Walter G. Moss is a professor emeritus of history at Eastern Michigan University. He is the author of A History of Russia, Vol. I and Vol II.
This year marks the centennial of the beginning of World War I. Some observers believe we humans are close to beginning another war—in Ukraine. Historian Stephen Cohen, a long-time critic of U.S. policy toward post-Soviet Russia, has stated, “I think that we are three steps from war with Russia, two steps from a Cuban missile crisis.” Perhaps Cohen is being too alarmist. A hundred years ago, however, when in late June Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian of Serbian nationality, assassinated the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand, many Europeans did not think it would lead to war. But it did.
Soon before the Cuban missile crisis, which President Kennedy estimated had a one-half to one-third chance of leading to a Soviet-U.S. war, he benefitted from reading about the folly of starting WWI. According to Robert Kennedy in his book Thirteen Days, “A short time before, he [the president] had read Barbara Tuchman's book The Guns of August, and he talked about the miscalculations of the Germans, the Russians, the Austrians, the French and the British. They somehow seemed to tumble into war, he said, through stupidity, individual idiosyncrasies, misunderstandings, and personal complexes of inferiority and grandeur.” Although some of his military advisors urged the bombing of Soviet missile installations in Cuba, the president took the less risky step of imposing a naval blockade. War was averted.READ MORE