July 07, 2003

Better Futures that Might Have Been

There are many sad books on my bookshelf: books that whenever I open them cause tears to gather in the corner of my eyes, and cause my nose to sniffle. This is not because I am allergic to dust from old books (which I am), but because many old books seem to me to be markers of a better future that did not come to be. Of these, I think the saddest is an old, old book from 1911: Norman Angell's The Great Illusion: A Study of the Relation of Military Power in Nations to Their Economic and Social Advantage.

Norman Angell's argument is simple: It is that in modern industrial warfare between great powers, everybody loses. Losers lose. And the winners lose. Many of their fathers, sons, and husbands are dead. Much of their wealth has been blown up. And it is next to impossible to claim that these sacrifices are counterbalanced by any positive economic advantages. Straightforward plunder of the conquered country yields little. Confiscation of property and the imposition of reparations burdens damages the rule of law on which modern industrial prosperity rests. And even if you do manage to get the conquered country to ship you significant quantities of valued foodstuffs, automobiles, and radios, you then have to cope with mass unemployment among your own farmers and manufacturing workers.

Thus to Angell The Great Illusion was the view--the ravings, rather--of those like Admiral Mahan who argued that in modern industrial times commercial prosperity was the fruit of military power (especially that kind of military power especially beloved of admirals). Angell imagined the aftermath of a German victory over Britain as a result of which Germany "conquered" Britain's Canadian trade:

What has the victory [or defeat] of our ships at sea have to do with the fact that the Canadian farmer wants to buy our ploughs and pay for them with his wheat? It may be true that [a victorious] Germany could stop the importation of that wheat. But why should she want to do so? How would it benefit her people to do so?... By what sort of miracle is she suddenly to be able to double her industrial population? And by what sort of miracle is she to be able to consume the wheat, because if she cannot take the wheat the Canadian cannot buy her ploughs? I am aware that all this is elementary, that it is economics in words of one syllable... (p .59)

And he puzzled over how Pan-German politicians could believe that German prosperity required a big battlefleet when the absence of a battlefleet made no difference to the prosperity of Norway, of Denmark, or of Holland.

Angell was, of course, right. Considered as a mode of economic development, twentieth-century war between industrialized great powers was a really, really, really bad idea. And the arguments for the close linkage between commerce, power, and military might popular during the pre-World War I arms race were completely spurious.

Angell hoped to see his gospel spread, to see more and more politicians and voters realize that war was such a negative-sum game that even the winners lost, to see armaments reduced and taxes lowered and national wealth increased, and to see an end to war in his lifetime.

Of course, when August 1914 came and the lights went out over Europe, Angell's arguments were swept aside. War with Serbia made no sense for the people of Austria-Hungary. Indeed, war with Serbia made no sense for the ruling Habsburg dynasty (which lost its throne) or for its camarilla of advisors. War with Austria-Hungary made no sense for the people of Russia. Indeed, war with Austria-Hungary made no sense for the Czar and his dynasty (which lost its throne and their lives) or for Russia's ruling class (which was, after the war, one of the groups about which the new government thought that the four walls of a prison were three walls too many). To respond to a threatening war between its ally Austria-Hungary and Russia by attacking France and Belgium was a maneuver that made no sense at all for the German people, the German army, the German government, or the German Emperor. But they did it. War may have made a little sense for the French and British people ex ante as part of a process of shifting Germany's political order away from militarism and toward pacifism, but World War I and its aftermath moved Germany's political culture very much in the wrong direction.

Moreover, for much of the twentieth century the ever-inventive peoples of Europe found other reasons than economic advantage to wage war: ethnic-cleansing reasons, genocidal reasons, disputes over the proper role of market versus command as a way of organizing economic production, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Even as Angell wrote, Europe was starting down its catastrophic road. Those were the days when, as Winston S. Churchill said, "the government proposed four [modern battleships to be started each year], the navy demanded six, and we compromised on eight." Those were the days when Europe's socialist mass parties overthrew their internationalist commitments in an afternoon to vote their governments blank checks to wage total war.

But there was a different future for Europe in the twentieth century available when Norman Angell wrote. Less jingoism and more internationalism. Less focus on a nation's armed forces as the equivalent of a sports team and more focus on the heavy cost of the pre-World War I arms race. Less attention paid to the ravings of Admiral Mahan and more time spent listening to the better Angells of our nature.... Things could have been very, very different.

