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Trump Withdraws from Cold War Relict Treaty
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The INF Treaty was signed at a time when the US and the USSR were the world’s dominant military powers and nobody else even came close.

cmp-usa-russia-china-1940-2015

Today, it is China that is undoubtedly the world’s second strongest conventional military Power. And while the US still retains dominance in the South China Sea according to reputable analysts (e.g. RAND), its margin of superiority is shrinking year by year.

rand-us-vs-china

rand-us-vs-china-air-war-taiwan

rand-us-vs-china-air-war-spratlys

Subscribing to this Cold War relict of a treaty is increasingly ruinous for the US, which requires more and more aeronaval assets to balance China. It will become completely unsustainable in the coming age of hypersonic missiles.

Russia breaking the INF is merely a convenient cover story.

That said, given NATO’s relative strength in air assets, the death of the INF will be beneficial for Russia as well, at least so far as a potential European theater is concerned.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Geopolitics, Military, United States 
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  1. Beckow says:

    One of the unfortunate dynamics of the previous Cold War was that short-range missiles would almost certainly devastate and depopulate all of Europe, while the rest of the world could remain relatively unscathed. The short flight time, and correspondingly a very short response time, were also very destabilising. INF was a European peace treaty – an attempt to shift any conflict away from Europe.

    With US leaving the ABM treaty in 2001 and placing missiles all around Russia, the INF treaty was not viable. (I know, ‘defensive’, I am sure somebody will explain how bullets can be either offensive, or defensive depending on who you are; and ‘against Iran’, that makes it all ok.) What we are getting will be hundreds (thousands) of short-range missiles pointing at each other with 5-7 minute flight time. In Kaliningrad, Poland, Romania, Crimea, they can finally have a show-down. It is good for US, and partially for Russia. It is bad for Europe, now again designated as the most likely battlefield.

    And where are the 2 billion surplus Africans supposed to relocate if Europe becomes uninhabitable? As always, Trump figured out how to be racist about an issue.

    • Agree: German_reader
    • Replies: @El Dato
    , @Felix Keverich
  2. songbird says:

    The de-nuclearization movement in the ’80s seems like an early case of the virtue-signaling which would soon take off to levels of existential crisis, all over the West.

    That said, the treaty seems like a small difference. Perhaps, mostly influencing the cost of deployment, since sea-based platforms were not prohibited. I wonder how many mobile launchers one could buy for the cost of a missile sub.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    , @Mitleser
  3. Sean says:

    https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2018/01/03/the_strategy_behind_russias_alleged_inf_treaty_breach_112848.html

    To assist in offsetting China’s tactical advantage, one can understand how the deployment of an INF range cruise missile would benefit Russia. There are countless scenarios, but one, in particular, would be the ability to hold Chinese ground forces at bay as they pour across the border or at least deter them from attacking in the first place.[...]

    In 2016 the Aegis Ashore Ballistic Missile Defence system was deployed to Romania, with Poland to follow in 2018, and in 2017 the THAAD Ballistic Missile Defence system was deployed to South Korea. These systems include the use of powerful radars designed to provide missile defense against targets within the Short to Intermediate range. The Russians claim that these U.S. BMD systems are in fact a breach of the INF Treaty as they can be converted to launch missiles within the INF range. The deployment by Russia of missiles within the INF range could be used in a tactical scenario to counter these systems and their radars. [...] From the Russian perspective, they are being sandwiched between BMD defenses to their West and East and increased INF range missile proliferation to their South.

    Hence the Novator 9M729

  4. El Dato says:
    @Beckow

    Getting flashbacks about Germans shitting their pants over “Neutronenbomben”. Funky times are here again.

    The vague possibility of an ABM system actually working will give this another dynamic though. There is something into which a lot of “money” (really just debt sheet numbers) can be ploughed, in addition to the lot of “money” that can go into the fresh short-range nukery.

    Random thought:

    It’s nice to disown a treaty to be able to buy more toys, but you must be able to manage those toys, too. Unless the plan is to shift money to MIC buddies and leave plutonium cores rotting in cellars guarded by low-bid private companies.

