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Then your period of interest has to be 1648-1914, not 1618-1945. And even then, given that the period spans 3 times as long as 1945-present, you'd expect higher numbers of large events. Regardless, at this point what's needed is a review of the actual quantitative data and not "my war is bigger than your war" argumentation.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 10:02:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just mean take any interwar period, such as 1815-1914, and look at the number and badness of the wars that occur.  I agree with you that world wars are where dominant world powers change hands.  Where we seem to disagree is in the causality.  My theory, which I think would be considered pretty conventional among people who study international relations, is that world wars occur because there is no hegemonic power -- either one has lost its dominance and others are going for it, or the system is a balance of power one, where periodic conflict is the expected price of maintaining national independence.  So absence of a sufficiently dominant, overlord-like world power is what causes world wars as competitors for power try to fill the vacuum in order to preserve their own security and interests.

Your theory, if I understand it right, says the opposite: wars occur regardless of the international system, as random events distributed along some kind of function, so a world war may be the cause of a hegemon's demise instead of the hegemon's demise causing the world war.

Evidence that wars are less frequent, or perhaps even less violent, within the sphere of influence of the powerful custodian of an international system than outside of that sphere of influence would support my theory, I believe.  While evidence that wars occur more or less independently of the kind of international system that exists or presence or lack thereof of a custodian of such a system would support your theory, I think.

by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 11:30:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your theory, if I understand it right, says the opposite: wars occur regardless of the international system, as random events distributed along some kind of function, so a world war may be the cause of a hegemon's demise instead of the hegemon's demise causing the world war.

This juxtaposition assumes that world wars can only start because competing strategic interests make escalation the rational move for every relevant party at every step on the path to war. But that's not true. The hegemon and the prospective challenger can misread each others' red lines and find themselves in a situation where enough of their moves are forced by the internal logic of the rules of their domestic policy game that they cannot back out.

See, e.g., the US oil embargo on Japan in 1941. A similar policy applied to China today would almost certainly result in a broad spectrum of responses, a great number of which could lead to armed confrontation. Not because China would win, but because it cannot not act in response to a fuel embargo.

And the more you meddle in the internal affairs of other countries - in other words, the more dominant your hegemony is - the greater the risk that you will back a semi-peripheral power into a corner that you did not realise was there.

So there are important diseconomies of scope of hegemony - which is why hegemons fall in the first place.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 03:59:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A classic case of imperial overreach is the demise of the Delian League, which did not happen because Athens wasn't a hegemon but because it abused its position as such.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 04:01:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since war is an irrational activity (more often a lose-lose than win-lose, always a negative sum game), it happens because people make bad decisions. (Fighting a war you can't win is a bad decision, by my definition).

Information is the key. If deciders know whether they are in a position to win or not (i.e. are not blinded by their own righteousness), then nearly all wars can be avoided.

JakeS:

This juxtaposition assumes that world wars can only start because competing strategic interests make escalation the rational move for every relevant party at every step on the path to war. But that's not true. The hegemon and the prospective challenger can misread each others' red lines and find themselves in a situation where enough of their moves are forced by the internal logic of the rules of their domestic policy game that they cannot back out.

A classic example of this is Russia mobilising in 1914, unwittingly obliging the Germans to attack on the Western front.

I postulate that in the "information age", it ought to be possible to avoid wars due to inadequate information. The counter-examples, alas, are numerous (the ruling clique of the world's best-informed power apparently thought they could win in Afghanistan and in Iraq).

But theoretically...

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 07:41:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is Homo economicus  a classic fallacy yet?

Human, either individually or in the aggregate, are not rational.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 08:04:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since war is an irrational activity (more often a lose-lose than win-lose, always a negative sum game), it happens because people make bad decisions. (Fighting a war you can't win is a bad decision, by my definition).

There's brinkmanship, there's overdoing things as the dominant party, there's the weaker party becoming desperate and deciding to spite the dominant party, there's scorched earth tactics, there's the Fabian strategy...

And of course there's Sun Tzu's "if you know yourself and you know your enemy you'll always win" but how can you be sure you know yourself and you know your enemy?

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 08:48:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is the end of war. "if you know yourself and you know your enemy you'll always win" is true because of the corollary "you only go to war when you're sure to win" (or words to that effect). The information-age corollary is that your enemy knows himself and he knows you.

OK, so you really need information plus democracy to avoid war. If the interests of the ruling clique are clearly distinct from those of the mass of their citizens, e.g. when the ruling clique has nothing left to lose, this obviously favours warlike behaviour.

But even so : my theory says that the major powers will not go into open conflict with each other. This, in itself, should preclude a Grade 7 war.

Already : the event commonly considered to be the nearest we have been to nuclear war, viz. the Cuban missile crisis. Kennedy and Kruschev were able to talk to each other on the phone; Kruschev realised he had crossed a red line and backed down.


It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 09:20:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Point:
Already : the event commonly considered to be the nearest we have been to nuclear war, viz. the Cuban missile crisis. Kennedy and Kruschev were able to talk to each other on the phone; Kruschev realised he had crossed a red line and backed down.
Counterpoint: Able Archer 83
According to McFarlane, the president responded with "genuine anxiety" in disbelief that a regular NATO exercise could have led to an armed attack. To the ailing Politburo--led from the deathbed of the terminally ill Andropov, a man with no firsthand knowledge of the United States, and the creator of Operation RYAN--it seemed "that the United States was preparing to launch ... a sudden nuclear attack on the Soviet Union". In his memoirs, Reagan, without specifically mentioning Able Archer 83--he states earlier that he cannot mention classified information--wrote of a 1983 realization:
"Three years had taught me something surprising about the Russians: Many people at the top of the Soviet hierarchy were genuinely afraid of America and Americans. Perhaps this shouldn't have surprised me, but it did ... During my first years in Washington, I think many of us in the administration took it for granted that the Russians, like ourselves, considered it unthinkable that the United States would launch a first strike against them. But the more experience I had with Soviet leaders and other heads of state who knew them, the more I began to realize that many Soviet officials feared us not only as adversaries but as potential aggressors who might hurl nuclear weapons at them in a first strike ... Well, if that was the case, I was even more anxious to get a top Soviet leader in a room alone and try to convince him we had no designs on the Soviet Union and Russians had nothing to fear from us."


guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 09:26:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but I submit that everyone (among the major players) now has far superior knowledge of their potential enemy. If Andropov had been on Facebook...

