Home > Economics - General > Status quo ante bellum — Crooked Timber

Status quo ante bellum — Crooked Timber

September 12th, 2010

Nine years after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, we’ve all had plenty of time to think about war and its justifications. My own views have moved me steadily towards the viewpoint that war is hardly ever justified either morally or in terms of the rational self-interest of those involved. The obvious problem is that, if no one else is willing to fight, an aggressor could benefit by making demands backed by force. It seems to me, however, that this problem can be overcome by admitting that self-defense (including collective self-defense) is justified only to the extent of restoring the status quo ante bellum. That is, having defeated an aggressor, a country is not justified in seizing territory, unilaterally exacting reparations or imposing a new government on its opponent. Conversely, and regardless of the alleged starting point, countries not directly involved should never recognise a forcibly imposed transfer of territory or similar attempt to achieve advantages through war.

This isn’t a novel idea by any means, but I haven’t found an adequate discussion, and the discourse of International Relations theory seems to me worse than useless, being dominated by unrealities like ‘international realism’ , opposed to the strawman of ‘idealism’. Just war theory seems a bit more satisfactory, but I haven’t found it helpful in relation to the hard cases. [1]

Following up on the discussions we’ve had here recently, the status quo ante bellum position can be defended in game-theoretic terms, with no need to invoke unrealistic assumptions about international idealism.

The status quo ante bellum is, in game-theoretic terms, a salient point that provides a natural focus for a coalition, particularly for third countries with no direct stake. An interest in preserving international order provides third countries with a motive not to recognise gains secured by others through military force. While the gainer may be able to secure recognition from close allies, the absence of general recognition renders such gains costly and uncertain to hold, no matter how long they endure.

This isn’t merely a theoretical claim. International practice since 1945 has typically been to deny recognition to territorial gains secured by force, regardless of “facts on the ground”, no matter how long-lasting. Examples include the Indonesian annexation of East Timor (shamefully, Australia was one of the few countries to recognise this claim), the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus, the various ‘frozen conflict’ mini-states created under Russian patronage after 1991 and of course the Israeli occupation of the West Bank[2].

But there’s still, it seems to me, a widespread presumption that having gone to war in self-defense (as judged by themselves), countries are entitled to set whatever objectives they see as reasonable. The point of proposing status quo ante bellum as the only legitimate goal is to close off this capacity for self-defense to turn into aggression.

Of course, none of this would matter if the strategic use of military force reliably or even commonly yielded net benefits, as is assumed by ‘realists’ and, until relatively recently, by most holders of, and seekers after, political power. The experience of the 20th century shows the opposite – many cases of wars ending disastrously for those who launched them, and hardly any that produced clear and sustained net benefits.

I don’t intend merely the limited, and obvious point that, taken as a whole, the people of a country that goes to war are worse off as a result. Looking at the evidence, the same is typically true of the ruling classes, and of the individual rulers who make decisions to take their people to war. Of course, there are beneficiaries in the armaments industry and the military hierarchy, but almost any policy, no matter how disastrous, benefits someone.

I haven’t so far discussed the case for humanitarian intervention, punishment of war crimes and so on. The Iraq war showed that if individual governments (or coalitions) are allowed to set themselves up as judges in their own cases, disaster will ensue. The only legitimate basis for such action is a decision of the international community as a whole. At present, the best, admittedly imperfect, bodies for making such decisions are the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court. The cumbersome nature of their processes mean that many wrongs will go unrighted, and many crimes unpunished. But that is true of all legal systems. And even if such interventions are justified, that does not mean they will be feasible or, if undertaken, assured of success.

Finally, most of what I’ve said about war applies to revolution and other forms of political violence. The fact that the existing order of things is unjust and not amenable to change is not sufficient justification for the certain suffering and far from certain benefits of revolutionary violence. Most revolutions, like most wars fail, and, as with wars, initial success is rarely enduring.

fn1. I’m aware that I’m an amateur dismissing the efforts of the professionals, and therefore likely to have got a lot of things wrong. But, as an economist, I’ve often been on the other end of this kind of criticism, and I think it’s useful to face it.

fn2. I mention this example because it would be silly to omit it, but I absolutely do not want to derail discussion into another rehash of this issue. Any comment referring in any way to the Israel/Palestine conflict will be deleted with prejudice.

