Newspaper article International New York Times

War Recasts the World Once Again

Newspaper article International New York Times

War Recasts the World Once Again

Article excerpt

Compared with World War I, today's flash points may seem like extended brush fires. But there are those who think these conflicts have made the world more dangerous than ever.

There are no lines of eager young men at the recruitment offices as there were 100 years ago, no hot-off-the-press newspapers proclaiming the advent of war.

But, as commemorations marked the opening salvos of World War I this week, it was tempting to ask whether global conflict is reborn, not in the sense of warfare on an industrial scale, but in other, insidious ways that are redrawing notions of sovereignty and legitimacy as surely as the victors did after the Great War ended in 1918.

From Aleppo to Tikrit to Kabul, from Tripoli, Gaza and Donetsk to Juba and Bangui, conflict spreads pain and terror. A bomb rocks Mogadishu. Christians, threatened with death, are chased from Mosul. An American general dies in Afghanistan.

The checklist of conflict almost outpaces the memory of its forerunners: Two days after Britons marked their entry into World War I on Aug. 4, 1914, Japan commemorated the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.

"So what exactly are we learning from these anniversaries?" Geoffrey Durham, a prominent Quaker who made his name as a comedian, asked rhetorically in a radio broadcast, counting eight wars unfolding as he spoke. "Is it that militarism works? Is it that war solves problems?"

Another answer came from the columnist Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. "The truth," he wrote, " is that 'drawing lessons' has become code for celebrating victory." Glory, in other words, is exclusive to the winner.

In 1914, European soldiers on both sides marched into campaigns that would lock their nations into total war, stretching from farms and factories to the front lines. Young Britons, suffused with patriotism, clamored for the right to go to war, much as, in far lower numbers, young Europeans 100 years later slip across borders of faith to join militant Islamists in Syria and Iraq.

By comparison with the huge conflagration of World War I, today's flash points may seem like just so many extended brush fires next to Ypres or the Somme. …

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