The causes of the First World War


National egoism remaining, the means of strife remaining,

its causes, opportunities, excuses will never be wanting. The

present war came because all the leading nations had long been

so acting as to make it inevitable; it came because there was a

Balkan imbroglio and a Near-Eastern hope and commercial and

colonial rivalries in Northern Africa over which the dominant

nations had been battling in peace long before one or more of

them grasped at the rifle and the shell. Sarajevo and Belgium

were mere determining circumstances; to get to the root causes

we have to go back as far at least as Agadir and Algeciras. From

Morocco to Tripoli, from Tripoli to Thrace and Macedonia,

from Macedonia to Herzegovina the electric chain ran with that

inevitable logic of causes and results, actions and their fruits

which we call Karma, creating minor detonations on its way

till it found the inflammable point and created that vast explosion

which has filled Europe with blood and ruins. Possibly

the Balkan question may be definitively settled, though that is

far from certain; possibly the definitive expulsion of Germany

from Africa may ease the situation by leaving that continent in

the possession of three or four nations who are for the present

allies. But even if Germany were expunged from the map and

its resentments and ambitions deleted as a European factor,

the root causes of strife would remain. There will still be an

Asiatic question of the Near and the Far East which may take

on new conditions and appearances and regroup its constituent

elements, but must remain so fraught with danger that if it is

stupidly settled or does not settle itself, it would be fairly safe to

predict the next great human collision with Asia as either its first

field or its origin. Even if that difficulty is settled, new causes

of strife must necessarily develop where the spirit of national

A First Step towards International Unity 391

egoism and cupidity seeks for satisfaction; and so long as it lives,

satisfaction it must seek and repletion can never permanently

satisfy it. The tree must bear its own proper fruit, and Nature is

always a diligent gardener.





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