    > US nuclear forces seem to be letting it hall hang out a bit; from basic security breaches to smoking crack/pot on base. I also remember real nukes being flown on B-52 around the US 10 years ago because they got mixed up with props.
    > US nuclear weapons engineering is redlined and can’t take on more work (can’t find link, sorry). Infrastructure Is Crumbling. Plans to upgrade Los Alamos for additional Pu pit production are bureaucracy levels of ridiculous. Accidents will happen.
    > There already quite a few superfund sites out there apparently being handled in a way to maximize taxpayer extraction. Want more? Yes we can.
    > When you have to go hard on an 80-year old nun who broke into your super-duper nuke storage plant to protest, in order to keep any semblance of face, you have a problem.
    > What happened to the Obamba-era 1 trillion-over-10-years small nuke modernization program?
    > How long will the nuclear test ban treaty REALLY stand now?

  5. Why should the United States need to prepare for the possibility of a war with China?

    What plausible/probable course of action could the Chinese government take that would be worth it for the US government to go to war to stop?

    Suppose China pursues as aggressively as it possibly can the territories it currently disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan. So what? How does this in any way threaten the security or prosperity of the average American citizen—-let alone do so more than a war with the PRC would?

    Is there any evidence whatsoever to suggest that the Chinese government wishes to invade and occupy any of its neighbors and is only constrained from doing so by the US presence in the region, with the possible exception of Taiwan?

    In my view, the US should simply wash its hands of East Asia, at least in terms of security commitments. It is natural for the most powerful state in a region to want to exert some degree of influence over its neighbors, and it is a gross overextension of US aims that America attempts to prevent Russia, China and Iran from doing so in their respective regions.

    This conclusion seems warranted to me on both moral and self-interested grounds. The respective leaderships of Russia, China and Iran seem to me to be mostly pragmatically inclined, and would prefer regional stability. That is to say, none have vastly criminal and brutal ambitions for a regional order, like those of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and the USSR, that could potentially morally justify a war against them.

    Furthermore, this is very tentative and I’d need to do a lot more research, but I think that there’s a strong case to be made that states often greatly overestimate the value and efficacy of (at least aggressive/imperial) war; there seem to be quite a lot of cases where it turns out to be vastly longer and more costly, and results in considerably fewer gains, than its proponents expected.

    How many wars since 1648 can you name that were clearly “worth it” for the people of the nation that started it and/or won? (And how many can you name that clearly weren’t?) For instance, consider Germany/Prussia’s victory over France in 1870-71; a masterful campaign at relatively little cost, but how did it actually benefit German citizens? A question that becomes even more complicated when you consider that the humiliation of France in the war and the subsequent peace terms birthed Revanchism, which played some part in the eventual outbreak of the First World War.

    • Replies: @Aslangeo
    , @Jaakko Raipala
  6. @songbird

    Perhaps, mostly influencing the cost of deployment, since sea-based platforms were not prohibited. I wonder how many mobile launchers one could buy for the cost of a missile sub.

    It was beneficial for NATO, because they have many more ships.

    • Replies: @songbird
  7. Mitleser says:
    @songbird

    I wonder how many mobile launchers one could buy for the cost of a missile sub.

    Why bother with missile subs?

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    , @songbird
  8. Aslangeo says:
    @the Supreme Gentleman

    Very good points – offensive war is almost never worth it, defensive war for self preservation always is.

    War hawks always overestimate the chance of success, always underestimate costs and paint a best case scenario. The fact that almost all western politicians have no personal experience of war . e.g bone spurs, mean that they are more likely to see anything as a cake walk

    examples of offensive wars gone wrong in no particular order

    1. Germany& Austria in WWI
    2. Germany and Japan in WWII
    3. North Korea in Korean War I
    4. Iraq in Ian War and Gulf War I
    5. Argentina in Falklands/Malvinas
    6. USA in Vietnam
    7. USSR vs Finland
    8. Israel vs Lebanon in 2006

    even when the stated objectives – e.g regime change or conquest are achieved the costs are crippling and the results less than stellar

    examples
    1. USA in Iraq
    2. USA in Afghanistan
    3. Britain in Boer War

    one can also argue about Israel in 1967, when the campaign was successful but the aftermath less so

