To End All Wars, by Adam Hochschild
Here is my interpretation of how World War I got started. Think of it as an allegory:
A British Lord, a German/Austro-Hungarian Baron, a Russian peasant, a French Count and a Serbian all go into a bar. All of them are spoiling for a fight. After a few rounds of drinks, The German speaks first. “You British think you are so high and mighty with your empire and all, but soon it will be we, the Germans who will be running things.” “Now see here Fritz, that’s not very sporting, our navy is the envy of the world” replies the Englishman. Just at that moment the Serbian hauls off and punches the German in the nose. All swords are drawn, but the German cuts off the Serbian’s head before anyone else can act. “Sacre Bleu” cries the Frenchman, “It is war!” “I’ll second that” replies the Englishman, “as will I” says the Russian peasant. All sides eye each other warily. “To arms to arms” they all scream exiting the Bar.
Next year, 2014, will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Catastrophe that was “The War to end all Wars. Adam Hochschild’s book “To End all Wars” is one on the best written historical accounts of that war that I have ever read. As to what started it, there was hubris and delusional thinking all around. Each side thought that the other could be defeated in a matter of weeks. Each side was still fighting the previous war, which included Cavalry charges and hand to hand combat. This war would be the first Industrial war where machine guns and barbed wire upended an entire way of war for the European continent. Gallant soldiers marched into battle only to be butchered where they stood. The war turned static with troops bogged down in trenches each side trying to grind down the other side and turn the tide. After four years of mayhem and bloody massacres of men and animals the war was still a stalemate. But the countries behind the war were slowly dissolving into chaotic messes.
Unfortunately, the end of the war, facilitated by the entry of the United States, was as chaotic as its tenure, thus guaranteeing a renewal of hostilities further down the road.
If you are at all interested the World War I then by all means read this book. It will keep you enthralled.