I read a lot ...
History and historical novels ... set in and around the "great" wars that rocked Europe and drew into their maelstrom the whole of the world, with untold cost of life and enterprise, wasting entire generations, leaving untold numbers of men and women mauled in body and mind, families devastated by loss - widows and widowers and orphans, many on the cusp of poverty.
Time and again, bluff and bluster rear their ugly heads in such times, as heads of state try to push one another around ... along with the appropriate saber-rattling and arms buildups.
Did they expect war?
If asked, all would have replied, "Oh no, we just need to protect our national interests and keep the other guy in check. It's the balance of power. This is how we do business."
But they all miscalculated the amount of nervous energy flying around like a prairie electrical storm - the sky crackling and roaring with fire.
Until those fateful moments, when a rifle rang out, and the shooting started, and before anyone knew what had happened, it was full-on war.
All the armaments sitting in warehouses were close at hand ... already troops had been called up, put in place.
Not at all - but only for bluff and bluster, to keep the other guy in check.
But all that nervous energy reached the critical point, when the storm finally broke, and the deluge engulfed the world, and did so twice within 30 years.
When I read of Trump and all of his bluff and bluster, when I hear him call for increased military spending, and I hear Putin and others join in the chorus of tough talk and saber-rattling, with armies and munitions on the move, I see the storm clouds gathering, I hear the crack of thunder and see how the night sky begins to dance with monstrous bolts of light stabbing across the massive churning clouds of energy.
The nervous energy of nations ... if not dampened can only escalate ... until there's no holding back any more, and a crazy fatalism takes hold, as the nations hold their noses and plunge into the tar pit of war.
It's been a long time since the world has seen a major war, though there have been plenty of skirmishes all along the way ... limited war as in Iraq ... shock and awe, as some have said, but it was contained and controlled ... the fire never leaped out of the fireplace.
But at what point do all of these flashpoints meld together to form a massive conflagration, that no fireplace can any longer contain?
When the nations of the world, hold their noses, and follow the leader, jumping in with screams and shouts, rushing to war, opening the warehouses of arms, and ramping up the fury, until someone hits the one button, turns the one key, and hell's fury is unleashed, a fury held in check since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a fury fed by the nations, nourished by bluff and bluster, tamed in diplomatic cages, pacing, enticing in its strange beauty and power, until that fateful day when the cage is unlocked, and the creatures of death are let loose upon the earth?