Author Topic: US Domination Making us Safer?  (Read 7170 times)

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Offline Thucydides

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Re: US Domination Making us Safer?
« Reply #25 on: October 13, 2005, 15:46:37 »
I think force in general is becoming increasingly less effective and self-punitive. Conventional military capability matters little if one considers the economic damage its use brings. Invading Iraq did little but upset international markets and drive the price of oil through the roof. Thanks alot. I disagree that actors such as the insurgents or AQ don't care about the profitability of their conflicts - I think it's quite the opposite but that profits and costs are viewed by them as another tool to hurt - IE I agree that they likely don't consider their own costs or profits but the US' costs and profits matter to them significantly, generally insofar as they can increase the former and decrease the latter. OBL made no secret of his desire to upset the US (and world) economy with 9/11.

Although we might like to think that force isn't the best answer, it would seem that many people out there do not share your views. A lot of money is being spent to modernize military forces throughout the world (China is only the best known and most obvious example), since they know that force is the final arbitrator. Just ask the Carthaginians. The Jihadis don't try to talk to the people they capture and make them see things their way, they just behead the unfortunate victims. For the most part, we can talk to the locals and make them see things our way by both word and example; the Jihadis are only going to change their minds with some help from high velocity metal.

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I don't think there's ever been any doubt that Western armies are technology-obsessed, often to the neglect of their institutional intellect. That being said, you can't really blame them since they're a product of conflicts wherein technology played a substantial determinant. The "swat-the-fly-with-a-sledgehammer" approach isn't working (if it ever really has). It doesn't seem the coalition has read much on insurgency, or they'd know that smashing an entire city (Falluja) has more undesirable consequences than it's worth. This just illustrates the fact that nuance and actual understanding of what the heck is going on, who's doing it, and why is becoming more important than being able to atomize 10 square blocks on a whim. To achieve the latter, you need a different perspective and a better educated leadership, both political and military. Of course, that would require big changes and we all know how much the military loves embracing change.   :D

Well, it is nice to go with what you know.... ;)

I have been doing lots of reading, and attended seminars and spoken to various people with first hand experience, and can report the institution is changing. The announcements coming from General Hillier and the changes he is driving will kick us out of the cold war ruts we have driven across the institutional landscape. The American Army is rapidly relearning lessons from the Indian wars (1870s-1890s), the Philippines, the "Banana Wars"  and the other small wars that created and defined the American Military from the founding of the Republic until the 1940's.

This is a long, hard process, and it is illustrative to see how large corporations have undergone huge traumas in reorganizing from "top down" heirarchies to more streamlined "flat" organizations. We have more incentive to get it right, our mistakes do not result in shareholder loss but in the spilling of blood and treasure, so a slow and steady approach is what is needed here.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Infanteer

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Re: US Domination Making us Safer?
« Reply #26 on: October 13, 2005, 16:08:09 »
As Art said, force will always be the most base and effective form of interaction between human societies.  You bring the Al Qa'ida attacks on the US economy as an example - but this was accomplished by pure, naked force as opposed to cunning manipulation of international markets or a cyber-attack.  I think your example just serves to further prove that there is no chance of force becoming less effective and self-punitive anytime soon.  If you want proof, compare the number of conflicts in the 20/21 century to any century before (also look at casualties - civ and combatant).  As well, do the same comparison between the Cold War and the post-Cold War world - we're in a growth industry here.

I tend to side with the "4GW" crowd with the notion that force is becoming monopolized at smaller and smaller levels.  As it devolves to these smaller levels, other less concrete phenomenon will become prevalent.  Kaplan highlights the environment, while Ignatieff looks to a more base level of nationalism (blood and belonging).  Faith, ethno-nationalism, and Ralph Peters' "Warrior Societies" are all spilling out as the Triad (with its notions of economy and military capacity) becomes weaker.  Economics play a role in their decision making, but not in the conventional matter we are used to.  What profit was sought by the various Yugoslavian factions by tearing their industrialized country to pieces or by Ansar al-Sunnah by touching off a civil war after their "country" had a parasite dictator knocked off the block?
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline Daidalous

