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Let’s not have World War Three

A sandwich started the first one


On June 28, 2015, Serbian film director Emir Kusturica unveiled and kissed a new statue to Gavrilo Princip in Belgrade. It was the 101st anniversary of Princip, 19, triggering the Great War, the war to end all wars. We now call it World War One because it did not end all wars, it merely expanded the arsenal of war to include tanks and aircraft. Princip was the young man who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Europe had a hodge-podge of mutual defense agreements that instead of deterring war fueled it.

The Dual Alliance, Triple Alliance, German–Ottoman alliance, Ottoman–Bulgarian alliance and Bulgaria–Germany treaty created the Central Powers (the German Empire, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria). They took on the Allies, who were led by France, the British Empire and the Russian Empire. They were intertwined by treaties as well. The war dragged in a score of other countries on the Allies side including Brazil, China, Japan and of course, the United States. The war destroyed four empires and birthed the Soviet Union, which would devolve into an evil empire far worse than any of the others.

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31% of the population of Serbia perished in the war, and yet Gavrilo Princip, who died in prison before the war’s end, is a hero in Serbia. Madness. That he brought devastation to the land matters not. His statue reminds me of the statues of Robert E. Lee, who led the South to its ruin. The statue of Princip is proof that one man’s terrorist is another man’s patriot.

It is with this in mind that I view Volodymyr Zelensky. Oh he is not some teenage boy caught up in the passions of patriotism. He is the cynical president of a corrupt land that the evil Vladimir Putin invaded in February and is now stuck fighting. Putin saw an opportunity to annex a part of Ukraine that is mainly Russian. Boy, did he read the room wrong. America and its allies stand fast with Zelensky and now Putin is trapped in the quagmire of war.

Zelensky remembered Rahm Emanuel’s Maxim: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Zelensky is perhaps the best opportunist in world history as he used the war to milk the NATO allies. He got $100 billion in aid from the United States alone. Far from helping the people of Ukraine, U.S. aid prolongs a war that has displaced one-third of the nation’s population. Money is why Zelensky refuses to negotiate a peace.

Henry Kissinger wants peace. He used World War One as a warning.

He wrote, “The nations of Europe, insufficiently familiar with how technology had enhanced their respective military forces, proceeded to inflict unprecedented devastation on one another. In August 1916, after two years of war and millions in casualties, the principal combatants in the West (Britain, France and Germany) began to explore prospects for ending the carnage. In the East, rivals Austria and Russia had extended comparable feelers. Because no conceivable compromise could justify the sacrifices already incurred and because no one wanted to convey an impression of weakness, the various leaders hesitated to initiate a formal peace process. Hence they sought American mediation. Explorations by Colonel Edward House, President Woodrow Wilson’s personal emissary, revealed that a peace based on the modified status quo ante was within reach. However, Wilson, while willing and eventually eager to undertake mediation, delayed until after the presidential election in November. By then the British Somme offensive and the German Verdun offensive had added another two million casualties.”

The Battle of Verdun is why France capitulated so quickly in World War Two. The 10-month battle in World War One left more than 300,000 dead soldiers on both sides. French towns in the area lost their entire adult male populations to this war machine. And France won the battle. 24 years later, France could not afford any more victories like Verdun.

Kissinger, a veteran of World War Two, knows the necessity of war. Stopping Hitler and Imperial Japan was paramount to securing a world in which peace was more than just a time between wars. He also knows the price of war.

He wrote, “I have repeatedly expressed my support for the allied military effort to thwart Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. But the time is approaching to build on the strategic changes which have already been accomplished and to integrate them into a new structure towards achieving peace through negotiation.”

He recommended a return to the borders that existed on February 24. His plan is lame and unlikely but it beats continuing the war, which is what Biden and the rest want to do because the opportunity for kickbacks is so large. Kissinger sees a picture larger than Ukraine and Russia.

He wrote, “The preferred outcome for some is a Russia rendered impotent by the war. I disagree. For all its propensity to violence, Russia has made decisive contributions to the global equilibrium and to the balance of power for over half a millennium. Its historical role should not be degraded. Russia’s military setbacks have not eliminated its global nuclear reach, enabling it to threaten escalation in Ukraine. Even if this capability is diminished, the dissolution of Russia or destroying its ability for strategic policy could turn its territory encompassing 11 time zones into a contested vacuum. Its competing societies might decide to settle their disputes by violence. Other countries might seek to expand their claims by force. All these dangers would be compounded by the presence of thousands of nuclear weapons which make Russia one of the world’s two largest nuclear powers.”

There is a third nuclear power that figures in all this: Red China. Economic sanctions by Biden have foolishly pushed Russia to look East instead of West and into the arms of Chairman Xi and Red China.

Niall Ferguson wrote for Bloomberg, “Last year, Russia cut off gas exports to Europe that it cannot reroute, as there are no alternative pipelines. Putin thought the gas weapon would allow him to divide the West. So far, it has not worked. Russia also tried choking Black Sea grain exports. But that lever had little strategic value as the biggest losers of the blockade were poor African and Middle Eastern countries.

“The net result of Putin’s war thus far has been to reduce Russia to something like an economic appendage of China, its biggest trading partner. And Western sanctions mean that what Russia exports to China is sold at a discount.”

