Monday, December 29, 2014

Paul Krugman on the Great Illusion of Agressive Wars

New York Times columnist and Noble prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, last week in his column described the futility of aggressive wars as already explained in the 1909 classic book "The Great Illusion", whether by Russian President Vladimir Putin or by neo-cons in the U.S. This is what Krugman said in "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........"

Krugman explains that since Putin's land-grab of Crimea, that region's economy imploded and due to sanctions Russia is now in the midst of a financial crisis. No success here for Putin's warmongering.  Then Krugman continues with the example of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, heavily promoted by neo-cons in 2003 and beyond, that has only resulted in destruction of a country, and grave loss in blood and treasure to the US over the eleven years since the invasion started. Still, some of these neocons seem to be impressed with Putin's "leadership", and have not learned any lessons from the catastrophic consequences of their ideas. Krugman concludes his column with:

"...America is a true superpower, so we can handle such losses — although one shudders to think of what might have happened if the “real men” had been given a chance to move on to other targets. But a financially fragile petroeconomy like Russia doesn’t have the same ability to roll with its mistakes.
 I have no idea what will become of the Putin regime. But Mr. Putin has offered all of us a valuable lesson. Never mind shock and awe: In the modern world, conquest is for losers."

Cosimo is proud to have once again made available a classic book with enduring value and lessons for modern day readers. Cosimo has several books by Sir Norman Angell available, including for true book lovers,  a hard cover of "The Great Illusion".

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