Trump, Brexit and Echoes of World War I

Tobin Harshaw at Bloomberg:

2000x-1Of all the famous things Mark Twain never actually said, perhaps none is repeated more often and with less justification than "history doesn't repeat, but it rhymes." And since the election of Donald Trump as president, history as verse has become a farce: He is Hitler, he is Stalin, he is Mao, he is Caligula, he is Cyrus the Great, he is Pharaoh, he is Joe McCarthy, he is Charles Lindbergh, he is King George III (both the sane and insaneversions), he is Julius Caesar, he is Hamlet, he is the Know-Nothing Party, he is Charles Manson, he is Jimmy Carter, he is Andrew Jackson, he is Herbert Hoover, he is Woodrow Wilson, he is — wait, what: Woodrow Wilson? Seriously?

"Ironically," writes Trygve Throntveit in Time, "Trumpism finds ample historical precedents in the immediate and long-term aftermath of U.S. intervention in World War I." He adds that in pledging to "make the world safe for democracy," Wilson was foreshadowing "Trump's make-America-great-and-safe-first foreign policy."

Hmmm. I'm not sure I'm sold that the 28th president was the MAGA man of his day. 1But it's a fresher take than the many uninformed comparisons of Trump to the Republican isolationists who followed Wilson, and thus a contribution to the growing body of journalistic analogies between our present moment and the era of the Great War. You can see the parallels, we are told, in Brexit, the backlash against immigrants in the U.S. and Europe, a radical autocracy in Russia roiling the West with propaganda, the collapse of order in the Middle East, secessionist movements in Europe (Serbia, meet Catalonia), and so on.

So, with this Veterans Day marking the centennial of the final year of the War to End All Wars, I decided to hash out which of these supposed historical echoes make sense, and whether lessons learned 100 years ago can help see us through the fraught present. And I was lucky enough to get to do so with Sir Max Hastings.

More here.