Dalibor Rohac sees five things in Europe that remind him of the 1930s.
He writes: "Historical parallels are, at best, incomplete. But that does not mean that there is nothing to be learned from juxtaposing the past and the present. Much like in the 1930s, today’s Europe has five distinct elements of a geopolitical disaster in the making."
His list of threats that history will repeat itself consists of these five areas:
- A dysfunctional monetary system
- A rising revisionist power
- A lack of leadership
- A crumbling system of international cooperation
- Losing the battle of ideas.
A skeptic would say that the article raises too much alarm, but even if only two issues are as serious as Rohac argues, then the political risks are indeed great.
My personal reaction: I disagree with the fourth point (and would dispute a few other characterizations). Of course, more international cooperation would be ideal. But there is still a lot more international cooperation than the proverbial visitor from outer space (who might form beliefs based on reading opinion polls) would have expected.
Policy adjustments are painfully slow and second- or third-best options are the norm. I am not saying we shouldn't have higher aspirations, but I am saying that we often expect elected officials to have a narrow and well-defined set of goals, which naturally leads to disappointment. Expectations should be anchored in what is possible.