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Predicting the periodicity of world wars through some attempt to find numerical patterns seems like it may be a classic case of over-thinking the problem.  It seems pretty obvious that the last major war period 1914-1945 coinciding with the fall of the British Empire and the rise of the American one.  And we haven't had a major war since because the US managed to more or less peacefully (i.e., without military confrontation with Russia, its only rival) consolidate its WWII victories with a unparallelled system of global governance institutions that now effectively prevent any other major power from going to war and overthrowing American global rule. When the US one day becomes weak enough to allow another power or powers to contest its dominance, then we'll see the end of "globalization" and other major war. I don't foresee such conditions materializing for a few centuries at least, however, because too many potential US rivals benefit from the global system which is maintained by the US.  
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 12:26:17 AM EST
However, historically, the "I don't foresee such conditions materializing for a few centuries at least, however, because too many potential XYZ rivals benefit from the global system which is maintained by the XYZ." successfully explains why the Original World War, the Napoleonic Wars, didn't take place, and also why WWI and WWII didn't take place.


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 Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 12:39:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not really.  Napoleon didn't benefit from the Westphalian system at all, so France under him was able to be strong enough under its own resources to credibly overthrow it. Germany and Japan didn't benefit from Pax Britannica, so they were able to develop enough power independent of British institutions to challenge Britain and her allies. But there isn't anything similar that is possible for any potential rivals to the US today because all rivals are highly dependent upon global institutions for trade, finance, and law of which the US is the necessary custodian.  

So, for example, if China were to militarily challenge the US, China would have to give up world trade, which is the basis of its entire economy, because its navy is so tiny compared to America's. And so on for every other potential challenger.  That's why it is such a mistake to try to place today's world within the European nation state system.  There hasn't been anything comparable in history to the current situation when the leading faction in world governance is able to spend almost as much on its military forces as the entire rest of the world combined, most of which is allied with it. That's a de facto world government, and it is just so materially different in both absolute and proportional terms from British or other historical antecedents in European history that it makes little sense to try to compare them.

by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 04:30:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
China is already challenging the US economically in Africa and Europe.

As the Cold War showed, there's no particular need for a hot war if you can destabilise and colonise your opponent ideologically.

China is perfectly capable of playing a long game and allowing the US to implode under the weight of its own economic and political idiocy.

Meanwhile we're already in a war between Wall St and Rest of World. See also Greece, etc.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 05:16:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The long game is the only game available to China, which is exactly why a world war is just so unlikely to occur.  That's my whole point. (The US also secured it's current dominance in the world through a similarly long game -- the cold war.)
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 05:40:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
China is obviously rearming and it's likely that at some point - once trade relationships with other countries have been built - there will be a direct confrontation.

The long game isn't either/or. While it would suit China to wait for the US to implode, it may also become expedient to make a more public claim on dominance.

It would be foolish to assume that the latter can never happen.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 07:20:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To the extent that China can credibly pose a military challenge to the USA  and can do so in a way that is economically sustainable for China this should hasten any US collapse - unless the USA undertakes effective internal reforms to ward off such collapse. In fact, that might be an effective argument for the necessity of reforming the financial sector.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 09:28:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the big if -- that China's economy could sustain a military challenge to the US during the many years of build up it, during which time it wouldn't reap any of the economic benefits from it.  Right now, US military expenditures are subsidizing Chinese trade, so can China afford to forego that subsidy for a couple of decades while the rest of the world doesn't?  The US never had to do that.  It didn't start competing with the Great Powers militarily until WWII. My guess is that China's leadership would opt for the same course if it could -- stay within the US global polity until that system looks like it's collapsing and make a move then. Unfortunately for China, bordering with tough guys like Russia, India, and Pakistan, let alone Korea and Japan, might prove burdensome for them far before they could find any reason to challenge US hegemony.
by santiago on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 11:38:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you two think of in terms of "military challenge"? Could it be anything else but a cold-war-style conlict? IMHO such a conflict is not a necessity to gain hegemony. Fact is, US influence is waning, and China is slowly extending its economic influence around the world, especially the Third World, where it is already an as much if not more important financier than vehicles of Western (US) influence like the World Bank.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 03:10:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, and at that point, we might end up in another world war.  Assumption has nothing to do with it.  However, for China to take such an action, or for the US to, China, which is much more dependent on foreign food and fuel resources, would have to have a Navy capable of not only denying sea space to the US, but of securing it for it's own supply lines, like the US currently does, and given that the US Navy has more aircraft carriers, for one simple measure of power, than the rest of the world combined, even though China spends much more of its GDP on military forces than the US does (a good measure of likelihood of implosion), that more public claim for dominance would have to be itself a very long game -- one that is probably going to outlast the periodic frequency of world wars in the pre-WWII era.
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 12:18:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would not be so sanguine about that if I were a USN analyst. The question is whether small and medium sized missile boats and submarines, absent satellite navigation and surveillance, can reliably interdict convoys. The answer to that question is not known.

And that is the relevant question because any serious challenge to US hegemony is going to open with a massive missile strike against the US carrier force shortly followed by the denial of low Earth and geostationary orbits to satellite traffic. Terminal-stage missile interception is basically in the same place today as it was when London got a face full of V2 rockets. Which is to say that the only defense against missiles is to shoot them down when they launch, or to be somewhere else when they land. Satellites are even more pathetically vulnerable, as long as you are satisfied with simply denying the orbits to everyone rather than requiring your own satellites to survive.

The reason this will not happen has nothing to do with the prowess of the US Navy, or the strength of the US industrial plant. It has to do with the fact that the US possesses enough nuclear overkill to deter such a conflict.

