Saturday marks the 100th anniversary of the spark that ignited the first truly global military conflict, and despite the passage of time, many current international crises can be linked to the chain of events we now call World War I, a University of Indianapolis historian and author says.
Tensions unleashed by the June 28, 1914, assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand still linger behind key foreign policy dilemmas the United States faces today, says Lawrence Sondhaus, professor and chair of UIndy’s Department of History & Political Science.
“The dynamics are eerily similar,” says Sondhaus, whose 12 books on military history include 2011’s World War I: The Global Revolution and a new tome, The Great War at Sea, both from Cambridge University Press. He specializes in European perspectives on the war and will serve as keynote speaker at an October anniversary conference sponsored by the Austrian and Serbian governments.
The current sectarian strife in Iraq, Sondhaus notes, echoes the challenges the United Kingdom faced a century ago while trying to manage a territory carved from remnants of the defeated Ottoman Empire. Struggling Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, a compromise candidate the United States hoped could keep the nation together, comes from the same local clan with whom the British negotiated when they occupied the country, then known as Mesopotamia, at the end of World War I.
“They had to cut deals to pacify people,” Sondhaus says. “Ninety years later, the U.S. had to do the same thing.”