Nixon was smart enough to play Red China against the Soviet Union, which helped dissolve the Soviet Union 20 years later. Biden is putting the old commie band together. As Robert Gates observed, “I think he [Biden] has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

And yet, Gates supported Biden over President Trump.

To be fair, George H.W. Bush and his son also were wrong about Red China. They foolishly bought the line that capitalism would magically convert Red China and get its absolute rulers to abandon communism. 9/11 was not the only date of horror in 2001. Three months later — on 12/11 — the second President Bush signed off on Red China’s entry into the World Trade Organization. The result has been Red China receiving trillions of dollars in trade deficits as well as our trade secrets. Our reliance on Red China is unhealthy and puts the world at risk.

Ferguson wrote, “China is a much tougher nut to crack than Russia. Whereas a proxy war is driving Russia’s economy and military back into the 1990s, the preferred approach to China is to stunt its technological growth, particularly with respect to — in the words of National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan — ‘computing-related technologies, including microelectronics, quantum information systems and artificial intelligence’ and ‘biotechnologies and biomanufacturing.’”

I would warn him not to underestimate Red China. A nation of 1.3 billion people — four times our population — by the sheer volume of its people has many geniuses. I do not for a minute believe that Red China will not develop people who can develop the technologies it needs. Red China is about to send men to the moon, as the United States blew its 50-year lead on space exploration.

He wrote, “China has other cards it can play. It is dominant in the processing of minerals that are vital to the modern economy, including copper, nickel, cobalt and lithium. In particular, China controls over 70% of rare earth production both in terms of extraction and processing. These are 17 minerals used to make components in devices such as smartphones, electric vehicles, solar panels and semiconductors. An embargo on their export to the U.S. might not be a lethal blow, but it would force the U.S. and its allies to develop other sources in a hurry.”

Actually, that might not be a bad thing. In World War Two, the United States had to develop plastic quickly when it lost its rubber plantations.

But our political system is broke. Two decades of overspending by Bush, Obama, Trump and now Biden have pushed us to the brink of economic ruin. Clinton was the last president to balance the budget.

Ferguson wrote, “America’s Achilles heel is often seen as its unsustainable fiscal path. At some point in the coming decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, interest payments on the federal debt are likely to exceed defense spending. Meanwhile, it is not immediately obvious who buys all the additional Treasuries issued each year if the Federal Reserve is engaged in quantitative tightening.”

The world is a tinderbox and we just handed Zelensky a book of matches, along with $100 billion we don’t have that only adds to the debt that could force our economic collapse.

Which brings me back Gavrilo Princip, the young man who assassinated the archduke. Long before the statue in Belgrade, there was a half-eaten sandwich on display at Moritz Schiller’s delicatessen on Franz Joseph Street in Sarajevo.

The Smithsonian explained, “It is the summer of 1914, and Bosnia has just become part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. A handful of young Bosnian-born Serbs decide to strike a blow for the integration of their people into a Greater Serbia by assassinating the heir to the Austrian throne. Their opportunity comes when it is announced that Franz Ferdinand will be making a state visit to the provincial capital, Sarajevo.

“Armed with bombs and pistols supplied by Serbian military intelligence, seven conspirators position themselves at intervals along the archduke’s route. The first to strike is Nedeljko Cabrinovic, who lobs a hand grenade toward Franz Ferdinand’s open touring car. But the grenade is an old one, with a 10-second fuse. It bounces off the limo and into the road, where it explodes under the next vehicle in the motorcade. Although several officers in that car are hurt, Franz Ferdinand remains uninjured. To avoid capture, Cabrinovic drains a vial of cyanide and throws himself into a nearby river—but his suicide bid fails. The cyanide is past its sell-by date, and the river is just four inches deep.

“The bombing throws the rest of the day’s plans into disarray. The motorcade is abandoned. Franz Ferdinand is hurried off to the town hall, where he is due to meet with state officials. Disconsolate, the remaining assassins disperse, their chance apparently gone. One of them, Gavrilo Princip, heads for Moritz Schiller’s delicatessen on Franz Joseph Street. It’s one of Sarajevo’s smartest shopping destinations, just a few yards from the bustling road known as Appel Quay.

“As Princip queues to buy a sandwich, Franz Ferdinand is leaving the town hall. When the heir gets back into his limousine, though, he decides on a change of plan—he’ll call at the hospital to visit the men injured in the grenade blast.

“There’s just one problem: the archduke’s chauffeur, a stranger to Sarajevo, gets lost. He swings off Appel Quay and into crowded Franz Joseph Street, then drifts to a stop right in front of Schiller’s.

“Princip looks up from his lunch to find his target sitting just a few feet away. He pulls his gun. Two shots ring out, and the first kills Franz Ferdinand’s wife, Sophie. The second hits the heir in the neck, severing his jugular vein.

“The archduke slumps back, mortally wounded. His security men hustle Princip away. Inside Schiller’s deli, the most important sandwich in the history of the world lies half-eaten on a table.”

I doubt that after 108 years and a couple of wars that the display is the original sandwich. Princip died in prison of tuberculosis four years later. Millions died because of him. Let’s stop feeding Zelensky sandwiches. Let’s not have World War Three.

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