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January 09, 2013

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Nice to see the Power and Money team addressing pop culture issues as well as geopolitics. The book sounds a lot better than the Benford/Niven joint effort I just read, "Bowl of Heaven."

I have to say I found this jaw-dropping: "Can modern democratic politicians capitalize on violence? Would modern audiences countenance unleashing death in their names for anything less than national survival? These questions are unaddressed." Why address what seems quite settled? In fact, modern politicians do capitalize on violence and modern "audiences" continue to "countenance unleashing death in their names" for far less than national survival. In fact, the latter seem to be able to successfully tune it out. It would be more interesting to have a scenario in which people wouldn't stand for war short of for survival and politicians couldn't capitalize on violence with a well-thought-out path of historical development of how that actually came to be.

I don't know. Interstate war has gone into precipitous decline since 1945, and the incidence of all types of war itself is falling. In that sense, we do indeed live in a world where modern democratic politicians find it not worth their while to capitalize on unleashing death in their names.

Earlier on, we tried to come up with a believable scenario in which interstate war would break out in Europe. We couldn't come up with much.

http://noelmaurer.typepad.com/aab/2012/01/great-debate-attempt-6-the-true-unthinkability-of-interstate-war-in-western-europe.html

The same still applies to East Asia. Tensions are high between China and Japan, but getting from there to open conflict is hard to envisage. Would a short sharp war help Abe's career? The jury is out.

Consider even the United States. The last interstate war, in 2003, was justified by a supposed threat to national survival. Nothing less would serve. The Mexican War that was not. It certainly wasn't World War I, which is the best parallel for the scenario in the above book.

So pick up that jaw, sir! :-) It is certainly not impossible for a modern democratic politician to find going to war with another state to be in their interest. (If you look back on this blog, you'll find me arguing that the reason Argentina doesn't attack Britain is only because it can't win.) And conflicts that aren't considered war (but really are) can certainly be fought. The U.S. is conducting one right now, next door to the unpopular war in Afghanistan.

But it certainly seems to be difficult to cook up believable scenarios for a prolonged WW1 replay. It requires deep thought about the context. And in some places, like Western Europe, it really does seem flat out impossible.

For the record (and I mentioned this to JDN in a separate email) I fully intend to keep the bargain I proposed toward the end of December to kick this off; my health has been ...complex for the last year +, and over the holidays what started out as persistent grumpiness turned out to be the leading indicator of an atypical drug reaction, which led me to be in and out of the hospital over the holidays, and I'm only just now getting back up to speed.

Get better fast, James! No worries at all. I'm glad that you're feeling better; drug reactions suck.

Yeah. I'm afraid that I cannot recommend either Cushings or drug induced suicidal ideation as a way to spend time, despite the many areas of interest that said experience can expose one too. I take great comfort in the knowledge that while M (my wife) has an exceptionally long fuse, a frighteningly even keel and a remarkable degree of personal charity, she is nevertheless one of the great grudge holders of all time and is in a position to flatten that greedy pain management fuckwit's career like so much roadkill. (I am also capable of holding a grudge, at least against persons who essentially blackmail me into doing something self-evidently idiotic that nearly kills me. It is possible that I'm somewhat bitter).

Anyway; I've asked JDN to contact you and Randy regarding this, but I find that now that I'm in motion again I can do it myself: if both of you could send me an email at james dot angove at gmail, naming your charity of choice, that would be ideal. I've decided to make this an ongoing charitable hobby(?), and while I plan to rotate judges to the extent possible, I hope you'll be willing to participate again in the future.

Thanks,
James

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