Norman Angell (1909), The Great Illusion: A Study of the Relation of Military Power in Nations to Their Economic and Social Advantage (London: William Heinemann) (3rd ed. 1911).

Norman Angell (1909), The Great Illusion: A Study of the Relation of Military Power in Nations to Their Economic and Social Advantage (London: William Heinemann) (3rd ed. 1911).

p. vi: What are the real motives prompting international rivalry in armaments, particularly Anglo-German rivalry? Each nation pleads that its armaments are purely for defense, but such plea necessarily implies that other nations have some interest in attack. What is this interest or supposed interest? The supposed interest has its origin in the universally accepted theory that military and political power give a modern nation commercial and social advantages, that the wealth and prosperity of the defenceless nation are at the mercy of stronger nations, who may be tempted by such defencelessness to commit aggression, so that each nation is compelled to protect itself against the possible cupidity of neighbours.

p. vi: The author challenges this universal theory, and declares it... a pure optical illusion.... [M]ilitary and political power give a nation no commercial advantage... it is an economic impossibility... for one nation to enrich itself by subjugating another.

pp. vi-vii: ...wealth in the economically civilized world is founded upoon credit and commercial contract. If these are tampered with... [by a] conqueror, the credit-dependent wealth... vanishes... giving the conqueror nothing... its collapse involves the conqueror; so that if conquest is not to injure the conqueror, he must scrupulously respect the enemy's property, in which case conquest becomes economically futile.

p. vii: When Germany annexed Alsatia, no individual German secured a single mark's worth of Alsatian property as the spoils of war.

p. vii: ...international finance... so interdependent and so interwoven with trade and industry that... political and military power can in reality do nothing for trade, since the individual merchants and manufacturers of small nations exercising no such power compete successfully.... Swiss and Belgian merchants are driving English from the Canadian market; Norway has, relatively to population, a much greater mercantile marine than Great Britain...

p. viii: What is the basis, the scientific justification of the plea that man's natural pugnacity will indefinitely stand in the way of international agreement? It is based on the alleged unchangeability of human nature, on the plea that the warlike nations inherit th eearth, that warlike qualities alone can give the virile energy necessary for nations to win in the struggle for life. The author shows that human nature is not unchanging; that warlike nations do not inherit the earth; that warfare does not make for the survival of the fittest or virile; that the struggle between nations is no part of the evolutionary law of man's advance, adn that that idea resides on a profound misreading of the biological law; that physical force is a constantly diminishing factor in human affairs, and that this diminution carries with it profound psychological modifications; that society is classifying itself by interests rather than by State divisions; that the modern State is losing its homogeneity; and that all these multiple factors are making rapidly for the disappearance of State rivalries. He shows how these tendencies--which, like the economic facts dealt with in the first part, are very largely of recent growth--may be utilized for the solution of the armament dificulty on at present untried lines.

p. 5: Mr. Frederic Harrison, who all his life had been known as the philosopher protagonist of peace, declares that, if England allows Germany to get ahead of her in the race for armaments, "famine, social anarchy, incalculable chaos in the industrial and financial world, would be the inevitable result. Britain may live on... but before she began to live freely again she would have to lose half her population, which she could not feed, and all her overseas Empire, which she could not defend.... How idle are fine words about retrenchment, peace, and brotherhood, whilst we lie open to the risk of unutterable ruin, to a deadly fight for national existence, to war in its most destructive and cruel form."

pp. 16-17: "The old predatory instinct that he should take who has the power survives... and moral force is not sufficient to determine issues unless supported by physical. Governments are corporations, and corporations have no souls. Governments, moreover, are trustees, and as such must put first the lawful interests of their wards--their own people.... More and more Germany needs the assured importation of raw materials, and where possible control of regionsl productive of such materials. More and more she requires assured markets and security as to the importation of food, since less and less comparatively is produced within her borders by her rapidly increasing population. This all means security at sea.... The world has long been accustomed to the idea of a predominant naval power, coupling it with the name of Great Britain, and it has been noted that such power, when achieved, is commonly enough associated with commercial and industrial predominance, the struggle for which is now in progress between Great Britain and Germany. Such predominance forces a nation to seek markets, and where possible to control them to its advantage by preponderant force, the ultimate expression of which is possession.... From this flow two results: the attempt to possess and the organization of force by which to maintain possession already achieved.... This statement is simply a specific formulation of the general necessity stated; it is an inevitable link in a chain of logical sequences: industry, markets, control, navy, bases." - Admiral Mahan, The Interest of America in International Conditions, Sampson Low, Marston and Co., London.

