For those that study history, the history of World War I is considered one of its great tragedies. While the Gilded Age is often decried on many of the left (and not without some merit), it’s also worth celebrating as the First Age of Globalization, producing major advancements in human lifespan, health sciences, physics, inventions such as x-rays, radio, the automobile, and powered flight, industrialization, and greatly increased global travel, all in an era of relative peace outside of Africa. This came crashing down when an obscure nobleman by someone from a tiny country led the entire world into four years of sickeningly deadly war, all because everyone had entangling alliances with everyone else that blew up (literally) in everyone’s faces. It wrecked Europe for a generation and directly set the stage for the rise of the Nazis and World War II. It was, in short, not a good time or a good time or a good idea for anyone involved.
Flash forward to 2020, shitshow that it’s been. Enter onto the world stage Armenia and Azerbaijan, two small and (at least to Americans) relatively obscure countries in Central Asia. Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed border region that has had multiple flareups over the past several decades, finally erupting into more or less open warfare in late September, and October ceasefires falling apart quickly. It has already killed hundreds of people and wrecked countless lives, along with the trust between the different groups of people that lived there. It’s had ripple effects among the Armenian diaspora worldwide as people scramble to help their families and worry about relatives. It’s a human tragedy.
However, it has literally nothing to do with the United States. Neither side is attacking us, and even the most collateral of damage could never come close to any of our territory. Other than a general interest in peace, there’s no interest here.
Enter those entangling alliances that Washington warned us against. Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a post-Warsaw Pact alliance centered around Russia and former Soviet republics. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, is a strong ally of Turkey, and Turkey…is a member of NATO.
Which, for some reason, we’re still in 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Right now Armenia could officially request assistance under the CSTO, and Russia would be obligated to get involved in the war in a big way. Turkey could do the same with NATO, and the United States would be similarly obliged.
Thankfully at the moment Armenia has made no such official request, which is the fig leaf Russia has used to not jump in. And neither Putin nor Trump, nor their domestic constituencies, seem to have the stomach for a fight right now. This is good.
But the world seemed peaceful on July 27, 1914 too. No one would have thought there was much stomach for a fight then either.
I hope this gets resolved peacefully quickly. I hope that there continues to be relative sanity on the issue from the great powers. But it presents one hell of an argument for bringing the troops home and getting the hell out of NATO. We should, in the words of John Quincy Adams, be the well wisher to the freedom and independence of all, and be the champion and vindicator only of our own.
And this would be one heck of a time to do it.