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 09:49:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How many Western leaders do you think are aware that the claim "Ahmedinejad threatened to destroy Israel" is a spin based on mis-translation? Modern propaganda reduces the ability of our modern forms of communication to help our leaders know their enemy.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 02:48:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since war is an irrational activity (more often a lose-lose than win-lose, always a negative sum game), it happens because people make bad decisions. (Fighting a war you can't win is a bad decision, by my definition).

This assumes that wars are fought in the national interest. In fact, wars are just as often fought for the benefit of one domestic polity which believes - rightly or wrongly - that it can offload the cost of the war on other domestic polities.

From the point of view of Halliburton and Bechtel, Iraq was anything but a defeat, even if it was a clear defeat for the US national interest.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 09:10:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not because China would win, but because it cannot not act in response to a fuel embargo.

This is a key point: if a large majority of people in a position of power in China see an explosion of unemployment as posing the greatest threat to their positions, the domestic political push to "do something about it" will be strong. Its easier to scapegoat underlings for "botching" an attempt to "do something" than it is to scapegoat underlings for the decision to simply try to wear the impact.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 01:39:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I agree, but that doesn't mean that you can take a pattern of wars from an historical period without a hegemonic system like today and expect that same pattern to follow in hegemonic era where the logic and errors leading to world wars may be very different.
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 03:42:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
world wars occur because there is no hegemonic power

So why did it take so long from the Napoleonic Wars to WWI? That's longer than the time passed since WWII, yet the gap between the Napoleonic Wars and prior proto-World-Wars (Seven Years' War, War of the Austraian Succession, War of the Spanish Succession and the simultaneous Great Northern War, and the Nine Years' War). I also note that the world war in the worst balance-of-power situation in Europe was preceded by a long period of similar tranquility as the Cold War (it lasted 34 years if we include the Balkans, 43 years if we only look at the rest).

As for the general hegemon theory: first, if there is no hegemon, I don't see a necessity of a single conflict emerging that involves (almost) everyone: that would either need the formation of relatively stable coalitions (which is not a necessity) or a break in the balance of power which results in one party having the capacity to fight all others at the same time (examples for the latter, with France as would-be hegemon in both, are the Nine Years' War and the Napoleonic Wars). Second, not just would-be hegemons but actual hegemons can be ganged up against, as the Roman Empire experienced time and again. Third, hegemons can face destruction from the inside, as the Chinese Empires or the Roman Empire witnessed not just at the end of their lifes ("Pax Romana" is a delusion and spotty reading of Roman history).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 06:30:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are numerous cases where a hegemonic war occurs at the end of a period of fragmentation without a hegemos and results in the establishment of an Imperial hegemos and a period of stability. The wars of Alexander the Great ushering in the Hellenistic civilization, for instance, or the Qin wars of unification at the end of the warring states period in China, or the conquests of Ashoka in India, just to name a few.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 06:38:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IMHO the Qin unification of China is another good example for my contention that imperial peaces are illusionary: the difference is not in the quantity of conflict, but its nature and in the economic and bureaucratic structures that survive those conflicts. The Qin Dynasty ended right after completing the unification of the core Warring States, and was followed by a massive civil war reaching all corners of the empire. The Han Dynasty that arose from that civil war spent most of its first century fighting the also newborn Xiongnu (Hun) Empire to the north, in campaigns involving tens to hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Later external wars were more like barbarian raids vs. colonial conquest and punishment actions, but the Han Dynasty itself is broken in to with the interlude of the Xin Dynasty, which meant two decades of civil war and peasant rebellions.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 07:05:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If it took so long, it wasn't for lack of trying.  There were lots of other wars among the great powers of Europe between 1815 an 1914 that simply didn't end up as big as WWI.  In fact, for all of the effort that Europeans put into it, that alone should count as evidence that it's actually pretty hard to end up in a world war.  Lots of people must really want it to happen for it to come about.
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 07:16:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact, for all of the effort that Europeans put into it, that alone should count as evidence that it's actually pretty hard to end up in a world war.

Conversely, a world war is an event whose size has a recurrence time of a lifetime. So it's hard to arrange pretty much by definition.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 07:20:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Few of the wars between 1815 and 1914 involved more than two of the great powers, that's the difference on the surface. At the causal level, IMHO the difference was not lots of people wanting it but the emergence of the Triple Alliance vs. the Triple Entente, the automatisms of which undid the Concert of Europe.

In addition, I don't think WWI came about because lots of people wanted war from the start. At the diplomatic level, there was an escalation of ultimatums which had its precedents but failed to be stopped by counter-forces this time (on earlier occasions the killed Austrian crown prince was a key de-escalator). As for public opinion, from what I read, it was swung around by the use of propaganda in the months between the assassination in Sarajevo and the outbreak of hostilities. (A good book on the subject – though it's even better to follow its sources – is Thunder at Twilight by Frederic Morton.

