Friday, September 12, 2008

The Abolition of War

Morgenthau in Politics Among Nations, p. 47 writes, “The abolition of war is obviously the fundamental problem confronting international thought. To solve the problem one must clearly first determine its cause or causes. What makes a solution appear so difficult for the non-rationalist mind is the variety of causes involved – causes which have their roots in the innermost recesses of the human heart. Were it possible to reduce all those multiple, complex factors to a single cause – one capable of rational formulation – the solution of the problem of war would no longer seem impossible. This is what liberal foreign policy has been trying to do since its very inception; and since the heyday of the League of Nations most people would take it for lack of creative thought if a statesman or political thinker did not have a ‘constructive’ plan as a remedy for the ‘single cause.’”

Earlier, Morgenthau quoted from Charles A. Beard, A Foreign Policy for America, who in 1940 wrote, “in line with the new interests, the study of international law and diplomacy was encouraged in institutions of learning. Old-fashioned courses on diplomacy – cold, scholarly performances – were supplemented by courses on international relations, in which emphasis was laid on world peace and the means of promoting it. Books, pamphlets, and articles on pacification were written, published and widely circulated, often with the aid of subventions from peace funds. International peace conferences were organized and provided opportunities for travel and extended discourses. Seldom had college presidents, professors, clergymen, and leaders among women enjoyed such privileges and received such marked consideration at the hands of the general public. It looked as if a new era of usefulness and distinction had been opened for them in the field of great affairs, and they made the most of its opportunities.’”


Obviously this seeking after the single cause of war is still going on. Fukuyama is one of the latest seekers. His “end of history” thesis has it that as soon as Liberal Democracy wins out in the world, there will no longer be a need for war. He, Sharansky and George W. Bush tell us democracies don’t war with each other; so it is in the interest of peace that we strive to spread Liberal Democracy. Leftists seem to think that all we need to do is get rid of George W. Bush and we can achieve world peace. Morgenthau tells us that neither approach will work, and maybe Fukuyama realized that and hedged his bet when he added “and the last man.” That is, the complete title of his 1992 work is The End of History and the Last Man.

At the end of history, Liberal Democracy will make war unnecessary and improbable if not impossible, according to Fukuyama. There will no longer be a rational reason for war. Also, most people will be content to enjoy the benefits and joys of a peaceful world. But Fukuyama feared the ubermensch, the Nietzschean superman who wouldn’t care that the world was at peace. He would want to exert his mastery and make his mark. This ubermensch might get history going again.

Robert Kagan entitled his most recent book The Return of History and the End of Dreams. This was aimed at the EU. Kagan lives in Brussels because his wife is permanent secretary to NATO. Europeans didn’t like his earlier Of Paradise and Power, and I suspect they will like this book even less. The EU entered something very like Fukuyama’s end of history. They were content to have history “end” in Europe and they were busily embracing their neighbors and inviting them to enjoy their paradisiacal end of history. Kagan tells us that it didn’t work. An Ubermensch named Vladimir has begun to flex his muscles, threaten, and give every indication that he intends to make his mark, if not in the world then at least on the EU.

Kagan is right. There has been an “end of dreams,” but unfortunately for the rest of us there hasn’t been an end to Liberal theories of how to achieve world peace. Maybe what we need is a world savior. The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland and much of Europe yearns for Barack Obama. He writes, “Obama has stirred an excitement around the globe unmatched by any American politician in living memory. Polling in Germany, France, Britain and Russia shows that Obama would win by whopping majorities, with the pattern repeated in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. If November 4 were a global ballot, Obama would win it handsomely. If the free world could choose its leader, it would be Barack Obama.”

I’d almost like to see Obama elected just to see how that played out. That he would fail to be their savior, I have no doubt. He would fail to achieve world peace just as Europe’s EU paradise has failed. They will all fail because man’s nature is not malleable. Absent divine intervention, man will always be the way he has always been. Each time someone attempts some scheme based upon the theory that man’s nature is improvable, the scheme comes a cropper. But, as we have seen, “hope” springs eternal.

Lawrence Helm

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