There has been considerable media hoopla about the centennial of the outbreak of World War I. The subsequent slaughter of 16 million people was prompted by the assassination of an Austrian archduke and duchess, which activated the system of interlocking alliances intrinsic to the balance of power that was the ostensible guarantee against war.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attracted a storm of unfair criticism when he suggested that World War I demonstrates there is no room for complacency about rising tensions between Japan and China over rocky islets in the East China Sea. Extensive economic relations suggest that both nations have too much at stake to risk war, but similar arguments were made about Great Britain and Germany a century ago while Europeans were sleepwalking toward the abyss. But Davos was only a few weeks after Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine, perhaps explaining why his sensible remarks were misconstrued as warmongering.