Your one-stop shop for everything related to the Peace of Westphalia

I mentioned yesterday that the article I cited supported what I regarded as a fantasy of planetary interdependence. Specifically, the author argued for a kind of “planetary realism” that “recognizes that the security of each depends inextricably on cooperation and collaboration with others in aligning with the self-regulating ecosystem of the Earth.” This view throws in environmentalism, but it is based on a much older idea that states have become so interdependent that war has become self-defeating.

I remember hearing a professor espousing such a view when I was in college, as though it was a new thing, brought about by increasing globalization. It turns out, though, that the theory that interdependence has made war obsolete goes back much further. It was famously espoused by Normal Angell in his book “The Great Illusion,” published in 1910. The title of the book was the basis for the title of a 1937 French anti-war movie, “La Grande Illusion.” As you can judge from the fact that Angell’s book was published just 4 years before World War I, his theory did not bear up so well in practice. Nevertheless, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933 — just before another, even more destructive war further buried his ideas into irrelevance.

You can make a case that globalization has progressed much further today than it had in 1910 or 1939, so it is possible that war really has become obsolete. I think, however, that anyone who believes this is dangerously naive. No doubt war is counterproductive in many of its aspects, but man is not simply an economic animal, in spite of what Marx believed. Men are jealous and men crave power and shun humiliation, and these things will overcome economic interests at times. I’m sure Russia would be wealthier without its war in Ukraine, not only because of the costs of the war, but also because of the sanctions the West has imposed on Russia. Nevertheless, Putin did invade, and he continues to reject any settlement that would give him less than what he wants. Ukraine, too, refuses to make peace that would lose it territory. A world war would be infinitely more destructive, even if it avoided nuclear weapons; and yet I do not sleep easy on the theory that men will have to lose wealth if they choose war.

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