Europe's Nationalism and Trump's Trade Policies Look Like WWI Prelude

In conversations with friends, one thought the current political scene was like the prelude to WWII. Another said WWI.

Tuesday evening I struck up a conversation with "Max", a friend that I frequently see at a Tuesday karaoke bar.

Max is not a reader of my website, so it stuck me when he stated events today remind him of the prelude to WWII. Max is aware of Trump's trade policies and disputes with Canada and Mexico, but he was not aware of immigration problems in Italy.

Wednesday afternoon, I mentioned that conversation in a podcast with Peak Prosperity's Chris Martenson. Chris said Max's comment was quite appropriate but the setup was more like WWI.

Chris is correct. The parallels to WWI are quite amazing.

Seven Causes for WWI

After the podcast with Chris, a bit of digging led me to 7 Causes of the First World War.

It was point number 7 that caught my attention.

7. People Being People

Canadian historian Margaret Macmillan has published a major book, The War That Ended Peace (2013), which presents a synthesis of many different factors: alliances and power politics; reckless diplomacy; ethnic nationalism; and, most of all, the personal character and relationships of the almost uncountable number of historical figures who had a hand in the coming of war.

War That Ended Peace

The above snip led me to the PDF synopsis on The War That Ended Peace.

So you would have thought that increased trade between Britain and Germany would have fostered that sense of having something in common. In fact, it didn’t. What common trade did sometimes was to create fears in both countries that the other was jealous, or that the other was cutting into natural markets.

Nationalism increasingly became a way in which people identified themselves. It was helped by the spread of communications – it was much easier to feel you were part of something called the British nation or the French nation if in your morning newspaper you could read news from all over that nation.

The growth of public opinion was of course fuelled by the spread of communications and literacy, and by the growth of the mass media that made available cheap books and newspapers.

When Italy invaded Libya in 1911, Italians socialists rejected criticism of their government’s “civilising mission”.

We should be warned that with all the best will in the world, clever people, people in positions of power, can make really stupid mistakes. We shouldn’t think we are cleverer than people then, and we shouldn’t think that we can avoid catastrophes. One hundred years later, we should be reminded that people in 1914 thought they’d have a nice short war and could settle things – and didn’t.

​Ethnic Nationalism

Power Politics

Feuds with Allies

History Lesson

​>President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a testy phone call on May 25 over new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration targeting steel and aluminum imports coming from Canada, including one moment during the conversation in which Trump made an erroneous historical reference, sources familiar with the discussion told CNN.

According to the sources, Trudeau pressed Trump on how he could justify the tariffs as a "national security" issue. In response, Trump quipped to Trudeau, "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?" referring to the War of 1812.

The problem with Trump's comments to Trudeau is that British troops burned down the White House during the War of 1812. Historians note the British attack on Washington was in retaliation for the American attack on York, Ontario, in territory that eventually became Canada, which was then a British colony.

War Preparations

In the prelude to WWI every European nation thought war could be prevented if every nation was prepared for it. They were all prepared.

On March 8, in a direct reference to Germany, US President Donald Trump says NATO members that do not meet defense-spending targets will be "dealt with."

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his desire for a European Army in a State of the Union address.

Conflicting Allies

I have watched with dismay the circular nature of Mideast allies.

The US has friendly relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the Iraqi Kurds, most of which are fighting with each other or are in tense relationships at best.

To top it off, Russia has a friendly relationship with Turkey but the EU relationship with Turkey is fading fast.

Note that Turkey is a NATO ally and US missiles are based in Turkey. Meanwhile the EU and Turkey are in a huge feud over immigration and judicial rights.

How is this supposed to work?


It's ironic that Margaret Macmillan noted the role of increased communication as a factor in WWI.

Look at all the allegations regarding Russia, Facebook, False News, Google, CNN etc., currently circulating.

Personal Character Hardball

At six o’clock in the evening on July 23, 1914, nearly one month after the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a young Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Baron Giesl von Gieslingen, ambassador of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Serbia, delivers an ultimatum to the Serbian foreign ministry.