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Re: US Domination Making us Safer?
« Reply #27 on: October 13, 2005, 16:45:43 »
If you want some insight  on this topic read  THE PENTAGON'S NEW MAP   Just a warning, the material repeats it's self over and over again, and the author has such dry humor he could put your grand parents to sleep by talking,   but states ,   economics not military power dominate the world.   The USA   lead the way to create governing bodies  ie   World bank,  WTO, UN  ect  to regulate  the economics,   and the USA  acts as the enforcer to  enforce such rules and regulations by these bodies with the help of  the core (Canada, France, Russia  ect) When  they are ignored and violated by  Gap countries (  N Korea,  most of Africa,  middle east and other struggling countres which seem to be  dictatorships)   


I don't know about you,  but I don't live in fear And I have not gone hungry anytime I can remember,  well except the last time i drove thru  Toronto at 2 am and my car broke down :P

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Offline Thucydides

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Re: US Domination Making us Safer?
« Reply #28 on: October 13, 2005, 22:05:03 »
Military power is a function of economics, since it underpins the logistical basis of operations.

The "Trinity" and "4GW" are cultural artifacts in my opinion, since they are essentially ways of describing HOW you harness your economic power for military purposes. Economics and culture also explains the situations in Yugoslavia and Iraq to a certain extent; culturally, neither Yugoslavia or Iraq had any real history of capitalism or extensive middle classes who value work, thrift and the other virtues that keep our market capitalist culture going; economically, if you don't have the cultural or intellectual tools to see how to get ahead, then you use force to tear down everyone else. Your "profit" becomes being the dominant person/group through the use of force.

This isn't as far fetched as it sounds, the Mycenaeans described in the Iliad and through archeology worked that way, but the Classical Greeks, who lived in the same land, spoke almost the same language and worshipped the same gods had a much different appreciation of things like laws, ownership of land and the duties and responsibilities of landowners, and thus had a very different style of warfare and associated military doctrine and technology then their Mycenaean ancestors.

Ralph Peters has written several articles in Parameters and other places where he points out that in many respects, we are facing enemies right out of the Iliad, the Bible and other ancient texts, and I have seen this first hand when dealing with people in Cyprus, Canadian Natives and in Bosnia. Our rationality allows us to do things they cannot, but their actions and reactions are based on ways of using their resources to achieve results that are meaningless or even counterproductive in our eyes.

We could become savage beasts and lay waste to any and all opponents ("the Romans create a wilderness, and call it peace"), which is quite within our capabilities since only we actually have the resources to do such a thing. While Al Qaeda struggles to build a home made nuclear device, we have existing assembly line technology for building nuclear warheads. We overmatch our enemies at almost any scale when it comes to the logistical underpinnings of warfare.

If we want to retain the values that helped create the western civilization we inhabit today, then we cannot walk down that path. So long as we are not fighting WW IV for personal plunder or to establish colonies or any of the other reasons that the protagonists of the Iliad knew so well, then we are doing the right thing. Refining our techniques and finding the right places to apply force will take time, and since the enemies of the west are adaptable and fired by strong ideas, the idea of us being safe and secure will be moot for many years or even decades to come. The Jihadis chose the path of war, now we and them together will follow it to the bitter end.

« Last Edit: October 13, 2005, 23:45:51 by a_majoor »
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Glorified Ape

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Re: US Domination Making us Safer?
« Reply #29 on: October 14, 2005, 02:26:46 »
Although we might like to think that force isn't the best answer, it would seem that many people out there do not share your views. A lot of money is being spent to modernize military forces throughout the world (China is only the best known and most obvious example), since they know that force is the final arbitrator. Just ask the Carthaginians. The Jihadis don't try to talk to the people they capture and make them see things their way, they just behead the unfortunate victims. For the most part, we can talk to the locals and make them see things our way by both word and example; the Jihadis are only going to change their minds with some help from high velocity metal.