Now, back to your contention that a hegemon is needed for a long peaceful period: what would be your example for such a hegemonic tranquility before the 20th century (and preferably in Europe)?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 07:49:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A hegemon (really that's too strong a word, just dominant) isn't needed, but, all else equal, the presence of a dominant power should provide for less interstate violence than without for the simple reason that violence is less likely to yield success in contesting power against an overwhelmingly superior foe.  Before 20th century Europe, you have to go back to the Roman Empire for that level of tranquility.  There were wars during the Roman period as well, but much less than subsequent middle ages and modern periods which followed.  My point here is that the US-dominated world is more like the Roman dominated Mediterranean than the European balance of power era that preceded WWII, so we shouldn't expect to find any patterns based on the balance of power era to be very predictive of anything now.  
by santiago on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 09:21:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the presence of a dominant power should provide for less interstate violence than without for the simple reason that violence is less likely to yield success in contesting power against an overwhelmingly superior foe

First, I don't like your restriction to interstate violence, because intra-state violence can be on the same or even higher level (and can produce new states). Second, you seem to ignore interstate violence emanating from the hegemon. Third, interstate violence perpetrated by others doesn't have to challenge the full power of the hegemon, see all the raids by Germanic and eastern nomadic tribes on the Roman Empire. Fourth, the hegemon can be challenged by alliances, too (the Hun attack on Rome was a de-facto alliance war, with Germanic and non-Hun eastern nomadic tribes as allies on both sides). Or the hegemon can just be challenged simultanously (as happened to Rome in AD 268-269, when there were separate invasions by the Ostrogoths, Alemanns and Franks and secessions in Gallia and Palmyra, all the while there were multiple coups within one year and the Sassanide Empire was waiting on the sidelines, and a plague swept the empire; Rome's survival was narrow).

There were wars during the Roman period as well, but much less than subsequent middle ages and modern periods which followed.

I will contest that point. I once looked at Roman history with just this in mind, and IMHO there weren't less wars, or at least there wasn't less war destruction. It's true that in the Middle Ages, there was warfare in every year, while the European part of Rome had war-free periods between AD 92 and AD 248, especially between AD 92 and AD 166. But the armies and territories involved in Middle Age feudal conflicts were usually smaller than those marching in the Roman Era. And most of the Roman era wasn't tranquil at all, even though Rome was dominant in Europe for most of this time.

the US-dominated world

Do you think US dominance explains why Gaullist France didn't turn on its European neighbours militarily? Also, where is the Soviet Union in this picture?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 04:00:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I do think that US dominance was a key reason why Gaullist nationalism did not result in conflict with France's neighbors.  

The Soviet Union, in its role as enemy, is what really allowed the US to organize Europe, and much of the rest of world, within an American empire of sorts, as a means of collectively defending against a perceived Soviet threat, and the same goes for Eastern Europe on the Soviet side. The rest of the world's institutions, from the WTO, to the UN and World Bank, to international finance and trade norms, to the first parts of the Internet, all developed out of the infrastructure of organizing the world against the perceived Soviet threat.  Now that the threat is no longer perceived, the institutions and infrastructure still exists for everyone's benefit, and it would be hard for a competing set of institutions to be developed since there are no more "threats" like the Soviet Union possible in a finite, and already completely conquered, world.  That is what was meant by the flawed "end of history" argument in the 1990's.  The whole world has already been conquered, so it's going to be really difficult to dislodge the US from it's position anytime soon.  It will have to be done as a rebellious cause against the dominant regime instead of as a competing power with parallel resources, and that's just a lot harder to do.

by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 03:58:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now that the threat is no longer perceived, the institutions and infrastructure still exists for everyone's benefit, and it would be hard for a competing set of institutions to be developed since there are no more "threats" like the Soviet Union possible in a finite, and already completely conquered, world.

Ans yet you claimed earlier that if the US military umbrella were to disappear, the EU would quickly dissolve into warring states again.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 04:13:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, and that's still true and consistent with what I said in your quote.  The threat is gone, but the US military umbrella, replete with treaties and norms for doing things -- the social capital -- still exists and is actively supported by the US taxpayer among others.
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 04:55:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would submit that you do not know ahead of time how long it takes from the peak of the hegemon's power until it has been totally eclipsed. In no small part because the objective state of the hegemon's power depends on its clients' perception of the hegemon's power.

Nobody believed that Russia could lose its hold on its colonies in the space of three years. But it did.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 05:04:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It relies on two things -- it's clients perception of its power, and its clients' benefits from the current system, relative to the unknown benefits or burdens in another system -- the status quo.  Despite George W. Bush's best efforts to the contrary for almost a decade, there really are too many people who benefit from US dominance to very easily result in a movement to overthrow the US in some way.
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 05:17:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The European clients really accrue only three material benefits from US hegemony: Defense against the non-existent Russian threat, ideological air cover for dismantling European civilisation, and slowing the deterioration of European colonial power.

The first is going to cease playing any important role within 10-20 years, as a generation of European politicians come of age for whom Russia as an imperial power in Europe is not living memory. The second will disappear by the end of the present depression - either because we will have new leaders who do not share the present ones' hatred of European civilisation, or because the present leaders will have succeeded in reducing Europe to failed states.

This leaves only support for European colonial ventures. But these are of declining value, and the US does not possess the power to halt that decline, let alone sufficient incentive to.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 09:32:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, they also gain the public good of not having a reason to shoot each other with real ammunition anymore.  When political forces that would otherwise provide for a pro-war coalition arise, the ire can often be directed at the evil American instead of the evil France or Germany or immigrant, dissipating support for war. That's often a key role of governance throughout society -- an organizing tool.
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:08:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you contend.

It is not obvious that the US is required to perpetuate the European order it created. Nor is it obvious that it has the power in this day and age to do so in the face of a serious challenge, such as might arise when (not if) France suspends tribute payments to Deutche Bank.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 02:59:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
Yes, I do think that US dominance was a key reason why Gaullist nationalism did not result in conflict with France's neighbors.

That's a bit of historical conjecture I hadn't seen before. What sort of war do you imagine Gaullist France would have sought, and with what democratic majority?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 06:57:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any sort of war that would advance the power of de Gaulle if the opportunity or threat arose. Without the US overlording things, European nations would have rearmed and quickly gone back to their old balance of power game that they had been playing for at least a thousand years. US and Russian dominance of Europe meant that the old paths to power no longer work, driving the need for European unity instead

The central feature of European history of the last 60 years is that it has been occupied by hundreds of thousands of foreign troops in either US or Russian uniforms.  To ignore that fact and make believe that such a traumatic development has had no material impact on European political and economic history seems pretty ridiculous.  At the very least it has allowed European countries to avoid their historically high military expenditures and divert resources to other, more productive or beneficial ends.

by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:20:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
Any sort of war that would advance the power of de Gaulle if the opportunity or threat arose.

