The Science of Internationaal Relations (was WAR: appropriate...)

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Sun Nov 25 2001 - 01:21:55 MST

Daniel's comments triggered some thoughts --

> I mean the trend to look not toward a lasting
> peace after the war, but merely to fighting ferociously during the war,
> often obliterating the other society to the point that it creates a power
> vacuum. This did happen in both World Wars. [snip] Wars, instead, could
> be fought in a limited fashion with the limited aims, the goal being to
> make the peace after a war better than that before. Destroying Germany
> in WW2 did not do this. It lead to 40 years of costly and nearly fatal
> conflict with the USSR.

It is interesting to contrast the response by the Western allies to
creating a "peace" in Germany vs. Japan.

With Germany the response seems to have been -- what we did the
first time (after WWI) didn't work -- so lets do it differently
this time (a 4-part Germany -- parts of which were rebuilt
in significantly different images -- democratic vs. communist).
In contrast, the U.S. seems to have attempted to rebuild Japan
in essentially its own image. One might argue that the Japanese
Keiretsu vertical monopolies have put a significant Japanese "spin"
on that effort, but it largely seems successful.

Now, it seems unlikely that any of these approaches will work
in Afghanistan where things seem for the most part to be based
on feudal tribal warlord fiefdoms.

I disagree with Daniel that destroying Germany (or Japan) did not
have the result of creating a "better" peace. Germany and Japan
today are two of the least combative nations (from a military
perspective). It is presumably very difficult to predict whether
the elimination of a lesser foe is likely to bring two stronger
foes into greater conflict with one another. Given the differences
in political systems, the U.S./USSR conflict seems to have been probable
whether or not Germany or Japan had ever been participants in WWII.
Potential conflicts between "secular" and "fundamentalist" governments
around the world today might provide interesting comparisons to
the U.S./USSR differences of the cold war era.

However, the real point I want to raise is the *difficulty*
of creating reliable international relations. Unlike the
trust relations one has with individuals -- where one builds
the trust over time, where one can look the individual in
the face to see if perhaps they might be lying, where one
can study an individual's behavior to see if they are working
against you -- doing that with a "state entity" is rather
difficult. You cannot look them in the face, there may be
some elements working for your interests and other elements
working against your interests, etc.

We do not have mechanisms built into our genetic/meme-sets
to allow us to judge international trust relationships with
any relative degree of confidence. We are making these up
as we go along (having only a few hundred years of history
to draw on). Trust relationships are further complicated in
democratic societies by the shifting of the trust representatives
on the chess board (Clinton-Yeltsin, Bush-Putin, etc.).
Doesn't it strike anyone as *shocking* that the U.S. and
Britain who fought two wars against each other are now
the closest of allies?!?

One can consider that during the most recent ~300-400 (perhaps as much
as ~2200) years of human history (before ~1900) the "dominant"
international relations paradigm was "take whatever you can get
*and* hold". Only in the last century or so has it become apparent
that that strategy is problematic.

I do not have recomendations for how one can migrate international
relationships up to the level of trustability we seem to be able
to obtain in interpersonal relationships. (And as recent list
conversations show -- even interpersonal relationships among
those whose global perspectives are presumably similar may
be quite problematic.) I do think however that we *must* seek
goals regarding the modification of individuals within populations
or modifications of the ways populations communicate with each other
that promote a greater understanding of each others perspectives.
The current system of propagating trust up to higher levels (and
delgating it to individuals who may be corruptable) seems to me
to be a very fragile architecture.


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