Is War Declining: Why and Where?

EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Is War Declining: Why and Where?

DATE: 1pm-2pm; 31 January 2020

VENUE: Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, Westminster, SW1P 4RS

SPEAKER: Professor Azar Gat

CHAIR: James Rogers, Director of Global Britain Programme



James Rogers:

Ok, well, good afternoon everyone and thank you for coming to this lunch time event at the Henry Jackson Society, where we are going to look into the issue of war and whether that is declining and why that might be. It is my great honour to introduce our guest speaker this afternoon, Professor Azar Gat, who is the Isa Wiseman professor of national security at Tel Aviv University where he specializes in military history, military strategy, and war and peace studies. He has a number of books under his belt, most recently including: “War and strategy in the modern world: from blitzkrieg to unconventional terrorism” that was his book in 2018. One the year before that, “the causes of war and the spread of peace, but will war abound?” This has been an issue that has become of increasing interest, I think, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and also the emerging confrontation, you might say, between the United States, or rather China, and a number of other countries in the indo pacific region. He has also published another book, “Victorious and Vulnerable: Why Democracy Won in the 20th Century and How it is Still Imperilled.” That’s from 2010. And also his book, “War in Human Civilization” from 2006, which was named one of the year by The Times literary supplement. He is also the recipient of the Emmet Prize for 2019, which is Israel’s premier scholarly distinction. So, this afternoon he is going to speak for around 40-45 minutes on why he thinks war might be declining and also where.

So without further a due, if I could hand over to you and we look forward to hearing your thoughts. Thank you.

Professor Azar Gat:

Thank you very much. Hello everybody.

So, most people are very surprised by declaring that we live in the most peaceful period in history. Are we not flooded with media reports and images of conflict around the world today? Some of them very active and bloody, others seemingly, waiting to happen. Have the United States and its allies, including Britain, not been involved in a series of messy wars over the past few decades? Does the rise of China not herald the end of the post-cold war moment of peace between the great powers? Furthermore, if there has been a decline in belligerency, when did it begin? With the end of the cold war in 1945? Or perhaps earlier? And what caused it?

The so called, “long peace” among the great powers, no great power war after 1945, is widely recognized and it is widely attributed to the nuclear factor, a decisive factor to be sure, which concentrated the minds of all the protagonists wonderfully as they say about the hanging rope.

The democratic peace, the absence of war between democracies has been equally recognized. However, the decrease in war has been very mild even before the nuclear era and has encompassed known democracies as well as democracies. The occurrence of war and overall mortality rate in war has sharply decreased from 1815 onward, especially in the developed world. During the 19th century, between 1815 and 1914, war among industrializing countries declined in its frequency to about a third of what they had been in previous centuries; an unprecedented change. Compared to the record during the 18th century, Austria and Prussia for example -neither of them a democracy, fought about a third to a quarter as much during the century after 1815.

Indeed, the long peace after 1945, 75 years today and counting, was preceded by the second longest peace ever, no war among the great powers, between 1871 (that’s the end of the Franco-Prussian war) and 1914 -43 years in all, and by the 3rd longest peace between 1815 and 1854 -39 years. Thus, the three longest periods of peace by far, in the modern great powers system, have all occurred after 1815 with the first 2 taking place before the nuclear age. No similar long peace period has occurred in the modern great power system before 1815.

So you see here, the current long peace, the second long peace (which is also the second longest peace between 1871 and 1914, the first long peace -1815 and 1854 (this is the record of the 18th century). You see that there is no similar phenomenon, no period, no long peace period before. If you go back to the 17th century and so forth, you see the same thing.

This striking phenomenon, the long peace phenomenon, can not be accidental. A decline in belligerency began from 1815, not 1945 or 1989. Clearly one needs to explain the entire period of reduced belligerency since 1815 while also accounting for the glaring divergence from the trend -the miliasides, which is the two world wars. So we want to explain the long peace phenomenon and at the same time we want to explain the great exception, huge exception, the two world wars.

There is a tendency to assume that war have declined in frequency during the past 2 centuries because they have become too lethal, destructive, and expensive. Fewer but more ruinous wars. This hypothesis barely holds however, because relative to population and wealth, wars have NOT become more lethal and costly than earlier in history.

The wars of the 19th century from 1815 to 1914, the most peaceful century in European history, were in fact particularly light in comparative terms. Prussia won the German wars of unification in short and decisive campaigns and at a remarkably low price. And yet Germany did not fight again for 43 years. True the world wars especially WWII were certainly on the upper scale of the range in terms of casualties. WWII, somewhere between 60 and 70 million dead in the war, yet contrary to wide spread assumptions, they were far from being exceptional in history. We need to look at relative casualties, general mortality rates in war rather than at the aggregate created by the fact that many states participated in the world wars. Ok, we are talking again, relative rates of casualties, of the dead. WWII, (talking about slides) this is not very clear, but WWII in terms of relative casualties, the proportion, the percentage of the societies involved that died in the war appears there in red. You see that they are far from the highest.