I think force is becoming increasingly inappropriate for an increasing number of issues. It used to be that if you had some economic woe that could be solved by beating the other state's head in, go ahead (assuming you had the ability). Now we'd view that as insane, not solely because of the likelihood that you'll lose more economically than you'll gain but also from a moral standpoint. The western world, at least, seems to be turning increasingly intolerant of force as a means of problem resolution. I think this has to do with both economics and with "morality". Military adventurism is exhorbitantly expensive and very rarely does it earn the aggressor more than he puts in. In other words, it's becoming more and more a losing bet (in my opinion). The US has damaged itself far more economically than it stands to regain - a point often used to counter the "oil-grab" contention, though such a counter-punch assumes that the oil-grab was meant to profit the state as opposed to other actors.

As for Jihadis, their end may be political but I don't think they ever intended to achieve it through the persuasive conversion of Ukrainian helicopter pilots or KBR truck drivers. I think AQ's approach is quite effective - slap the enemy in the face and provoke them into overreacting, which will alienate many potential supporters. It's textbook insurgency/guerilla tactics, just taken to the international level. It's the clerics who do the politicking, the Jihadis busy cutting heads off are the "grunts" so to speak, from what I can see. It seems the terrorism we're seeing is one analagous to the state, to some degree - the religious wing handles the politics while the "jihadi" wing covers the force - similar to the civilian political authority and the military. The big difference is in the fact that there's (generally, to my knowledge) no direct, formal link between the two - a characteristic which allows the civilian to operate without having to answer for the military. Plausible deniability and all that. :D

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Well, it is nice to go with what you know.... ;)

I have been doing lots of reading, and attended seminars and spoken to various people with first hand experience, and can report the institution is changing. The announcements coming from General Hillier and the changes he is driving will kick us out of the cold war ruts we have driven across the institutional landscape. The American Army is rapidly relearning lessons from the Indian wars (1870s-1890s), the Philippines, the "Banana Wars"  and the other small wars that created and defined the American Military from the founding of the Republic until the 1940's.

That's good to hear, though I'm somewhat skeptical as to how likely these changes are too occur within the next 50 years. It seems the USMC never completely forgot what it learned (or at least not as much as the Army) and I'd expect it to be more rapidly adaptable than the Army.

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This is a long, hard process, and it is illustrative to see how large corporations have undergone huge traumas in reorganizing from "top down" heirarchies to more streamlined "flat" organizations. We have more incentive to get it right, our mistakes do not result in shareholder loss but in the spilling of blood and treasure, so a slow and steady approach is what is needed here.

Ah, but how slow is too slow and how fast is too fast?? Boy am I mysterious.  8)


As Art said, force will always be the most base and effective form of interaction between human societies.   You bring the Al Qa'ida attacks on the US economy as an example - but this was accomplished by pure, naked force as opposed to cunning manipulation of international markets or a cyber-attack.

Of course they used force - they don't have the capability to effectively influence without it. Developed states are another thing altogether. I disagree that force will always be the most effective form of interation or that it always has been. It's already grossly inefficient - a gargantuan waste of resources, both material and personnel. This wasn't anything new in Sun Tzu's time, either, which is why force was always the least desirable option to him. Aside from moral objectionability, which is subjective and useless unless you're talking about a soceity's morals and the effect they may have (as opposed to arguing on a moral basis), it's just not quantitatively efficient. That's why economists deplore war from the self-interest standpoint - it's manifestly self-punitive if one takes the long view. I'm not saying this is ALWAYS the case - WWII being an example wherein force was absolutely necessary and in the Allies' own best interests.


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I think your example just serves to further prove that there is no chance of force becoming less effective and self-punitive anytime soon.   If you want proof, compare the number of conflicts in the 20/21 century to any century before (also look at casualties - civ and combatant).   As well, do the same comparison between the Cold War and the post-Cold War world - we're in a growth industry here.

The 20th century was also one characterized by the break-up of the Empires and the resultant conflicts around nationalism - it's an outlier. The higher casualties are a result of the combination of technology, population density, population size, and the targetting of civilians in wartime. I believe that only serves to prove my point - wars are becoming substantially more expensive and less tolerable, both in fiscal/material expense and casualties. Wars were all fine and good when two armies met on a field with bows, pikemen, and cavalry but when they start infesting cities, destroying industry, and using expensive inputs, their cost outweighs their benefit. The willingness of people and states to engage in wars is not a function of its efficiency. As I know you know, humans are not always rational creatures. 