p. 31: That as the only possible policy in our day for a conqueror to pursue is to leave the wealth of a territory in the complete possession of the individuals inhabiting that territory, it is a logical fallacy and an optical illusion... to regard a nation as increasing its wealth when it increases its territory.... The facts of modern history abundantly demonstrate this. When Germany annexed Schleswig-Holstein and Alsatia not a single ordinary German citizen was one pfennig the richer.... the conqueror is unable to take the wealth of a conquered territory, owing to the delicate interdependence... which makes the financial and industrial security of the victor dependent upon financial and industrial security in all considerable civilized centers; so that widespread confiscation or destruction of trade and commerce... would react disastrously upon the conqueror... the Dutch citizen, whose government possesses no military power, is just as well off as the German citizen, whose Government possesses an army of two million men.... Thus the Three per Cents. of powerless Belgium are quoted at 96 and the Three per Cents. of powerful Germany at 82...

pp. 34-5: If the common doctrines be true, the Rothschilds, Barings, Morgans, and Sterns would not invest a pound or a dollar in... undefended nations, and yet... they consider that a Swiss or a Dutch investment is more secure than a German one.... The attitude of European finance... is the absolute condemnation of the view commonly taken by the statesman.... The prosperity of the small States... proves a good deal more than that wealth can be secure without armaments. We have seen... Admiral Mahan... plead that armaments are... necessary... a means of extracting economic advantage.... Well, the relative economic situation of the small States gives the lie to this profound philosophy...

p. 38: Austria... annex[ed] Bosnia and Hertzegovina... on the occasion of the first anniversary of the annexation, the Austrian Press dealt with the disillusion.... One paper said: "The annexation has cost us millions, was a great disturbance to our trade, and it is impossible to point to one single benefit that has resulted." There was not even a pretence of economic interest in the annexation, which was prompted by pure political vanity.

p. 54: It would really be interesting to know how those who talk as though confiscation were still an economic possibility would proceed to effect it.... [A]s we cannot carry away sections of Berlin and Hamburg, we could only annex... shares and bonds. But the value of those tokens depends upon the reliance which can be placed on the execution of... contracts.... [M]ilitary confiscation upsets all contracts... the courts... are paralyzed because judicial decisions are thrust aside by the sword. The value of the stocks and shares would collapse.... credit... would also be shaken or shattered.... German finance and industry would show a condition of panic and disorder beside which the worst crises of Wall Street would pale into insignificance.... The financial influence of London itself would be thrown into the scale to prevent a panic in which London financiers would be involved...

p. 59: What has the victory [or defeat] of our ships at sea have to do with the fact that the Canadian farmer wants to buy our ploughs and pay for them with his wheat? It may be true that [a victorious] Germany could stop the importation of that wheat. But why should she want to do so? How would it benefit her people to do so?... By what sort of miracle is she suddenly to be able to double her industrial population? And by what sort of miracle is she to be able to consume the wheat, because if she cannot take the wheat the Canadian cannot buy her ploughs? I am aware that all this is elementary, that it is economics in words of one syllable...

pp. 111-112: Even when the English, the greatest colonizers of the world, conquer a territory like the Transvaal or the Orange Free State, they have no resort, having conquered it, but to allow its own law, its own literature, its own language to have free play, just as though the conquest had never taken place. This was even the case with Quebec more than one hundred years ago, and Germany will have to be guided by a like rule. On the morrow of conquest she would have to proceed to establish her real ascendancy by other than military means--a thing she is free to do today, if she can...

p. 112: It cannot throughout this discussion be too often repeated that the world has been modified, and that what was possible to the Canaanites or the Romans, or even to the Normans, is no longer possible to us. The edict can no longer go forth to "slay every male child" that is born into the conquered territory, in order that the race may be exterminated. Conquest in this sense is impossible... in this field physical force is no longer of avail...

p. 131: The nation that in the long run fails to achieve economic success cannot satisfy its national pride; it cannot in the modern world impose itself; it cannot even keep up great armies and navies. It cannot in any way maintain its prestige...

