The Lessons from the Armistice
Beatrice E. Rangel
Europe, Russia and the US gathered to remember the Armistice that brought to an end the most deadly and useless war in the history of mankind. After four years of carnage , devastation and sorrow the world came back to senses and initiated the difficult road of reconstruction and peace with little success as by 1940 yet another more devastating war exploded. Both tragedies were the product of the institutional erosion produced by the advent and consolidation of industrial production.
The economy began its unstoppable road towards globalization while political institutions were anchored in nation states. Accordingly, the Westphalian order needed an institutional network that would create rules for nations to aggregate interests and resolve conflicts. The strength of commercial exchanges created the illusion that nationalism had been defeated and that there were more interests bringing countries together than driving them to conflict. They thus miscalculated the risks and underestimated the conflict feeding variables that sprang in the aftermath of the assassination of Frans Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo.
Indeed, Austria-Hungary was sure that no country would stand by Serbia, not even Russia. To the minds of its establishment France, Britain and Italy would be neutral to the conflict. Germany on its part had created an Armageddon scenario that its top leadership seemed to be sure to easily avoid. This would be the two front war scenarios. Entering the conflict, I support of Austria would require the mobilization towards France which, the German leadership assumed that could be accomplished with the British neutrality. enter the conflict to support Austria.
Russians calculations were more complex. Most countries thought that Russia would refrain from intervening in favor of Serbia that was proving to be anti-monarchic, regicide and pro republican. As we all too well know all these assumptions were deadly wrong and the incident unleashed a fire that destroyed economic advances made by all participating nations . Worse, a war took place for an incident that did not directly affect the interest of participating nations except for Austria.
The WWI folly as Ms Tuchman would characterize the event should serve as canvas for current world leadership to reevaluate the assumptions underlying public policies today. On such assumption is that there will not be any more wars in Europe. But turning our view to European getaways such as Syria, Turkey and Egypt one wonders whether these so-called low intensity conflicts can be kept low intensity should there be a triggering factor that consolidates them into a single pan Eurasian conflict. Then there is the staunch belief that the US possesses the most powerful weapons and that no nation would attack the United State without being annihilated.
But what about organized crime and cyber pirates? Can they not inflict serious damages to the US economy and to its people without being detected prior to executing their plans? Finally, its is the most spread belief that the Bretton Wooed order has worked effectively and efficiently to abort worldwide economic crises. This has proved to be accurate up an until 2008. But with the emergence of cryptocurrencies. blockchain and a trade war between the US and China how effective can this post war order be in avoiding a mayor economic disaster. These frightening thoughts lead us to believe that the sooner the world leadership embarks upon a thorough revaluation of the assumption upon which the international order is based, the best equipped the world will be to deal with crises whether political or economic.
In the Americas, the southern border is going through a process of defining democracy. In Brazil, Argentina and Chile the notion of rule of law is superseding that of the benevolent state that limits freedom. But there is no concerted action to encourage this trend. In the United States it is clear that should the country not take inequality seriously it could face a maelstrom of civic rebellion. Is the US failing to see the southern region of the hemisphere as and economic stimulant? Poverty eradication demands a thorough review of legislation and practices in Latin America to unleash the wealth creating energies of property rights.
The first step in this direction would be to eradicate the principle of state possession of natural resources. In the whole region the time has come to face organized crime head on through coordinated multinational action that addresses the safe heavens provided by sovereignty. In short, the lesson to be drawn from the Armistice celebrations is that we need to prioritize the revaluation of our public policy assumptions lest we want to be in the sad position of picking the ashes of an international order that is signaling exhaustion. .
Published by LAHT.com on Monday, November 19th, 2018
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