Austin Bay
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High unemployment rates, which persist for years, slowly transform from difficult economic problems into multi-dimensional strategic decline. In the worst cases, decline fuels despair and creates the social conditions that spawn violent dictatorships.

Since the early 1980s, several European countries have confronted structural unemployment. In a recent Moody's Analytics report, economist Martin Janicko argues that "the financial, economic and sovereign debt crises" associated with The Great Recession "aggravated" Europe's dire unemployment problem. Moody's estimates of structural jobless rates in four EU nations ought to appall everyone: Spain, 20 percent; Greece, 17 percent; Portugal, 12 percent; and Italy, 10 percent. Other sources argue these figures are low. Length of unemployment in these countries has increased. Discouraged people quit seeking work, and this muddles statistics.

These four nations belong to NATO. At the moment, all four have democratically elected governments. All of them, however, are plagued by massive debt and have authoritarian legacies. Dictator Francisco Franco ruled Spain until 1975. The Salazar regime dominated Portugal until 1974; that same year, The Colonels military junta collapsed in Greece. 1943's Allied invasion of Sicily felled dictator Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler's partner.

2013: Greece's Golden Dawn Party disputes the label neo-Nazi, but it espouses national socialist policies that it claims will solve Greece's debt and unemployment problems. Hitler made similar promises to German voters disenchanted with Weimar-era troubles. If a Greek Nazi regime seems outlandish, a reignited hard left-hard right civil war is less easily discounted. On Nov. 1, the leftist terror group Militant Popular Revolutionary Forces murdered two Golden Dawn party members, ostensibly retaliating for a murder committed by a Golden Dawn supporter. Forget strategic decline. A civil war insures Greek strategic devastation.

The Great Depression saddled America with tragically high unemployment rates for over a decade. In 1933, unemployment topped 24 percent. Whatever the long-term effects of FDR's New Deal policies, they curbed unemployment and alleviated the disaster's more severe social consequences.

Yet it took a greater tragedy to defeat the Great Depression, World War II's war of national survival. The U.S. economy's 1940s militarization produced a macro-economic surge that reversed the macro-economic decline. This revival exacted a blood price: over a million Americans dead and wounded.

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Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
 
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