My thoughts on 11 September, 2010

Posted via email from John’s posterous

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  1. Uncle Milton
    September 12th, 2010 at 18:19 | #1

    “having defeated an aggressor, a country is not justified in seizing territory, unilaterally exacting reparations or imposing a new government on its opponent.”

    Germany post 1945 is the obvious counter example. I don’t think there are many people who reckon they should have been allowed to keep East Prussia.

  2. September 12th, 2010 at 19:28 | #2

    I’m very favourable to this sort of position*, but I don’t think you’ve addressed one of the problems of status quo ante bellum – it leaves an aggressor in the position to renew hostilities (which might be what Uncle Milton is alluding to). Fending off an attack, and not reducing the capacity for future attacks, seems to be a recipe for perpetuating conflict (in that geographical area, between those opponents). War-fatigue would be a countervailing force, but can it be relied upon?

    * I invoke a related argument when the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki come up in discussion – the justification, that it would mean fewer deaths overall than an invasion of the Japanese islands, relies on the presumption that an invasion had to happen at all.

  3. Uncle Milton
    September 12th, 2010 at 19:37 | #3

    @Jarrah

    It’s unlikely that post war Germany would have been in a position to renew hostilies had in kept East Prussia, so that wasn’t really the point, in that context. The point was that the boundaries of so many European countries had changed so many times in the preceding centuries, it would have been impossible to decide what the status quo actually was. The boundaries just before the war? Sure, you could try that, but that would have been an arbitrary decision, and not necessarily at all just.

  4. Stephen L
    September 12th, 2010 at 19:47 | #4

    I’ve been thinking of a subset of this issue recently, and this seems an appropriate time to check my thinking.

    I was trying to think of the last war undertaken by existing nation states to expand its territory (either direct incorporation into the country or the establishment of a colony) that could possibly be considered a success. This is different from wars to change the government or actions of the invaded area.

    The most recent examples I could think of were from the 60s (6 day war and the invasion of West Papua). The North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam could be added, but while this wasn’t completed until the 70s, it also began in the 60s.

    More recent examples that have clearly been failures were: Iraq’s invasions of Iran and Kuwait along with attempts by Iran to take Iraqi territory in return, Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor.

    I had forgotten about Turkey and north Cyprus, which I suppose could be considered a colony.

    My point is that with time these sorts of wars become more rare and therefore less acceptable to the international community, and therefore even less likely to succeed. Wars to change governments are still looked at differently, but once we realise we are in a world where no nation can successfully invade another to seize territory we’ll have to rethink the structure (and name) of our defense forces.

  5. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 12th, 2010 at 21:01 | #5

    John, there are numerous disputed regions in this world but in respect to Cyprus I just would like add that ‘The Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia are two UK-administered areas on the island of Cyprus that comprise the Sovereign Base Areas military bases of the United Kingdom. The bases were retained by the UK following the granting of independence and the eventual transition of Cyprus from a crown colony to an independent sovereign state. The United Kingdom demanded and succeeded in continuing to occupy a portion of Cyprus in the form of military bases because of the strategic location of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea in pursuit of UK interests’.

  6. Ikonoclast
    September 12th, 2010 at 21:53 | #6

    When I was very young, I was astonished to learn that a government of a democracy could conscript and thus force a citizen to go to war. To my naive thinking, this seemed an infringement of a citizen’s rights and freedom.

    On reflection, I think my naive instinct for justice was correct. A democratic constitution should enshrine the principle that a government cannot conscript a citizen into the armed services. A democratic nation should maintain a wholly volunteer army at all times.

    It seems to me likely that (1) this would make unpopular foreign ventures far more difficult and (2) a truly just social democracy would engender enough loyalty and solidiarity to ensure adequate volunteers if the country were truly under threat.

    In addition, as foreign ventures of even democratic nations represent an undemocratic projection of force (the people being attacked have no vote in it) then a higher test of national willingness should be required. The constitution should require a referendum be held before any extra-territorial war.

    The democratic requirements for all-volunteer armies and referenda before foreign adventures would stay the hand of executive governments which still seem too willing to go to war.

  7. gerard
    September 12th, 2010 at 22:20 | #7

    I mention this example because it would be silly to omit it, but… any comment referring in any way to the Israel/Palestine conflict will be deleted with prejudice.

    It sure would be silly not to mention… that it is unmentionable!!!!!!