But that is also true for a number of other powers, and if the nuclear deterrent means that US policy cannot be directly challenged by other powers, then it is equally true that for the US challenging the core interests of other nuclear powers.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 04:17:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The question is whether small and medium sized missile boats and submarines, absent satellite navigation and surveillance, can reliably interdict convoys.

You'd need a mesh network of low powered surveillance drones, but betting against that being feasible or else betting on having superior electronic countermeasures would seem taking the long odds side of the bet.


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 01:33:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're overlooking an incapacitating EMP strike against the USA, which requires one tramp steamer per coast, fitted with one nuclear tipped missile which doesn't need to come down.

The time necessary to replace malfunctioning equipment, much of which was sourced in ... China ... would be very long.

EMP changes everything. Look at North Korea jamming GPS.

The USA is a lion with bad teeth.

Align culture with our nature.

by ormondotvos (ormond no spam lmi net no spam) on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 05:57:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are billions of people on earth who do not benefit from Pax Americana. The fact that a governing power elite in a country has a common interest in the preservation of the bases of Pax Americana does not imply that that "country" will share that common interest over the next two hundred years, since there is never any assurance over a span of two hundred years that it will be the same governing power elite throughout.


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 Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 09:41:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you're right, and a lot of the people who don't benefit are Americans. I would say that internally driven abandonment of the whole world governance project, which can be seen today on the right among the Ron Paulists, as well as the left, is the most likely way of ending globalization as we know it.  It's also the most likely way of causing a world war as others enter the vacuum left behind.  Has it been done before?  Has a major empire-like power ever just retired from the role without spasm of epic violence ensuing? And more to the point, what could we do now to see that it does?
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 12:28:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't see either/or. Changes overseas in semi-peripheral and peripheral economies that reduce the benefit to core economies of the Gobalization policy set can also be a factor in the defection of some former supporters of that policy set within core economies.

The institutional cross-supports that persistently reproduce an establishment position were for the most part not deliberately designed, but rather evolved in the context of that early conditions that gave rise to that position, and we typically discover what were actually the most strategic cross-supports only when they break down and the establishment position crumbles as a result.


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 Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 12:53:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems pretty obvious that the last major war period 1914-1945 coinciding with the fall of the British Empire and the rise of the American one.

Yes, but that's just because we call the lull from the end of the Napoleonic wars to the start of WWI 'Pax Britannica' and the lull after WWII 'Pax Americana'.

If you look at the European system, it is true that it has had no major wars since WWII, but if there were another major pan-European conflict wouldn't that quickly escalate into a war dragging in the US with unpredictable consequences for US hegemony itself? Again, we cannot foresee such a European war for decades but that's what everyone says in the even of any of these major wars. Who could have predicted that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand would lead to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire? And, more importantly, why wasn't WWI sufficient to usher in a new world system, given that its size was that of a systemic event?

We look for historical explanations ex-post-facto, but the fact is that there's no way to know a priori whether a given conflict will escalate or to what extent.

the US managed to more or less peacefully (i.e., without military confrontation with Russia, its only rival) consolidate its WWII victories with a unparallelled system of global governance institutions that now effectively prevent any other major power from going to war and overthrowing American global rule. When the US one day becomes weak enough

But Pax Americana is hardly unprecedented. Consider Pax Mongolica where

It was commonly said that "a maiden bearing a nugget of gold on her head could wander safely throughout the realm."
and which lasted for the better part of two centuries. Yes, the institutional system may be unprecedented, but it is ever evolving and now increasingly being called into question. The G7 was invented and then grew into the G20 and it's rather ineffectual. The BRICs are getting uppity at the WTO and also in the UN, the IMF and the World Bank, and so on. And the US itself was unable to win wars in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.

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 04:42:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
War - or death machines - have been one of the most significant European and US exports since WWII.

Pax Americana has always been an illusion. The necessary wars were simply shifted to the imperial periphery, and/or waged economically and politically rather than physically.

For the imperial centre, it turns out to be far cheaper and more efficient to wage war through covert and occasionally overt manipulation than through boots on the ground.

If you think of war as attempted dominance rather than as a bunch of people shooting at each other, we haven't had peace for a very long time.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 05:24:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except for the fact that, in absolute as well as relative terms, the world really is much less violent today than it has been for centuries.
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 05:35:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See also 'shifted to the periphery.'

I doubt anyone in Iraq would agree with you. (But Iraqis were never good imperial subjects, so I don't suppose their deaths count.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 05:57:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, even taking into account places like Iran, it's a much less violent world today than before.
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 12:30:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm. I'd like to see sources for the stats in that article.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 01:10:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The number of people killed in battle - calculated per 100,000 population - has dropped by 1,000-fold over the centuries as civilizations evolved. Before there were organized countries, battles killed on average more than 500 out of every 100,000 people. In 19th century France, it was 70. In the 20th century with two world wars and a few genocides, it was 60. Now battlefield deaths are down to three-tenths of a person per 100,000.
Yeah, and in WWII the ratio of civilian to military deaths was 2:1, so the 60 "battlefield deaths" per 100,000 in the 20th century becomes 180 "total deaths".

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 04:11:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You could have said the same thing in Europe in 1815-1914.

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 06:00:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's standard imperial rhetoric to claim that one's empire has created the best of all possible times. [shrug]
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 07:21:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We can certainly deconstruct the moral content of empire. None-the-less, an ongoing system of violence in the periphery is a different thing from a pan-system conflagration. Of more use practically and materially would be an analysis and argument as to why a more just and more equal world should be preferred by those who have power in the existing systems.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 09:39:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm just pointing out that rhetoric about Pax Xxxxicana is meaninglessly subjective. No one in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Honduras, Iran, or the other sites of US and Anglo adventuring is going to find it the least bit persuasive.

