We must not let the lights go out again

We have begun marking the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.
It supposedly was the “war to end all wars” but looking back, issues that caused the war—and the festering in nations created by the Versailles treaty that divided up the world again—are causing worry and problems in today’s world.
The end of that war found the Ottoman, Romanov (Russian), and Hapsburg empires had disintegrated. New states and borders were created.
France ended up with Syria. England gained Palestine and Iraq. Poland was created, as was Slovakia, Bosnia, and Czechoslovakia.
The Kurds of Turkey became homeless and demanded independent rule. The Sunnis and Shias, always hostile to each other, continue in that same manner today.
The Romanov Empire broke up into many smaller states. Following the Second World War, under Russian domination, they became part of a huge new, stronger nation.
But with the fall of the Soviet Union, many of those states that were created at the end of the First World War re-emerged. In recent months, we have watched the annexation of Crimea by Russia and a festering civil war in eastern Ukraine.
Following the break-up of Yugoslavia into Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Serbia, we witnessed a civil war characterized by ethnic cleansing.
Western nations have countered the aggression with economic sanctions. But the civil war, which has killed hundreds in Syria, continues to destabilize the Middle East.
ISIS, meanwhile, has created a huge civil war and new independent state in Iraq. Radical fighters have been recruited from across the world.
The so-called “Arab Spring” that saw the downfall of totalitarian governments in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt have not brought democracy or stability to these nations. Western nations and the United Nations, unfortunately, seem unable to stem the flow of war.
The tensions by peoples of different nationalities and religious beliefs continue to plague the world. The “war to end all wars” today seems to have spawned countless wars in the Middle East, parts of Europe, and even Africa.
The leaders in 1919 hoped that democracy would encourage nations to accommodate people of different race, religion, and backgrounds, overcoming tribal feuds that had dominated the world prior to 1914.
Today, we can look back over the 100 years from the start of World War I and wonder if the slow movement toward war a century ago again is playing out.
The shooting down of the Malaysian jet over eastern Ukraine brought more tension to the world. The continuing conflict between Israel and Hamas, with civilians suffering large casualties, has our attention, as does war in Syria and the strife in Libya.
Western nations seem to be dancing carefully to avoid larger conflicts in both the Middle East and Ukraine.
A single stumble or missed diplomatic initiative might be all it takes to go from regional conflicts to a much wider war. And the “war to end all wars” continues to play out today.
We must continue to look for ways to maintain peace while protecting sovereignty, religious tolerance, and promoting governments that respect the rights of all of their citizens.
We don’t want the lights to go out again all over the world.

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