    Offensive war, particularly a crusade to is never worth it

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  9. I still doubt that conventional Chinese military is more powerful than Russian. Russia has an edge not only in military R&D, but also in fielding better quality equipment. And that goes from rifles, soldier equipment, tanks, jets and ships. Military logistics are more developed in Russia too. Russia also has better strategical and tactical weapons, cutting edge air defence, better military leadership with more real life experience.
    Chinese have a lot to learn from Russians when iy comes to military.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  10. @Aslangeo

    Offensive war, particularly a crusade to is never worth it

    War is usually best avoided, but this is a very strong and likely wrong statement. It’s not even very precise, because the difference between an offensive and a defensive war is often ambiguous.

    It’s likely that most wars Britain participated in between 1588 and 1914 were worth it. They managed to build an empire, populate a fifth of the world, and raise their living standards at relatively little cost in money or human lives. The same might be true of Muscovy’s and Russia’s wars between 1300 and 1914. Yes, they did make life better for the average muzhik, since the frequency of Tatar raids got lower (all the way to zero) and they could populate a fifth of the world (though lower quality lands than the British).

    Probably there are many more examples of individual wars being worth it, but these two examples strike me as very long term and undoubtedly true, and both include lots and lots of individual wars, and must be true of them on average. The net benefits from good wars were larger than the net costs of the bad ones.

    • Replies: @Aslangeo
    , @Anonymous
  11. @MilitaryCuckNPC

    I also doubt that the USSR had an edge over the USA in 1990, even without the rest of NATO.

    But the overall trends are well captured.

  12. Aslangeo says:
    @reiner Tor

    Yes you have a valid point, wars of conquest prior to the 20th century against non European peoples were beneficial to the Europeans and their American and Australian offshoots. If you have a maxim gun and they have a sharpened mango, the costs to you are minimal.

    Nowadays however most countries have some capability of fighting back. For example if China were to try a forcible unification with Taiwan the costs would be significant. A NATO attempt to have a regime change war against Russia would probably result in a nuclear holocaust.

    Tragically many western and some non western politicians believe that they are still in the 19th century and they can impose their will without cost. This is particularly true of the Ango Americans who have never experienced war on their own soil.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  13. @Aslangeo

    It included wars against fellow Europeans to protect those gains from the competition. Russia waged lots of wars against Turkey, which was a near peer for Russia at least in the 18th century, and enjoyed the support of formidable allies later on, but these wars provided Lebensraum to Russia’s population in the south, and ultimately protected it from Tatar raids, so were probably worth it.

  14. Today, it is China that is undoubtedly the world’s second strongest conventional military Power.

    I doubt it.

    As I explained earlier, Karlin’s approach to military power is overly simplistic. In Karlin’s universe there is no such a thing as military power per se, it’s literally a function of economic power, which in turn is defined as a function of just two variables: average IQ and GDP. China has more of both, so in Karlin’s model that places it way above Russia, but Karlin’s model is a very crude approximation of how the real world works.

    Subscribing to this Cold War relict of a treaty is increasingly ruinous for the US, which requires more and more aeronaval assets to balance China.

    This is what happens when you use faulty logic: you end up agreeing with John Bolton.

    In reality, China has no ability to threaten America, or indeed project power much beyond its borders and coastal waters. To “balance” China in the South China sea America has no need for land-based cruise missiles. INF treaty was not in any way an impediment to American goal of containing China.

    • Replies: @Mitleser
    , @Anatoly Karlin
  15. Mitleser says:
    @Felix Keverich

    A prominent American Chinahawk disagrees.

    The United States has fallen behind Chinese ground-based missile development due to a decades-old arms control treaty with Russia, threatening America’s edge in future wars against Beijing, the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific warned Thursday.

