The Great War started 100 years ago this August. The most tragic event in human history, that war destroyed a vibrant, magnificently creative civilization. A prosperous and well-ordered world was shattered forever. New killing machines that only a generation earlier did not exist were deployed on a massive scale: airplanes, tanks, poison gases, submarines. The lethal mix of the machine gun and barbed wire made going over the top of the trench tantamount to a death sentence.
Tens of millions of reservists were mobilized. In France and Germany, four fifths of all men between 18 and 50 were in uniform. Russia lost over two million soldiers even before the February 1917 revolution. Serbia’s demographic losses were proportionately the greatest of all, a blow from which she has never recovered.
The war claimed some 20 million lives—soldiers and civilians, in roughly equal proportion. Additional millions of men were maimed and damaged forever. Epidemics that raged during and immediately after the war claimed still more millions. Even more horrendous were the war’s moral and spiritual consequences. Bolshevism, fascism, Nazism, the sequel known as World War II, and the wounded civilization we now live in are its poisoned fruits.
Today, it is not uncommon to hear the claim that the war in 1914 was the result of a series of blunders and...