I’ll give you a few examples now just to drive home the point. In the Peloponnesian war, the Greek world war between Sparta and its allies, and Athens and its allies, 431-403 BC. Athens is estimated to have lost between a quarter and a third of its population, more than Germany in the two world wars combined.

In the first 3 years of the second Punic war, Hannibal’s war, the war that took place between 218 and 202 BC, Rome lost some 50 thousand male citizens of the ages 17 to 46, out of a total amount of 200 thousand in these ages. This was roughly 25 percent of the military age cohort in only 3 years. The same range as the Russian military casualties and higher than the German rate in world war 2.

Similarly, in the 13th century, the Mongol conquests inflicted on the societies of China and Russia, casualties and destruction that were among the highest ever suffered during historical times. Even by the lowest estimates, casualties were as high, were at least as high, and in China definitely far higher than the Soviet Union’s horrific raid in world war two of about 50 percent of its population.

A final example, during the 30 years’ war, that is 1618 to 1648, population loss in Germany is estimated at between a fifth and a third, either way again, higher than the German casualties in WWI and two combined. If we forget how pre-modern war looked like, this is an example, a reminder.

Now this goes against our intuition and I would like to explain why it goes against our intuition. People often assume that more developed military technology during modernity must mean grater lethality and destructiveness. But in fact it also means greater protective power as with mechanized armour, mechanized speed and agility, and defensive electronic measures.

I come from Israel, over the past 35 years, apart from one unfortunate event 2 years ago, the Israeli air force has not lost even one air craft. Even though one can not say, that in war, it is kept un-busy.

Offensive and defensive advances, generally rise in tandem and tend to offset each other. In addition, it is all too often forgotten, that the vast majority of the many millions of non-combatants killed by Germany during world war 2; jews, Soviet prisoners of war, Soviet civilians, fell victim to intentional starvation, exposure to the elements, and mass execution, rather than to any sophisticated military technology. Instances of genocide in general during the 20th century, much as earlier in history, were carried out with the simplest of technologies as the Rwanda genocide horrifically reminded us.

Nor is it true that war during the past two centuries have become economically more costly than they were earlier in history, again relative to overall wealth. War always involved massive economic exertion and was the single most expensive item of state spending. Both 16th and 17th century Spain, and 18th century France for example, were economically ruined by war and staggering war debt, which in the French case brought about the revolution. Furthermore, death by starvation, in pre-modern wars, was wide spread.

You shouldn’t think that only autocrats and military aristocracy profited from war while the people were its unwilling victims. This idea was advanced during the enlightenment and is very popular today. However, it ought to be remembered that the two most successful war making states of classical antiquity, were democratic Athens and republican Rome. And they were so successful precisely because the people of these policies, benefitted from war and imperial expansion, championed them, and enlisted in their cause. Half of the Athenian budget (at the time of Paracelsus), came from the tribute of the empire that was used to build the acropolis and pay for the huge navy, in both of which the demos was implored.

What then is the cause of the decline in belligerency if wars indeed did NOT become more lethal and expensive than earlier? Even before the middle of the 19th century, during the first long peace, thinkers such as San Simone, Augustin, and John Steward Mill, who were quick to note the change, realized that it was caused by the advent of the industrial/commercial revolution, the most profound transformation of human society since the Neolithic adoption of agriculture some 10 thousand years ago. In the first place, you have an explosive growth in per-capita wealth, about 30 to 50 fold from the onset of the revolution to the present. The threat that had plagued pre-modern society, famously described by the demographer and economist Thomas Malthus in 1799, where by slow growth in wealth was absorbed by more children and more mouths to feed, has been broken. Wealth no longer constitutes a fundamentally finite quantity in a zero sum game when the only question is how it is divided. And with force functioning as a major means of attaining a larger share of the pie.

This pie has been continuously growing with wealth now derived now predominantly from economic growth, and investment at home from which war tends to be a wasteful destruction.

So you can see that this is the growth, wealth per capita. You can see that until around 1800 the graph is flat, this is precisely the Malthusian trend. And you can see the exponential growth from 1800 onward by those who successfully embraced modernization. You don’t have to trouble yourself too much, it’s the usual suspects at the top: North America, Western Europe, Oceania, and so forth. And you can see the other parts of the world taking off, more or less successfully in recent decades. Obviously the most successful cases come from East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.