    “We are at a disadvantage with regard to China today in the sense that China has ground-based ballistic missiles that threaten our basing in the western Pacific and our ships,” Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    “We have no ground-based capability that can threaten China because of, among other things, our rigid adherence, and rightfully so, to the treaty that we sign onto, the INF treaty,” he said, using the acronym for the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

    Harris, who has been nominated to serve as the American ambassador to Australia, said the 1987 INF agreement between Washington and Moscow banning certain land-based intermediate-range missiles puts the U.S. military “at a disadvantage in the western Pacific” because China is not bound by its provisions. In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee last month, he said over 90 percent of Beijing’s ground-based missiles would violate the INF treaty.

    https://freebeacon.com/national-security/pacom-chief-inf-treaty-degraded-u-s-edge-chinese-missile-technology/

    • Replies: @Felix Keverich
    , @Vendetta
  16. @Felix Keverich

    … as a function of just two variables: average IQ and GDP.

    Actually it’s a function of military manpower, military capital (which is mostly a function of past military spending), technology, troop quality, and military culture.

    I did not actually include IQ, though in retrospect, I should have and will do so for the next edition.

    China isn’t “way” above Russia but it is substantially ahead now, by around 25% in 2015. There’s considerable uncertainty to be sure, but I doubt it’s greater than 25% either way. Three years later, this figure is now perhaps around 40%, though I’d have to rerun with new data to make sure.

    To “balance” China in the South China sea America has no need for land-based cruise missiles. INF treaty was not in any way an impediment to American goal of containing China.

    US warships can be sunk, including by submarines (rapidly converging to US/Russian standards) and hypersonic cruise missiles (in development).

    Land-based ballistic missiles are more survivable and the US has access to plenty of islands in the region.

    Land based systems are superior to naval ones in general, for the same reasons that assembled PCs are more powerful than laptops on a dollar-to-dollar basis.

    • Replies: @Felix Keverich
    , @Vendetta
  17. @Mitleser

    This doesn’t really contradict anything I said. He uses the same faulty logic Karlin is using: why would US need “ground based capability” to protect its ships? The ships themselves provide capability. Sea-based missiles weren’t regulated by the INF.

    The neocons are hostile to arms control agreements in general: they stand in the way of “full spectrum dominance”. This is why Bolton wanted to scuttle INF.

    • Replies: @Mitleser
  18. @Anatoly Karlin

    Can we treat this as an aknowledgement on the part of the US, that it’s massive navy is now basically obsolete? How are they planning to “balance” China with land-based missiles exactly? China has more continent in the region, than USA has islands.

    Land based systems are superior to naval ones in general, for the same reasons that assembled PCs are more powerful than laptops on a dollar-to-dollar basis.

    I agree. And this is why we should bring land-based Kaliber to Syria to make USA regret its decision.

  19. Mitleser says:
    @Felix Keverich

    As AK said, ships can be sunk.

    And even without that, the growth of the PLAN means that the USA cannot rely only on sea-based missiles. They need more and better protected missiles.

    • Replies: @Felix Keverich
  20. @Mitleser

    As AK said, ships can be sunk.

    Losing ships has always been a possibility when facing a capable adversary. But does this mean that ships can’t be useful anymore?

    There is no legitimate security interest that would justify for the US leaving the INF. It’s all about senseless neocon warmongering.

    • Replies: @Mitleser
  21. @Beckow

    What we are getting will be hundreds (thousands) of short-range missiles pointing at each other with 5-7 minute flight time. In Kaliningrad, Poland, Romania, Crimea, they can finally have a show-down. It is good for US, and partially for Russia. It is bad for Europe, now again designated as the most likely battlefield.

    This is a losing game for Russia, because the neocons don’t care about survival of Bucharest or Warsaw, but we care about Crimea and Kaliningrad. I think placing missiles in Syria and aiming them at Israeli cities would be a much better plan.

    • Replies: @iffen
    , @Beckow
  22. Mitleser says:
    @Felix Keverich

    Useful, but not sufficient against a peer opponent who is less restricted.

  23. @the Supreme Gentleman

    But does permanent peace benefit the average citizen? During extended periods of stability groups of elites can keep accumulating wealth and power unchecked until they’re completely removed from any connection to the average person.

