Veterans Corner April 16, 2017

The Complexities of Declaring War


April 16, 2017 Veterans Corner by Ronald Verini

The idea that some of the main ‘realities’ of War and Conflict are motivated and generated because of ethnicity and nationalism, is always a subject of discussion around the coffee table. Especially since it is so dominant in our ‘daily news’ whether on the Global stage or in the streets of our own cities.

Just about every conflict owes its’ beginnings to mans ‘inability’ to resolve opposing opinions in a ‘give & take’ intelligent manner of understanding, compassion and humanism. There are those that have tried to ‘quell the savage breast’, some successfully and some to no avail. And an example of that inability to do so affecting a Global Stage is recounted here in this article.

One Hundred years ago this month, in 1917, a Declaration of War on Germany was announced by the United States of America. Many events had taken place previous to this announcement, for the “War to end All Wars”, WWI, actually began in June of 1914 with the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria, and his wife Sophie. The assassin was a Serbian Nationalist from Sarajevo, Bosnia in the Balkans. (Yes, and we were there again in the Bosnian / Herzegovina Wars in the early 1990’s. And still with the continuing conflicts in that region.)From July of 1914 to November of 1918 (the end of WWI), 17 million people were killed which included 100,000 American Troops.

Nationalism, coupled with ‘Mutual Defense Alliances’ were very strong motivations in escalating WWI by officially declaring “Declarations of War” because of the assassination of an ‘Austro-Hungarian Monarch’ by a Serbian National. This drew two different ‘alliances’ against each other. Austria-Hungary was in an alliance with Germany, and Serbia was in an alliance with Russia. Now the confusion starts: Austria-Hungary declared War on Serbia, Russia then got involved to defend Serbia, then Germany also declared war on Russia (to defend A-H), then Germany attacked France through Belgium, and because of the France, Belgium, Britain ‘Alliance’ Britain declared war on Germany. So, Britain asked Japan to help destroy the German Naval Fleet in the China Sea, thus Japan asked Germany to leave (they never answered) so Japan declared War on Germany first and then proceeded to declare war on Austria-Hungary, and thus sent ships to protect their ‘Alliance’ with Britain. Then, most specifically because of ‘Alliances’, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro, United Kingdom and France, ALL declared war on the Ottoman Empire!!!!! And that folks was all within a 5-month span of 1914!!!!!! So in 1915, ‘Declarations of War’ were as follows: Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire; San Marino declares war on Austria-Hungary; Bulgaria declares war on Serbia, and then the United Kingdom, Montenegro, France, Italy and Russia ALL declare war on Bulgaria. Now to 1916; Germany is still declaring war this time on Portugal and Romania; so Italy declares war on Germany; Austria-Hungary also declares war on Portugal; Romania declares war on Austria-Hungry and then gets declared war on by Germany, Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria. This goes on and on through 1918 to the extent that there were 29 countries that declared war on one country or another.

A few comments to understand how and why the United States did not get involved early at the onset of WWI. At the outbreak of the war in 1914, President Wilson opposed declaring war and issued instead a ‘Declaration of Neutrality’ in hopes that America could ‘mediate’ Europe’s belligerent powers.

After the German sinking of the Lusitania and loss of American lives, coupled with the famous “Zimmerman Telegraph” which revealed Germany’s attempt to create a ‘secret Alliance’ with Mexico to invade the US and be rewarded with recovering the territory Mexico ceded to the US following the Mexican-American war in 1848, that did it and a ‘Declaration of War’ was passed April 6, 1917.

The possibility exists that if those folks in command of ‘Alliances’ and war making decisions would read a Famous American Author, these conflicts just might never take place! To quote: Mark Twain

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime”.