Friday, October 6, 2017

War Is Merely the Continuation of Policy by Other Means

War Is Merely the Continuation of Policy by Other Means - it’s not the other way round

This quote by the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz is a statement valid for all history. War is used when the political means are judged insufficient. But the quote assumes an especially ominous meaning in the end of modernities. As often said, politics tend to decline in these phases. Skills, intuition and  instincts are lost. Experience is despised. And this is true for both internal and external politics. Diplomatic experience and skill are also lost. 

Because of this erosion of political abilities, politics quickly come to a failure. Also, because of the reduced political judgement, this situation is perceived as being the case, before it needs to be. Thus Clausewitz’ continuation with the help of war is reached more quickly. The threshold is lower. Therefore, in the late declining modernities politics and diplomacy is more and more often replaced by war. This is added to the already frequent wars in most modernities. Examples are many. Just look at the first Mesopotamian modernity ending with the victory of Hammurabi. Or the civil wars in the late Roman Republic or those in Bagdad 1000 years ago. 

In our case the terror balance has prevented major wars since WW 2. We could hope that this could also help us now, where politics is failing and the continuation with war is more likely. But 1) The big war and Hiroshima is far behind and with the dwindling interest in history and old experience, the deterrence from the horrendous memories is reduced. And 2) Anti missile defense systems are deployed giving the dangerously false impression, that a nuclear attack can be effectively shielded against. Finally 3) The fact that smaller countries are possessing nuclear weapons systems of naturally smaller size, makes the danger of all destroying retaliations seem limited. These considerations are valid for both the use of nuclear weapons and for the use of conventional warfare against countries possessing nuclear warheads.

War is the continuation of diplomacy with other means. Even more if diplomacy fails easier today, it should at least be tried. Stepping up the conflict with a North Korean dictator with nuclear weapons and at the same time ending negotiations declaring them a waste of time is incredibly stupid. And nullifying the result of years of hard diplomatic negotiations ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions is almost even worse. 

In these cases war seems not to be the continuation of diplomacy. It could seem to be the first choice instead of diplomacy. What do you want? Increase tension with Pyongyang till a war is started, risking the loss of Seoul’s inhabitants and with the prospect of the involvement of China?! Let Iran resume its nuclear program and then bomb it?!

Modern warfare is too dangerous to not be avoided. 


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