Once upon a time there was a war which started with an act of terrorism.
The main loser in that war was required by the winners to establish a democratic government. The losers tried but in the end, the democracy they didn't really want, didn't really work. Meanwhile, the economy got out of hand and there was a horrific crash heard round the world, starting with Wall Street.
Nothing was really settled by the first war and things were really unsettled by the economic crash and then there were disgruntled, evil men waiting in the wings to get "revenge" for the past...
Soooo... the War that Was to End All Wars ended up leading to another war, which was worse than the first.
And, no, this is not a story from Fractured Fairy Tales for Boys and Girls Who Watch too many Cartoons.
The first war was called WWI and it introduced horrific weapons of mass destruction, such as poison gas canisters and bombs from airplanes.
The act of terrorism which started WWI was the assassination of one man, a prince, who wasn't even very popular in his own country. But you just can't have little pip-squeak countries (Serbia in this case) going around terrorizing big, powerful empires (Austro-Hungary in this case). In other words, a mouse can't stomp on a lion's paw and get away with it.
Only he can if he has several allies who are more powerful than the lion that he stomped on. One pip-squeak country called Serbia can win if he has friends called Great Britain, France, Italy, Russia, and the US.
If the humiliated lion also has big friends, then the contest can get pretty bloody and be pretty drawn out. Some if not all of the major powers can be weakened during the fighting, but still, in the end, it is possible for a political gnat like Serbia to defeat a power house combination like Germany and Austro-Hungary. History proves this is possible. Perhaps even more to the point, it is possible for a "simple" conflict between a gnat and a lion, one simple act of terrorism, to lead to a world-wide conflagration that staggers the imagination.
It all boils down in part, not to who's your daddy? but to who's your ally? World wars come together through alliances, rivalries, treaties - both broken and unbroken - and a series of "small" wars eventually "threaded" together into one big nightmare.
It also boils down to the overall stability of the region where the initial (small) conflict originates. Europe in the late 1800's and early 1900's was in a state of change. Dynasties were tottering, rivalries were flaring up, several "small" wars were popping up, the machine age was gearing up, ethnic groups were longing for independence, the old ways were dying out - but the new ways had not yet been carved out.
Ring any bells?
If you aren't watching the Middle East right now, you should be. And a little prayer wouldn't be amiss right now either....