Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Something To Think About

What do these symbols of prestige have in common:

Mercedes Benz, BMW, Lexus, Infiniti, Audi, Ferarri, Lamborghini, Maserati?

If you said they are all controlled from nations which were our enemies in WWII, you are right.

As Jerry Seinfeld would say, "not that there is anything wrong with that".

Harry Truman's Marshall Plan and Douglas MacArthur's benevolent dictatorship have much to do with the success of the post war recovery in Europe and Japan, respectively. Think of the investment of US time, money, creativity and energy that went into the Post WWII recovery period for these disparate societies. Think of the different ways we went about developing Europe and Japan. It wasn't one formula fits all.

In Japan, Mac Arthur was pretty much left on his own, whereas, in Europe, it was a partnership project of the State Department and the then War Department.

Amazing, isn't it. When you really think about it.

How much of what we learned then is applicable to the Middle East today? Not the detail, but the process that led to those highly successful formulas over sixty years ago.

I wonder if anyone is really thinking about that.


Fresh Air said...

Of course, in the case of the Germans, even before the war they were very good at making stuff. That roundel on the front of BMWs is meant to resemble an airplane propeller, like the one that powered Baron Von Richtofen's Fokker.

vnjagvet said...

Good point. But the fact that they are still on top of the luxury car world is significant, I think.

And the Japanese never had a luxury marque until the 1980's. Look at them now.

Fresh Air said...

Yep, Geo. Marshall plus Edwards Deming equals industrial success.

Too bad the whole country forget to reproduce. Oops! Actually, you could say that about Germany and Italy, too.

Ed onWestSlope said...

"I wonder if anyone is really thinking about that."

Only when forced.

As has been mentioned or alluded to by many on this blog, people are selective about recent or not-so-recent history. It is very hard to find many people who will willing enter into a decent discussion/argument, with the requirement that facts are to be evaluated. Far too much coffee shop type discussion, to include the Urban Legends and conspiracies (The secret 70 - 80 - 90 - 100 mpg carburetor).

So much success all around us and so little appreciation.

Anonymous said...

As fresh air said, the Axis countries were already industrial nations - they built their own planes, tanks and ships - and had not only the infrastructure to make that possible, but also the educated work forces to run the infrastructure. They had cultures and educational systems that supported that infrastructure. They believed in industrialization, in other words.

So in many ways our postwar reconstruction projects were easier to accomplish than any future effort in the Islamic world where not only the infrastructure but also the supporting culture needs to be built from scratch.

As one who used to be active in the field of international development, I know that the developing nations are littered with infrastructure gone to seed - the abandoned sugar mill with trees growing through holes in the roof, the huge colonial train station with only half of its tracks in use, and all the rest. I flew in to Entebbe, Uganda a few years back and the hulk of the El Al jet was still on the old and now unused runway, rusting away. Nobody has bothered to move it, let alone get the old runway up and running again.

Building the infrastructure is the easy part.

chuck said...

It is true that the axis countries had -- mostly destroyed -- industrial bases and an educated workforce, but I think the most important part was that they were also nations. With time, money and security the citizens could organize, plan, and build. The biggest challenge in the middle east is the tribal structure that underlies Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia... you get the picture. So if Iraq manages to construct a nation without repressing the tribes it will be a new thing in the world. It is not only the Middle East that tribes play an important role. The other day I was reading excerpts from a book written by a woman traveling in Albania back in 1907. Albania was tribal at the time, as was Monteneqro, and, I suspect the rest of the Balkans: Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo. I think the troubles in the Balkans reflect that ancient form of organization. Makes me wonder if tribes still play a role in Greece, Turkey or Bulgaria.

Anyway, I stumbled on the book while looking up the old Etruscan/Roman custom of reading the future from the wishbone of chickens (preferably all black roosters), and it turned out that the custom was still observed in Albania at the time, right down to people dying after reading from the marrow that their life would end soon. Lots of fascinating lore, including the vampire women who sucked blood from infants. Lord, Europe isn't all that far from all that, really.

PS. George Kennan, the architect of the Marshall Plan, discusses the thinking that went into it in his autobiography. I read it long ago, so can't recount the details.

Fresh Air said...


I'm currently reading a biography about Saddam Hussein. It covers a good deal of the 20th century history of Iraq. One of the most surprising things I've learned is that Iraq does have powerful nationalist strains running through it, and beyond that even, Arabian strains, a la Nasser--something Saddam tried to cultivate in the early days of the Ba'ath but later abandoned.

The tribal stuff will never go away, but it's not really enough to destroy the country or prevent it from having a reasonably successful economy. At least if the Kurds don't break loose.

Anonymous said...


On the other hand, and speaking of George Kennan, we must recognize within our culture the deep streak of ethnocentric pessimism that causes us to believe that such change is somehow impossible.

terrye said...

Europe is not that far removed from the days of of the Blood Countess. Read the book, it will give you the willies.

Maybe the fact that Europe wanted to rebuild has a lot to do with it.

I would say Turkey has come close to becoming European.