How To Turn Two Deaths Into Ten Million

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Garrison Keillor, on the Writer’s Almanac, notes a grim anniversary:

Today [June 28] is both the anniversary of the event that started World War I and the day that the treaty was signed that officially brought the war to a close.

The event that started the war was the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a Bosnian revolutionary on this day in 1914 in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo.

…One month after the assassination, Austria used the event as an excuse to declare war on Serbia, even though the nation of Serbia had nothing to do with the assassination. Germany chose to back Austria in its attack. Russia chose to defend Serbia. France entered the war against Germany. And when Germany invaded Belgium, Great Britain got involved as well, having pledged to defend Belgium from any invaders. That series of alliances led to the largest war ever conducted in history at that point. About ten million people died in the next four years of fighting.

Murray Rothbard thought that civilized men should do everything possible to limit the spread of war. Alliances should be shunned, with World War I serving as a perfect example of why they are so dangerous. Imagine if the asssassination of the Austrian Archduke and his wife was treated as a criminal matter. The assassin would likely have been executed, but that would have been it. No chain reaction of one state after another jumping into the fray. (See Peace and Freedom: Rothbard on War and Foreign Policy).

If you wonder how libertarians can be so heartless as to urge non-involvement in Darfur and withdrawal from the “mess we made” in Iraq then just think about how the tragic killings in 1914 of two people led to a horrendous blood bath of ten million deaths.

[Also posted at my new personal blog, Radical Liberation. This is a Tumblelog, a different kind of blog that “favors short-form, mixed-media posts over the longer editorial posts frequently associated with blogging.”]

9:28 am on June 28, 2007