I had an insight in my half-awake early morning stupor the other day that I actually think has some merit: The 21st Century’s parallels so far to the last are rather remarkable.
We began last century (roughly) with a swift conventional war followed by an insurgency in the Philippines, which roughly parallels our course in Iraq. There too the original cassus belli in the form of Spain and Cuban independence gave way to various secondary and tertiary objectives (or distractions depending on your point of view).
There was a lingering terrorist threat throughout that time (following McKinley’s assassination), but it was fueled by leftist anarchism and the labor movement, not radical Islam.
In the early 20th Century too, we had an economic crisis of enormous proportions in the form of the 1907 Crash. We had a big government Republican in the form of Teddy Roosevelt but no real dynamic liberal until Wilson. Like our current president, Wilson was a bit of a “race man” but he happened to be white.
We were overwhelmed by massive levels of immigration, and Americans began to get uneasy.
Our first housing crisis took a little longer–it was the source of much of the 1920s boom–but there were interesting parallels to today. Americans were excited about novel technologies such as the car, electricity, airplanes, and the telephone (which, like the internet, changed communications forever).
I hope these parallels stop though, soon thereafter we had WWI, the massive devaluation of the currency, the Spanish Flu epidemic, and much other turmoil and sadness. Americans sometimes look back to the past fondly as a time of moral order and prosperity, but I don’t think 1900-1940 really stacks up. Indeed, the first half of the 20th Century, with the exception perhaps of our technological progress and the 1920s boom, was a horror show.