The Lessons and Consequences of World War I: Back to the Future? (II)

Part I


Dark Horses

These are the unintended consequences that occur due to grand manipulations and plans gone awry. They are impossible to accurately predict, and they may only sometimes seem expected in hindsight. Dark horses are the wild cards that surprisingly alter the dynamic at play and bring about a change that the original manipulators did not at all intend. They seemingly come out of nowhere.

Why It Mattered Then:

1914labelIn accordance with Nikolay Starikov’s argument, the UK’s intention in escalating the Sarajevo events into a European war was to eliminate two of its primary rivals simultaneously, Germany and Russia. London anticipated itself having a free hand to dictate its will all across Eurasia, from Berlin to Baghdad and from the Barents Sea to the Bering Sea. History, however, would not have it that way, and a few notable black horses reared themselves on to the scene:

* The US entered World War I and was able to have deciding power in the makeup of post-World War I Europe. The UK was no longer the king of the continent, and from that moment onwards, its global sway began to relatively decrease as America’s rose.

* Japan, observing from afar how the European fratricide was weakening the collective power of the colonial states, took some German Pacific territories and set its designs on larger pan-Asian conquests less than two decades later.

* Russia rose from the ashes, internally transformed as the Soviet Union but externally similar to its Imperial boundaries.

* The Turks waged what they identify as a war of independence, overturning the Treaty of Sevres (which sought to carve up European spheres of influence in Anatolia) and replacing it with the Treaty of Lausanne.

These four dark horses were unpredictable in 1914, yet by 1924, they came to define a significant part of the international arena.

Why It Matters Now:

Just as the British gambit for power in fomenting the opening salvos of World War I led to the unexpected emergence of several power centers, so too did the US’ unipolar debacle after the end of the Cold War. China, who the US had allied with in order to counter the USSR, experienced the fastest economic rise in the history of mankind, and it is on pace to surpass the US’ economy this year. Russia once more rose from its knees, with Putin returning the country to its historic great power status after the 1990s decade of downturns. In fact, both Russia and China are now enjoying the best state of mutual relations in their history. This has led them to coordinate their policies in the UN, BRICS, APEC, and the Mideast and North Africa. Clearly, this is not how American policy planners anticipated their “unipolar” world looking back in 1991. In fact, the multipolar future is growing out of the unipolar past, and the process appears to be irreversible now.


To channel Donald Rumsfeld, “there are unknown unknowns”, and it is impossible to predict what consequences will result from any given action. Nevertheless, it does seem that the larger the scale of the endeavor, the larger the actor is that’s initiating it, and the larger the target(s), the more likely the dark horses will be extremely profound and impactful. It can therefore be assessed that the US’ “battle for Eurasia” will accordingly result in an untold myriad of dark horses that can completely upend the global balance of power.

Political Pimping

Second and third-tier states (non-great powers) are always subject to the threat of manipulation, but this threat becomes a fact after a (distant) manipulative balancing power decides to pursue its strategic vision. These states are guaranteed to be victimized to some extent or another if they are in the theater of operations, and their victimization will be profited upon by the manipulating state. This may take the form of outright betrayal, backtracking on previous promises, or de-facto subserviating the second/third tier partner against its will or expectation. First-tier states can have respectful relations with second/third-tier ones, but once the first-tier state goes on the offensive to pursue its (messianic) vision, these relations immediately become dispensable and nothing more than political poker chips.

Faisal ibn al-Hussein (1885-1933), King of Iraq from 1921 to his death. Take note of the flag of Arab Kingdom of Syria, which crowned Faisal as its King in March of 1920 and collapsed under French conquest four months later.
Faisal ibn al-Hussein (1885-1933), King of Iraq from 1921 to his death. Take note of the flag of Arab Kingdom of Syria, which crowned Faisal as its King in March of 1920 and collapsed under French conquest four months later.

Why It Mattered Then:

Two of the main problems in the Mideast can be traced back to this period: the Israel and Palestine issue and the region’s artificial, colonial borders. The Arabs were encouraged to rise up against the Turks in exchange for their independence after the war, per the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, but this obviously did not occur. While the roots of the Israel and Palestine question during this time are well known (the Balfour Declaration), what is lesser known is the betrayal of the Arab Kingdom of Syria after World War I.

The Damascus Protocol of 1914 set the basis for the 1915-1916 McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, in which the borders of the future Arab Kingdom of Syria were to be specified. This was to include all of modern-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, most of Western Jordan and Iraq, and parts of southern Turkey. Duplicitously, the British were at the same time busy conspiring with the French to divide the Mideast into colonial zones through the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Later, they concluded the Balfour Agreement in 1917 (which overlapped with the territory promised to the Arab Kingdom of Syria), clearly indicating that they never had any intention of honoring their promises of securing an independent Arab statecenteredaround Syria. The destruction and occupation of the Arab Kingdom of Syria by France in 1920 doomed the dream of Syrian independence until after 1946. Even so, the French had by then forcibly dislocated Lebanon from Syria and even gave up Hatay Province to Turkey in 1939, despite both areas historically being part of Syrian civilization for centuries.

The betrayal of Syria after World War I is a textbook case of political pimping, and its legacy is the mangled Middle East of today.

Why It Matters Now:

Second and third-tier states are more endangered now than ever before. Brzezinski’s destructive Eurasian Balkans strategy specifically targets the states in the Rimland, the majority of which fit this category (excluding India and China). Color Revolutions, for example, aspire to create a geopolitical earthquake to shatter the Eurasian Rimland and bring about the collapse of the Heartland. Other times, however, more traditional methods of warfare are employed hand-in-hand with diplomatic deception. The most stunning case is Iraq’s military engagement Kuwait in 1990.