Second, the significance of trade in the economy has ballooned to entire new dimension precisely because of the new process of industrial growth. Rate of freedom of trade has become all the more attractive in the industrial age for the simple reason that the overwhelming share of fast growing and diversifying production, has now been intended for sale in the market place rather than for direct consumption by the peasant producers themselves.

Consequently, economies are no longer overwhelmingly *unable to understand word*, having becoming increasingly interconnected by specialization, scale, and exchange. Foreign devastation, potentially depresses the entire system, as is detrimental to a state’s own wellbeing. What John Steward Mill discerned in the abstract, in the 1840’s from the corner stone of John Maynard Keynes’s criticism of the harsh reparation imposed on Germany after WWI. If the German economy was not allowed to revive, he argued, the global economy could not revive either. This was a matter of self-interest for the victors.

Thus the greater the yield of competitive economic cooperation, the more counterproductive and less attractive conflict becomes. Rather than war becoming more costly, as is widely believed, it is in fact peace that has been growing more profitable.

If so, why have wars continued to occur during the past two centuries, albeit at a much lower frequency? In the first place, ethnic and nationalist tensions often overrode the logic of the new economic reality, accounting for most wars in Europe between 1815 and 1945. They continue to do so today, especially in the less developed part of the world. Moreover, the logic of the new economic realities, receded during the late 19th century and early 20th century as the great powers resumed protectionist policies and expanded them to the undeveloped parts of the world with the new imperialism (that is after 1882). This development signalled that the emergent global economy might become partitioned, rather than opened, with each imperial domain becoming closed to everybody else.

Free trade has the effect of disassociating economic access from the confine of political borders and severity. It is not necessary to politically possess a territory in order to benefit from it. Furthermore, the size of the nation, makes little difference in an open international economy. The citizens of Luxemburg are as rich as, if not richer than, the citizens of the United States. By contrast, size becomes the key to economic success in a closed, narrow market, narrow mercantilist, international economy because small countries cannot possibly produce everything by themselves. Moreover, in a partitioned global economy, economic power increases national strength, while national strength defends and increases economic power. It again becomes necessary to politically own territory in order to profit from it.

Hence the heightened tensions between the grate powers associated with the imperialist race before WWI. The change was completed in the 1930’s with the great depression, as the USA, Britain, and France practically closed their territories and empires to import by high tariffs.

Britain, the former champion of free trade and the largest imperial power, reversed course and closed its boarders to import with the policy of imperial preference (this is 1932). For the territorially confined Germany and Japan, the need to break away into imperial Lebensraum or East Asian *Coprosparitif* sphere, seemed particularly pressing. Here lay the seeds of the two World Wars. Furthermore, the retreat from economic liberalism in the first decades of the 20th century, sparked (and was sparked by) the rise to power of anti-liberal, anti-democratic political ideologies and regimes, incorporating a creed of violence, communism, and fascism.

Since 1945, the decline of major war has deepened further. Nuclear weapons have been a crucial factor in this process, but no less significant has been the institutionalization of free trade and the closely related process of rapid and sustained economic growth. The spread of liberal democracy has been equally potent. Although none liberal and none democratic states also became much less belligerent during the industrial age, it is the liberal democracies that have been most attuned to its pacifying aspects. Relying on arbitrary coercive force at home, non-democratic countries have found it more natural to use force abroad. By contrast, liberal democratic societies are socialized to peaceful non-mediated relations at home, and the citizens have grown to expect the same norms be applied internationally. Living in increasingly tolerant societies, they have grown more receptive to the others points of view, promoting freedom, legal equality, and political participation domestically, liberal democratic powers, although initially in possession of vast empires, have found it increasingly difficult to justify ruling over foreign peoples without their consent. And sanctifying life, liberty, and human rights, they have proved to be failure in falsehood repression. Furthermore, with the individual’s life and pursuit of happiness elevated above group values, sacrifice of life in war has increasingly lost legitimacy in liberal democratic societies. War retains legitimacy only under narrow and narrowing formal and practical conditions, and is generally viewed as extremely abhorrent and undesirable.

Thus modernization, most notably its liberal past has sharply reduced the prevalence of war as the violent option for fulfilling human desires has become much less rewarding than the peaceful option of competitive cooperation. Furthermore, in societies of plenty, people become risk averse. It’s almost obvious, if you already have everything, why risk life and limb.

Yea let’s mention this too.

Another element of the modern condition, just an example, with the much increased sexual opportunity within society, young men now are more reluctant to leave behind the pleasures of life for the riggers and chastity of the field. “Make love not war,” wasn’t the slogan of the powerful anti-war youth campaign of the 1960’s, which not accidentally coincided with the far reaching liberalization of sexual norms. Imagine you are a student in the United States in the 1960’s, you have an option to go to Vietnam or go to college and have fun, what would you chose?

