Anti-militarism

by John Quiggin on July 4, 2016

100 years after the Battle of the Somme, it’s hard to see that much has been learned from the catastrophe of the Great War and the decades of slaughter that followed it. Rather than get bogged down (yet again) in specifics that invariably decline into arguments about who know more of the historical detail, I’m going to try a different approach, looking at the militarist ideology that gave us the War, and trying to articulate an anti-militarist alternative. Wikipedia offers a definition of militarism which, with the deletion of a single weasel word, seems to be entirely satisfactory and also seems to describe the dominant view of the political class, and much of the population in nearly every country in the world.

Militarism is the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively[^1] to defend or promote national interests

Wikipedia isn’t as satisfactory (to me) on anti-militarism, so I’ll essentially reverse the definition above, and offer the following provisional definition

Anti-militarism is the belief or desire that a military expenditure should held to the minimum required to protect a country against armed attack and that, with the exception of self-defense, military power should not be used to promote national interests

I’d want to qualify this a bit, but it seems like a good starting point.

Looking first at militarism, the definition I’ve quoted would serve pretty well as a membership requirement for the US Foreign Policy Community. Within the FPC, there are lots of disagreements as to what constitutes the US National Interest. Some want to confine it to a fairly narrow notion of economic benefit – ensuring access to oil being the most prominent. Others see the US as having an interest in the promotion of human rights and democracy, support of friendly governments, or a stable world order (commonly conflated, these goals are often/usually in conflict with each other).

Still, AFAICT, there is no conflict in the FPC regarding the idea that the availability and regular use of military power to promote the national is essential. The equivalent groups in Western countries are more constrained in their means, and have fewer interests that could plausibly be promoted by unilateral use of force, but most still seem to accept the idea of militarism both as a national policy and as part of a Western alliance.

My case for anti-militarism has two main elements.

First, the consequentialist case against the discretionary use of military force is overwhelming. Wars cause huge damage and destruction and preparation for war is immensely costly. Yet it is just about impossible to find examples where a discretionary decision to go to war has produced a clear benefit for the country concerned, or even for its ruling class. Even in cases where war is initially defensive, attempts to secure war aims beyond the status quo ante have commonly led to disaster.

Second, war is (almost) inevitably criminal since it involves killing and maiming people who have done nothing personally to justify this; not only civilians, but soldiers (commonly including conscripts) obeying the lawful orders of their governments.

Having made the strong case, I’ll admit a couple of exceptions. First, although most of the above has been posed in terms of national military power, there’s nothing special in the argument that requires this. Collective self-defense by a group of nations is justified (or not) on the same grounds as national self-defense.

Second, there’s the case of “humanitarian intervention”. If the forces of a state, or a militia are engaged in murdering people on a large scale, the moral case for stopping them, if they can be stopped, is strong. The problem with this argument is that humanitarian interventions mostly fail, or lead to disasters even worse than those they were supposed to prevent. Many (not all) advocates of humanitarian intervention use dishonest arguments to avoid this, of which the epitome were the “Decent” arguments for the Iraq war to the effect that anyone who opposed a war must support Saddam.

What would an anti-militarist military policy look like? Most obviously, it would involve a drastic reduction in the capacity for “force projection”, and an acceptance that is, in general, neither possible nor desirable to dictate the outcomes of political struggles in other countries. It would also require an explicit weighing of the costs and benefits of overseas military action compared to civilian aid programs and the way in which the resources involved (including not just money, but political effort and the willingness of citizens to risk their lives in the service of their country) might be used at home.

The reversal of the burden of proof would also involve a steady reduction in military efforts justified by counterfactual hypotheticals (for example, idea that a vast naval effort is needed to ‘keep sea lanes open‘). Instead, for non-existential and currently hypothetical threats, the appropriate response is to “fix on failure”[^2], dealing with problems in the most cost-effective manner as they emerge.

After writing this, I found this excellent piece on the redemptive power of war (a huge factor in the enthusiasm with which so many entered the Great War) in the New York Times.

[^1]: The deleted word “aggressive” is doing a lot of work here. Almost no government ever admits to being aggressive. Territorial expansion is invariable represented as the restoration of historically justified borders while the overthrow of a rival government is the liberation of its oppressed people. So, no one ever has to admit to being a militarist.

[^2]: I advocated this approach, with no success, in the lead up to the Y2K fiasco.

{ 182 comments }

1

Dylan 07.04.16 at 6:20 am

Is it obvious that limiting use of military force to self-defense entails a minimal capability for force projection?

If the cost of entirely securing a nation’s territory (Prof Q, you will recognise the phrase “Fortress Australia”) is very high relative to the cost of being able to threaten an adversary’s territorial interests in a way that is credible and meaningful – would it not then be unavoidably tempting to appeal to an expanded notion of self-defence and buy a force-projection capability, even if your intent is genuinely peaceful?

To speculate a little further – I would worry that so many people would need to be committed to “national defence” on a purely defensive model that it would have the unintended side effect of promoting a martial culture that normalises the use of armed force.

Of course, none of this applies if everyone abandons their force-projection capability – but is that a stable equilibrium, even if it could be achieved?

2

Lowhim 07.04.16 at 6:24 am

Well, you’ll be pleased to know that they’re working hard on WWI’s perception [1]. Many of us working against militarism. Not easy. And the linked NYtimes piece is worth reading.

[1] http://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/about.html

3

bad Jim 07.04.16 at 7:54 am

We’d need an alternative history of the Cold War to work through the ramifications of a less aggressive Western military. Russia would have developed nuclear weapons even if there hadn’t been an army at its borders, and the borders of the Eastern bloc were arguably more the result of opportunity than necessity. The colonial wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan and everywhere else could be similarly described.

After World War I, the chastened combatants sheepishly disarmed, cognizant of their insanity. World War II taught a different lesson, perhaps because, in contrast to the previous kerfuffle, both the Russian and American behemoths became fully engaged and unleashed their full industrial and demographic might, sweeping their common foes from the field, and found themselves confronting each other in dubious peace.

Both sides armed for the apocalypse with as many ways to bring about the end of civilization as they could devise, all the while mindlessly meddling with each other around the globe. Eventually the Russians gave up; their system really was as bad as we thought, and Moore’s law is pitiless: the gap expands exponentially. They’ve shrunk, and so has their military.

So why is America such a pre-eminent bully, able to defeat the rest of the world combined in combat? Habit, pride, domestic politics, sure; but blame our allies as well. Britain and France asked us to to kick ass in Libya, and Syria is not that different. We’ve got this huge death-dealing machine and everyone tells us how to use it.

Ridiculous as it is, it’s not nearly as bad as it was a hundred years ago, or seventy, or forty. We may still be on course to extinguish human civilization, but warfare no longer looks like its likely cause.

4

david 07.04.16 at 8:14 am

As you point out in fn1, nobody seems to ever fight “aggressive” wars. By the same token, there’s no agreed status quo ante. For France in 1913, the status quo ante bellum has Lorraine restored to France. Also, Germany fractures into Prussia and everyone else, and the Germans should go back to putting out local regionalist fires (as Austria-Hungary is busy doing) rather than challenging French supremacy in Europe and Africa please.

The position advanced in the essay is one for an era where ships do not hop from coaling station to coaling station, where the supremacy of the Most Favoured Nation system means that powerful countries do not find their domestic politics held hostage for access to raw materials controlled by other countries, where shipping lanes are neutral as a matter of course, and where the Green Revolution has let rival countries be content to bid, not kill, for limited resources. We can argue over whether this state of affairs is contingent on the tiger-repelling rock or actual, angry tigers, but I don’t think we disagree that this is the state of affairs, at least for the countries powerful enough to matter.

But, you know, that’s not advice that 1913 would find appealing, which is a little odd given the conceit that this is about the Somme. The Concert of Europe bounced from war to war to war. Every flag that permits war in this ‘anti-militarist’ position is met and then some. It was unending crisis after crisis that miraculously never escalated to total war, but no country today would regard crises of those nature as acceptable today – hundreds of thousands of Germans were besieging Paris in 1870! Hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen were dead! If Napoleon III had the Bomb he would have used it. But he did not. There was no three score years of postwar consumer economy under the peaceful shadow of nuclear armageddon.

5

ZM 07.04.16 at 8:17 am

John Quiggin,

I think you have accidentally left out “Anti” from the start of the second sentence quoted below:

“Wikipedia isn’t as satisfactory (to me) on anti-militarism, so I’ll essentially reverse the definition above, and offer the following provisional definition

Militarism is the belief or desire that a military expenditure should held to the minimum required to protect a country against armed attack and that, with the exception of self-defense, military power should not be used to promote national interests”

Fixed now, I hope. Thanks

6

ZM 07.04.16 at 8:44 am

I think as well as Anti Militarism you could think about the emerging concept of “Human Security” to replace National Security.

The military can do lots of other things than fight wars, they are really useful in floods and emergency situations, maybe you could use them in bushfires if the aeroplanes doubled up to drop water or something instead of just bombs. They can provide food in emergencies as well. The military could do a lot more positive things with all their equipment and training, especially when there are going to be more climate change related extreme weather events.

All the war memorials call the military Peace Makers, so I think the military should have not too much problem with doing more human security activities.

Mary Kaldor is an expert in this field, and has been working on a 5 year research project about security in transition, partly looking at the security gap in the world, where some people live in countries which have security, but many other people live in countries characterised by insecurity and crisis.

From a recent May article she co-wrote on Open Democracy :

“At the June Summit, which will take place after the UK Referendum, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, will present the results of her global review of external strategy. As part of the review process, the Human Security Study Group, which we convene, has presented a report entitled From Hybrid Peace to Human Security: Rethinking the EU Strategy Towards Conflict together with twelve background research papers .

Conflicts are at the sharp end of contemporary crises. Refugees, extremist ideologies, criminality and predation are all produced in conflict. Contemporary conflicts are sometimes known as ‘hybrid wars’ or ‘new wars’ in which classic distinctions between public and private, government/regular and rebel/irregular, and internal and external break down. They are best understood not as legitimate contests of wills (the twentieth century idea of war) but as a degenerate social condition in which armed groups mobilise sectarian and fundamentalist sentiments and construct a predatory economy through which they enrich. Identifying ways to address violent conflict could open up strategies for dealing with broader issues.

We are proposing an alternative approach that we are calling Second Generation Human Security. Second generation human security echoes the principles of human security developed in a much more optimistic time in the early 1990s but adapts them to the practical realities of the current period.

The centrepiece of our proposal is the construction of legitimate political authority (a state, a municipality or an international organisation) and legitimate livelihoods through specific measures aimed at countering the predatory social condition. The objective is not so much to change regimes at the top as to change the underlying structural conditions that produce conflict.

Such measures include:

– Support for locally driven efforts to negotiate ceasefires and safe areas at local levels and to establish civic power. ….

– Creative diplomacy. At present EU diplomacy is overly technical; our research suggests the need for flexible political direction at local levels. …

– An emphasis on justice and accountability for war crimes, human rights violations and economic crimes, is something that is demanded by civil society in all these conflicts. Justice is probably the most significant policy that makes a human security approach different from current stabilisation approaches. …

– Policies aimed at reversing the dynamic of the predatory war economy. It is the absence of a legitimate economy that is one of the most important drivers of war, as the Ukraine paper demonstrates. Neo-liberal reforms have been successful along with war in dismantling state dominated economies; but they have been much less successful in stimulating legitimate market economies. ….

These are some of the salient elements of a second generation human security approach. They are important, first of all for those who live in situations of deep insecurity – in Aleppo, in eastern Ukraine, or in the middle of the Mediterranean.

But they are also important for those who are currently citizens of the European Union. The European Union is facing an existential crisis with growing economic inequality and social precariousness, an increasing gap between debtors and creditors, more extreme weather events, the spread of violent conflicts in its neighbourhood with knock-on effects inside Europe through organised crime, refugees, and polarisation of communities, the rise of xenophobia and racism, as well as terrorist attacks.

Yet the EU is the only answer to these mounting dangers. Brexit could mean a reversion to nation-states and that will only make things worse. An effective second generation human security policy that would actually improve everyday security, both in conflict zones and in Europe, may well be critical for the very survival of the EU.”

https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/mary-kaldor-javier-solana/from-hybrid-peace-to-human-security

7

Anderson 07.04.16 at 9:07 am

3: “After World War I, the chastened combatants sheepishly disarmed, cognizant of their insanity.”

One could only wish this were true. Germany was disarmed by force and promptly schemed for the day it would rearm; Russia’s civil war continued for some years; France and Britain disarmed because they were broke, not because they’d recognized any folly.

… Quiggin, I don’t know if you read Daniel Larison at The American Conservative; his domestic politics would likely horrify us both, but happily he writes about foreign policy from a non-interventionist standpoint that may be the only plausible pathway to demilitarization such as you propose.

8

Anderson 07.04.16 at 9:15 am

… And at the risk of engaging those details JQ wishes to fly above, I swear it seems that every damn book about the Somme nowadays finds it necessary to exculpate Haig, typically by treating the battle as a costly but necessary learning experience. As if it were necessary to incur 600,000 casualties over 5 months to figure out that the tactics weren’t working as intended.

Militarism is a lot easier to defend when we keep making ridiculous excuses to justify mass slaughter.

9

Soru 07.04.16 at 10:44 am

Not clear how much the idea of ‘fix on failure’ is compatible with the general position that war is bad.

The opposite would seem to make more sense; the less war is bad, the less money spent attempting to prevent it is worthwhile.

10

Phil 07.04.16 at 10:48 am

I think 1999-Quiggin was missing the point about Y2K remediation. It was infuriating, back in January 2000, being told that Y2K had been a non-event and all those companies had spent money for nothing – they’d spent the money to make sure it would be a non-event! – so kudos to 1999Q for getting his scepticism in a month early.

Still wrong, though. Yes, it was costly, yes, it was oversold and yes, it was excessive, but it was needed and it did work. As late as 1987, when I was working as a programmer, I was told to use six-digit dates for a new system, & caused a row by insisting on using eight. By the late 90s there was a *lot* of code out there was that needed fixing, from PCs up to mainframe systems; IBM retired an entire line of minicomputers rather than fix the OS. (They were old, but they worked, and there were quite a few of them still in use.) ‘Fix on failure’ would have meant a slightly smaller charge on the economy, happening through 1999 and 2000 instead of in 1998-9 – and with the additional cost of stuff actually failing.

But poking fun at the prophets of doom was fun (I did it myself).

As for the analogy with militarism, the great strength of ‘fix on failure’ in that context is that there’s nothing that can actually be pre-emptively fixed. By analogy to crime prevention, a pre-emptive fix would be surrounding the target property with a ten-foot wall and razor wire and floodlights and CCTV; overkill, but it could be done and it would certainly stop burglars. ‘Fix on failure’ would be going about your life normally and fitting extra locks if and when you get burgled, not before. But the pre-emptive fixes of militarism – “keeping the sea lanes open” etc – aren’t fixes at all; you can’t spend the money, get the fix in and then stop. They’re more like committing yourself to stand guard over the property, every night, forever. In other words, they normalise force projection, not only as something the state should be able to carry out when needed, but as the normal state of affairs – something the state should be doing all the time.

