Because my native country, Austria, played a notable part in both world wars, I am examining this struggle from its standpoint. In earlier times, however, Austria played a greater role in using trade to alleviate these sorts of conflicts—including the conflict we’re discussing in this article.
The world looked quite different at this time, so let’s first describe the setting.
A Tale of Two Empires
The Ottoman Empire ruled Syria and Lebanon where this conflict occurred. This empire controlled considerable portions of southeast Europe, western Asia and northern Africa, between the 14th and the early 20th centuries.
At this time Austria was contained within the Austrian Empire which, in addition to Austria, also ruled over Hungary and other Eastern European states. It consisted of multiple different cultures, including the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Romanians, the Serbs and the Hungarians. In 1867, shortly after the Lebanon conflict we’re detailing in this article, the Austrian Empire became the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which remained until the end of World War I in 1918.
The Austrian Empire was led by Emperor Franz Joseph I. I had firsthand knowledge of this emperor because both my grandfathers, on my mother’s and father’s sides, sat at his table, and my grandfather on my mother’s side told me many stories of this time. This particular emperor sought in many ways to maintain peace—for example, he supported Hungary in becoming an independent nation rather than fighting a war with them. Even though Austria was partially responsible for beginning World War I, for hundreds of years the Austrian Empire was expanded not through conquest and plunder, as was the Ottoman Empire and others, but through peaceful trade agreements.
Civil Conflict of Damascus and Mount Lebanon
While it can be utilized to resolve conflict, trade can also be a cause of conflict—and in this case, it was. Occurring in the climate already created by mounting tensions, in July of 1860, a relatively minor conflict between merchants in Damascus spread into the whole of Syria, becoming a sheer genocide. Within a week of this outbreak, thousands of Muslims entered the Christian quarterQuarterQuarter is a three-month period in a company’s fiscal year commonly used to make comparative performance analyses, detect or forecast business trends, report earnings, and pay shareholder dividends. in Damascus and killed thousands of Arab Christians. 300 villages, 500 churches, 40 monasteries, and 30 schools were destroyed, and over 100,000 people fled and became refugees.
Such violent struggles don’t “just happen.” The setting for this conflict had been slowly simmering since 1845 through more minor skirmishes between various ethnic groups in the region. It all began with an edict many years earlier from the Ottoman Empire (which ruled the region at the time), allowing Christians to create their own schools. The Arabian language could not keep up with the advancing science and technology at the time, so the schools began teaching in English and French. Even though they were the minority, the Christians were better educated, occupied superior positions in business and government, and were more affluent. Envious of the Christian advancement, the Arabs became enraged, and conflicts began which continue to the present day.
Intervention from Austria
In partnership with four other nations, Austria engaged in an international effort within a month of the conflict that eventually restored peace.
The media at the time reported the suffering in Lebanon throughout the world. This resulted in the very first act of international charity, in which Austria was a participant. Donations were collected throughout Europe and the U.S., and handed over to Lebanon by consuls of the countries from which the donations had come. In drawing a parallel to today’s unrest, the charity provided was not of weapons and ammunition, as with the contributions to Ukraine.
Emperor Franz Joseph I’s efforts did not end there. He became the first European sovereign in six centuries since the Crusades to visit Jerusalem, which he did in 1869 while in the area to attend the opening of the Suez Canal. To keep peace in the region—and also to solve a major problem caused by the American Civil War which closed off all cotton importation from the Southern U.S.—Franz Josef created an enormous trade agreement for the importation of cotton from Egypt. This move eventually resulted in importing 6,000 tons of cotton, placing Vienna at the forefront of European fashion creation. In addition, Vienna was blooming at this time, one of the largest cities in Europe and the epicenter of culture.
France and England, becoming jealous of Vienna’s position, unfortunately began a program of interference with Austria’s efforts. They saw the Balkan countries as an opportunity for exploitation, and the “Triple Entente’‘ was formed between France, Great Britain and Russia. At the beginning of World War I, the Triple Entente allied itself against what was known as the Central Powers: Turkey, Germany and Austro-Hungary. We can see, again, that disagreement over trade was at the root of what became a horrendous global conflict.