p. 140: William James covers the whole ground of these claims... "The war party is assuredly right in affirming that the martial virtues... are absolute and permanent human goods. Patriotic pride and ambition in their military form are... specifications of a more universal and enduring competitive passion.... Pacifism makes no converts from the military party... [which] denies neither the bestiality nor the horror nor the expense; it only says that these things tell but half the story. It only says that war is worth these things; that, taking human nature as a whole, war is its best protection against its weaker and more cowardly self, and that mankind cannot afford to adopt a peace economy. Militarism is the great preserver of our ideals of hardihood, and human life without hardihood would be contemptible.... This natural feeling forms, I think, the innermost soul of army writings. Without any exception known to me, militarist authors take a highly mystical view of their subject, and regard war as a biological or sociological necessity.... Our ancestors have bred pugnacity into our bone and marrow, and thousands of years of peace won't breed it out of us."

p. 148: The Tartar Khan, who seizes by force the wealth in his state, giving no adequate return, soon has none to seize. Men will not work to create what they cannot enjoy, so that, finally, the khan has to kill a man by torture to obtain a sum which is the thousandth part of what a London tradesman will spend to secure a title carrying no right to the exercise of force from a Sovereign who has lost all right to the use or exercise of physical force, the head of the wealthiest country in the world, the sources of whose wealth are the most removed from any process involving the exercise of physical force.

pp. 151-2: If Russia does England an injury... sinks a fishing fleet.... The yokel is satisfied if he can "get a whack at them foreigners"--Germans will do if Russians are not available. The more educated man wants Russians; but if he stops a moment longer, he will see that in killing Russian peasants he might as well be killing so many Hindoos, for all they had to do with the matter. He then wants to get at the Russian Government. But so do a great many Russians--Liberals reformers... the real conflict is not English against Russians... but... law-abiding folk--Russians and English alike--against oppression, corruption, and incompetence. And to give the Russian Government an opportunity of going to war would... increase the influence of the reactionary party in Russia.... International hostilities repose for the most part upon our conception of the foreign state... as... homogeneous... having the same character of responsibility as an individual... [but] the analogy between nations and individuals... [is] utterly false...

p. 162: For... two hundred years Christians fought the Infidel for the... Holy Sepulchre.... Suppose that during this struggle one had told a European statesman of that age that the time would come when... the representatives of Europe... could by a single stroke of the pen have secured the Holy Sepulchre... but... having discussed the matter cursorily for twenty minutes... would decided that on the whole it was not worthwhile! Had such a thing been told to such medieval statesman, he would have certainly regarded the prophecy as that of a madman. Yet this, of course, is precisely what took place.

p. 219: England's exercise of force has approximated on the whole to the role of police... England's has made for cooperation. Spain's for the embarrassment of cooperation. England's has been in keeping with the real law of man's struggle; Spain's in keeping with the sham law which the "blood and iron" empiricists are forever throwing at our heads. For what has happened to all attempts to live on extorted tribute? They have all failed--failed miserably and utterly...

p. 300: I urged that Germany could do us relatively little harm, since the harm which she inflicted on us would immediately react on German prosperity, my critic assumes that this is equivalent to saying that Englishmen would be as happy or as prosperous under German rule.... [I]f the Germans are convinced they will obtain no benefit by our conquest they will not attempt that conquest.... As to the critic's second point, I have expressly explained that not our rival's real interest but what he deems to be his real interest must be the guide.... Military force is certainly economically futile, but as long as German policy rests on the assumption of the supposed economic value of military force, we have to meet that force...

p. 304: Sir Edward Grey said: "When I read that book I was reminded... that it is not thins which matter so much, but people's opinions about things. True as the statement in that book may be, it does not become an operative motive in the minds and conduct of nations until they are convinced of its truth and it has become a commonplace to them."


Some Press Opinions:

Nation: No piece of political thinking has in recent years more stirred the world which controls the movement of politics.... An appeal to enlightened self-interest, a call to rationalism in international relations, reasoned with a fervour, a simplicity, and a force which no political writer of our generation has equalled... rank its author, with Cobden, among the greatest of our pamphleteers, perhaps the greatest since Swift.

Edinburgh Review: Mr. Angell's main thesis cannot be disputed, and when... fully realized there will be another diplomatic revolution more fundamental than that of 1756.

