The Not So Long Peace?

by Richard Rosecrance

Everyone knows that the expectation of any event is equal to its probability times the consequences which ensue if it occurs. (E = p x c).

A rather improbable event, therefore, can still be worrisome if its consequences are severe. Even if the probability of major war has declined, we cannot neglect war’s possible occurrence. After all, the probability of war in 1914 was quite low, though it still took place.

First, a possible glitch in the decline of major war theory is that when one great power rises to challenge a leader, war is more likely. Of the 13 cases of such challenge since 1500, all but three ended in major conflict. Perhaps the reason for peace since 1945 is that (except for the Cold War) there have been no cases of one Great Power threatening to pass the hegemonic leader in charge. Despite Japan’s surge in the 1980s, it posed  no such threat. Ernest May shows that when the United States surpassed Britain in 1890s, the British acceded to all American demands, on the Venezuelan boundary, the independence of Panama and the Panama Canal, and the growing size of the US Navy. [May Aspen paper, (Summer, 2006)].  In 2020 the United States is unlikely to concede all Chinese claims (to the islands in South China Sea, the absorption of Taiwan, and an unlimited increase in Chinese armaments). What then?

Second, having recently surveyed the events of the two World Wars, a number of historians and political scientists concluded that leadership or the lack thereof can make a huge difference in the occurrence of truly improbable events. [See E. May, R. Rosecrance and Z. Steiner, eds. “History and Neorealism” (2010)] The First World War was in the parlance of the time, “the war to end wars.” Neville Chamberlain shared that conclusion but nonetheless opted for war against Germany on September 3, 1939. Even Hitler wanted to avoid general war, picking individual opponents as one plucks artichoke leaves, one after other; at the same time, if frustrated, he would attack even bigger countries, leading to war with most of the world. Recent data on Chinese Poliburo debates reveals in 1950 that Mao Zedong was one of the few members who would willingly intervene in the Korean War; others including some military leaders preferred to hold back. Mao’s emotional predominance, dictated the outcome. Similar information indicates the majority of the Ex-Com decision-makers in 1962 initially favored bombing or invasion of Cuba, with all of the consequences that might have involved. In 1941 Franklin Roosevelt was willing to push Japan (perhaps toward war) in order to prevent it joining with Germany in the attack on Russia. Inexorable historical trends did not chart leaders’ conclusions. In many if not most of these episodes, a leader acted differently from his associates and from historical trends, with perilous consequences for all concerned.

Steven Pinker rightly says that the probability of major war has been “decimated” but that strictly means reduced by one-tenth, and even if more greatly, we should not be consoled by historical tendencies that no leadership will necessarily follow or even be aware of.

This means that rather than relying on historical trends to protect the world, we have in fact to do something about it. I have suggested a large amalgamation of Europe and the United States to create a positive overbalance of power which will in the end attract China to play an important role in a wider world.

By allandafoe Posted in GT2030

4 comments on “The Not So Long Peace?

  1. Euro, USD, or whatever, crrneucy’s are flawed because they can be manipulated. Goverments all over the world are expanding while history teaches us that all paper monetary regimes have collapsed. Sound money can not be printed at a whim. Credit bubbles do not exist in a sound money economy. Manipulation is impossible in a sound money economy. If you wonder why real assets continue to move higher look at the worlds system of crrneucy. My advice…convert your crrneucy of choice to something tangible, in fact I will give you a bushel of corn for some mango’s from your tree! Also, I will sell you some farm ground for a few ounces of gold. Best wishes to Moise, thanks for ALL you do!

  2. Pingback: “Global Trends”- CIA: Asia will as before be the center of economich development – Europa and US will losse their postions. Middleclass will be soon most important globally, but consume more and more, which will be a big problem for envi

  3. Will the Long Peace Persist? The probability of global war

    Prediction of social trends is hard indeed but hereunder some thoughts provoked by this blog theme.

    Processes vs trends: Ask not just what the statistical trend might indicate (absence of major power warfare but not of all war) but aim to explain it as the product of ongoing processes. Good coverage of urbanization, but how about democratization, or the information revolution? And what about the long cycle of global politics, viewed as mechanism of global political evolution?

    Lack of proper theory? I am disappointed that there was no mention of the theory of long cycles that is anchored in evolutionary learning concepts (‘cycles’ meaning ‘recurrence’). Has been around since 1976, has a literature, and a website, is evidence-based, and has been tested, all the while expanding its range. It also has a good record of prediction: phase of deconcentration: rise of new powers since 2000.

    Prediction: There is some (small but high-impact) probability that an event-sequence (the selection-macrodecision phase of the current long cycle) occurring and possibly taking the form of globally-significant warfare will set in about 2030, that is some three generations since the close of the last such phase (1945). There is no inevitability about it: that phase centered on global authority structures, could take the form of peaceful competition arond the solution of urgent global problems (not unlike an election campaign), but it also could generate a series of conflicts that need not be seen as another 30-years war but as a significant phase of dislocation and uncertainty potentially punctuated by bursts of major hostilities and local and regional conflicts.

    That prediction is based on (1) frequency statistics of the occurrence of past globally significant warfare in the experience of the modern world (five times over the past 500 years, nine times on the scale of the millennium), and (2) on the concept of phased, evolutionary learning actuated by a succession of S-shaped processes.

    Emergence: That probability may be trumped, therefore, by global political evolution, that is by the global system’s rising capacity for learning and by the emergence of political institutions specializing in global problem-solving (as e.g. the economic bodies mentioned earlier) but also by innovation, rising solidarity, and higher quality information aided by enhanced intelligence – the Flynn effect?

    Risk assessment The net result of the present review of the prospectrs for a long peace is a division of opinion, each side of which is armed with important arguments. One way to help clarify that question is to construct an index that estimates a value for the probability of global war by 2030. Construct a continuing (annual) 8index of that probability by following such risk factors as:
    longevity of the long peace, arms races, territorial issues, etc. The probability of global peace would then be given by 1 – Pgw. That might be estimated by such factors as the strength of democratic peace, institutionalization, global zero, information intensity, aided by public/expert opinion surveys. Changes in both values might play a role as warning signals.

    Modelski, G. (2012) “Preventing Global War” at pp. 587-609 of Hall Garddner and O. Kobtzeff eds, THE ASHGATE RESEARCH COMPANION TO wAR: ORIGINS AND PREVENTION, London: Ashgate.

  4. Excelente articulo ,pero la probabilidad de que el mundo se divida en dos grandes blokes., es alta ,sabemos que estados unidos lidera un bloke ,lo que da tranquilidad al mundo , pero que pasa con el lado asiatico , china sin duda lo lidera , pero y rusia que papel desempeña ,que lado debe elegir ? o crear un tercer bloke con aspiraciones propias ? cuales seran ? quien lo conformara ? . Creo que el mapa de poderes esta en desarrollo y la apuesta maxima, puede terminar en un conflicto como el de 1914 solo que su centro estara en asia y europa .

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