You seem to be echoing Roosevelt's (ill-informed thanks to Admiral Leahy) belief that de Gaulle was a dangerous autocrat who would become a dictator.

De Gaulle resigned as president of the interim government in January 1946 and did not return to power until 1958, so there was no question of him pursuing self-aggrandizement through warfare. The record, in any case, shows that he was not a gung-ho warmaker. He quashed the wish of part of the Résistance, as soon as France was freed, to cross the Pyrenees to unseat Franco. And one of his first tasks after becoming president of the Fifth Republic in 1959 was to put an end to the Algerian War.

American "overlording" with regard to France during WWII and its immediate aftermath was based on a profound misunderstanding of both Pétain and the Vichy government, and of de Gaulle. The US backed Vichy, maintaining a full embassy until spring 1942 and a delegation thereafter until the autumn of that year. In 1943, the US attempted to foil de Gaulle by backing Vichy-compromised military figures like Admiral Darlan and General Giraud. In 1944, the US had plans to administer France as a protectorate once freed of German occupation. De Gaulle, the Free French and the Résistance, acclaimed by the French people, made sure that France would regain full independence. This may explain a certain amount of American animus concerning de Gaulle.

A bone of contention with Germany in the immediate postwar years concerned the support of France (not just de Gaulle but the governments following him) for the French occupation of the Saar and the internationalisation of the Rühr. But American "overlording" with regard to this followed identical lines under the Morgenthau Plan, that aimed at humiliating Germany in a manner as dangerous, in terms of creating future war risks, as the Treaty of Versailles. It wasn't until 1948 that the Marshall Plan provided an entirely different impetus, providing the conditions for resolution and cooperation. US policy then favoured moves towards union, but the proto-economic government proposed, the OEEC (later OECD) failed to convince (the Europeans did after all have many people with their own aims in the matter), and the 6-country EEC was the result.

It's certainly the case that the division of Europe into Soviet and US-influenced halves explains the strength of the West European movement towards union, but US "overlording" was far from being consistent or even intelligent a good deal of the time. The notion that it was the only thing that prevented countries exhausted by the cataclysm from re-igniting their quarrels, ignoring the determination of many Europeans never to see such horrors again, seems to me wide of the mark.

 

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 04:28:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In our enumeration of "European" conflicts we have, of course, forgotten about the Algerian War which clocks in at 179 thousand military dead, and anywhere between 350 thousand and 1.5 million total. Algeria then suffered the civil war in the 1990s, with another 200 thousand dead.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 04:37:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but if you to include the middle east, why not all the Israeli wars too? And then you have to look at all wars including the Osman empire in the 19th century for comparison sake.

The french conquest of Algeria in the 19th century was after all a drawn out and bloody affair too.

by IM on Fri May 4th, 2012 at 05:26:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why wouldn't we include the middle east?

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 4th, 2012 at 05:58:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We did talk about europe right? Or I could say that the second half of 19th century wasn't peaceful at all: Just look at the British wars in Afghanistan.

If the war of independence in Algeria was a european war, then the original conquest too.

And as vague as the borders of europe are and were defined, algeris tends not to be included.

by IM on Fri May 4th, 2012 at 07:06:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the war of independence in Algeria was a european war, then the original conquest too.

Well, considering the war brought down the 4th French Republic, led to the OAS domestic terrorism on the French mainland, and that Algeria was perceived by many as being part of the homeland...

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 4th, 2012 at 08:20:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It literally was constitutionally part of France.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 4th, 2012 at 08:30:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
Without the US overlording things, European nations would have rearmed and quickly gone back to their old balance of power game that they had been playing for at least a thousand years.

Arguing that a normal state of affairs exists is imho a pretty weak argument. Sweden and Denmark was from the formations of the states until 200 years ago at war pretty much all the time. The last 100 years a Swedish-Danish war has been very unlikely. I would argue that the reasons for that is on one hand the rise of Prussia-Germany and Russia and on the other the change in identity that nationalism brought on. No occupation needed.

In a similar way, if WWII had ended with a dominant US inheriting the colonial empires and a dominant Russia inheriting the anti-colonial movements then the European states might have avoided wars with each other in order to preserve the little power they had. But all really depends on the specifics.

santiago:

The central feature of European history of the last 60 years is that it has been occupied by hundreds of thousands of foreign troops in either US or Russian uniforms.  To ignore that fact and make believe that such a traumatic development has had no material impact on European political and economic history seems pretty ridiculous.

But from that it does not follow that it would have been wars otherwise.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 05:03:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Arguably, the main military function of the US/Allied and Russian occupations of Germany was to protect the population and the new frontiers from reprisal -- a legitimate and necessary function. Other than that, I'm not convinced that there was much appetite for international conflict in western Europe in 1945 and in the next couple of decades.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 07:35:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Re the Soviet Union, so a hegemon alone doesn't do it, the outside threat counts as well. But I was thinking more of your contention that hegemons reduce wars – as applied to the East Bloc.

