"Peace On Earth." We repeat the phrase often at this time of year. It's standard boilerplate -- a postive suggestion, but not very likely. However, Paul Krugman wrote this week that there are realistic reasons to support the suggestion. Those reasons have been around for awhile:
More than a century has passed since Norman Angell, a British journalist and politician, published “The Great Illusion,” a treatise arguing that the age of conquest was or at least should be over. He didn’t predict an end to warfare, but he did argue that aggressive wars no longer made sense — that modern warfare impoverishes the victors as well as the vanquished.
Krugman believes there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Angell was right. Iraq and Afghanistan stand as sad examples of the fact that the spoils of conquest are no longer what they used to be. And Vladimir Putin's recent empire building offers more evidence that conquest no longer pays:
Look at what passes for a Putin success, the seizure of Crimea: Russia may have annexed the peninsula with almost no opposition, but what it got from its triumph was an imploding economy that is in no position to pay tribute, and in fact requires costly aid. Meanwhile, foreign investment in and lending to Russia proper more or less collapsed even before the oil price plunge turned the situation into a full-blown financial crisis.
So what does the evidence tell us about the guys who keep insisting they're the smartest guys in the room?
Let’s not forget how we ended up invading Iraq. It wasn’t a response to 9/11, or to evidence of a heightened threat. It was, instead, a war of choice to demonstrate U.S. power and serve as a proof of concept for a whole series of wars neocons were eager to fight. Remember “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran”?
The point is that there is a still-powerful political faction in America committed to the view that conquest pays, and that in general the way to be strong is to act tough and make other people afraid. One suspects, by the way, that this false notion of power was why the architects of war made torture routine — it wasn’t so much about results as about demonstrating a willingness to do whatever it takes.
Christmas isn't about doing whatever it takes. It's about doing for others not to others. Merry Christmas to all. Perhaps next year there will be more peace on earth.
The entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.