Sunday, August 20, 2006

Death comes to the Archduke

I wish I had posted my reflections on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict and the start of World War One when I first had them one month ago, but it looks like there were plenty of bloggers who thought obvious comparisons could be drawn: a whole war over one or two men. However, a deeper analysis of Austria-Hungary's war might reveal (especially to neo-conservatives) the problem posed by replacing war with justice: you can go to war over the death of Franz Ferdinand, but you can lose it all in the end. The empire's war ultimately had nothing to do with its reasons for going to war in the first place. It drew in other powers; it backed up atrocities committed by its allies; it incited its non-German ethnic groups (and made them causes celebres among American immigrants); and it effectively lost autonomy to Germany, only to be restored at Versailles. The end of the Habsburg Empire came despite whatever justice that it originally sought. Indeed, the decision to go to war was equally a decision to do without justice, and the death of the empire reflected how it conducted itself in war, not what started it.

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