Naive views of world events and world history are mono-causal but the world is always “multifactorial.” The Left and the Right keep on pushing these “perfect myopia” analyses:
For example, in the movie masterpiece Reds from 1981, John Reed (played by Warren Beatty) keeps repeating that the cause of World War I is and will be J.P. Morgan’s loans and profits, a variant of “vulgar Marxism.”
We have already seen that one cannot understand World War I and the “winds of war” leading up to it without several layers of analysis including the globalization forces from 1870-1914 and the rise of an integrated Atlantic economy (Professor Jeffrey Williamson book); the rise of the Anglo-German antagonism (described in Paul Kennedy’s excellent book); the flow of loan capital and debts described in Herbert Feis’s classic, re-issued in 1965 and described here:
“This book, published for the Council on Foreign Relations, does not deal directly with the war or with its origins, but it has been included in this category because few books published in recent years have made more substantial contributions to the history of pre-war international relations in the broadest sense.
Feis’s book is the first adequate treatment of international loans in the years from 1870 to 1914, a subject the importance of which has long been recognized but the discussion of which has never got far beyond the stage of loose generalities. The scientific treatment of it involves a thorough command of the extensive literature of pre-war diplomacy as well as an intimate acquaintance with the sources of international finance.
So far as the reviewer can see, Feis has not missed anything of importance. He not only knows the material, but he knows how to use it; he understands the political motives and considerations which lay behind these financial transactions. A large part of the volume is taken up with a pioneer study of the character of British, French and German foreign investments and the general policies followed by the governments towards investments abroad. The remainder is devoted to a review of the major enterprises—the financing of Russia, the Balkan States, Egypt, Morocco, China and some of the less important countries. Other chapters deal with the vexed problems of Balkan and Asiatic railway. In many instances Feis’s treatment is the only adequate one in existence, but even in the larger sense the book is a reliable and thoroughly readable piece of research, one that no student of international relations can afford to overlook.”(William L. Langer’s review of Europe: the World’s Banker, 1870-1914 by Herbert Feis)
On top of all this, we have the problem of parochial and tribal and personal “sleepwalking,” captured so well by Professor Christopher Clark:
The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 is historian Christopher Clark’s riveting account of the explosive beginnings of World War I.
The drastic changes in attitudes, society, values and mentalities is then captured, for post-World War I England, by Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End:
Parade’s End (1924-1928) is a tetralogy of novels by the British novelist and poet Ford Madox Ford (1873–1939). The novels chronicle the life of a member of the English gentry before, during and after World War I.
Only this type of “multifactorial” panorama—what we call “circum-spective intelligence” or “meta-intelligence”—can give you the multiple searchlights you need.
Where the searchlight views intersect is where understanding begins.
Everything else is monomaniacal cartooning à la the “simp” analysis of John Reed in the brilliant movie Reds, from 1981.