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Monday, June 28, 2004

Anniversaries

This summer we have had a number of 60th anniversaries related to World War 2. It is perhaps emblematic that more attention is likely to be given to D-Day that to today, when 90 years ago Gavrilo Princep assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It was the pivotal act that led to WW1, and that war has defined our world today far more deeply that its successor conflict.

Indeed, WW2 can only be seen as a direct consequence of the peace treaties of WW1, and even the Cold War was foreshadowed by the alliance of Western Powers that fought with the "White" Russians against the "Red" Russians (Bolsheviks) of Lenin in the Russian Civil War, that Appendix of WW1 so often ignored by historians and textbooks. Without WW1 there is no understanding of the histories of Communism, Facism, or the United Nations, to name just three.

The Peace Treaties of WW1 are the true source of its continuing influence however. The Balkans today is the creation of the diplomats in 1919. So is the Middle East. One of the reasons that Western leaders and policymakers continually get bogged down in these regions is they lack the capacity to appreciate how treaties that were made generations ago still hold weight, still demand attention.

There will be very few people alive in the world today who were born when the fatal bullet struck home and did its deadly work. There will be even fewer that genuinely remember the event itself. WW1 stands of the very cusp of living memory, but we forget it to our peril.

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