The fruits of these deepening trends and sensibilities have been nothing short of miraculous. The probability of war between affluent democracies has declined to a vanishing point where they no longer even see the need to prepare for the possibility of a militarized dispute with one another. The security dilemma between neighbours that seemingly intrinsic feature of international anarchy, for all of you here who studied international relations, no longer exists among them. This is most conspicuously the case in north America, and Western Europe, the worlds most modernized and liberal democratic regions.

Thus Holland and Belgium, no longer fear in the slightest a German or French invasion. A historically unprecedented situation. Similarly, Canada is not at all concerned about the prospect of conquest by the United States, though people find it difficult to explain why exactly this is so. In East Asia, the most developed countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, even though (for historical reasons) there is no love lost between them, do not fear war among themselves, or with any of the other developed countries. However, they are deeply apprehensive of being attacked by less developed neighbours such as China and North Korea.

Thus, wars geographical centre of gravity has shifted radically. The modernized, economically developed parts of the world have become a zone of piece. War now appears to be confined to the less developed parts of the globe, the world’s zone of war, where countries that have lagged behind in modernization and its pacifying spin off effects, occasionally still fight among themselves, as well as with the developed countries.

Ok, this is a map of the world by wealth per capita. Unsurprisingly, you see that the wealthiest parts of the world are concentrated in North America, Western Europe, Oceania, and parts of East Asia. You also will notice that this is the regions of the world where interstate war, and we shall also civil war, does no longer take place. By contrast, you can see where the poorest regions of the world are, mainly in Africa, my very own Middle East, and parts of South Asia; and these are also the places where war occurs, or is expected to occur. These are still the most volatile areas of the globe.

So as I said, much of this applies to civil wars. Modernized, economically developed liberal democratic countries have become practically free of civil wars on account of their stronger consensual nature, plurality, tolerance, and indeed the greater legitimacy for peaceful secession. By contrast, undeveloped and developing countries, remain very susceptible to civil wars, and all the more so as many of them are ethnically fragmented, and possessing a weak central government.

At this epic junction, it is time to turn our attention to some major countervailing forces and stress that the dramatic spread of peace is far from being fool-proof and free from shadows and challenges. Perhaps the most significant challenge is the return of capitalist, non-democratic great powers, a regime type that has been absent from the international system since the defeat of Germany and japan in 1945.

The massive growth of formally communist, and fast industrializing, authoritarian capitalist China, represent the greatest change in the global balance of power. Russia too has retreated from its post-communist liberalism and has assumed an increasingly authoritarian and nationalist character, coupled with a more aggressive stance, as in Crimea, the Ukraine, and Syria.

The cartoonist of the economist was somewhat optimistic a few years ago, let’s hope he’s right.

China’s per capita production, of around 8 thousand to 9 thousand dollars, is still only one fifth to one seventh to that of the developed world. Will China become more assertive and aggressive as its wealth and power increase during the coming decades? Or will growing wealth and affluence make its people and government increasingly averse to military action as is the case throughout the developed world? Furthermore, will China and Russia eventually democratise with development? These are the most crucial political questions of the 21st century.

The lessons of history are not as clear about the inevitability of the process as some progressivists tended to believe during the end of history decade. Furthermore, the outbreak of the economic crisis, the authoritarian great powers have gained much in confidence while the hegemony and prestige of democratic capitalism have suffered the massive blow, unparalleled since the 1930’s, and the rise of the fascist and communist totalitarianism.

One hopes that the current economic and political malaise will not be nearly as catastrophic, and yet the global allure of state driven and nationalist, capitalist, authoritarianism, may grow substantially. At the same time, American might, the main reason (not sufficiently appreciated) for the triumph of democracy in the 20th century, is undergoing relative decline though probably not as steep as it is sometimes imagined.

Deeply integrated into the world economy, the new capitalist-authoritarian powers partake of the development, open trade, capitalist, and affluent peace, but not of the liberal democratic one. The democratic and non-democratic powers may co-exist more or less peacefully, armed because of mutual fear and suspicion, but there is also the prospect of more antagonistic relations, accentuated ideological rivalry, potential and actual conflict, intensified armed races, and new cold wars. Furthermore, China’s and Russia’s support for oppressive regimes around the world, most notably Syria and iran, maybe a foretaste of things to come.

Furthermore, the prospect of new protectionism increases the likelihood of armed confrontation as production and trade are again linked to territory and direct rule. The system of free trade has been exploited by china in the direct theft of knowledge and the coercion of foreign companies to seek know-how. These vices must be corrected.