The fact that home grown populations do doesn't change that point.

And don't forget that US and Euopean populations were under constant nuclear siege from the late 40s to the early 90s. Being worried that your neighbourhood could be vapourised at any moment seems an odd definition of peace.

The fact that the conflagration didn't happen is as much down to luck - q.v. Stanislav Petrov, again - as anything else.

In any case, your statement is only true for limited values of 'conflagration'. I've argued before that Germany has effectively declared a war of economic hegemony on the rest of Europe. There may be no obvious shooting, but people are dying, infrastructure and democracy are being destroyed, and Greece et al. are being forced onto an economic war footing.

The same has already happened in some parts of the US.

It's convenient to ignore the fact that economics is violence by other means. But the violence and brutality remain - as do its effects.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 10:48:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... rhetoric about Pax Xxxxicana is meaninglessly subjective. No one in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Honduras, Iran, or the other sites of US and Anglo adventuring is going to find it the least bit persuasive.

The fact that home grown populations do doesn't change that point.

In fact, this diary is a direct result of a comment by rootless to the effect that
EU gets an enormous economic boost as a legacy from military colonialism - e.g. consider why BP and Royal Dutch Shell dominate reserves in former colonies, or why European companies have such world markets. As a close observer of a French telecom company that has rapidly been crushed by Chinese competition, I have been struck by what happens when there are competing sources of capital (China, Venezuela, Brazil etc) available and no military capability to hold onto advantage.  This is a lesson Spain is learning in Argentina this week as the reconqista is rolled back.
Also
The fact that the conflagration didn't happen is as much down to luck - q.v. Stanislav Petrov, again - as anything else.
This points to the importance of contingency and the unpredictability of escalation. The Cuban Missile Crisis might well have led to a major war, but it ended up being a tense standoff with no casualties.

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 10:58:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you could have said it, and people did and Henry Kissinger still does, at least compared to what was immediately before 1815.  But compared to Pax Romana, or as you said, Pax Mongolica, I don't think you could say the same thing.  My point is that a world system predicated upon governance of a single, super-powerful faction is going to be a lot different, and a lot less violent, than one predicated upon a balance of power of multiple competing factions, so the numerical patterns one observed in the balance of power era are likely not to be observed in other eras like the present.
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 12:36:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Its unlikely to feel that way today to someone living in the southeastern South Sudan or the eastern DRC, nor in the very recent past to someone living in Liberia or Sierra Leone. Inducing child soldiers to rape as a means of assuring their allegiance to a blood diamond warlord ranks right up there in your historical "violence through history" ranks.


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 Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 12:56:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know. The whole congo conflict: A long multi-sided civil war, five or six neighbouring countries intervening looks very much like the thirty years war.

And Congo in 1960 or 1970 or 1920 was much more peaceful.

On the other hand is the Congo really  more unhappy  then during the time of the Congo free state?

by IM on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 01:05:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you look at the European system, it is true that it has had no major wars since WWII, but if there were another major pan-European conflict wouldn't that quickly escalate into a war dragging in the US with unpredictable consequences for US hegemony itself?

The way to look at the counterfactual you've posed is to ask whether a pan-European conflict is even possible at all anymore given the fact that the US dominates European security relations more than any European state does, while at the same time being only a secondary priority for US interests. I don't think it is possible.  Almost every European state is now a strategic military ally of the US in one way or another independent of their strategic relationships with other European powers, which means that a pan-European war just can't happen while this remains true. (If it could, does it make any sense at all that the rest of Europe would allow German bankers to rape them as they are currently doing?)

Will it remain true forever?  No. But the likelihood of this situation changing any time this century is pretty remote, even if statistically possible.

The unparallelled part of "Pax Americana" is that it covers the whole globe, so the ability of anyone else to outgrow US power is limited. There are no more worlds to conquer.  The US, Japan, and Germany were able to establish their own empires in the 19th century in places that Britain could not touch with its navy, and they were able to grow powerful with internal resources without needing to trade under the protection of the British navy.  No such place exists in the world anymore for China, India, or anyone else.  They all need US protection in some way for their economies to continue prospering, so the costs of challenging US military power are much higher than those faced by previous challengers to the superpowers of their time.

Rome lost many wars and screwed itself up for centuries before finally falling because it was in a similar global position, so Vietnam is hardly evidence of weakness on the part of the US. (And although the victories are certainly Pyrrhic ones, the US does not appear to have been actually defeated in Iraq or Afghanistan as it was in Vietnam.  Saddam Hussein and the Taliban were removed from power and governments allied with the US are currently in power in both countries, unlike Vietnam.)

Yes, there are historical comparisons one can honestly make with US dominance of world affairs, such as the Mongols over Asia, Rome over the Mediterranean, and the Ottomans over the Middle East, but the point is that world wars didn't happen in any of those realms while they dominated them, so that means that it is the fall from dominance of the custodial agent of a world-system (or the lack of such an agent as in the case of the Westphalian system of Europe) that allows a world-war kind of conflict to occur, not a historical pattern of some kind.

by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 05:34:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The unparallelled part of "Pax Americana" is that it covers the whole globe

Clearly unparalleled by the Spanish Empire (on which the Sun never sets) and the British Empire (which copied the dictum).