The rest of the world's institutions, from the WTO, to the UN and World Bank, to international finance and trade norms, to the first parts of the Internet, all developed out of the infrastructure of organizing the world against the perceived Soviet threat

That's another nice re-writing of history. The Soviet Union was a founding member of the UN, which was really a child of WWII resp. the Allies. The US system of international finance and its institutions grew out of Bretton Woods, including the IMF, which (long before the Chicagoan hijack in the Reagan/Thatcher years) was originally a Keynesian institution, as such organised against a repeat of the Great Depression. GATT (which became WTO only in 1995) was another, the USA pushed the idea already during WWII out of its own commercial interest, and the Soviet Union didn't became part of it because it didn't want to.

the institutions and infrastructure still exists for everyone's benefit

I don't see any benefit to NATO for the vassals (nor much benefit to IMF and World Bank and WTO as currently set up). Apart from the Baltics and Poland with their mistaken view of a defense umbrella against Russia, our leaders only use participation to curry favours with the hegemon, as Obama and his staff found to their (surprisingly naive) disgust at the Prague meeting.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 07:20:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The benefits of all of these institutions for a hegemon are this:  if you disagree with the hegemon, you can vote against it, or sue it, or organize to get a representative of your foreign faction appointed to it, instead of shooting real bullets at the hegemon. That's why support for international institutions has been such a bedrock of US foreign policy since WWII, even when it looks like it's just an organizing platform for opposition.  It makes a lot more sense to listing to a meaningless harangue from an Iranian, or Cuban, or Venezuelan, or Libyan leader than to have to go to war against them.  Talking is just better than shooting most of the time as a basic imperial policy.  The institutions don't have to accomplish anything other than to prevent nations to trying to shoot at the US, so anything else they might also achieve, or not, are gravy.  
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:31:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It makes a lot more sense to listing to a meaningless harangue from an Iranian, or Cuban, or Venezuelan, or Libyan leader than to have to go to war against them.  Talking is just better than shooting most of the time as a basic imperial policy.  The institutions don't have to accomplish anything other than to prevent nations to trying to shoot at the US, so anything else they might also achieve, or not, are gravy.

This logic, however, is equally true between equal powers as it is between client and sovereign, and so does not distinguish between the two forms of relationship. To gain clear evidence of a subordinate relationship, you need to look for a record of decisions where the client goes against its direct national interest in order to curry favour with the hegemon.

Such a string of decisions exists for the European powers. But there is a change of management upcoming in Europe, because the current management has made denial of easily observed reality a major plank of its political program. And the new management may or may not continue to view a special Atlantic relationship as being in Europe's best interest.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 03:11:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's problematic because determining "national interest" is a subjective exercise.  The British ran their colonial empire through a native colonial elite who could see the national interest as their own class interest. Even for an imperial power it's difficult to determine a true national interest except as the outcome of an internal political contest of who gets what, when, and how.  National interest is therefore an unobservable variable.

An alternative would be Karl Schmitt's solution to the problem of determining who is actually the sovereign power. (In his framework there is only one truly sovereign power in a given international system, so it is comparable to the use of "hegemon" in this discussion.) The sovereign power is the one that can break its own rules that it expects of everyone else in the system without actually undermining the institutional framework of the system for everyone else.

by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:45:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The sovereign power is the one that can break its own rules that it expects of everyone else in the system without actually undermining the institutional framework of the system for everyone else.

I would say this is an understatement. Of course breaking the rules erodes ("undermines") the legitimacy of the "sovereign". It's just that it takes a lot of undermining for the sovereign to lose sufficient legitimacy for it to lose its hegemony.

Every time the sovereign uses its position to avoid the consequences of breakign the rules it increases the disaffection of its clients. And sovereigns derive their power from the consent of the governed.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:49:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess we should qualify it by saying, "without catastrophically undermining."
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 01:02:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"until it does". The fall of regimes is not predictable. There's not much difference between the immediate crisis that precipitates the fall of a regime and the previous crisis which was resolved as usual.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 03:34:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would define catastrophic to mean creating the conditions where a major challenge to the hegemon's authority is possible.  For example, if the invasion of Iraq had triggered a withdrawal from NATO by US allies or even a military challenge by formerly US allies of that invasion.  Even if the US had eventually prevailed and restored the system, the catastrophic nature of the challenge still remains.
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 04:01:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's problematic because determining "national interest" is a subjective exercise.

To an extent, but only to an extent. There are actions which are so obviously self-serving or short-sighted that they cannot be construed as being in the national interest. And there is a great deal of continuity in the policies countries pursue irrespective of the particular interests of their current management, because those actions enhance the ability of the polity - and thus any management - to achieve its international policy aims.

On both grounds, it is fairly obvious that the European Atlanticists and that neoliberals anywhere are not advancing the national interest.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 02:12:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't disagree, but one of the arguments for empire, like the argument against nationalism in general, is that there are common interests as global citizens that may be different from interests of an arbitrarily defined national group.  For example, freer trade has the effect of reducing the effectiveness of national borders as a policy instrument, which can certainly harm the interests of industrial producers and their workers in a given country but can arguably add to the common good of the world as a whole.  For example, if US rice producers were to be forced to forgo their subsidies, poorer rice farmers in Haiti and other countries would likely benefit, so the global interest of the wider "imperial" constituency could be greater than the national interests of a particular country.  Whether it is or not is an almost entirely normative question based on competing values, not facts.
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 02:38:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be fascinating to see statistics on the development of wage share of GDP on a global level, since historical experience indicates that it has to stay between 2/3 and 3/4 for industrial capitalism to not break in catastrophic ways.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 04:07:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot: what follows from your belligerency level in relation to my question regarding the difference between the century and half up to 1815 and the century after? Do you think that several conflicts could have conflict grown to involve most Great Powers and it was pure accident that they didn't? Or perhaps you see Britain as a hegemon for part of the period?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 07:57:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, Britain was never a hegemon comparable to the way the US is today.  Britain was one of the Great Powers of the European balance of power drama, and it ended up being the strongest of them for a while, but had the US not intervened on its behalf, Germany and/or Russia might well have bested it in the 20th century.  The shifting treaties between the states to try to maintain the balance had a lot to do with whether a world war developed out of a smaller conflict which were pretty much continuous throughout the period, unlike now. Also a factor was the presence of Napoleon, an actor who threatened to end the balance of power system and therefore encouraged all states to get involved to preserve it.
by santiago on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 09:28:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, Britain was never a hegemon comparable to the way the US is today.

