went to the grand old city of Sarajevo in Bosnia, where he and his wife were pumped full of bullets by a Bosnian Serb, who history would prove to be a real trend-setter. (Never put a Serb in Sarajevo). Bad things happen.

Well, as they say in Brussels, the death of an archduke merits a world war. Here's how it played out. You see, Austria-Hungary didn't like Serbia, and they were happy as a clam that Ferdy got bumped off so they could have an excuse to go to war with Serbia. They sent the Serbies a list of ten demands; raise taxes, lift the debt ceiling, and a few others. When the Serbies accepted only 8 out 10 demands, the A-H'ers declared war.

There was one problem. The Serbies had friends-the Russians. The Russkies mobilized their army. When that happened, the Germans, who were pals of the Austrians, mobilized their army. Then the Frenchies, still pissed at the Krauts for taking Alsace-Lorraine in the Franco-Prussian War, mobilized their armies. Then the Germans declared war on Russia, the Brits declared war on Germany, the Turks (Ottoman Empire) jumped in to fight the Russkies, the Italians jumped in to sell white flags to both sides, the Americans joined later, and to cap it all off, the Bolivians declared war against Guatamala.

For the next several years, both sides lived in pleasant abodes called trenches feeding the rats when they weren't shooting each other. Of course, the Germans did what they always do-invade France. Eventually, it was the Germans who had the good sense to call the whole thing off 4 years later when they couldn't remember what the Hell they were fighting for.

(Archduke Franz Ferdinand, be Jesus.)

 As we know, they had to take the fall and be blamed for the war. The Treaty at Versailles was the ultimate exercise in finger pointing and all fingers pointed to the Germans. They were literally the guy in the barrell.

As it turned out, the war to end all wars was the war that led to the next war. And as we all know, to complete the full circle, there was yet another Austrian who had left his native land to cause trouble, and who was lurking in the wings.

"Oh, who would have ever imagined?"

1 comment:

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Not bad Gary, you could have gotten a job as an IWW anti-war agitator back in the day.

I should note that Maximilian was placed on the faux "throne" of Mexico by Napoleon III (nobody ever explained why there wasn' a Napoleon II). For those taking Michelle Bachman's course in American history at UC-Santa Cruz, Napoleon was self-proclaimed emperor of France. He borrowed the sorry chap from another branch of the Hapsburgs. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had the good sense to stay out of America from 1492 onward.