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 05:52:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually yes, even in comparison to those two examples. Both Britain and Spain established global military and colonial infrastructures but neither was able to translate that into a set of institutions upon which all of the rest of the world depended for its security or well being. Instead Spain and Britain established commonwealths of relatively underdeveloped parts of the world that were under such an institutional system.  The US is the first to have done that with pretty much the entire rest of the world, including all of the major powers in the world, most of whom are militarily allied with it.  This makes the US a true world government in way that simply hasn't occurred before.
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 06:02:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, on the one hand North and South America depended on Pax Britannia for its peace and security, and on the other hand not all of the world today depends on Pax Americana for peace and security.

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 Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 12:58:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What parts of the world today do not depend upon the US for peace and security?  Even China, or especially China, depends upon the US for its ability to secure trade related economic growth and the resources it needs to feed its growing middle class.  
by santiago on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 04:54:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
South America. Africa. The old USSR. Southeast Asia.
by asdf on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 07:10:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe old USSR, but the other three are definitely subsidized by US power, even Venezuela.
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 08:38:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I submit countries that have been subjected to US-sponsored coups in the past 10 years might not feel that their well-being depends on American power.

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 08:41:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would submit that such countries might feel that way even more than anyone else because of such interventions.  But even outside of that Venezuela is uniquely dependent because it sells most of its low-grade oil to the US.  China hasn't been able get anything out of Venezuela yet.
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 12:02:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Venezuela is uniquely dependent because it sells most of its low-grade oil to the US

Is that really a dependency of Venezuela? Given the US failure to declare an oil embargo in Venezuela, it seems the other way around.

China hasn't been able get anything out of Venezuela yet.

Really?

Venezuela Sees Rising Oil Exports To China; PdVSA Revenue Jumps - WSJ.com

As part of its repayment for the loans, Venezuela sends oil shipments to China, which on Thursday, Ramirez said have reached 460,000 barrels a day.

"We are going to sell China one million barrels a day by 2015," by which time the Asian economy will be buying just as much oil as the U.S., said Ramirez, who doubles as PdVSA chief.

The future plans aren't empty talk, either, and it's not just China:

Venezuelan oil: bring it on to Asia | beyondbrics | News and views on emerging markets from the Financial Times - FT.com

...on Friday construction began of an $8.3bn refinery in China's Guangdong province able to process 400,000 barrels a day of extra-heavy crude from Venezuela's Orinoco Belt, in a 60/40 joint venture between China National Petroleum Corp and PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company.

But it's not just the Chinese who want to tap into the OPEC country's vast oil riches. In the last week alone, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam have all signed major deals with Venezuela that will help it increase sales to Asian markets and diversify its oil exports away from its biggest client - and ideological enemy number one - the US.

Most impressively, South Korean companies have agreed to participate in infrastructure projects in Venezuela that could be worth more than $11bn.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 02:01:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting reports, but I don't believe it because I have personal experience with this. I've been involved with people in Venezuela's oil industry, and they may talk a good game, but China has yet to receive that much oil from Venezuela despite billions invested there, and is largely abandoning the country. Anyone with oil industry experience has to laughing at those news reports right now.  Chavez is a hustler, and he's hustled some of the biggest powers in the world so far.  A simple visit to the facilities in Venezuela will show that it's simply not physically possible for China to get the oil that's being reported.  Everything is pretty much shut down and in need of parts and repair.

The US is dependent on oil, and it can get it from enemies and allies alike.  That's dependency on oil, not on a foreign power.

by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 02:14:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't believe it because I have personal experience with this.

Well that's info I can't check. But your claims of China abandoning the country don't rhyme with that refinery.

That's dependency on oil, not on a foreign power.

If the USA can't give up on oil from a single country then yes it is dependence on a foreign power.

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

by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 02:25:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I can't validate it, especially because my experience was courtesy of the government of Venezuela, so I don't submit it as evidence -- just to register my surprise and incredulity at the news reports you cited.  

The US has no reason to give up Venezuelan oil.  Venezuela is not a threat to the US in any way and hasn't done anything to warrant an embargo of any kind, so the proposition that it cannot give it up remains untested.  The Obama administration might also like to give up oil from Texas, which hates Washington right now too, but not doing so does not mean that Texas is not dependent upon Washington for its well being.  Venezuela is in a similar category of an otherwise allied country being led at the present time by a person who, like the Tea Party, gets political support by harmlessly haranguing Washington.

by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 03:35:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
hasn't done anything to warrant an embargo of any kind

LOL.

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

by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 07:23:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
U.S. Sanctions Against Venezuela :: Gatestone Institute

In May, the U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) for trading with Iran. The press release states that between December 2010 and March 2011 the PDVSA delivered to Iran at least two cargoes of reformate (i.e. a blending component that improves the quality of gasoline), worth approximately $50 million.

The sanctions prohibit PDVSA from competing for U.S. government procurement contracts, from securing financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and from obtaining U.S. export licenses. However, the sanctions do not apply to PDVSA subsidiaries and do not prohibit the export of crude oil to the United States.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 07:26:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And?  The US imposed the same kind of sanctions on a Venezuelan company that it also imposes on other companies that do the same thing. What's your point?  It certainly wasn't a violation that should require a general embargo on oil from Venezuela.
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 01:16:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't see how South America is subsidised by US power. I think that's a backward-looking remark. It forms its own preferential trade zone; political convergence is increasing; China has rapidly become the major trading partner; independence from the US-dominated financial institutions has been demonstrated, most notably by Argentina.

Short of actually toppling a couple of governments, pour encourager les autres, I can't see how the US is going to recover its lost hegemony over its back yard.

