25 October, 2020

The Territorial Imperative

The ‘globalising’ world of the 21st century teeters on war as dangerously as in 1914

The Territorial Imperative

Prince Hubertus zu Loew­enstein, the German historian and diplomat, could never forget June 28, 1914. His parents were sitting in their castle grounds when a footman broke the news that a Serbian nationalist had shot dead the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. “Lower the flag,” the senior Loewenstein, who represented a branch of the Bavarian royal family, ordered, pointing to the family standard fluttering on the castle tower, and added in the same breath, “This means world war!” And so it did, despite a flurry of telegrams signed Nicky, Willie and Bertie, the Russian, German and British emperors who were cousins and called each other by their nicknames.

Not for nothing was World War I, the war to end all wars, called the Great War. The savage carnage (16 million dead, 20 million wounded) that prompted Siegfried Sassoon’s bitter lament, “The rank stench of those bodies haunts me still,/ And I remember things I’d best forget”, had not yet destroyed the romanticism of war. Staginess was sustained to the end,...



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