Frit­ter­ing away peace and pros­per­ity

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - OPINION - Adam Goldin Colum­nist

The flail­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is a dan­ger to U.S. pros­per­ity and in­ter­na­tional peace. While this may seem histri­onic, the cur­rent chaos can have dan­ger­ous con­se­quences as we man­age the rocky shoals of in­ter­na­tional af­fairs. The U.S. must man­age China’s emer­gence as a ma­jor power, nur­ture re­la­tions with al­lies, counter Rus­sia’s re­van­chism and co­or­di­nate global warm­ing mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts, yet the ad­min­is­tra­tion still hasn’t made se­nior-level ap­point­ments to the State Depart­ment and has alien­ated sev­eral al­lies. We take our cur­rent peace and pros­per­ity for granted, as­sum­ing it’s pre­or­dained, but com­pla­cency is a dan­ger­ous hal­lu­ci­na­tion.

To de­fend against such com­pla­cency, I’ll imag­ine how the world could have looked if piv­otal his­tor­i­cal events turned out dif­fer­ently, with their ef­fects re­ver­ber­at­ing through time. The most of­ten cited coun­ter­fac­tu­als in­clude a Bri­tish vic­tory in the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War, a vic­to­ri­ous Con­fed­er­acy in the Civil War, or a Nazi vic­tory in World War II.

Re­gard­ing the lat­ter, bar­ring a few avoid­able blun­ders, Nazi Ger­many could have eas­ily ruled much of Europe for decades. The movie “Dunkirk” re­minds us how nar­row was our es­cape. The Ger­mans had 400,000 Bri­tish and French troops trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. How­ever, the Ger­mans post­poned their ad­vance for three days, giv­ing the al­lies enough time to flee. Had they con­tin­ued the fight, they would have ei­ther dec­i­mated the U.K. army, re­sult­ing in a pos­si­ble un­con­di­tional sur­ren­der, or won a con­di­tional sur­ren­der as Churchill sued for peace to pre­vent a mas­sacre. Ei­ther way, the Nazi regime would have had free reign over Europe.

Ger­many also could have sim­ply hon­ored the Ger­man-Soviet Non­ag­gres­sion pact of 1939. This would have kept the USSR out of the war, al­low­ing Ger­many to in­vade Poland with­out start­ing a wider two-front war with the Sovi­ets.

The agree­ment even cod­i­fied how the two pow­ers would split east­ern Europe. By not declar­ing war on Rus­sia, the Nazis would have likely ruled most of Europe, even with U.S. en­try in the war, be­cause the Soviet Union’s con­tri­bu­tion to the Al­lied vic­tory can­not be over­stated. With­out them, the Nazis would have likely de­feated the al­lies.

In­stead of a bi-po­lar U.S.USSR Cold War, there would have been a three-way Cold War. The Sovi­ets would have dom­i­nated east­ern Europe, the Ger­mans would have con­trolled western and cen­tral Europe and the U.S. would have led an An­glo-Saxon al­liance with the U.K., Canada, Aus­tralia and New Zealand. This ac­com­mo­da­tion could have per­sisted for decades.

Now imag­ine a world where Ja­pan avoids war with the U.S. and thus re­tains do­min­ion over east and south-east Asia. U.S. power and wealth would have been di­min­ished be­cause the lion’s share of our eco­nomic trade would have been con­fined to our English-speak­ing al­lies.

The Soviet Union and east­ern Europe would have still suf­fered their de­bil­i­tat­ing eco­nomic in­ef­fi­cien­cies. But Nazi Ger­many and Im­pe­rial Ja­pan would have forged a mer­can­tilist re­la­tion­ship with their pos­ses­sions at best, and a slave/mas­ter tyranny at worst.

Thank­fully Ger­many’s crit­i­cal er­rors played a sig­nif­i­cant role in their los­ing the war. In­stead of a four-way global split, the Mar­shall Plan re­built western Europe and helped cre­ate re­li­able demo­cratic al­lies and a vast eco­nomic mar­ket of mil­lions.

Ja­pan be­came an in­te­grated eco­nomic pow­er­house, and the Asian tiger mir­a­cle fol­lowed soon there­after. Their suc­cess helped beget China’s loos­en­ing of its Com­mu­nist mores and in­clu­sion into the world econ­omy. We helped mid­wife a vi­brant global econ­omy that is a ver­i­ta­ble wealth gen­er­at­ing ma­chine.

Ap­ply­ing the lessons of the past, we see there are no guar­an­tees in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs. Con­tin­ued peace and pros­per­ity can be lost.

Will China ag­gres­sively stake its South China Sea claims, pos­si­bly lead­ing to a re­gional war, or will it honor in­ter­na­tional laws of the sea?

Will Rus­sia test NATO’s re­solve by in­vad­ing the Baltics, or will de­ter such ag­gres­sion by reaf­firm­ing un­am­bigu­ously our com­mit­ment to NATO’s com­mon de­fense? Only sound stew­ard­ship of in­ter­na­tional events will de­liver the bright fu­ture con­sid­ered our birthright. U.S. po­lit­i­cal bed­lam threat­ens it. Adam Goldin is a Philadel­phi­abased econ­o­mist with mas­ter’s de­grees in both eco­nomics and in­ter­na­tional af­fairs. He re­sides in Ch­ester County. Email: adam.goldin@out­look. com

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