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

by eurogreen on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 12:07:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Almost all of the South American countries still count the US as the most important trade partner, even more than their immediate neighbors. To the extent that they trade with other parts of the world, that trade is subsidized by US naval resources which, since WWII, have prevented any naval conflicts from interrupting trade.  Why is trade so possible and so cheap today? Largely because the risks of doing so have been reduced by lack of naval conflict - a public good provided only by US military dominance at a global level.  This is particularly the case in South American history where rival countries often upset each others' trade and reduced investment and development.  No other power has the capability of guaranteeing safe passage on the high seas, or has ever had it until post-WWII US.
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 02:03:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What parts do? The way I see it, only the security situation of Taiwan, Korea and Japan is substantially influenced for the better by significant US presence. Western and Central Europe is not under threat, the colonial adventures of Iraq and Afghanistan proved failures and even the puppet governments the US installed got animated and turned on them (well the ones in Iraq were pro-Iran forces from the start who submitted to the US for tactical reasons), the Arab Spring and the South Ossetian war proved that the mere presence of representatives of the hegemon behind local allies won't deter rival powers or democracy-minded populations anymore, and Chávez proved that the hegemon can now be challenged outright by a small power with impunity.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 03:20:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All trade requires two things -- a set of institutions -- rules and customs -- for how to go about doing it, and safe travel.  Both of these are provided by the US and have been, in increasing amounts, since WWII. Before WWII, international trade occurred mostly within the commonwealths of various colonial empires, not between them.  With a US security/institutional umbrella now worldwide, trade occurs worldwide.  
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 08:37:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rules for trade and safe travel provided by the US? And exclusively so? That's news to me...

Before WWII, international trade occurred mostly within the commonwealths of various colonial empires, not between them.

I'd like to see this quantified, especially for before WWI. I strongly doubt it, considering the significant trans-European export of both raw materials and machines I know about.

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

by DoDo on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 08:52:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, there are historical comparisons one can honestly make with US dominance of world affairs, such as the Mongols over Asia, Rome over the Mediterranean, and the Ottomans over the Middle East, but the point is that world wars didn't happen in any of those realms while they dominated them, so that means that it is the fall from dominance of the custodial agent of a world-system (or the lack of such an agent as in the case of the Westphalian system of Europe) that allows a world-war kind of conflict to occur, not a historical pattern of some kind.

It is the other way around - world wars are the events in which world systems die.

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 05:53:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's only true if world wars are accidental events and not caused by parties with strategic interests in a war. If you're arguing that world wars are essentially random events, then in addition to showing the numerical patterns in history that might make the case that such events are more likely at different times, you'd also have to show how the world wars that did occur were not in anyone's strategic interest at the outset in order to dispel any argument that the numerical pattern isn't just a spurious correlation.

The alternative hypothesis is that wars happen because someone believes that there is something significant to gain from going through all the improbable work of organizing thousands or millions of people to drop what their doing with their lives in order to march off and kill a bunch of people or be killed themselves. That is, world wars occur because they make strategic sense for them to occur -- they are rational acts of contesting power.

by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 06:12:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, what is unpredictable is how big a conflict will grow to be before it stops. Wars continue to happen and some escalate while some others don't. And when a broad enough view is taken, there's nothing special about 70-year wars compared to 10-year wars. That' the alternative view. Of course the individual agents act as they do because of their perceived self-interest, but there are too many contingencies involved, and too many people.

My point in this connection would be that the relation: 100 times more deaths are 10 times less frequent, observed over the range from a thousand to 10 million deaths, is a fact bearing explanation and that a theory that posits that "world wars" are in an ontological category separate from the rest necessarily fails to explain the statistical observation except by calling it coincidental.

One might as well call the historical ex-post-facto explanation of the wars that did happen incidental.

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 06:18:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or to be more precise, "World Wars" occur as world-systems are dying.

Now, the bulk of the World System must be a single world-system in order for that to be what is commonly considered a World War, hence the Original World War occurring after peripheral Europe had leveraged the conquest of the New World to gain semi-peripheral status, and then the convulsion as international economic dominance in the Long Axis from East Asia through to Europe passed from the Eastern side of the Axis to the Western side.

Obviously the establishment of Asian "colonies" as trading entrepots used as European bases for using Spanish silver to buy their way into the East Asian carrying trade is nothing like the kind of Asian "colonies" in the Raj or the carve-up of the Qing Dynasty sovereignty, even if the former were often the locations from which the latter type of colonizations were launched.

But if we narrow the scope to distinct world-systems, we have examples of world-system wars extending much further back than that.

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 Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 01:08:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes.  And the Napoleonic wars would be an example of a world system successfully preventing death by defeating the threat.
by santiago on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 04:56:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it is the fall from dominance of the custodial agent of a world-system (or the lack of such an agent as in the case of the Westphalian system of Europe)

In what sense is the Westphalian system less peaceful or less stable than Pax Americana given that it took 80 years from the 30 Years' War to the War of Spanish Sucession and another 80 years from that to the Revolutionary/Napoleonic wars, and then a further 90 years until WWI and it's now been 70 years singe the end of WWII?


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 05:58:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There were lots of other wars between the great powers of Europe in between the big ones. But there really hasn't been many wars at all between the world's most powerful nations since the advent of Pax Americana, and it's even kind of hard to imagine one happening now.  That's a vastly different state of affairs between countries than was the case in Europe before WWII. Europe especially has had an unparallelled run of lack of conflict, and it's because European countries don't run their own security relationships anymore -- the US does.  
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 06:20:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But there really hasn't been many wars at all between the world's most powerful nations since the advent of Pax Americana

Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan?

