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American Exceptionalism and France's WWI invasion of Germany 100 years ago today

French invade Alsace
French invade Alsace

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the August 7, 1914 WWI invasion by France of the Alsace Rhineland taken by Germany in 1870 Franco-Prussian War. Germany had already provided France with a causus belli when it had invaded neutral Luxembourg and Belgium days earlier.

We think now is a good time to pause in our centennial commemoration of the Great War to discuss the American Exceptionalism, made manifest after out own great Civil War, of our Founding Fathers' vision of self government via a democratic republic as opposed to the monarchist, religious and ethnic models that led to such distress via the Guns of August, 1914 in Europe.

First blood had been shed on Aug. 2, 1914, Germany gave an ultimatum to Belgium to allow its troops to pass peacefully through the country to reach France. King Albert I declined, so the German Empire invaded on Aug. 4, prompting the declaration of war by the U.K. The first Belgian casualty was cavalryman Albert Fonck, killed 12 miles from Liège that morning.

The city—which was fortified, but needed reinforcement—was unable to resist heavy shelling and held out for two days. This gave other countries time to mobilize, and the British press at the time spoke of "brave little Belgium." It was a harbinger of the carnage to come: On Aug. 22, 1914, 70,000 combatants were killed in one day.

No unifying vision tied Europeans to each other that would prevent the first and second world wars, nor so many wars that preceded it. Yes, Christianity worked civilizing improvements after the fall of Rome, but the Roman Catholic Church's involvment in government, the east-west split with the Orthodox church and then the challenge of Islam kept nation-states small and simmering with hatred and envy. When the Protestant Puritans seized control in Britain, they fomented their own blood bath.

In America, the vision of free exercise in a free market of religious and other ideas among free individuals under a unifying Constitution of limited government that worked better for prosperity and peace (enough wealth to build a military second to none) after the smoldering question of slavery was finally dealt with. It was the United States that eventually had to bail the forces of freedom in Europe out in 1918 and 1945 and the Cold War.

"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

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