Next Salon Discussion
Tuesday 2nd May: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion
Discussing First topical issue (Simon Belt) and Second topical issue (Mark Iddon)
James Woudhuysen and Terry Jackson opened a discussion on the origins and warnings of the First World War.
The origins of the First World War are variously attributed to the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, the complex system of international alliances that developed before 1914, the way in which Germany's Schlieffen Plan depended on its army sticking to strict railway timetables, or the unreadiness of old dynasties to move with the times.
In fact, James will argue, it was the very 2014 phenomenon of Foreign Direct Investment that, before 1914, bound all the eventual participants in the conflict into a system of long-run, spiralling tensions. Today's commentators on the First World War often miss three other forces that mediated and accelerated the catastrophe.
Today, some see the US guarantee of Japan’s security against China as the potential trigger for a dangerously titanic conflict. In this scheme, a rising China today is analogous to an ascendant Germany before the First World War. The re-emergence of Russia as a world power, two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, also suggests parallels with developments 100 years ago.
It may however not be accurate to see contemporary conflicts in the East and South China Seas, and nearby, through the lens of 1914. Nor may it be helpful to view Myanmar as a new Serbia. In this discussion, we will explore the parallels and the differences between 1914 in Europe and 2014 in East Asia. He will ask whether a 'pointless' war over the Senkaku Islands might in fact emerge as the extension, by other means, of today's anxious, precautionary politics.
Some background readings
A Seminal Panic about Defence IT: The Marconi Scam, 1913, James Woudhuysen, IDG Connect, 9 August 2013
China Media: US Diplomacy. BBC, 5 December 2013
The Great War: a battle for meaning, by Frank Furedi, spiked 8 January 2014
The infantile diplomacy behind demonising Russia, by Frank Furedi, spiked 24 March 2014