The question then is, if the ideal is a state whose armed forces are largely ‘stood down’ but can be called on when a threat arises, how that could actually be implemented.

11

David 07.04.16 at 11:03 am

WW1 wasn’t “caused” by militarism. The use of military force was a recognised tool of international politics at the time if diplomacy failed, and was regarded as entirely legitimate. Wars were not started lightly or for no purpose, but neither were they ruled out on principle. The problem, as my lower-case namesake alludes to, is that much of the political ground over which WW1 was fought was essentially zero-sum. Either France or Germany could have Alsace/Lorraine, but not both. Nationalities within the AH and Turkish empires could have self-determination but only through the end of those empires. France of Germany could be the major continental power in Europe, but not both. And so on.
The degree of disarmament after 1919 has been exaggerated. Germany was forcibly part-disarmed, with consequences which were to be disastrous later. Britain and France spent less than they had done, but re-armed vigorously after the mid-1930s. There was a widespread fear of another war, and hope that it could be avoided, but, ironically, the same politicians who are criticized for not learning lessons from WW1 are also criticized precisely for learning those lessons and trying to find peaceful solutions, to the point of appeasement. This is one example of our culture’s incapacity, even today, to think about WW1 in any coherent and rational fashion.
Incidentally, I don’t think that most works today try to exculpate Haig, who, it’s generally agreed, was a commander out of his depth in modern warfare. The Robert-Graves/Blackadder approach still dominates popular treatment of the War, and the Battle of the Somme, and the work of younger historians like Gary Sheffield, hasn’t made it into mainstream thinking because the mythology which has surrounded these events for a century remains too strong. It’s fair to say that the Somme offensive was intended to take pressure off the French at Verdun (which it did) and to inflict heavy casualties on the Germans (which it did). A breakthrough was devoutly wished for, but was never a realistic possibility for technical reasons. Overall, I think the consensus is the Somme offensive, botched as it was, did make a contribution to winning the war, and certainly caused a major rethink in British tactics.

12

Anderson 07.04.16 at 12:06 pm

11: Haig promised a breakthrough, was given the go-ahead on that basis, & certainly did not tell the war cabinet “eh, we will accomplish nothing on the map, but we will have a jolly battle of attrition & take some pressure off the Frenchies.”

That’s exactly the kind of post-hoc stuff that helped keep Haig in power.

13

Rich Puchalsky 07.04.16 at 12:09 pm

To a first approximation, no one learns any historical lessons from anything. So I sort of agree that bringing up the Somme is a distraction. Those people died for nothing and they will forever have died for nothing.

Advocacy of mass killing is now as common on the left as it is on the right. Every war is a humanitarian intervention, hailed as such by internationalists who ask why people in other countries should be counted as less important than ourselves. So I think that anarchy is pretty much the only lasting solution. People can not be trusted not to use a military machine and it’s better not to have a society that can support one.

14

david 07.04.16 at 12:19 pm

Either France or Germany could have Alsace/Lorraine, but not both…

Yes. It’s interesting to think about how this would be tackled like in a post-Cold War world (i.e., what kinds of solutions the Western world expects the former Yugoslavia, Cyprus, etc. to cheerfully accept): i.e., power-sharing agreements underpinned by international observers and agreements. The Dayton agreement in Bosnia, the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland, etc.

This is obviously sorta destabilizing, in the sense that any sufficiently destructive irredentism can hope for some payoff. On the other hand, there are always ethnic nationalisms and at least this way they don’t butcher millions and millions of people?

and, of course, the agreements establish states that are intensely dependent on superpowers for their military and economic viability, in particular on intervention in the event of a crisis… With the threat of genocide mitigated, secessionists begin maneuvering to sideline former loyalists in the domestic scene. Moral hazard etc etc. Then foreign involvement is necessitated again – even if the incipient civil war isn’t a R2P cause in itself, the former occupier would surely be sniffing around.

And that’s how Australia winds up having to pour thousands of soldiers into Timor-Leste again. The timeline of the 2006 crisis developing – from peaceful protests to military mutinies – was about two weeks. Australian domestic politics barely noticed until the intervention itself. At what stage would “fix on failure” have applied…?

15

Plume 07.04.16 at 1:14 pm

If we could wave a magic Star Trek wand, we could end “offensive” wars by limiting all militaries to “defensive” capabilities only. As in, just barely enough to defend oneself from others, but nowhere near enough to launch wars against others.

We would also want to replace the first economic system in world history to be inherently imperialistic all on its own, separate from the political:

capitalism.

We would replace this with economic forms that solve for X, with X equaling “scarcity,” via the distribution of 100% of our resources to 100% of the population, rather than the first 85% going to the richest 20% (as is the current ratio) . . . with a still further focus on the richest 1%. That would remove the additional rationale for nations to strip other nations of natural resources, because they supposedly “need” to. Solve for Y, with Y equaling class divisions, by eliminating the class system, period, so you no longer have Napoleons or groups of Napoleons seeking power over others for whatever reason.

War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!!

16

jake the antisoshul sohulist 07.04.16 at 1:32 pm

Other than the reference to “the redempive power of war”, the mythification of the military is not mentioned in the definition of militarism. I don’t think a definition of militarism can focus only on the political/policy aspects and ignore the cultural aspects.
Militarism is as much cultural as it is political, and likely even more so.

17

John Garrett 07.04.16 at 1:36 pm

The world needs more Costa Ricas, and less of everything else.

18

David 07.04.16 at 1:43 pm

@Anderson. I said I wasn’t defending Haig, who certainly promised far more than he could actually achieve. But Haig did not make the decisions: they were initially made by the political leadership of France and Britain, and had to be changed when the French, badly mauled at Verdun, could not participate on the Somme at the levels that had been planned. This was all known at the time, but the revisionist history that began in the 1920s continues to obscure it. I just don’t think that that episode, not indeed much of WW1 on the Western Front, is really a good example to take if you are going to write about militarism. There are better ones.

19

Theophylact 07.04.16 at 2:17 pm

Tacitus:

Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant (To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire: they make a desolation and they call it peace).

20

Salem 07.04.16 at 2:54 pm

How does this play out in practice?

Suppose the USA, feeling its national interest threatened, uses military force to expel the Russian occupiers in Ukraine. That would meet your definition of militarism. But suppose the USA, engaging in collective security under the Budapest Memorandum, uses military force to expel the Russian occupiers in Ukraine. As collective self-defence, that meets your definition of anti-militarism. Hmmm. Then suppose the USA’s willingness to enter into, and commitment to, any particular collective defence agreement is a function of its perceived national interest…

I don’t see a clear line between (collective) self-defence and aggressive militarism. The former has been used as a facade for the latter since at least 467 BC, and countries are meretriciously accused of the latter when they are merely doing the former (see e.g. the Falklands). I think the real distinction lies in intent, proportionality, reasonableness, aggression… yes, I think we’re going to need those weasel words back.

21

Lupita 07.04.16 at 2:58 pm

Legalizing drugs would avoid lots of death and diminish military expenditures considerably.

22

Lupita 07.04.16 at 3:01 pm

Closing tax havens would also be a blow to lots of criminal predators and corrupt politicians.

23

Anarcissie 07.04.16 at 4:10 pm

Rich Puchalsky 07.04.16 at 12:09 pm @ 14:
‘Advocacy of mass killing is now as common on the left as it is on the right.’

I wasn’t aware of this. It seems to me that romanticization of killing, destruction, and other works of warfare has died down considerably among leftists in recent years. I suppose it may be just catching its breath after the workouts of the 20th century. ‘Humanitarian intervention’ looks to me like good old non-leftist imperialism with a new cover; in the modern world, empire is almost always justified in noble terms, in this case derived from liberalism.

24

LFC 07.04.16 at 4:55 pm

from the OP:
100 years after the Battle of the Somme, it’s hard to see that much has been learned from the catastrophe of the Great War

The counterargument to this statement is that the world’s ‘great powers’ did indeed learn something from the Great War: namely, they learned that great-power war is a pointless endeavor. Hitler of course didn’t learn that, which is, basically, why WW2 happened. But there hasn’t been a great-power war — i.e., a sustained conflict directly between two or more ‘great’ or major powers — since WW2 (or some wd say the Korean War qualifies as a great-power war, in which case 1953 wd be the date of the end of the last great-power war).

The next step is to extend the learned lesson about great-power war to other kinds of war. That extension has proven difficult, but there’s no reason to assume it’s forever impossible.

—–

p.s. There are various extant definitions of ‘great power’, some of which emphasize factors other than military power. For purposes of this comment, though, one can go with Mearsheimer’s definition: “To qualify as a great power, a state [i.e., country] must have sufficient military assets to put up a serious fight in an all-out conventional war against the most [militarily] powerful state in the world” (The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2001), p.5). Using this definition of ‘great power’, the last war in which two or more great powers directly fought each other in any kind of sustained fashion (i.e. more than a short conflict of roughly a week or two [or less]) was, as stated above, either WW2 or Korea (depending on one’s view of whether China qualified as a great power at the time of the Korean War).

25

LFC 07.04.16 at 4:59 pm

Someone will immediately say that the reason there was no great-power war after ’45 or the early ’50s was nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence. That helped, but I don’t think it’s the full explanation.

26

RNB 07.04.16 at 5:10 pm

Mearscheimer is predicting war between China and the US acting in its own interest and the behest of Japan due to disputes over Taiwan and in the East and South China Sea. He sees China as intending on establishing a hegemony in Asia similar to what the US has enjoyed in the Americas.
He argues that the US has an interest in slowing down growth in China as that growth will underwrite growing Chinese military capabilities. TPP is disguised as a free trade act for general prosperity but is in realist terms an attempt to exclude China from growth opportunities, i.e. slow down its growth
He also argues against R2P in Syria not on grounds that it would necessarily fail or be counterproductive but that in realist terms the pivot to Asia is necessary to meet the truly daunting challenge of China with full force.
He suggests that while Bill Clinton thought of China in terms of economic benefits of integration, leading US politicians including Hillary Clinton now see China as a rising hegemon which will exclude the US and Japan from the fastest growing markets in the world unless US foreign policy is successful in raising credible military threats and slowing down China’s growth.

27

Anarcissie 07.04.16 at 5:13 pm

@25, @26 — There was a war of sorts between China and the Soviet Union. In any case, I don’t see what lesson has been learned; certainly not by the leaders of the US, who have continued to play military games all over the world, some of which (Georgia 2008, Ukraine, Syria, etc.) could have blown up catastrophically.

28

RNB 07.04.16 at 5:17 pm

Haven’t read Pinker’s book about the decline of violence in human affairs. Seems relevant here.

29

Chuck Baggett 07.04.16 at 5:18 pm

Should “know” be “knows” in “into arguments about who know more of the historical detail”?

30

LFC 07.04.16 at 5:32 pm

RNB @27
I think *some* of that may be a roughly accurate rendering of M’s views, but I am not aware that he is predicting a war betw China and the US. Whatever you think of M., he’s way too smart to make that kind of prediction. If you can point me to a passage where he makes such a prediction — by which I mean “I predict this will happen, or with such-and-such considerable probability” — I will stand corrected. Anyway, I was simply taking his definition of ‘great power’, not endorsing either his theoretical or policy views, though I have more sympathy for the latter than the former.

And btw, I’m not at all sure that M. is a big fan of ‘the pivot to Asia’ as it has been talked about the Obama admin. His preferred approach is ‘offshore balancing’ (see yet another article by Mearsheimer and Walt on this in the current Foreign Affairs) and I’m not at all sure that entails a ‘pivot to Asia’ of quite the sort the admin has touted. Wd have to clarify this for myself at some pt.

31

LFC 07.04.16 at 5:36 pm

@RNB
Haven’t read Pinker’s book about the decline of violence in human affairs. Seems relevant here.

I deliberately did not mention the Pinker argument (or Goldstein, Winning the War on War) because there have been CT threads on this in the past (one a long time ago following a Chris Bertram OP) and they have generated a lot of sound and fury and not a whole lot else.

So I thought it best to steer clear of that and focus on a somewhat narrower point.

32

LFC 07.04.16 at 5:49 pm

Anarcissie @28

To be sure, the argument about ‘learning’ in this context is not something that can be definitively proved or demonstrated in a slam-dunk kind of way. WW1 did have an impact in changing rhetoric and assumptions about war, vindicating retrospectively the arguments of those who foresaw a disaster, and to some degree changing the way publics and leaders thought about war. It was not a complete change and there is still a long way to go.

If one looks at the U.S. military, on one hand the mil. brass is definitely interested in having a large budget, acquiring lots of fancy, expensive, and dubiously necessary weapons, working w and being part of the bloated ‘mil/industrial complex’ etc. On the other hand, pressure in recent years to actually use military force has often originated with civilian leaders and policymakers and gone along w somewhat reluctantly by the military (e.g., Iraq war). What conclusions one draws from that I’ll leave open.

—–

Re USSR and China: they did fight along the Ussuri River in 1969, but it was a relatively short engagement. That’s why I deliberately included the qualification about a sustained (i.e., more than a week or two) encounter.

33

Rarely Posts 07.04.16 at 5:55 pm

This might sound like a nit, but cutting the word “aggressively” seems problematic. You’ve created two positions (militarism and anti-militarism), but what about people in-between? Is there a good descriptor for that position? It’s clear that neither George W. Bush nor Obama is an anti-militarist, but I would only tend to call the first a militarist. I suppose your entire point is to lump the vast majority of elites into one group, but that seems to efface crucial distinctions.

Additionally, without the word “aggressively,” a person could easily fit the definition of militarist and still require an “explicit weighing of the costs and benefits of overseas military action compared to [non-military alternatives].” In fact, that seems to be the position of many of the “doves” in American political life. And, as I interpret your definition of anti-militarism, it seems an anti-militarist should oppose military action even on the rare occasions when the benefits do outweigh the costs. So, while I think that’s a potentially useful test for military action, it doesn’t strike me as being anti-militarist.

34

RNB 07.04.16 at 6:00 pm

LFC,
I was going by this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXSkY4QKDlA (h/t Brian Leiter)
there isn’t a transcript, and I listened it late one night. But I definitely left with the impression that by the tragedy of great power politics, Mearscheimer was suggesting that war with China was certainly possible, if not likely; and that economic integration would not stand in the way.

35

Stephen 07.04.16 at 6:33 pm

JQ: “Anti-militarism is the belief or desire that a military expenditure should held to the minimum required to protect a country against armed attack”
But in the pre-August 1914 context, as far as European politics were concerned, that was essentially the policy of the UK Liberal government. A strong fleet to protect against invasion of the UK, a minimal army. Of course, having had a minimal army led to terrible losses on the Somme when the minimal army had been expanded beyond any possibly effective limits.
“and that, with the exception of self-defense, military power should not be used to promote national interests”
But here, in the 1914 context, there was a problem for the UK government. Successful self-defence, given an aggressive Germany, depended on Germany not conquering Belgium and defeating France, so for the UK exerting military power outside the boundaries of the UK was therefore in the national interest … How to disentangle that?

36

Yankee 07.04.16 at 6:38 pm

A post-militarist public safety policy would look like policing, which gets done with reference to the people who live there, one block at a time. “Fix on failure”, just so. But that will require a change of heart; state to state conflicts are not interested in people, basically.

