How quickly best laid plans become passé. New world orders come, it seems, as frequently as eclipses.
The old world order (ancien régime), along with 16 million people, died during the Great European War which began on June 28, 1914 when the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by a Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, in Sarajevo. (Today he would be called a terrorist.) This assassination sent nations that had no desire to go to war into the most destructive war the world had yet experienced.
Europe at the beginning of 1914 consisted of six major empires and an assortment of minor states that the major empires didn’t care much about. The six major empires, (the Austro-Hungarian, French, German, British, Ottoman, and Russian) were ensnared in military alliances (much like the US is today) which were formed to keep the peace.
The diplomats, like those today, believed that forming alliances that balanced the powers of different groups would keep them from attacking each other. The Central Powers consisted of Austro-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire; the Triple Entente consisted of the other three. Peace, the diplomats thought was assured. What happened?
When the archduke was assassinated, the Austrians, confident in their military prowess (as Americans are today), decided to punish Serbia which was attacked on July 28. But the Serbs ambushed the Austrians at the battles of Cer and Kolubara. The Austrians were thrown back with heavy losses. Russia came to the aid of its ethnically related Serbs, and Germany invaded France through Belgium and Luxembourg. Britain came to the defense of France and the Ottoman Empire joined the war in the Balkans on the side of the Central Powers.
The alliances that were to ensure the peace changed a single assassination into a massive war. When it was over, the Austro-Hungarian, the German, the Ottoman, and the Russian Empires had vanished and the United States, which joined the war late on the side of the Triple Entente had become a world player. The old world order was gone!
Woodrow Wilson, the American President, sought to create a new old world order by proposing his Fourteen Points. Wilson wanted to create separate nations out of former colonies and ensure the peace by creating a League of Nations (another peace by treaty scheme).
Territorial reductions were made to Germany and Austria, a slew of new and revived nations were created in Eastern Europe, while France and Britain carved up the Ottoman Empire to suit themselves. The new old world order was just a reconfigured old world order. It didn’t last and it didn’t ensure the peace. So much for the best laid plans of diplomats.
Germany was reborn in 1933 when Adolph Hitler became Chancellor. He, too, sought to create a new world order, one dominated by a Thousand Year Reich (Empire). To that end, his policies were aimed at seizing Lebensraum (living space) for the German people by extending Germany’s borders. Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia were annexed and Poland was invaded.
But alas, Poland had a mutual defense treaty (another alliance formed to ensure the peach) with Great Britain and France, so the invasion of Poland started World War II.
When it was over, Germany again was destroyed and Great Britain and France, for the most part, had had their empires diminished. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russia) found themselves at the top of another new old world order.
The victorious powers, the US, the USSR, China, Great Britain, and France tried again to ensure the peace by creating the United Nations which they attempted to keep firmly in their control by making themselves rulers of the Security Council which had a veto on all UN Activities all five nations didn’t give unanimous approval to.
That was to be the new old world order. But it began to come unglued immediately. China was not represented by mainland China which had become Communist but by “Nationalist” China whose government had fled to Taiwan. Communist China soon took the Chinese seat and the two Communist nations formed a bloc while the remaining three Capitalist nations formed another. The United Nations became the Disunited Nations and has remained so to this day. This new old world order was stillborn.
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