Sunday, May 07, 2006

"Crossing the Rhine with Fire and Sword" - Brad DeLong reflects

The wise and erudite economist Brad DeLong (a friend and long-ago-former-student, which is one more sign that in some ways I've been a lucky man) offers some useful historical reflections with possible current implications. Along the way, there are some properly sarcastic remarks about the unrealistic outlook that pervades so much self-described "realist" analysis of international relations. But Brad's main theme has to do with the insights and absurdities of more economic-determinist approaches.
Click on the link to see & hear the video (which is brief).
April 30, 2006
Morning Video Broadcast: Crossing the Rhine with Fire and Sword

In which I drink my coffee, and muse on the fact that the years since 1945 have been the longest period since 113 B.C. in which no army has crossed the Rhine with fire and sword.

For April 30: Crossing the Rhine with Fire and Sword

One historical clarification: At the end of his talk, Brad refers to a a famous book by Norman Angell, which he describes as both "right" and "irrelevant "--and as one of the "saddest" books on his bookshelf. The title of this book was The Great Illusion, and Angell published it in 1911. Angell argued, among other things, that the various European countries had become so economically interdependent that a major war between them would be irrational and inconceivable. In fact, large-scale war between economically advanced nations had become obsolete. Unfortunately, the plausibility of this analysis was undermined when World War I broke out three years later in 1914. One could certainly argue that it was irrational, but that didn't stop it from happening.

On the other hand, it's also true that we now live in a world where the prospect of a major war between, say, France and Germany really is inconceivable. Why is that?

Yours for reality-based speculation,
Jeff Weintraub

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