37

David 07.04.16 at 6:43 pm

I rather suspect that, as usual, people learned very much the lessons they wanted to learn from WW1. I agree with LFC that it did change the discourse somewhat, though not in the same way among all social groups. There’s a powerful argument that what might loosely be called the Owen/Sassoon/Graves view of the war has unfairly dominated thinking about it (as it rather does the OP) and that the actual “lessons” of the war, as drawn by different groups, were much more nuanced and various. In particular, the political classes of the West drew the conclusion that another European war would mean revolutions of the Soviet/German/Hungarian variety all over Europe, and that almost anything was preferable to that. Likewise, from the moment of the signature of the Versailles Treaty, it was opposed by virtually all of German society, and indeed Weimar governments started trying to unpick it more or less straight away; Eventually, a German government would emerge which demanded the return of its territory and the remilitarization of the Rhineland. It happened to be the Nazis but it could have been someone else. Indeed, reading the memoirs and documents of the period, what’s most noticeable is a sense of dread, and a belief that another war was inevitable. The “lessons” if you like were not that wars solve nothing, but rather that the fundamental political problems of Europe were insoluble, and if anything had become more so, condemning the continent to more wars.

38

JeffreyG 07.04.16 at 6:45 pm

“What would an anti-militarist military policy look like? Most obviously, it would involve a drastic reduction in the capacity for ‘force projection’ “

I don’t expect people to be satisfied with this response, but that policy is one that centers on nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons allow for a state to satisfy most of its security needs in a way that fosters little militarism. No need for large contingents of troops, nor tanks, nor many planes. One can make an ICBM seem cool I suppose, but there are limits to it as a symbol or as something people will identify positively with.

Nuclear armed states that possess a strong ground army (US, Russia, Israel, China) are those with major designs in their regional environment, such that they still want that capacity for force projection. But how do we convince these states to give up that capacity? Some of this will require a greater investment in non-military solutions to the underlying issues that states are trying to resolve through force. Terrorism is a great example (regardless of how ‘earnest’ one thinks the various wars on terrorism may be) that I am not sure we have a good solution for yet; lingering territorial conflicts are another big sticking point, and will require a few creative political/diplomatic resolutions.

39

LFC 07.04.16 at 6:58 pm

RNB @33
I’ll listen to that, thanks.

As various people have noted, M. the policy advocate does not always line up neatly w M. the theorist. In my view, M’s theory (‘offensive realism’) is pretty crude stuff; by contrast, his policy suggestions sometimes make sense. As for his advocacy of deliberately slowing down China’s growth, I was not impressed by that recommendation; and anyway as it turns out the rate of China’s growth has been slowing, without any deliberate aiming at that goal by the U.S.

M. is a self-conscious, self-identified ‘realist’ and he rejects the notion that economic integration leads to peace. I think a blanket rejection of that proposition is wrong, but then M. is wrong about a number of things. Dale Copeland’s recent bk is apparently a more nuanced (I use the word in a positive sense) take on the relation betw war/peace and ec. integration/interdependence.

40

Lupita 07.04.16 at 7:06 pm

ZM @ 7 quoting Mary Kaldor:

An emphasis on justice and accountability for war crimes, human rights violations and economic crimes, is something that is demanded by civil society in all these conflicts. Justice is probably the most significant policy that makes a human security approach different from current stabilisation approaches.

Bringing Bush, Blair, and Aznar to justice would be the greatest deterrent for further war. I like the part about economic crimes. Justice brings peace.

41

Rich Puchalsky 07.04.16 at 7:13 pm

Yes, let’s immediately turn this into a discussion between LFC and RNB about Meirsheimer. Bush’s war did, at least, make realists look comparatively better by making idealists look like complete creeps — shameless, one might say. But really I doubt whether the people killed care whether they are dying for a cunning plan to restrict China’s growth or as collateral damage from taking out the dictator of the week. The same process of rationalization operates in both cases. These are the people who are supposed to have studied history closely and learned its lessons.

42

LFC 07.04.16 at 7:29 pm

R. Puchalsky @40
I’m fine with seeing the Mearsheimer discussion as concluded now.

I only invoked him in my comment @25 because I needed, for the point I was making, a definition of ‘great power’. If I hadn’t provided one, you or someone else would have been in with: “What’s your definition? What’s your definition? What’s your definition?”

43

David 07.04.16 at 7:38 pm

@Lupita, well, Kaldor is factually wrong, unless you take “civil society,” as many do, to equal “western-funded NGOs active in human rights issues”, who are always sounding off about these issues (or at least I’ve yet to visit a country where they are not.) But what are you actually going to charge Bush etc. with, before a real Court? With being people you dislike? Starting wars is not a personal crime: if it were, a number of western leaders would now be on trial over Libya. This has been an idealist human rights club fantasy for as long as I can remember.

44

Howard Frant 07.04.16 at 8:50 pm

Could we have some more discussion of hard cases?

To start, what about, say, Rwanda? Hard to argue that an intervention there wouldn’t have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. What if someone with a Security Council veto is blocking UN intervention?

Should we care about small countries being bullied by large ones (Ukraine, Vietnam), or does that lead us onto a slippery slope?

I’m not sure if some people here are making the argument that interventions will turn out worse than people expect (reasonable, but then there are cases like Rwanda, where it could be much worse than we expect and still be good), or that it will be most prudent in the long run to have a rule against interventions even though some short-run consequences are horrific.

Do we feel differently about NATO counties than non-NATO countries?Do we feel differently about Sarajevo than Raqqa? Do we feel differently about deaths caused by us than we do about deaths caused by someone else?

45

Omega Centauri 07.04.16 at 9:13 pm

And there are many hard cases. We live on a spherical rock with a thin atmosphere, and a shifting climate. Things that happen in other territories create issues outside of territorial boundaries, although the local religions rarely recognize externalities of their activities that only effect others. Evolving societies outside ones boundaries potentially, and within living memory have created existential risks military and/or environmental to their neighbors, non intervention is not seen as the lowest risk option….

46

Kevin Cox 07.04.16 at 9:19 pm

The place to start is with the Efficient Market Hypothesis as the mechanism to allocate resources. This hypothesis says that entities compete for markets. War is a tool of competition for resources. Think Iraq.

Instead of allocating resources via markets let us allocate resources cooperatively via the ideas of the Commons. Start with “Think like a Commoner: A short introduction to the Life of the Commons” by David Bollier.

A country that uses this approach to the allocation of resources will not want to go to war and will try to persuade other countries to use the same approach.

The place to start is with renewable energy. Find a way to “distribute renewable energy” based on the commons and anti militarism will likely follow.

47

Lupita 07.04.16 at 10:22 pm

@ David

Kaldor is factually wrong, unless you take “civil society,” as many do, to equal “western-funded NGOs active in human rights issues”, who are always sounding off about these issues

The parents of murdered women of Ciudad Juárez organized themselves to demand justice, so did the parents of the 43 murdered students from Ayotzinapa. Maybe later on, western-funded NGOs added their voice, but certainly Mexican parents didn’t need a lecture on human rights from nice foreigners before they realized that there was this thing called justice or lack thereof.

But what are you actually going to charge Bush etc. with, before a real Court?

Of organizing a war of aggression, war crimes, false claims about weapons of mass destruction, misuse of intelligence, misleading Congress (parliament in Blair’s case), malfeasance in public office, breaching constitutional duties. Whatever sticks.

48

Anarcissie 07.05.16 at 12:31 am

Lupita 07.04.16 at 10:22 pm @ 46 —
While the Nuremberg War Crimes tribunal hanged Nazis for doing exactly what Bush 2 and company did, I doubt if starting a war of aggression is against U.S. law in an enforceable way. However, since the war was completely unjustified, I suppose Bush could be charged with murder (and many other crimes). This sort of question is now rising in the UK with regard to Blair because of the Chilcot inquiry.

49

The Temporary Name 07.05.16 at 12:46 am

While the Nuremberg War Crimes tribunal hanged Nazis for doing exactly what Bush 2 and company did

While I’d be happy to see the Bush 2 crew go on trial, this statement is untrue.

50

Rich Puchalsky 07.05.16 at 12:57 am

Funny how the hard cases always result in death for somebody else. That’s really hard.

51

LFC 07.05.16 at 1:26 am

H. Frant @43
There are hard cases. Rwanda may actually not be one of the hard or hardest cases, though, inasmuch as there was a genocide and a failure to intervene effectively despite real-time pleas from the UN official(s) on the ground. The reasons for the failure to intervene are no doubt multiple and the background complicated, as it always is, but my impression is that there was a v. good case for outside intervention there, which didn’t happen. Other situations are often not as clear-cut, and as JQ notes in the OP, interventions can sometimes make things worse (though I am not nec. as opposed to all such interventions as JQ seems to be).

Just in v. recent history one can see examples of interventions that had a ‘humanitarian’ component (I put it that way b/c I tend to doubt there is such a thing as a pure humanitarian intervention) and had different results: i.e., the NATO intervention in Libya, which can now be seen not to have had the intended results, and (by contrast) the French intervention in Mali, which on balance did accomplish roughly what it aimed to. (Btw I definitely do not think the Iraq invasion of ’03 belongs in this category at all, since (1) that was a case where Saddam Hussein was not *at that particular time* in the midst of committing atrocities, though he had in the past, and (2) the proponents of the invasion were simply throwing a whole bunch of purported justifications vs. the wall and hoping that one or two would stick.)

The Indian invasion of E. Pakistan (Bangladesh) in Dec. ’71 is yet a different case, one that is sometimes called a humanitarian intervention but where India’s motives were largely pragmatic rather than purely humanitarian and yet its intervention had the net effect of saving a fairly large number of civilian lives, though I’m not sure the number can be quantified with any precision. And there are at least a few other interventions in this category: i.e., largely pragmatic motives, but ‘humanitarian’ on balance results. Even here, though, I think one has to be sensitive to different contexts and justifications and recognize that these are usu. not easy judgments, either for those sitting in proverbial armchairs long after the fact or for those trying to make the decisions at the time.

52

LFC 07.05.16 at 1:29 am

p.s. I posted 49 before seeing R.P.’s 48, just in case someone is wondering.

53

Rich Puchalsky 07.05.16 at 1:47 am

I wonder why the Hutu resented the Tutsi in the first place. Surely one more intervention wouldn’t have resulting in massacres still ongoing now. Everyone knows that when we intervene, we solve the political and military problems in the country for the long term.

54

Matt 07.05.16 at 2:31 am

Maybe intervention in Rwanda could have saved a lot of lives without creating any worse problems. Arguing over these cases with pro-interventionists is a great misdirection, like the well-read firearms enthusiast who can always document those remarkable instances where someone’s life was saved because they keep a loaded handgun under their pillow. But we don’t need to refute each of those stories to decide if having loaded, unlocked guns around the house is more likely to cause or prevent harm. The individual case may be hard to reason about; the class of all cases isn’t. Likewise, instead of trying to weigh the Rwanda military intervention that didn’t happen, look at the enormous sums the USA has historically spent on the capability to intervene, and look at the results of the interventions that did happen. Haven’t we done this experiment enough times to realize that leaving a gun under a pillow where children can reach it — or leaving a force projection capability lying around where presidents can reach it — is a bad idea?

55

Anderson 07.05.16 at 2:34 am

Rich, a question: do you really believe no folks kill other folks without American involvement?

The catch of foreign policy is that you don’t get to know what happens if you didn’t intervene (Libya) or if you did (Syria). There are blowhards who pretend to know, who will declare that action or inaction made things much worse; but they don’t know.

Nonintervention is a defensible position, but it requires either indifference to suffering, or a dogmatic conviction that intervention makes suffering worse. The latter, in domestic policy, is associated with the Paul Ryans of the world.

56

LFC 07.05.16 at 2:51 am

Matt @52
What you say is actually a good argument for strengthening the peacekeeping and peace-enforcement capabilities of the UN and of regional organizations (e.g., the African Union). The record of such operations is mixed but on balance positive, esp. when the soldiers are deployed in sufficient numbers and have a sufficiently robust mandate. This takes the intervention decision out of the hands of any single government or ad hoc coalition and reduces the concern that it’s a matter of a couple of powerful countries recklessly throwing their weight around. The approach does have drawbacks in terms e.g. of speed of response (a UN force has to be assembled afresh from contributing countries each time), but on the whole it’s preferable for the reasons already stated. Btw I don’t think of myself as a ‘pro-interventionist’ and if one were to make some kind of spectrum I wd not be on the highly pro-interventionist end of it. Which is why, for ex., when I read horrific, graphic accounts of the results of Assad’s bombing of civilians in a recent New Yorker article, my first impulse was not to say “well, the State Dept. 50 are obviously right.”

57

LFC 07.05.16 at 3:05 am

The catch of foreign policy is that you don’t get to know what happens if you didn’t intervene (Libya) or if you did (Syria).

Yes. I think, generally speaking (there are always exceptional cases), the best you can hope for, even from the most expert observer, is an informed conjecture. Which is better than a view from someone who is not steeped in the region and the facts etc., but is still a conjecture. That said, I personally lean to the side of caution when it comes to unilateral or ad hoc-coalition interventions, but always with the thought that each situation should be considered on its own terms as much as possible.

58

Matt 07.05.16 at 3:17 am

You don’t need a “dogmatic conviction” that gambling makes financial problems worse to oppose it, just basic observational skills. But let’s not dogmatically proclaim that the craps tables make people poorer. Every day is a new day, and every case is a special case. You can’t win if you don’t play!

In 45 years of faffing around Médecins Sans Frontières has never bombed anyone. Think how much better MSF could be doing if they’d declare War once in a while instead of tinkering around the margins. It must be their dogmatism or indifference to suffering that keeps them so cramped. Good thing the US government has not copied their bad example.

59

Watson Ladd 07.05.16 at 3:57 am

It’s quite amazing to see 2008 Georgia called a military game by the US. Because if I remember correctly, it wasn’t US troops sneaking through a tunnel to a breakaway province.

As far as what is necessary for deterrence, no one would use nuclear weapons in response to a minor insurrection in a border province. The UK could not have nuked Argentina after they invaded British territory, nor could they nuke Spain if Gibraltar was retaken. They would have to send in conventional forces, and only gradually escalate. The future of war is more Ukraines and Georgias, with special forces and militias taking the lead role.

60

John Quiggin 07.05.16 at 5:57 am

I agree with Yankee @35

On the policing analogy, there’s a striking resonance with Black Lives Matter. We normally expect police to risk their own lives rather than endanger members of the public. The fact that not everyone gets equal protection in this respect is at the core of BLM.

But advocates of humanitarian intervention have often been happy to support the deployment of armies whose first priority is “force protection”, that is, putting the safety of troops ahead of the lives of the people on whose behalf the intervention was supposedly launched. There’s a bit of a literature on this, but I don’t think it has had any real impact on the way war is conducted http://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/facpub/654/

61

John Quiggin 07.05.16 at 6:03 am

Also, what Matt said @52 is spot-on. There may be cases where it’s reasonable to launch humanitarian interventions but these are the exception rather than the rule.

Linking back to Yankee, the successes I’ve seen mostly involve small scale deployments of forces operating more like heavily armed police than conventional armies.

