The Grey Ghost

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We live today in the shadow of one man. Start with today’s headlines: terrorism in Africa and the Mideast. Proximate cause: jihadism. Ultimate cause: the Arab-Israeli conflict. That conflict. Proximate cause: the mistreatment of displaced Palestinian Arabs. Ultimate cause: the existence of the state of Israel.” Sanford Rose

Dolors & Sense

By Sanford Rose

Portrait of Sir Edward Grey by James Guthrie, c. 1924–1930.

Portrait of Sir Edward Grey by James Guthrie, c. 1924–1930.

Sanford RoseKISSIMMEE Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—2/25/2013—We live today in the shadow of one man.

Start with today’s headlines: terrorism in Africa and the Mideast.

Proximate cause: jihadism. Ultimate cause: the Arab-Israeli conflict.

That conflict.

Proximate cause: the mistreatment of displaced Palestinian Arabs. Ultimate cause: the existence of the state of Israel.

That existence.

Proximate cause: desire of European Jewry for a homeland. Ultimate cause: the Holocaust.

The Holocaust.

Proximate cause: World War Two. Ultimate cause: Adolf Hitler.

Adolf Hitler qua political animal.

Proximate cause: desire of right-wing parties to find a stick with which to beat the opposition. Ultimate cause: the revanchism of the German people.

That revanchism.

Proximate cause: The Treaty of Versailles. Ultimate cause: World War One.

That war.

Proximate cause: imperialist rivalries. Ultimate cause: Not the clash over empires, but Germany’s fear of growing Russian military and economic power and Britain’s fear of a German attack on and subjugation of France. Britain could have contained an erupting conflict by pledging to remain neutral, provided Germany agreed not to invade France—a bargain Germany, given its fear of a two-front war, probably would have accepted. Instead, Britain decided to widen the war.

That decision.

Proximate cause: Honor and treaty required Britain to come to the aid of invaded Belgium. Ultimate cause: But if Britain had elected neutrality in July, 1914 with the above condition, Belgium would not have been invaded in August. Once it was invaded, Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, said he and his two chief colleagues would resign if there were no British declaration of war—an action that would have precipitated the collapse of the Liberal government, paving the way for a return of the Tories. Facing the prospect of imminent job loss, most Liberal ministers, including those on record as opposing the war, chose instead to vote for it.

That threatened resignation.

Proximate cause: again honor and treaty. Ultimate cause: Recent historical research suggests two noteworthy facets of the character of Grey, the chief actor in this drama. First, he had a 20-year history of Germanophobia, caused initially by unfriendly treatment at the hands of a German diplomat trying to obtain concessions in the Ottoman Empire; Second, though often considered a mere plodder, Grey, a man of great physical, if not intellectual, abilities, harbored an adventuristic, even anarchic, spirit—one that perhaps could find expression only in war.

If so, it was a spirit that has resisted exorcism: it has haunted the world for the last century.

(Grey is famously held to have said at the start of World War One: “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time.” With tragic irony, he went blind in 1916. In 1919-1920, he served as Britain’s ambassador to the US. Imagine that! A blind man in Washington. Obviously, unheard of since.)

Note: For further reading on Sir Edward Grey, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Grey,_1st_Viscount_Grey_of_Fallodon.

 

About Sanford Rose

Sanford Rose, of New Jersey and Florida, served as Associate Editor of Fortune Magazine from 1968 till 1972; Vice President of Chase Manhattan Bank in 1972; Senior Editor of Fortune between 1972 and 1979; and Associate Editor, Financial Editor and Senior Columnist of American Banker newspaper between 1979 and 1991. From 1991 till 2001, Rose worked as a consultant in the banking industry and a professional ghost writer in the field of finance. He has also taught as an adjunct professor of banking at Columbia University and an adjunct instructor of economics at New York University. He states that he left gainful employment in 2001 to concentrate on gain-less investing. (A lifelong photo-phobe, Rose also claims that the head shot accompanying his Weekly Hubris columns is not his own, but belongs, instead, to a skilled woodworker residing in South Carolina.)
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5 Responses to The Grey Ghost

  1. Burt Kempner says:

    Eager nodding of head. Proximate and ultimate causes: your lapidary writing.

  2. eboleman-herring says:

    I could not agree more, Burt. This is the most startlingly . . . Roseate . . . example of Sanford Rose’s inimitable (truly) prose style ever published on WH. I’m in awe of SF, really, both in terms of his reasoning and his Caesarian rhetoric. No. Rhetoric’s not the right word. This is a tour de force, by any name. The Humbled Editor, eb-h

  3. Jean Nolan says:

    This is succinct and brilliant. Thank you, Mr. Rose, for thinking in this clear and uncluttered way, and for leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for muddier minds (mine!) to follow. Thank you, Ms. B-H, for creating a forum for this sort of thinking. The writing is superb, but you’ll notice it’s the thought process that leaves me slain in the aisles. Just – WOW!

  4. Anita Sullivan says:

    This meshes nicely with a piece I read today by Noam Chomsky from his visit to Gaza last year (or maybe it was this year). I couldn’t even read his whole piece because it just detailed what I already knew (I don’t really need to be reminded about how paranoid the Israelis are, and how the entire world is held hostage to that illness).
    Thanks for your clarity.

  5. S. Rose says:

    Thanks to all for these kind comments. Though there are many who argue that ideologies make history, I am inclined to believe that often it is the strategically placed individual, with all his/her crotchets, prejudices and shortcomings, who is at the center of the story.

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