On the other hand, if protectionism and trade blocks are going to re-emerge, China’s incentive to secure its control of vital resources as in the South China sea, might grow momentously.

Finally, the September 11 2001 mega terror attacks in the United States, have turned attention to yet another shadow hanging over the decline of belligerency. This is unconventional terror employing weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, biological, and chemical.

Biological weapons have the greatest potential as the biological revolution is one of the spearheads of today’s technological advance. A virulent laboratory cultivated strain of bacteria or virus, let alone a specially engineered super bug against which no immunization exists, might bring the lethality of biological weapons within the range of nuclear attacks while being far more easily accessible to terrorists than nuclear weapons. I hope I’m not giving anybody ideas, and in any case don’t try this at home. Fortunately, in contrast to chemical and biological agents, terrorists cannot produce nuclear weapons, yet they might obtain them from those who can.

At the root of the problem, is the trickling down to below the state level, of the technologies and materials of mass killing. The greatest threat of nuclear proliferation into countries with low security standards and high levels of corruption, is the far increased danger of leakage. Furthermore, states in the less developed and unstable parts of the world are ever in danger of disintegration and anarchy. When state authority collapses, and anarchy takes hold, who is to guarantee the country’s nuclear arsenal? Pakistan with its past sales of nuclear knowhow, and potential instability, is a much discussed case. The same obviously applies to Daesh, al-Qaida, and so forth.

Scenarios of world threatening individuals and organizations, previously reserved to fiction of the James Bond genre, suddenly become real.

Because deterrent is based on mutually assured destruction scarcely applies to terrorists the use of ultimate weapons is more likely to come from them than it is from states. Unconventional capability acquired by terrorists is usable. Indeed, once the potential exists it’s difficult to see what would stop it from materializing somewhere, sometime.

On this happy note I stop to leave us all some time for questions.

James Rogers:

Ok thank you very much Professor Gat for that interesting overview. I mean I think the evidence to show that the number of people that have died during wars going all the way back into kind of classical times relative to the population is generally irrefutable. I guess if I might start off by asking you 2 questions which I think you alluded to.

The first one is it not ultimately a consequence, at least in the last 2 to 3 hundred years of the fact that 2 democratic states, firstly the UK and then the US, added to the UK, in 19th and 20th century, the fact that they became so powerful, both in terms of industrialized states but also in extension of that power, that the very conditions you suggested were themselves made possible…

Professor Azar Gat:

Absolutely, let me answer this question because it is important enough. So yes obviously this is the case but the question that one should ask is why should these democracies in the last 2 centuries, as you suggested, why they became the grunters (basically) of peace? This is the pax Britannica and the pax Americana, why should this be the case.

As I mentioned, during antiquity, democratic Athens and republican Rome were among the most bellicose and the most successful war making politics and I explain why this was the case. It was the case because the demos in Athens and the populous in Rome, the people gained a lot from war. Things change when the very rational of wealth inquisition and the growth of wealth changed from around, in the British case, from the late 18th century. Now growth/wealth, is closely associated with productionate home and with trade. And this is what flips the attitudes of the democratic electorate. You know that during the 18th century, in the 18th century, David used the democratic electorate of Rome to, how do you put it, vehements, I forget the adjective but vehements is the noun, so he was looking, he was observing antiquity, he was observing the classical times, but things change, this is why they change. So democracy yes, more prone to development democracy or the most, but you needed the logic of the industrial age to make this possible.

James Rogers:

Ok well thank you, I will throw open the floor. Yeah

Unknown guest 1:

Thank you very much for the talk. I’m *inaudible* and I used to be an employee here at Henry Jackson society…

Professor Azar Gat:

And what happened then?

Unknown guest 1:

I moved on to new challenges,

Professor Azar Gat:

Ok good.

Unknown guest 1:

What I found really interesting was how sort of you laid out the change sort of long peace’s that start out from about 1815 and so on. There was a very famous speech by Benjamin Constant in 1819, in “Liberty of the Ancients and the Moderns” right at the start of this long peace period where he lays out the ancient world, which is much more conquest orientated compared to commercial…

Professor Azar Gat:


Unknown guest 1:


Professor Azar Gat:


Unknown guest 1:

Benjamin Constant, and I think you would find it really interesting to have, in terms of the explanation

Professor Azar Gat:

Yea, San Simone around the same date

Unknown guest 1:

And Constant I think is useful here because it’s not just merely war, it’s also about violence that he talks about, which I think is, I think that we should also look not between interstate violence but intern state violence, civil wars and so on, and how say China today has a weaker population, under deputy house arresting camps and so on. That kind of thing. But also bad policies. So every year something like 10 times the number of people killed in 9/11, are killed in the drug violence in Mexico. And so bad policies and prohibition undermining states on the borders leading to that which could be an additional element to that sort of terrorism and so on that you talked about, bad policies create more violence. So there’s that sort of kind of thing which I think strengthens your thesis…