Mr. Tighe Hopkins in the Daily Chronicle: Mr. Angell has compelled, on the part of all honest readers, a new mode of thinking on the whole question of war.

Mr. Harold Begbie: A new idea is suddenly thrust upon the minds of men.... The wisest piece of writing on the side of peace extant in the world today.

Daily News: The critics have failed to find a serious flaw in Norman Angell's logical, coherent, masterly analysis.

The Times: Extremely suggestive, ingenious, and acute.... Not to be ignored by those who most dissent.

The New Age: A book that will slowly and steadily affect the political outlook of Europe.... The author has rendered an incalculable benefit to human progress.

Daily Mail: Mr. Norman Angell is to be congratulated upon a very clever work... which is being widely discussed at the present moment in political circles both here and on the continent.

Posted by DeLong at July 7, 2003 03:58 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Great post.

Posted by: John Isbell on July 7, 2003 04:41 PM

Yes, a truly excellent post. Thanks very much Brad.

Posted by: Pooh on July 7, 2003 05:26 PM

From what I can see, Angell's analysis ignores colonial holdings. And it seems to me there is economic advantage in one first-world power conquering another and taking their colonial holdings--at least until the outraged victim nation finds a way to strike back or the colonies find a way to succesfully break away. Sometimes war can also be a tool of development policy.

With these points in mind, let's take a look at some other results of World War I:

1. Germany was stripped of her colonies at the end of World War I.

2. The Turkish empire was completely dismembered, its parts made into European subject nations.

3. Japan became first-world.

So I think there was a grim rationality to the European and Japanese militarism of the period. Long-term, of course, it was a disaster, leading directly to the Second World War, and to the current war between various first-world nations and various Middle Eastern nations.

Posted by: Randolph Fritz on July 7, 2003 05:53 PM

It's not only what they stood to gain by action, but also what they stood to lose - and also by inaction. Angell probably didn't appreciate the Prisoner's Dilemma (though he may have known of the race to the bottom, at least in the form of the "iron law of wages"). Brad de Long, though...

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on July 7, 2003 06:54 PM

I found Robert Wright's 'Nonzero' to be addressing similar concepts, and I would recommend it.

Posted by: theCoach on July 7, 2003 07:03 PM

Angell argues that colonialism British-style is good because it establishes good government and free trade, and that colonialism Spanish-style is bad because it establishes bad government and large-scale theft and corruption.

But the benefits of good colonialism, according to Angell, flow primarily to the colonized inhabitants and secondarily to its trading partners all over the world. It's not a large source of national wealth or power. The Boer War is his standard example for a modern colonial war that does not (greatly) profit the colonizing power.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on July 7, 2003 07:19 PM

John Mueller updated Angell's thesis in the early 1990s with "The Obsolescence of Major War," in which he noted that, like slavery, large scale war was simply beyond the pale in modern societies. So far, he, too has been proven incorrect.

We haven't solved the fundamental problem of international relations: anarchy between states. While we have something termed "international law," it exists only as an administrative code rather than an enforceable set of norms--especially as against major powers that find it in their interest to disobey. States have interests, the interests sometimes clash, and compromise is seen as unacceptable. Given the lack of a legitimate mediator, the military instrument of power comes to the forefront. So it has always been. We don't seem particularly close to solving this problem and, indeed, may be further than we have been in a long time, as evidenced by the US-UK-EU-UN split on Iraq.

Posted by: James Joyner on July 7, 2003 07:28 PM

War had become an economically unwise decision on the part of states, according to Dick Rosencrance, because of the relative importance of the different factors of production. In pre-industrial agricultural societies, war makes some sense because the most important factor of production is obviously fertile land, something that can easily be seized in battle. Precious and useful metal resources were also reason for wars and colonial conquests, shaping the European propensity to go to war and seize control of colonies. Essentially, Europe long suffered from the "resource curse" that plagues states like diamond-rich Sierra Leone or oil-rich Venezuala.

With industrialization, the importance of land and resources was overshadowed by that of industrial capital, something that could not be easily transferred through destructive wars. In the early 20th century, Europeans apparently missed the memo on how war had become old hat. The causes of World War I certainly should not be oversimplified. But it is certain that among them was an underestimation by all sides of the short-term and long-term costliness of modern war.

