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TIL: At the time of WW1, the King of Britain, Russia, and Germany were all first cousins. When asked about WW1, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany sarcastically remarked, “If my grandmother [Queen Victoria] had been alive, she would never have allowed it.”(r/todayilearned)
In all seriousness though, it’s not like they were just being nice and loved war… They really did want to avoid a large European war. WWI was a worst-case-scenario in brinksmanship and failure of governments to draw correct boundaries… or as we call today: “red lines”.
When someone declares a “red line” or fails to respond to follow-through with the military threat, the other nations get bold and encouraged and so they start ignoring “red lines”, and then before you know it, both sides have overstepped their bounds and must initiate war. They’ll say “well I told you not to cross that boundary! Look what you did, you started a war!” And the other guy will be like “well I didn’t think you’d overreact like this! I thought you’d let me walk all over you!”
It was the vagueness (as noted in those telegrams, where the ambassadors are saying something different than the leaders’ telegrams and then X country makes a false assumption that Y country will not react to Z action, and that’s when World Wars begin).
As noted for WWI, all the diplomats & leaders thought that war could be avoided. But through brinksmanship and vague-threats, someone misinterpreted something, and before the ambassadors could pull on the brakes, the war had already begun.
In schools sometimes they explain WWI as just a “problem with alliances” or offensive-pacts, but that was only a part of the cause (nations have had alliances throughout human history). The real problems were communications and expressing clear-intentions. When intentions aren’t clear and reactions of countries cannot be predicted, that’s when wars happen. Unpredictability, empty threats, and vagueness leads to war.