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Monday, June 27, 2005

Would you rather have a Big Mac...or an F-16?

I'm teaching both International Security and American Foreign Policy this fall and have been thinking about what to cover in each class.

International security, of course, is a broader topic and people have all sorts of perspectives. Especially prior to the "war on terror," there was a vast literature developing on environmental security, human security, food security, etc.

To a large extent, the field has returned to its fascination with guns and bombs.

Here's something interesting from the Washington Post, March 26, 2005 (p. D12), that I missed when it was printed:
Richard Aboulafia, an aircraft analyst with the Teal Group in Fairfax...said the prospect of both countries [India and Pakistan] buying F-16s is a positive. "Two countries that have F-16s have never fought a war."
Wow! That sounds more absolute than "the democratic peace." Do you suppose the relationship simply reflects deterrence working successfully?

Thomas Friedman's theory is slightly different and borrows from earlier commercial theories of peace:
no two countries that have McDonald's have ever fought a war since each got McDonald's.
These theories may just be subsets of academic John Mueller's thesis: that war itself is obsolete because it is very costly and ineffective:
major war has been substantially discredited over the last century. Moreover, two important ideas have substantially taken hold: prestige and status principally derive from economic prowess (a quality often disparaged as debased and disgustingly materialistic by warlovers in the past); and war is a singularly ineffective and undesirable method for attaining wealth.

As a result, major war may be becoming truly obsolete--subrationally unthinkable. Countries like the once perennially hostile France and Germany reject war as a method for resolving their difficulties not so much because they determine it to be unwise after mulling over their options. Rather it is because--like dueling for quarreling aristocrats--war no longer occurs to them as a option to be considered.
Mueller argued in 1989 (warning, very large pdf file) that the wealthiest few dozen states in the world had not fought each other in war since 1945. I'm not 100% sure of Iraq's rank in 1991 or Yugoslavia's standing entering the 1990s, but Mueller's general thesis retains some persuasive power.

Organizationally, these various theories are relatively easy to fit into a syllabus: military strategy, economic dimensions, and norms.

Obviously, there are interconnections that warn against separating these ideas. Recall, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto once declared that "Pakistanis will make the bomb even if forced to eat grass."

If Pakistan really wanted to be secure, maybe its leaders should simply have built some golden arches. Then again, some find fault with that too.

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