Saturday, May 07, 2016

War and Peace and War in Europe

People say that the European Union has prevented war in Europe for seventy years; in fact, the truth is precisely the opposite - it is the absence of the conditions for war which have enabled the EU to stagger along all these years.

There are two conditions for war (armed conflict between states):
- two or more states experience differences which cannot be resolved peacefully;

- each state must be militarily capable with a belief in the possibility of winning.*
In the United States, a well-honed system of federal conflict resolution + economic unification tends to dampen inter-state conflicts of interest. If that were ever to break down, the US (federal) military would demolish any individual state's armed forces. They did it before.

In Europe, not so much.

Don't underestimate the sheer war-exhaustion and folk-memories of the Second World War in Europe's economically-strongest states as an engine of peace-so-far.

As Peter Turchin observed in "War and Peace and War" there is a generational cycle here:
'...the father’s generation fights bitterly, their sons seek to avoid the mistakes that led to violence, but the underlying pressures still exist, so their grandsons repeat the pattern as memories of the causes and consequence of civil strife fade.'
If the interests of states within the current EU were to diverge sufficiently, then war is perfectly possible - the legally-enshrined authority of the central institutions of the EU would be brushed aside as effortlessly as during the continuing refugee/immigration crisis and the events in Greece.

KALs' cartoon from The Economist this week

Inter-state war in Europe is neither an imminent prospect nor on the horizon, but a generation of young people has grown up who are not that scared of the idea (having not directly experienced the effects on their societies) and might even welcome the excitement, bonding and opportunities for glory. You may be able to think of examples even as we speak, in the middle-east.

In the absence of an EU army and a demilitarisation of its constituent members a la America, a sufficiently deep clash of interests could certainly lead to armed conflict. (The people pushing for an EU army understand this, I think, but that particular boat is never going to sail).

It's not like the 1990s Balkans conflicts (Yugoslavia was once 'for ever') and the recent Ukrainian events don't show viable scenarios.


* If two states have irreconcilable differences but one cannot stand up militarily against the other, we have a technical name for what then happens to it: it's defeated.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Keep it polite and no gratuitous links to your business website - we're not a billboard here.