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The Great War’s Long Shadow

BERLIN – This year marks the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, which is reason enough to reflect on what this seminal European catastrophe teaches us today. Indeed, the Great War’s consequences for international relations and the global system of states continue to be felt. So, have we learned anything from the policy failures of governments, institutions, and international diplomacy that occurred in the summer of 1914?

Large parts of the northern hemisphere continue to struggle with the legacies of the great European empires – Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman – that collapsed in WWI’s wake, or whose decline, like that of the British Empire, was initiated by the war and sealed by its even bloodier sequel a generation later. The resulting fracture zones – in the Balkans and the Middle East, for example – are the source of some of today’s gravest risks to regional and even world peace.