Jack Curtis is the latest to submit a piece for NOL‘s “Be Our Guest” feature. A slice:
We will compare China, Russia and the United States. China is a post-communist police state that has never experienced democracy. Russia is a post-communist, quasi democratic republic devolving back into a police state. And the United States is a traditionally democratic republic. Excepting the vagaries of disparate cultures, their three governments seem increasingly similar, revising themselves to adopt the new technology. However, these revisions have not originated only within governments; they also reflect the gradual confluence of the underlying societies.
Do read the rest, and I must point out that Jack has been a long time reader of NOL. For that I am personally grateful. It’s nice to be able to link up and collaborate like this.
Submit your own thoughts to us. Be our guest. Tell your friends, too.
- What does a post-Putin Russia look like? Jakub Grygiel, American Interest
- A primer on China’s “People’s Armed Police” Joel Wuthnow, War on the Rocks
- How can people be smart consumers, but dumb voters? Chris Dillow, Stumbling & Mumbling
- The imperial myths driving Brexit Alex von Tunzelmann, the Atlantic
- The rise of millennial socialism Gavin Jacobson, New Statesman
- Class is still the defining force shaping our lives Kenan Malik, Guardian
- Are the Russians forging an ’empire’ in Africa? Maxim Matusevich, Africa is a Country
- Against conservative cultural defeatism David French, National Review
This article analyzes the changing treaty law and practice governing the Ottoman state’s attitude toward the subjects of its most important neighbor and most inveterate rival: the Russian Empire. The two empires were linked by both migration and unfreedom; alongside Russian slaves forcibly brought to the sultans’ domains, many others came as fugitives from serfdom and conscription. But beginning in the late 18th century, the Ottoman Empire reinforced Russian serfdom and conscription by agreeing to return fugitives, even as the same treaties undermined Ottoman forced labor by mandating the return of Russian slaves. Drawing extensively on Ottoman archival sources, this article argues that the resulting interimperial regulations on unfreedom and movement hardened the empires’ human and geographic boundaries, so that for many Russian subjects, foreign subjecthood under treaty law was not a privilege, but a liability.
This is from Will Smiley, a historian at the University of New Hampshire. Here is the link.
Many are familiar with the Democratic Peace Theory, the idea that two democracies have never waged war against one another. The point is widely recognized as one of the major benefits of democracy, and the hand-in-hand development of more democracies and fewer/less-devastating wars than virtually any other period of human history, is a tempting and enticing explanation.
Now, it is not overly difficult to come up with counter-examples to the Democratic Peace Theory, and indeed there’s an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to it. Here are some notable and obvious counters:
- Yugoslavian wars of the 1990s
- First Kashmir War between India and Pakistan War (1947-49)
- Various wars between Israel and its neighbors (1967, 1973, 2006 etc)
- The Football war (1969)
- Paquisha and Cenepa wars (1981, 1995)
Some people even include the First World War and various 18th and 19th century armed conflicts between major powers (American War of Independence comes to mind), but the question of when a country becomes a democracy naturally arises.
There’s another, equally enticing explanation, the main rationale underlying European Integration: The Capitalist Peace, or in a more entertaining and relatable version: The Golden Arches Theory – as advanced by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in the mid-1990s:
No two countries that both have a McDonald’s have ever fought a war against one another.
Countries, frankly, “have too much to lose to ever go to war with one another.” As a proposition it seems reasonable, an extension of the phrase apocryphally attributed to Bastiat: “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will”. And not because your Big Mac meal comes with a side of peace-and-love or enhanced conflict-resolution skills, but because the introduction of McDonald’s stores represents close economic interdependence and global supply chains. After all, if your suppliers, your customers or your collegues consists of people on the other side of a potential military conflict, a war seems even less useful. Besides – paraphrasing Terry Anderson and Peter Hill in their superb The Not So Wild Wild West – trading is cheaper than raiding. Even as adamant a critic as George Monbiot admits that a fair number of McDonald’s outlets “symbolised the transition” from poor and potentially trouble-making countries, to richer and peace-loving ones.
Not unlike poor Thomas Malthus, whose convicing theory had been correct up until that point, reality rapidly decided to invalidate Friedman’s tongue-in-cheek explanation. Not long after it was published, the McDonald’s-ised nations of Pakistan and India decided to up their antics in the Kargil war, quickly undermining its near-flawless explanatory power of Friedman’s. Not one to leave all the fun to others, Russia engaged in no more than two wars in the 2000s to undermine the Golden Arches theory: the 2008 war with Georgia, and more recently the Crimean crisis. Adherring to their namesake creation, McDonald’s pull-out from Crimea was just a tad too late to vindicate Friedman.
The Capitalist Peace, the academic extension of the general truism that trading is cheaper than raiding, came undone pretty quickly thanks in part to our Russian friends. The updated version, the Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention, may unfortunately fall into the same trap as the Democratic Peace Theory: invoking ambiguous definitions that may ultimately collapse to mere than tautologies.