It must be clearly stated that war between major powers is obsolete, but it is not impossible. War itself “has not been abolished”, but it is “increasingly unlikely’ that We will again see a major war-? “a war fought by the most powerful members of the international system, drawing on all of their resources and using every weapon at their command, over a period of years, leading to an outcome with revolutionary geopolitical consequences including the birth and death of regimes, the redrawing of borders and the reordering of the hierarchy of sovereign war “no longer serves the purpose for which it was designed. In this paper I will explain the obsolescence of war by focusing on changes in perspective regarding economic gains and power, the development of international norms and institutions, the spread of democracy, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
However, because major war is not impossible, I will take the time to discuss two countries where the trends of “waywardness have made less headway than in Japan, the US and Western Europe”-?those being China and Russia, but will focus more on the Russian’s current situations For the purpose of this paper, it is important to specify that based on economic and litany supremacy, the most powerful members of the international system currently include the United States, China, Russia, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and India.
Five of these eight members (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and India) possess large nuclear arsenals. 3 Despite the potentiality of war, we have seen peace between these powers for more than half a century. However, small war between less powerful members of the international system continue to take place. One reason for major powers deterring from war is uh to its high costs and low gains. According to Carl Awakens, for most of history, the potential gains from war far outweighed the costs because of the way in which societies were organized. Early agricultural societies were organized around landholding – that is to say that economic and political power went hand in hand with the amount of land one accumulated. Therefore, war fought to control land resulted in increased power for the landholder. The costs were minimal due to simple weaponry and the gains were high. Moreover, it would be the landholders themselves engaging in Attlee, so there was a direct connection between those who would be burdened by the costs and those who would benefit from war. Ultimately, it would seem that “economic motives… Me to have become decreasingly significant as motivations for war over the last centuries”5 due to trade and economic interdependence, the state’s new role as a market state, and the declining importance of territory for a state’s economy. 6 “Major war in the twentieth century is more costly – that is, more destructive – than previous wars of any kind. “7 (This analysis still applies in the twenty-first century). War an result in a high death toll: The First World War had a death toll of approximately 1 7 million individuals, military and civilian.
The Second World War accumulated a death toll of approximately 50 million. Apart from the death toll, the destruction of infrastructure and tangible capital stocks led to high costs. These wars were more costly than any before because the instruments of war were more deadly and destructive. 8 Because of the destructive nature war can have on societies these days, no state will initiate a war unless it expects to gain politically or economically. “Wars begin by unconscious and reasoned decisions based on the calculation, made by both parties, that they can achieve more by going to war than by remaining at peace. 9 Awakens argues that the changes in both these areas in the past 150 years have altered this calculation, so that war no longer recommends itself as a useful instrument. 10 There are less costly ways to solve political issues, primarily through international institutions that mitigate the insecurities of an anarchical international system. 11 The development of international institutions and norms have made war unthinkable as a means of settling lattice differences between states. Luaus Schoenberg credits this to the concept of a “security community’. 2 Various arguments focus on “amity as a function of interdependence (both economic and societal), and some [focus] on the incremental process Of change in collective identities. ” 13 These arguments are used to explain the reconciliation between France and Germany, both of which are now key partners in the European Union. In order to change hostile relationships, states work to achieve a security community. The first real institution developed to achieve international security and stability came with the League of Nations in 191 9, which provided the basis for the united Nations after its failure in the lead up to the Second World War.
The United Nations currently serves as the “world governing institution”. The United Nations is joined by other organizations, including the World Trade Organization (WTFO), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (COED) and the GO/EGG, all of which work to ensure cooperative relations needed in order to keep war at bay. 14 Organizations such as these are not solely responsible for the obsolescence Of major war, but they do encourage peaceful cooperation among states and “[contribute] to the installation of communities in which the willingness to wage war declines. 1 5 For example, many of these institutions, most notably the WTFO, encourage economic interdependence and provide positive trading relationships between states. Additionally, most of these organizations provide conflict resolutions outside the scope of military force, which aids in the deterrence of war. Democracy is another institution that contributes to the obsolescence of major war. It is often deemed that the spread of liberal necromancy is another factor to account for the obsolescence of major war.
The democratic peace theory argues that democratic states almost never war against one another. According to this theory, since almost all of the major powers of the international system are democratic, with the exception of China, it is unlikely that a major war between any of these states fall occur. Statistically, the probability of war between any Owe states is considerably low, but the absence of war among liberal democracies suggests that there is a strong predisposition against the use of military violence between democratic states.