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 06:21:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly.  Only a few, and with only one of them -- Korea, involving two or more great powers on the field against each other.  Compare that to the Westphalia record pre-WWII.  That is what argues that Pax Americana isn't just the lull, but that America is an actual governing agent that is preventing major wars from occurring simply because it is so much more powerful than anyone else that it is never forced to go to war or stay in a war it doesn't desire.
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 06:57:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You've got least two in Afghanistan and three in Vietnam: the first Indochinese War, the second Indochinese War, and the third Indochinese War. There's the Indonesian War of Independence, Algerian War of Independence, Kenyan War of Independence, the Partition Wars of the Indian subcontinent after independence, the Nigerian Civil War, the Angolan and Mozambican Wars of Independence and then civil wars, the South African Civil War, the Congolese Civil Wars, ...

... it seems like a definition of peace with the footnote "except for Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia".

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 Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 01:17:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Six Days War, the Yom Kippur War, the Lebanese Civil War, the Israeli occupation of Lebanon ...

... and of course Southeast Europe, with the Balkan Civil War.

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 Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 02:58:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Du want to argue that

a) there was no war between 1815-1914 in the middle east)near east  or

b) that there was no war in the balkans?

And in the 19th century we are talking about genuine pan-balkan conflicts, not just a jugoslavian civil war.

You seem to be fighting a straw-man; as far as I understand the theory is less war in  the post 1945 world, not no war.

by IM on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 03:05:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly.  Only a few, and with only one of them -- Korea, involving two or more great powers on the field against each other.  Compare that to the Westphalia record pre-WWII.  That is what argues that Pax Americana isn't just the lull, but that America is an actual governing agent that is preventing major wars from occurring simply because it is so much more powerful than anyone else that it is never forced to go to war or stay in a war it doesn't desire.

Which is to say, that people fighting and dying when "great powers face each other in battle" count, and people do not count if they were fighting and dying in wars of colonization and occupation, wars of independence, civil wars, wars between regional powers and wars with only one great power involved.

In the theory in question, they all count. The Iran-Iraq War, the Arab-Israeli War, the Yom Kippur War, the Second Indochina War between North Vietnam and its allies and South Vietnam and its allies and occupiers, the Third Indochina War between Vietnam and Cambodia, the Iraq-Kuwait War, the US Invasion of Iraq ... they all count.

Its not as if the Franco-Prussian war was bigger in scale than several of the wars under Pax Americana ~ its that it happened in Europe between Europeans and therefore looms larger from a European perspective, while Pax Americana prefers to have its millions dying in wars in the periphery.


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 Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 04:00:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, they all count, but to find evidence in support of or against the theory, you have to adjust the data set to similar scale comparisons.  The focus on Europe is not because we're Euro-centric here, it's because Europe provides a good laboratory for the theory that empires produce more peace within their realms even if there are other negative things about them.  Europe before WWII was a balkanized region with multiple powers of comparable strength.  After WWII, it was dominated by either the US or Russia and wars have been much less where such dominance has been strongest than during the balkanized, pre-WWII period.  The one part of the pre-WWII period where European wars were least happens also to be the time when Britain temporarily enjoyed a supreme naval advantage, which argues also for the benefits of a dominant power in reducing state violence.

US dominance is stronger in Europe than elsewhere, especially at the end of WWII when Korea occurred, so we should expect less war in Europe than where America is less dominant, but being less dominant in other parts of the world in no way means that America is not, as I am arguing here, the de facto world government.  It just means we live in a probabilistic world, not a deterministic one.

However, research does show that even taking into account the wars outside of Europe, violence is simply less today than before.  So it seems like it may be true that even taking into account the millions killed in the US-promoted wars, post-WWII, still amounts to less than what had happened in the world before global governance was attempted or even possible.  Governance matters is what I'm arguing here.

by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 01:40:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
However, research does show that even taking into account the wars outside of Europe, violence is simply less today than before.

I don't find it in the source.

Edge: A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE By Steven Pinker

The criminologist Manuel Eisner has assembled hundreds of homicide estimates from Western European localities that kept records at some point between 1200 and the mid-1990s. In every country he analyzed, murder rates declined steeply--for example, from 24 homicides per 100,000 Englishmen in the fourteenth century to 0.6 per 100,000 by the early 1960s.

Edge: A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE By Steven Pinker

According to the Human Security Brief 2006, the number of battle deaths in interstate wars has declined from more than 65,000 per year in the 1950s to less than 2,000 per year in this decade.

I says nothing of violence outside of homicides in Western states and causulties in interstate wars.

Then there is this:

Edge: A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE By Steven Pinker

Meanwhile, according to political scientist Barbara Harff, between 1989 and 2005 the number of campaigns of mass killing of civilians decreased by 90 percent.

Which says nothing about the numbers killed, only the numbers of campaigns.

Or to put it another way, he says that general violence has decreased but his quoting is very limited and appears selective. The discussion that spawned this diary featured Pinkers ideas, so I had some reason to look into the An Lushan rebellion.

An Lushan Rebellion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Death toll

There is no doubt that the rebellion resulted in a major death toll. The devastation of the population was not only a direct result of the combat casualties and civilian deaths as a direct result of warfare, but due to the widespread dislocations of the social and economic system, especially in the north and middle areas of China, mass starvation and disease also resulted in death by the millions. Another factor may have been the decreased territory of the subsequent Tang empire.

