The Guns of August in the East China Sea

What is a good definition of “the guns of August?”

The Guns of August thus provides a narrative of the earliest stages of World War I, from the decisions to go to war, up until the start of the Franco-British offensive that stopped the German advance into France. (Source: Wikipedia.)

One definition of “the guns of August” describes the time right before a great-power war. And what would that time be like? Let’s see what Aristotle has to say:

“… as Aristotle wrote, conflicts arise “not over small things but from small things.””

When a time period exists such that a great-power war can erupt from a small thing, then that would qualify as “the guns of August.” When a region is at a tipping point – like the East China Sea, or like the Ukraine, then there is danger of escalation leading to a great-power. This tipping point period might actually last several years with waves of hot and cold.

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Though the islands in dispute in the East and South China seas are in many cases barren and below water during high tide, as Aristotle wrote, conflicts arise “not over small things but from small things.” The assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand that sparked World War I was one such small thing. Claims in the Pacific, however petty, if they are tied to vital interests, can lead to war. Indeed, the primordial quest for status still tragically determines the international system — just as it did prior to World War I. And these islets have become, because of their very barren abstraction, logos of nationhood in a global media age.

The Guns of August in the East China Sea