History as Literature | September 01, 1993

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How the world fell into the catastrophe of World War I will always be something of a mystery.  It was a war with neither clear issues nor simple villains.  Perhaps the ultimate cause was the rulers themselves, and their greed and vanity as quaintly ludicrous as the gilded eagle sprouting from the top of the war-helmet crown of Kaiser Wilhelm II.  The ambitious Kaiser and his government wer emore to blame than others, but the leadership cultures of Europe, and the behavior of European governments, had much in common in 1914.  The Germans were hardly in a class by themselves.

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