However, the number of casualties is difficult to estimate. The 754 census recorded a population of 52,880,488, while the 764 census found only about 16.9 million, a reduction of about two-thirds.[13] The numbers recorded on the post-war registers reflect not only population loss, but also a breakdown of the census system, as well as the removal from the census figures of various classes of untaxed persons, such of those in religious orders, foreigners, and merchants.[14] Another consideration is that due to the fact that territory controlled by Tang central authority was diminished by the equivalent of several of the northern provinces, something like a quarter of the remaining population no longer remained within the imperial revenue system.[15] Historians such as Charles Patrick Fitzgerald further argue that a claim of 36 million deaths is incompatible with contemporary accounts of the war.[16] However this figure has been popularised by Steven Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature, where it is presented as proportionally the largest atrocity in history, though with a caution that "These figures, of course, can not all be taken at face value."



A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES!
by A swedish kind of death on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 04:42:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a better source: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/08/15/think_again_war?page=full.

The book by Joshua Goldstein makes the case specifically about war, noting, for example, that there are no interstate wars today anywhere in the world.  This seems like clear evidence to me that governance matters and global governance, at the present time being exercised, however flawed, by the United States or imperialists within the United States, is actually working to reduce conflict and reduce the risks of establishing transnational relationships, all of which allows globalization to occur. The fact that civil wars still continue is evidence if favor of my theory here because we would expect and world government to have most of its influence on interstate relations, not nominally sovereign affairs within a given country.

by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 11:24:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Given that the claim of a decrease in war deaths is still being vigorously debated, I wouldn't want to draw any firm conclusions from that particular source.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 11:51:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it being vigorously debated?

Regardless, however, the fact remains that there is only one interstate war going on right now (am I missing any?), anywhere in the world -- NATO's occupation of Afghanistan. This is a pretty remarkable fact in world of nearly 200 countries and closing in on 7 billion people, and I suggest that better global governance is a key factor.

by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 11:58:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The former Sudan civil war just flared up again as an interstate conflict, following the independence of the South.

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 12:11:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you're right.
by santiago on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 12:18:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia: List of ongoing military conflicts.

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 12:41:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought the number for todays homicides was a bit low, in my recollection it should be in low single digits. (Btw, that homicides has decreased with about a factor ten I think should be a problem for Richardsons assertion that individual murders are on a continuos scale with wars.)

So I checked what Eisner actually has written (pdf):

In a sense, therefore, homicide rates around 1950 may serve as a benchmark for the lowest level of interpersonal lethal violence as yet attained in any known Western society. It stands at about 0.4-0.6 deaths per year per 100,000 inhabitants. Second, the data demonstrate a rapid convergence of homicide rates between the late nineteenth century and the 1960s. By then, cross-national differences within western Europe had become inconsequential and have remained small since. Third, the data from 1950 until the early 1990s point to an upsurge of homicide rates throughout most of Europe accompanied by a much sharper rise in recorded levels of assault and robbery.

These increases occurred despite advances in medical technology throughout the twentieth century, which are likely significantly to have dampened this latest increase. The main trend over the past 150 years, therefore, corresponds to the U-shaped pattern identified earlier by Gurr and his collaborators (Gurr, Grabosky, and Hula 1977).

On one hand it looks like Pinker is picking his examples to fit the theory, on the other, this paper is really interesting. So I'll continue reading that instead of caring about Pinker.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES!

by A swedish kind of death on Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 01:59:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you're dismissing the Korean war with 5 million casualties between military and civilian deaths/casualties/missing, the Vietnam war with over 5 million dead (not "casualties") and the Afghanistan War (with 3 million casualties over 34 years) as insignificant events?

The biggest events of 1815-1914 are the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-5 with under 50 thousand casualties, the American Civil War of 1861-5 with 1 million casualties, the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8 with 225 thousand casualties, and the Crimean War of 1853-6 with up to 600 thousand casualties.

Even allowing for a population about 5 times larger in the 20th than in the 19th century, I don't see how the post-WWII period is less violent than the 19th Century in terms of its large non-hegemonic wars. And all three post-WWII large events cited involve the American hegemon as a major player.

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 06:54:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Expanding on the point - the major wars of the post-WWII period are of a size about 10% of WWII (3-5 million vs. 40-60 million) just like the major wars of the 19th century are of a size about 10% of the Napoleonic wars (in the hundreds of thousands vs. 5-6 million).

According to the postulated power law in the diary, events 10% smaller are 3+ times more frequent, and we're looking at lists of 3-4 "major" events in between "world wars" in these two cases.

Maybe the causation goes the other way around. The Napoleonic Wars and the WWI-WWII period are clear watershed events. Then we're asked to enumerate the major events in the intermediate period. When asked to enumerate "major" events we stop at 3-4 in the enumeration. Enumerating many more would not be "just major events". This sets the lower cutoff in "major intermediate event" size at maybe 1/12 (between 1/32 and 1/42) of the size of the hegemonic wars.

And the "hegemonic wars" are of the size with a recurrence time of a human lifetime. Otherwise we might go for WWII, the 30 Years' War and the 100 years' war as "watershed events", with recurrence times of the order of 3 centuries and intermediate events of the size of the Napoleonic Wars.

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 07:08:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not dismissing them at all.  Just noting how few there are of them compared to the many wars going on just in Europe alone.
by santiago on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 03:38:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The biggest events of 1815-1914 are the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-5 with under 50 thousand casualties, the American Civil War of 1861-5 with 1 million casualties, the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8 with 225 thousand casualties, and the Crimean War of 1853-6 with up to 600 thousand casualties.