US Ambassador April Glaspie met Saddam Hussein on July 25, 1990, just a week before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
US Ambassador April Glaspie met Saddam Hussein on July 25, 1990, just a week before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

April Glispie, the US Ambassador to Iraq at the time, all but gave Saddam the “green light” for his actions. Afterwards, this was used as justification for US military deployments in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, the First and Second Gulf Wars, and the project for a “New Middle East”. The Arab Spring is but the latest iteration of the US’ grand strategic plans in the region, but had it not been for the First Gulf War (brought about by misleading assurances that the US would not intervene, in the same vein as the British assured the Germans in the run-up to World War I), none of this may have happened and at least over one million lives could have been spared.


Just as the Arabs were falsely promised freedom for rebelling against the Turks and Saddam was misled to believe that Iraq could have Kuwait, (distant) manipulative balancing powers typically exploit second and third-tier states solely to promote their own strategic objectives. Very rarely do they carry through with their promises or enact long-term assistance to their ‘allies’. These people and states are objects in the pursuit of greater goals, and being accorded as such, they are disposed of when they are no longer useful. By understanding the predatory nature of political pimps such as the UK and the US, second and third-tier states can work to avoid the fate that befell the Arab Kingdom of Syria and Saddam Hussein.

Dangerous Double Standards

Double standards can only be ‘stable’ if they are imposed by an unrivalled global hegemon – in all other cases, or once that aforementioned power begins to decline or others rise up against it (which inevitably happens), these double standards dangerously open up a Pandora’s Box of dark horses and black swans. Regardless, states (or groups of states) that feel they are in a position of overwhelming power and influence may take to the imposition of double standards out of pure short-sighted political convenience. It is easier to apply one standard to the vanquished and another to the victors.


Map of Europe after WWI until 1929
Map of Europe after WWI until 1929

Why It Mattered Then:

The double standards of self-determination and ethnic nationalism are perhaps the most dangerous hypocrisies of the past century. After World War I, the victorious powers played a balancing game over ethnic blood. Their double standard was intended to reshape the map of Europe to their own liking, empowering some and handicapping others. Ironically, some states felt both effects. This was brought about by linking and separating various ethnic groups, uniting some while creating diasporas out of others.

Ethnic groups that were forcibly divided:

* Germans (Treaty of Versailles)

* Hungarians (Treaty of Trianon)

Ethnic groups allowed to be united:

* Poles

* Romanians

Fake state:

* Czechoslovakia

The Germans and Hungarians sought to change this artificial balance of ethnic distribution, hence one of the causes of World War II. The Poles and the Romanians, while housing the vast majority of their ethnic groups within their borders, had substantial minorities as well (Ukrainians and Belarusians for Poland, Hungarians for Romania). They were ‘nation states’ in the sense that the dominant nationalities were Polish and Romanian, but they were not ‘pure’ nation states because of their large minority groupings. Czechoslovakia was something altogether different, a hodgepodge of Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, and Hungarians. It was an unnatural entity created purely for political purposes. The double standards over ethnicity prevalent all throughout Europe in the post-World War I era would eventually spark the Second World War.

Why It Matters Now:

Once more, self-determination and ethnic nationalism have been set free from Pandora’s Box, albeit this time by the US and its allies. Beginning in Kosovo, which had been declared an “exception” to the rule, an ethnic group violently agitated for (and received international military support for) self-determination and unilaterally declared it in 2008. At that time, Putin said that “The independence of Kosovo is a terrible precedent. In effect, it breaks up the entire system of international relations, a system that has taken not even decades but centuries to evolve…And undoubtedly, it may entail a whole chain of unpredictable consequences.” He concluded by saying that “Ultimately, it is a double-edged sword, and the other edge will bash them on the head some time”, which is very well what happened in the case of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Crimea, and possibly, Donbass and the entirety of Novorossiya…and the cat has only just begun to jump out of the bag.


Double standards never result in stability, and they carry within them the seeds and embryos for future conflict and disorder. The question is how long it will take for the double standard to mature into a full-fledged problem, and what form and scope the opposition to this false standard takes. As is seen by the cases of post-World War I Europe and the modern-day world, certain double standards completely revolutionize international politics and can bring about the most unpredictable of outcomes. They are a sure recipe for eventual disaster.

Concluding Thoughts

The themes and consequences of World War I still eerily hold true today. The difference, however, is that the scope of instability and the potential theatre of operations has leapfrogged from Europe to all of Eurasia. Whereas the British were the prime drivers of pre-World War I balance of power politics and divide and rule policies, the US has now inherited this throne. The NATO alliance, having long outgrown its purpose and swelled itself with needless members, represents the most unstable military grouping that may very well bring about a war by miscalculation.

The geopolitical calculus remains the same – the seafaring power (the US) and its allies cannot allow a combination of continental states (Russia, China, Iran, and India) to unite in repelling it from Eurasia. Brzezinski’s Eurasian Balkans stratagem and Gene Sharp’s tactics have united in creating a dangerous new weapon of global warfare – Color Revolutions. The combination of Color Revolutions with the Kosovo Precedent, carried out under the aegis of US/NATO ‘leadership’, has fractured modern-day international relations and carries the potential to upend the peace between Great Powers that has prevailed for nearly 70 years.

Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
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