Professor Azar Gat:

But again there is, yes absolutely, but again there is you know this injustice that bad policies again, we always lament bad policies in our countries, but bad policies unfortunately are even more associated with undeveloped countries or developing countries. So they are unfortunate in this respect as well. so development vs lack of development are the crucial criteria that distinguish the known violent, all in all, and the still violent prone parts of the world as this map demonstrates. Thank you

James Rogers:

Person at the back

Unknown guest 2:

Just a comment on your theory about liberal democracies losing their appetite for war through trade and increasing wealth. It seems a notable exception would be, in the last 60 years, the United States, which has been through a series of conflicts in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. And I would suggest that perhaps what president Eisenhower said when he left office that he feared that the industrial military complex would increasingly drive foreign policy still holds.

Professor Azar Gat:

Yea, so this is an often heard argument, and has been for quite a while. First of all, I comment that the decreasing belligerency is not confined to the democracies. I made that clear. As I said, Austria and Prussia, both of them, fought a third of what they did during the 19th century than they used to in the 18th century anytime earlier. So you have a decline in belligerency in all the countries which have experienced the industrial revolution. In 1841, the future famous Prussian chief of the general staff, Helmuth Moltke, he was not yet the chief of the general staff then, he wrote in 1841, that Prussia had gained from the period of peace since 1815, so much more than any successful war could bring it. Obviously he would later change his mind. But it is typical that he expressed himself in the very same way as John Stewart Mill did at this very year. So the decline of war is not limited to the democracies. It applies also to today’s China, even though less than it applies to the democracies, China is obviously not yet affluent as the affluent parts of the world.

Now with respect to the Americans wars, as I said the argument that you have expressed used to be and still is widely heard, but the opposite argument also widely heard, is that the united states acted as the policeman of the world order. Created after 1945. Which connected democracy, free trade, and peace. And that these wars were against the enemies of these orders. So if Saddam Hussein for example took over Kuwait, the united states, in the words of President Bush the father, in defence of the new world order, has been played this role. It’s in fact, much heard of concern these days that the United States might withdraw or might be withdrawing from the roll which it had played since 1945. By the way Britain, in many ways, acted as the policemen of the pax Britannica during the 19th century. Its motives obviously were not always saintly, they were far from being saintly but you know, that is the entire logic of liberalism and including capitalism liberalism that, selfish motives, if channelled into liberal channels, promote general wellbeing. This is Adam Smiths “the hidden hand of the market” and so forth.

Unknown guest 2:

Yes but let’s just say further, the arms industry, to address that issue. When an economy is dependent to such an important extent on the production of armaments, which are then sold abroad, it can then drive a nations foreign policy and lead it into conflicts.

Professor Azar Gat:

Yea but you need to demonstrate that this was the case and the argument has been refuted so many times since then and you know.

James Rogers:

Ok let’s take 2 questions, the person right at the back.

Unknown guest 3:

I was wondering where you think cyberwar things will fit into the narrative of war?

Professor Azar Gat:

So cyber obviously is a much talked about now and rightly so but its, you know, we expect the use of cyber where I said here that is cyber warfare is unlikely to be employed among the countries of the developed world. That is, we are unlikely to see the United States taking Germany, you know employing eves dropping to the counsellor is one thing, but I mean real cyber warfare taking place within the developed parts of the world. Whereas we know, we don’t have to speculate about it, we know that China and Russia engage, massively, in cyber and other forms of information warfare and so forth against the west. We know this. And obviously again, terrorists are able to use cyber to bring down systems both in the developed and in the developing parts of the world. Though I still think that the threat of say, biological weapons, is much more severe than that of cyber which concerns terrorists.

James Rogers:

Ok yes, lady.

Unknown guest 4:

Do you think that environmental change, and climate change, would overturn this progress to peace? Ultimately?

Professor Azar Gat:

Yes, so its interesting how I always get the same questions and this is not a negative comment, it only shows that some questions are almost inevitable called for. So let me say that I’m not a profit so I don’t know what will happen in the future. We might be struck by a comet and all gone. So what I was presenting here is some major trends that in my interpretation underlay the 19th and 20th century, obviously we are going to have new challenges, some of them with not encountered before in this or another form. As for with the environment, it is a matter of speculation. I guess our attitude is an attitude of, each of us is each a function of temperament so I tend to be more optimistic about this. I believe that we have the resources and ingenuity to address these problems more or less successfully. Again we see the divide here, hold on let me just one more sentence. Again we see the divide here that is I expect the developed parts of the world to weather these changes, pun not intended, better than the poor parts of the globe. Take for example the current civil war in Syria. It was partly prompted by years of drought in Syria which drove the peasants to the cities and created unrest and so forth. So, but you know, all this lies in the future and as I said, I am not a profit.

