Tags: Moisi | war | US | 1914

Dominique Moisi: World at Risk of Another Global Catastrophe

By    |   Thursday, 26 June 2014 02:54 PM

Almost exactly 100 years ago the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand prompted a series of bad decisions by world leaders that caused World War I.

Some experts see striking and disconcerting similarities between 1914 and 2014.

The two time periods share one critical feature, warns Dominique Moisi, senior adviser at The French Institute for International Affairs, in an article for Project Syndicate.

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That feature is "the risk that an increasingly complex security and political environment will overwhelm unexceptional leaders. Before they wake up to the risks, the situation could spin out of control."

In 1914, Europe’s leaders resigned themselves to war after failing to find compromises, he says. Historian Christopher Clark said they "sleepwalked" into war.

That kind of blundering leadership is now again a possibility, as conflict and uncertainty again threatens the world, Moisi argues, citing the Middle East, Ukraine and the East and South China Seas.

Just a year ago some observers saw China, with its growing power, as the 21st century equivalent of Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany and China's territorial claims as today's Balkans.

"Given recent developments in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, one could reasonably say that the entire world has come to resemble Europe in 1914," he notes. "In fact, the situation today could be considered even more dangerous."

At leas, they didn't have nuclear weapons in 1914, Moisi asserts. And the threat of "mutually assured destruction" that kept the bombs from being used has faded since the Cold War, at least partly because more countries have the weapon.

Possessing nuclear weapons is no longer preventing countries from heading toward war, he insists.

Another huge difference between 1914 and the present is that "Europe is no longer the center of the world." The real risks lie outside Europe, he points out, citing an emerging jihadist state in the Middle East, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and squabbles in the South China Sea.

The Economist magazine also sees "uncomfortable parallels" between now and the eve of World War I. Back then, experts said globalization and new technologies like the telephone, steamship and train tied countries together, and increased trade between Europe's economies made war impossible.

Today, the United States is like Britain was then, a waning superpower unable to guarantee security. China is Germany, an aggressive, rising superpower. And Japan is France, a declining regional power and ally of the world superpower.

Complacency is another dangerous similarity, according to The Economist.

"Businesspeople today are like businesspeople then: too busy making money to notice the serpents flickering at the bottom of their trading screens. Politicians are playing with nationalism just as they did 100 years ago."

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Almost exactly 100 years ago the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand prompted a series of bad decisions by world leaders that caused World War I.
Moisi, war, US, 1914
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2014-54-26
Thursday, 26 June 2014 02:54 PM
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