  8. gerard
    September 12th, 2010 at 22:22 | #8

    I was trying to think of the last war undertaken by existing nation states to expand its territory (either direct incorporation into the country or the establishment of a colony) that could possibly be considered a success. This is different from wars to change the government or actions of the invaded area.

    hmmmm… forty years and still going strong… but I seem to have a hole in my memory, a memory hole if you will.

  9. gerard
    September 12th, 2010 at 22:41 | #9

    This isn’t a novel idea by any means, but I haven’t found an adequate discussion, and the discourse of International Relations theory seems to me worse than useless, being dominated by unrealities like ‘international realism’ , opposed to the strawman of ‘idealism’.

    Agreed – this is the most obviously false dichotomy in the history of false dichotomies. I.R. “theory” is a pathetic joke aimed at an audience of root vegetables. But they need some sort of a story to fill their $100 textbooks.

  10. robert (not from UK)
    September 12th, 2010 at 22:57 | #10

    I don’t normally find Roseanne Barr agreeable, but her recent dual campaign for the US Presidency and the Israeli Prime Ministry (she’s apparently Jewish, but hates Netanyahu) has some amusing moments:

    “End the War on Drugs: this will take the potheads and non-violent drug users out of prisons, where you can get drugs anyway, thereby making room for the violent offenders and the real criminals – the actual threats to world peace.”

    “Speculators and bankers, those who poison the earth and create wars for profit, will be required to personally clean the sewers and the land of the toxins they have produced. If they choose not to do the work themselves – as they are usually too sensitive for such unpleasantries – then they’ll foot the bill and be required to pay ten times the minimum wage per worker hour.”

    “[A]ll Presidents, Prime Ministers and Queens (there will be NO kings) will be required to fight in the very first infantry wave of any war they authorize. Trust me, that’ll make for some productive peace talks!”

    This strikes me as much more inspiring than anything that Gillard and Abbott condescended to offer on the campaign trail.

  11. Brett Dunbar
    September 13th, 2010 at 01:11 | #11

    A more recent example is Western Sahara, which was occupied by Morocco (northern two thirds) and Mauritania (southern third) in late 1975. Mauritania withdrew in 1979 at which point Morocco occupied the southern part.

  12. BilB
    September 13th, 2010 at 07:13 | #12

    I think that you have to take into account the length of a war. If a war goes for a hundred years then the surviving population may desire a different outcome to sqab. A similar situation arises in conflicts over children where a court re-assigns paternity on a genetic basis after many years (if that does in fact actually happen).

    It is a little trite for any Anglophile to be making pronouncements over outcomes of war, as the British Empire set the stage for so many wars. The only vague defense for this might be in that Brittain was “done over” by so many other nations that they might believe that invasion is a natural process. A kind of “national” victims syndrome.

    Then that would have to bring up the Australian question. Does status quo ante bellum mean that Australia is an aboriginal nation? or does Australia belong to the European invaders.

    I anticipate that global warming will make all prio concepts of nationhood irrelevent within this century, and in that context status quo ante bellum may have to be determined at the 10,000 year mark.

  13. Fran Barlow
    September 13th, 2010 at 10:36 | #13

    I see one or two problems in your proposed arrangements. One can debate the real reasons for war until the proverbial cows come home but if one looks at many of the post WW2 conflicts, there is usually some sort of desire to reconfigure the territories in some way.

    If, for example, there were a war in which a party which is facing a secssionist movement wages war against its neighbour, who is said to be supporting it and the neighbour wins, what then? Do the secessionists get autonomy or the right to join up with the neighbour?

    Perhaps on democratic grounds, they should, but then suppose this is a highly resource rich area or of value to another power and the secessionist movement was of doubtful legitimacy.

    One only has to look at Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan to think that partition might be a good thing. There are a whole range of solutions for Israel. Kosovo and Serbia, the Russian-Georgian conflict. What does one do with the Kurds and Turkey, Iran and Iraq? The Shia in Iraq? Think back further and work out what whether Panama was a bona fide exercise in national sovereignty.

    There are also compliance issues. With what forces does one constrain actors to observe a post shooting conflict regime?

    It’s all very well to have a preferred method of dealing, but it does seem that your model really applies mainly to the major conflagrations, and it goes without saying that if one arose again, there’d be no force on Earth capable of restraining the winning party.

    While I don’t disagree with your basic claim that war (and the kind of revolution that is likely to provoke industrial scale violence either to achieve or sustain) is hard to warrant ethically, one must look also to what is technically feasible for a solution.

