During the early 20th century, there were several political assassinations which included US President William McKinley, the Russian czar, Italian King and two Spanish PMs but none of these incidents shook the world the way it shook after the assassination of heir of Austro-Hungarian Empire. On 28th of June, 1914, in Sarajevo, the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were killed by the Serbian Nationalist Black Hand. Within next 5 weeks, the Austria-Hungary’s declared war against Serbia. This caused the Central Powers (including Germany) and Serbia’s allies declared war on each other, and the World War I was triggered. The war itself consumed 9 million men and thousands of civilians because of the war destruction, hunger, diseases and violence. Even after the war ended and soldiers returned home, they brought with them influenza virus and – according to one estimate – the epidemic consumed 50 million people. The WWI created new boundaries and fault lines. The great Austro-Hungarian Empire and Ottoman Empires were broken into small countries, like Iraq, Lebanon and Yugoslavia. One of the greater setback of the war – other than loss of millions of lives and destruction – was that the world had to face the worst violence due to the ethnic nationalism, which might be averted if the two empires – who were working to deliver on the demand of greater autonomy – would not have been broken into small countries. The new fault lines, created after the war, brought more conflicts and violence because of the national and religious pride and land ambitions of groups inside newly formed countries. The winners of the war at the other hand distributed the lands to have their military bases against the consent of the local population like the secret Sykes–Picot Agreement officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement of May 1916 between France and Great Britain, which defined their mutually agreed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East. To this day, this controversial agreement is blamed for the region’s present-day conflicts.
Although the WWI was concluded with the clear victory of US, Britain and France, but its aftermath drove the world to Second World War. At one hand, as the imperial government collapsed in Germany, the civil unrest erupted and started to intensify, and threat of communist revolution in Germany became a reality, at the other hand, the victors of the war, who blamed Germany for the war, demanded the reparations. The Treaty of Versailles imposed tough financial war reparations and restrictions on Germany. The major political parties united and formed the parliamentary Weimar Republic to control the unrest. Their first goal was to implement the Treaty of Versailles. In the war Germany not only lost its one tenth of the territory but also as per the treaty, Germany had to accept the full responsibility of the war damages, which adversely affected the German economy. Inside Germany, the nationalists and large number of people looked the events as national humiliation. Many in Germany believed that the war could be won but the Army was betrayed by the civilian leadership. Adolf Hitler who was a worker of a small Nationalist party, exploited such anger and became the leader of the party. Then, during the Great Depression (1929-1932), the American banks started withdrawing their loans from Germany. As a consequence, the already struggling economy of Germany collapsed overnight. Hitler won huge support from the people by exploiting the public anger in his favor and convinced masses that the political parties have failed to deliver. In 1932, Hitler fought for the Presidency against President Paul von Hindenburg – a war hero — but lost. However – although not majority — he secured 37% votes and demonstrated his power in the in the parliament. President Hindenburg was advised to appoint Hitler as a Chancellor to get his support. After becoming the Chancellor, Hitler slowly expanded his authority and his supporters formed the paramilitary groups to control the demonstrations. He created the atmosphere of fear that only he can stop the communist revolution. In 1933, a young worker was convicted for setting fire in the parliament building. Hitler convinced the government and got emergency powers. Within months, Hitler banned all the political parties, imposed strict censorship on the media and public gatherings. When in 1934, President Hindenburg died, he became the supreme leader of Germany.
In Italy, a dictator Benito Mussolini rose to power in the wake of World War I who was a leading proponent of Fascism. After several liberal governments failed to rein in the “threats” from the communists and socialists, the fascists had increased their public profile by highly visible punishment expeditions to supposedly crush the “threat”. On October 1922, Italian monarch King Victor Emmanuel III offered Mussolini to form a government. His fascist supporters maintained their armed paramilitary to fight “anarchists and communists”. Mussolini started to strengthen his grip on the power and within years he converted Italy into a police state. In 1934, at Welwel – the oasis in Ethiopia — a border skirmish broke out between the Kingdom of Italy and Abyssinia (Empire of Ethiopia). In 1935, after signing agreement with France, he got the free hand in the Abyssinia Crisis in return for the alliance against Hitler’s Germany. He sent forces into Eritrea and Somaliland – which were Italian colonies – to the border of Ethiopia. Once the League of Nations exonerated both parties in the Welwel Incident, Italy attacked Ethiopia, resulting in the Second Italo–Abyssinian War. After conquering Ethiopia, he joined Germany – which was providing troops and weapons to the nationalist of the Spanish Civil War – in supplying arms to nationalists in Spanish Civil War. In 1939, he did military action against Albania and took over after the short campaign and forced them to join Italy in a personal union. Mussolini allied himself with Hitler during WWII and died shortly after Nazi surrendered in Italy in 1945.
