On April 6, 1917, the United States officially entered the fray that was WWI. Then-President Woodrow Wilson went through the proper Congressional channels to obtain and official declaration of war against Germany, and the rest was history.
During the morning hours of April 6, 2017, the United States commemorated the 100th anniversary of the nation’s involvement in WWI with a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. As the Department of Defense reports, the WWI ceremony featured a keynote speech by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, who spoke about the importance of the first World War, as well as the impact and aftermath of the war that would go on to shape humanity in perpetuity.
During his WWI speech, Milley asked an important question.
“It’s appropriate on the 100th anniversary of the United States’ commitment into World War I for us to reflect. Are we better at decision making today? Are there similarities in the structure or rising powers? Are there similarities and interconnectedness where nobody can fathom or imagine or believe conflicts of this size and scope and levels of violence could ever happen? Are we that much smarter than those who came before us 100 years ago today?”
The General asked those in attendance if people today are smarter than those of 100 years ago.
He followed up his question with the advice that the 100th anniversary of WWI be a time to reflect and also the advice that humanity refuse to let history repeat itself.
“We need to take time and reflect. We owe it to those 5 million Americans who wore the uniform of our nation. We owe it to the 99 [Army] divisions that were mobilized in World War I. We owe it to the almost 117,000 soldiers killed in action in the fields of Europe. We owe it to every one of them. Even though none of them are alive today, we owe it to all of them to clearly and unambiguously understand what World War I was about, how it started and vow upon their graves that we never let it happen again.”
Just hours after Milley’s impassioned speech, the world got terrifying and horrific news. The United States had officially entered into the civil war unfolding in Syria. POTUS Donald Trump had ordered a cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base just two days after a monstrous sarin gas attack on civilians, an attack that killed an estimated 100 people (many of them children) and injured roughly 400 more. As CNN reports, Trump claimed that the U.S.’s strike on the Syrian airbase was a direct response to the sarin gas attack, an attack that the Trump administration alleges was carried out by embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
It was the first direct military action taken by the U.S. in the Syrian civil war that has been ongoing for six years and the first such action taken by new POTUS Trump. The strike is said to have taken six lives, and many are concerned that it will be perceived by the Syrian government as an “act of war.”
“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air field in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
Precisely 100 years after the United States entered into WWI, Donald Trump ordered an unprecedented airstrike against the sitting president of Syria, and the disturbing convergence of dates hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, almost immediately after the world got word that Syria had been struck with nearly 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles, citizens, journalists, and politicians the world over began to speculate that the U.S. many have just entered WWIII.
As USA Today reports, more than a few took to social media to share their concerns.
Future historians will pinpoint @POTUS's action of April 6, 2017 as the seed that sowed World War III.— Duane Marsteller (@DuaneMarsteller) April 7, 2017
Is World War III imminent? The US bombed Syria in retaliation to Assad's attack on his own people, which drew ire from Russia and Iran.— Wolfram N. Hart (@kiretoce) April 7, 2017
we've just witnessed the start of world war III!— Carlos Briceño (@carlosbri15) April 7, 2017
At least one social media user even threw Trump’s own past words about political ineptitude and WWIII back in his face.
At this point, it is far too early to know whether April 6, 2017, will one day be recognized as both the 100th anniversary of the U.S.’s foray in to WWI and the “shot heard ’round the world” that marked the beginning of WWIII. However, Trump’s decision to sling cruise missiles into Syria has already had some terrifying repercussions among Syria’s stronger, more powerful allies.
Allies such as Russia, a country with which Donald Trump has been widely accused of having inappropriate and perhaps even criminal ties. As Reuters reports, Russia spoke out harshly against the U.S. military action in Syria on Friday, saying that April 6’s missile strikes could result in “extremely serious” consequences for the United States, the region, and even the entire world.
“We strongly condemn the illegitimate actions by the U.S. The consequences of this for regional and international stability could be extremely serious.”
As the New York Times reports, Russia also “suspended its cooperation with the United States” in response to the missile attack on Syria, adding that contrary to Donald Trump’s beliefs, the Syrian leadership wasn’t responsible for Tuesday’s sarin gas attack. According to Russia and Syrian President Assad, the gas attack was perpetrated by rebel forces within the war-torn nation.
“The Syrian Army has no chemical weapons at its disposal.”
As Fox News reports, the Trump missile strike on Syria also prompted Syrian ally Iran to issue a threat. Much like the period leading up to WWI, the current geopolitical environment is seeing the ties between nations dissolve, which has many wondering if Trump’s actions crossed the line into WWIII.
“Russia and Iran won’t be quiet against such acts which violate interests of the region.”
Foreign Minister of Islamic Republic of Iran Javad Zarif even took to Twitter to call the U.S.’s attack on Syria “bogus” and a “cover-up” of something altogether different.
As the only recent victim of mass use of chemical weapons (by Saddam in the 80's), Iran condemns use of all WMD by anyone against anyone.1/3— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) April 7, 2017
US aids Saddam's use of CW against Iran in 80's; then resorts to military force over bogus CW allegations: 1st in 2003 and now in Syria. 2/3— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) April 7, 2017
Not even two decades after 9/11, US military fighting on same side as al-Qaida & ISIS in Yemen & Syria. Time to stop hype and cover-ups. 3/3— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) April 7, 2017
WWI was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1914. Following the assassination, it took a month before war was officially declared, beginning between the Hungarian Empire and Serbia and eventually expanding to encompass the globe.
In 1939, WWII would be sparked by the German invasion of Poland under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. Within days, France and Britain declared war on Germany and the rest, as they say, was history.
In most instances, observers of profound historical events don’t realize the magnitude of what is happening until they look back. Talk of WWIII is sweeping the globe as people struggle to come to terms with the U.S.’s April 6 “retaliatory” missile attack on the Syrian air force, ordered by Donald Trump. Russia and Iran have already publicly condemned the action. As CNN reports, other nations including China and North Korea have also called out the U.S.’ potentially WWIII-inducing Syria strikes.
On the other hand, countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel (as well as a handful of others) have come out in support of the United States’ show of military force.
It appears that the hypothetical “line in the sand” between nations has already been drawn if we are, indeed, venturing into the territory of WWIII. What’s more, as theT Independent reports, on Sunday, both Iran and Russia warned Trump and the United States that they will respond with force if “the red line in Syria” is crossed again.
I.e., the military powerhouses with no history of loyalty to the United States are already threatening to go toe to toe if need be.
What do you think? Was it mere coincidence that Trump entered the Syria conflict with military force on the 100th anniversary of WWI, or could it truly have been the first military action of WWIII?
[Featured Image by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via AP Images]