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38 Historically Speaking · May/June 2005 anything having to do with human beings. Another corollary to the chaotic view of history is that its course is highly pathdependent . The order in which events occur and the specific nature of the events themselves matter a great deal in determining the outcome of those events. It is worth noting that the event that set off World War I was unique among the prewar crises. In the first place, it was not a diplomatic event, unlike most of the other crises. The Moroccan Crises, the Bosnian Crisis, even the crises set offby the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 presented the major powers primarily with diplomatic challenges. The heads of state, notably Wilhelm, played prominent roles in resolving them, to be sure, but those resolutions all could occur within the realm of diplomacy. The same was not true of the assassination of an Austrian archduke. This event constituted a direct attack on the ruling house of a major power, and it taxed the ordinary courses of diplomacy far beyond their capacity to isolate and handle crises. The injury to Austria's honor was far greater than anything the Germans or the Russians had suffered before, a fact that raised the stakes in Austria's decision-making to a much higher level than previous crises had done elsewhere . The Bosnian Crisis, after all, had primarily embarrassed the Russian foreign minister , not the tsar. Even the Moroccan Crises were conducted in such a way that the Kaiser was not personally and publicly attacked and humiliated. It is quite possible that the assassination ofFranz Ferdinand was the only sort ofevent that could have pushed Austria into a war her leaders feared and that, by contrast, Europe could well have muddled through one or several or any number of other diplomatic crises of the normal variety. It was, after all, the only assassination ofa member ofa ruling house in this period. To say that the assassination could only have had its full effect in the context of the previous Bosnian Crisis is hardly interesting. It is worth noting, however, that that previous crisis was also a remarkably contingent affair. It resulted not from the overt hostility of Austria and Russia, still less of Germany and Russia, but from an Austro-Russian attempt to reach a compromise in the Balkans. Above all, however, it resulted from a series of misunderstandings on all sides—from the rather muddle-headed intervention of Sir Edward Grey, Britain's foreign minister, and from a Russian foreign minister acting on his own hook and in spite of the wishes of the prime minister. There was nothing in the least inevitable about the fact that the crisis began at all, still less that it followed the course that it did or had the effects that it had. Almost any event in the history of the origins of the First World War that one examines closely turns out to be highly contingent and anything but inevitable in itself. The issues of inevitability, structuralism, and chaos are inextricably intertwined. Structuralist explanations can only work if they can show that long-term trends rendered certain events inevitable. Leaving aside the blow this view ofhistory strikes at the notion of human free will, it is antithetical to a chaotic understanding of human affairs. It requires its adherents to believe that human affairs are linear and not complex—that is, that all human beings have the same ability to influence history and that history does not flow from the interactions of individual human beings. If those assumptions are not true, then structuralist approaches to history are internally inconsistent. Frederick W Kagan is a residentfellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D. C and is the co-author, with DonaldKagan, ofWhile America Sleeps: Self-Delusion, Military Weakness, and the Threat to Peace Today (St. Martin's, 2001). 1 John Keegan, The Face ofBattle (Penguin, 1978). 2 James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science (Penguin, 1988), 9-31; Edward Lorenz, The Essence ofChaos (University of Washington Press, 1995), Appendix 1. 3 Paul W. Schroeder, "World War I as Galloping Gertie: A Reply to Joachim Remak," The Journal ofModern History 44 (1972...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6438
Print ISSN
1941-4188
Pages
pp. 38-40
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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