Monday, July 05, 2004

Some Second Thoughts

I was reading the comments on the Peking Duck's posting about the "bare branches" theory.

Maybe, this theory isn't as strong as it's advocates claim. Sure, the Crusades and other adventures are blamed on surplus males that need to be expended somewhere if they can't reproduce or are more likely to seek violence if they are unattached to and socialised by a wife and children.

On the other hand, is this argument that overpopulation leads to war really that sensible? Modern fighter jets and tanks, all consumed like prawn crackers in any but the most one-sided wars, are very, very expensive, probably $20m per unit at least. That money can buy off dissent. I doubt that Korean-war style mass human wave attacks are on the cards for China's next war.

Second, what about the indirect costs of war - disturbances to trade, commodity markets, financial markets, foreign investment - why risk these, particularly as a developing nation? This was Norman Agnell's argument that integration would prevent war. Unfortunately, he published the book in 1912 or so....

Then, what if you lose the war? Wouldn't you end up like the Argentine junta after the Falklands, hanging off the lampposts for betraying the patriotic hopes of the motherland?

I really don't know. Next time I'm in the library, I'll see what Thomas Homer-Dixon, who seems to have inspired Robert Kaplan's The Coming Anarchy, has to say.