While I’m certainly not eager to place myself in the position of a prophet, the Triple Entente is very similar to the current alliance between China, Russia and India. I very much hope we’re not headed for another devastating global conflict.
Disaster Stemming from Ignorance
Another parallel can be made with today’s unrest, aside from the particulars of the Lebanon-Damascus conflict itself. One can trace cultural and religious unrest back several decades before the Mt. Lebanon and Damascus conflict erupted into genocide—but nobody was paying attention as tensions slowly grew. It wasn’t until they exploded that responsible government parties noticed and intervened.
The Russo-Ukrainian conflict presents a similar situation. There were tensions and friction in Donbas for nine years before they escalated into all-out war. Despite the fact there were similar factors in the previous conflict we’re discussing here, once again, leaders and those responsible ignored the situation until it erupted. And once more, we have tens of thousands dying.
Free Trade Versus Protectionism
Although World War I ended in 1918, we unfortunately did not come away from it with lessons regarding trade. With us today is what is called protectionism, which is the practice of shielding the domestic interests of a country from foreign competition by taxing imports. This practice continues to create conflict, which can eventually escalate into further war, as we’ve seen.
The Austrian School of Economics teaches us that nations or parties will not be in conflict when engaged in trade. We can therefore see that free trade would solve such issues.
According to many different schools of thought, we are all interconnected. If this is true (and I believe it is), how can we demonize another nation? We are connected with them—they are part of us—and so, in fact, we are demonizing ourselves.
I was recently attending a business dinner in New York. I began conversing with several people around the table, and two young women seemed to get perturbed when I spoke about my CRM and its relationship with trade and peace. When I asked why they were upset, one said, “We are from Ukraine.” I replied that this was fantastic, and she said, “You must be a Putin-lover.” I asked why, restating that I was just for peace—I’m not a “Putin lover.” She said, “The only good Russian is a dead Russian.”
I looked across at them with dead seriousness. I said, “You are not even 35 years old, and you are demonizing a whole nation.”
The Weaponization of Trade
We can see, then, that trade can be the root of armed conflict’s prevention or escalation. It can be weaponized either way. But it is only when trade is in the wrong hands that it leads to war.
Isn’t it high time we saw the errors of our ways and once more utilized trade to return our world to peace? We all live together on this tiny planet, Earth. There is a current best-selling book called MegaThreats: Ten Dangerous Trends That Emperil Our Future by Nouriel Ruobini. Each and every one of the threats laid out in this book—such as climate change, aging, migration, AI, and others—can only be solved by all of us in cooperation.
I have totally dedicated my productProductProduct refers to anything (an idea, item, service, process or information) that meets a need or a desire and is offered to a market, usually but not always at a price., Pipeliner CRM, to the creation of a world at peace. We learn from the founders of the Austrian School of Economics that war, in the end, does not produce wealth. Nations do not prosper when they are burned to the ground. As an example Switzerland, which has always remained neutral, has quietly and steadily prospered throughout the years while its neighbors lost many entire fortunes through conflict.
In a sense we are, as businesspeople, fighting “wars” as well. But our weapons are not artillery—they are ideas. We wear no uniforms, we carry no flags. We simply exist to conduct peaceful trade with others. As intense as that might become at times, it never involves loss of life or wanton destruction of homes, property and cities.
You won’t find trade and war in coexistence; when one country is embattled with another, they cannot conduct trade. If we focus on trade— especially with the advent of today’s global internet commerce—we could very well see an ultimate end to armed conflict. For in the long run trade is far more profitable and sustainable than combat.
Until we attain that goal, we still require the military to protect the infrastructure in which commerce and business can occur. As we know all too well, there are still threats from various quarters that will have to be neutralized and the protection of the free trade we so value—as for example the U.S. Navy is providing today—is still quite vital.
If you occupy a role as a sales managerSales ManagerSales Manager is an executive who leads a sales unit, team or department by setting goals and meeting targets, formulating plans and policies, designating tasks, and developing salespeople., you might see that role as being considerably greater than you previously imagined. To the degree that you are successful, so goes your sales force. As goes your sales force, there goes your company. The more companies that are successful in trade and commerce, the better our chances for survival in a peaceful world.
It is to this goal that Pipeliner is dedicated, It is being provided to you as a “weapon” of trade, of commerce, of peace.