In any case, large-scale wars between the great powers have now become implausible because now that services are becoming more important, the focus is on human capital. The instability that war brings wreaks total havoc on service-based economies. And the wars that we do continue to see occur in places like Iraq, where resources are still most important.

Posted by: Sean on July 8, 2003 12:56 AM

Wars seldom happen for purely economic reasons. We should be skeptical of any attempt to claim that war is obsolete that relies on the assumption that people and leaders base their military decisions entirely, or even chiefly, on economic cost-benefit analysis.

Posted by: dhn on July 8, 2003 07:12 AM

There is a Hugo-winning (1976) short story by Fritz Leiber, "Catch that Zeppelin," that does a great job of evoking nostalgia/mourning for a better 20th Century that never was. (At least it did for me when I read it some years ago.) The story functions primarily at an emotional and symbolic level. It takes off from a sort of alternate history wet dream in which the political, cultural, etc. turning points associated with the end of World War I all turn out as well as they possibly could have, in pointed contrast to the reality. I would guess that the story is reasonably available because of the Hugo and because a fair amount of Leiber's stuff has been published in collections. I don't have a specific reference, however.

Posted by: Martin on July 8, 2003 08:11 AM

There is a Hugo-winning (1976) short story by Fritz Leiber, "Catch that Zeppelin," that does a great job of evoking nostalgia/mourning for a better 20th Century that never was. (At least it did for me when I read it some years ago.) The story functions primarily at an emotional and symbolic level. It takes off from a sort of alternate history wet dream in which the political, cultural, etc. turning points associated with the end of World War I all turn out as well as they possibly could have, in pointed contrast to the reality. I would guess that the story is reasonably available because of the Hugo and because a fair amount of Leiber's stuff has been published in collections. I don't have a specific reference, however.

Posted by: Martin on July 8, 2003 08:13 AM

Someone oughta talk to Tom Friedman. A few years back he argued that when Bush busted the air traffic control union, he sent a signal that unions could be destroyed without government protest, which kept wahes and benefits down, freeing up high-tech investment money, thus giving the US technical dominance of the military world, leading to an American Empire, leading to prosperity..... That's a bit of caricature, but not much.

Posted by: zizka on July 8, 2003 08:50 AM

You may also be interested in "Does Conquest Pay" by Peter Liberman, a series of five case studies of modern conquests and the resources able to be extracted.

My sense of his argument is that the amount you are able to extract from your victems is dependent on how ruthless you are willing to be.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0691002428/qid=1057683987/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-3702449-6580750?v=glance&s=books

Posted by: john eckstein on July 8, 2003 10:22 AM

Lance Davis and Robert Huttenback argue much as Angell did, that colonial powers (the UK is the example they use, I recall) suffer an outright budgetary drain from their colonial holdings. The essay "Do Imperial Powers Get Rich Off Their Colonies" is included in McCloskey's "Second Thoughts: Myths and Morals of U.S. Economic History." The implication is that stripping colonial holdings from losers imposes a cost on winners. All the more reason to arm yourself and march to the front.

Posted by: K Harris on July 8, 2003 10:57 AM

Does anybody else get the feeling that the Rosencrance argument (thanks Sean) is hinted at in Keynes "Economic Consequences of the Peace" when he argues that imposing high reparations on Germany simply cannot work? In the case of Germany after WWI, it was a claim on the resources of the Germany economy through the fruits of the economy, rather than over ownership of the resources, that the victors sought.

Posted by: K Harris on July 8, 2003 11:09 AM

Terrific post.
Thanks.

Anne

Posted by: anne on July 8, 2003 11:38 AM

Angell is, of course, right that wars in the name of national wealth rarely succeed on those terms. However, I doubt strongly that that has very often been the publicly stated or privately believed cause for war. Even WWI was most frequently justified in terms of expansionist peoples, historical missions, manifest destinies and national honour. Furthermore, it would be hard to say that Americans didn't profit from WWII. There might be an excellent case that had WWII never happened, America might have been just as wealthy, but it surely wouldn't have been so powerful, nor would American ideas be as widespread.

Wars often lead to personal profit, if you're the right man at the right time, and often enhance the political power of those who start them, sometimes even when they are lost, as Angell implies. That has been the far more important cause of war.