    Ultimately, if one wants to restrain organised and systematic violent or destructive conduct, then one must subvert the forces predisposing such conduct. One needs equitable and productive societies whose governance almost everyone feels they have a stake in, whatever their grumbles. The creation or acceptance of substantial numbers of marginalised people within a state is incipiently dangerous. We need to examine how the legitimate claims (material and cultural) each of us has may be worked out, specified and met. That cannot be done mainly at the level of the planet, and can probably be done only in a limited way at regional level.

    This is where economists, anthropologists, scientists, along with those of us who arer activists and so forth need to work together to lift the quality of public discourse on public policy. War is not an event that most people ever think will turn out well, propaganda aside. It is almost always done by governments manufacturing a crisis and effectively dragooning its pthe populace into the effort. They then adapt, attempting to find reasons for setting aside their misgivings. Only better local governance, long before we get anywahere near war, can abate war in the long run.

  14. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 13th, 2010 at 10:56 | #14

    Bilb, one only needs to look at the Mapuche indigenous Chilians and their desire for freedom having equal rights and treatment before the law. A media blackout has failed to report the persecutions over the last three decades against the Mapuche who have been prosecuted under a polemic law issued during Pinochet´s dictatorship. This law allows longer preventative imprisonments, the use of hooded “witnesses”, “process advantages” and harsher sentences (sometimes over 20 years). Since the late 19th century, Mapuche lands in southern Chile were taken by force but during the early 1990s, Mapuche communities and organisations have since sought to reclaim what is their rightfully ancestral country.

  15. Peter T
    September 13th, 2010 at 12:35 | #15

    John

    As a student of international relations, I have to agree that the formal theory is pretty useless – but that does not mean there is not a good deal of valuable scholarship – less about theory than cases and patterns.

    The costs and benefits of war have changed markedly over the past century, to the point where profitable long-term acquisition of land or other resources is pretty much impossible. Part of the equation is that modern states need to be (and can be) much more intensive in their involvement with their people, which demands a high degree of mutual identity (and so occupation is costly and profitless). But minorities and other forms of identity at variance with the state version are a fact of life (think West Papua, the Balkans, the bits of Europe that escaped the great ethnic cleansing that accompanied World War II, much of Africa).

    Surely this means the threat is now not of external aggression for territory but of internal aggression (Saddam and Kurds/Shia, Milosevic and non-Serbs, Tamils and Sinhalese….). With consequent spill-over for others – most notably refugees. Which means regime change is now a stronger reason for the use of force than previously.

  16. September 13th, 2010 at 12:39 | #16

    MoSH,
    Re Cyprus – this is a good example of how imperfect the UN process is. Given five members have an effective veto over any serious action the UN takes it means that the UN cannot act against the interests of one of the five – or even their most favoured clients.
    It leaves the UN effectively toothless against any aggression by any of them – whether that is in Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan (in 1979) or in another place.
    It all just reminds me of the comment by Sir Humphrey: “The U.N. is the accepted forum for the expression of international hatred.”
    .
    PrQ,
    In that context I see the UNSC as not merely “…admittedly imperfect…” but in many cases actually counter-productive. Unfortunately that casts me in the role of the solution-less critic, a role in which I am normally uncomfortable.

  17. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 13th, 2010 at 13:09 | #17

    Andrew Reynolds, you are correct in saying the UN does get it wrong from time to time but in the Mapuche case the UN is dragging its feet. The Chilian State uses draconian anti-terrorists laws to suppress the Mapuche people. In 2006 Portuguese Nobel literature laureate, José Saramago, challenged Bachelet and later handed a letter saying “It is incomprehensible that in Chile today there are over 200 law suits involving Mapuches in which irregular laws, created by the military to suppress opposition to the dictatorship, are applied.” Others have also condemned the use of anti-terrorist laws in Mapuche trials including Rodolfo Stavenhagen (the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of indigenous peoples), Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Not much has changed since the letter was handed to Bachelet in 2006. Bloody disgraceful.

  18. September 13th, 2010 at 13:34 | #18

    MoSH,
    I do not know the specifics of that case, but I would suspect that the UNSC may be dragging its heels for two reasons. The US may not want too much investigation into the Chilean military government and the Chinese and Russian governments typically do not want any interference in the case of (what they see as) purely internal affairs, particularly as relates to the alleged suppression of indigenous peoples.