According to the terms of the ultimatum delivered on July 23, the Serbian government would have to accept an Austro-Hungarian inquiry into the assassination, notwithstanding its claim that it was already conducting its own internal investigation. Serbia was also to suppress all anti-Austrian propaganda and to take steps to root out and eliminate terrorist organizations within its borders—one such organization, the Black Hand, was believed to have aided and abetted the archduke’s killer, Gavrilo Princip, and his cohorts, providing weapons and safe passage from Belgrade to Sarajevo.

Three days later, on July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, beginning the First World War.

The allies were set. Russia intervened on behalf of Serbia, Germany on behalf of Austria-Hungary, France was an ally of Russia, etc.

You get the picture.

The US, which had no business in the fight at all, actually prolonged the war by entering it. It is unclear if the US and UK even entered on the right side.

Actually, there was no right side, it was none of our business. By medling, we created the ideal backdrop for WWII.

IF Only

Had President Woodrow Wilson not misled the U.S. on a messianic crusade, Europe’s Great War would have ended in mutual exhaustion in 1917.

Both sides would have gone home battered and bankrupt — but would not have presented any danger to the rest of mankind.

Indeed, absent Wilson’s crusade, there would have been no allied victory, no punitive peace — and no war reparations. Nor would there have been a Leninist coup in Petrograd — or later on, the emergence of Stalin’s barbaric regime.

Likewise, there would have been no Hitler, no Nazi dystopia, no Munich, no Sudetenland and Danzig corridor crises, no need for a British war to save Poland, no final solution and Holocaust, no global war against Germany and Japan — and, finally, no incineration of 200,000 civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Nothing Good Comes From War

We do not know what would have happened. But nothing good ever happens from ridiculous wars.

How many times do we have to prove this?

One might have thought that WWI, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and Syria would be proof enough.

But no!

Trump is itching for a war with Iran and a trade war with the whole world.

Déjà Vu

Trade wars and nationalism are a prelude to real wars. Historically speaking, this is 1913 déjà vu.

That is only an observation, not a prediction. But as with 1914, we better take a different path than the one we are on.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

No. 1-25

This is a correct and important post Mish. The entire problem with Trump, Bannon, their populism etc. is that their belief in some sketchy "fourth turning" fails to realize that that fourth turnings are actually the failure to integrate the truths in opposing political and economic perspectives that can lead to a thirdness greater oneness of truths and thus avoid the chaos and historic likelihood of war. Orthodoxies on both the left and right prevent the needed integration, and Trump whose every action let alone every word out of his mouth and twitter feed is leading the way.


“Likewise, there would have been no Hitler, no Nazi dystopia, no Munich, no Sudetenland and Danzig corridor crises, no need for a British war to save Poland, no final solution and Holocaust, no global war against Germany and Japan — and, finally, no incineration of 200,000 civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” ~ David Stockman

There would be no British Mandate for Palestine.


I think it's real but you are mistaken to quite only a conservative news service. Both sides are so extreme that they are both guilty of creating this divide but they will deny their own participation.

Sorry of demonstrated just how bad the problem is.


Mish, this article is really misleading. Many nations recovered freedom thanks to tired empires and revolution in Russia. This year all these nations celebrate 100 years of independence recovery. Living under German or Russian foot was not a peace of cake. Just to compare US independence war. How many victims were in the USA, UK et cet. Maybe it would be better to stay UK colony and to be exploited until today? "nothing good ever happens from ridiculous wars" - maybe just better to give up immediately? Freedom is worth to fight USA knows it and many European nations know it. And by the way Mish - you forgot about a pact Ribbentrop - Molotov. The Danzig corridor crisis was a pretext - not the reason. The reason of war was the pact signed in 1939 and this treaty was a heritage of Rapallo treaty between Germany and Soviets.


Yes indeed, German mercantilism is a huge problem today and is busy destroying Southern Europe. But in WWI there was also the desire of Imperialism just as there was in WWII, but now there is 'Free Movement of People' so you have less need of tanks to get the desired result. I wish Germany had ceased to exist in 1945, broken up into numerous small states so never again could she threaten her neighbours and destroy Europe. But it wasn't to be, so now it is yet again.