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August 22, 2007


Samira Ghassemi

On a side note, something interesting I found in the news:
In the English cities of West Yorkshire and Bradford a group of locals have apparently made a memorial peace trail for keeping the city’s peace and 29 different locations reveal stories of conflict or the end of war. The story of Angell and his theory that “war wasn’t good economic sense.” If interested, here is the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bradford/content/articles/2006/11/03/bradford_peace_trail_feature.shtml

Amen to that, Ziwei! Hu made an excellent point not only about citizens and growing popularity for their president during war (for comfort issues), but in most cases leaders with or without popularity will adhere to their incentives and resume to whatever decision leaves them (and their entourage) more profitable. There are two people in this world: those who see good in the people, and those who don’t. Angell was a liberalist who did give the public too much credit (as though he neglected how much one changes with an influx of power), though he should have read Shumpeter’s piece on ‘Imperalism’ – how the interests of certain people are swayed and thus begin wars. Angell’s Flaw: he somehow neglected to see the broad scope of things; war may not make “good economic sense” to the state and its citizens, but those citizens who are shareholders in artillery manufacturing companies benefit immensely (such as the Bush family today, who since the 1930s owned shares of the Consolidated Silesian Steel Company, CSSC, one of the largest steel and coal companies via Hitler era). Lets infect everyone with a virus and then sell them the vaccine!

But then again, we saw in history you don’t need steel or guns to make profit. In the 1980’s, the U.S. vetoed a UN resolution condemning chemical ware in the Iran-Iraq war. Rumsfeld, (“President Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East from 1983-84”) assured the chemical sales to Iraq (at that time, not the axis of evil but friend) and was in Iraq with Sadam Hussein that same day of the veto. The U.S. benefited from sales of chemical munitions, prevented Iran’s victory and “reinstated the balance of power, ” all in a day’s work.

Favorite quote: “force your will, not because you’re right, but because you’re able to do so.”

I do have to applaud Angell when he noted that the “fanaticism of the Moslem today was no intenser than that of the Catholics” (many years ago). Ask anybody now-a-days what a terrorist looks like, and if you point out a dark colored man with any reference to Islam (like a necklace with Allah on it, or for kicks, if he were wearing a turban), they would say yes, he’s a terrorist/not to be trusted. I’m not religious, but I do have to point of my dismay of the lacking consciousness of the public and agree with the student prior who emphasized the deficiency of public education and culture awareness. Some of us seem to forget, just a little over 50 years ago, terrorists were Russians.

When he states “in order to prevent a war, we got to war” it reminded me of the Spartans’ “just wars,” when they would attack a surrounding village/city to prevent another group from attacking them. Borrowing the main point of Churchill’s quote: if a country knows they will loose, they’ll surrender/avoid war. We invaded Iraq to prevent an axis of evil and yet Iraq (and don’t forget the silent war we are still in with Afghanistan) fought back. We invaded to find Al Queda and of course the abominable Osama. Anybody seen the movie “Syriana” (doesn’t it sounds remarkably similar to Syria and Iran)? Well, there was a scene where they hunted down their own CIA agent with satellites…those satellites had a pretty good pixel resolution and I’m sure Hollywood only described ½ of the technology we possess in that department (Google satillite=scary in a stalkerish way). Instead of looking for Agent Clooney, they should of chosen Agent Osama (you know, the guy who would come invited to Bush Senior’s dinner parties). Well, now that Iraq has founded offshore oil and its reserves are now 3rd in the world, the U.S. has found something to barter with for all our hard work creating “democracy” for their country, and I don’t believe we are looking for Iraqi Dinars!

One film that everyone needs to watch: “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Go Patriot Act!

Dave Koken

As many of you have pointed out, Angell believes that the various nations of the world are so interdependent upon each other for trade and general economic well being that their mutual dependence should work to end all great wars. This conception of the world is obviously not apparent at the time of the Balkan wars or even in modern society and ths is where Angell is clearly wrong.