Except for the fact that at the turn of the 19th century its navy was able to bomb the capitals of other countries which strayed out of line without fear of retaliation.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 09:59:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding my question: so you agree with me on the primary significance of treaties in how likely a a proto-world-war was during the 1648-1919 period?

a smaller conflict which were pretty much continuous throughout the period, unlike now

Again, 1878 to 1912 was a pretty long time without direct conflict in Europe.

As for why the balance of powers situation was gone after WWI, methinks you ignore factors other than military reliance on US hegemony. The European Coal and Steel Union had direct significance by eliminating the surplus steel-producing capabilities which would have enabled the armament race seen in the peaceful decades prior to WWI, and created a political culture (and institutions for altercation between leaders) which eliminated the balance-of-powers system's supceptibility for diplomatic escalation. (And both of these were stated goals of the architects of the system.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 04:32:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I agree on the significance of treaties.  The question for the European Coal and Steel Union is whether it could ever have come to pass if not for the dominance of the US in Western Europe. I don't see how it would have.
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 08:42:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 08:46:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because something like the Morgenthau Plan was much more likely, until the Americans decided they needed the Marshall Plan.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 08:50:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Both the Morgenthau Plan and the Marshall Plan would have been expressions of US dominance, that's not a way to make a distinction. As for the hypothetical of the viability of an ECSU under the Morgenthau Plan: methinks the latter would have eliminated steel-making over-capacities, too, so an ECSU would likely have become obsolete. The Marshall Plan however worked towards re-viving those over-capacities.

In actual history, I think US hegemonic influence had less to do with the ECSU and a lot more to do with the failure of the second part of Monnet's plan, the defense comunity.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 09:03:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because without US dominance and the political and military re-organization of Europe against Russia instead of against each other, Europe would never have achieved the political unity required to come up with and ECSU, or eventually and EU. Power is the process of gaining cooperation in a group project instead of individual ones, and US has exercised that kind of power in Europe since WWII, and that's what allowed pan-European institutions to develop.  If the US were to recede from European military consideration, the EU would very quickly dissolve and countries would be killing each other again, like they have been for more than thousand of years before WWII.  
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 01:42:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
without US dominance and the political and military re-organization of Europe against Russia instead of against each other, Europe would never have achieved the political unity required to come up with and ECSU

There is a logical error in your argument: the ECSU was the political and military re-organization of Europe away from each other. Furthermore, West Germany wasn't in NATO until 1955, while France wasn't a happy camper for long. (BTW, I found that de Gaulle was an initial opponent of the ECSU because he wasn't convinced of the government's argument that it will reduce US dependence.)

I can agree that NATO and the later re-armament of Germany were a military re-organization of Europe against the USSR, but that's a counter-force aganst the ECSU (increase, not decrease of military capacity). You would have a better argument if you claimed that US military presence fostered the demilitarisation of allies, but this doesn't apply to the late forties-early fifties.

For an example of US allies with a history of bilateral conflict who boost military capacity in absence of political rapprochemkent, see Greece/Cyprus and Turkey, who fought each other even under the US umbrella. No, it's not the US who keeps us from killing each other (and if we'll start again then I suspect it will be entirely our fault, whatever the level and nature of US presence at the time).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 02:17:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is also Argentina and Britain as examples of fighting among US military allies, or, more recently even, Peru and Ecuador in 1995. It's not that such fighting is impossible, but just much less and with much fewer causalities. Crime also exists within the United States, and a Civil War has even occurred. The point, however, is that military strategies for contesting power make much less sense in a hegemonic system than they do in a balance of power system, so it occurs less frequently.
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 04:04:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, Britain was never a hegemon comparable to the way the US is today.  Britain was one of the Great Powers of the European balance of power drama, and it ended up being the strongest of them for a while, ...

So, in other words, it was a hegemon ... since hegemon means leading or paramount power ... but its hegemony is not comparable to the US's present hegemony.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 01:26:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Really, a hegemon means an entity that is stronger, by itself, than the rest of a system arrayed against it, and Britain was never that, either militarily or through any network of alliances.  Many argue that the US by that definition really isn't a hegemon either since it likely could not defend itself against the rest of the world arrayed against it. But it would be close.  The US really does expend more on its military than nearly the entire rest of the world combined, something unique in history.  The US Navy, for example, has more aircraft carriers than exist in the entire rest of world.  But more importantly, most of the rest of the major powers in the world are not military allies but organized completely within the US military and diplomatic infrastructure for projecting force worldwide.  This is a capability this is also truly unique in world history, so an analyst has to be careful about drawing conclusions from the experiences of other major world powers from the colonial age. We're on pretty new ground here, so we cannot really assume that globalization or any of the other things we see happening in other countries could even continue at all if the kind of governance resources the US brings to world affairs were to evaporate.
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 01:51:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Really, a hegemon means an entity that is stronger, by itself, than the rest of a system arrayed against it ...

That is not the definition of a hegemon, which is a leading state that exercises power over subordinate states by the implied means of power rather than by direct use of force, so the question is whether that is necessary and sufficient to be a hegemonic power.

However, its clear that a power being stronger, by itself, than the rest of the system if arrayed against it is not a necessary condition to exercising such indirect rule ... and its not clear that its sufficient, since if the rest of the system were to be arrayed against it, that would make the exercise of indirect rule difficult or impossible.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 02:14:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think you're correct on the definition of hegemon, at least in the national security literature, but that's semantic point, regardless.  Your definition is what I mean by "dominant" which is what I am talking really talking about anyway, so I'll go with that.

Was Britain able to wield power over continental European affairs in 1900 in the same way the US is able to do so today, in Europe as well as in most of the rest of world?  I think the answer is clearly no, and largely because Britain's sphere of influence -- the sea -- was not as critical to continental Europe's prosperity as is the sea, air, space, intellectual property and many other institutional spaces in which the US is not only dominant but also the principal custodial authority today.