62

David 07.05.16 at 9:29 am

Rwanda is a bad case to choose. This was at the end of a bitter civil war, where armies of 20-25,000 faced each other, well-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened, as well as used to operating in the hilly terrain – unmistakeable if you’ve ever seen it. The RPA, Kagame’s mob, had military support from Uganda, and probably the US (where Kagame was trained). The political situation was explosively unstable, both sides had a history of extreme violence not only against the Hutu or Tutsi classes, but of members of their own class as well. The breakdown of the ceasefire after the murder of the Hutu President led to a resumption of the civil war amongst terrible violence in all directions, the majority, apparently, against the French-speaking Tutsi class. Whilst the (Hutu dominated) Army was participating in this, the invading RPA finally took the capital.
Now I leave ex-military readers to work out and tell us what size of forces would have been required to separate the combatants and pacify a country of ten million people where communications are difficult, or even telling the armies and their associated militias apart from each other, at a point where civilians were being massacred on all sides. I rather suspect we would still be fighting a guerrilla war near the Ugandan border twenty years later. It was hubris that led the West to believe it could solve the problem in the first place by imposing a cease-fire with incentives and threats.
Lupita @46, obviously there are groups all over the world who have called for what they describe as “justice” (usually revenge) but that’s not what Kaldor was saying. She was relying on the mythical liberal construct of “civil society”. You want to charge Bush with “whatever sticks”, which is what an authoritarian political system does to get rid of its enemies, and risks becoming the norm in international justice today. Little of your list amounts to individual criminal charges, it’s characteristic of the desire to give political opposition a judicial camouflage and, if necessary, invent crimes of which people can later be found guilty. I suppose I don’t like Bush any more than you do, but I have an eye on the dangers of corruption if I ever found myself in front of a court because of my political opinions or acts. A good analogy, incidentally, would be the trials, convictions and executions of members of the Spanish Republican government after 1939 by the Franco regime, effectively accused of the mirror image of the things you are accusing Bush of.

63

Faustusnotes 07.05.16 at 9:42 am

Didn’t the international order invent a whole bunch of new processes and crimes to deal with the nazis? That’s a case of “whatever sticks” and a good thing too.

It’s ludicrous that Blair is free to continue his vampiric ways while a million Iraqis are dead, 2 million displaced and the country thrown into chaos. This is not an issue of proper process or governance – the man is a monster and if the laws to pin him down and make him pay don’t exist, we need to make them.

64

ZM 07.05.16 at 11:15 am

I feel like someone objecting to Lupita’s comments based on them possibly being arrested for their political opinions in the future is not a very good argument unless they are actually very likely to be arrested for their political opinions.

There are a few political activists on Crooked Timber, like Rich Puchalsky, but I have never heard Rich Puchalsky using this argument against commenters, that he objects to their comment based on the fact he might get arrested for his political opinions some time.

David is not really expressing any political opinions on this thread which seem likely to put him in any danger of being arrested for his political opinions, and in fact Lupita’s opinions seem to be such that she would be more in danger of being arrested. Just saying.

65

ZM 07.05.16 at 11:19 am

This is not to say I think people should be arrested for political opinions, but to point out the unlikelihood of this happening in Australia, the USA, or Europe, which makes it seem like an odd way to argue against another commenter.

If Bush or Blair were arrested, it would not be for political opinions, it would be for war crimes. And this has not happened.

66

David 07.05.16 at 1:15 pm

I thought the point I was making was clear enough, but let me try to spell it out. I’m not thinking of myself or any of the commentariat here, except incidentally, but of the Rule of Law. One of its premises is that you can only be tried for crimes that exist, not crimes that are invented after the fact because somebody dislikes you. But this is an absolute principle, and once it’s gone it’s gone. You can’t reasonably object if a future government uses the same tactic to pursue and imprison people you like and support, because the pass will already have been sold. A future right-wing American government that puts Obama own trial for treason over the Benghazi episode would do as an example, but modern history is full of real cases of the perversion of justice in this way (the Suppression of Communism Act in apartheid South Africa, for example). And eventually, all of us want to hope and trust that in the countries we live in we won’t for example, find ourselves charged by some future government with tax evasion or possession of child pornography or “whatever sticks”, simply because we have irritated the powers that be in some way, and they want to punish us. Read, if you are not familiar with it already, Giorgio Agamben’s book “State of Exception” which explains how this kind of thing happens.

67

LFC 07.05.16 at 1:25 pm

J Quiggin @58

advocates of humanitarian intervention have often been happy to support the deployment of armies whose first priority is “force protection”, that is, putting the safety of troops ahead of the lives of the people on whose behalf the intervention was supposedly launched. There’s a bit of a literature on this, but I don’t think it has had any real impact on the way war is conducted http://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/facpub/654/

The link goes to an abstract of a normative-theory article by David Luban. The abstract does not say that “advocates of humanitarian intervention have often been happy to support the deployment of armies whose first priority is ‘force protection'” — indeed the abstract says nothing specifically about humanitarian intervention at all. Rather, the article appears to be a response to two philosophers who argue that, in war in general (not humanitarian intervention specifically), soldiers have a higher duty to protect themselves than the lives of enemy civilians. An odd view, but not one that appears to relate directly to the discussion about humanitarian intervention.

It makes no sense for “advocates of humanitarian intervention” to adopt a position that puts ‘force protection’ as the first, overriding priority, and the Luban article, based on the abstract, does not address this point at all as it relates specifically to humanitarian intervention.

68

LFC 07.05.16 at 1:44 pm

J Quiggin @59

the successes I’ve seen mostly involve small scale deployments of forces operating more like heavily armed police than conventional armies.

Well, UN peacekeepers or others with a humanitarian brief don’t operate like conventional armies (or shouldn’t) by definition. But “heavily armed police” is not that helpful a phrase b.c police and ‘policing’ in the peacekeeping context generally imply a less heavily armed force. And the scholarship indicates that if you want an effective peacekeeping or peace-enforcement operation, esp. when fighting is ongoing, you need a heavily armed force and one deployed in sufficient numbers:

We analyze how the number of UN peacekeeping personnel deployed influences the amount of battlefield deaths in all civil wars in Africa from 1992 to 2011. The analyses show that increasing numbers of armed military [UN] troops are associated with reduced battlefield deaths, while police and observers are not. Considering that the UN is often criticized for ineffectiveness, these results have important implications: if appropriately composed, UN peacekeeping missions reduce violent conflict.

Quote from abstract of Lisa Hultman et al., “Beyond Keeping Peace: United Nations Effectiveness in the Midst of Fighting,” American Political Science Review, vol. 108 no. 4, November 2014, pp.737-753.

The point about sufficient numbers is important. A main reason the UN mission in the Dem Rep Congo was relatively ineffective for years is that it had about 18,000 soldiers trying to ‘police’ a quite huge area with various factions fighting, and 18,000 was nowhere near enough.

69

David 07.05.16 at 1:46 pm

@Ze K. As far as I recall (international lawyer around somewhere?) the concept of Crimes Against Peace was developed for the Nuremberg trials to find something of which members of the Nazi regime not otherwise vulnerable could be charged and convicted. I believe I’m right in saying that no defendant was convicted on this charge alone, but it was a nice shotgun-effect charge to have available if all else failed. It gave rise to criticism, because it criminalized something (declaration of war) which was perfectly legal in 1939, and which was, indeed, a fundamental right of states. Tiresome legalists also pointed out that it was France and Britain that had declared war on Germany, not the other way round. It hasn’t been used since – witness the agonies the ICC has gone through trying to define the crime of “aggression” for example.
For the record, I think that there’s a good chance that Bush and Blair could be charged with responsibility for individual crimes in the Iraq War, using the same “joint criminal enterprise” logic that eventually brought down Milosevic and Taylor. But for that you need a Court with jurisdiction and, at least in Bush’s case you haven’t got that. All I’m objecting to is letting the understandable irritation a lot of us feel about lacunae in justice of this sort overflowing into a kind of vigilante wish that these people be found guilty of something, anything, because we don’t like them. The analogy perhaps is with the police planting evidence on people they “know” are guilty, or lying about them in court. They call it “noble cause corruption” though I’m not sure about the noble bit.

70

LFC 07.05.16 at 1:48 pm

David @60
Rwanda is a bad case to choose.

That may well be, for the reasons you give. I’m not familiar enough w the details to have a grounded opinion.

71

ZM 07.05.16 at 1:49 pm

“I’m not thinking of myself or any of the commentariat here, except incidentally, but of the Rule of Law. One of its premises is that you can only be tried for crimes that exist, not crimes that are invented after the fact because somebody dislikes you. “

This comment by David conflates entirely different things:

1. Legislators should not make laws out of personal dislike for people. I think most people here would agree this is a good thing and would support this idea.

2. “you can only be tried for crimes that exist” This is incorrect since Parliament in Australia can enact laws to work retrospectively. http://www.ruleoflaw.org.au/retrospective-legislation-and-the-rule-of-law/

“But this is an absolute principle, and once it’s gone it’s gone. You can’t reasonably object if a future government uses the same tactic to pursue and imprison people you like and support, because the pass will already have been sold.”

Well 1. is an absolute principle, but no one on the thread is arguing for 1. as far as I can see.

2. is not an absolute principle because it is an error to think 2. is correct, where I live Parliament can enact retrospective legislation.

Further, no one in this discussion on war is arguing for retrospective legislation, they are arguing for trying people for war crimes, which are already against the law. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/war/overview/crimes_1.shtml

Moreover, no one in this discussion is arguing they hope governments where they live start arbitrarily detaining and imprisoning people.

And why anyone here would think they can teach Lupita about the negatives of arbitrary detention is beyond my comprehension https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/statement-report/mexico-un-experts-classify-detention-five-human-rights-defenders-illegal-and

(sorry Lupita if you don’t agree with that)

I really wish that my comment about Mary Kaldor’s important work on Human Security did not get drawn into a discussion with all these inaccuracies.

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David 07.05.16 at 1:52 pm

LFC: “The point about sufficient numbers is important.”
Absolutely. To give you an idea, the DRC is about the size of the whole of Western Europe, but with a population the size of Germany. The transport infrastructure is essentially non-existent, and troops have to move by air or by helicopter even over relatively short distances. Oh, and there are about two hundred separate languages spoken. Even at its height, MONUC could only have a local and temporary effect.

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Anarcissie 07.05.16 at 1:56 pm

Watson Ladd 07.05.16 at 3:57 am @ 56 —
According to what I read at the time the US, or at least some of its leadership, encouraged the Georgian leadership to believe that if they tried to knock off a few pieces of Russia, the US would somehow back them up if the project didn’t turn out as well as hoped. Now, I get this from the same media that called the Georgian invasion of Russia ‘Russian aggression’ so it may not be very reliable, but that’s what was said, and the invasion of a state the size of Russia by a state the size of Georgia doesn’t make much sense unless the latter thought they were going to get some kind of help if things turned out badly. I guess the model was supposed to be the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, but bombing the hell out of Serbia is one thing and bombing the hell out of Russia quite another.

It is interesting in regard to Georgia 2008 to trace the related career of Mr. Saakashvili, who was then the president of Georgia, having replaced Mr. Shevardnadze in one of those color revolutions, and was reported to have said that he wanted Georgia to become America’s Israel in central Asia. The Georgians apparently did not relish this proposed role once they found out what it entailed and kicked him out. He subsequently popped up in Ukraine, where according to Wikipedia he is the governor of the Odessa Oblast, whatever that means. Again, I get this from our media, so it may all be lies; but it does seem to make a kind of sense which I probably don’t need to spell out.

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ZM 07.05.16 at 2:00 pm

“All I’m objecting to is letting the understandable irritation a lot of us feel about lacunae in justice of this sort overflowing into a kind of vigilante wish that these people be found guilty of something, anything, because we don’t like them. The analogy perhaps is with the police planting evidence on people they “know” are guilty, or lying about them in court. They call it “noble cause corruption” though I’m not sure about the noble bit.”

Again, I can see no commenter here arguing that it would be good to have governments that make laws based on personal dislike of people. The Mary Kaldor article I linked to certainly makes no such claim.

And I really feel that these type of comments are a gross distortion of Mary Kaldor’s work I quoted, which was cited by David in a previous comment, and also a gross distortion of other people’s comments here as well.

No one at all here is in any way supporting arbitrary detention of people by paramilitary forces or supporting government making laws based on personal dislike of people or supporting law enforcement agencies planting evidence on people.

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Daragh 07.05.16 at 2:21 pm

Ze K@75

Needless to say this interpretation of the war is entirely false, and ignores Russia’s role in stoking ethnic tensions in post-Soviet Georgia (though TBF, Gamzakhurdia did his part too) and enabling ethnic cleansing on the part of Abkhaz and Ossete militias after the war. I should also note those Russian ‘peacekeepers’ did nothing to stop said same Ossete militias lobbing mortar shells into Georgia proper, or Russia’s countless hostile and provocative actions before the outbreak of hostilities.

Don’t get me wrong – Saakashvili was a fool who walked into an obvious trap, but it was exactly the outcome Moscow was attempting to engineer.

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Daragh 07.05.16 at 2:33 pm

“Once the USSR collapsed, it all started to unwind, and Georgia got screwed. Oh well.”

Yes, with the active assistance and encouragement of Russia’s armed forces and security services, resulting in thousands of deaths.

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Daragh 07.05.16 at 2:48 pm

“There’s no “Russia’s role”, other than trying to prevent a disaster, a full blown war and a genocide”

Through the rather curious route of actively destabilising the country, resulting in a full blown civil war and ethnic cleansing arguably reaching the level of localised genocide. Followed by the installation of Eduard Shevardnadze as a reasonably pro-Moscow leader and the de facto establishment of a Russian military protectorate on the Black Sea coast and strategic foothold in the south Caucasus (which more or less answers the ‘why’ of the thing.

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Lupita 07.05.16 at 3:55 pm

Back to Mary Kaldor’s quote:

An emphasis on justice and accountability for war crimes, human rights violations and economic crimes, is something that is demanded by civil society in all these conflicts. Justice is probably the most significant policy that makes a human security approach different from current stabilisation approaches.

Civil society does exist in non-Western countries, it just means groups of people without ties to the state, military, or church. The people, if you will. In non-Western countries, David, people do have brains and a sense of justice, most are literate and many have internet connections. We are not a mirage or a Western invention. We actually do exist.

Many of us have noticed that the current world order is unjust, that there are two sets of rules, one for Western heads of state and another for the rest, as in non-Westeners being violently deposed by the West or hanged for their crimes while Bush, Blair, and Aznar get speaking fees. Justice means that a same set of rules is applied to all heads of state equally. A set of rules devised by Westeners as to when and why exclusively Western countries can invade with impunity is not justice, particularly when the US and allies cannot even follow their own rigged rules of securing the endorsement of the UNSC.

I particularly take issue with the notion that non-Westeners are not even able to be part of the discussion because we don’t have civil societies. That is just the latest justification for western imperialism and it is patently ridiculous.

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Anarcissie 07.05.16 at 4:34 pm

Ze K 07.05.16 at 2:38 pm @ 80 —
The Russian ruling class experimented with being the US ruling class’s buddy in the 1990s, sort of. It didn’t work well for them. The destruction of Yugoslavia, the business in Abkhazia and Ossetia, the coup in Ukraine, the American intervention in Syria which must seem (heh) as if aimed at the Russian naval base at Tartus, the extensions of NATO, the ABMs, and so on, these cannot have been reassuring. Reassurance then had to come from taking up bordering territory, building weapons, and the like. Let us hope the Russian leadership do not also come to the conclusion that the best defense is a good offense.

