“In his celebrated essay “The Quagmire Myth and the Stalemate Machine,” published in 1972, Daniel Ellsberg drew out the lesson regarding the Vietnam war that came out of the 8,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers, which he had secretly copied a few years earlier. It was simply this: policymakers acted without illusion. At every juncture they made the minimum commitments necessary to avoid imminent disaster – offering optimistic rhetoric, but never taking the steps that even they believed could offer the prospect of decisive victory. They were tragically caught in a kind of no-man’s-land – unable to reverse a course to which they had committed so much, but also unable to generate the political will to take forward steps that gave any realistic prospect of success. Ultimately, after years of needless suffering, their policy collapsed around them.”
—Lawrence Summers, “The World Must Insist that Europe Act,” Financial Times, September 18, 2011
Larry Summers, Obama’s principle economic advisor during the US financial and economic crisis of 2009, invoked Daniel Ellsberg’s warning about clear-eyed incrementalism in order to argue that next week’s meeting of G-20 leaders must push Europe to return to a pro-growth economic strategy.
Being out of the White House for eight months has been long enough to restore his enthusiasm for bold policy and his fighting spirit. It would be historic if the G-20 actually turned their attention away from what America’s one central government is doing to consider how Europe’s collective leadership is addressing Europe’s crisis.