1914 and Aleppo | The National Interest Blog

The centenary in 2014 of the outbreak of World War I elicited comparisons between the circumstances of the European crisis that touched off that horrendous conflict and conditions that surround current international conflicts. Many such comparisons focused on how confrontations involving an increasingly assertive China might spin out of control. Graham Allison, for example, wrote of how a possible confrontation in the East China Sea involving Japan could carry such a danger. A rising China throwing its increasing weight around the Far East does indeed offer some of the most plausible scenarios for escalation of local crises into much bigger war. But so does the multifaceted civil war in Syria, as underscored by some of the most recent developments in the northwest of that country.

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The prospect of the Syrian conflict remaining unsettled for years and thus providing many opportunities for it to grow into something bigger is the starting point for spinning out escalatory scenarios. But some more specific attributes of that conflict have greater and more disturbing similarities to the 1914 crisis. One is the multiplicity of players, from outside as well as inside Syria and the region, who perceive themselves as having a stake in the conflict. That perception is fuel for possible escalation. Atop a recent article describing the diverse players participating in fighting in Syria’s Aleppo province, the Washington Post used a headline about a “mini world war” there.

1914 and Aleppo | The National Interest Blog