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Rich Puchalsky 07.05.16 at 4:37 pm

If someone wanted to actually bring Western political figures to justice for war crimes, there are existing statutes, both domestic and international, that they could be tried under. (Perhaps not international, depending on whether their country accepts certain international courts or not. I am not a lawyer.) So it’s not post facto law. But it might as well be, because these war criminals committed their crimes with the support of, and sometimes the nearly explicit knowledge of, their domestic populations. I don’t think that America is uniquely evil or anything like that (that’s just another version of American exceptionalism), but I’m more familiar with it than any other country, and I think that the whole idea that people didn’t know that Bush was committing war crimes as he committed them was BS. A majority of people wanted him to authorize murder and torture in our name.

Our leaders did, of course, have the final responsibility for authorizing these war crimes, and putting them on trial would have acknowledged that as well as asserting hypocritically (but hypocrisy is better than plain and open evil doing) that our country doesn’t do that. But since the powers that be won’t even go that far, I don’t see any point in holding up our leaders as the real criminals in a criminal-justice sense. We’re a nation of killers.

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LFC 07.05.16 at 5:28 pm

the American intervention in Syria which must seem (heh) as if aimed at the Russian naval base at Tartus

The Russian intervention in Syria has been mainly in support of a regime that has been committing war crimes (speaking of war crimes) roughly every day. The US intervention has mainly been targeted at ISIS. There has been an attempt at US-Russia coordination at least to the extent of not accidentally shooting down each other’s planes. How Russia infers from this that the US’s main concern is its naval base is unclear, to say the least.

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RNB 07.05.16 at 5:29 pm

On putting troops lives ahead of the people whom they are ostensibly protecting @58, I had written on Crooked Timber months ago:

RNB 03.03.16 at 1:42 am
@234 If you have good evidence that Clinton exercised poor judgment in concluding that there was a high risk of Qaddafi carrying out massacres, I am more than happy to read it. If the argument is that there is nothing productive the US can do in the form of humanitarian intervention, I am willing to consider it.

For example, Bhikhu Parekh has argued that humanitarian interventions tend to fail because the intervening nation puts such a high relative value on its troops’ lives compared to the people on whose behalf the intervention is made that the intervening power will take only those actions that do not put its own troops at risk though that kind of action, such as aerial bombing, tends not to be effective and create a lot of innocent deaths.

So the argument can be made that Clinton simply does not understand the limits of humanitarian intervention

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LFC 07.05.16 at 5:39 pm

p.s. to what I wrote @66: didn’t mean to suggest that this (prioritizing military over civilian lives) is never an issue/problem; it sometimes is (cf. criticism of the Kosovo campaign).

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Lupita 07.05.16 at 5:52 pm

We’re a nation of killers.

Justice can ameliorate that problem. For example, Pinochet being indicted, charged, and placed under house arrest until his death (though never convicted) for crimes against humanity, murder, torture, embezzlement, arms trafficking, drugs trafficking, tax fraud, and passport forgery and, in Argentina, Videla getting a life sentence plus another 500 being convicted with many cases still in progress, at the very least may give pause to those who would kill and torture as a career enhancement move in these countries and, hopefully, throughout Latin America. Maybe one of these countries can at least indict Kissinger for Operación Cóndor and give American presidents something extra to plan for when planning their covert operations.

For heads of state to stop behaving as if they were untouchable and people believing that they are, we need more convictions, more accountability, more laws, more justice.

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Brett Dunbar 07.05.16 at 7:09 pm

Few of the Iraqi fatalities were at the hands of the western forces, and a high proportion of those were enemy combatants. The atrocities were almost entirely committed by the militants we were fighting so charging western politicians in connection with those would be absurd. There were some human rights abuses by western forces, however it is unlikely that you could demonstrate culpability on the part of the politicians.

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Rich Puchalsky 07.05.16 at 7:23 pm

I’m not going to argue with Brett Dunbar and I’d kind of appreciate it if other people similarly refrained.

Lupita: “For heads of state to stop behaving as if they were untouchable and people believing that they are, we need more convictions, more accountability, more laws, more justice.”

Perhaps. But America has been doing this for my whole life, and I no longer believe in these convictions, accountability, laws, or justice. Or the entire American system.

For someone who still does, it’s easy to understand how to protest against the system, to demand justice. But an official trial is not a protest: it’s an action of the system itself. It’s something that you can ask for, but that is always within the power of the elites to either grant or not grant, because it is only something that can be provided by elites. The elites in America chose not to provide it in the latest case as in prior cases, with Obama’s famous “belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” And the people in theory could demand this nevertheless in such numbers that it was politically necessary to grant their demand, but they haven’t done so and, I think, never will.

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Brett Dunbar 07.05.16 at 7:26 pm

Kevin Cox @ 45

Mercantilism had a supposed advantage from warfare, obtaining captive markets, Adam Smith showed that in practice the cost vastly exceeded any possible gain. A purely capitalist system would be peaceful, war is irrational from an economic point of view.

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Asteele 07.05.16 at 7:42 pm

In a capitalist system if you can make money by impoverishing others you do it. There are individual capitalists and firms that make money off of war, the fact that the public at large sees no aggregate benefit in not a problem for them.

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Brett Dunbar 07.05.16 at 7:45 pm

Rich is being arrogant and condescending. He apparently doesn’t want to address something I said, I have no real idea what it is.

I merely wanted to point out that however much you might hate Tony Blair it’s actually pretty hard to find any possible criminal charges of which he could be guilty.

Bush might be liable for failing to exercise proper control over his subordinates but demonstrating that might be difficult, the command chain between him and those actually committing offences is pretty long so the fault may lie elsewhere.

Waging aggressive war is the only realistic option and that as a stand alone is fairly weak.

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Brett Dunbar 07.05.16 at 8:10 pm

While some individuals and businesses make some money, rather more lose much more money. Overall it is irrational. The business lobby tends to oppose war on the whole, having large amounts of trade with a country makes to lobby opposed to war with that country lager and more determined. The motivation for starting a war is essentially never economic, it is normally moral, the enemy have done are doing or are about to do something terrible and must be punished, stopped or prevented.

In any possible system some parties will benefit from war, Generals for example. That doesn’t mean that the system isn’t pacifist overall. The economy is a reason to avoid war even.

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MPAVictoria 07.05.16 at 8:19 pm

Good piece here John. I have actually shifted over the last few years from being tentatively being in favour of armed intervention in situations like Libya to being against it as a rule. We rarely seem to make things any better.

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Anarcissie 07.05.16 at 8:35 pm

LFC 07.05.16 at 5:28 pm @ 85 —
I think that, on the evidence, one must doubt (to put it mildly) that either the Russian or the American leadership care whether Mr. Assad is a nice person or not. They have not worried much about a lot of other not-nice people over recent decades as long as the not-nice people seemed to serve their purposes. Hence I can only conclude that the business in Syria, which goes back well before the appearance of the Islamic State, is dependent on some other variable, like maybe the existence of a Russian naval base in mare nostrum. I’m just guessing, of course; more advanced conspiratists see Israeli, Iranian, Saudi, and Turkish connections. Note as well that the business in Ukraine involved a big Russian naval base. And I used to heard it said that navies were obsolete!

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Lupita 07.05.16 at 8:53 pm

The elites in America chose not to provide it in the latest case as in prior cases, with Obama’s famous “belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” And the people in theory could demand this nevertheless in such numbers that it was politically necessary to grant their demand, but they haven’t done so and, I think, never will.

You seem despondent today. Maybe this will cheer you up: cell phone videos. Nowadays, there is no guarantee that atrocities will not end up on YouTube; some even film and post their own, like those Abu Ghraib degenerates. If videos can help delegitimize the use of excessive and arbitrary violence by police forces in the US and give rise to the Rodney King riots and BLM, so can they delegitimize the use of violence by the west, unmask its hypocrisy, and give rise to the political demand of accountability and justice. You say that Americans are killers. Maybe we all are, as long as we are not being filmed. And we are.

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L2P 07.05.16 at 9:26 pm

“Anti-militarism is the belief or desire that a military expenditure should held to the minimum required to protect a country against armed attack and that, with the exception of self-defense, military power should not be used to promote national interests.”

I think everyone to the left of Cheney believes this, though. I’m sure Bush thought he was only acting in self-defense and protecting America from attack by sending troops to Iraq. The problem is identifying what “self-defense” and “protecting from attack” are in the first place.

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Layman 07.05.16 at 9:43 pm

“I’m sure Bush thought he was only acting in self-defense and protecting America from attack by sending troops to Iraq. “

Good lord! I didn’t think it was possible anyone still believed that.

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Faustusnotes 07.05.16 at 10:46 pm

Brett Dunbar, yesterday’s guardian has an account from a British soldier of the widespread practice of “wetting”, in which looters were drowned. We have photos from Abu ghraib. We have data on deaths from solid surveys. It’s not possible to credibly make your claims and hasn’t been since 2005.

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J-D 07.06.16 at 1:44 am

David 07.05.16 at 1:46 pm

@Ze K. As far as I recall (international lawyer around somewhere?) the concept of Crimes Against Peace was developed for the Nuremberg trials to find something of which members of the Nazi regime not otherwise vulnerable could be charged and convicted. I believe I’m right in saying that no defendant was convicted on this charge alone, but it was a nice shotgun-effect charge to have available if all else failed.

Rudolf Hess was convicted of crimes against peace even though he was acquitted on the charges of war crimes and of crimes against humanity. (The Soviet judge dissented, writing that Hess was clearly guilty of crimes against humanity; this was the same judge who presided over the Moscow ‘Trial of the Sixteen’ (officially, the ‘Case of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Centre’) in 1936.)

In addition, Franz von Papen and Hjalmar Schacht were charged with crimes against peace (but acquitted) without even being charged with war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Also, a number of defendants before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, at the ‘Tokyo Trial’, were convicted on charges of waging aggressive war but acquitted of charges relating to other war crimes and atrocities.

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Peter T 07.06.16 at 4:47 am

Couple of observations:

“Ordinary” people are quite capable of resorting to organised violence without state direction. See, for instance, the enforcement of Jim Crow in the US, which often involved tens of deaths and what we would now call ethnic cleansing. A great many of the wars since 1945 have started in the streets (Yugoslavia, Syria, Rwanda, Congo, Sri Lanka, Ossetia, Lebanon, Chechnya, Algerian civil war just off the top of my head), or have been rooted in the strong desires of the locals (Chinese Civil War, Vietnam, Indian partition, Afghanistan, Iraq). Whatever mistakes of policy contributed or exacerbated to these conflicts, there is no reason to believe that, absent state direction, the world would be more peaceful. To cite just one example, Russia lost c 2.8 million people in the First World War, but over 9 million in the Civil War.

Second, while war may be unprofitable overall, and is certainly pretty much a guaranteed loss now:

– the people involved are not reckoning in economist’s terms;
– violence can achieve the ends of some parties (“no more blacks in this town”; “us ruling instead of them”);
– was certainly profitable in the past. The present dominance of the City in British life, for instance, is inconceivable without the century of sustained warfare that captured the shipping, insurance, broking and associated finance from the Dutch and French. That may not be a good thing, but it is very much a profitable (for the British) thing.

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b9n10nt 07.06.16 at 5:02 am

There is no natural constituency for anti-militarism. The very irrationality of militarism points towards its deeper necessity among modern peoples.

Such a constituency will only emerge (from the bottom up) wherein modern states are replaced or surpassed by new types of communities (or, very old types of communities, of course). This is not hopeful, unless one’s politics are already based in a pragmatic (gradualist) Utopianism.

Thus, the argument presented in the OP for anti-militarism (which I personally take to be correct) represents wishful thinking. That is harsh perhaps. But, in the context of militarism’s inevitability, we can also see this type of argument as a sublime cultural achievement in itself. It’s like a rare, medicinal plant growing among a people who’ve lost their ethnobotanical knowledge.

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John Quiggin 07.06.16 at 5:07 am

“This is not hopeful, unless one’s politics are already based in a pragmatic (gradualist) Utopianism.”

That’s me, all right

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b9n10nt 07.06.16 at 5:22 am

Peter T:

In all your examples, I begin with the assumption that the “strong desires of the locals” are the product of social conditioning. One does not innately manifest a concrete, realizable interest (“pursue and enforce Jim Crow”, for example) from nondescript pre-rational drives (security, belonging, meaning).

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Peter T 07.06.16 at 5:35 am

b9n10nt

I agree. But humans are the product of social conditioning, which necessarily has some particular form(s). Asking for anything else is like asking for a language without semantic content.

Relevant to the O/P is that pre World War I Europe had an established mechanism for the resolution of inter-state disputes or events that threatened the general peace – Great Power Conferences. It was the refusal by Germany (after 1909) to accept conference proposals, coupled with the insouciant irresponsibility of the Austro-Hungarian elites, that precipitated general war.

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b9n10nt 07.06.16 at 6:36 am

Peter T @ 107.

I would argue that the international mechanisms for resolving inter-state disputes will be weak (a more relevant example might be the US’s 2003 invasion of Iraq) so long as the inherent “domestic” tendencies toward militarism remain strong.

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ZM 07.06.16 at 7:06 am

There has been coverage in The Guardian about the Chilcot report into the UK military interventions in Iraq.

“The former civil servant promised that the report would answer some of the questions raised by families of the dead British soldiers. “The conversations we’ve had with the families were invaluable in shaping some of the report,” Chilcot said.

Some of the families will be at the launch of the report at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, at Westminster. Others will join anti-war protesters outside who are calling for Blair to be prosecuted for alleged war crimes at the international criminal court in The Hague.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, Karen Thornton, whose son Lee was killed in Iraq in 2006, said she was convinced that Blair had exaggerated intelligence about Iraq’s capabilities.

“If it is proved that he lied then obviously he should be held accountable for it,” she said, adding that meant a trial for war crimes. “He shouldn’t be allowed to just get away with it,” she said. But she did not express confidence that Chilcot’s report would provide the accountability that she was hoping for. “Nobody’s going to be held to account and that’s so wrong,” she said. “We just want the truth.”

Chilcot insisted that any criticism would be supported by careful examination of the evidence. “We are not a court – not a judge or jury at work – but we’ve tried to apply the highest possible standards of rigorous analysis to the evidence where we make a criticism.”

Jeremy Corbyn, who will respond to the report in parliament on Wednesday, is understood to have concluded that international laws are neither strong nor clear enough to make any war crimes prosecution a reality. The Labour leader said last year Blair could face trial if the report found he was guilty of launching an illegal war.

Corbyn is expected to fulfil a promise he made during his leadership campaign to apologise on behalf of Labour for the war. He will speak in the House of Commons after David Cameron, who is scheduled to make a statement shortly after 12.30pm. “

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/05/john-chilcot-says-iraq-war-inquiry-will-not-shy-away-from-criticisms

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Layman 07.06.16 at 11:45 am

Only Tony Blair could read the Chilcot report and claim it vindicates his conduct.

