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The Washington Post: How Willy and Nicky Could Have Prevented World War I

by Davidson College

Graham Allison
Graham Allison speaks at a reunion event.

It has been 100 years since two cousins-Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and Tsar Nicholas of Russia-began telegraphing each other in a last-inning attempt to prevent a World War that both of them would lose.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Graham Allison '62 takes a look back at their exchange and wonders about the opportunities missed, since only four days after the first telegram, Germany declared war on Russia, triggering what Henry Kissinger has called a "doomsday machine": a network of interlocking alliances and interactive military mobilization timetables that allowed the march of events to overcome the Kaiser's and the Tsar's best efforts.

The telegrams are vivid reminders of the perils of crisis management-and the wisdom of preventive diplomacy to resolve challenges like today's territorial disputes before they become crises that suck great powers into confrontations.

Read the article.