An editorial in British news periodical The Economist draws uncomfortable parallels between the world of today and that of 100 years ago.
As the Centenary of World War I approaches, the newspaper suggests that as 1913 came to a close most people in the West looked forward to the new year with a degree of optimism.
It reports: ‘John Maynard Keynes has a wonderful image of a Londoner of the time, “sipping his morning tea in bed” and ordering “the various products of the earth” to his door, much as he might today from Amazon – and regarding this state of affairs as “normal, certain and permanent, except in the direction of improvement.’
More alarming similarities can be drawn between the nations of 1913 and those of today. The US can be compared to the UK – a superpower on the wane. Germany becomes China, a rising nation ‘bristling with nationalism’. France’s role goes to Japan, an ally of the declining superpower and of decreasing importance in its regional sphere.
Meanwhile, cautions the newspaper, business people turn a blind eye to the language of aggression and distrust in the quest for money and politicians whip up nationalist emotions for their own gains. Then there is a basket-case state in the shape of North Korea, capable of an act of madness.
The solution, suggests The Economist, may be a more active foreign policy from the US.
‘Unless America behaves as a leader and the guarantor of the world order,’ it adds, ‘it will be inviting regional powers to test their strength by bullying neighbouring countries.’