SARAJEVO AFTER ONE-HUNDRED YEARS: A COMMENT
"Cause of the general unrest we declare to be the absence of respect for the authority of those who exercise ruling powers. Ever since the source of human powers has been sought apart from God the Creator and Ruler of the Universe, in the free will of men, the bonds of duty, which should exist between superior and inferior, have been so weakened as almost to have ceased to exist. The unrestrained striving after independence, together with over-weening pride, has little by little found its way everywhere; it has not even spared the home, although the natural origin of the ruling power in the family is as clear as the noonday sun; nay, more deplorable still, it has not stopped at the steps of the sanctuary. Hence come contempt for laws, insubordination of the masses, wanton criticism of orders issued, hence innumerable ways of undermining authority; hence, too, the terrible crimes of men who, claiming to be bound by no laws, do not hesitate to attack the property or the lives of their fellow men".His Holiness Pope Benedict XV in his Encyclical, AD BEATISSIMI APOSTOLORUM. 1 November 1914. In http://www.papalencyclicals.net
"What spark should provoke the inevitable explosion was immaterial to the historic process; and yet it was a strange irony that the victim of Magyar policy should have been Francis Ferdinand (sic), the enemy of the Magyars. The assassination of Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo by a South Slav enthusiast finally tilted the balance over to war: its violence resolved the hesitations of Berchtold; its offence to the dynasty shook the Emperor's preference for a peaceful policy....Once more, as in 1859, Austrian diplomacy provoked war for, as it conceived, defensive purposes; and the object of the ultimatum was not to build up a case against Serbia, but to make war certain....But the ultimatum served its turn---it ended the period of deadlock, brought on the crisis, and so ensured, sooner or later, a decision for the fortunes of the Habsburgs".Alan John Percivale Taylor. The Habsburg Monarchy, 1815-1918. (1941), pp. 276-277. Until somewhat recently, it was more or less comme il faute, for many historians to accept some variant of the Taylor thesis about the origins of the Sarajevo Crisis, that a (to quote Taylor once again) 'degenerate, moribund, and out of touch with the modern world', Habsburg Monarchy went to war in July 1914, in order to avoid a soon to come internal and external collapse 1. The fact that Taylor's views (like many of Englishmen of both his and the previous generation such as R.W. Seton-Watson and Wickham Steed), was marked by a romantic and in retrospect rather ignorant Slavophilism (in the case of Taylor a marked pro-Cech and pro-Serb orientation), did not cause undue skepticism as to anti-Habsburg 'case'. Well, with a new generation of historians, a generation more committed to what the late, great Sir Herbert Butterfield aptly termed the 'historical narrative', the biases of what one may term the 'Taylor School' have become more readily apparent 2. With the result that with our contemporary understanding of our own generation's forced encounter with both violent revolutionaries, dogmatic nationalism and obsessional, state-sponsored terrorism, the flippant, anti-Austrian, pro-Serb position of a Taylor, et. al., has become rather passé 3. Which in terms of a concrete historical analysis, it is easy to see that the Crime of Sarajevo on the 28th of June 1914, was au fond, caused by a Serb nationalist policy (correctly characterized as 'bloodthirsty, devious and malign' by one recent historian), which while primarily planned by Serb military intelligence and in particular its head, in fact had the support of almost the entire Serbian nation. Both pays légal and pays réel 4. Given both official and unofficial Serbian ambitions to dismantle the Habsburg Monarchy, ambitions which were directly at variance with the undertakings that Serbia gave to Vienna and the other powers in 1909, there was little reason for Vienna to rely upon any paper promises of the regime in Belgrade. In short, if Vienna decided that a 'solution' to the Serb problem in the Balkans in the aftermath of Sarajevo had to be a violent one, it was due to the fact that violence was the only possible solution to Serbia's openly expansionist policies. The fact that Belgrade found backers for its unmitigated aggressive policy in Tsarist Russia, only points to the fact that the Dual Alliance between Russia and France had, as both Christopher Clark and Sean McMeekin recently show, undergone a 'Balkanization' in the years immediately prior to 1914 5. Accordingly, the fact that in the words of the great American diplomatic historian, Paul Schroeder, the existence of a strong and viable Austrian Monarchy was indispensable to a sound working of a European equilibrium and the Concert, were pushed aside as of being no consequence. As he correctly observes:
