Saturday, July 30, 2011

Does WWI show us where the debt crisis is taking us?

There is a fascinating and disturbing parallel between the politics happening in July of 2011 the U.S. today over the debt crisis and the politics in July of 1914 over the European crisis caused by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo.  That crisis, ninety seven years ago, led to WWI which changed Europe and the world forever.  It ended the rule by aristocracy in Europe and elevated the United States to become a significant world power.

WWI was probably a war that could have been avoided, and everyone thought at the time that they would be able to find compromises and be able to negotiate their way out of the crisis.  When that failed, they thought it would only be a brief skirmish and be over quickly.  How wrong they were.

As I understand it, the problem in 1914 was there were webs of alliances and promises between the European powers that the various countries pledged unfailing allegiance to.  These promises kept pushing the parties into greater and greater commitments to each other and, much to everyone's surprise, they ended up going over the cliff into an unimaginable horror of a war that killed or wounded almost 40 million men, ended unsatisfactorily by overly punishing the Germans, and sowed the seeds of WWII which killed over 50 million people, continued throughout the Cold War and didn't end until the Soviet Empire finally was defeated in 1991.

So, how is this like today?  Today, like in 1914, there are uncompromising commitments on the parts of those in power in the United States to alliances that the parties are totally unwilling to renege on.  

The Tea Party Republicans have sworn to lower taxes, so as to stimulate the economy per their undying belief, and to cut spending, so as to reduce the control of the government of the people and thus set the people free to create their own prosperity.  

The Pelosi Democrats have sworn to protect the entitlement programs that they have spent their whole lives creating against what they see as uncaring reactionary corporate forces who put profits and personal greed above the welfare of the people.  

The Far Right see themselves promoting prosperity and freedom; the Far Left see themselves protecting compassion and justice for the people.  They have no imagination within themselves that can see any value in the positions of the people that they consider to be their deadly enemies.  

So, are we arriving at an Assassination of the Archduke moment?  Are our leaders, blinded by their ideological commitments, pledges, and alliances, about to take us all over the cliff?  Let's pray not.

As psychologist Ira Rososfsky says:

"If Russia broke faith with Serbia, there may have been no war at all.

If the British broke faith with the French, then Germany may have won the war, and quickly, and if they had won World War I, there may have been no World War II, and its even greater devastation.

If some Republicans broke their promise of no new taxes, my neighbor's social security check will be in the mail.

Breaking a promise is a profile in courage."

It is time for our leaders to break their undying promises to their hard core constituency, or they they are going to take us all over the cliff.  And, by the way, the Republican Party will be take the blame for it and might well destroy itself, and in their attempt to save themselves they may even be able to take the Democratic Party down as well.  

We may end up with either or both political parties ended in this ideological war.