Just another GR refugee. Other than that, I had a stroke in 2004, and read almost anything I can get my hands on, though I have a particular weakness for history, mystery, and historical fiction.
This is a very ambitious book, attempting to prove that a general European war could have been avoided entirely if the powers had avoided war in the "dangerous window of opportunity" of 1914-1917.
He then goes on to envision a "better world," in which Germany becomes a true constitutional monarchy in the 1920s, everyone demilitarizes, colonial empires continue to prosper, and globalism comes early. India (including what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh) becomes the largest dominion of the British Empire. There are nuclear power plants, but no nuclear weapons. Downside: less civil rights progress for blacks, ethnic minorities, and women. His "worst world" features a Germany that becomes authoritarian in the 1920s, has a long cold war with Britain, both powers develop nuclear weapons (as do France, the United States, and Japan), and Germany and Britain have a small-scale nuclear war in 1972.
I'll certainly buy that World War I would have been averted if Franz Ferdinand had not been assassinated June 29, 1914, but Lebow does not convince me that Franz Ferdinand would have had enough influence, particularly before becoming emperor, to keep Austria from provoking another "limited" war in the Balkans in the 1910s. There were also plenty of other factors at work tending to destabilize great power politics in the period, that Austria really couldn't much affect, with Kaiser Wihelm II of Germany being one of the most prolific ones. (He had an uncanny ability to either start a crisis, or to make it much worse than it already was.) European power politics was staggering from crisis to crisis during this period; one of these crises was likely to be fatal to peace, even if not the specific one that killed it in our world. Also, pacifism is not as popular in the early teens as Lebow seems to think it was, and the general reaction by the populations of the great powers to war that August was delight that there would be war.
I also have deep doubts about the other linchpin of his "better world," in which Germany becomes a true constitutional monarchy in the 1920s (he tries very hard to come up with a justification, but doesn't really succeed, I think); though I can easily believe Germany becoming more authoritarian, under a military-led coup, in the period.
I was at times much amused (particularly by the saga of Richard Milhous Nixon, successful televangelist), but sometimes very confused, by his imaginary lives of the 2 other worlds. In the better world, for example, he says it's unimaginable, due to the biases of the American public, that they would have elected the Catholic John F. Kennedy President in 1960.
And then he talks about the victor in that world's election of 1960, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr.! If JFK is unelectable as a Catholic, wouldn't that also hold for his older brother?
There were some errata of fact regarding our historical world. The ones that stood out to me were that Jimmy Carter was President of the United States in 1980, and not Ronald Reagan (he either has the wrong president for his incident, or the wrong year), and that the Little Rock integration crisis occurred in 1957 (not 1958), and was over the integration of Little Rock Central High School, not the integration of either the University of Arkansas, or of Arkansas State (it is unclear which he means to suggest from the text).
This was an uncorrected proof copy, so I will assume that the typos have been corrected by a copy editor. My copy was won through Library Thing's Early Reviewers program, and courtesy of Palgrave Macmillan.