Why CNN's Fareed Zakaria Needs To Study More History

A good geopolitical discussion with CNN host and Time magazine editor Fareed Zakaria was on Charlie Rose, although I take issue with one of his suggestions.

Charlie asked him for his prescription for preventing conflict between the U.S. and China, and his response smacked of the same arguments and thinking which were prevalent prior to World War I.

Fareed stated that if the U.S. and China can increase their “dependencies” then this would prevent war from occurring. I was surprised to hear Fareed say this as he generally gives off the impression as someone who is well versed in history.

Fareed’s thinking about what will prevent conflict is identical to what was said prior to World War I, the original era of globalization when arguably the world was even more interconnected by trade than it is today. Because everything was so interconnected, because nations like Britain and Germany traded as much as they did, war was considered impossible.

Many people are not aware of the fact that today’s interconnected world is not our first experience with globalization. One of the better quotes on just how bound up the world was prior to WWI comes from John Maynard Keynes. Below he describes just how eerily similar life in early 20th century London was to today:

The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, and share, without exertion or even trouble, in their prospective fruits and advantages; or he could decide to couple the security of his fortunes with the good faith of the townspeople of any substantial municipality in any continent that fancy or information might recommend.

He could secure forthwith, if he wished it, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate without passport or other formality, could despatch his servant to the neighbouring office of a bank for such supply of the precious metals as might seem convenient, and could then proceed abroad to foreign quarters, without knowledge of their religion, language, or customs, bearing coined wealth upon his person, and would consider himself greatly aggrieved and much surprised at the least interference.

But, most important of all, he regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement, and any deviation from it as aberrant, scandalous, and avoidable. The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions, and exclusion, which were to play the serpent to this paradise, were little more than the amusements of his daily newspaper, and appeared to exercise almost no influence at all on the ordinary course of social and economic life, the internationalization of which was nearly complete in practice.

Speaking of history, if you have a little extra time there was another excellent interviewon Charlie Rose with the historian David McCullough about his new book, The Greater Journey: An American in Paris.

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