He seems to see in early 1900s what Francis Fukuyama describes in more recent years as "the end of history" in which free trade liberalism has literally taken over the world. In modern day, the presence of other powerful ideologies is still clearly apparent, but some would argue that liberaism will ultimately win out.

I fully acknowledge that Angell's near utopian view of international relations is clearly wrong at the time of his writing it and very presumptious in general, but the question that I pose is, could his theory be realized in some distant future in world affairs? Do you think that in the future, world affairs will be brought to a state like Angell’s or Fukuyama’s “end of history” or Kant’s “perpetual peace?” The idea of a democratic peace is very idealist in nature; what do you think about the possibility of its realization? What could allow it to succeed or what forces will stop it from ever happening?

Just trying to move the discussion along...

Edward Taylor

It is clearly apparent that Norman Angell believes war is destructive, costly, and pointless. However the biggest flaw in his argument is his misunderstanding of human nature. Angell believes that if he puts forth a few simple facts and questions, that people in favor of war will start to think and realize that war is truly a horrible thing. This evaluation of human behavior could not be more off. When I first read this, in my mind I related Angell’s argument to an environmentalist’s argument today. It is clear that people who drive cars are contributing to global warming, and these people understand it is a bad thing and should stop driving. Yet the vast majority of people continue to drive cars and pollute the air we breathe. Why? It’s because people rationalize their behavior, no matter how extreme. And in regards to Angell’s claim that education will only help establish peace, I believe this is a double-edged sword. While I agree that education does help people become more considerate and respectful of other cultures, I think education can also have the reverse effect. Some of the most educated people in the world have started wars since Angell’s writings in 1912. Just look at the number of United States Presidents, educated at Harvard or Yale, who have initiated wars and violent actions against others. Thus Angell’s argument could not be more wrong. His misunderstanding of human nature has lead him to a conclusion that is completely false. As people get smarter, the tactics of war become more intricate. And as time progresses, people will continue to rationalize warlike behavior. Whether war is done in the name of religion, country, or “freedom,” it will continue for many generations.

Yu Hsin Chou (Cindy)

The nature of Norman Angell’s extremely utopian arguments both towards humans and governments has already been highlighted by many of you, and I would like to point out another counterpoint to Angell: the nature of the system. The international system, that is. Realists in international relations argue that the system is in anarchy, and thus states are state-centric in that they are concerned about their own survival. Angell’s arguments of governments being peace-loving are clearly wrong, then, when one considers that states love peace only when they are at power, in the same way the ruling classes will do nothing for the abolition of slavery or imperialism (or, for a more modern-day example, poverty) when they are living comfortably, even when they know it is “wrong”. People will only act when it affects them directly, and this applies as well to Edward’s arguments towards global warming. The other point I want to bring up is that once forces are unleashed within the system, they may be unstoppable. Events often happen in the present without us fully comprehending what is happening, and before we know it, we are too entangled to get out of it. Prime example in history: World War One. Nobody expected a long war; in fact, nobody even expected a war, but it came—and before they knew it, they couldn’t get out. World War Two. Iraq. The longer events situations drag on, the harder it is to get out as actors become too entangled and invested…
To answer Dave’s questions, then, I don’t think there is ever an absolute ending as the system is always in balance, and often in fluctuation. The idea of “democracy” itself is already an ideal, making “democratic peace” an even more intangible concept.

Allison Moore

My fellow classmates have pointed out that Angell’s argument revolves around the ideas that war is unprofitable for a nation's citizens, modern nations all have governments that are to a large degree subject to popular political pressure, governments are wary of undertaking potentially destructive wars, and that these big wars are unlikely to happen because of the previous three points.

In a previous posting, Edward makes a valid point that Angell overlooked: the influence of human nature. With almost anything we are aware of its positive or negative effects/consequences and we choose to continue to do them. His example of driving cars and pollution/global warning is useful. The same link can be made with the consumption of “bad” foods and obesity; we know what we eat will affect our bodies yet we choose to eat them for various reasons.

