Eerie echoes of World War One in Biden's seeming rush to war

[See also The Europeans are afraid of Biden's rush to war]

For those who pay attention to history, it's completely unnerving watching Joe Biden seemingly plan to drag America into a war in and over Ukraine.  The great powers' focus on this little country is eerily reminiscent of the start of WWI, a war that laid the groundwork for everything wrong with the last 108 years of Western history.

Ukraine, a small, corrupt country on Russia's southwestern edges, was once part of the former Soviet Union.  For reasons that make absolutely no sense, the U.S. is determined to see Ukraine join NATO, although NATO is less thrilled about that, given Ukraine's corruption and the fact that it does nothing to help defend Europe against Russia (which, after all, was the point of NATO).

Meanwhile, Putin is absolutely horrified at the thought of Ukraine joining NATO because that means he has a putatively hostile country sitting immediately on his border — and, worse, potentially affecting his access to the all-important warm water port that is the Black Sea (which leads to the Bosporus and from there, eventually, to the Mediterranean).  That's why Putin is making such a big show of massing troops on Ukraine's border.

It's unlikely that this would have happened on Trump's watch, for he never would have let matters get to this point.  True to his credo, he would have figured out a deal that would have allowed all parties to maintain face and defuse the situation on the border.

But Biden is not Trump.  As Robert Gates once said, Biden has "been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."  The word "nearly" is too kind.  When it comes to foreign policy, Biden has invariably been a disaster, and his Afghanistan withdrawal shows that he hasn't improved with age and dementia.

Image: After the Battle of the Somme (more than one million combatants wounded or killed).  Public domain.

Matt Rowe has offered one intelligent solution for solving the problem with Ukraine, which is to make it a neutral nation, thereby allaying both Putin's and NATO's concerns.  There are surely other intelligent solutions that don't include yelling threats.  Nevertheless, strident threats are all that the weak Biden has in his arsenal.  Two headlines sum up the situation:

Biden weighs troop deployment near Ukraine as U.S. orders embassy families out, issues travel warnings

Blinken warns of "massive consequences" for Russia if Putin invades Ukraine

Sadly, there are no calmer, cooler, wiser heads in the Biden administration.

And all that I can think of regarding this posturing over a nothing nation (sorry, Ukraine, but it's true, especially when one considers America's interests) is how World War I started.  That war laid the foundations for World War II, the communist century, and the convulsions in the modern Middle East.  In America, it also introduced the damaging Wilson Doctrine that has dominated post-WWII American foreign policy.

So how did WWI start?  Going deep, it started because of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm and his plans for alliances to offset French and British power, the various small wars that had raged across Europe and the far east for the forty years before, and the extreme instability in the Balkans.  But in terms of the first shots, that happened when Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian seeking to liberate his country from Austria, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

That assassination should not have ended with Britain on the battlefields of Flanders.  Yet that's precisely what happened.  First, Austria went to war against Serbia.  Russia came to Serbia's support.  Because Germany and Austro-Hungary were allies, Russia's move was seen as an attack on Germany, too.  Germany, in turn, insisted that France, which might have capitalized on Germany's focus on its eastern side to attack the western side, remain neutral.  France refused and, instead, prepared for war.  Britain, in the meantime, was committed to support France and maybe Belgium, too.

Once Germany and Russia went to war, England promised to remain neutral if Germany left France alone.  Germany, of course, did not leave France alone, and so, in August, England joined the war, although everyone was sure it would end by Christmas.  The war ended over four years later, with 10 million war dead and probably 8 million dead civilians.  In addition, it triggered the Russian Revolution, the start of a communist century that saw 100 million dead civilians around the world.  It also provided the perfect vector for the Spanish Influenza, which killed as many as 75 million people in two years.

When the great powers get involved on opposite sides in the affairs of small countries, bad things happen.  And when one of the great powers has an imbecile at the helm, it's time to be very, very worried. 

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