Thursday, 27 November 2014

How a wooden stick started World War II

World war II was the most deadly war of all time, involving the most soldiers in the most parallels all around the world. It included epic victories (The Axis conquest of France, the Battle of Midway) and epic defeats (Pearl Harbor, the defeat of Germany). But what was this terrible war caused by? Hitler and Mussolini, right? Not exactly. Hitler could only have begun his rise to power in the right conditions. World War I created these conditions.

World war I triggered anger in Germany because of the improper armistice at its end. At the meeting where the Allied powers met to decide the conditions of the armistice, Germany was not invited. The armistice meant Germany had to keep its army under 100,000 men, it meant the navy had very few ships, it meant the Germans were very angry at the Allies. A German told the Allies that the armistice did not mean the end of war, it meant another war in twenty years. He was wrong by mere months.

What caused World War I ? The answer was a complicated system of alliances. Austria was against Serbia. Serbia was the friend of Russia. Russia was the enemy of Germany. Germany was the enemy of France. So, when the Archduke was assassinated by a Serb, Austria blamed the Serbian government, and declared war on Serbia. If Russia had not stepped in, there probably would not have been any world wars. But Russia had sworn to help Serbia in this kind of situation. As Russian forces mobilised, Germany declared war on Russia. France and England joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers. A war began. So, as you can see, a bonfire was set off by a single spark.

Many "sparks" had been going off in the Balkans, which caused wars, but only in the Balkans. Only in the right conditions could these "sparks" actually create a terrible fire. This was the right condition.

The entire thing started with the Ottoman Empire. The empire took over the Balkans before shrinking. When the Ottoman Empire started to decline, riots broke out in the Balkans. These riots were, however, unrelated with each other.
 When the new Balkan states were made, they started to fight over land almost immediately. New countries were being made all the time. Fighting is still going on.

The Ottoman Empire rose directly out of the ruins of the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman Empire. The temples, libraries, and farms from this old empire gave the Ottoman Empire some success over some small surrounding kingdoms, and meant the Ottoman Empire could expand into Europe some 400 years later.

What was this Byzantine Empire? At around 300 AD, the Roman Empire collapsed. It became two smaller empires, the Western Roman Empire, which was still ruled by Italy but collapsed quite quickly, and the Eastern Roman or Byzantine empire which was ruled by Greece, then Turkey, and endured almost a thousand more years.

Where did the Roman Empire come from? Even though it was always based at Rome, Roman culture copied Greek culture. Romans and Greeks worshiped the same gods, lusted after the same general things, had the same kind of palaces and temples. In a way, the Romans rose straight out of the Greeks.

Greeks first got civilized and strong when bronze working spread. Greeks got bronze from the Phoenicians, a group of seafarers living and trading on the Mediterranean. Phoenicians were based in the eastern side of the Mediterranean. And their ancestors were not just the ones who invented bronze, but farming.

So, is that really how World War II started, with the invention of farming? Actually, it would make sense that all wars started with farming. Without farming, people would not get so much food, and would not trade their goods at the markets. No markets, no cities. No cities, no inequality among rich and poor, as some people are more successful than others at selling their goods. No inequality, no thieving and jealousy. No jealousy, no sense of ownership. No sense of ownership, no fighting over ownership. No fighting, no war.

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