Former chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff reflects on WWI and the parallels to today

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Historians and military experts say they still can't point to a single explanation for why the world went to war more than 100 years ago. But, as the anniversary of the conclusion of WWI approaches, they see a worrying similarity in the political landscape.

Kansas State University President Richard Myers told a national audience: military might and diplomacy to match are the keys to holding the world together. During a panel discussion on the WWI centennial at D.C.'s national press club, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also noted peace is fragile.

"Are you just a spark away from something?" he asked rhetorically while discussing military tensions in the South Pacific Ocean.

Myers said weak diplomatic relationships failed the world as tensions built through the summer of 1914. "Diplomacy didn't really have time to get going and avoid that terrible conflict," he said in a one-on-one interview following the panel discussion, "and could it happen again? I suppose it could."

The Trump Administration deploys one of the smallest diplomatic corps in modern history.

Myers said he sees world-wide relationships growing cold, perhaps most notably between the U.S. and Russia.

But, he said he has faith in international organizations keeping dialogue open, and Americans off the battlefield.

Dr. Matthew Naylor runs the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, and also took part in the discussion. "I think that one of the real lessons that we learn is how quickly things can unravel," he said afterwards.

Naylor said public interest in the museum spiked this year for the 100th anniversary, but added the lessons must outlast the moment. He said, WWI deserves the monument under construction in D.C. too, located near those for America's other defining conflicts.

Naylor doesn't expect a decline in interest in the Kansas City commemoration when the D.C. monument opens. He sees the mission as intertwined, "collectively, we can do this work of commemorating those whose lives were lost and helping educate the public of the enduring impact of the war."

November 11th, 2018 will mark the 100 year anniversary of the agreement that ended the first World War. Construction crews aim to complete the D.C. monument in time for the occasion.

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