  19. September 13th, 2010 at 13:36 | #19

    I should have said “the US government” in the above comment, BTW. A government is always and everywhere a different entity from the people of the country.

  20. Martin
    September 13th, 2010 at 13:53 | #20

    Status before which war? Was France justified in 1919 is asking for Alsace and Lorraine back? (These had been French provinces before the previous war in 1870).

  21. BilB
    September 13th, 2010 at 14:16 | #21

    I’m inclined to think that territorial disputes would be more successfully settled on a stateless individual basis. When states take up territorial claims individuals rights are swept aside. When the reality is that most people just want to live where they have always done. By this alternative method individuals can be resettled, or compensated. Whereas if it requires a state based solution, these are difficult to settle as the issues are rarely about peoples lives, and where compensation is achieved it rarely arrives in the hands of the actual victims.

    I think that King Alfred the Great would have taken this approach. His great wisdom broke the fuedal “eye for an eye” system and replaced it with the “man gold” system which enabled disputes to be settled in a monetary manner rather than a loss of limb manner. Far more civilised, and successful.

    The reality is that in the 21st century and with a population of 7 billion the scope for conflict is greater than has ever been in the past, even though the opposite appears to be the reality.

    Is this the calm before the storm?

  22. John Quiggin
    September 13th, 2010 at 14:49 | #22

    @Brett Dunbar
    Important to note that Morocco’s claims over Western Sahara have not received general recognition. Sooner or later, I expect some form of independent state to emerge.

  23. jquiggin
    September 13th, 2010 at 14:56 | #23

    Quite a few of the points made above were already made at CT and I’ve responded there.
    http://crookedtimber.org/2010/09/11/status-quo-ante-bellum/

  24. September 13th, 2010 at 16:12 | #24

    The obvious problem is that, if no one else is willing to fight, an aggressor could benefit by making demands backed by force. It seems to me, however, that this problem can be overcome by admitting that self-defense (including collective self-defense) is justified only to the extent of restoring the status quo ante bellum. That is, having defeated an aggressor, a country is not justified in seizing territory, unilaterally exacting reparations or imposing a new government on its opponent.

    There is a related problem, which may not be so obvious to moderns unacquainted with historical forms of aggression. That is that you can get profitable aggression by raiding. Even if the aggressor is defeated, that approach neither deters other attempts, perhaps by others, nor does it repair the harm (“reparation” is, of course, cognate with “repair”). On the other hand, that formulation does not exclude various indirect forms of extracting benefit, e.g. those used in neocolonialism and/or Finlandisation.

    This isn’t merely a theoretical claim. International practice since 1945 has typically been to deny recognition to territorial gains secured by force, regardless of “facts on the ground”, no matter how long-lasting. Examples include the Indonesian annexation of East Timor (shamefully, Australia was one of the few countries to recognise this claim), the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus, the various ‘frozen conflict’ mini-states created under Russian patronage after 1991 and of course the Israeli occupation of the West Bank[2].

    Ah… that only works if you define out the exceptions, which are in fact the more usual cases, something along the lines of “Treason doth never prosper / What’s the reason? / If it doth, / None dare call it treason”. The following is a no doubt partial list of exceptions from memory, in roughly chronological order:-

    - Arguably, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia got initial independence as a by-product of Japanese aggression.

    - Israel itself exists from aggression against Britain and then the locals (even if you don’t count the fighting against other Arab states as aggression). This is not a reference to the current delete-worthy conflict but to precisely those historical facts that are now widely accepted as uncontentious, and precisely because they are now widely accepted as uncontentious!

    - India’s conquest of Hyderabad and some lesser princely states is the result of aggression, and was immediately recognised (unlike its attempts on Kashmir, and even though it used inconsistent standards).

    - The border between communist and nationalist China is the result of aggression, as is the absorption of Tibet by the former.

    - Certainly, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia got enduring independence as a consequence of aggression against colonial powers.

    - Hawaii’s accession to the USA as a state was the result of (prior) aggression, working through the change of facts on the ground (I have heard that it took the votes of US naval and military personnel to tip the result, even after generations of assimilation – which has still not succeeded in Puerto Rico).

    - Algeria’s detachment from France proper was the result of aggression.

    - Zanzibar’s accession to Tanganyika was the result of aggression.

    - India’s conquest of Goa, Diu etc. is the result of aggression, and was soon recognised even though there were initial objections to the aggression.

