5 November 2018   Leave a comment

The decision made by the US in 1945 to create a rules-based international order was based largely upon the assessment by US President Franklin Roosevelt that the horrors of the Interwar Period (1918-1939) came about because there were essentially no rules after the tragedy of World War I and the US decision to not support the rules-based order suggested by US President Wilson’s proposal for the League of Nations.  That assessment was well articulated by the US Undersecretary of State, Sumner Welles, in a speech in 1942:

“The people of the United States were offered at the conclusion of the last war the realization of a great vision. They were offered the opportunity of sharing in the assumption of responsibility for the maintenance of peace in the world by participating in an international organization designed to prevent and to quell the outbreak of war. That opportunity they rejected. They rejected it in part because of the human tendency after a great upsurge of emotional idealism to seek the relapse into what was once termed “normalcy.” They rejected it because of partisan politics. They rejected it because of the false propaganda, widely spread, that by our participation in a world order we would incur the danger of war rather than avoid it. They rejected it because of unenlightened selfishness….

“In 1920 and in the succeeding years we as a nation not only plumbed the depths of material selfishness, but we were unbelievably blind. We were blind to what constituted our own enlightened self-interest, and we therefore refused to see that by undertaking a measure of responsibility in maintaining world order, with the immediate commitments which that might involve, we were insuring our people and our democratic ideals against the perils of an unforeseeable future, and we were safeguarding our children and our children’s children against having to incur the same sacrifices as those forced upon their fathers. Who can today compare the cost in life or treasure which we might have had to contribute toward the stabilization of a world order during its formative years after 1919, with the prospective loss in lives and the lowering of living standards which will result from the supreme struggle in which we are now engaged?”

Christine Lagarde, the Director of the International Monetary Fund, makes essentially the same point when assessing the current world situation:

“And in 1918, when leaders surveyed the corpse-laden poppy fields, they failed to draw the correct lessons. They again put short-term advantage over long-term prosperity—retreating from trade, trying to recreate the gold standard, and eschewing the mechanisms of peaceful cooperation. As John Maynard Keynes—one of the IMF’s founding fathers—wrote in response to the Versailles Treaty, the insistence on imposing financial ruin on Germany would eventually lead to disaster. He was entirely correct.

“It took the horrors of another war for world leaders to find more durable solutions to our shared problems. The United Nations, the World Bank, and of course the institution I now lead, the IMF, are a proud part of this legacy.”

Some lessons are never learned.

 

The Pew Research Center polled Americans on their confidence in a number of world leaders to “do the right thing” in world affairs, and the results are quite interesting.  According to Pew:

“Majorities in the U.S. view French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel with confidence, while about half (48%) are confident that Trump will do the right thing internationally.

“Still, Americans are more likely than others around the world to have confidence in Trump: Across 25 other surveyed nations, a median of just 27% have confidence in the U.S. president.

The poll also tests party affiliation and confidence over the course of the term of recent Presidents within the US.  A very worthwhile read.

 

 

Posted November 5, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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