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I tend to side with the "4GW" crowd with the notion that force is becoming monopolized at smaller and smaller levels.   As it devolves to these smaller levels, other less concrete phenomenon will become prevalent.   Kaplan highlights the environment, while Ignatieff looks to a more base level of nationalism (blood and belonging).   Faith, ethno-nationalism, and Ralph Peters' "Warrior Societies" are all spilling out as the Triad (with its notions of economy and military capacity) becomes weaker.   Economics play a role in their decision making, but not in the conventional matter we are used to.   What profit was sought by the various Yugoslavian factions by tearing their industrialized country to pieces or by Ansar al-Sunnah by touching off a civil war after their "country" had a parasite dictator knocked off the block?

As I said, people aren't often rational. If you look at the Western world, though, we're becoming decreasingly likely to tolerate force as a means of achieving petty political ends. Vietnam was a good example, as is Iraq. Economically, both are astounding failures and neither attracted widespread support. Yugoslavia only held together as long as it did because of Tito. The ongoing conflicts in Africa are another example of how artificially conglomerated peoples tend to break apart when the unifying controller is gone. Eventually, I think things will sort themselves out to the point that the fractioning will reach an equilibrium, either through national independence, negotiated co-existence, or emigration. The West managed it, and I think others will too. This is only going to increase as everyone tries to get their part of the neoliberal economic pie and democratizes. There's something to be said for democratic peace theory, though I don't think it's perfect. Add to that the increasing salience of complex interdependence, international institutions, and economic regionalisation and I think we're going to see a substantial decrease in the number of major conflicts.

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Offline Infanteer

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Re: US Domination Making us Safer?
« Reply #30 on: October 14, 2005, 16:46:54 »
It's textbook insurgency/guerilla tactics, just taken to the international level. It's the clerics who do the politicking, the Jihadis busy cutting heads off are the "grunts" so to speak, from what I can see.

<cough>Islamic Insurgency<cough> - sorry, had to get a little advertisement in....   ^-^

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Of course they used force - they don't have the capability to effectively influence without it. Developed states are another thing altogether.

Well, developed states aren't the only actor on the block (what I was getting at with the weakening of the Triad) and so their interactions with other actors may not be as "rational" as their interaction with eachother - watch and shoot.

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I disagree that force will always be the most effective form of interation or that it always has been. It's already grossly inefficient - a gargantuan waste of resources, both material and personnel.

Art mentioned the Carthaginians - look at the end of the First and Second Punic Wars and compare it with the Third.   Look at Rome's position before and after the wars.

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The higher casualties are a result of the combination of technology, population density, population size, and the targetting of civilians in wartime. I believe that only serves to prove my point - wars are becoming substantially more expensive and less tolerable, both in fiscal/material expense and casualties. Wars were all fine and good when two armies met on a field with bows, pikemen, and cavalry but when they start infesting cities, destroying industry, and using expensive inputs, their cost outweighs their benefit.

That's a pretty simplistic view of war.   Check this text out:

Then I went into the country of Comukha, which was disobedient and withheld the tribute and offerings due to Ashur my Lord: I conquered the whole country of Comukha. I plundered their movables, their wealth, and their valuables. Their cities I burnt with fire, I destroyed and ruined. The common people of Comukha, who fled before the face of my servants, crossed over to the city of Sherisha, which was on the further banks of the Tigris, and made this city into their stronghold. I assembled my chariots and warriors. I betook myself to carts of iron in order to overcome the rough mountains and their difficult marches. I made the wilderness (thus) practicable for the passage of my chariots and warriors. I crossed the Tigris and took the city of Sherisha their stronghold. Their fighting men, in the middle of the forests, like wild beasts, I smote. Their carcasses filled the Tigris, and the tops of the mountains. At this time the troops of the Akhe, who came to the deliverance and assistance of Comukha, together with the troops of Comukha, like chaff I scattered. The carcasses of their fighting men I piled up like heaps on the tops of the mountains. The bodies of their warriors, the roaring waters carried down to the Tigris. Kili Teru son of Kali Teru, son of Zarupin Zihusun, their King, in the course of their fighting fell into my power. His wives and his children, the delight of his heart I dispossessed him of. One hundred and eighty iron vessels and 5 trays of copper, together with the gods of the people in gold and silver, and their beds and furniture I brought away. Their movables and their wealth I plundered. This city and its palace I burnt with fire, I destroyed and ruined.

