Monday, December 22, 2014

Paul Krugman: Conquest Is for Losers

More than a century has passed since Norman Angell, a British journalist and politician, published “The Great Illusion,” a treatise arguing that the age of conquest was or at least should be over. He didn’t predict an end to warfare, but he did argue that aggressive wars no longer made sense — that modern warfare impoverishes the victors as well as the vanquished.

He was right, but it’s apparently a hard lesson to absorb. Certainly Vladimir Putin never got the memo. And neither did our own neocons, whose acute case of Putin envy shows that they learned nothing from the Iraq debacle.

Angell’s case was simple: Plunder isn’t what it used to be. You can’t treat a modern society the way ancient Rome treated a conquered province without destroying the very wealth you’re trying to seize. And meanwhile, war or the threat of war, by disrupting trade and financial connections, inflicts large costs over and above the direct expense of maintaining and deploying armies. War makes you poorer and weaker, even if you win.

Read the rest here.

I can't believe I'm about to write this, but here goes. While I could quibble with some details, Krugman is basically right.


lannes said...

I doubt any Moslem worth his salt would agree conquering isn't worth it.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Which is why most of these Islamic Fundamentalists wind up creating medieval states, where anything modern has to be imported from the real world.

Stephen said...

Whoa, not so fast there cowboy. Bringing Japan and Germany so close to the victor's fold after WWII has been pretty much a net winner for all. I mean, it wasn't salt we plowed when we conquered, but more rice and hops. Ask Carthage what they did back when plunder was supposedly plunder. Isn't that a bit of evidence to suggest that Mr. Krugman is still batting 1000% for being wrong?

Visibilium said...

Visibilium: Krugman is for losers.

Putting conquered assets and programs into talented private hands wouldn't impoverish the victor.