Europe's Nationalism and Trump's Trade Policies Look Like WWI Prelude

Mish

In conversations with friends, one thought the current political scene was like the prelude to WWII. Another said WWI.

Tuesday evening I struck up a conversation with "Max", a friend that I frequently see at a Tuesday karaoke bar.

Max is not a reader of my website, so it stuck me when he stated events today remind him of the prelude to WWII. Max is aware of Trump's trade policies and disputes with Canada and Mexico, but he was not aware of immigration problems in Italy.

Wednesday afternoon, I mentioned that conversation in a podcast with Peak Prosperity's Chris Martenson. Chris said Max's comment was quite appropriate but the setup was more like WWI.

Chris is correct. The parallels to WWI are quite amazing.

Seven Causes for WWI

After the podcast with Chris, a bit of digging led me to 7 Causes of the First World War.

It was point number 7 that caught my attention.

7. People Being People

Canadian historian Margaret Macmillan has published a major book, The War That Ended Peace (2013), which presents a synthesis of many different factors: alliances and power politics; reckless diplomacy; ethnic nationalism; and, most of all, the personal character and relationships of the almost uncountable number of historical figures who had a hand in the coming of war.

War That Ended Peace

The above snip led me to the PDF synopsis on The War That Ended Peace.

So you would have thought that increased trade between Britain and Germany would have fostered that sense of having something in common. In fact, it didn’t. What common trade did sometimes was to create fears in both countries that the other was jealous, or that the other was cutting into natural markets.

Nationalism increasingly became a way in which people identified themselves. It was helped by the spread of communications – it was much easier to feel you were part of something called the British nation or the French nation if in your morning newspaper you could read news from all over that nation.

The growth of public opinion was of course fuelled by the spread of communications and literacy, and by the growth of the mass media that made available cheap books and newspapers.

When Italy invaded Libya in 1911, Italians socialists rejected criticism of their government’s “civilising mission”.

We should be warned that with all the best will in the world, clever people, people in positions of power, can make really stupid mistakes. We shouldn’t think we are cleverer than people then, and we shouldn’t think that we can avoid catastrophes. One hundred years later, we should be reminded that people in 1914 thought they’d have a nice short war and could settle things – and didn’t.

​Ethnic Nationalism

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  1. Pack Your Bags: Italy Threatens to Deport 500,000 Immigrants
  2. ​Germany Points Finger at "Moochers of Rome"

Power Politics

  1. Constitutional Crisis in Italy as President Rejects Eurosceptic Minister
  2. Spain's Corrupt Government Falls in Vote of No Confidence
  3. Trump Considers 25% Tariffs on All Auto Imports as Matter of "National Security"
  4. NAFTA is Dead: Trump Seeks Separate Agreements With Mexico and Canada
  5. ​National Security or Insecurity? Trump Tariffs Will Cost 195K to 624K Jobs

Feuds with Allies

Trump Started a Global Trade War Today: Canada, Mexico Responded, So Will Europe

Germany Accuses Italy of "Debt Blackmail": Hello EU, Time for Reform Expired

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History Lesson

Please consider Trump invokes War of 1812 in testy call with Trudeau over tariffs

>President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a testy phone call on May 25 over new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration targeting steel and aluminum imports coming from Canada, including one moment during the conversation in which Trump made an erroneous historical reference, sources familiar with the discussion told CNN.

According to the sources, Trudeau pressed Trump on how he could justify the tariffs as a "national security" issue. In response, Trump quipped to Trudeau, "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?" referring to the War of 1812.

The problem with Trump's comments to Trudeau is that British troops burned down the White House during the War of 1812. Historians note the British attack on Washington was in retaliation for the American attack on York, Ontario, in territory that eventually became Canada, which was then a British colony.

War Preparations

In the prelude to WWI every European nation thought war could be prevented if every nation was prepared for it. They were all prepared.

On March 8, in a direct reference to Germany, US President Donald Trump says NATO members that do not meet defense-spending targets will be "dealt with."

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his desire for a European Army in a State of the Union address.

Conflicting Allies

I have watched with dismay the circular nature of Mideast allies.

The US has friendly relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the Iraqi Kurds, most of which are fighting with each other or are in tense relationships at best.

To top it off, Russia has a friendly relationship with Turkey but the EU relationship with Turkey is fading fast.