I'd add the Paraguayan War with its 400,000 dead, the Franco-Prussian War with its 185,000 military and up to 775,000 total dead (famine and diseases again), the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-9 with its 130-205,000 military dead, the Taiping Rebellion with its millions of dead, and several colonial slaughters (like the Congo Free State, the Sepoy Mutiny, the Boxer Rebellion, and the Second Boer War).

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

by DoDo on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 08:43:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe especially has had an unparallelled run of lack of conflict

Balkan wars? Greece and Turkey in Cyprus? Suez?

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 06:22:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Again, really small and few stuff compared to the bloodletting in the European period of 1618-1944.
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 07:00:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you include the 30 years' War and the WWI and WWII in your time period you cannot exclude 1914-44 from 1914-present.

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 09:43:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm excluding the world wars.  Just look at the historical record of wars between the big ones, and the present age, post WWII, simply is less violent than before. This is especially the case for Europe, which has the closest relationship with the US as the guarantor of each country's security an a kind of external imperial benign overlord which replaced Europe's internal balance of power system.
by santiago on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 09:55:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
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

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

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

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

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

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

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

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

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

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

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.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES!

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

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

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

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

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

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

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.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

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.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES!

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.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES!

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 ]
Suez is really stretching it.

But even if we look at the european world ordered by the congress of vienna,

between 1815 and 1870 there was:

civil war and french intervention in spain,

crimea war,

revolution, civil war and intervention in 1848,

hellenic independence wars,

war between belgium and the netherlands (independence),

two danisch-german wars,

one german civil war in 1866,

war of italian independence in 1859,

polnish insurrections,

a swiss civil war,

several wars and civil wars involving the osman empire - not sure if all of them count as europe.

So yes, this period of european history is very peaceful compared even to the 19th century, no need to drag the seven years war in.  

by IM on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 09:33:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... nothing like the violence in Africa that occurred after 1870, when the colonization cancer metastasized from coastal enclaves for most of the continent into the main centers of population. While Pax Americana has no difficulty matching the brutality of the Congo Free State of Leopold II, Europeans between 1815 and 1870 did not have the capacity to inflict that kind cruelty on that scale, and likely only because they did not have the means, did not.


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 Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 01:24:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a pan-European war just can't happen while this remains true. (If it could, does it make any sense at all that the rest of Europe would allow German bankers to rape them as they are currently doing?)

Maybe the rape by German bankers will be the event that makes it possible again. Can I borrow your crystal ball? I'd like to know whether the EU will continue to exist in 20 years.

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 06:20:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Almost every European state is now a strategic military ally of the US in one way or another independent of their strategic relationships with other European powers, which means that a pan-European war just can't happen while this remains true.

Cyprus 1974.

(If it could, does it make any sense at all that the rest of Europe would allow German bankers to rape them as they are currently doing?)

Yes. It provides a convenient narrative for far-right forces to dismantle European civilisation, a civilisation to which they have always been fundamentally an intractably opposed.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 10:23:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
(And although the victories are certainly Pyrrhic ones, the US does not appear to have been actually defeated in Iraq or Afghanistan as it was in Vietnam.  Saddam Hussein and the Taliban were removed from power and governments allied with the US are currently in power in both countries, unlike Vietnam.)

To beat the result of Vietnam there must be allied governments in Iraq and Afghanistan two years after the withdrawal of combat forces. So in 2013 and 2016 (if the schedule is kept in Afghanistan) we will be able to see if the installed governments are able to beat Thieu's record.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES!

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 04:42:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd need very impressive odds to bet on a US-allied government in Afghanistan two continuous years after the US leaves.

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 Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 06:39:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That may be a bit too restrictive.  By those criteria, the US never successfully defeated Germany or Japan yet because there are still "combat troops" deployed in both countries, although they are not there presumably to do combat any longer.
by santiago on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 05:04:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the US still had combat troops in Saigon, then South Vietnam would still be an ally...

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 08:19:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The next worlds to conquer will be information systems, whether digitech, nanotech or biotech.  And someone will conquer them and make the existing system completely irrelevant, and the existing system will have a war, and someone will win, maybe the US, maybe evilcorp.
by njh on Tue May 1st, 2012 at 11:18:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... maybe the US, maybe evilcorp.

Is that from the Department of Redundancy Department?

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 01:21:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The outbreaks have often been in the soft borders between regional power systems ~ Italy and Spain in the turn of the 18th/19th centuries, the Balkans for WWI, Mitteleuropa for WWII (created as a soft border by WWI).

So Southwest Asia is no bad bet for the one coming within the next two decades.


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 Mon Apr 30th, 2012 at 09:45:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Predicting the periodicity of world wars through some attempt to find numerical patterns seems like it may be a classic case of over-thinking the problem.

Just a nitpick - just because something has a well-defined frequency of occurrence doesn't mean it's periodic. A Poisson process looks distinctly non-periodic to the naked eye even though it can be generated by assuming a constant rate per unit time and no memory.

So observing the frequency of occurrence of wars above a certain size doesn't constitute a prediction of periodicity.

As I wrote elsewhere in this thread

... the simple[s]t model ... assumes the recurrence is Poissonian and so the expected time until the next even[t] is always the same - the fact that we've had 70 years of peace neither increases nor decreases the probability of another big event.

In other words, "the big one is overdue" is not the proper interpretation of the simples[t] (memoryless) hypothesis. It's a case of gambler's fallacy where a streak of heads makes people believe a tails is overdue and more likely to happen, but it actually isn't.

So we still have 70 years of peace ahead of us... until we don't.



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 06:25:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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