Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Monday, January 29, 2007

An end to war?

Not in our lifetime.

Indeed, the roots of war are fundamental in our genome. We are, at our core, barely-evolved hairless monkeys with delusions of grandeur. We share 95%+ of our genome with the great apes, complete with the fundamental biological underpinnings that lead to war -- the desire to follow an Alpha Male leader, the division of the world into "us" which are fully human and "them" which are not, the hooting and howling and flinging of feces which occurs when "us" meets "them" (think two troops of monkeys meeting in the jungle, and what occurs at that time... or watch any political talk show that has "right wing" and "left wing" guests hooting and howling and flinging feces at each other... it is like a mirror). We are fighting against millions of years of evolution with the puny tool of a brief 50,000 years of civilization, and civilization, alas, often loses. The result is war.

Regarding disasterous wars, the Colonial Rebellion of England's North American colonies was not such a war for England, but nevertheless had long term consequences that took decades to play out. The demise of Crown power was an eventual result of the war, though the short-term result was an increase in the power of the Crown.

The fundamental cause of the war was the fact that the colonies had been neglected for so long by the Crown, and thus each colony had devised its own set of power structures and power brokers. When the Crown decided to re-assert its powers, Crown power ran up against the entrenched power structures in the Colonies. The results were inevitable. Men of wealth and power do not appreciate others attempting to strip them of their wealth and power, and responded with a campaign of disinformation, terrorism, and eventually outright armed warfare to preserve their power.

As with all wars, men of wealth and power in control of public discourse can sway a sizable percentage of the population to support their war, and they certainly used this advantage. To a certain extent, the Colonial Rebellion was the first modern example of "information warfare". Printing presses were the most important tool of the war, and destroying printing presses of opponents of the war was one of the first things that the "Sons of Liberty" terrorist group did when they formed a terror cell in an area. The Crown and its supporters lost control of the information battlefield in the Colonies, with resulting loss of popular support in the Colonies. Thus a rebellion against the lawful government was turned into this great patriotic uprising against tyranny via the power of propaganda.

What is interesting is that the fundamental cause of the war was the same reason why 1.5 million colonists were able to hold off the world's greatest superpower (at the time) -- money. The Crown's treasury was empty, with the Crown barely able to pay the interest on the monies it had borrowed to fight the Seven Year's War, which had been a victory for England that turned it into the world's sole superpower but only at a staggering cost. Parliament refused to raise taxes. Thus the Crown turned to what were supposedly its possessions, the Crown colonies, and attempted to raise the taxes needed to pay off the Crown's debts via taxing the colonies.

The obvious parallel between Parliament refusing to raise taxes to pay for a war, and GWB refusing to raise taxes to pay for a war, immediately comes to mind. There are some other eery parallels though. The Crown could not conscript soldiers to serve overseas. That power was reserved to Parliament. Thus, as with today, the Crown was reduced to paying mercenaries a large amount of money to enlist in the military (current U.S. enlistment bonuses for high-demand specialties are as high as $40,000). Furthermore, the logistical situation was difficult. Due to the successful information warfare and terrorist activity on the part of the Colonial rebels, the Crown had lost all overt logistical support in the Colonies, requiring that most of the supplies for the Crown's Colonial armies be imported at enormous cost over a long and vulnerable supply chain from England.

Once France and Spain entered the war, that supply chain became even more vulnerable, much as the supply line for our soldiers in Iraq would become untenable if Iran entered the war there. The Crown was financing the war using borrowed money. But lenders were becoming nervous and raising interest rates on the money they loaned to the Crown.

Then Cornwallis's army was destroyed. The Royal Exchequer went to borrow money to hire a replacement army... and there was no money left. Nobody was willing to loan money to the Crown anymore. It had become widely known that the Crown did not have sufficient revenue to pay even the interest on the monies it had borrowed, and indeed was borrowing money to pay the interest on loans it had already taken out. King George III finally accepted the resignation of Chancellor of the Exchequer / Prime Minister Lord North (who had offered his resignation several times but George III had refused to accept it) and sued for peace. The world's greatest superpower had been bankrupted by an expensive overseas war fought under circumstances where national survival was not at stake, and had no choice but to submit to a humiliating peace that granted independence to the rebel colonies.

At the moment we are financing the war in Iraq using money borrowed from the Chinese. But how long, I wonder, will they continue to be willing to loan money to the modern Crown? Only they know that -- and we should be worried too. Because while the disaster that was the Colonial Rebellion did not destroy the British Empire and indeed the governmental reforms caused by the war both in the remaining British colonies and in Britain itself helped bring the British Empire to its greatest extent by the mid 19th century, that only occurred with help from Napoleon, who basically destroyed both Spanish power and French power by chewing it up in endless wars of foreign conquest, thus leaving Britain to fill the vacuum. But Chinese power is growing, and Russia has emerged from its chaotic slumber and will happily rush in to fill any power vacuum left by U.S. defeats overseas. This is not 1784, and the U.S. is not Britain circa 1784, and Iraq, unlike the English colonies of the 1770's and 1780's, is a fundamentally foreign and hostile land. Whether repercussions from the failures of the world's sole superpower in an overseas war have more long-term effects today than they had in 1784 is yet to be seen. But I don't see a Napoleon out there destroying Chinese and Russian power... do you?

-- Badtux the Geopolitical Penguin

Posted by: BadTux / 1/29/2007 01:54:00 PM  


Hey, I know. WHat about if we just had a really big war, a War to End All Wars. Then, everyone could fight each other, and, at the end, there'd be no more wars. Heck, it'd even be so big that we could give it a name, something to reflect how large it is, for example, The Great War, or The World War.


# posted by Anonymous : 31/1/07 1:19 PM  

Hello, Mr Penguin.
I enjoyed your thoughtful analysis.
# posted by Progressive Traditionalist : 31/1/07 4:26 PM  

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