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Rich Puchalsky 07.06.16 at 12:48 pm

“This is not hopeful, unless one’s politics are already based in a pragmatic (gradualist) Utopianism.”

I’m a gradualist anarchist, if that matters. People can learn to leave militarism (and the rest of the state) behind bit by bit: I don’t think that a social revolution is really a good idea among people who don’t believe any differently than they did under a state a day ago.

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LFC 07.06.16 at 12:51 pm

I’ve just now looked quickly at ZM’s quotes from Mary Kaldor @7, which I hadn’t done before. Discussion upthread focused on the ‘accountability for war crimes’ aspect of Kaldor’s proposals, but this — “Policies aimed at reversing the dynamic of the predatory war economy. It is the absence of a legitimate economy that is one of the most important drivers of war, as the Ukraine paper demonstrates” — is probably the more important of the recommendations, or at least equally important. Kaldor’s ‘new wars’ thesis (“Contemporary conflicts are sometimes known as ‘hybrid wars’ or ‘new wars’ in which classic distinctions between public and private, government/regular and rebel/irregular, and internal and external break down”) does have some validity, I think. It’s been debated in the literature. Sinisa Malesevic, a sociologist, has written on the ‘new wars’ debate and related matters.

Other bibliographical notes: The war-is-in-decline thesis is argued, from different angles, in works by J.Mueller, C. Fettweis, and J.S. Goldstein (who stresses the importance of UN peacekeeping). On militarism, an oft-cited work (not one I’ve read) is A. Vagts, A History of Militarism (1959). Specifically on WW1’s impact on assumptions about war, see chs. 2 & 3 of Mueller’s Retreat from Doomsday and works cited therein.

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Brett Dunbar 07.06.16 at 3:10 pm

A capitalist economic system naturally produces a lobby opposed to war, any business that engages in substantial trade with a country is going to oppose anything liable to disrupt that commercial relationship. It is hard to sell things to people who are trying to kill you. Norman Angell’s basic argument In The Great Illusion was sound, war is an economically irrational activity. Having strong economic ties to a country doesn’t make war impossible it does make it less likely.

One reason for fascist hostility to capitalism was that capitalism is inherently pacifist and internationalist, you develop an economy that cannot function without imports so you cannot risk disrupting imports. Fascists preferred autarky and corporatism. Corporatism like mercantilism provides an apparent economic justification for war Adam Smith showed that, in practice, war cost far more than any possible gain from imposing a trade monopoly for your benefit. So even if the theoretical argument correct war would still be a bad idea economically.

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LFC 07.06.16 at 3:50 pm

B Dunbar @117
A capitalist economic system naturally produces a lobby opposed to war

Capitalist economic systems have also produced blocs and interests that favored war, or at least favored imperialist expansion that could and did lead to war.

you develop an economy that cannot function without imports so you cannot risk disrupting imports

You can do all or most of your trading with allies as opposed to enemies.

—-

Still, the mention of Norman Angell prob. saves the comment, imo, from being consigned to the propaganda bin.

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LFC 07.06.16 at 3:54 pm

p.s. anyway Dunbar @117 only applies, if at all, to classic inter-state wars, and most (or almost all) wars today are not that.

See e.g. ref. @116 to Kaldor @7.

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Peter Erwin 07.06.16 at 4:28 pm

Ze K @ 93:
ethnic cleansing was prevented in both Abkhasia and south Ossetia precisely due to the Russian involvement.

Uh, no.

From the press release summarizing the 2009 Human Rights Watch report (which also discusses atrocities and crimes carried by Georgian forces):

… indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks by both Georgian and Russian forces, and the South Ossetian forces’ campaign of deliberate and systematic destruction of certain ethnic Georgian villages in South Ossetia.

After Georgian forces withdrew from South Ossetia on August 10, South Ossetian forces over a period of weeks deliberately and systematically destroyed ethnic Georgian villages in South Ossetia that had been administered by the Georgian government. The South Ossetians looted, beat, threatened, and unlawfully detained numerous ethnic Georgian civilians, and killed several, on the basis of the ethnic and imputed political affiliations of the residents, with the express purpose of forcing those who remained to leave and ensuring that no former residents would return.

“Instead of protecting civilians, Russian forces allowed South Ossetian forces who followed in their path to engage in wanton and widescale pillage and burning of Georgian homes and to kill, beat, rape, and threaten civilians,” said Denber. “Such deliberate attacks are war crimes, and if committed as part of a widespread or systematic pattern, they may be prosecuted as a crime against humanity.”

More than 20,000 ethnic Georgians who fled the conflict in South Ossetia remain displaced.

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Peter Erwin 07.06.16 at 4:43 pm

Ze K @ 93:
ethnic cleansing was prevented in both Abkhasia and south Ossetia precisely due to the Russian involvement.

Oh, and the main reason that Russian involvement “prevented” ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia is because the ethnic cleansing carried out by Russian-supported Abhkaz forces at the end of the 1992-1993 war had already killed or expelled most of the Georgians in Abkhazia.

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Cranky Observer 07.06.16 at 5:19 pm

Thinking about the OP, this thread reminds me of innumerable SF stories from the 60s & 70s where the last two human beings to survive the Final Battle climb out of their stranded tanks and go at each other with rocks.

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Brett Dunbar 07.06.16 at 5:19 pm

Peace means you have more potential trading partners. You can’t trade with enemies and war may also disrupt trade with neutrals. War is one of the most intensely value subtracting activities mankind engages in. So the losers lose far more than the winners win.

Capitalism is also inherently opposed to protectionism, that doesn’t mean that specific businesses don’t benefit from specific instances of protectionism just that overall the benefits from protection are substantially less than the costs so the business community as a whole opposes protection. War has a higher cost than protectionism and the benefits are smaller while the risk of utter disaster are higher. So the business community have a stronger interest in avoiding war. In a major war those businesses engaged in vital war work find that they are subject to extensive state control so don’t benefit much. Even if you are a military supplier what you want is a state of preparedness for war rather than war.

Basically my argument is that the logic of the economic system is that trade is a lot easier with peace than war. You don’t need to radically change the economic system to get a powerful peace lobby. Apple doesn’t want war with China. Apple want to manufacture iPhones in China. Mutual self-interest is a pretty sound basis for a relationship.

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LFC 07.06.16 at 5:48 pm

B. Dunbar @123
Interstate wars have declined, and the ‘logic’ you identify might be one of various reasons for that.

The wars dominating the headlines today — e.g. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine/Donetsk/Russia — are not, however, classic interstate wars. They are either civil wars or ‘internationalized’ civil wars or have a civil-war aspect. Thus the ‘logic’ of business-wants-peace-and-trade doesn’t really apply there. Apple doesn’t want war w China but Apple doesn’t care that much whether there is a prolonged civil war in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, etc.

So even if one accepted the argument that ‘capitalism’ leads to peace, we’d be left w a set of wars to which the argument doesn’t apply. I don’t have, obvs., the answer to the current conflicts. I think (as already mentioned) that there are some steps that might prove helpful in general if not nec. w.r.t. specific conflict x or y.

The Kaldor remark about reversing the predatory economy — by which I take it she means, inter alia, black-market-driven, underground, in some cases criminal commerce connected to war — is suggestive. Easier said than done, I’m sure. Plus strengthening peacekeeping. And one cd come up w other things, no doubt.

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Brett Dunbar 07.06.16 at 7:02 pm

Actually Apple does care a least a bit about both, rather more about Sri Lanka than Afghanistan. Sri Lanka a lower middle income country so it is somewhere that has potential customers plus it has an advanced enough economy that it is somewhere that advanced electronic equipment can be manufactured. Instability in Sri Lanka costs money; the interests of the local business community are in peace. Afghanistan is poor and has little involvement in trade. The combination of poverty poor governance and chaos means that it is mostly outside the international trade network.

My claim is the economy is a reason to avoid war. When war occurs the causes of war lie elsewhere. Some on the far left are extremely economic determinants and attribute an economic cause to things that have entirely different causes. Overall economic interest is in peace economics however is far from the only factor in political decision making.

117

franck 07.06.16 at 8:23 pm

@125.

Let’s be specific. Georgians were ethnically cleansed from Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia and Russian-backed forces.

This set of discussions is exactly the justification Serbia used for its ethnic cleansing in the Balkan wars. “We had to ethnically cleanse them, before they could ethnically cleanse us!” In both cases, the evidence that future ethnic cleansing would actually occur was disputed.

There is no clear evidence that ethnic cleansing would occur in Crimea or Eastern Ukraine at some particular date. It did not occur in heavily Russophone areas in the rest of Ukraine like Odessa. After the Russian intervention, ethnic persecution did in fact occur, most notably in Crimea, and continues to this day. And the population levels in all the areas affected by Russian intervention are reduced significantly.

I would turn your accusation around. You seem to support ethnic cleansing if it is done by Russia or Russian-backed forces, and not support it otherwise. I don’t see anyway to distinguish your position from that of an extreme Russian right-wing nationalist.

118

cassander 07.06.16 at 9:59 pm

@LFC

>So even if one accepted the argument that ‘capitalism’ leads to peace, we’d be left w a set of wars to which the argument doesn’t apply.

The fact that war still exists does not disprove the assertion “Capitalism makes war less likely.”

119

LFC 07.07.16 at 1:20 am

cassander
The fact that war still exists does not disprove the assertion “Capitalism makes war less likely.”

Indeed it does not disprove the assertion; lucky for me, then, that I never stated that “the fact that war still exists … disprove[s] the assertion ‘capitalism makes war less likely’.”

What I said was BD’s argument was mainly geared to interstate wars and those currently aren’t the dominant type of war, and I suggested/implied, as others had upthread, that there are other factors involved, esp in the current wars, than economic calculation. And BD in reply conceded/stated that “economics … is far from the only factor in political decision making.”

120

faustusnotes 07.07.16 at 1:31 am

Peter Dunbar, how do you square your example of Sri Lanka with Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil war? Where were the capitalist and trade-focused voices stopping that war? And how do you explain that it only ended and brought (relative) peace after the government improved and intensified its war-fighting?

121

LFC 07.07.16 at 1:32 am

p.s. there’s also been discussion and some research of poss. links betw environmental degradation (and, e.g., climate change) and violent conflict. (Probably covered from time to time at blogs like Monkey Cage, Pol. Violence at a Glance, Duck of Minerva, etc.)

122

LFC 07.07.16 at 1:38 am

@faustusnotes

I think Dunbar only mentioned Sri Lanka @126 b/c I mentioned the civil war @124. Otherwise he presumably wdn’t have bothered to bring it up at all, b.c as you say it’s not a good example for his argument.

Pretty obvs. capitalism didn’t stop Sri Lanka’s civil war, which had basically nothing to do w global trade, and while the “interests of the local business community” might have been in peace, that was not sufficient to stop it.

123

Peter T 07.07.16 at 2:40 am

“The fact that war still exists does not disprove the assertion “Capitalism makes war less likely.”

Indeed, it is hard to see what, if anything, would disprove cassander’s and Brett’s arguments for capitalism, couched as they are in theoretical abstractions entirely divorced from empirical reference.

124

Brett Dunbar 07.07.16 at 11:12 am

Disproving Adam Smith’s argument that the cost of war greatly exceeds any possible benefit from imposing advantageous trade terms for example. That is even if you reject his contention that voluntary free trade is always good, then war to obtain commercial advantage.

The evidence base is pretty well established that war destroys economic value. The empirical evidence is that war is predictably destructive.

125

Franck 07.07.16 at 11:15 am

Let’s be clear. Ethnic cleansing occurs when local populations are attacked and driven out. Do you think Georgians were ethnically cleansed from Abkhazia and South Ossetia or not? Why the weasel words?

Why are Russians complicit in ethnic cleansing? They have a very long history of it, of course, tied up with Imperial and Soviet actions.

126

faustusnotes 07.07.16 at 12:13 pm

Yes Brett, the empirical evidence says that. But your claim was that capitalism prevents wars, and for this the empirical evidence is very much in doubt. See e.g. Iraq, 2003.

127

Layman 07.07.16 at 12:30 pm

Brett Dunbar: “The evidence base is pretty well established that war destroys economic value. The empirical evidence is that war is predictably destructive.”

Perhaps you could elaborate with a specific example: The decades-long war by which white Europeans seized the means of production from native Americans. What economic value was destroyed, and for whom?

128

Brett Dunbar 07.07.16 at 1:32 pm

My claim is that capitalism creates an interest in continuing peace. If you have a commercial relationship with a country then you want to avoid war. Obviously there are other interested parties and war may actually occur.

On rare occasions it is possible for the value of a primary resource to exceed the cost of conquest, Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait could have been that. Looting can benefit the looters.

Layman @ 138

For technological and cultural reasons the native Americans were unable to extract much value from the resources they controlled. Which makes for a rather peculiar situation.

129

Peter T 07.07.16 at 1:44 pm

“If you have a commercial relationship with a country then you want to avoid war.”

Brett would be shocked – shocked I tell you, to learn that corporations have lobbied governments to use military force to advance their interests. On the other hand, should an armed band show up on his doorstep and announce that they can extract more value from his property than he can, he will regard this as a rather peculiar situation and just move on.

130

Rich Puchalsky 07.07.16 at 1:54 pm

Ah yes, the argument against Brett is producing just as much illumination and new insight as I thought that it would.

franck: “I don’t see anyway to distinguish your position from that of an extreme Russian right-wing nationalist.”

Wait, Ze K is…? Say it isn’t so. I’m shocked. Shocked!

What I object to in all this is not so much the waste of time (it is a waste of time, but people’s time is theirs to waste) or the shift of the Overton Window to include these kinds of opinions as those that you must argue against. (There’s a flat earther. I must convince them that the Earth is actually almost a sphere!) It’s the ego reinforcement and self-justification of the people doing the arguing. They are supposed to be the sensible, reasonable people taking a stand against obvious war-excusing falsehoods. But their own excuses for war are much more dangerous because more “reasonable.”

131

lemmy caution 07.07.16 at 2:08 pm

People hate complex bullshit so I don’t understand why these neoliberal plans pile on the complex bullshit.

132

Anarcissie 07.07.16 at 2:10 pm

franck 07.06.16 at 8:23 pm @ 127 —
You forgot to mention that Croatian forces ethnically cleansed large numbers of Serbians out of various areas they held to be Croatian — with American support, according to what I read. I find that a curious omission in the context.

133

lemmy caution 07.07.16 at 2:10 pm

I am commenting on the wrong thread

134

stevenjohnson 07.07.16 at 2:11 pm

The world as a whole is anarchic. Given the historical existence of states, machinery for the rulers to protect their property from the rest of the people, for many centuries, other states will arise to defend the rulers from the threat of other states. Given the need for militaries, militarism will be devised to justify them. Demanding the simultaneous abolition of the state doesn’t abolish the property of the rulers, hence is not a program at all. Besides, wishing domestic life to be as anarchic as world affairs seems to appeal only to those who fancy themselves the masters except for pesky laws.

Obviously the most practical way to get rid of militaries and the militarism they engender is to get rid of the anarchy, a Pax Romana or a Mandate of Heaven. The real issue for us is the role of ordinary people in this. Somebody’s empire versus the democratic republic of humanity, if you will.

Treating the symptom instead of the disease is not the wisest course as a rule.

