In the long run, wars make us safer and richer

samiwas

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A friend of mine posted this article tonight, and mentioned how "neato" it is.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-the-long-run-wars-make-us-safer-and-richer/2014/04/25/a4207660-c965-11e3-a75e-463587891b57_story.html?hpid=z1

So yes, war is hell — but have you considered the alternatives? When looking upon the long run of history, it becomes clear that through 10,000 years of conflict, humanity has created larger, more organized societies that have greatly reduced the risk that their members will die violently. These better organized societies also have created the conditions for higher living standards and economic growth. War has not only made us safer, but richer, too.
This puts the past 100 years in perspective. Since 1914, we have endured world wars, genocides and government-sponsored famines, not to mention civil strife, riots and murders. Altogether, we have killed a staggering 100 million to 200 million of our own kind. But over the century, about 10 billion lives were lived — which means that just 1 to 2 percent of the world’s population died violently. Those lucky enough to be born in the 20th century were on average 10 times less likely to come to a grisly end than those born in the Stone Age. And since 2000, the United Nations tells us, the risk of violent death has fallen even further, to 0.7 percent.

As this process unfolded, humanity prospered. Ten thousand years ago, when the planet’s population was 6 million or so, people lived about 30 years on average and supported themselves on the equivalent income of about $2 per day. Now, more than 7 billion people are on Earth, living more than twice as long (an average of 67 years), and with an average income of $25 per day.
Okay…so does anyone actually, seriously believe this tripe?

Does anyone really walk around saying that war is a good thing because it makes us richer, and makes things better for us?
 

Renzatic

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Okay…so does anyone actually, seriously believe this tripe?

Does anyone really walk around saying that war is a good thing because it makes us richer, and makes things better for us?
Historically, it's true. Wars have been responsible for making nations great and prosperous. WWII all but birthed the modern era, and America's rise to glory was directly because of it.

But that was then, this is now. WWII was the last big war any developed nation could fight in and hope to come out as a victor. These days, two world powers facing off against each other will either lead to a MAD scenario, or, at best, a pyrrhic victory for one. The guarantee of mass destruction isn't worth the potential gains.
 

localoid

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... WWII was the last big war any developed nation could fight in and hope to come out as a victor. These days, two world powers facing off against each other will either lead to a MAD scenario, or, at best, a pyrrhic victory for one. The guarantee of mass destruction isn't worth the potential gains.
And yet, since WWII, the pace of the race to perfect the art of warfare certainly hasn't slowed down. With each passing year, technology allows air/land/sea/space forces, of both the human and machine kind, to kill in new and improved ways.
 

hulugu

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Well, the big question is, did war lead to our society, or is our society so formed by war that we see progress only through the lens of near-continuous warfare?

And, what of the societies eliminated by warfare? Would those societies have added to, or detracted from the modern world? How much time, material, and men did we waste fighting and what would have resulted without that conflict?

There remain a great number of questions that I don't think can be readily answered.
 

Renzatic

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And yet, since WWII, the pace of the race to perfect the art of warfare certainly hasn't slowed down. With each passing year, technology allows air/land/sea/space forces, of both the human and machine kind, to kill in new and improved ways.
Nope. Even now, over two decades past the end of the cold war, the US still has its arms race mentality going on.

Though the pace of technology has tended towards weaponry and fighting styles that work off surgical precision, rather than all out destruction. This is both a good and bad thing. Good in the sense that we won't have to worry about an inefficient nuclear holocaust potentially wiping out the entire human race in the near future, bad in the sense that a government using this tech can track just about anyone, anywhere, at any time. We're slowly trading big booms for a constant flow of information, and it's both awesome and worrying.
 

mrsir2009

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Historically, it's true. Wars have been responsible for making nations great and prosperous.
Yes, but surely at the cost of other nations. I mean, there are only so many resources and so much man-power in the world, and you can't become a richer world as a whole by destroying stuff.
 

Happybunny

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First off these types of statments are always made by people who have never seen the direct result of war close up and personal.

I would like to point out that countries like the US and UK see war very differently than many other countries, because most wars have not been fought on your territory.
Plans go out the window when war comes, look at 9/11, Air Force planes not on the same radio frequency as civilian, it caused untold delay.
When Hurricane Sandy and Katrina hit the US, was not really prepared and was in many cases thrown back to third world levels, now imagine this over 50% of your country, every day a 9/11.

War destroys far more than it makes good in the area where it is fought and the after effects last at least 10 years.