    If the threat of war is removed by an outside power like the United States providing security for small European states, it leads to complete national degeneration where elites feel that they only need to appease their great power sponsor – the average person of the country isn’t needed to resist invaders so his value to the elites is at best economic and he can be replaced by foreigners who will work for less. The US even suffers this itself as it doesn’t have anything to fear from outside powers so its own power is becoming its own undoing.

    If elites have a realistic expectation that they might lose their position due to invaders or popular rebellion supported by foreign powers, they will try to develop models of society that provide reasons for the common man to be loyal to the elites of the country. The best situation for the average citizen is when a country expects a major war but it doesn’t actually happen. The early Cold War was probably good for the common man of the West as elites feared Soviet supported revolts while the crumbling of communism as a militant threat has convinced Western elites that they simply don’t need the loyalty of the common man.

    Maybe another Cold War would be a good thing.

    • Agree: reiner Tor
    • Replies: @Anonymous
  24. iffen says:
    @Felix Keverich

    I think placing missiles in Syria and aiming them at Israeli cities would be a much better plan.

    Only if you want your missiles destroyed.

  25. Vendetta says:
    @Mitleser

    China isn’t parking a battle fleet off the US coast year round to be targeted with land-based missiles.

  26. @Mitleser

    It’s probably still more expensive than a truck.

  27. Vendetta says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    I don’t think your model has successfully accounted for troop quality or military culture when it places Saudi Arabia as world’s #10 military power.

    If I recall, these qualitative factors were calculated mostly as a ratio of cash spent to number of men in uniform, with some arbitrary bonuses and penalties thrown in afterwards (-20 points to the Arabs, +10 points to the Germans and Mongolia, etc).

    Compare the military performance of Hezbollah’s soldiers to that of Saudi Arabia. The former is the Arab world’s most effective light infantry force, the latter is its most expensive and ineffective. Saudi Arabia pours tens of billions into its army; Hezbollah gets by on less than a billion dollars a year in Iranian funding.

    But when the going gets tough, the Saudis call in someone, anyone else to do their fighting for them: Americans, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Colombians, Sudanese. Meanwhile, Hezbollah are the ones their own allies call in when they’re facing a difficult battle.

    If the Iranians can buy superior training to the Saudis at only a fraction of the cost, expenditures per soldier goes out the window as a reliable indicator for quality soldiering.

    CMP is a fun toy to play around with but it is not in a fit state to make any authoritative judgments about military power (i.e. that China’s conventional power has ‘undoubtedly’ surpassed Russia’s).

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  28. @Vendetta

    I like the numbers, but I agree that it’s not yet without flaws. That said, troop quality is pretty difficult to measure, and while Hezbollah is a nice and competent military force, its competence is nothing extraordinary. It only looks extraordinary due to the ineffectiveness of other Arabs. Unless it gets air support and perhaps artillery and armored support from a professional military, its power is rather limited, basically they can only be effective at defending friendly territory.

    I agree that Saudi military power is overstated in the model, but they are huge outliers. It’s like GDP has its flaws, and overstates the size of the Irish economy, but still it’s a useful measure for most economies.

    • Replies: @LondonBob
  29. LondonBob says:
    @reiner Tor

    Hezbollah are more than that.

    Bolton is such a clown, even the US Congress wouldn’t approve him if the position of NSA required Congressional approval. Real test of how much Europe’s leaders are compromised given how negative this is for us.

  30. Beckow says:
    @Felix Keverich

    …neocons don’t care about survival of Bucharest or Warsaw

    Neocons are a tiny fraction of the West. Their power is based largely on caring more than everyone else. Being faced with nuclear annihilation focuses people, they start caring and they are a huge majority. In that sense, this escalation can change the political dynamic in the countries that are suddenly ground zero for other people’s geopolitical games.

    • Replies: @Felix Keverich
  31. songbird says:
    @reiner Tor

    I was thinking transporter erectors are probably politically unfeasible in the West because of anti-nuclear sentiment. Similarly, not many foreign allies of the US would likely want nukes at US overseas bases.

    I guess that leaves B-52s which would already have to be in the air and carrying warheads. Of course, that can be done 24/7, but would require significantly heightened tensions and probably is redundant anyway due to subs.