Nowadays, we are told to fight wars in the name of tolerance, in defense of freedom and in the pursuit of security. What we need is a similar debunking of the notion that people can be liberated by conquest or that the conquerers have ever been made freer or more secure by their wars.

Posted by: Scott Martens on July 8, 2003 01:04 PM

Angell is, of course, right that wars in the name of national wealth rarely succeed on those terms. However, I doubt strongly that that has very often been the publicly stated or privately believed cause for war. Even WWI was most frequently justified in terms of expansionist peoples, historical missions, manifest destinies and national honour. Furthermore, it would be hard to say that Americans didn't profit from WWII. There might be an excellent case that had WWII never happened, America might have been just as wealthy, but it surely wouldn't have been so powerful, nor would American ideas be as widespread.

Wars often lead to personal profit, if you're the right man at the right time, and often enhance the political power of those who start them, sometimes even when they are lost, as Angell implies. That has been the far more important cause of war.

Nowadays, we are told to fight wars in the name of tolerance, in defense of freedom and in the pursuit of security. What we need is a similar debunking of the notion that people can be liberated by conquest or that the conquerers have ever been made freer or more secure by their wars.

Posted by: Scott Martens on July 8, 2003 01:06 PM

Angell is, of course, right that wars in the name of national wealth rarely succeed on those terms. However, I doubt strongly that that has very often been the publicly stated or privately believed cause for war. Even WWI was most frequently justified in terms of expansionist peoples, historical missions, manifest destinies and national honour. Furthermore, it would be hard to say that Americans didn't profit from WWII. There might be an excellent case that had WWII never happened, America might have been just as wealthy, but it surely wouldn't have been so powerful, nor would American ideas be as widespread.

Wars often lead to personal profit, if you're the right man at the right time, and often enhance the political power of those who start them, sometimes even when they are lost, as Angell implies. That has been the far more important cause of war.

Nowadays, we are told to fight wars in the name of tolerance, in defense of freedom and in the pursuit of security. What we need is a similar debunking of the notion that people can be liberated by conquest or that the conquerers have ever been made freer or more secure by their wars.

Posted by: Scott Martens on July 8, 2003 01:06 PM

Angell is, of course, right that wars in the name of national wealth rarely succeed on those terms. However, I doubt strongly that that has very often been the publicly stated or privately believed cause for war. Even WWI was most frequently justified in terms of expansionist peoples, historical missions, manifest destinies and national honour. Furthermore, it would be hard to say that Americans didn't profit from WWII. There might be an excellent case that had WWII never happened, America might have been just as wealthy, but it surely wouldn't have been so powerful, nor would American ideas be as widespread.

Wars often lead to personal profit, if you're the right man at the right time, and often enhance the political power of those who start them, sometimes even when they are lost, as Angell implies. That has been the far more important cause of war.

Nowadays, we are told to fight wars in the name of tolerance, in defense of freedom and in the pursuit of security. What we need is a similar debunking of the notion that people can be liberated by conquest or that the conquerers have ever been made freer or more secure by their wars.

Posted by: Scott Martens on July 8, 2003 01:07 PM

"But the benefits of good colonialism, according to Angell, flow primarily to the colonized inhabitants and secondarily to its trading partners all over the world. It's not a large source of national wealth or power. The Boer War is his standard example for a modern colonial war that does not (greatly) profit the colonizing power."

The Boer War was a disaster for the British. "Cheer! An' we'll never march to victory./
Cheer! An' we'll never live to 'ear the cannon roar!/The Large Birds o' Prey/They will carry us away,/An' you'll never see your soldiers any more! "--Kipling, "Birds of Prey March", http://www.daypoems.net/poems/1859.html

I doubt Angell's view, though I do not have to hand the research to back that opinion. Yet if European colonialism was truly uneconomic I do not see how it could have lasted four centuries; I doubt it would have lasted more than a generation. A European colonial power controlled the economic resources of its conquests without any sense of responsibility to the peoples of its colonies. Hence, they could force transactions at their prices and on their terms, control the local economies of the colonies, shaping their industries and markets to the needs of the colonial power, and make themselves the sole agents for their colonies products. (In this list I see some of the reasons for the American Revolution.)

I suspect, also, there are somewhere studies showing that, in monetary terms, the contributions of colonies are small. But the inability of colonies to set their own prices would render such a study meaningless--the money paid to the colonies would reflect what the colonial nation was willing to pay, rather than a fair price set by the colony.

