What's really interesting is that World War I was started by a terrorist incident. The Archduke, scion to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was assasinated in Sarajevo; then it turned out that he was probably affiliated with Bosnian independence groups that were headquartered in Serbia, which was an independent country. Austria leaned on the Serbian government to investigate the group that was behind the assasination, they weren't that responsive, so Austria declared war on the Serbian state. Serbia was supported by Russia, and was involved in mutual defense treaties with Britain and France. Austria-Hungary had a similar arrangement with the German Empire. After the declaration of war these mutual defense treaties were activated and, what do you know, the immediate aims were scrapped in favor of plans for territorial expansion and jockeying for influence in Europe.
Honestly, I have no idea what that sounds like today.
The series of events that lead to the first world war, the memory of those events and of the war itself in Europe, may be the reason why Europe and Russia have so far taken a kind of passive stand on Iraq, and Afghanistan. Russia has been the more active of the two, been more willing to be confrontational, and may still be in the future, but for the moment Russia has joined the kind of mute response that Europe has taken the lead in. Could it be that they're not being weak willed, as some conservative commentators have asserted, but that instead, because of knowledge gained from experience, they don't want to act in a way that would trigger another world war?
I mean the American experience of the first world war was pretty tame compared to Europe's. People from America went over there and died but there was never trench warfare on American soil. No part of America was occupied or fought over. Instead, the war provoked a kind of abstract anti-Germanism, egged on by propaganda, that manifested itself in stupid ways like someone burning down the gazebo in Olympia because it looked vaguely like the Kaiser's helmet. That and it also provoked the biggest red scare to that date, owing to the Russian Revolution and the subsequent pullout of Russia from the Allied powers.
We haven't learned the collective lessons that would prevent us from recklessly starting a new world war, and Europe is possibly acting as a moderating influence. Maybe they also realize that nuclear weapons would likely be used in that scenario, and that even if not used the war would probably be far more bloody than the previous ones.