With apologies for my title to the late Ian Dury. In the post below I indicated that in the very near future decisions of momentous importance will need to be taken by diplomats, generals and national leaders over apparently worthless lumps of uninhabited rocks in the China Sea. It's all very reminiscent of events a hundred years ago which we are 'celebrating' this year.
Back then, for a variety of (to them) very compelling reasons (one of which was fear!), Germany had made up its mind to undertake a war of aggression, that is, a war in which they would strike the first blow. In this they were simply following the diktat of their superb General Staff who understood, as any Glaswegian drunk would agree, the value of 'getting your retaliation in first'! The French, in their passion to take back Alsace-Lorraine, were equally aggressive in intent but mindful of British 'niceties' they held back from delivering the first blow.
The British, as so often, were in two, in fact, several, minds. Of course, they were against Germany upsetting the balance of power and so to that extent they were sympathetic to France. However, they were not in it, so to speak, to help France regain what it had lost in a previous war. A large segment of the British population were almost Palmerstonian in their desire to have no entanglements at all in Europe. At the other end of the spectrum there were those who viewed it as an exercise in grand strategy in which France must be defended and maintained as an independent state as a counter-weight to Germany.
The Germans, besotted by their perceived military excellence which had ripped through both Austria and then France in the previous fifty-odd years, threw both caution and commonsense to the winds and decided to attack France, not directly but through Belgium - and that, dear reader, is why Britain went to war! Not to defend democracy, or the balance of power, or La France, but to defend Belgian neutrality. We had, after all, been a signatory to the treaty which invented an independent Belgium, not least because the Belgian coastline and ports were of supreme naval importance to Britain! So you could say, in a manner of speaking, that we went to war for Ostend!
If memory serves (which it frequently doesn't!), it is generally held that a decision to go to war to defend France alone, despite all of Lord Grey's crafty efforts, would not have passed a Commons vote. However, the minute German divisions poured into "plucky little Belgium", a nation most Englishmen of the period (and today, probably) would have difficulty finding on a map, then with the exception of a few isolationist Liberals, the Commons passed it without difficulty.
I mention all this because, as we are beginning to discern 'out East', there's nothing really new in this old world of ours, what goes around, comes around but dressed in different costumes! So, altogether now: 'Here we go again, happy as can be, all good pals and jolly good company"!