"Repeatedly before World War I, as the documents show, various statesmen from all the different countries discussed the fate of Austria-Hungary, predicted the Empire's demise, and remarked upon its probable effects. Never was Austria's fate taken up as a question vital to the European Equilibrium....Russia, like Serbia, Italy and Romania in varying degrees, looked on Austria's coming collapse as its own opportunity....France did perceive a serious danger in Austria's coming collapse--not, however, that of chaos and upheaval in East, Central and southeastern Europe leading to a general war, but that of a Russo-German agreement over the Habsburg spoils, which would wreck the Franco-Russian alliance. Britain viewed Austria's impending breakup with regret, but without concern, having no interest herself in Central and Eastern Europe" 6.The events of July and August 1914 were to show how short sided and erroneous were the above referenced opinions and indeed policies. To the immense cost of all European Civilization. 1. Taylor, op. cit., p. 267. See also his Struggle for Mastery in Europe. (1954), pp. 491-525 & passim. In addition, the following from the mid-1960s, from a well-known, German diplomatic historian, Immanuel Geiss: "For decades Austria-Hungary had been content with a system of 'muddling through' which led to a state of complete political paralysis. As a result of her anachronistic construction and concomitant stagnation, she had from the turn of the century drifted helplessly into the maelstrom of the Slav nationalist movement", in July 1914: The Outbreak of the First World War, "Introduction". Edited by Immanuel Geiss, (1966), p. 49. For a more recent restatement of the 'Taylor' thesis, including some stereotypical quotes from Wickham Steed, see: Margaret Macmillan. The War that Ended Peace: the Road to 1914. (2014), pp. 215-244. A singularly disappointing work in every sense. 2. Sir Herbert Butterfield. History and Human Relations. (1952), pp. 11-17, 104 & passim, wherein he contrasts the 'historical' or academic narrative with the 'heroic' narrative. 3. See in particular Christopher Clark's splendid book, which follows a trail first blazed, by Luigi Albertini: The Sleepwalkers: how Europe went to war in 1914. (1912). For Albertini's magisterial work, which until recently was frequently ignored in much of the literature, see: The Origins of the War of 1914, Volumes I-III. Translated by Isabella Massey, Revised edition, (2005). 4. For this quote, see: Hew Strachan, "Review Article: The Origins of the First World War". International Affairs. (March 2014), p. 435. See also: Romedio von Thun-Hohenstein, "The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 / July 1914: Countdown to War", in The RUSI Journal. (February / March 2014), pp. 118-120, who cogently notes: "Austria-Hungary was by no means a rotten empire doomed to fall apart; and its dealings with Serbia, after the state-sponsored Sarajevo assassinations, were understandable". 5. For the 'Balkanization' of the Dual Alliance, see: Clark, op. cit., pp. 293-310 & passim. See also McMeekin's book, July 1914: countdown to war.(2014), pp. 48-61. For a contrary interpretation, see: T.G. Otte. The July Crisis. (2014), pp. 134-135 & passim. 6. Paul Schroeder. "The Nineteenth Century System". In Systems, Stability, and Statecraft: Essays on the International History of Modern Europe. Edited by David Wetzel, Robert Jarvis & Jack S. Levy. (2004), p. 238 & passim. See also his essay from 1972, "World War I as a Galloping Gertie", in: The Outbreak of World War I. Edited by Holger Herwig. (1997), pp. 141-151. Schroeder, is according to the iconoclastic, neo-Marxist commentator and sometimes historian, Perry Anderson: "arguably the greatest living American historian, Paul Schroeder, whose Transformation of European Politics 1763-1848, and associated essays, have revolutionised one of the most disgraced of all fields in the [historical] discipline". See: "The Force of the Anomaly", in The London Review of Books (26 April 2012), p. 12.