Why World Peace is an Illusion and a Dangerous One?

Napoleon Retreats from Moscow

Shortly before World War I, a British author by the name of Norman Angell, published a book by the title The Great Illusion. In his book, Angell argued that war had become obsolete and that the modern industrial era that we exist in ensures that even military victors have more to lose than to gain. He was right in saying so. Yet despite what he said, wars continue and would continue to happen.

Contrary to popular believe, globalization is not something new or  even something developing in a linear fashion (constant from past to future). Alexander the Great started what can be seen as the first process of globalization by conquering half of the known world. Having done so, Alexander wanted to achieve a union of cultures by combining the best of Greece and the best of Asia.

Alexander failed. Shortly after his death, his empire was to split into Antigonid Greece, Ptolemaic Egypt, and Seleucid Asia. The next attempt in globalizing the world was taken up by the Roman Empire. After completely decimating the remnants of Alexander’s broken empire, Rome would enter a phase of Pax Romana (easy communications and flourishing trade) under Augustus Caesar.

Yet Rome failed (in the end). We can see Rome today, but not the Roman Empire. When we look at modern day Italy, their citizens do not call themselves Romans, but Italians. In 1919, British economist John Maynard Keynes described the world economy on the eve of World War I. “The inhabitants of London could order by phone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth.”

Both world wars may have changed how we study geography but not the way we study history. The truth that we can see from history is that globalization happens in waves and in cycles. Our personal computers, iPods, handphones, and Skype only increased the degree of communication around the world but it has not changed the fundamental concept of globalization.

Some of us believe that through globalization, we can achieve an international culture. I beg to differ. This has not and will not materialize. In different places, people judge things differently and this has not changed. At the start of World War I, the world was farely free and globalized. By the end of World War II, the world was fragmented economically and also politically.

After a period of almost uninterrupted world economic growth since the 1970s, I fear the cycle of plenty and prosperity has ended. I urge that people around the world to remember that a world of large-scale international trade and investment before World War I was destroyed by the waves of nationalism.

World peace is a nice idea but a dangerous illusion! Some people think that global economic integration would protect us from a war because the major economies around the world would not risk their prosperity by engaging in outright military action. I disagree because one should remember that Hitler came to power by using the promise of employment and economic growth to overcome the Great Depression.

Please do give another ‘Hitler’ a chance to try and solve economic woes through military means!

Remember World War I, which was supposedly the wars to end all wars!

~The belief that economic rationality always prevents war is an equally great illusion.

by Paul Krugman

Further Reading

The Fifth Meditation, Armata – The Limitations of Military Might

How do we Apply Bargaining Theory?

Economic Focus-The True Price of the Iraq War

Missile Defense or Missile Offense? – Its all the same to Russia

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