Euro zone debt crisis: War?

The World

Sometimes commentators can get swept up in events but the euro zone debt crisis really is bringing out the worst in pundits. Is what's happening in the euro zone really a kind of warfare?

Here is Edwin Truman, of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, in yesterday's New York Times:

"FOR the third time in a century, a bitter conflict fuelled by historic grievances has erupted in Europe, with the United States looking from afar and hoping not to get involved. Of course, this is not being fought on the battlefields but in the arcane arenas of international finance. But as in World War I … "

Here is Simon Jenkins at The Guardian:

"The global recession is looking more and more like an economic world war. Conflicts erupt from a cloudless sky, Germany against Greece, Britain against Europe, the west against China, America against itself. Financial armies move across the face of the earth, credit rating agencies plotting their path. They bring destruction everywhere. Commanders gaze bemused at the carnage and try one failed strategy after another. Nothing sensible happens, no lesson is learned, as the grim logic of war takes hold.

As in any war, conflict is coalescing along a central front, between austerity and growth. Can the demon debt be conquered and driven back into the hole from whence it came?"

I find the war metaphor a bit overripe in the case of the euro zone debt crisis. Actually, I find it offensive. I have spent a bit of time in hot war zones and know what the intersection of military ordnance with the human body looks like. What is happening in Europe and the global economy doesn't really stand up to that metaphorical comparison.

The technical imbalances at the heart of economic crises can be difficult to interest a general reader in but that is no need to indulge in hyperbole of this nature.
What is happening in the euro zone is a crisis for Greece and a tragedy for many Greek people but it will not break up the EU, nor is it likely to destroy the single currency. It is not in anyway comparable to the great conflagrations that marked the middle of the twentieth century, nor does it reveal the helplessness of European institutions in the way that the Soviet crushing of freedom movements in Hungary and Czechoslovakia did.

The solution to the euro zone's crisis is known to all – a process of redressing the imbalance between Germany and the north and the countries at the euro zone's periphery. Germany must forget about its own austerity plans and use some of its wealth to bring investment and growth to its euro zone partners: A Marshall plan for its colleagues in the EU.

BTW, Marshall Plan is not a war metaphor, it's a post-war reconstruction metaphor.

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