Note that Turkey is a NATO ally and US missiles are based in Turkey. Meanwhile the EU and Turkey are in a huge feud over immigration and judicial rights.

How is this supposed to work?

Communication

It's ironic that Margaret Macmillan noted the role of increased communication as a factor in WWI.

Look at all the allegations regarding Russia, Facebook, False News, Google, CNN etc., currently circulating.

Personal Character Hardball

On May 17 2018, I reported Trump Hardball: Europe Pressured to Cancel Russia Pipeline to Avoid Trade War

Flashback July 23, 1914: Austria-Hungary Issues Ultimatum to Serbia.

At six o’clock in the evening on July 23, 1914, nearly one month after the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a young Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Baron Giesl von Gieslingen, ambassador of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Serbia, delivers an ultimatum to the Serbian foreign ministry.

According to the terms of the ultimatum delivered on July 23, the Serbian government would have to accept an Austro-Hungarian inquiry into the assassination, notwithstanding its claim that it was already conducting its own internal investigation. Serbia was also to suppress all anti-Austrian propaganda and to take steps to root out and eliminate terrorist organizations within its borders—one such organization, the Black Hand, was believed to have aided and abetted the archduke’s killer, Gavrilo Princip, and his cohorts, providing weapons and safe passage from Belgrade to Sarajevo.

Three days later, on July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, beginning the First World War.

The allies were set. Russia intervened on behalf of Serbia, Germany on behalf of Austria-Hungary, France was an ally of Russia, etc.

You get the picture.

The US, which had no business in the fight at all, actually prolonged the war by entering it. It is unclear if the US and UK even entered on the right side.

Actually, there was no right side, it was none of our business. By medling, we created the ideal backdrop for WWII.

IF Only

David Stockman laments If only the U.S. had stayed out of WWI.

Had President Woodrow Wilson not misled the U.S. on a messianic crusade, Europe’s Great War would have ended in mutual exhaustion in 1917.

Both sides would have gone home battered and bankrupt — but would not have presented any danger to the rest of mankind.

Indeed, absent Wilson’s crusade, there would have been no allied victory, no punitive peace — and no war reparations. Nor would there have been a Leninist coup in Petrograd — or later on, the emergence of Stalin’s barbaric regime.

Likewise, there would have been no Hitler, no Nazi dystopia, no Munich, no Sudetenland and Danzig corridor crises, no need for a British war to save Poland, no final solution and Holocaust, no global war against Germany and Japan — and, finally, no incineration of 200,000 civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Nothing Good Comes From War

We do not know what would have happened. But nothing good ever happens from ridiculous wars.

How many times do we have to prove this?

One might have thought that WWI, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and Syria would be proof enough.

But no!

Trump is itching for a war with Iran and a trade war with the whole world.

Déjà Vu

Trade wars and nationalism are a prelude to real wars. Historically speaking, this is 1913 déjà vu.

That is only an observation, not a prediction. But as with 1914, we better take a different path than the one we are on.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (32)
No. 1-32
caradoc-again
caradoc-again

Mish, the EU is nationalist. Totally correct. Conflict is likely to be EU vs other regions and less so internal if the integration plan works as expected. At the very heart it is supposed to be fortress Europe vs all else, Trump has upset them as he got there before them on behalf of the US and not played along with the creation of what was to be the nemesis of the US.

caradoc-again
caradoc-again

Another thing, this nationalism hinders sorting out problems like Deutsche Bank. There is a hard core of PRO-EU types that are as fanatical as any fascist ever was in Europe.

JLS
JLS

Certainly not WWII. Germany began rearming immediately after they lost the Great War. The big gorilla on the table for WWI was German mercantilism, which is exactly where they are now.

FelixMish
FelixMish

Pick your war, I or II. The striking thing about the generation of policy makers from '15 to '45 was how they were stuck in their world of the past while the industrial revolution left them behind, confused and inept.

That is what seems to be happening now.

Confused and inept applies to us all. Consider a couple of notable features of the world now:

  1. The "Third World" is going away.

  2. Economic distinctions by geography are local, no longer well bounded by nation state boundaries.

Are these already done deals in your world? No? Well, say hello for us to the past, dead and gone. Good riddance.

El_Ted0
El_Ted0

Warren Buffett: “The economy feels strong. “ permabears- question your assumptions.

