Casus belli

BlueForceTracker is a useful bridge between military and civilian understandings of current events, providing insightful analysis by military personnel and veterans.  But in one recent article, the prolific Nolan Peterson skips a couple of important items.

In “Yes, countries with McDonald’s do go to war with each other,” Peterson effectively identifies human nature as a source of interstate conflict.  He joins classical realists like Clausewitz and Hans Morgenthau, and Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes before them.  As a military pilot, diplomat, and journalist, Peterson has seen more of human nature’s dark sides than most people.  But he omits some of the important parts of the framework – the “McDonalds peace” – in which he structures his argument.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman offered The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention in 1996.  At that time, no two countries with McDonalds had gone to war with each other. Countries with a rising level of income and declining political risk were judged as suitable for investments by companies like McDonalds in part because the character of those countries – populations and governments – preferred globalization to war.  (Incidentally, in that same first column, Francis Fukuyama of “the end of history” fame judged that the income level for a McDonalds, and Friedman’s thesis, was probably too low to consider a country unlike to go to war against similar countries.)

In 1999, NATO allies bombed the Yugoslavia capital, Belgrade, which had five McDonalds.  Friedman acknowledged the end of McPeace, sort of: he explained that the war was so short precisely because the citizens of modern Yugoslavia preferred peace and Western investment over retaining Kosovo at the cost of war.

The relationship between globalization and peace was not entirely new in 1996, though.  Harvard’s Robert Keohane and future Department of Defense assistant secretary Joseph Nye had discussed “complex interdependence” in the 1970s and 1980s. Norman Angell, the 1933 Nobel Peace laureate, had been talking about the peace-making impact of globalization (“interdependence”) since before World War I.  Angell argued that the spread of trade and technology among developed nations in Europe made war among them an irrational economic choice – but not impossible, because, as Peterson argues, wars are choices of men.  The great U.S. naval strategist, Captain Alfred T. Mahan, on the other hand, saw the late 19th century rise of trade and technology (including the Panama Canal) as a possible source of increased wealth, but also a new source of conflict. [More on Angell and Mahan, here.]

Peterson is also right to identify that McPeace developed after a bipartisan embrace of “democratic peace theory” – the idea that democracies do not go to war with each other.  This idea helped build support for assistance to “transitioning” countries of the post-Communist world of the early 1990s and, less directly, democratization efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  But democratic peace theory itself had earlier roots.  Michael W. Doyle discussed it in 1983, based on the 18th century writings of Immanuel Kant.

The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention is one of my favorite topics with students, not because it is high theory, but precisely the opposite.  It offers a vivid, easily accessible illustration of several complex ideas.  But like most good ideas, it has roots and histories to be appreciated.

In Defense of Christians

summit of leaders from churches across the Middle East began today (Sept 9) in Washington, with representatives from  Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Melkite Greek Catholic, Chaldean, Antiochian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Assyrian Church of the East, and more. It continues Sept 10-11.

The format of the opening prayer service was apparently one which was last done by St John Paul II in 1987, and had never been done in the United States. It was based on 3rd and 4th century customs, and in several languages.

The messages were simple, and clear:  history divides us but faith [and desperation?] unites us; we must fight the most difficult way: with love; when in doubt, follow the Golden Rule.  The homily was one from St John Chrysostrum: you are the salt of the earth and St Matthew calls you to work for the whole world.   Continue reading

Justices Scalia, Ginsburg Concur – Against 2-Year Law School

Last year, President Obama supported the idea of two-year law school programs.  This past May, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia railed against two-year law school programs (compared to the traditional three years). He argued that two years is not sufficient for training for the profession of law, but treats law school instead like a trade school.  

This week, liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seconded Scalia’s motion, using essentially the same language:  

Two years—it does reduce the respect, the notion that law is a learned profession. You should know a little about legal history, you should know about jurisprudence. [Two years] makes it more of a craft like the training you need to be a good plumber.

Not sure why she thought to make a crack against plumbers.  Time and US News and World Report say the average plumber makes about $50,000 per year – not much less than a local prosecutor or public interest lawyer. Moreover, Time notes that a good plumber in Cincinnati with seven years experience can make $100,000 or more.  

In any case this gives us a chance to mention the Notorious R.B.G. tumblr.  Just because we can.

American Univ advises returning students about Ebola and a global university

As students return to their universities this month, and as many leave the bubble of high school for the first time, health officials are offering lessons about globalization and public health.  

American University explains that it has students from around the world and scholars that travel the world, including West Africa.  It offers a basic explanation that Ebola is difficult to transmit, and a link to the relevant CDC web page.

American University’s Associate Professor Susan Shepler spent this summer in Ebola-affected Sierra Leone and Liberia.  A scholar on youth and conflict, she offers some advice about Ebola.

What do students want?

With back-to-school timeliness, Slate posts an excerpt from the new book by William Deresiewicz, asking What do students want?  He concludes that they want a mommy and daddy.  Well, not exactly. More precisely, he offers that students “crave” mentorship, validation, and connection from “parental figures other than their parents.”  Elaborating:

…there are two things, above all, that students want from their pro­fessors. Not, as people commonly believe, to entertain them in class and hand out easy A’s. That’s what they retreat to, once they see that nothing better is on offer. What they really want is that their teach­ers challenge them and that they care about them. They don’t want fun and games; they want the real thing.   Continue reading