January 16th, 2014
11:46 AM ET

What I'm reading: Enough 1914 comparisons

By Fareed Zakaria

“Today’s world is different from the world of 1914 in several important ways,” writes Joseph Nye for Project Syndicate. “One is that nuclear weapons give political leaders the equivalent of a crystal ball that shows what their world would look like after escalation. Perhaps if the Emperor, the Kaiser, and the Czar had had a crystal ball showing their empires destroyed and their thrones lost in 1918, they would have been more prudent in 1914. Certainly, the crystal-ball effect had a strong influence on US and Soviet leaders during the Cuban missile crisis. It would likely have a similar influence on U.S. and Chinese leaders today.”

“Another difference is that the ideology of war is much weaker nowadays. In 1914, war really was thought to be inevitable, a fatalistic view reinforced by the Social Darwinist argument that war should be welcomed, because it would “clear the air” like a good summer storm.”

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“[W]ho has come out ahead in this unparalleled global free-for-all? Indians,” writes Kishore Mahbubani for Yale Global. “Their per capita income now ranks as the highest of any ethnic group in the United States: In 2010, Indians earned $37,931 annually, compared to a national average of $26,708. If India’s population of 1.2 billion could achieve only half of the per capita income of Indian immigrants in the United States, the country’s GDP today would be $24.65 trillion instead of a relatively trifling $1.85 trillion, less than Italy’s. The gap between India’s potential and its actual performance is huge, perhaps the biggest of any country in the world.

“India’s performance in the U.S. arena is not exceptional…Sadly, few Indian leaders or policymakers seem to have understood the meaning of this comprehensive global data on the economic competitive abilities of Indians. If they did, India would become the top champion of more rapid globalization. Instead, even though the evidence shows that Indians could benefit from globalization’s acceleration, the Indian government continues to put its foot on the brakes whenever globalization is discussed.”

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“Poor and working-class Americans already live in the surveillance future,” argues Virginia Eubanks in American Prospect. “The revelations that are so scandalous to the middle-class data profiling, PRISM, tapped cell phones – are old news to millions of low-income Americans, immigrants, and communities of color. To be smart about surveillance in the New Year, we must learn from the experiences of marginalized people in the U.S. and in developing countries the world over. Here are four lessons we might learn if we do.”


soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Joseph McCarthy

    Is the ideology of war really much weaker than it was in 1914 as Fareed Zakaria says it is? If so, then someone conveniently forgot to tell that to the right-wing politicians in Washington! Then again, people in Europe are not quite so nationalistic as they were 100 years ago but on the other hand, it's fueling the civil war in Turkey between the Turks and the Kurds as well as the one between the Russians and Chechens in Russia.

    January 16, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Reply
    • Ferhat Balkan

      Joseph, there's no civil war in Turkey. Wake up and smell the fresh air. Apparently the left-wing thugs in North Korea have been playing mind tricks on you.

      January 16, 2014 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  2. JAL

    Great topic though. I look at that time in history and I am sad. The physicist of that day knew the power of microelectronic technology, but they also know that it would take time to create repeatable and valid processes to mass produce. They knew this tech was they key to humanities next big leap and it is about to happen now. They deserve so much credit.

    January 16, 2014 at 7:05 pm | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    Indeed, Fareed, when the Central Powers started WWI a century ago, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II stood by his Austrian peers, the Habsburgers, who declared war against Serbia after the assassination of their Archduke at Sarajevo. They were bad decisions made by short-sighted rulers, who underestimated the impact of their folly.
    Today, thanks to the UN, its agencies and organisations, countries interact and cooperate with each other, so that fraught ties between certain countries don't necessarily lead to war.

    January 17, 2014 at 6:55 am | Reply

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