2banana
2banana

WWI caused WWII because of the insane peace treaty the victors crammed down the throats of Germany. To destroy Germany as a nation. Trade policies NOT involved.

For a comparison - Germany totally defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War. Occupied Paris and then pretty much left France alone except for retaking a fee disputed provinces.

JLS
JLS

But, although Woodrow Wilson's priggishness towards ALL the other participants of WWI (allies and axis) was grossly unfortunate, Germany had decided to prepare for another war before the Versailles Treaty was completed. That makes the usual "We were so hard on the poor Germans and that's why WWII" illogical: it has events in the wrong order.

JLS
JLS

Also Prussia (von Bismark) ensnared France (Napoleon III) into "starting" the Franco-Prussian war. The whole point was to prove to the other German states that Prussia could destroy anybody they wanted, as they had done Austro-Hungary etc. The rubbed the result in my seizing French territories AND demanding excessive "compensation" - which the French paid. Compare that to Germany never having paid the reparations demanded in the Versailles Treaty OR for WWII.

Escierto
Escierto

His cult members will cheer as he marches them into war. No matter what madness he displays, he is their leader bringing them glory. With Fox News as his Leni Riefenstahl, they chronicle the rallies of his euphoric followers. WW3 here we come! Yippee!

Axiom7
Axiom7

Nononono.

abend237-04
abend237-04

Profoundly careless, blustering, swaggering megalomaniacs set the stage for WWl. Chief among them, Kaiser Wilhelm, casually strutting about the volatile European stage playing the grand monarch with the newly-minted Germany which Bismarck had forged from the 39 minor states preceding it. Some played their parts well: Czar Nicholas, anticipating disaster, literally begged Wilhelm to shut up and let things settle down after the assassination of Ferdinand. Instead, Kaiser Bill casually egged on a punitive strike against the Serbs, committing 'German support,' utterly dismissive of potential consequences. Within three days of Austria-Hungary's declaration of war, over a million Russians were headed for train stations in lock-step mobilization and It was all over except the killing. Barbara Tuchman's excellent book, Guns of August does a magnificent job of painting the whole disgusting, utterly avoidable debacle.

On such a sea are we now afloat....?

Roadrunner12
Roadrunner12
  1. I could stand to be corrected but isn't there only one country that has been involved in 90% of all wars after World War II.
Roadrunner12
Roadrunner12
  1. If an alien came from outer space, would he not label the axis of evil, the United States? Who else has continuously conducted regime change across the world? 3. With the U.S. alienating its allies, should we not expect to see changing alliances and it will be the U.S. Israel and Saudi Arabia on one side and everybody else on the other side as a likely scenario>
Kinuachdrach
Kinuachdrach

Back in college Chemistry class, the professor mentioned that the khaki dye used in Brit military garb had been made by Germany prior to WWI. Trade does not stop wars!

You are right, Mish. Wilson pushed the US into WWI, when we should have stayed out of it. And FDR lied to the US people about wanting to stay out of WWII, all the while finagling and cheating to get someone to attack the US. He finally fooled Japan into attacking Hawaii … and then the US invaded North Africa! Damn Warmongering Democrats.

RonJ
RonJ

Stockman assume how WW1 would have ended if the U.S. had not become involved. The fact is he doesn't know how WW1 would have ended. The war could have ended at the 1914 Christmas day impromptu armistice. But the leaders all wanted to continue the war. There is nothing to prove that the leaders would not have wanted to fight on to a decisive victory, even if the U.S. had not jumped in. As it was, 1/2 of French men of military age were killed or wounded.

As for Hitler, he was asked after the war, to spy on a nationalist socialist group. A stalemated outcome may not have prevented Hitler from winding up as a Nazi. likewise, if Hitler's superior had not told him to spy on the group, would Hitler have wound up going on to something else, and we would never have heard of him, regardelss that the U.S. jumped into WW1? Nobody really knows.

Human nature does not change. People behave one way when things are fat n happy. Another, when things are dark and dismal. With another bubble about to burst, governments are concerned about future civil unrest. They want public anger focused on external enemies, rather than on themselves. Another issue in our case, is the decline of empire. The pinnacle was becoming the lone super power. Now, China is rising and Russia is resurgent. It poses a threat to our government's dominance.

Roadrunner12
Roadrunner12

Up for debate, if you minus energy exports from Canada to the U.S. does the U.S. actually have a surplus with Canada?

