Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Quote of the Day (Sir Edward Grey, on the Consequences of a Foreign Crisis)

“The consequences of…a foreign crisis do not end with it. They seem to end, but they go underground and reappear later on.”—English statesman Sir Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon (1862-1933), on the prelude to WWI, in Twenty-Five Years: 1892-1916 (1925)

Sir Edward Grey was Britain’s Foreign Secretary in early August 1914, when Germany’s declaration of war on France and invasion of neutral Belgium ensured that the U.K. would join the conflict. As the twilight gathered outside, this normally reticent, even unpoetic diplomat remarked, "The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time."

But the quote that leads off this particular post of mine, though less memorable, is equally valid. The 2007-2009 recession was not merely a domestic economic setback, but also a “foreign crisis.” Even after economic indicators recovered, many citizens in the West didn’t. Their resentment fueled the rise of far-right elements on both sides of the Atlantic. 

In this new era, many have replaced “Communism” with “globalism” as an all-purpose epithet. But the consequences remain dire. To a large extent, this zenophobia has hampered Western responses to the coronavirus. I am afraid that going forward, as some leaders have looked for convenient scapegoats for their own mishandling of the pandemic, international cooperation will lessen, and matters beginning—but hardly ending with—public health.

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