Overshadowed by its horrific sequel, the Great War was the conflict which shaped the 20th century. A before and after the Great War weight loss type contrast would show a world that looks remarkably different. The post-war map of Europe looks a lot like our current map for Europe. The conflict shaped each nation, created new wounds, and destroyed entire empires. It is truly a shame that the war did not have the quick resolution that many military theorists expected pre-1914. The millions who died between few square miles in between trenches, and the few tyrants that stood after the war, would not be.
The conflict truly comes down to the Austrians being honest with the Germans and not forcing Serbia to answer to them for the Ferdinand assassination in a 48 hour period. Had the Germans known the Austrians were that aggressive, they would have slowed them down and prevented such a quick escalation of action. It really is sad to see how small the actions were that destroyed a world. You read about these fools and want to Marty McFly it back to 1914 to stop the madness.
Regardless of stopping the Austrians, if hostilities had opened up, it's a shame the German's Schlieffen Plan did not work. With Paris taken, as the government planned for a withdrawal, the British would have pushed for the French to seek peaceful terms for an end to hostilities. This would have meant the British would not have to commit major land forces to the young conflict, reading the play by play of the British government, they were really torn on entering the conflict and tried as hard as they could to only commit naval forces to the war. With Paris taken & the French looking for peace, and the lights of Paris were within sight for the Germans, the battle of Tannenberg in the Eastern theater and subsequent successes would have left Russia alone versus the Central Powers. The Germans beat the tar out of the Russians wherever they met on the battlefield. The German Kaiser and Russian Tsar were 'family'. I'm serious, look it up. With heads of state connected and one side beating the snot out of the other, a peace negotiation would have started. This could have been in the space of August-October in Europe, sparing millions in that conflict and many in the future.
What If Dominoes...
1. The British Empire does not bankrupt itself through this conflict. World War 2 was the final bankrupting of the nation, but the Great War set the ball in motion. They do not suffer th emassive male deficit. The war costs and hidden costs, widow and orphan pensions, do not create a huge drain from their treasury.
2. France's 3rd republic falls and is reorganized and reformed. This outcome would probably drag the French into the modern era, which would happen after WW2.
3. The Russians probably topple the Tsar, but do the Bolsheviks take over? Probably not. Many people are ignorant to the fact that the Germans, seeing the Russians revolting, transported Lenin in a sealed train car through Germany and into Russia. Remove one tyrant from the Earth: Stalin. The kulaks are not liquidated, forced famines do not occur, religion does not go into hibernation in Russia, the Soviets do not exist to enforce a red terror on the population, and the world is a better place without the international idea imperialism of the Soviets.
4. The Italians never enter the war. They never suffer defeats and failure. Does Mussolini take control with his fascist buddies who were war veterans? Remove a 2nd tyrant.
5. America never enters the war. The Spanish flu, which had its originas in America, despite the name, possibly spreads slower or sticks tot he Americas. Millions are spared. Because the war is short, American industry does not go through a huge boom, which at the war's end, would create a huge bust in the late '10s/early 20s.
6. Germany is dominant on the continent. They do not start their turn on the Jews, which culminated in the horrible Holocaust. Hitler does not rise, as Germany already has their strong man leader, the Kaiser. The Treaty of Versailles never takes effect, creating a horrible drag on the German economy. This prevents the hyperinflation of the early 1920s in Germany, their depression, and the problem of sovereign default. (Odd that we face that now in the developed world but because of old people benefits not war) The Kaiser was all about show and while an autocrat, he was no Hitler/Stalin figure, so remove another euro tyrant (that's 3).
7. France had an anti-semitism problem as well, and had the Germans been as wretched on the French as they were after WW1, doubtful if the war ended quickly, the ingredients for a weird Hitler figure rise in France were there. Who is to say the behavior of Germany between ww1 and ww2 would not have been repeated in France?
8. Millions of young men would have lived full lives. The contributions of millions more men towards society are countless.
9. The Great War is a point where a giant split happens in European attitudes between the pageantry of war and the horror of war. The Civil War in America taught America many horrific lessons, lessons which Europe failed to learn. In the Great War, there were still idiotic generals & leaders who thought cavalry stood a chance vs. a machine gun. The cartoon caricature of a leader who sends his troops to die for useless goals from every modern conflict was truly on display in full effect in the Great War. Idiots who spewed lines about justice, beauty and gallantry in a war filled with machine guns, shelling, trench warfare, mechanized warfare, and chemical warfare. It's better that Europe learned this lesson in the Great War rather than 20 years later with a world even more mechanized, advanced and dangerous.
10. The entire world is spared the sequel, WW2, which was more about settling old grievances and one madman than anything else.