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2014年8月 3日 (日)

第1次大戦100年 今こそ銘記したい悲劇の教訓

The Yomiuri Shimbun
We must heed the tragic lessons of WWI on its 100th anniversary
第1次大戦100年 今こそ銘記したい悲劇の教訓

This summer marks the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, which ignited in Europe, causing devastation unparalleled by any war the world had witnessed up to that time.

We must learn from the tragedy, whose protracted battles left about 13 million people dead.

World War I was triggered in June 1914 by the assassination of the heir presumptive to the Austrian throne by a young Serbian man who fired two shots. In retaliation, Austria declared war on Serbia.

Early in August of that year, Germany launched a military campaign based on its military alliance with Austria, leading to an all-out war between the Germany-led Central Powers and the Allies that included Britain, France and Russia.

In those days, many people predicted an early conclusion to the war and believed their own country’s side would be victorious.

This war left a weighty lesson that a war should never be launched.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy was a leader who acted based on what he learned from studying the failures of World War I when he dealt with the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, in which confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union escalated to the verge of nuclear war.

An eye on history

Having read “The Guns of August” by Barbara Tuchman, which chronicled in detail the developments leading to the opening of World War I, Kennedy reportedly said he did not want somebody writing a book called “The Missiles of October” in the future.

Based on unbridled discussions with his aides, Kennedy worked on possible Soviet actions and considered responses to each scenario, as well as the likely resulting outcomes. He put priority on averting a military clash and decided on a maritime blockade of Cuba, instead of launching attacks on Cuba.

While confirming the Soviet intentions, Kennedy entered negotiations with the Soviet Union for it to withdraw its missiles from Cuba, nipping a potential World War III in the bud. We should never forget what the president accomplished.

It is important to bear in mind that peace is at risk when an international balance of power crumbles. World War I occurred just as the power of Britain declined from its hegemonic status, which coincided with the rise of Germany.

The present-day world is confronting a shift similar to the changing power balance in Europe 100 years ago.

In January, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe likened today’s relationship between Japan and a rising China to that of Britain and Germany before the first world war, stirring widespread controversy and putting him on the defensive. Nonetheless, it is true that stabilizing the bilateral relationship has emerged as a major issue.

It is necessary for the two nations to prevent accidental military clashes by establishing a hotline between the leaders and between defense units. The two nations should urgently build a mechanism to be used in the event of a clash to prevent it from escalating into a full-blown conflict.

History proves that a war, once started, will play out without restraint. Once again, the impor-tance of striving to prevent war has come to the fore.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 2, 2014)


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