According to one report ... a member of the Polish Sejm once rose to stop the flow of an afternoon's particularly euphoric rhetoric. "Gentlemen," he said, "if everything is so good why is everything so bad?" If so much was right with pre-1914 Europe, how could a second-rate Balkan plot set off a first-rate catastrophe? Were there not, in truth, organic weaknesses that plagued Europe and lowered the continent's powers of resistance to a perilous degree?
What were the troubles, deeper than the immediate crisis, that affected Europe before 1914? We might do well to have at least a look at the principal diagnoses made by various writers: at the state system, at the sysem of alliances, at major sources of conflict both overseas and closer to the center, at the role of public opinion and the press, and finally, at the acceptance of war as a means of policy.