135

Layman 07.07.16 at 2:29 pm

Oh, poor Rich Puchalsky, always doomed to disappointment by the inferiority of his interlocutors. Surely he can dream up a better solipsism than this one!

136

Lupita 07.07.16 at 3:23 pm

My impression since yesterday is that, while Brits are making a very big deal out of the Chilcot report, with much commentary about how momentous it is and the huge impact it will have, coverage of this event by the US media is notoriously subdued, particularly compared with the hysterical coverage Brexit got just some days ago. This leads me to believe that it is indeed justice that is feared the most by western imperialists such as Bush, Blair, Howard, Aznar, and Kwaśniewski and the elites that supported them and continue to cover up for them. I take this cowardly and creepy silence in the US media as an indicator that Pax Americana is so weakened that it cannot withstand the light of justice being shined upon it and that the end is near.

137

Anarcissie 07.07.16 at 3:46 pm

Lupita 07.07.16 at 3:23 pm @ 147 — For the kind of people in the US who pay attention to such things, the Chilcot Report is not really news. And the majority don’t care, as witness the fortunes of the Clintons.

138

franck 07.07.16 at 3:49 pm

@143: True. Croatian forces did ethnically cleanse the Krajina in 1995. This of course was the second round of ethnic cleansing in Krajina. The Serbs of the SAO Krajina had already ethnically cleansed the area of Croats and others with the help of the JNA when Croatia declared its independence. There are a lot of arguments about the actual threat Serbs felt in Croatia and Bosnia, but in general they didn’t wait for these threats to materialize. They struck first with the help of the JNA and started ethnic cleansing first. That’s why the percentage of Serbs in the RSK went from 53 to 88% from 1991-1992. Croats continued to flee the area after 1992.

This is very similar to the actions of Russia in Ukraine (in Crimea and elsewhere). They started expelling people even before a clear threat or actions emerged, just as a precautionary principle.

It’s a little rich to bemoan ethnic cleansing after one has enthusiastically indulged in it in the very near past.

139

Peter Erwin 07.07.16 at 4:38 pm

franck @ 127:
I don’t see anyway to distinguish your position from that of an extreme Russian right-wing nationalist.

Well, in a thread from this past January, Ze K was basically acting as an
apologist for Stalin’s and Soviet Union’s actions in invading Poland in 1939, so
you’re probably right.

http://crookedtimber.org/2016/01/02/hitchens-on-the-english-and-their-history/

140

LFC 07.07.16 at 5:25 pm

@Lupita
Chilcot report hasn’t been covered the way Brexit was, but it has been covered in US outlets. Front-page story WaPo, in PBSNewsHr opening roundup, etc.

141

LFC 07.07.16 at 5:27 pm

p.s. and I’m sure covered more extensively in the less ‘establishment’ places that one wd expect to cover it.

142

Layman 07.07.16 at 7:05 pm

@ LFC, there is a quantitative and qualitative difference between the way the Chilcot report is being covered in the U.S. vs. the U.K. The media here are not ignoring it, but they don’t much care about it either.

I quote the spokesman for the State Department who, when asked about the report, said “…that’s really for the government of the UK to talk to, and I’m certainly not going to relitigate the decisions that led to the Iraq war here from the podium in July of 2016. I’m just not going to do that.” Then they moved on to important topics.

I suppose it would be different if one party cared about it, but we’re looking forward, not backward! As for the families of the war dead, we’ve all learned that if you question a war, you hate the troops, so no one really listens to those who complain.

143

LFC 07.07.16 at 7:43 pm

Layman,
yes, I’m sure there’s a difference in the coverage. I was just responding to Lupita’s implication that there was none here. (I take your last paragraph to be sardonic, and I’ll leave it at.)

144

Brett Dunbar 07.07.16 at 8:29 pm

Rich is being condescending and arrogant again.

Peter T @ 142

I believe I acknowledged that it might be in the interests of some individual businesses to start a war sometimes, especially if they can get someone else to pay for it. That isn’t really a substantive counterargument to war generally being against the interest of the economy as a whole. Protectionism is a similar situation, overall harmful it has benefits for some.

145

Anarcissie 07.07.16 at 9:42 pm

franck 07.07.16 at 3:49 pm @ 149 —
The only reason I mention the Croatian cleansing of Serbs was that if one sees an account of ethnic cleansing in late Yugoslavia which omits it, and finds evil only in the Serbs, one may suspect that one is reading propaganda, and not even propaganda of the best sort. I’m sure you don’t want to leave that impression.

146

RNB 07.07.16 at 9:45 pm

I had been blocked for a few days. Just found a cheap copy of Albert Hirschman’s book on the rhetoric of reaction, and I thought that we could classify opposition to R2P in terms of his three categories of futility, perversity (intervention will compound problem) and jeopardy (R2P puts into jeopardy the popular opposition to US military force that has taken generations to build). Still have to read this classic book for the first time. But it seems that there is a concluding chapter on the dangers of inaction too. Don’t know if R2P has ever been analyzed in terms of the great Hirschman’s framework.
Do you know, LFC?

147

Anarcissie 07.07.16 at 9:50 pm

Brett Dunbar 07.07.16 at 8:29 pm @ 155 —
There might be just the right amount of war for capitalism. First of all, you want enough war to defend the general principles of rule by Capital and security of its interests, which means getting rid of communists, socialists, anarchists, hostile tribes, etc. etc., by any means necessary. Second, capitalism needs to find or create scarcity, and war will certainly do that. Also, you may be able to break your competitors’ stuff (or get them to break each others’ stuff). And the threat of war, which will be believable only if you have a little war now and then, can motivate huge amounts of profitable business.

148

LFC 07.07.16 at 11:02 pm

@RNB
I don’t know for sure, but I’d be surprised if opposition to R2P had ever been analyzed in terms of H’s framework there, b/c, for one thing, opposition to R2P is not widely considered a ‘reactionary’ position — it’s not just categorized that way, istm (which doesn’t mean some reactionaries are not opponents of R2P, but some self-identified progressives are too, of course).

But maybe you’ve got an against-the-grain essay or article-in-the-making there, RNB.

149

Brett Dunbar 07.07.16 at 11:47 pm

Generally the optimal amount of war is none. Capitalism functions perfectly well with peace. While war is both expensive and dangerous. The businesses who pay the
taxes that pay for military expenditures are generally keen to cut spending and therefore either cut taxes or spend in more useful ways.

Scarcity exists inherently, only so much stuff actually exists so for many goods desired consumption exceeds desired supply. Economics is about how we deal with scarcity. Capitalism does not create scarcity.

150

stevenjohnson 07.08.16 at 12:16 am

“Scarcity exists inherently, only so much stuff actually exists so for many goods desired consumption exceeds desired supply.” Colonial governments exacted taxes, requiring payment in imperial money, as a way to force the inhabitants into a market economy. Inherent scarcity needs no such assistance. Were scarcity truly “inherent,” it, not colonial policy, would have created the need for the cash to deal with the “scarcity.” No doubt what you say is orthodox economics, but history (mere history) is against you.

151

Anarcissie 07.08.16 at 12:25 am

Brett Dunbar 07.07.16 at 11:47 pm @ 160 —
If capitalist types are so totally against war, it’s hard to understand why the grand poster child of capitalism, the plutocratic United States, is so addicted to war. It is hard to consider it an aberration when the US has attacked dozens of countries not threatening it over the last fifty or sixty years, killed or injured or beggared or terrorized millions of noncombatants, and maintains hundreds of overseas bases and a world-destroying nuclear stockpile. What could the explanation possibly be?

As human powers of production increase, at least in potential, existing scarcities of basic goods such as food, medicine, and housing are overcome. If people now become satisfied with their standard of living — not totally satisfied, but satisfied enough not to sweat and strain all the time for more — sales, profits, and employment will fall, and capitalists will become less important. In order to retain their ruling-class role, there needs to be a constant crisis of production-consumption which only the capitalist masters of industry can solve. Hence new scarcities must be produced. The major traditional methods of doing this have been imperialism, war, waste, and consumerism (including advertising). Conceded, major processes of environmental destruction such as climate change and the vitiating of antibiotics may lead to powerful new self-reinforcing scarcities which will take their place next to their traditional relatives, so that producing new scarcities would be less of a problem.

152

LFC 07.08.16 at 1:30 am

@Brett D.
This gets off on a tangent, but ‘scarcity’ in the way you’re using the word here is mostly the result of social processes involving the stimulation of (supposed) ‘needs’ in a commercial society and the well-known phenomenon of emulative consumption (‘keeping up w the Joneses’). So capitalism, or commercial society, actually does largely create this kind of ‘scarcity’. Of course there were rare luxury goods in pre-capitalist societies that were desired and in that sense ‘scarce’, so it’s not a purely capitalist thing. But neither is this kind of ‘scarcity’ inherent in all social arrangements — in key respects it’s a modern phenomenon. This is one of the relatively rare occasions when I’ve read something recently that happens to be on point — Nicholas Xenos, Scarcity and Modernity (1989).

OTOH, I don’t think capitalism esp. needs war to create this kind of scarcity — advertising, product differentiation, mass communications, and the other things that go along w modern commercial society do it.

153

LFC 07.08.16 at 1:44 am

p.s. “Economics is about how we deal with scarcity”

This was not always the prevalent definition of economics, but is a result of the late 19th cent. neoclassical reformulation (i.e. the ‘marginalist revolution’), as Xenos shows.

154

Anarcissie 07.08.16 at 2:30 am

LFC 07.08.16 at 1:30 am @ 163:
‘OTOH, I don’t think capitalism esp. needs war to create this kind of scarcity….’

But then one must explain why the major capitalist powers have engaged in so much of it, since it is so dirty and risky. I suppose one possible explanation is that whoever has the power to do so engages in it, capitalist or not; it is hardly a recent invention. However, I am mindful of the position of the US at the end of World War 2, with 50% of the worlds total productive capacity. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive! So war turned out to be pretty handy for some people. And now we have lots of them.

155

Matt_L 07.08.16 at 3:32 am

John Quiggin, I think your definition of militarism is flawed. I think that cultural attitudes and the social status of the military are very important as well. To paraphrase Andrew Bacevich, Militarism is the idea that military solutions to a country’s problems are more effective than they really are. Militarism assumes that the military’s way of running things is inherently correct. A militaristic society glorifies violence and the people who carry it out in the name of the state.

I also think that just reducing military spending or the capacity for military action is not enough to counter serious militarism. Austria-Hungary was a very militaristic society, but it spent the less on armaments than the other European Powers in the years leading up to 1914. The leaders of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy caused World War One by invading Serbia for a crime committed by a Bosnian Serb subject of the Monarchy. They had some good guesses that the Serbian military intelligence was involved, but not a lot of proof. Franz Joseph and the other leaders chose to solve a foreign policy problem by placing armed force before diplomacy and a complete criminal investigation. Their capacity to wage war relative to the other great powers of Europe did not enter into their calculations. They chose force first and dealt with the consequences later. So militarism can exist and flourish on a tight budget. Its all about mentality.

156

LFC 07.08.16 at 3:57 am

@Anarcissie
yes, not a recent invention.

The thing is, there is some evidence out there (i.e. in the historical record) to support both your position (capitalism leads to war) and Brett’s opposite position, which is partly why I’m pretty skeptical of both positions. Both views have their famous proponents, but a lot depends, I suspect, on which evidence and time frame(s) one picks.

What does seem reasonably clear is that major interstate war is on the decline. Mary Kaldor’s ‘new wars’ argument implicitly or explicitly recognizes as much, istm: if the ‘old wars’ were still prevalent, there wd be less reason to pay so much attention to ‘new’.

The last really big, sustained interstate war — the last ‘old war’ in that sense — was the Iran-Iraq war, which ended in 1988. (Gulf War I (1990) was an interstate conflict but fairly short; Iraq 2003 quickly took on aspects of a civil war, ditto Afghanistan.) The last ‘great-power war’ was either, depending on one’s definitions, WW2 or Korea, both of which obvs. ended decades ago.

So a question is: why have major interstate war and great-power war declined and, for the moment at least, disappeared? Is it economics? Is it shifting norms? Is it nuclear deterrence? Is it, to return to the OP, ‘the lessons’ of the Somme? Is it that ‘the major capitalist powers’ (to use your phrase) have ‘decided’ it’s too costly, in human and other terms, to fight each other? Is that, post-1945, major powers were preoccupied first with colonial wars (e.g. Algeria), then with ‘anti-revolutionary’ wars (e.g., Vietnam) or quasi-colonial ones (Soviets in Afghanistan)? What is the explanation?

Of course, if one doesn’t think the decline of big interstate wars is a significant development — and I can see why someone might not think it is, even though I tend to think it is — then one won’t care about what the explanation is (or isn’t).

157

franck 07.08.16 at 10:36 am

@158 anarchists, I wasn’t giving an account of ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia in toto. What I was discussing was this preemptive ethnic cleansing idea, which was largely pioneered by the Serbs and facilitated by the disarming of the republic militias and extensive use of the pro-Serb JNA.

When I see people bring up irrelevant points and ignore relevant points (I.e. The Serb ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs from Krajina in 1991), I suspect I am reading propaganda. I’m sure you don’t want to give that impression. I’m very sure you don’t want people to think you are the same as Ze K and stevenjohnson, who claim to be very left-wing but have identical positions to extreme right-wing Russian nationalists.

158

Anarcissie 07.08.16 at 1:20 pm

franck 07.08.16 at 10:36 am @ 168 —
Ethnic cleansing was not invented by the Serbs, it goes back to prehistory. In the limited case of ex-Yugoslavia, it became a common practice because the ethnicity of populations was treated as politically significant even if the populations themselves were passive. However, cleansing (and massacre and rape, etc.) was reported differently in the lower media, if at all, depending on who was doing it. That was what I noticed, so out of place in the more rarefied atmosphere of CT. As a propagandist attempting to keep a high standard, I am sensitive to any falling-off in the art.

159

ZM 07.08.16 at 2:18 pm

LFC,

“p.s. there’s also been discussion and some research of poss. links betw environmental degradation (and, e.g., climate change) and violent conflict. (Probably covered from time to time at blogs like Monkey Cage, Pol. Violence at a Glance, Duck of Minerva, etc.)”

I think improving the built and natural environment in countries recovering from war is also a good way of peace building.

Since the conflict in Sri Lanka has been brought up, for instance a local urban designer and a former State Governor, who I think lives in the Shire next door where Hanging Rock is, work with a NGO called Bridging Lanka which is dedicated to bringing Sri Lankans together partly through environmental regeneration and urban development projects. http://bridginglanka.org/about/53-what-we-do

In the aftermath of conflict a lot of damage has often been done to the natural and built environments.

And sometimes the countries lack the human resources to deal with such a considerable amount of damage and destruction themselves. I read about Iraq employing British family owned town planning company based in Yorkshire to do master plans for cities after the Iraq War.
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/aug/26/yorkshire-dales-family-designing-cities-in-iraq

I think it would be good to see some environmental regeneration and urban development in Syria when the conflict ends. Embedding videos doesn’t seem to work anymore, but there was a film clip I watched about a kid whose parents decided to stay in Syria but he couldn’t really leave his house anymore, and he made models of his neighbourhood in Aleppo to remember what it was like before the war and so it could be rebuilt

160

RNB 07.08.16 at 3:13 pm

Thanks ZM for this beautiful video. It makes me think of Chris Marker’s La Jetée, one of the great short films ever made (and available on vimeo on line). In that short the protagonist is the only one who can remember the past in the rubble of the present (and his memories are violently extracted). I watched the short recently after reading Jonathan Crary’s 24/7 in which Crary discusses the short over several pages. Marker’s short made me think of present day Syria where one fears that the generation now growing up will have no memory of what the cities once felt and looked like.

