From “Raw Materials for War” by John Steele Gordon:
Still, many thought that globalization made war between the great powers impossible. In 1909, the British journalist Norman Angell wrote an internationally best-selling book, “The Great Illusion,” that argued that financial interdependence and the great growth in credit made war self-defeating, since it would result in financial ruin for both victor and vanquished.
Angell was dead wrong. (Oddly, it didn’t prevent him from winning the 1933 Nobel Peace Prize.) Extensive trade and financial relations did not stop Germany from declaring war on both Britain and Russia, its two largest trading partners, in 1914.
(Gordon is reviewing When Globalization Fails by James Macdonald.)
A couple of thoughts:
-“When globalization fails” might not be the best title. The real theme of the book appears to be complacency and overconfidence.
-The fact that China holds large amounts of US debt and is economically intertwined with the West may not be proof against war.
Anything is possible, and sometimes the odds aren’t what they appear to be.
5 thoughts on “Sound Familiar?”
The 1914 war was a bizarre event that did not fit most scenarios of logical thought. It was really a combination of Austria-Hungary flailing about against history and the national urges of peoples stimulated by modern development. That may be why Franz Joseph had the crown prince, Rudolph, killed at Mayerling with his 16 year old mistress. Rudolph had gotten interested in Hungarian nationalism.
The other factor was the instability of Kaiser Wilhelm, who was so unstable that his ministers concealed information from him. He was wildly jealous of his English cousins and resented England’s power, especially her navy. The story is pretty well told in Dreadnaught, Massie’s masterful description of the prelude to war.
Wilhem’s father, Freiderich, was far more stable and reasonable but he died soon after taking the throne. His treatment of cancer of the larynx was botched by English physicians when German medicine was far ahead of the English.
Wilhelm would have looked good hanging from a lamppost. Instead we got Hitler.
>>The 1914 war was a bizarre event that did not fit most scenarios of logical thought. It was really a combination of Austria-Hungary flailing about against history and the national urges of peoples stimulated by modern development.
My thoughts almost exactly. I would add that it unfolded almost by mistake because of the plethora of secret defense treaties committing nation B to war in the event that nation A went to war. A sort of chain reaction by treaty. Defense treaties need to be proclaimed publicly if they’re to serve their intended purpose.
World wars I and II were catastrophes for Western civilization. The older I get the more I see the effects of those wars rippling back and forth. I think islam is on the road to something similar.
Angell was correct in the war did result in the financial ruin of Germany, France, and Britain.
I guess money is not everything!
Sarajevo was not then outlier that Mike K writes–remember, Bismarck said that Europe would blow up over “some damn fool thing in the Balkans.”
The Serbians did what their history and ideology would lead you to expect, and the Austrians likewise, and the Germans, and the Russians and the French and the Brits. If it hadn’t been the Archduke on June 28, 1914, something else would probably have set it off.
The only real surprise was the socialist international fell apart and all the socialist parties backed the war programs of their respective countries, rather than maintaining socialist solidarity.
Nothing is inevitable, but what happened in the Summer of 1914 was not some sort of weirdness or collective insanity, it was a very logical consequence of the international situation at the time.
Angell got it wrong–he wasn’t crazy to think as he did, but in hindsight, naïve.
“remember, Bismarck said that Europe would blow up over “some damn fool thing in the Balkans.”
Wilhelm fired Bismack as part of his contribution. Bismarck and Frederich were not interested in war as they saw Germany’s future as an economic powerhouse.
Serbian nationalism was part of Austria’s flailing around trying to hold onto Croatia and Bosnia while Serbia had its own imperial fantasies.
Bismarck had said, “The Balkans aren’t worth the life of a single Pomeranian grenadier.”
The Bismarck quote you repeat was made in 1878, 46 years earlier.
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