  32. songbird says:
    @Mitleser

    There’s probably something to be said for surface ships.

    I like having a few subs though, despite the pricetag. They make me sleep easier at night. Spy sats are approaching near total coverage of the earth – real time tracking of surface ships, through networks of satellites. They are tracked automatically by software, and that is just the commercial-grade stuff. They can be small investments – smallsats are capable of tracking ships. India launched 104 on one rocket recently. And the cost of launches is something that is definitively going down.

  33. @Beckow

    I don’t expect anti-US rebellion in Poland on any time soon. History is full of examples of people acting irrationally in the face of annihilation. This is especially true for Poland. lol

    • Replies: @Beckow
  34. Beckow says:
    @Felix Keverich

    I was thinking more about Germans, they tend to be rational. With INF gone, the most likely outcome are missiles pointed at each other from a short distance. Then either a ‘boom!‘ (and Poles write sad poems if there are any left), or after a decent interval the grown-ups start negotiating again. It will also hurt euro, zloty, etc… and put a cap on Warsaw real estate.

    • Replies: @Mitleser
  35. Mitleser says:
    @Beckow

    I was thinking more about Germans, they tend to be rational.

    So far, the response is weak.
    Say it is regrettable and the INF treaty is important for Europe’s security, blame Russia, ask America to consider the possible consequences,…

    Don’t expect much from Berlin.
    Merkel is struggling to keep her coalition together and foreign minister Maas is a weak foreign minister*.

    *he is neither party leader/vice chancellor nor was he the main candidate for this job

  36. europe might actually have to defend itself.

    who are we kidding. no they won’t.

    is it really such a bad thing? europe being wiped out by a tidal wave of third worlders? europeans are useless, pathetic wimps now.

    increasingly, i care less when i see videos of and read reports about third worlders raping women, killing random people, even seeing school kids getting bullied.

    at some point you have to say, so what? now they just deserve it. they won’t resist? then they get what they get.

    my suggestion: putin puts 3 million russian troops on his border – WITHOUT their uniforms. no weapons, no equipment. they simpy march on foot all the way to london, occupying every western european capital on the way there.

    will any european nation stop them?

  37. Commenting hiatus until November 2.

    • Replies: @Mitleser
  38. Anonymous[679] • Disclaimer says:
    @reiner Tor

    Caveat lector: I’m a bit tired and this isn’t super elegantly written.

    War is usually best avoided, but this is a very strong and likely wrong statement. It’s not even very precise, because the difference between an offensive and a defensive war is often ambiguous.

    It’s a strong contention, but one that I think is probably considerably justified by the evidence. At least, to a much greater degree than most ordinary citizens, historians, politician scientists, politicians and military officers are aware.

    A policy of solely defensive war might not be ideal—though perhaps it is—but I think it would lead to better results than the actual policies pursued by states since, say, 1789, in something like 80% of cases.

    It’s likely that most wars Britain participated in between 1588 and 1914 were worth it. They managed to build an empire, populate a fifth of the world, and raise their living standards at relatively little cost in money or human lives.

    Strong disagree. (Incidentally, you’re making basically the exact argument that leftists/Marxists make about the relationship between capitalism, imperialism and warfare, but viewed from a different angle.)

    Firstly, your contention that the British Empire significantly increased the living standards of Britons on the whole seems incorrect to me. The “high noon” of the British Empire is generally agreed to be ~1815-1914, when it came to, as you note, encompass massive amounts of territory and people, mostly in Africa and the Indian Subcontinent.

