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An On V Update to Old Ideas: The End of War Edition

(Though many don’t want to believe it, the world is getting safer. There will be an end to war, someday, if the world works towards it. To read the rest of our posts on “The World is Getting Safer”, click here.)

As we promised last week, we’ve got links and links and links arguing that, yes, the world is getting safer. (A second post is coming Monday...)

The Demise of Ares

The article “The Demise of Ares” by Bruno Tertais is so good we had to make it the sub-title for this section.

He, again, shows that long-term war is decreasing in all fronts. I particularly like the opening paragraph as a rejoinder to Frank Hoffman’s “Plato Was Dead Wrong” (who we debunked here) when Hoffman used the example of Prime Minister William Pitt, who predicted peace in Europe and was proved wrong by the Napoleonic wars, as an argument against the world getting safer. Well…

“In 1990, U.S. political scientist John Mearsheimer predicted that we would soon ‘‘miss the Cold War.’’ In the months and years that followed, the eruption of bloody conflicts in the Balkans and in Africa gave birth to fears of a new era of global chaos and anarchy. Authors such as Robert Kaplan and Benjamin Barber spread a pessimistic vision of the world in which new barbarians, liberated from the disciplines of the East — West conflict, would give a free rein to their ancestral hatreds and religious passions. Journalists James Dale Davidson and William Rees - Mogg chimed in that violence would reassert itself as the common condition of life. Former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned that the planet was about to become a ‘‘pandemonium.’

“These prophets of doom were wrong.”

So well-trained, wise and learned academics, politicians and pundits have both predicted the end of war and the impending epidemic of war. Who should we believe? I say the people with the data.

Sebastian Junger and the Deep Roots of War

John Horgan--who we really don’t link to enough--reviewed Sebastian Junger’s latest documentary, The Last Patrol here. A few On V connections immediately stood out to us. (Check out our reviews of Junger’s previous book and documentary War and Restrepo.)

First, Horgan writes, “[Junger] started traveling to war zones because he hoped war would make him a man, and his hope was fulfilled. ‘I became the man I wanted to be,’ he says.” As we’ve written before, this is a terrible justification for war. Our argument is simple, “...no one should have to prove their self worth by killing someone else.” We’d add, “Or documenting the killing of someone else.”

Next, Horgan takes down the psychological theories behind much of Junger’s work.

“Junger espouses what I call the deep-roots theory of war, which holds that natural selection embedded the urge to wage war in the genes of males. 'The politically incorrect truth,' he once said, 'Is that war is extremely ingrained in us—in our evolution as humans—and we’re hardwired for it.' He expands on this notion in War, citing deep-roots proponents such as chimp researcher Richard Wrangham.

“Ironically, I saw Last Patrol at the Margaret Mead Film Festival in October. Mead, the great anthropologist, rejected the deep-roots theory–and with good reason, because the evidence for the theory is flimsy.”

Horgan’s book The End of War explains why in much greater detail and we highly recommend it.

Are Militaries an “Industry in Decline”?

In a word, yes. The Monkey Cage provides a pretty interesting set of graphs illustrating this phenomena. It turns out that most of the world’s militaries and military populations have shrunk.

Often, pseudo-philosophers caution of World War I, World War II or the Napleonic era to warn that war could break out again. They often ignore that--especially before World War I--Europe had witnessed a multi-decade growth in military spending. A decline in the world’s militaries is only a good thing. (H/T to the now no-longer-blogging Andrew Sullivan.)

It also forces you question those who want us to increase or maintain the size of the American military (especially many of those folks incorrectly believe the world is a dangerous place). As a cautionary note, The Economist wrote in November of last year that spending in Africa on the military had recently spiked.

three comments

“Europe had witnessed a multi-decade growth in military spending”

You’d likely be surprised by which countries grew their military expenses slower than their economy.

The German army (armies) actually didn’t grow nearly as much as the population or economy before 1912, even though the French maximized their army with much more spending per capita, much more , I forgot the exact figures) and longer basic military service requirements.

It’s rarely known allegedly then oh-so militarized Germany did not arms race on land until in 1912-1914, when it finally reacted to French army efforts and the recovering (after 1905) and growing Russian army. It was lacking the necessary additional divisions to execute the Schlieffen plan for a reason!


SO, I legitimately did not know that and love indexing growth to pouplation/GDP growth.

Either way, it violates the point that as a society we are better when growth in military spending doesn’t match growth in other areas. That’s one of the problem with the very recent boost in spending in Africa.


http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/dow..

see table 2 on page 13
Germany spent about 8 % GDP on its military for four decades, which was very little compared to other European great powers.

(The table doesn’t quite support my “slower” claim though, that’s because I was primarily thinking of the army and the table is about the whole military.)