1918: THE VIEW FROM 2018

World leaders gathered under gray, rainy skies in Paris this the weekend to commemorate the end of World War I. Many of those in attendance framed their observations about that history in ways that reveal something important about what makes them tick today.


Here is Gabe with a few statements that stood out to us:

“Patriotism is exactly the opposite of nationalism.” – In the highest profile speech of the celebrations, French President Emmanuel Macron delivered adirect rebuke to the nationalism espoused by President Trump and his admirers in Central and Southern Europe. For Macron, who envisions a Europe ever more deeply integrated, the resurgence of nationalism today recalls the dangers that stalked Europe after 1918. He’s fashioned himself as the antidote.

“It is our duty to preserve the civilization they defended.” – After a high-profile absence one day earlier, President Trump praised US veterans on Sunday in a speech that mentioned America’s allies but largely focused on the American soldiers lost during the conflict. The mention of “civilization,” a phrase that’s featured prominently in previous speeches of the US president, paints a picture of a world the remains divided into different camps today on the basis of history.

"It is not possible to claim that the conflict is over." – For Turkish President Erdogan, who was also present in Paris, the ongoing instability in the Middle East is a product of the flawed peace brokered after WWI, in which Western powers carved up the region in unsustainable ways. The lesson Erdogan draws from World War I: the West must stop interfering in Turkey and the Middle East.

“Yet our soldiers fought world over.” – More than 70,000 Indian soldiers died in World War I, pulled by their British colonizers into a conflict a continent away. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi commemorated the sacrifice of his countrymen in a “conflict in which India was not directly involved.” His statement and participation in the celebrations in Paris are a reminder of themany non-Europeans who gave their lives in a conflict from which they had little to gain.

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"Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." So said Winston Churchill in November 1947, a time when Soviet Communism was beginning to offer the world a new alternative.

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My high school history teacher Dr. Cohen once told me, as we shuffled through the school cafeteria, that computers would one day make socialism viable. Given that the Soviet collapse had already happened, and that Super Nintendo still seemed vastly more magical than anything you could put on your desk, this seemed far-fetched.

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WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Syria ISIS attack A suicide bombing in Syria claimed by ISIS killed 14 people including four Americans this week. Two questions we'll be watching: Will this attack impact the pace of President Trump's ordered withdrawal of US troops from Syria, and is the bombing part of a broader ISIS strategy to launch a wave of new attacks as US troops depart?

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