But if you can guarantee that wars in the future will only be fought on US soil I say go for it.:cool:
 

localoid

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... Though the pace of technology has tended towards weaponry and fighting styles that work off surgical precision, rather than all out destruction. This is both a good and bad thing. Good in the sense that we won't have to worry about an inefficient nuclear holocaust potentially wiping out the entire human race in the near future, bad in the sense that a government using this tech can track just about anyone, anywhere, at any time. We're slowly trading big booms for a constant flow of information, and it's both awesome and worrying.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists doesn't seem to agree with your assessment that we no longer need to worry about a nuclear holocaust (or other technology fostered catastrophes).

The hands of the group's Doomsday Clock, which conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies, have moved from 17 minutes to midnight in 1995, to 5 minutes to midnight in 2012. There are over 27,000 nuclear weapons still left in the world, 2,000 of which stand ready to launch in minutes.

The Nuclear Map (source)

Nine countries have nuclear weapons and it is estimated that 35-40 have the knowledge to acquire them.

 

Renzatic

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Yes, but surely at the cost of other nations. I mean, there are only so many resources and so much man-power in the world, and you can't become a richer world as a whole by destroying stuff.
You and Happybunny are thinking solely of the human cost of war, which is commendable of course, but it's not what this article is aiming for. It's taking a more depersonalized, academic view of war, and how it advances society.

If you boil it down to a euphemism, war is basically a competition. An extreme one, certainly, and one that places a lot of pressure on those involved. It's because of that pressure that technological and societal advances tend to be made far more quickly than they otherwise would. They act as a pressure cooker for innovation (never thought I'd say that word without talking about phones around here). When you're in a literal do or die situation, you're gonna whip up something real clever real quick in order to save your ass.

If you want a good example, just about all of the tech we enjoy today got its major start in WWI and II. Planes hit it big WWI. Computers, radar, long distance communication, etc. etc. etc. All that good got a big boost in WWII. Really, up until about the 60's when the space race began, every big technological advancement almost came solely from those wars.

And that's what this article is trying to get at. Not the cost of human lives, but the way war tends to drive invention.
 

Happybunny

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You and Happybunny are thinking solely of the human cost of war, which is commendable of course, but it's not what this article is aiming for. It's taking a more depersonalized, academic view of war, and how it advances society.

If you boil it down to a euphemism, war is basically a competition. An extreme one, certainly, and one that places a lot of pressure on those involved. It's because of that pressure that technological and societal advances tend to be made far more quickly than they otherwise would. They act as a pressure cooker for innovation (never thought I'd say that word without talking about phones around here). When you're in a literal do or die situation, you're gonna whip up something real clever real quick in order to save your ass.

If you want a good example, just about all of the tech we enjoy today got its major start in WWI and II. Planes hit it big WWI. Computers, radar, long distance communication, etc. etc. etc. All that good got a big boost in WWII. Really, up until about the 60's when the space race began, every big technological advancement almost came solely from those wars.

And that's what this article is trying to get at. Not the cost of human lives, but the way war tends to drive invention.

I care deeply about humans because I'm one, it's called compassion.

But if you feel that strongly about it not mattering about the human cost.

Just go to NYC on 9/11/14 and interrupt the roll call of names and tell the world about all the benifits that has happened because of that event.
 

Renzatic

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That's...really surprising. I figured we'd be the farthest down the doomsday clock we've been since the start of the cold war by this point. There are still a ton left around the world, but there isn't any contention among any of the major nuclear powers at the moment.

----------

I care deeply about humans because I'm one, it's called compassion.

But if you feel that strongly about it not mattering about the human cost.

Just go to NYC on 9/11/14 and interrupt the roll call of names and tell the world about all the benifits that has happened because of that event.
You're making something personal out of something that's mostly a purely academic study, and putting words in my mouth to boot.

No one's saying we should go to war in order to further society. That'd be a stupid and terrible thing to do, and not at all the point this article is trying to convey. It's merely stating why wars drive us forward.
 

localoid

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That's...really surprising. I figured we'd be the farthest down the doomsday clock we've been since the start of the cold war by this point. There are still a ton left around the world, but there isn't any contention among any of the major nuclear powers at the moment. ...
In the Middle East, Israel and Pakistan both have nukes. If Iran could manage to produce nuclear warheads, Saudi Arabia would want them them too (Pakistan has worked out non-nuclear sweetheart-deals with Saudi Arabia in the past). Meanwhile, North Korea claims they're counting down to a nuclear weapons test any day now and is thought to currently have 4 to 8 nuclear weapons, and the technology they're trying to develop "for peaceful use in space" is essentially the same technology used in ballistic missile technology.

But it not just nukes we have to worry about... there's a host of "killer apps" currently in the R&D stage.

