Thursday, July 31, 2014

Are we nearing WWIII?

Says The Atlantic:

Instability in Ukraine, chaos in Syria, conflict in the East China Sea—the trigger points for World War III are in place.


Pessimism is a useful prism through which to view the affairs of states. Their ambition to gain, retain, and project power is never sated. Optimism, toward which Americans are generally inclined, leads to rash predictions of history’s ending in global consensus and the banishment of war. Such rosy views accompanied the end of the Cold War. They were also much in evidence a century ago, on the eve of World War I.
Then, as now, Europe had lived through a long period of relative peace, after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Then, too, rapid progress in science, technology, and communications had given humanity a sense of shared interests that precluded war, despite the ominous naval competition between Britain and Germany. Then, too, wealthy individuals devoted their fortunes to conciliation and greater human understanding. Rival powers fumed over provocative annexations, like Austria-Hungary’s of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908, but world leaders scarcely believed a global conflagration was possible, let alone that one would begin just six years later. The very monarchs who would consign tens of millions to a murderous morass from 1914 to 1918 and bury four empires believed they were clever enough to finesse the worst.
The unimaginable can occur. That is a notion at once banal and perennially useful to recall. Indeed, it has just happened in Crimea, where a major power has forcefully changed a European border for the first time since 1945.


I could write an identical article about the trigger points of the late ‘90s.
The late '90s saw the onset of a technological revolution – the Internet – which launched a wave of prosperity and a far greater ability for nations and cultures to integrate. Velvet Revolutions were fresh in the memory. The Evil Empire had fallen. Happy days abounded.
Then in ’98, Russia, whose relatively new openness to the world was on very shaky legs, defaulted on its debt and slid into crisis. The default had a contagion effect that stung Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine (where they experienced the kind of hyperinflation that causes revolutions).
Other countries in that neighborhood – Romania, Hungary - were also still on very shaky legs after emerging from the fog of totalitarianism. Oh, and there was that whole Yugoslav chaos in the background. NATO eventually intervened in Kosovo, less than a year after Russia's default, the same NATO H.W. Bush promised wouldn’t expand towards Russia (oops)!
So many former enemies quaking with turmoil, so many people whose point of reference was authoritarianism suddenly feeling tumult and desperation during their transition to relative freedom. Perfect petri dish for a widespread rise of STRONG MEN. Perfect breeding ground for authoritarianism, revolution, and warfare that ripples and ripples. OH MY GOD THE END WAS NIGH!
Things were bleak, but WWIII didn’t happen. Of course it CAN happen; it can ALWAYS happen, but  pieces like these (which have been everywhere this year) are closer to cold reading than they are to political analysis. People didn't talk like this in '98 because it wasn't the centennial anniversary of the War to End All Wars.

Right now I’m not as worried about the rise of nationalism as I am about the rise of commentaries (and documentaries) that cause the impressionable to spot WWI and WWII analogies around every corner.

1 comment:

StokeyBob said...

It seems a little different this time.

It seems that all of the world’s governments are controlled by a global network of central banks. Well except about four.

It also seems that all of the world’s governments share a common enemy; us.

It could be the next war will be a war tricking us pawns into battle with each other.

Or is it different this time?