Sarajevo Serbs Unveil Monument to Gavrilo Princip, The Assassin Who Triggered WWI

This morning's key headlines from

  • Sarajevo Serbs unveil monument to Gavrilo Princip, who triggered World War I.
  • What could trigger another world war?
  • The West African Ebola outbreak is now the worst in history.

Sarajevo Serbs unveil monument to Gavrilo Princip, who triggered World War I

Bosnian actor Jovan Mojsilovic poses in front of monument honoring Gavrilo Princip at ceremony on Saturday (AP)
Bosnian actor Jovan Mojsilovic poses in front of monument honoring Gavrilo Princip at ceremony on Saturday (AP)

World War I should be a forgotten event, with its 16 million deaths a symbol of a time when people weren't nearly as smart and sophisticated as we are today, and so did many stupid things.

That may be the attitude in America, but it's certainly not in the Balkans, where a monument to Gavrilo Princip was unveiled on Saturday in East Sarajevo by Nebojsa Radmanovic, the Serb leader in the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Austria-Hungary had occupied Bosnia since 1878, and Princip was the one of seven members of the group Mlada Bosna (Young Bosnia) that wanted independence from Austria-Hungary.

Exactly one hundred years ago, on June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and his pregnant wife, Sophie.

At Saturday's ceremony, Radmanovic said that Princip was a hero to the Serb people:
"Today, we have Gavrilo in East Sarajevo, a revolutionary, a man who to us, is one century of hope. We remember the Young Bosnia members and Gavrilo Princip proudly. ...

Gavrilo Princip’s shot was a shot for freedom. His shot was a prelude to what some Europeans had prepared for years, and Serbs finished the war as winners. We remember Mlada Bosna and Gavrilo Princip with pride."
There were also centenary commemorations of the start of World War I in the other half of Sarajevo, but the Muslims and Croats in those commemorations do not consider Princip or any Serb to be a hero. Fresh in their minds are the memories of the Bosnian war in 1992-95, when 100,000 people died and Sarajevo suffered a 1,425 day siege by Serb forces. To them, Princip is just a terrorist who killed a politician and a pregnant woman, and brought a flourishing epoch to an end.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the 1990s Bosnian war came at the expected time. World War I ended in 1917, and new crisis wars begin when the survivors of the previous crisis disappear. By the 1990s, none of those survivors were left, and the region collapsed into one of the bloodiest and most vicious wars in the post-WW II era. According to one historical summary of the war:
"It was during this initial wave of Bosnian Serb ethnic cleansing — orchestrated by Radovan Karadzi and his generals — that the world began to hear tales as horrifying as anything you can imagine. Militia units would enter a town and indiscriminately kill anyone they saw — civilian men, women, and children. Pregnant women mortally wounded by gunfire were left to die in the street. Fleeing residents crawled on their stomachs for hours to reach cover, even as their family and friends were shot and blown up right next to them. Soldiers rounded up families, then forced parents to watch as they slit the throats of their children — and then the parents were killed, too. Dozens of people would be lined up along a bridge to have their throats slit, one at a time, so that their lifeless bodies would plunge into the river below. (Villagers downstream would see corpses float past, and know their time was coming soon.) While in past conflicts houses of worship had been considered off-limits, now Karadzi's forces actively targeted mosques and Catholic churches. Perhaps most despicable was the establishment of so-called “rape camps” — concentration camps where mostly Bosniak [Bosnian Muslim] women were imprisoned and systematically raped by Serb soldiers. Many were intentionally impregnated and held captive until they had come to term (too late for an abortion), when they were released to bear and raise a child forced upon them by their hated enemy. These are the stories that turned “Balkans” into a dirty word.

The Bosnian Serb aggressors were intentionally gruesome and violent. Leaders roused their foot soldiers with hate-filled propaganda (claiming, for example, that the Bosniaks were intent on creating a fundamentalist Islamic state that would do even worse to its Serb residents), then instructed them to carry out unthinkable atrocities. For the people who carried out these attacks, the war represented a cathartic opportunity to exact vengeance for decades-old perceived injustices. Everyday Serbs — who, for centuries, have been steeped in messages about how they have been the victims of their neighbors — saw this as an opportunity to finally make a stand. But their superiors had even more dastardly motives. They sought not only to remove people from 'their' land, but to do so in such a heinous way to ensure that the various groups could never again tolerate living together."

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Bosnia and Yugoslavia were on a "World War I" timeline, meaning that their crisis wars occurred around the time of WWI, and then repeated 60 to 80 years later. The Iran/Iraq war (1980-88) and the Syria/Lebanon war (1976-1982) are other examples of wars on the WWI timeline, and these wars were full of similar atrocities.