Posted by: Randolph Fritz on July 8, 2003 02:01 PM

"What we need is a similar debunking of the notion that people can be liberated by conquest..."

That would be pretty tough to do, since historical evidence doesn't support that debunking...at least not completely. Here is a partial list of countries*** that have become more free, as a direct result of being conquered:

Japan and Germany, 1945.

Panama, 1989.

Grenada, 1983.

Afghanistan, 2001.

Iraq, 2003.

"...or that the conquerers have ever been made freer or more secure by their wars."

Again, that might be hard to debunk, as there is evidence that contradicts the debunking.

Britain in 1945 became more secure than it was when Nazi Germany was right across the English Channel. The Soviet Union also became more secure, when Nazi Germany was defeated.

***P.S. The "countries" don't become more free from the conquering...it's the individual people inside the countries that become more free from the conquering.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on July 8, 2003 03:37 PM

Large cohort moves to adulthood-very destabilizing to incorporate. Society's options to date to deal with said problem-

a. Slam them with a war to kill them off.
b. Beat them up with recessions when they inflate the economy.

c. ???

Posted by: northernLights on July 8, 2003 03:47 PM

Mark Bahner's list is actually evidence of the opposite to wha he claims. In all these cases the countries have either been moved into becoming US clients, or else have found themselves disrupted rather than rebuilt. And sometimes both.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on July 8, 2003 08:02 PM

"four walls of a prison were three walls too many".

Great line, which seems to be original, or Google has failed me (or I, it).

Posted by: Tom Maguire on July 9, 2003 05:59 AM

I suppose it would indeed have been better if we'd had no wars in the twentieth century, but I am at a loss to see exactly how the World Wars could have been avoided -- short of universal rationality, something we don't exactly have lots of even within one country such as the U.S., and a general agreement on the proper ends of life, something that we *truly* do not have in any one country. The bitterness of the division between 'red states' and 'blue states' in America is precisely because we do not all, actually, want exactly the same things, or see life in exactly the same way. Given sufficiently irreconcilable aims of life between the populations of different countries, war can be very hard to avoid.

Which brings us to a flaw of pacifism: not all societies are the same. You have to be in a relatively decent society to advocate pacifism. Otherwise, you end up getting your head blown off in a cork-lined cellar. Which means that, unfortunately, in any world where decency is not universal, pacifism has the practical effect of supporting societies that are (relatively) less free, humane, and decent than the societies in which pacifism gets a hearing and may actually influence public policy.

Angell meant well, but he had no idea that human beings could actually decide, under Fascism or Communism, to slaughter their own countrymen by the millions. He had no idea just how far from world peace the human race really was, and probably still is.

Posted by: Erich Schwarz on July 9, 2003 03:40 PM

"You have to be in a relatively decent society to advocate pacifism."

India of the Raj was not a decent society, as history attests. Yet it was there that Gandhi's ahimsa won a great victory. As a general rule, post World War II, it is largely the peaceful revolutions that have been succesful in making social improvements.

Really, it is worth studying the actual history of pacifism, as opposed to its critics.

Posted by: Randolph Fritz on July 10, 2003 02:12 PM

Randolph, you misattribute were the success of India's pacifism occurred. The success was in Britain not India. The error leads to very badly misplaced conclusions. The Soviets gladly used the peace moment to advance their interests in the West. Of course their own peace activists were freezing in Siberia.

Posted by: Stan on July 11, 2003 07:23 AM

Correction: The Soviets gladly used the peace "movement"...

Posted by: Stan on July 11, 2003 07:26 AM

Typing too fast, proofing too slow. Correction: Randolph, you misattribute "where" the success of India's pacifism occurred.

Posted by: Stan on July 11, 2003 07:31 AM

Are you sure you want to argue that Japan and Germany were not 'liberated' (to cite Bahner's original post) in some signifcant sense of the word in 1945?

> Mark Bahner's list is actually evidence of the
> opposite to wha he claims. In all these cases the
> countries have either been moved into becoming US
> clients, or else have found themselves disrupted
> rather than rebuilt. And sometimes both.
> Posted by P.M.Lawrence at July 8, 2003 08:02 PM

Posted by: john eckstein on July 11, 2003 10:18 AM
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