Meyer writes a fairly high level history of the war, not delving into the nitty-gritty of individual campaigns or battles, but telling a more comprehensive story about the war as a truly European War.
Like most Americans who read WWI history, I tend to read about the Western Front, and lately about the American experience of the war. Of course, much as in World War II, there was a much grander war being waged on the Eastern Front, and Meyer points out the tragic missteps, stupid blunders and outright bad luck that prevented the Russians from playing a more decisive role in the war, potentially preventing the tragedy of the Russian Revolution and Communism.
I think the biggest lesson of this book and the war in general was the sheer tragedy and waste of it all and how Europe, which seemed to be entering another Golden Age, descended into four years of unspeakable savagery. The British Army had almost 20,000—yes that’s 20,000 dead the first day of the Somme Offensive in 1916, can you imagine the 2009 New York Times wrapping their brain around that?? The fact that the monarchs of Britain, Russia and Germany were all related didn’t stop them from killing millions (did you know that? They were all sons or grandsons of Queen Victoria, ironic huh?)
So what does this mean today? Just like people said in 1914-“Europe can’t go to war, they are too economically interdependent” or “Don’t worry any war will be short and decisive”..History can have a nasty way of repeating itself. What do people say now? “Oh, the internet and global communications have made us one giant village” and “The U.S. and China or the U.S. and Russia could never go to war, what about the nukes?”
But consider this…what if terrorists sheltered and funded by Pakistan blew up another hotel in India, killing hundreds, or carried out multiple attacks that killed thousands. India responds militarily and things spiral out of control, ala Serbia and Austria-Hungary 1914. Maybe China, sensing an opportunity, backs Pakistan and moves troops to the China-Indian border, which has been under dispute for 50 years. And, what if the unthinkable (at least to Western sensibilities) happens and Pakistan fires off a nuke…India responds, maybe against China too out of desperation and fear. Where would the U.S. and Russia line up? What about Iran and the other Muslim states?
The potential for misstep would truly be catastrophic on a global state. Forget the hopelessly lost, dazed and confused Administration of Barrack Obama, this would be a challenge for any U.S. President—although Obama truly scares me ‘cause I don’t think he could handle this.
So, if you can find a copy, enjoy Meyer’s book and keep thinking…we’re much to civilized to let this happen to us right?