Sunday, February 01, 2015

War - What is it Good For?

Why did Yugoslavia break-up?  According to a Croat "...we had lived in peace and harmony because every hundred meters we had a policeman to ensure that we loved each other very much".

Ian Morris's latest book takes this line of thinking way beyond the alleys of the former Yugoslavia to an analysis of war and conflict across history, and comes to a startling conclusion. According to him, War is good for humanity.

Large-scale, organised violence apparently makes way for extended periods of peace and prosperity. It encourages trade and economies of scale. At their height, the greatest of empires - the Roman in the West, the Han in China and the Mauryan in modern India and Pakistan - each covered about 1.5 - 2 million square miles, governed 30-60 million people.

For some reason, the technology that drove organised violence seems to have grown much faster in Eurasia than in the Americas. Sticks and stones gave way to swords, spears, war-horses, chariots, the composite bow, and then the great jump to cannons, fire-arms and missiles. Morris seems to agree with Jared Diamond's argument about latitudes in Guns, Germs and Steel.

Somehow his arguments seem to fall apart when it comes to explaining how warfare will evolve in the present context. How long can the American globocop control the world through its grip on the internet, and drones raining hellfire through joysticks held in Arizona?

As always, hindsight is 20:20.


* Amazon - Ian Morris - 

* Review in the Telegraph -- 

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