Democratic institutions make it difficult for governments to initiate war without consent of its citizens, and cultural norms suggests that democracies will favor peaceful means of conflict resolution over forceful means since the general public bears the greatest costs Of war. Therefore, democracies are less likely to initiate wars or escalate nonviolent disputes into large-scale war. “Moreover, closely tied to the idea of liberal democracy is the idea of secularism.
Insofar as religious beliefs triggered many wars of the part, the official separation of church and state would seem to remove a throng motivator for violence from these states’ existing arsenal. “1 6 With the Industrial Revolution that began in Europe in the eighteenth century, the development of more powerful weapons technologies and improvement to transportation and communication increased the scale and power of war efforts. 1 7 Because societies are industrialized and globalizes, a war would be highly destructive to not only those involved but to those that rely on resources from other countries, as well. Radically, as technological weaponry enhances and becomes increasingly more destructive, the childhood of major war has declined significantly. Carl Awakens and Kenneth Waltz attribute changes in the calculation of risk to the development of nuclear weapons. Kenneth Waltz suggests that “nuclear weapons have drastically reduced the probability of [a war] being fought by the states that have them. ” Marshier notes that nuclear deterrence is a “much more robust than conventional deterrence. “1 8 Following the introduction and use of nuclear weapons during the Second World War, their destructive power has continued to grow. The introduction of hydrogen bombs in 1952-3 exulted in weapons that were three thousand times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima in the Second World War. By 1960, ballistic missiles made it possible for such destructive weapons to be delivered from any point on the earth to another, with Multiple Reentry Vehicles (MR.) and Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIR) allowing for as many as ten nuclear warheads to be put on top of a single missile. Countries, or even humanity as we know it, could now be destroyed at the push of a button. 1 9 Since among the eight major powers, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and India possess nuclear weapons, these states deter an outbreak of major war because of the devastating potential that the use of highly destructive weapons hold. Nuclear weapons have clearly changed the nature of war entirely. Though major war is obsolete, it is not impossible. China and Russia pose more of a threat when it comes to wars between major powers because trends of waywardness have not made as much of an impact in these two countries as it has in much of the developed world.
Both countries have irredentist claims “to territories that were once overfed from their capitals but which they no longer control”: China’s official claim to Taiwan, and Russian’s unofficial union with Ukraine/ claim to Crimea. Opposition to any forceful exercise of these claims by powerful Western states have made the Taiwan Strait, the Russian/ Ukrainian border, and the Crimean Peninsula “the most dangerous spots on the planet… The potential Sarajevo of the twenty-first century, the places where a world war could begin. 20 Nationalism – characterized by “(1) individual members [giving] their primary loyalty to other groups… And (2) these ethnic or national immunities desire their own independent state” – poses a great danger and could certainly lead to war. 21 “The Russia/ Ukrainian border bisects both nationalities, creating the potential for movements to adjust borders in both countries. “22 This can produce war when the power-balance between the central state and the captive nationalism shifts to allow the possibility of successful secession,23 as seen with Crimea.
Currently, Russian’s involvement with the Ukrainian rebels has been questionable. The Russian government has formed a proxy alliance with the rebels in Ukraine, arming, supplying, and otherwise supporting them and their actionist and “research has found a strong correlation between external support to rebel groups and an increased risk of militaries interstate disputes. “25 There is a possibility that the disputes of nationalism and Russian’s support for the rebels in Ukraine could escalate and eventually lead to full-scale war if these issues are not resolved.
Conditions of nationalism on the Russian/ Ukrainian border “will probably produce a substantial amount of violence… Over the next several decades. “26 It may not cause major war, but it is important to recognize that here is a risk of it with the current conditions in Eastern Europe. Major war appears unlikely for the foreseeable future. War among the major powers is no longer rational simply because it is not profitable – the potential gains are not enough to outweigh the high costs of death and damaged infrastructure.
The development and enhancement of international institutions and norms are another contributing factor to the obsolescence of major war as they provide cooperation among States, especially democratic States. Based on the notions of the democratic peace theory, the spread of liberal democracy nutrients to the waning of war between major powers. Lastly, the development of nuclear weapons keeps major war at bay because of the devastating effects it would have on the entire world if they were to be used.