Could US power be reduced to Britain's ca. 1900 level, and thus make it vulnerable to attack, by military or non-violent means of contesting its dominance?  Yes, but we have to ask specifically how that might occur instead of just saying something like, "Look, China is really big and growing fast!"  Really, we have to ask whether globalization and all that it means today could really continue at anything like it is today if the US were to retire suddenly from world affairs and become like, say, France, or even Russia, instead.

by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 05:10:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EMP and/or cyber attack would do it.

Chrish Cook has argued here that China has already defined US foreign policy wrt Iran.

In any case, experienced Kremlinologists are aware that US foreign policy is an odd amalgam of AIPAC, Saudi interests and MIC interests.

It's highly debatable whether 'US foreign policy' actually exists at all in the true imperial sense now.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 06:09:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An empire is a polity, not a one-way dictatorship.  It is always possible for subjects to influence the policy decisions of the elite, so the fact that a country, whether it is China, or Israel, or anywhere else can influence the policy priorities of the Washington does not mean that the Washington is not the dominant power in the world. It just means that the elite respond strategically to events in real time, as they should.
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:39:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
China didn't just influence US policy, it vetoed it.

You don't veto an effective hegemon.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 03:54:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I've argued elsewhere, empire is a probabilistic game, not a deterministic one.  The fact that you can sometimes contest power with a dominant rival at times does not invalidate the fact that the rival is, in fact, dominant.  As hockey coach Herb Brooks famously said to the US olympic hockey team before going on to beat the almighty Soviet team in 1980, "The Russians may beat us nine times out of ten because they are the best team in the world, but just not tonight."
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 01:12:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
Really, we have to ask whether globalization and all that it means today could really continue at anything like it is today

and it needs a globocop hegemon to ensure that dubious point of pride?

sounds like a superbug, not a feature, except for halliburton.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 09:40:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it needs a global cop to allow for trade, communications, migration, financing, and all kinds of transnational relationships to continue to happen that the high level they currently are.  

Here's how to test my hypothesis that the US is the de facto world government and that at least some dreadful things would occur without it: trade, commerce, financing, migration, and communication (modes of globalization activities) should be observed to occur among more different countries today than it was during the last wave of globalization around 1900 (or whenever it was) when international trade and commerce were comparable in scale to today. During the previous globalization period, we should be able to observe that more transnational relationships occurred within the commonwealths of the colonial empires, not between such empires.

by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:47:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... in 1900 in the same way the US is able to do so today ...

What you are doing here is not defining hegemony in general and then looking at what is common to different systems with hegemonic powers and what is different, but rather defining hegemony as "the US in much of the world today", and then using similarity to test whether something is a hegemony or not.

I don't doubt that much national security literature adopts such a lazy and ahistorical definition of hegemony, but I don't see any reason why its more useful than the definitions of hegemony in world history and the social sciences.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 03:04:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the point of globalization, its not as if globalization is something that "the US does to the world" ~ its something that transnational corporations do to the world by winning their preferred policies.

On the one hand, if they are equally capable of winning their preferred policies in a different balance of power, then we still get the imposition of globalization.

On the other hand, since the policies are not sustainable, either physically or institutionally, over the long term, then over the long term one way or another they will break down, and its an open question the extent to which US hegemony survives, and in what form.

Regarding the meaning of the term hegemony, it does not apply to the original hegemons, Sparta in the Peloponnesian League, throughout their hegemony. And its not a practical test: far more critical in practice is the ability to dominate any combination of states which could be reasonably be expected to be arrayed against them.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri May 4th, 2012 at 09:05:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the point of globalization, its not as if globalization is something that "the US does to the world" ~ its something that transnational corporations do to the world by winning their preferred policies.

Isn't it though?  That's really the question.  Could globalization actually have ever existed without US global domination? There is a falsifiable way of answering that question, if there is sufficient historical data.  If I'm right, an analysis of trade or other transnational relationships during the last globalization period of a century ago should show that more of the trade and relationships occurred within the spheres of influence of the various empires and less occurred between empires.  While today the relationships should be more spread out because its largely under one empire.

by santiago on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 10:14:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have sufficient data, nor do I know if it has been colllected. But just to put some datapoints out there, far as I know Sweden (lacking significant colonies in the 19th century) had no problems trading within the colonial empires. And Norway had one of the largest merchant marines until the Great War (the representation of which was one of the points of disagreement during the Swedish-Norwegian union that led to its dissolvement).

I think we should also remember that the colonial powers not only divided the world into neat spheres of influence where they were free to suppress the natives, they also helped each other out in crushing rebellions. But again, I don't know if there is data on the trade to compare with todays.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun May 13th, 2012 at 06:46:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In a non-hegomonic system, a conflict involving multiple states develops when a hegemon threatens to emerge -- that is, when the balance of power between the states is threatened by the outcome of a smaller war.  The European balance of power system that was consciously established in the Treaty of Westphalia, which also established the concept of the nation-state, was ended in WWII when the US and Russia became the two hegemonic powers, only one of which remains so today, worldwide. We know how dominant the US is because of the fact that all of the other major powers, including all of Europe, are either allied with it through military alliances or at least participate in its global polity through its established trade and diplomatic institutions, as Russia, China, and India do. (The few weak countries who don't are labelled "rogue states" which serves to prove the point that we do have a de facto world government today -- the US.) As a result, wars are simply fewer in number and intensity today, worldwide, than they were before.  Why?  War just isn't as helpful a path to contesting power when you can't realistically win it against such an overwhelming power as the US.  The best you can realistically hope for in a conflict is that the US not be able to win, not that you could ever win, so less violent means of contesting power develop instead.
by santiago on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 09:46:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a nice re-statement of your theory, but doesn't answer my points.

A threat to the balance of power doesn't need to be addressed by military might from everyone else, only when the breaker of the balance is in immediate danger of fighting everyone in short order and rising to a hegemon. And a break in the balance of power doesn't have to threaten the emergence of a hegemon in a treaty situation (say, do you think there was a threat of a hegemon before WWI?)