Realist
Realist

Once you begin to alienate your allies and friends, as Trump is doing with his outrageous statements and lies, it starts a downward spiral, where Americans begin to hate their friends and allies, and vice versa. I have been shocked in the last few months how many times I have heard people say negative things about the US and Americans in general. The most shocking was someone saying they hoped that North Korea nukes the US. Others have been people cheering floods, fires, and volcanic eruptions that were occurring in the US. I have never heard this type of vitriol before. It strikes me that this is a result of Trump’s antagonistic attitude and I fail to see how this can be turned around easily. Trump is certainly succeeding in isolating America, and turning former allies into future foes.

shum
shum

The strongest impression I get is the sense of fracture in America itself, between liberals and right-wingers. There is no sense of compromise, unity or understanding of the 'other'. I once read about the geographical 'ghettoisation' of politics the US, in which people moved to be close to those with similar views, meaning that the only people they spoke to re-enforced their views, leading to more and more extreme 'normality'. This is also the case online with websites such as Breitbart. Is this just my impression from the UK, or is this real?

caradoc-again
caradoc-again

"Insane peace treaty", sounds what the EU and their Irish Quislings are trying to force on the UK. Let's see if peace remains the order of the day. French looking to punish without understanding the potential for disaster. Just like with post 1918 Germany.

Tengen
Tengen

Is this the same Warren Buffett who was the single largest recipient of TARP money? It's easy to feel bullish when you're TBTF.

Tengen
Tengen

You tainted an otherwise great post with that last sentence. The red/blue game is for suckers. Do you really think things would be much different if the collection of stiffs debating Trump on stage in '16 were running the show? Both parties are broken, which allowed an "outsider" like Trump to enter stage right in the first place.

pgp
pgp

A great and important article... We should always humbly consult history when deciding what to do with the future. The day people realize that we are governed by people living in an alternate reality, elected by people who live in a Hollywood reality is the day we might finally call our society enlightened. In the meantime if you want to know what happens next, make a study of human-animal behavior and then look back in time a century or three at the inevitable societal failures.

AndrewUK
AndrewUK

Yes indeed, German mercantilism is a huge problem today and is busy destroying Southern Europe. But in WWI there was also the desire of Imperialism just as there was in WWII, but now there is 'Free Movement of People' so you have less need of tanks to get the desired result. I wish Germany had ceased to exist in 1945, broken up into numerous small states so never again could she threaten her neighbours and destroy Europe. But it wasn't to be, so now it is yet again.

Jader
Jader

Mish, this article is really misleading. Many nations recovered freedom thanks to tired empires and revolution in Russia. This year all these nations celebrate 100 years of independence recovery. Living under German or Russian foot was not a peace of cake. Just to compare US independence war. How many victims were in the USA, UK et cet. Maybe it would be better to stay UK colony and to be exploited until today? "nothing good ever happens from ridiculous wars" - maybe just better to give up immediately? Freedom is worth to fight USA knows it and many European nations know it. And by the way Mish - you forgot about a pact Ribbentrop - Molotov. The Danzig corridor crisis was a pretext - not the reason. The reason of war was the pact signed in 1939 and this treaty was a heritage of Rapallo treaty between Germany and Soviets.

KnotchoLibre
KnotchoLibre

I think it's real but you are mistaken to quite only a conservative news service. Both sides are so extreme that they are both guilty of creating this divide but they will deny their own participation.

Sorry of demonstrated just how bad the problem is.

Snow_Dog
Snow_Dog

“Likewise, there would have been no Hitler, no Nazi dystopia, no Munich, no Sudetenland and Danzig corridor crises, no need for a British war to save Poland, no final solution and Holocaust, no global war against Germany and Japan — and, finally, no incineration of 200,000 civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” ~ David Stockman

There would be no British Mandate for Palestine.

TheWindowCleaner
TheWindowCleaner

This is a correct and important post Mish. The entire problem with Trump, Bannon, their populism etc. is that their belief in some sketchy "fourth turning" fails to realize that that fourth turnings are actually the failure to integrate the truths in opposing political and economic perspectives that can lead to a thirdness greater oneness of truths and thus avoid the chaos and historic likelihood of war. Orthodoxies on both the left and right prevent the needed integration, and Trump whose every action let alone every word out of his mouth and twitter feed is disintegrative...is leading the way.


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