The main lesson learnt from the world wars that no matter how decisive those wars are, no matter how successfully the winners address and eradicate the perceived threats, there would always be new fault lines and new threats emerge, once the rubble of destruction is cleaned up. Although, after WWII, the fascist regimes were rooted out from Europe but the Cold War began and the world was divided into two blocks under US and USSR. To gain the maximum strategic advantage, both powers manipulated small countries using their carrot-stick diplomacies. All over the world, brutal dictators were supported and encouraged as long as they accept to deliver without asking question. To win the Cold War, the religious ideologies were exploited. Children of third-world countries were indoctrinated under the tyranny of monarchs, military dictators and oligarchs. As a result, Cold War was won for sure, but the aggressive policies to win the war created even more lethal enemy who can travel anywhere in the world and strike at will. Same “allies” of Cold War were responsible for the horrors of 9/11. After the 9/11 incident, the world entirely changed and entered into the era which Ralph Keyes called as the “Post-Truth Era”. Keyes introduced this term in his book “The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life”. He notes “At one time we had truth and lies. Now we have truth, lies, and statements that may not be true but we consider too benign to call false. Euphemisms abound. We’re “economical with the truth,” we “sweeten it,” or tell “the truth improved.” The term deceive gives way to spin. At worst we admit to “misspeaking,” or “exercising poor judgment.” Nor do we want to accuse others of lying. We say they’re in denial. A liar is “ethically challenged,” someone for whom “the truth is temporarily unavailable. This is post-truth.”
After 9/11, the threat levels were too high that the masses were willing to accept whatever their leaders tell them. The country was taken to bloody war in Iraq – which had nothing to do with 9/11 incident – on the false and orchestrated pretext and over 100 thousand people were perished. The masses did not make noise and accepted to sacrifice their freedom which the constitution provides them because of the exaggerated threat perception created by the Bush Administration. The media – sometime because of fear and sometime due to their personal interests – failed to informed people about the realities on ground, instead, it got into competition with other media channels in cheer leading the war and hiding the truth. President Obama’s victory in 2008 elections gave some hope that the world will pull back from its course. People were expecting President Obama that he will change the direction of history where the imperialistic ambitions of some forces in US will be irrelevant and Iraq and Afghanistan will be brought to acceptable calm. In the beginning, he tried. He pledged to work with other world leaders and use their influence to resolve Israel-Palestinian issue, India-Pakistan issue, Iran, North Korea etc. Although, he pretended to be very powerful, but actually, he was very sluggish and powerless. He could not stand to the pressure from the pseudo-patriots in the House and Senate. He was unable to make any progress with Russia on different US-Russia relations. When India refused to cooperate with US vis-à-vis its relations with Pakistan, President Obama abandoned his pledge to help resolve 60 year problem between India and Pakistan. He tried to encourage the democratic movements in the Arab countries – the Arab Spring – but when in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood won the office of President in its first free elections, he decided to pull his support for the elected government and supported the new era of dictatorship in Egypt in the form of General Sisi. Although the unemployment declined steadily during his office and went down to 5.1% compared to Bush administration, when the unemployment was 7.2%, but his retreats from his words made the people uncomfortable and provided hardliners both inside and outside US more encouragement. At the time of his departure, India and Pakistan are at the verge of nuclear conflict, Israel started its settlements in the occupied territories, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) — a framework under the Heart of Asia/Istanbul Process of 2011, which included Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States, whose main manifesto was to facilitate talks between the government in Kabul and the warring faction — went in the virtual dormancy, and now the Russia, China and Pakistan have formed another group to deal with Afghan issues. In Syria, President Obama totally ignored the growth of ISIS and did not accept Sec. Hillary Clinton’s idea to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, at very early stage of conflict when Russia was not involved, to keep Russia outside the region. America’s absence gave Russia free hand to control the skies over Syria.
President Donald Trump had wonderful opportunity to fix what President Obama could not do or handle properly. He could nominate some political and security veteran who is respectable in the eyes of masses, as his top advisor, instead of some narrow minded person with short sighted world view, allegedly an anti-Semitic, who wants to “stop the growth of Islam and China” and expecting another US war in the middle east. He could nominate some credible environmentalist to head Environment Protection Agency (EPA), instead, he nominated someone who is allegedly helping those big companies which are making billions at the expense of contaminating environment, and filed several law suits against EPA which he is going to head. He could nominate an Attorney General who is not blamed for racism. He could nominate an energy expert for the Department of Energy (DOE), instead of someone who boasted in 2012 that if he would be the President of US he would abolish the DOE. Unfortunately, he nominated some narrow minded ideologues in his cabinet who are obsessed with their misplaced worldviews and they believe in threats and coercion in the diplomacy. However, there is a hope. America is indeed a nation of tolerant people. The systems are resilient and do not allow any individual or any group to get their ways using the power they were given by the constitution, no matter they enjoy very high levels of authority.
The victory of President Trump is direct consequence of the failure of liberalism and the moderate leadership of the world. Two hundred years from now, when the historian would write about this time, he/she would be writing that the WWIII actually began just after the Cold War had its conclusion. However, Mr. William Jefferson Clinton became President of US and he turned the wheel of the history and saved the country from getting into perpetual wars. Once he completed his term in the office, the new President George W. Bush came into office and the new traditions in politics were introduced. He was re-elected by exploiting peoples’ fears, and created mess for America for another generation to worry about. President Obama – a liberal and an intellectual – came after President Bush. People expect too much from him but unfortunately, he was too feeble and could not stand the pressure of those who use fear as the key to further their ambitions. His vulnerability brought anxiety among the masses although they were enjoying better economy. This uneasiness of masses provided President Donald Trump – who was never taken seriously by the media, and even by his own Republican Party colleagues – took the opportunity to exploit and exaggerate the threats and to make his way to the White House.
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