    If the theory that empire in general, and the British Empire in particular, raises the living standards of the core nation is correct, then Britain should have been wealthier per capita than non-imperial nations by leaps and bounds. Yet according to the late economic historian Paul Bairoch’s estimates of historical PPP adjusted GNP per capita, the UK and completely non-imperial Switzerland had very close GNP per capita over this entire period—904 compared to 895 1960 USD in 1913. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_regions_by_past_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita#Western_Europe_1%E2%80%931870_(Lo_Cascio/Malanima))

    Furthermore, while Britain was indeed wealthier than most European nations at this time, it was not so by the overwhelming margins you would expect if wealth was substantially a function of empire. From the same source as before, Denmark had a 1913 GNP per capita of $865, Norway of $749, Belgium of $894, the Netherlands of $754, Sweden of $680, France of $689 and Germany of $743. Clearly, imperialism does very little to explain variation in living standards: if it did, how would 1913 France, with its global empire, have living standards so comparable to those of Sweden? And of course Russia, despite its gigantic empire, was one of the poorer nations in Europe at this time, with a 1913 GNP per capita of $326.

    Then, consider what happened to Britain after it completely lost its empire after WW2. Did it regress to stone age living standards without the alleged source of its wealth? Of course not, which makes it doubtful that empire really made Britain richer.

    Economist Joel Mokyr explained why imperialism was not the source of England’s wealth, as well put forward interesting arguments about what was, in his book the Enlightened Economy. (https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300189513/enlightened-economy)

    Generally, wealth in the modern world at least comes from having high-IQ people who can work under functional institutions to create things, not from having an empire that you forcibly extract resources from.

    Secondly, like most arguments for imperialism, you tautologically cite the existence of empire as a self-evident positive good justifying wars for empire. I do not accept this leap. Once again, from the perspective of the ordinary Englishman, so what that England had an empire? How did it make his life better to justify the taxes he paid and military service he might be forced to render to create and preserve it?

    Thirdly, the more interesting thing to consider here, as is so often the case, is the dog that didn’t bark: that is to say, the success and longevity of Britain as a Great Power is substantially due to the fact that its statesmen were very, very careful over the years about not overextending by fighting wars willy-nilly. As contrasted with, say, Louis XIV’s or Napoleon’s respective rulerships of France, during which they initiated several very costly wars for little gain. Or, to return to your 1588 date, consider Phillip II of Spain’s wars against England and the Netherlands.

    And it’s suggestive that you end your period of good wars with 1914, because, as for instance Niall Ferguson and Pat Buchanan have argued, Britain’s participation in the First World War was a colossal mistake. An act of tremendous folly that clearly resulted in no benefit to the British people worth the immense suffering it produced.

    The same might be true of Muscovy’s and Russia’s wars between 1300 and 1914. Yes, they did make life better for the average muzhik, since the frequency of Tatar raids got lower (all the way to zero) and they could populate a fifth of the world (though lower quality lands than the British).

    I think this is conflating two kinds of war, one which I agree can be good and one which I continue to maintain is bad. (Although I didn’t fully realize/elaborate this distinction in my original comment.) On the one hand, there’s state-building—the unification of relatively culturally/ethnically/religious small warring polities into one centralized unit. (Like what, say, Alfred the Great or Qin Shi Huang did.)

    I agree that this at least can be morally/pragmatically justified. One could read sympathetic accounts of this process in books by, say, Steven Pinker, Francis Fukuyama, Azar Gat and Ian Morris. This is why I chose “1648,” the year that the Treaty of Westphalia was signed, as an (admittedly crude) starting point. My argument is more about 1) Clausewitzian war between states and 2) imperial “low intensity conflict,” as per the discussion of these concepts in Martin van Creveld’s book the Transformation of War.

    I think these wars are almost entirely negative from the point of view of the ordinary citizens of even the victorious state, let alone those of the losing one.

    By the way, how did the Crimean War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War 1 work out for Russia? Do you think the interests of ordinary Russians were best served by the Russian state’s decision to go to war in those cases?

    Probably there are many more examples of individual wars being worth it,

    I doubt this (at least in terms of wars of states against states and states trying to build empires), and would be curious to see what examples people would try to provide of this, weighed against the many obvious examples of wasteful, pointless and/or suicidal wars one could cite. (For instance, the Boer War, World War 1, the Winter War and the French campaign in Algeria from 1954-62.)

    and both include lots and lots of individual wars, and must be true of them on average. The net benefits from good wars were larger than the net costs of the bad ones.

