Is the United States on “Strike”?

The Economist thinks so:

To state baldly the main parallel with 1940, lots of Americans sound sick of calls to fix Muslim countries, just as their grandparents were tired of trying to fix Europe. Yet there are instructive differences, too.

A revealing contrast with the past involves broader attitudes to war. Modern Americans, especially Republicans, insist that Congress should control any decision to strike Syria—by which they mostly mean that they want a veto over Mr Obama. In 1938 the House of Representatives only narrowly rejected a much more radical idea: that future wars would have to be approved by the public, via national referendums. In those febrile days generals would wear mufti rather than uniforms to congressional committees to avoid antagonising anti-war members, records Ms Olson, while shops near army bases routinely barred soldiers.

Modern Americans are wary of war but reverential towards warriors. Troops in uniform are invited to throw out first pitches at baseball games and hailed as they board airliners. At the most bruising congressional hearings, members are careful to thank uniformed, beribboned generals for their service.

The rest is here. I think the parallels between now and 1940 drawn in this admirably well-balanced piece, and by others around the web, are disingenuous. There is nothing in the Middle East today that is comparable to mid-20th century Europe. Europe was industrialized, imperial and the various tribes of the region had all been nationalized to a large extent. It was a multipolar world, and Europe was dealing with the collapse of two large, cosmopolitan empires and a bloody revolution in a third empire. There were still imperial jealousies and the humiliating issue of reparations forced on the German state continued to dominate diplomatic (and, in some cases, domestic) discourse.

The scenario in the Middle East today looks nothing like the historical example found in mid-century Europe. We need to tread with much caution, if we tread at all.

Please keep it civil

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