World War I continues to exert a powerful pull on the popular imagination, especially in Britain, France and Australia, which, although victorious, suffered much more heavily in the trenches than did the late-arriving Americans. (There is less appetite for remembrance in the states that lost — Germany, Austria, Russia, Turkey.) Its ravages formed a backdrop to the television series "Downton Abbey" and to the movie and play "War Horse," and they are being recounted anew in a profusion of books tied to the war's centenary next year.
It is right and proper that World War I continues to be remembered not only for the scale of its suffering — still second only to World War II — but also for the breadth of its impact. Without the war, there very likely would have been no Nazi Germany and no Soviet Union. For lack of Russian support, there very likely would have been no Communist China either. Hitler, Stalin and Mao might have remained nonentities, and World War II, the Holocaust, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cultural Revolution would never have occurred. More speculatively, even the Iraq war and today's Syrian civil war might never have occurred, because Iraq and Syria, like most of their Middle East neighbors, were bastard offspring of the War to End All Wars.