James Rogers:


Unknown guest 5:

Thank you for the talk, can I ask about 2 observations which can you explain them to me because they sound contradictory. One is we often hear that countries like Iran, are out to get, feel the need to get a nuclear weapon because they fear being invaded by the wealthy industrialized countries. And at the same time I’m also sure that its clear in the places like the middle east that the west is tired of war and has no intention of regime change. And that that withdraw from the theatre emboldens countries like Iran. So I wonder if you think how this….

Professor Azar Gat:

No I think what you’ve said is perfectly correct. There are conflicting forces working in reality, and conflicting perceptions influencing the sides so what you said about Iran was true on both sides of the equation.

 Unknown guest 5:

What does your theory predict is the outcome?

Professor Azar Gat:

I’m not a prophet. So I can you know, it’s just general trends and the dynamics behind it.

 Unknown guest 5:

So in general, not on Iran, so in general your theory is as all those countries get wealthier including the industrialized world that wars will continue to persist in the aggregate…

Professor Azar Gat:

In theory, in theory, this should be the case. Whether or not, the real question of the 21st century, politically, let’s leave the environment, politically or internationally, is how is China going to develop? Is it going to democratize? If it democratizes, is it going to become more pacifistic? All these are open questions. My view is that we cannot know the answer in advance. So we might speculate, consider the options, but we do not have the answer to these questions. Only 10 years ago, 20 years ago, people were quite sure that in time china was going to liberalize. All these expectations have gone through a recession.

James Rogers:

Yes please

Unknown guest 6:

Thank you very much, you pointed out in your presentation earlier on that long periods of peace have historically come during times of state dominance over society, with the state being the primary organizer of social class and wealth and everything. Given that now-a-days, the majority of conflict isn’t carried out by state militaries, its carried out by in-state militias, private military companies, terrorist organizations…war as we understand it particularly in the west being gained a lot from definitions gained by the treaty of Westphalia at the Geneva conventions of state on state actors coming together but the need for those conflicts being state dominance over society which historically, well as we can see today, gradually regressing. Can we return to a state, can we return to a period of time when total war re-emerges and the state regains the monopoly of violence from non-state actors?

Professor Azar Gat:

So you’ve suggested the kind of interpretation of history of kind of correlation which I am not sure is warranted. So for example, Nazi Germany, its control of German society was pretty massive. It paled in comparison to Stalin’s Russia but still it was pretty massive. And yet Nazi Germany was the initiator of huge interstate wars. The same for imperial Japan. And today you know the majority of conflict, I am not sure how we measure this, obviously in the parts of the world where no central control exists, so in parts of Central Africa, or where it is weak, in parts of central Africa we see this reality but you know as people here mentioned many of the threats of conflict come today are from Iran, maybe China, we do not know. So I am not sure that the correlation you are suggesting, and therefore the forecast implicit in that has a basis in reality. Obviously it’s the case that the least developed parts of the world are also the more to prone to anarchy. That has always been the case and it is even more the case now. Which you then have to separate between the effects of modernization or lack of modernization and anarchy in generating war.

James Rogers:

Ok well thank you. I understand that this event was supposed to finish at 2 but we can go on for another 10 or 15 minutes. But if you have to go by all means please leave us. So let’s move on to the next question, I see someone at the very back, please.

Unknown guest 7:

I have an anthropological question. There’s a great book by Ken Wilber from the 70’s called “Up from Eden”, it’s about the emergence of human consciousness, but in there he talks about war being a sort of expression of the male ego dominating everybody around it. And obviously pre-emotion is a strategy used by warrior kings 2000 years ago became a very major strategy of war. But it’s male ego, he argues, that drives war faring in general and he suggests that in the west we’ve lost a lot of sacred feminine where in the east there is lots more balance. Do you think if we have more global female political leaders, we’d have more peace?

Professor Azar Gat:

So very first it’s true that violence, physical violence, is more associated with males. And with the famous or infamous male hormone testosterone. So we know for example that more than 90 percent of all homicide cases and other incidents of physical violence, are carried out by men. And this is all over, this is universal, it applies to stone age societies. Even though murder rates in Detroit are 30 times more than London, the ratio that its more than 90 percent are carried out by men stays the same. So yes, men are obviously the curse of this world in this sense. At the same time, we see that there is a huge difference in the rates of homicides, of lethal violence, as I mentioned. So for example as I said, in Detroit its 35 times that of London, so it’s not that there is something automatic about this. And I just mentioned also, remember this?