Americans and Westerners in general think that they're more civilized and immune to these atrocities, but nothing could be further from the truth. Western countries, for the most part are on the "World War II timeline." These same kinds of atrocities occurred in WWII, and if these wars recur years after the end of WWII, Westerners will be subject to the same kinds of atrocities.

BBC and inSerbia (Belgrade) and B92 (Belgrade) and Understanding Yugoslavia

What could trigger another world war?

Consider the following events of the last 15 years:

  • When the events of September 11, 2001, occurred, President George W Bush declared war on Afghanistan within 24 hours. America won that war very quickly, and no one intervened on the side of Afghanistan. If, say, China or Pakistan or Russia had intervened to support Afghanistan, then there might have been a new world war.
  • In 2006, when two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped near the border with Lebanon, Israel panicked and launched a war with Hezbollah within four hours, with no plan and no objectives. No other country came to the defense of Hezbollah. If, say, Iran or Syria had entered the war on the side of Hezbollah, then it might have spiraled into a regional and world war.
  • In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and annexed the provinces in the sovereign territory of Georgia: South Ossetia and Abkhazia. No country came to the defense of Georgia. More recently, no country has come to the defense of Ukraine, when Russia annexed Crimea.
  • China has annexed properties belonging to the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, and no country has come to the latter's defense. Furthermore, China has repeatedly threatened military action against Taiwan, and the Senkaku island governed by Japan. If the U.S. intervenes in any of these situations, then the result will spiral into war.
These are all modern day examples of situations that are similar to the Austria-Hungary occupation and annexation of Bosnia in the late 1800s. In all these modern day examples, there were many actions that took place very quickly -- within a few hours or a day or two. If a situation were going out of control, there would be no time for quiet contemplation or debates in the defunct United Nations Security Council.

There have been many renewed debates recently about the causes of World War I. One of the most frequently mentioned causes is the "blank check" that Germany provided to Austria. Germany promised unconditional support to Austria in its invasion of Serbia. That brought Germany into the war. France also issued a kind of "blank check" to Russia, promising support against Austria, and that brought Russia into the war.

America has issued many "blank checks" to many countries. After World War II, America signed a large number of mutual defense treaties with other countries. These include agreements with Japan, South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, the Philippines, the ANZUS agreement with Australia and New Zealand, a special treaty with Iceland, and the NATO agreement with all of Europe.

A mutual defense treaty is arguably not the same as a "blank check," but it's close enough so that a misstep or miscalculation on the part of any country could start a world war.

In 1914, it took the action of just one young man to trigger 16 million deaths. The fighting ranged from Gallipoli and the Dardanelles Campaign — where Newfoundlanders fought and died alongside Indians, Australians and New Zealanders — to the Balkans, the killing fields of the Western Front, the waters off Argentina, and in the Pacific where the Imperial Japanese Navy fought on the same side as Britain and France, grabbing German colonies and outposts in China and Micronesia.

The Japanese sent warships to the Mediterranean and off the coast of South Africa, and were involved with Canadian, Czech and British troops in the Siberian Intervention against Communist Russia, during the last days of war and for several months thereafter.

One of the ironies of The Great War was that Gavrilo Princip's assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, was opportunistic. The driver of Ferdinand's vehicle took a wrong turn, and the wrong turn brought Ferdinand into shooting range of Princip. If the driver had not taken that wrong turn, then something else would have had to trigger The Great War, and Gavrilo Princip would not have a monument dedicated to him.

That shows how easy it is for a misstep or miscalculation to lead to war.

BBC and National Post (Toronto)

West African Ebola outbreak is now the worst in history

According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been more than 635 cases of Ebola across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leona, with at least 399 deaths. Those figures are substantially higher than when I wrote about this four days ago. Ebola can spread rapidly through a population because it's spread by touch, especially with the bodily fluids of a person who is infected, but has not yet shown symptoms. WHO officials are now saying there is a real danger that it could spread to neighboring countries, such as the Ivory Coast and Guinea Bissau. There's no danger of a worldwide epidemic, since Ebola is only spread through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, as opposed to a virus that can spread through the air. USA Today

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Gavrilo Princip, Mlada Bosna, Young Bosnia, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Austria-Hungary, Bosnia, Nebojsa Radmanovic, Jovan Mojsilovic, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Russia, Israel, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Georgia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Ukraine, Crimea, Philippines, Vietnam, South China Sea, Taiwan, Japan, Senkaku, Ebola, World Health Organization, WHO, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau
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