Peace Is Not Great

For over 100 years, much of the West’s intellectual culture has come to agree that war ought to be ended as a human institution. We have never really gotten around to achieving that, but the past two major wars and many major international institutions have had as an explicit aim the elimination of war between nation-states.

Those states which refuse to abide by the new international system (the League of Nations between the two world wars and the United Nations after the second) tend to be referred to as ‘rogue states.’ The United States, being the widely-acknowledged leading global power, has even occasionally referred to the remaining rogue states as members of an ‘Axis of Evil,’ even when those states are not that rogue at all or even aligned in an axis, especially in the cases of Syria, Iran, and Iraq.

One of the core, nearly-unchallenged myths about the end of war between states is that of the claim that nuclear weapons have made war between major states obsolete. The attempt of the Reagan, both Bush administrations, and the Clinton administration to develop anti-ballistic missile technology was met with pervasive opposition on the political left. Noam Chomsky in particular is a good example of the left’s opposition to the development of space-based weaponry, especially the sorts of weapons systems which might be capable of changing the geopolitical balance of power with respect to ‘mutually assured destruction’ which is theorized to limit conflict between major states.

The goal of promoting peace is not the same as the goal of restricting war into a shared moral framework. The same people who argue for peace as the highest moral good tend to be the same people who have also broken down the moral framework which formerly restricted war. Before the period of mass conscription, and later that of total war, the notion that civilians could be a legitimate target in war tended to be seen as restricted to the more barbaric times in history. But every time humans tend to think that they have sealed away the beast, it finds a way to break out again.

The moderns sneered at chivalry, but then recoiled in shock and horror when they re-discovered why chivalry had been developed in the first place. In its place, they applied a thick goop of sentimental pseudo-ethics, for fear that without it, Westerners would proceed again to turn tens of millions of men, women, and children into charred husks again.

War is to states as bankruptcy is to corporations. Loss in war clears away or weakens states which are no longer capable of effectively governing. By attempting to abolish war in Europe, for example, all that has been accomplished is a promotion of mass-misgovernment. Weak, inefficient, and essentially corrupt governments stay in power whereas they might have been cleared away through conflict in previous eras.

By suppressing small, regular conflicts, the international system permits resentments and hatreds to fester. By attempting to force different groups together, forbidding any sort of reasonable exclusionary principles, it develops mild dislikes into loathing. In the same way that a strong preference for comfort in the day-to-day leads to the development of a deadly obesity in the individual, an overweening preference for peace and cooperation leads to a guarantee of far worse destruction in the future.

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6 Comments

  1. At this moment I drop only one bomb. Did the Soviet conquest of half of Europe with the help of allied forces clear away corruption, mismanagement, misgovernment, weakness, inefficiency, etc. Well, I think it cleared away obesity, that is for sure.

  2. Or to put it another way: All in favor of war gather to the nearest field and smite each other with swords until only one survives. We then observe if the blogging becomes more intelligent and efficient.

    1. Well, I am pretty sure that everyone who contributes to Social Matter is in favor of dueling (at least in the ideal form), so this might not be such a bad idea.

  3. By suppressing small, regular conflicts, the international system permits resentments and hatreds to fester.

    So similar to wildfires and how environmentalist policies have made them much bigger and deadlier.

    1. I will also add Taleb’s concept of Anti-fragility and his analysis of individuals as well as societies. It is that civilization being a particular form of social organization composed of living organisms is also therefore a super-organism in and of itself. The rules of biology applies to it just as it applies to individual organisms.

      Complete or near-perfect order leads to societal fragility which renders it increasingly vulnerable to black swan events. However if civilization were to experience an optimal level of disorder in relation to order it will grow stronger paradoxically in order in response to that, thereby it is anti-fragile as it gains in response to that level of disorder. Akin to a man gaining muscle as a result of lifting progressively heavier weights growing stronger as a result and being able to handle even heavier weights.

      Therefore if civilization is the remain strong and retain the ability to deal with bouts of random disorder that will inevitably occur in its lifetime. A regulation rather than the eradication of disorder is needed in order to bolster civilization against higher levels of disorder that inevitably comes its way due to Gnon.

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