Video: P.W. Singer on "Military robots and the future of war"

 
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Eraserhead

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That's...really surprising. I figured we'd be the farthest down the doomsday clock we've been since the start of the cold war by this point. There are still a ton left around the world, but there isn't any contention among any of the major nuclear powers at the moment.
Ukraine anyone? And there's also the East and South China seas.
 

Southern Dad

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While it may be factually true that war makes us safer and richer... It's never a good idea to send our servicemen and women into harms way. Wars have changed, now they have rules.
 

Huntn

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War is a characteristic of primitive humans, it makes some countries more prosperous, at great human cost, and by taking away something from someone else, often with the rationalization that God is on their side.

There are limited justifications for it, but to praise it as a universal solution is like holding up the mafia as the best business model. The huge danger is when humans get in over their heads as in the case of nukes and WWIII. Hold your breath that some little country like Pakistan does not trip and start a world wide conflagration that consumes us. Then in the next life, we can argue how good war is for making us safe. :p
 

iMacFarlane

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The huge danger is when humans get in over their heads as in the case of nukes and WWIII. Hold your breath that some little country like Pakistan does not trip and start a world wide conflagration that consumes us. Then in the next life, we can argue how good war is for making us safe. :p
Or, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb".

It seems the only way to fix the problem is through education. We need to ensure that there is an enlightenment that happens in every corner of the globe (spheres don't have corners, but you follow me) and rid ourselves of the fears, bigotry, and hatred that allows one man to harm another.
 

hulugu

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You and Happybunny are thinking solely of the human cost of war, which is commendable of course, but it's not what this article is aiming for. It's taking a more depersonalized, academic view of war, and how it advances society.

If you boil it down to a euphemism, war is basically a competition. An extreme one, certainly, and one that places a lot of pressure on those involved. It's because of that pressure that technological and societal advances tend to be made far more quickly than they otherwise would. They act as a pressure cooker for innovation (never thought I'd say that word without talking about phones around here). When you're in a literal do or die situation, you're gonna whip up something real clever real quick in order to save your ass.
It's an interesting theory, but what it means is far different.

Imagine one of those MIT competitions where the contestants get a box of parts and each team has to build a robot that can fling ping-pong balls into a hoop. Now, you get lots and lots of interesting ideas, some work and some fail.

Now, imagine you have this competition, but you shoot the losers. That's warfare over the last 10,000 years, where major societies were completely and utterly disrupted.

Of course, this means the winners tend to see the competition as important to their engineering careers and their inventiveness. The losers get a bullet (or sword or spear).
 

Renzatic

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It's an interesting theory, but what it means is far different.

Imagine one of those MIT competitions where the contestants get a box of parts and each team has to build a robot that can fling ping-pong balls into a hoop. Now, you get lots and lots of interesting ideas, some work and some fail.

Now, imagine you have this competition, but you shoot the losers. That's warfare over the last 10,000 years, where major societies were completely and utterly disrupted.

Of course, this means the winners tend to see the competition as important to their engineering careers and their inventiveness. The losers get a bullet (or sword or spear).
I know exactly what it entails, and I'm not advocating it. Especially not in this day and age, when our wars so so utterly destructive, they'll set us back at least two steps for every step we gain. I'm just, once again, saying I understand why it's progressed us in the past. I'm viewing it from a purely anthropological point of view, rather than an entirely humanistic one.
 

Renzatic

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Ukraine anyone? And there's also the East and South China seas.
To answer your and Localoid's posts. The Ukraine and the South China Seas hoolabaloo would be considered skirmishes. Regardless of what we think of Putin and the Chinese, we know they're not stupid. Ambitious, yes. But they're not insane. They know the costs of going one step too far. They'll rattle sabers and toe that fine line, but they'll never launch an all out nuclear strike against the west. They have too much to lose, and know it'd be just as much their suicide as it would be our destruction.

Of course there's North Korea, but I seriously doubt they have nuclear capabilities. And even if they did, China would likely step in first thing and invade them themselves if it ever came to the point where it seemed a Korean strike against Japan would be an inevitability. Mostly, they scream and threaten to make themselves look like key players on the world stage, and force us dump more food on them.

Same thing with Isreal, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. It'd make for one helluva regional conflict, which would negatively effect every nation on earth in some shape, form, or fashion. But they're not a direct threat against the West. They don't have the capabilities to launch a massive nuclear strike against Europe, let alone America.

So while we don't have a situation that can be considered anywhere close to being 100% good and safe, the world doesn't seem to be a hairs breadth away from destruction the way it did during the cold war.