Sound like something out of the Eastern Front?   This is the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser I bragging up his capabilities.   This is in 1000 BC.   You could see the same thing a thousand years later with Caesar and the Gauls, 2500 years later with the Thirty-Years War and 3000 years later with WWII.   The average Canadian soldier has seen enough burned out villages in his time to know that it still exists.

War has always "infested cities" (Carthago delanda est), "destroyed industry", "used expensive inputs" (look at where the Bank of England came from) and "cost more than its benefits".   These are the inherent effects of tribalism, and man is, deep down, a tribal animal (Ghiglieri explores this in detail in The Dark Side of Man).   Total war is just tribalism writ large.   When higher-order politics break down, there is not much to inhibit any of us from falling back to tribal instincts.

History oscillates; ironic how there are men dying daily and cities are being shot to heck in the land that Tiglath-Pileser burned to the ground 3000 years ago....

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As I said, people aren't often rational. If you look at the Western world, though, we're becoming decreasingly likely to tolerate force as a means of achieving petty political ends. Vietnam was a good example, as is Iraq. Economically, both are astounding failures and neither attracted widespread support. Yugoslavia only held together as long as it did because of Tito. The ongoing conflicts in Africa are another example of how artificially conglomerated peoples tend to break apart when the unifying controller is gone. Eventually, I think things will sort themselves out to the point that the fractioning will reach an equilibrium, either through national independence, negotiated co-existence, or emigration. The West managed it, and I think others will too. This is only going to increase as everyone tries to get their part of the neoliberal economic pie and democratizes. There's something to be said for democratic peace theory, though I don't think it's perfect. Add to that the increasing salience of complex interdependence, international institutions, and economic regionalisation and I think we're going to see a substantial decrease in the number of major conflicts.

I wouldn't be hedging that bet with only 50 out of the 6000 years of recorded history; for all the hub-bub about economic interdepence, remember that we are only now approaching the levels of international trade and economic activity that existed in 1913.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2005, 20:52:23 by Infanteer »
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Offline Glorified Ape

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Re: US Domination Making us Safer?
« Reply #31 on: October 22, 2005, 04:21:37 »
<cough>Islamic Insurgency<cough> - sorry, had to get a little advertisement in....   ^-^

??? Another book I should be reading? I'd read more political stuff but I have to swallow so much of it from school that it just puts me off to do it for fun.

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Well, developed states aren't the only actor on the block (what I was getting at with the weakening of the Triad) and so their interactions with other actors may not be as "rational" as their interaction with eachother - watch and shoot.

But it's all taking place within the confines of states - that means (generally) that if states want to scrap with terrorists, they need to relate with the host governments. Pakistan and the US are one example. The non-state actors problem is, I agree, one that's going to get bigger but I think the major state vs. state conflicts are going to see a marked decrease because of their impracticality. That being said, there's no accounting for crazies (Western or otherwise).

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Art mentioned the Carthaginians - look at the end of the First and Second Punic Wars and compare it with the Third.   Look at Rome's position before and after the wars.

