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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Has the EU Maintained Peace in Europe?
Created by John Eipper on 03/05/13 4:13 AM

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Has the EU Maintained Peace in Europe? (Cameron Sawyer, Russia, 03/05/13 4:13 am)

When commenting Nigel Jones's post of 4 March, JE wrote:

"We'll never be able to 'prove' what institution has kept the peace in Europe. Rather, we should feel blessed that except for the local and very sad case of Yugoslavia, peace has reigned since 1945. But is it armies that preserve the peace in Europe, as Nigel Jones claims? Economic cooperation/integration is the more powerful force. For example, I'm absolutely convinced that our intertwined economies are the reason China and the US maintain an uneasy, and in many ways unnatural, peace."

I agree with John that it is not only military force which keeps peace; in fact military force is a force for peace only in specific situations--namely, where it is necessary to deter an aggressive power with aggressive intentions, with its own military force. Where the aggressive intentions never appear in the first place, military power is irrelevant, and that is to a remarkable extent true of post-WWII Europe.

Whether the EU (or any of its precursors) played much of a role or not in the high degree of peacefulness in Europe since the end of WWII, I don't think anyone can say for sure--it is pure speculation--but I would guess the truth is not much. Rather the EU and its precursors are a result of the same factors which created peace--a widespread European consensus that more European wars, after the horrors of WWI and WWII, must be avoided at all costs. It is this attitude, I think, most of all, which has prevented any aggressive tendencies with respect to other European countries from appearing anywhere in Europe, leaving aside the aggressive stance taken against each other by the two sides of the Cold War.

But the Cold War and how it played out is also an intertwined part of this same story--other than in ugly proxy wars like Vietnam, far from Europe, the Cold War never became hot. Western Europe was somewhat prepared for a military conflict with the Soviets and their satellites, but the conflict never came, thank God, and it never came probably also because Europe had had enough of slaughter after the period of 1914-1945, and great pains were taken to avoid it.

So the Cold War and preparations for military conflict with the Communist world was also a major factor keeping peace in Europe--Europe was divided up into two sides, waiting for this big war which thank God never came, and there was not much chance for aggression to appear within these blocs, which would surely have been suppressed anyway by the main powers, during the Cold War itself.

And so ironically I think we have to mention nuclear weapons at this point--their existence, and the prospect of the unspeakable horror which would have resulted if they had been used in Europe, probably also played a major role in preventing war in Europe.

So all in all, I don't think the EU and its precursors were in any way a cause of any of this--it was merely one other result of the overall situation. The same horror felt everywhere in Europe after 1945 which allowed peace to prevail for decades, allowed politicians to talk voters into giving up sovereignty in favor of a quasi-superstate--it would be necessary, was the spoken or unspoken subtext, to prevent further bloodbaths, and to fix things in Europe once and for all, justifying radical measures.

As to China, why would the US and China ever go to war? I find it strange that John presumes that these countries should have a tendency to military conflict. Taiwan might be a causus belli, but would China go to war with the US over Taiwan? Would the US? I think the answer is a firm no in both cases, and I think we have let the Chinese know that we won't go to war over Taiwan, which is why China may grab Taiwan any time now, without any fear of military reprisal.

Naturally intertwined economies and mutual economic interests are a powerful force for peace, but that doesn't mean there is any natural tendency to war between the US and China.

JE comments: I'll stand corrected on my US-China comment. By "unnatural peace," I was trying to say that China and the US have vastly different political systems and a rivalry for Pacific hegemony. These types of factors lead nations to conflict--but not (and that was my main point) when their economies are so interconnected.



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  • Politics, Economics, and Peace (Robert Whealey, USA 03/10/13 4:25 AM)
    When responding to Cameron Sawyer's post of 5 March, JE wrote: "I'll stand corrected on my US-China comment. By 'unnatural peace,' I was trying to say that China and the US have vastly different political systems and a rivalry for Pacific hegemony. These types of factors lead nations to conflict--but not (and that was my main point) when their economies are so interconnected."

    This is fundamentally weak logic. This philosophical problem begins in the 1880s, when Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, etc., set up two PhD programs in economics and political science. Oxford in 1956 had a basic degree called PPE, Politics, Philosophy, & Economics. The advisers to the Prime Minister are better integrated.



    The great economists, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes, all taught "political economy." American lawyers who got a degree from an Ivy League or Big Ten School, all had to have two or more courses in Constitutional Law. The State Department has an Economic Adviser.



    If the US and China return to a period tension like the 1950-1973 period, the causes of possible military action will have both economic and political causes. Historians of the balance of power system already understood the problem of war and restoring peace, which is normal since 1648. A third cause of all wars has been implicit in the concept of religion and ideology. Wars are caused by ill-educated hack politicians who confuse an ideological problem with political or an economic problem.


    JE comments: Fuzzy logic is my specialty!


    Seriously now, I think Robert Whealey and I are on the same page. War invariably has political and economic causes. My (weakly argued...ouch) point about China is that we are on different planets when it comes to politics, but our economies are so connected that an armed conflict is unthinkable. In brief: why would China go to war when we owe them so much money?  It's no longer possible to occupy a nation and exact tribute.  And how could the US fight a war against the nation that makes our shoes, toys, and our soldiers' uniforms?

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