September 01, 2015

Tsars, War and Komiks

Dominic Lieven (Viking, $35)

If it is a maxim that generals prepare to fight the last war, then perhaps it is also true that nations fight new wars chiefly to redress outcomes of the last war. Certainly, as Lieven shows in this new history of the lead up to World War I, over a century later we still are far from fixing the problems of 1914.

Lieven starts with the salient claim that “as much as anything, World War I turned on the fate of Ukraine,” and shows how empires’ battle against the rising tide of nationalism within Europe led not just to WWI (and then to the collapse of all those empires), but to a whole range of conflicts we have yet to resolve. Today’s conflicts in the Balkans, Ukraine and Turkey are rooted in WWI and the issues it (and WWII or the Cold War) failed to resolve.

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