Touring the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, I was taken by how similar the international situation on the eve of the Great War was to present global circumstances.
By HIBBERD V. B. KLINE III
Special to The Star
A newly unified and increasingly economically powerful Germany asserted itself to the discomfit of the established powers, as China does today.
Imbued with heightened senses of identity, restive peoples living within national boundaries drawn by others, particularly in the Balkans, strained the established order through increasingly strident and progressively violent means, similar to what we see in the Arab World, Africa and parts of Asia.
Emerging great powers Germany and Italy in 1914, China and India today expressed their increasing economic power in arms build-ups that destabilized regional and global power balances. An international scramble for resources heightened tensions between peoples as well as nation-states creating potential flashpoints as do Chinas current claims to vast ocean areas or Argentinas claims to the Falklands.
Ties of blood, faith and philosophy, such as Pan-Germanism or ethnic and religious distinctions in the Balkans, blurred national identities and gravely complicated the ability of nation-states and the international system to defuse tensions.
Today, the Islamic Umas identity with any and all Muslim grievances, Shia-Sunni feuding, African tribal animosities, and Western compulsions to right inequalities and suffering wherever found replicate the tensions of 1914.
Napoleon observed that in studying the art of war and by implication, diplomacy history is our only laboratory. Hegel, among others, remarked that mankind does not learn from history. Given present day parallels with the global catastrophe of 1914, we must hope that Hegel and his fellows are wrong for once.
As the site of the congressionally designated National Museum of World War I and the home of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, Kansas City has both a particularly strong obligation and a unique opportunity to expand understanding of the interplay of forces that led to the catastrophe of 1914 and to draw and promulgate lessons learned that may reduce the likelihood of humanity stumbling over a similar precipice.
The museums magnificent collection of artifacts and source materials must be publicized and shared with the world, both by bringing scholars, leaders, and visitors here and by extending these resources through the Internet, loans and traveling exhibits.
The Museums Institute for War and Peace, through programs of its own and partnerships with leading centers of learning, such as the Kennedy School, The Naval Postgraduate School, The Royal United Services Institute, should develop programs for political and economic leaders. By so doing Kansas City can make a major contribution to the welfare of mankind.
A side effect should be a greatly expanded awareness of and affinity toward Kansas City throughout the nation and the world. Financial and organizational support must be forthcoming from our foundations and community leaders. Operational support from organizations such as Mid-America Regional Council, the Chamber of Commerce, visitors bureaus, and politicians will be required to publicize the museums efforts and provide global reach.
The results will honor all who were swept into the gyre of World War I, make a significant contribution toward enlightening global leaders to the lessons of a historical period similar to our own, and facilitate an expansion of Kansas Citys international profile.
Hibberd Kline of Kansas City is an attorney, an adjunct associate professor at a local university and treasurer of the Wornall/Majors House Museum.