    - The independence of Portugal’s mainland African colonies was the result of aggression.

    This pattern does, however, seem to have ceased or gone dormant over the last thirty years or so; at least, no obvious cases come to mind.

    Before anyone tries to rebut this with claims that those weren’t aggression, those were independence struggles, or whatever, that is precisely my point about defining it out. By the standards of the status quo ante bellum, those were cases of aggression; as far as the Dutch, French, Portuguese and so on were concerned, before 1939 or so none of their claims to those places were in dispute. It is only by applying standards derived from the successes of the changes that the changes can be justified as anything but aggression.

    Curiously enough, the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus is justified by the standards of the status quo ante bellum, and objecting to it is merely continuing a military struggle against that by diplomatic means. The constitution of Cyprus at independence included Turkey as one of the guarantors against removing minority rights, and gave it the right to intervene in such an event in just such a way.

    The Iraq war showed that if individual governments (or coalitions) are allowed to set themselves up as judges in their own cases, disaster will ensue. The only legitimate basis for such action is a decision of the international community as a whole.

    While the first sentence is true, the second sentence is not only a non sequitur, it is false. Quite simply, there is no such legitimate basis whatsoever, and certainly “the international community as a whole” is not only an artificial construct, it almost by definition lacks both standing and authority of any sort (in that it stands against and undercuts any natural thing of that sort). Furthermore, it’s dangerous and a breeding ground for group think assisted wrong. It’s what I saw last night in the ABC’s showing of H.G. Wells’s “Things to come”, in the self deceiving, self righteous self justification of the “airmen” setting up a world devouring dictatorship to eliminate all the lesser fleas.

    Most revolutions, like most wars fail, and, as with wars, initial success is rarely enduring.

    Again, this ceases to be true if we don’t redefine things that way.

  25. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 13th, 2010 at 16:23 | #25

    Andrew Reynolds, the Mapuche Nation have a good case for reclaiming their lands because the Treaty of Quilin was signed in 1641 recognizing their independence south of the Bio-Bio River covering an area of some 10 million hectares. Until 1881 the Mapuche nation was completely independent, territorially and politically before the War of the Pacific (1881-83). In other words if anyone has a legitimate claim to the Mapuche lands it is the Mapuche people alone.

  26. September 13th, 2010 at 16:54 | #26

    Perhaps MoSH – as I said I do not know about that particular dispute.

  27. BilB
    September 13th, 2010 at 17:47 | #27

    PML,
    As your comment suggests there are far to many conflicts and far too many conflicts

  28. Michael of Summer Hill
    September 13th, 2010 at 18:12 | #28

    Andrew Reynolds, to understand the extent of the Mapuche problems one needs to take into context Pinochet’s neo-liberal economic policies and the affects of Law 2568 which has devastated the indigenous people right to self-determination.

  29. wilful
    September 13th, 2010 at 20:30 | #29

    It seems to me taht the issue with this is that it anticipates rational actions from both parties. In a way, it highlights the issues with economics, which is the general assumption of homo economicus. Quite clearly from history countries go to war based on very poor reasons. I think any grand pronouncements about what ought to happen needs to accept that much of waht does happen is bsed in mass popular psychology.

    Ikonoclast :
    A democratic constitution should enshrine the principle that a government cannot conscript a citizen into the armed services. A democratic nation should maintain a wholly volunteer army at all times.
    It seems to me likely that (1) this would make unpopular foreign ventures far more difficult and (2) a truly just social democracy would engender enough loyalty and solidiarity to ensure adequate volunteers if the country were truly under threat.
    In addition, as foreign ventures of even democratic nations represent an undemocratic projection of force (the people being attacked have no vote in it) then a higher test of national willingness should be required. The constitution should require a referendum be held before any extra-territorial war.
    The democratic requirements for all-volunteer armies and referenda before foreign adventures would stay the hand of executive governments which still seem too willing to go to war.

    Yeah, you (and I) wish.

  30. Alice
    September 13th, 2010 at 22:03 | #30

    @P.M.Lawrence
    I cant help thinking after Iraq that modern wars may be an excuse for organisations to raid their own internal domestic governments. So maybe war induced raids can be profitable, in terms of shifting resources from one group like taxpayers to another like war industry suppliers which are increasingly private firms or so it seems, in the war participating nation, just not the way we traditionally think about raids and war appropriations. That would be termed indirect profiteering I imagine.

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