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A Prelude to More of the Same

Since Monday's assassination in Turkey of a Russian ambassador, many have likened the attack to the shooting in 1914 of Archduke Franz Ferdinand - the assassination that kickstarted World War I. Commentary's Max Boot weighs in on the issue, writing that while the incident was revolting, it is unlikely to lead to a global conflict:

The spark that ignited World War I—and, indirectly, World War II as well–came from a tinderbox composed of the extreme nationalism and glamorization of war in all the major European powers combined with exaggerated self-confidence. The Austrians thought they could easily crush the Serbs; the Germans thought they could easily crush first France and then Russia; Russia thought it could easily crush Austria and, if necessary, Germany, too.

Extreme nationalism is certainly present today in both Russia and Turkey–fomented by Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, two strongmen who rely on external threats to mobilize their own populations behind their rule. There is even a defensive alliance–NATO–that links Turkey to the United States and most of the nations of Europe, which would force them to come to Turkey’s defense if it is attacked by Russia.

But such an attack is extremely unlikely. It is doubtful that Putin cares enough about the fate of one ambassador to risk a general conflagration that would pit Russia, even discounting all of the other NATO members, against a military adversary far more formidable than either Ukraine or the Syrian rebels...

Erdogan, for his part, is wasting no time tying the gunman, rightly or (probably) wrongly, to Fethullah Gülen, the exiled Turkish Islamic leader living in Pennsylvania who has also been blamed by Erdogan with little evidence for the July coup attempt, among other offenses. Thus the human tragedy–the death of a veteran diplomat–will soon be forgotten amid the geopolitical maneuvering of all sides. That, perhaps, is the only analogy to 1914 that holds up, even if today’s maneuvering is unlikely to result in a global conflagration.

Tags: Middle East Unrest

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