Theme: Dangers of the 21st Century
Since the appeasement of Hitler in the run up to World War Two the mantra of western defence and foreign policy experts has been, ‘If you want peace, prepare for war’. Unfortunately it is also true that ‘If you want war, prepare for war’. Hitler himself certainly followed this principle. Whichever way you slice it, it pays to invest in the defence industries.
These common place phrases need deconstructing. Obviously if both are true there must be different circumstances in which each applies. The correctness of preparing for war to avoid conflict depends entirely on who you are preparing for war against and why. It cannot be applied all the time in all circumstances or it will lead to war.
The assumption behind it is the need to deter an aggressive expansionist military power. If on the contrary the policy is applied to states which are weak, inward looking and are not in a phase of their politics where they are interested in military expansion, it has the opposite effect of making the world more dangerous. Building up your military capability against those states seeking peaceful co-existence will cause them to see you as the military aggressor and eventually oblige them to seek to build up their own military strength according to the principle of deterrence. This will lead to arms races, mistrust and escalating tensions. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, by overzealously seeking to deter conflict you can actually cause it to happen.
Sadly the self-serving view of western analysts is to interpret all such reactions to our own policy as signs of the aggressive intentions of those we have been threatening. We can never lose the argument.
It is ridiculous to suggest as some do, that all states are always seeking aggressive military expansion, it does not fit the facts of the past or the present. It is also foolish to suggest that it is necessary to permanently maintain a massive military advantage over other countries.
At the end of the Cold War the NATO powers had a choice, either to seek peaceful co-existence with powerful states like Russia and China or to seek dominance over them. This latter course is dangerous, for the goal of dominance may have to be fought for, not just in a Cold War but in hot wars.
The application of the old mantra means that we have been seeking dominance over Russia since as early as 1991 from the very dissolution of the USSR. The program to establish dominance over China is just beginning to take off, with Obama’s “Asian Pivot” policy.
Thus we are launched into the self-fulfilling prophesy which can only lead to a disastrous war.