    I think I’ve adequately demonstrated this not to be the case, at least in terms of imperialism. I don’t believe that the evidence suggests that the lives of ordinary Britons or Russians would be significantly better without empire. Probably most of the wars that both states have respectively initiated since 1648 or so did not measurably achieve anything for average citizens. (My criticism of war is not limited to imperialism, take note.)

  39. Anonymous[679] • Disclaimer says:
    @Jaakko Raipala

    But does permanent peace benefit the average citizen?

    Yes, because they, their family members, their friends and their neighbors are less likely to die, get seriously injured, have their property destroyed, be forced to move and/or pay exorbitant taxes, all of which are generally considered to be beneficial.

    During extended periods of stability groups of elites can keep accumulating wealth and power unchecked until they’re completely removed from any connection to the average person.

    Presumably that’s why you try to build a political system like democracy, or for that matter epistocracy, that prevents such corruption.

    The solution to this hypothetical problem would at first seem to be political activism and reform, not war.

    If the threat of war is removed by an outside power like the United States providing security for small European states, it leads to complete national degeneration where elites feel that they only need to appease their great power sponsor – the average person of the country isn’t needed to resist invaders so his value to the elites is at best economic and he can be replaced by foreigners who will work for less.

    I’m not sure that this hypothesis is correct. Japan is heavily reliant on the US for its security, and yet has very strict immigration restrictions. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland are all NATO member states who aren’t in any great danger of military invasion, and all have refused to take in substantial numbers of refugees/immigrants.

    By contrast, the US and UK are two of the most martial Western countries, and also have relatively high levels of immigration. Indeed, ironically enough neoconservatives like Max Boot and Niall Ferguson have made almost the opposite argument: the US needs immigrants to serve as imperial cannon fodder, and should allow immigration on the basis of military service. (“Service guarantees citizenship”, like in Starship Troopers.)

    The US even suffers this itself as it doesn’t have anything to fear from outside powers so its own power is becoming its own undoing.

    I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re arguing here; could you elaborate?

    Historically, the fall of Great Powers has often/usually come from military over-extension: Athens in Syracuse, Napoleon in Spain and Russia, Hitler in the USSR, etc.

    Great quote by AJP Taylor that I wanted to drop somewhere:

    “Though the object of being a Great Power is to be able to fight a Great War, the only way of remaining a Great Power is not to fight one.”

    If elites have a realistic expectation that they might lose their position due to invaders or popular rebellion supported by foreign powers, they will try to develop models of society that provide reasons for the common man to be loyal to the elites of the country.

    Somewhat true…”war made the state and the state made war”…but not wholly so, at least. The ruling class of Imperial Russia was killed/exiled/removed from power by the aftermath of the Bolshevik ascension to power, which never could have happened without Russia’s disastrous loss in the First World War. Despite the immense threat posed to Russia’s ruling class by popular discontent (as per the events of 1905) and a potential military loss to Germany, the Russian elites did not do a very competent job of “developing a model of society that provides reasons for the common to be loyal to the elites of the country.” Stolypin did his best, but it was too little, too late.

    That is to say, you’re assuming that elites are rational and all-knowing. The ones that survive at the end of a Darwinian process of warfare may be, but an immense amount of foolish and wasteful conflict may occur beforehand.

    Furthermore, as I stated above, I don’t see that warfare, as opposed to democracy (or at least just political reform more broadly) is the best or only means to accomplish this end.

    The best situation for the average citizen is when a country expects a major war but it doesn’t actually happen

    Yeah, I agree that it’s good when war doesn’t happen, except I don’t think it matters whether it’s expected or not.

    The early Cold War was probably good for the common man of the West as elites feared Soviet supported revolts while the crumbling of communism as a militant threat has convinced Western elites that they simply don’t need the loyalty of the common man.

    Well, in some cases, like Italy in 1948, the threat of Communism caused the US to trample on the will of the common man even in Europe, let alone around the globe, so I’m not sure if this is true.

    Generally, I think that’s a pretty dangerous game to play. The state could become tyrannical, or an actual war could break out. As a rule, I tend to be suspicious of political proposals that depend on constant deception. (As Lincoln said: “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”)

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