Your focus is solely on wars between a hegemon and a sole non-hegemon started by the latter to cotestg hegemony, ignoring wars between two non-hegemons, wars initiated by the hegemon, wars resulting from internal conflict in the hegemon, coalition wars, and raids.

As a result, wars are simply fewer in number and intensity today, worldwide, than they were before.

A claim not just I keep contesting on this thread.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 04:46:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you have evidence to the contrary regarding the wars?  Because the near absence of war in Europe post US dominance of European affairs is clearly a change from the nearly constant state of war between 2 or more European powers before that time.  The one period of relative peace in Europe before then was indeed the period where Britain was closest to being a hegemonic power there because of its temporary naval superiority around 1900.
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 11:53:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So now you reach for Britain's hegemony as explanation, after all? But there were at least 22 years of peace prior to that naval dominance, too. And this period wasn't any less of a relative peace than post-WWII.

Also, let's leave Europe. Where in the rest of the US sphere of influence do you see less wars than before?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 02:43:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, exactly. Britain was indeed a dominant power, although it had nowhere near the global scope, influence -- full spectrum dominance -- that America has today worldwide. Therefore the variation in the causal variables -- Britain's dominance -- explains the variation in the observed variables -- incidences of war in Europe -- and argues precisely for my theory regarding the US today.
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:52:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo:
Your focus is solely on wars between a hegemon and a sole non-hegemon started by the latter to cotestg hegemony

And thus the focus on a war between China and US started by China. I think power will (with production) pass to China, but as it is already happening China does not need a war to win. What might happen is instead that a rising China is at one point confronted with a hegemon lacking good choices but having a military upper hand. Since a total war would incinerate both sides, both sides can have reason to suspect the other side is bluffing, which can lead to a conflict to resolve at which level each side is bluffing. Then the logic of the conflicts gets a life of its own. Hopefully not to the point of nuclear annihilation.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 03:23:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it is entirely possible, and perhaps likely, that China could eventually grow up enough to split the world in two, the way it was during the cold war, instead of leaving the globe solely under US governance as it is today.
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:55:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We know how dominant the US is because of the fact that all of the other major powers, including all of Europe, are either allied with it through military alliances or at least participate in its global polity through its established trade and diplomatic institutions, as Russia, China, and India do.

By that logic, we also know how weak that dominance is by now through the US defeats in those established trade and diplomatic institutions (think UN SC vetoes and trade wars via the WTO) and the establishment of parallel institutions (the EU, Mercosur, the new G33, BASIC). Methinks the US now is comparable to Britain a century ago.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 05:12:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, those aren't defeats.  A UN vote against a US President is no more a defeat for the US than the election of Tea Party candidate for governor in a US state or a US House of Representatives that fails to support the US president.  Those are all examples of US institutions working the way they are supposed to work -- power is contested within the institutional framework that the US has championed for itself and others.  A defeat would be Vietnam -- an institution failure of US military and diplomatic institutions -- albeit a temporary one since Vietnam is now wholly within the US trade and financial framework like the rest of Asia.
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 11:58:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's sophistry. A failure to get something across a body is a defeat, and what is represented at the UN is not the US President but the whole US government, thus it is a US defeat. It was at the time the USSR issued most of the vetoes (and you can't seriously claim that USSR participation in the UN was a sign of the USSR recognising and being under US hegemony), and it a defeat now. And while US defeats at the UN SC are often symbolic only (see Iraq War), WTO defeats cost money and economic influence.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 02:39:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, a failure to preserve the institutional framework is a defeat for an empire as a polity.  A failure to get ones way within a given system is just a defeat for a particular faction within that polity.  If you're talking about neoliberals versus socialists then, yes, your examples could be seen as a defeat.  But that's not what we're talking about here.  We're talking about whether an institutional framework that is the American global empire is advanced or injured by various events, and not getting something the President of the US wants out of an institutional body of its own creation is no more a defeat for the polity itself than would be losing an election to a challenger for that same President -- it's all still part of the rules established for the world and itself that make up the institutional framework of an empire, as it would in any village, county, or nation state.
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 01:01:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, (just trying to decode your thesis here) the Bush II decade is just some sort of historical anomaly, a blip not even worth mentioning? It looks, to me, much more like the normal state of affairs, but without the habitual smiley masks.

The recent record shows that the US, rather than accepting adverse decisions in the international bodies it helped create, is always ready to upset the card table. The engineered failure of the zombie Doha round is a case in point : the US has the dominant position and administrative resources to negotiate bilateral trade relationships with whoever it damn well likes, and as leonine as possible. The charade of consulting the UN before Gulf War II showed how completely isolated Powell was in his legalist stance. The US has, for decades, successfully interdicted any effective effort towards global governance on climate change, and this, in the medium term, is enough condemn its alleged global empire.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 03:43:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a resurgence of interest today in academia today, in political theory and sociology, around the work of German sociologist Karl Schmitt.  Most of the interest comes from the left in places like the New School for Social Research, although Karl Schmitt, like Martin Heidegger who also enjoys substantial interest from the left today, was an unrepentant nazi himself.  Schmitt's thesis was that you can tell who the real sovereign state is in a given international system because it's the one that doesn't have to suffer the consequences of breaking the same rules that it holds other states to. What folks are calling "hegemon" here, he referred to as "sovereign." That thesis makes sense to me and it explains a lot about how diplomatic history has developed.  

Of course, you can expect that such a power would eventually incur an organized opposition if it did grated against others too much, and some of the biggest criticisms of George Bush's tenure came from the military and big oil companies like Exxon, who are the ones who really think of the world in terms of an American empire, like Rome, instead of an America that is an independent nation state. They thought he was a bad emperor, essentially, because he and his neocon friends almost blew the whole game because of their un-appreciation for the fact that an empire is a polity with a constituency outside of national borders that must be attended to and listened to along with the domestic constituency if you want the system to continue.  They all thought Iraq was a crazy idea that was going to incur unnecessary enemies for very little, if any, strategic benefit.

by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 11:17:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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