161

RNB 07.08.16 at 3:14 pm

I want to note that it’s too bad that no OP has been written about Black Lives Matter here.

162

Brett Dunbar 07.08.16 at 7:14 pm

The USA is not all that warlike, certainly not by comparison to pre-capitalist world powers. The Mongol Empire for example.

Great Power warfare became a lot less common after 1815, at the same point that the most advanced of the great powers developed capitalism. Capitalism lacked the theoretical argument for war that mercantilism had. In practice great power warfare was far more expensive than any possible gains from advantageous trade terms.

163

stevenjohnson 07.08.16 at 9:29 pm

“Great Power warfare became a lot less common after 1815, at the same point that the most advanced of the great powers developed capitalism.”

In Europe, locus of the alleged Long Peace, there were the Greek Rebellion; the First and Second Italian Wars of Independence; the First and Second Schleswig Wars; the Seven Weeks War; the Crimean War; the Franco-Prussian War; the First and Second Balkan Wars. Wars between a major capitalist state and another well established modern state included the Opium Wars; the Mexican War; the French invasion of Mexico; the War of the Triple Alliance; the War of the Pacific; the Spanish-American War; the Russo-Japanese War. Assaults by the allegedly peaceful capitalist nations against non-state societies or weak traditional states are too numerous to remember, but the death toll was enormous, on a scale matching the slaughter of the World Wars.

Further the tensions between the Great Powers threatened war on numerous occasions, such as conflict over the Oregon territory; the Aroostook “war;” the Trent Affair; two Moroccan crises; the Fashoda Incident…again, these are too numerous to remember.

The notion that capitalism is peaceful is preposterous, even if you accept the bizarre notion that only wars between the capitalist Great Powers really count as wars. It’s true that it’s tacitly presumed by many, perhaps most, learned authorities. But that is an indictment of the authorities, not a justification for the claim. The closely related claim that capitalism is responsible for technological advancement on inspection suggests that the real story is that technological progress enabled the European states to begin empires that funded capitalist development.

164

Brett Dunbar 07.08.16 at 10:59 pm

They mostly avoided war with their trading partners and nations with some actual military strength. There was a lot less war between great powers after 1815. This is a marked contrast to the eighteenth century where the mercantilist great powers fought the Nine Years War (1688-1699), the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1715), the Great Northern War (1700-1721), the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), the Seven Years War (1769-1756), the American War of Independence (1774-1783), the French Revolutionary War (1792-1801), the Napoleonic Wars (1802-1814, 1815). Capitalist states tend to avoid war with their trading partners.

There were a number of great power wars during the 1815-1914 period but far fewer than had occurred during the previous century or so. There were diplomatic crises, which in the end were mostly resolved peacefully, while previously they often led to war, the Bavarian war of succession (1778-1779) being an exception (war declared armies mobilised and manoeuvred, no actual battles fought, dispute settled diplomatically).

The Opium war and Perry’s expedition to Japan are amongst the few cases where an economic case could be made, China and Japan had relatively sophisticated economies and hopelessly antiquated and ineffective militaries. If opened to world trade then there was opportunity for profit on both sides. The aims of this kind of expedition are pretty limited and the circumstances are extremely unusual.

165

LFC 07.09.16 at 12:52 am

@stevenjohnson
…even if you accept the bizarre notion that only wars between the capitalist Great Powers really count as wars. It’s true that it’s tacitly presumed by many, perhaps most, learned authorities

The word “tacitly” is doing a lot of work there and even so I don’t think the statement is accurate. Great-power war is one type of war, one that’s typically destructive and has been significant in the past, but they’re obviously not the only conflicts that count as wars. One could argue that in the past there might have been disproportionate attention paid to them, but the writing on war, esp in recent decades, is so varied and from so many sources (scholarly across various disciplines, journalistic, memoirs, etc. etc.) that I don’t think that’s now the case, if it ever was.

166

Franck 07.09.16 at 11:01 am

Ze K,

I reject your accusations completely.

Russia was directly complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union engaged regularly in ethnic cleansing, from the Circassians to the Caucasian peoples to the Crimean Tatars to Gernans, Poles, Balts, Finns, Koreans, etc. After WW2 Stalin moved huge numbers of people to secure his new expanded borders.

The current Russian government deliberately uses Stalin and the Great Patriotic War as a support for the regime. Since Stalin was one of the greatest ethnic cleansers the world has ever seen, and Russia is the successor state to the USSR, it is notable that no apology for these ethnic cleansings has ever been made by the current Russian government.

Crimean Tatars were disappeared after the takeover of Crimea. No one has been arrested. Vast numbers have fled. Any politically active Crimean Tatars have fled or been deported. Repatriation from Uzbekistan has ceased, which was only allowed after the fall of the Soviet Union. Tatar and Ukranian schools and radio stations have been closed. Any attempt to commemorate the deportations of WW2 are suppressed.

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Hidari 07.09.16 at 11:13 am

‘ Capitalist states tend to avoid war with their trading partners.’

This has an element of truth in it, but it can be parsed in a number of ways. For example, ‘Rich, powerful countries tend to avoid war with other rich, powerful countries’. After all, in the 2nd half of the 20th century, the US avoided going to war with Russia, despite having clear economic interests in doing so (access to natural resources, markets) mainly because Russia was strong (not least militarily) and the cost-benefit matrix never made sense (i.e. from the Americans’ point of view).

A much stronger case can be made that self-proclaimed Socialist states tend not to go to war with each other. After all, there were big fallings out between the socialist (or ‘socialist’, depending on your point of view) countries in the 20th century but they rarely turned to war, and when they did (Vietnam-Cambodia, Vietnam-China) they were short term and relatively limited in scope. The Sino-Soviet split was a split, not a war.

But again this is probably not the best way to look at it. A much stronger case can be made that the basic reason for the non-appearance of a Chinese-Russian war was simply the size and population of those countries. The risks outweighed any potential benefits.

Of course, between 1914 and 1945, lots of capitalist states went to war with each other.

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Franck 07.09.16 at 1:47 pm

169

stevenjohnson 07.09.16 at 2:08 pm

LFC @177 “‘…even if you accept the bizarre notion that only wars between the capitalist Great Powers really count as wars. It’s true that it’s tacitly presumed by many, perhaps most, learned authorities’

The word ‘tacitly’ is doing a lot of work there and even so I don’t think the statement is accurate. Great-power war is one type of war, one that’s typically destructive and has been significant in the past, but they’re obviously not the only conflicts that count as wars.”

I wasn’t very clear in my pronoun reference. The “it” that is tacitly presumed is the notion that the heyday of the great capitalist empires was notably peaceful, especially in Europe between the Congress of Vienna and the outbreak of WWI. Obviously without a statistical analysis, this is more a judgment call. But I think Brett Dunbar is quite correct in his judgment of the general opinion.

For example, consider Kissinger’s A World Restored: “Years before he was Secretary of State and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Henry Kissinger wrote A World Restored to understand and explain one of history’s most important and dramatic periods-a time when Europe went from political chaos to a balanced peace that lasted for almost a hundred years.” Amazon knows what they’re selling and they know it’s not a controversial thesis. The pacific nature of capitalism in general (not just nineteenth century Europe) is a given in the economic literature as well. Given the fetishism of mainstream economics in the culture, it’s hard to fault Brett Dunbar for not knowing what the conventional wisdom is.

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Brett Dunbar 07.09.16 at 2:24 pm

The First World War and the Russo -Japanese War is probably the strongest cases for a capitalist great power starting a war.

Austria-Hungary and the German Empire had basically capitalist economies. The constitutional arrangements in both gave a dominant role to the aristocratic-military elite rather than the elected legislature which was dominated by the bourgeois.

I’m less familiar with Meiji Japan, however the government was dominated by a basically oligarchic group rather than business interests. Again a capitalist economy and a basically non-capitalist government.

Italy was basically being opportunistic, and is about the clearest case of a capitalist great power attacking another great power. It went very badly.

The USA declared war to make good on the threat that had got unrestricted submarine warfare suspended in 1915 after then Lusitania when Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare.

The UK declared war in response to the invasion of Belgium.

Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were explicitly corporatist rather than capitalist, corporatism is rather close to mercantilism and quite different to capitalism.

Japan was a military junta so dysfunctional that rational decision making was essentially impossible. Attacking the USA was utterly insane.

The American Civil War involved the aristocratic slave owners attacking the more capitalist north. The south had a capitalist economy but also believed that their culture was under threat. The north believed their key cultural institution was a moral abomination. It was a war about morality rather than money

Great power war didn’t vanish after 1815, it did become far less common. It’s harder to quantify smaller wars but they seem to have declined in frequency as well.

171

Layman 07.09.16 at 2:28 pm

Ze K: “Why always so many lies, and no desire whatsoever to learn the truth?”

This is spectacularly mind-numbing, coming from someone who just wrote this: “There was no Poland left to invade on 17 september 1939…”

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Layman 07.09.16 at 2:59 pm

“Great power war didn’t vanish after 1815, it did become far less common. It’s harder to quantify smaller wars but they seem to have declined in frequency as well.”

War by the Great Powers (and those who would be Great Powers) seems to me to have been pretty much continuous throughout the 19th century. Maybe you mean war between Great Powers? But that’s not an argument that capitalist nations recognize the futility of war; it’s an argument that they choose their targets with more care.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_1800–99

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Anarcissie 07.09.16 at 3:22 pm

Layman 07.09.16 at 2:59 pm @ 188 —
One explanation, I think already given, is that the capitalist powers were too busy with imperial seizures in what we now call the Third World to fight one another. In the New World, the United States and some South American states were busy annihilating the natives, speaking of ethnic cleansing. If capitalism is a pacific influence, the behavior of the British and American ruling classes since 1815 seems incomprehensible, right down to the present: the plutocrat Clinton ought to be the peace candidate, not the scary war freak.

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stevenjohnson 07.09.16 at 5:07 pm

Outrage that Hitler failed to seize control of all Poland is really about as reactionary as you can get while still deluding yourself about not being a reactionary at all.

It seems to me that capitalism has something to do with widespread wage labor as the predominant income; markets extensive enough to provide the necessities of life; professional classes living by sale of services instead of patronage; the more or less universal use of money; capital markets and other forms of finance. And a capitalist economy is one in which these things are the dog that wags the tail. Distinctions between capitalism, mercantilism, corporatism, etc. strike me as tendentious nonsense.

The notion that the Dutch East India Company, the English East India Company (and the establishments set up by the Portuguese too,) are somehow not capitalist is extraordinary.

175

LFC 07.09.16 at 5:32 pm

Just watched a clip of Obama live at NATO summit press conference (this is a close paraphrase): “The good news is there are fewer wars between states and almost no wars between great powers.” (and then goes on to credit postWW2 security framework etc)

Couldn’t resist the coincidence of timing w this thread…

176

Hidari 07.09.16 at 5:44 pm

Surely (assuming that it’s real) the decline in wars in some parts of the world since 1945 is because of the Pax Americana?

Most countries are too frightened to attack (at least directly) the United States. There is a sense in which the US really is the ‘Global Policeman’.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pax_Americana

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Anarcissie 07.09.16 at 11:55 pm

Or the global Mafia capo di tutti capi.

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LFC 07.10.16 at 2:40 pm

Hidari @192
Surely (assuming that it’s real) the decline in wars in some parts of the world since 1945 is because of the Pax Americana?

Started to write a long reply but decided no point. Shorter version: reasons for no WW2-style-war in Europe from ’45 to ’90 are multiple; ‘pax Americana’ only one factor of many.

End of CW was destabilizing in various ways (e.g., wars in ex-Yugoslavia) but so far not enough to reverse the overall trend in Europe. Decline in destructiveness of conflict in some (not all) other parts of the world has to do in large part w change in nature/type of conflict (sustained interstate wars have traditionally been the most destructive and they don’t happen much or at all anymore, for reasons that are somewhat debatable, but, again, pax Americana wd be only one of multiple reasons, if that).

179

LFC 07.10.16 at 2:54 pm

Re Carter Page (see Ze K @194)

Page refused [speaking in Moscow] refused to comment specifically on the U.S. presidential election, his relationship with Trump or U.S. sanctions against Russia, saying he was in Russia as a “private citizen.” He gave a lecture, titled “The Evolution of the World Economy: Trends and Potential,” in which he noted that Russia and China had achieved success in Central Asia, unlike the United States, by pursuing a respectful [sic] foreign policy based on mutual interest.

He generally avoided questions on U.S. foreign policy, but when one attendee asked him whether he really believed the United States was a “liberal, democratic society,” Page told him to “read between the lines.”

“If I’m understanding the direction you’re coming from, I tend to agree with you that it’s not always as liberal as it may seem,” he said. “I’m with you.”

In a meeting with The Washington Post editorial board in March, Trump named Page, a former Merrill Lynch executive in Moscow who later advised the Russian state energy giant Gazprom on major oil and gas deals, as one of his foreign policy advisers. Page refused to say whether his Moscow trip included a meeting with Russian officials. He is scheduled to deliver a graduation address Friday at the New Economic School, a speech that some officials are expected to attend.

Above quote is from the Stars & Stripes piece, evidently republished from WaPo, linked at the ‘Washington’s Blog’ that Ze K linked to.

If you want to put for. policy in the hands of the likes of Carter Page (former Merrill Lynch exec., Gazprom adviser), vote Trump all right.

HRC’s for. policy advisers may not be great, but I don’t think this guy Page is better. He does have connections to the Russian govt as a past consultant, apparently, which is no doubt why Ze K is so high on him.

180

Hidari 07.10.16 at 2:57 pm

@193

Tomayto, Tomahto.

181

LFC 07.10.16 at 5:25 pm

And why would I care at all (let alone “no doubt”) if he was a Gazprom consultant?

B.c Gazprom is a Russian state-owned company and a fair inference from your many comments on this blog (not just this thread but others) is that you are, in general, favorably disposed to the present Russian govt. and its activities. Not Gazprom in particular necessarily, but the govt in general. You make all these comments and then get upset when they are read to say what they say. You consistently attack HRC as a war-monger, as corrupt etc. You consistently say anyone wd be better. “Vote Trump save the world.” You said there was no Poland in existence in ’39 when the USSR invaded it. Your comments and exchanges in this thread are here for anyone to read, so I don’t have to continue.

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Anarcissie 07.11.16 at 2:19 am

Hidari 07.10.16 at 2:57 pm @ 197 —
Although the term ‘global policeman’ (or ‘cops of the world’) is mostly used ironically (in my experience), ‘policeman’ does have a straight meaning, denoting a person who operates under the authority of law, whereas the supreme Mafia capo is a law and authority unto himself, at least until someone assassinates him. I think this second metaphor more closely approximates the position and behavior of the present United States.

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