Throughout history, sexual opportunity was one of the perks of military operation. For men to enlist, like *inaudible*. You know the slogan of the British navy was, “join the navy and see the world”? People coming from small communities, never leaving them, boring communities, had the opportunities to see the world and experience a lot of things, including sexual opportunity, sadly, partly, in the form of mass rape. That was the privilege of troops who were storming a place. We still see it very recently in the former Yugoslavia, in central Africa, when the Soviets took over the eastern parts of Germany, it’s estimated that 2 million German women were raped by the Soviet troops. Its estimated that some 100 thousand cases of abortion were performed by German doctors in Berlin alone.

But as you see from here, as the calculus of sexual opportunity changed, so did, so has the attitude of males. It is no longer ok to rape women during military operation, at least in the armies of the militaries of the affluent countries. And on the other had there are so many more opportunities at home. It was young men who voted against Vietnam.

Now about women leaders of countries, I really don’t know. The record is not very supportive. You know the paradigmatic cases of Queen Elizabeth the first, our very own Golda Meir, India’s Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher. Are they less militant and less war prone? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe because they operate in a man dominated world, who knows. In any case, the evidence is not clear. What is clear that in terms of voting, we know almost across the board, that female voting is more inclined toward the more pacifistic parties on the political scale. If you compare male to female voting, its again, almost universal.

James Rogers:

Gentleman at the back.

Unknown Guest 8:

Since we are dealing with very big issues, I just wondered where, in your thesis, and what role religion plays, if it plays a role at all. I’m thinking in terms of *indistinct*, also separation of church and state.

Professor Azar Gat:

So religion is only a sub-category of ideology in general. So you have religious ideologies and you have secular ideologies and they have all played their role throughout history. The wars of religion, so common throughout the world before modernity and are still in evidence in the less developed parts of the world. And secular ideologies, ideological conflicts where a major source of belligerency during the 19th and 20th century. So it’s not only religion, we are now attracted to religion because of the return of relig…as my former doctorate supervisor, Sir Michael Howard said to me once, “I never dreamed that I would see the return of the wars of religion”. But they are only back because these parts of the world and these parts of the world, religion still plays a very prominent role as the predominant ideology. More about ideology I’ll have to give you references to my book, sorry about that.

James Rogers:

Ok one last question

Unknown guest 9:

Linked to the question that you’ve just been answering. There was a speaker here last year some time who had written a history of international intelligence and he said in a Q&A afterword’s, the discussion afterword’s, that one of the big problems of wester secular countries, was that they were unable to understand what was going on in countries with religious…I mean in a political sense how might you respond to that.

Professor Azar Gat:

So obviously, we know how difficult it is to enter the minds of different cultures. To enter the minds of other people in our own culture is very difficult. And where cultural differences are as significantly, significant enough, it’s obviously not very easy to go into them. We error in our assessment of the reactions, of the values, and the feelings of people of other cultures and therefore also often error about their course of action that they might chose. This is universal, it doesn’t necessarily need to apply to the religious minds. The very fact that we live in affluent societies where we more or less have everything that we need is, this alone is enough to distance us from the world and the mind set of people in other less fortunate parts of the world. Religion is only part of this.

James Rogers:

Ok well thank you very much. I did say at the beginning that I had 2 questions so just bear with me I may just ask one more to close the discussion down. The assumption I think of your analysis is that war to some extent is *catermanist* with people being killed. But could you make the argument that actually war is something more than just people being killed, that is a consequence of war, war itself is about the struggle for ideas and the struggle for power, the two are highly interrelated with one another, and therefore is it the case that war itself, if understood in that way, is continuing as it always has done and perhaps is growing or has the potential to grow, even if the number of people who have been killed through war through the struggle, is itself in decline.

Professor Azar Gat:

So it depends how much you want to stretch the metaphors you know, I think Humpty Dumpty I think said it, “metaphors can be stretched indefinitely”. There is a huge difference between people get killed. It’s not that the human competition and conflict ended, or ends with the decline of war for people still compete.

There are 3 basic strategies of human behaviour and this is: peaceful cooperation, peaceful competition, and violent conflict. And people choose between them as they assess obviously, intuitively, which of these strategies, or a combination of strategies is going to serve them best at the particular moment, at the particular conditions. So what we have been seeing is a shift from the violent option mostly, also obviously to the cooperative option, but also to the option of competitive competition. Now people are still divided over ideologies, they are still divided over the possession of desired goods, and we see the tensions around this say even within our own societies, it doesn’t lead to violence, to deadly violence, which is a huge change.

James Rogers:

Ok well thank you very much and I hope you enjoy your afternoon.


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