That's a pretty simplistic view of war.   Check this text out:

Then I went into the country of Comukha, which was disobedient and withheld the tribute and offerings due to Ashur my Lord: I conquered the whole country of Comukha. I plundered their movables, their wealth, and their valuables. Their cities I burnt with fire, I destroyed and ruined. The common people of Comukha, who fled before the face of my servants, crossed over to the city of Sherisha, which was on the further banks of the Tigris, and made this city into their stronghold. I assembled my chariots and warriors. I betook myself to carts of iron in order to overcome the rough mountains and their difficult marches. I made the wilderness (thus) practicable for the passage of my chariots and warriors. I crossed the Tigris and took the city of Sherisha their stronghold. Their fighting men, in the middle of the forests, like wild beasts, I smote. Their carcasses filled the Tigris, and the tops of the mountains. At this time the troops of the Akhe, who came to the deliverance and assistance of Comukha, together with the troops of Comukha, like chaff I scattered. The carcasses of their fighting men I piled up like heaps on the tops of the mountains. The bodies of their warriors, the roaring waters carried down to the Tigris. Kili Teru son of Kali Teru, son of Zarupin Zihusun, their King, in the course of their fighting fell into my power. His wives and his children, the delight of his heart I dispossessed him of. One hundred and eighty iron vessels and 5 trays of copper, together with the gods of the people in gold and silver, and their beds and furniture I brought away. Their movables and their wealth I plundered. This city and its palace I burnt with fire, I destroyed and ruined.

Sound like something out of the Eastern Front?   This is the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser I bragging up his capabilities.   This is in 1000 BC.   You could see the same thing a thousand years later with Caesar and the Gauls, 2500 years later with the Thirty-Years War and 3000 years later with WWII.   The average Canadian soldier has seen enough burned out villages in his time to know that it still exists.

War has always "infested cities" (Carthago delanda est), "destroyed industry", "used expensive inputs" (look at where the Bank of England came from) and "cost more than its benefits".   These are the inherent effects of tribalism, and man is, deep down, a tribal animal (Ghiglieri explores this in detail in The Dark Side of Man).   Total war is just tribalism writ large.   When higher-order politics break down, there is not much to inhibit any of us from falling back to tribal instincts.

Point taken, though I doubt Tiglath had to worry about getting re-elected. War's too expensive these days and there are precious few states that can afford to wage it on a large scale, especially against anyone not directly adjacent. Tiglath's home markets likely didn't suffer from his wars and he didn't have to worry about national indebtedness. Your interpretation of human nature has alot in common with Desmond's in "The Human Zoo". He thinks much of the depravity and problems in society are caused by the shrinkage of the "primary group" to the family and friends and the alienation people experience from the majority of society because of the impersonal nature of everything (as opposed to within a smaller, more "tribe" sized existence).

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History oscillates; ironic how there are men dying daily and cities are being shot to heck in the land that Tiglath-Pileser burned to the ground 3000 years ago....

That depends on your view of history. Broad similarities in history shouldn't, I believe, be viewed as evidence that humanity is still one and the same with what it was even 500 years ago. People are always going to kill people, just as they'll always need to eat, but I don't think that means we'll be engaging in massive wars for the rest of our collective existence. I'm not utopian in the slightest, I just view it as a matter of decreasing practicality. The more it costs you to invade or go to war with another country, the less likely you'll be to do it. It'll still happen, sure, but the ridiculous expense of it all on those occasions that we do, will illustrate the stupidity of it better and better. That's to say nothing of the population's intolerance for it in democratic regimes where the economic impact is often felt the most because of their greater economic integration.

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I wouldn't be hedging that bet with only 50 out of the 6000 years of recorded history; for all the hub-bub about economic interdepence, remember that we are only now approaching the levels of international trade and economic activity that existed in 1913.

If you're looking at the freedom of factor movements, sure, but there are plenty of other elements to look at. The US was back up to its pre-WWI level of economic integration by 1970. The number of international institutions erected to regulate and facilitate international trade (IE the WTO, World Bank, IMF, etc) and their importance are far larger than it ever was in the gold standard and Pax Britannica era. Capital movement is far easier than it was in the early 20th century, if only because of telecommunications and IT improvements. That, and the EU, APEC, NAFTA, etc. I'm not saying integration is at absolute levels or anything, but it's at high enough levels and has enough potential that I think it will greatly alter warring tendencies now and in the future.

[fixed your quote boxes - Inf.]
« Last Edit: October 22, 2005, 04:27:26 by Infanteer »
Bureaucracy is hell.