Mankind has always found ways for reinventing history. Events perpetrated by man since the beginning have always come back to haunt humanity. One such momentous event that forever changed the world happened one hundred years ago. The flames of the First World War began in the Balkan town of Sarajevo. The spark that ignited the war to end all wars was lit by a19-year old Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Imperial throne, and his wife was all the justification that the leaders of Germany and Austria-Hungary needed to start what was to become World War I. When the war ended in 1918 over 37 million people were killed, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires were destroyed, and the imperial thrones of Germany and Russia crumbled into bloody revolution.
Civilizations for thousands of years have risen and fallen by the blood that was shed. The violent terror of mans unquenchable thirst for power, control, and wealth has known no bounds. For hundreds of years the Balkan region of Southeastern Europe was always a powder keg of riving factions. What kept them from spilling more blood was the fact for years the Ottoman Empire and then by the Austro-Hungarian Empire managed a very fragile truce. In either case both could never really control the fractious Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Albanians and other ethnicities of the area. Neither could the Nazis, who came storming in and occupied the area during World War II. After the war all Communist Yugoslavia could do was a broker a short term truce. But, by the 1990's the whole region again became a fireball of violent turmoil.
Today, what we are seeing in the Mid-East where ethnic groups have been forcibly held together for centuries by various empires is on the verge of disintegration. Iraq and Syria, which were once Ottoman provinces, are in chaos. The competing regional identities rooted in the distant past continue to carve them up and cleanse them ethnically. In a sense of supreme irony though, both nations had been unwillingly forced into existence by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Hindsight is so often relevant and in this case the Mid-East today would be a much more stable region if Lawrence of Arabia fulfilled his dream. But, leave it to the British back in early part of the 20th century to really mess things up.
The modern Middle East as we know it today is an entirely artificial creation of dead empires. Before ejecting the Ottomans in 1920, Britain and France had secretly concluded the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which created the borders we know today Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel. They did this over the objections of the area’s Arab inhabitants, and World War I allies who have never forgotten that betrayal. Within months of that ill-fated Agreement, the British were fighting an Arab insurrection in Iraq. Britain's Prime Minister Lloyd-George responded to calls to withdraw by saying that he would not abandon Iraq to anarchy and confusion. What he did not say is that Iraq’s oil was critical to the needs of the Imperial British Navy. The British continued to shed their blood and spend millions on the region for another 50 years. It wasn't until Saddam Hussein came along and did what no one else could or would do.
Questions now should really be asked since the United States first butted their nose in the region at the start of the first Gulf War. Now, after over one hundred years and three disastrous US wars later, has anything really changed? Is the American Empire any better equipped than those that have gone before to impose their will on the region? Do we have the resolve and the stomach to use the only methods that have ever succeeded, aka Saddam’s? America’s defeat of Saddam in 2003 made us the next imperial power to try its hand at ending the Middle Eastern anarchy and confusion. Like Lloyd-George, the Ottoman Sultans, the Byzantine emperors, and the Romans, Persians and Greeks before all they did was lift the lid on a boiling pot. The underlying combustion continues unabated.
And yet, so many Republicans think that America has to try again. The argument is that they believe that finally, after a millennia of evidence to the contrary, raw military power will cool that fire. This rhetoric is a cloak of deception for the real purpose behind the façade of trying to broker a peaceful resolution to the ongoing Mid-East crisis is all about oil and the wealth it brings to the powerful who want more wealth and control. The United States continues to be crippled by outdated concepts of national power, blind to all evidence, and unconcerned by the costs of now sending more troops in harms way. The cost of not only of lives but the enormity of money we really don't have spent on waging this campaign is a lesson of futility. But, there again it all boils down to our refusal to implement energy sources that don't equate to oil.
Another question arises; What does America want with this place? Why do we insist on treading the same terrible path as every empire that has tried to tame it before? We know it is not a matter of democracy. Like Karzai in Afghanistan, our other imperial province, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is no democrat either . Instead, like the British in 1920, a ravenous U.S. economy demands that the region’s oil remain in friendly hands. The question is whether the American people should continue to sacrifice for it?
If that sunny June day in Sarajevo 100 years ago teaches us anything, it is that a small spark, misunderstood, can produce unexpected results, far beyond anything we are capable of imagining. In that case, it was 37 million deadly results. A century later in 2014, however, we have no need to exercise our imaginations. The evidence of history has already told us precisely what lies before. The United States would be a fool to fan that spark.