Angell has a tunnel vision. He is so set upon the beliefs that war is negative and destructive, and presents simple questions and answers to support this, that he gives no thought to anything positive that could possibly come out of war. It is this same thought process that influences the readers of Angell’s work. We get so caught up as the argument builds that we loose sight of the opposing side. (Another example of human nature.)

Serena Yang

As many people above me have pointed out, one of Angell’s fundamental flaws of logic was his belief in the goodness of humanity and the rationality of humanity. In some ways, I see parallels to Rousseau’s idea of the general will; both Angell’s and Rousseau’s theories of social interaction are predicated on the idea of man as a rational being who will, eventually, realize that it is to his benefit to cooperate with his fellow man. However, even if Angell’s almost-utopist vision of a world without war could be possible if man were properly educated, it cannot come to pass as the rational side of man has yet to overcome his irrational side.

Along this line and in response to Dave’s question that maybe reason will win out in the future, I’d like to bring up Angell’s take on nationalism. Despite his pacifistic stance, Angell’s idea that sometimes wars (especially nationalistic self-determined wars) are justified, no matter his reasoning, strikes me as hypocritical and a major flaw in his argument. At the time of Angell’s writing, nationalistic sentiment was just beginning to emerge, so it’s easier for us in hindsight to say that nationalistic-driven wars are not necessarily justified as wars that end wars. Still, history has proven that nationalism very often ends in conflict, not stability, as Angell theorized and that there is very little room for reason in nationalistic arguments. Therefore, I believe that as long as nationalism persists in much of the way as it has in the past century, Angell’s vision cannot be realized.

Miles Palacios

I believe that Angell has a concept of a world that he has experienced. At this time there were televisions or radios and he did not have the resources of realizing what the world was really like. He could not have possibly imagined all the factors that go into a war. While going to war is not profitable for most of us, it is for the select few that seem to run this nation. In today’s world, where the rich rule and globalization is essential for gaining wealth, going to war can be very profitable for some. This has been proven in Iraq, where it seems everybody is making money except the Iraqi people.
He also makes an argument about political pressure stopping countries from going to war. I think that’s funny considering we’re at war with Iraq and most of this country is against it. Also, what about those countries ruled by leaders that don’t care about what the people think. The Middle East is a mess, there is war everyday and on all the streets. In Latin America there are civil wars going on all the time. Nobody knows what North Korea is thinking or planning. While I agree political pressures play a major role on these decisions, it’s not because it’s because its right, it’s because people want to get elected. I agree with Edward that human nature has a lot to do with our decisions. We don’t always do what is right; we usually do what will profit us the best.

Amanda Bao

Immediately preceding Europe’s great war, Normal Angell wrote about the impossibility of wars – citing war’s numerous economic, political, daily life inconveniences. Many of those inconveniences are legitimate and valid points; however, Angell’s main flaw is not seeing the conveniences of war. Angell says, “I have attempted to show that the prosperity of peoples…diminution of poverty, better houses, soap and water…fuller and completer lives generally – is not secured by fighting one another…” But in contradiction to Angell, imperialistic wars have solved the problems of over-production, scarce resources, and under-consumption, etc. Moreover, the raw materials and new wealth from colonies provided huge economic incentives for entrepreneurs and also mobilized the lower-middle class. Therefore, imperialistic wars have, in fact, heightened the quality of life of European citizens. Secondly, war and preparation for war employs more people than during times of peace. Jobs for defense artillery, arms, etc put people to work and decrease unemployment and poverity. For instance, during World War I, economy was bolstered by the emergence of a new workforce, women. Also, during America’s Great Depression, the involvement with WWII pulled America out of its brutal economic slump.

He argues the pro’s of pacifism, claiming that “to fight it out settles nothing, since it is not a question of who is stronger, but of whose view is best…it is of the utmost importance in the interest of all parties, in the long run, to keep force out of it.” Furthermore Angell defines the pacifist as someone who puts the common interest of good government ahead of self-serving, nationalistic impulse. This concept, as attractive as it sounds, defies human nature. People will organize themselves on religious, ethnic, and government lines. Patriotism has fueled countless wars, with each country’s men rallying behind a different flag. Religious faith has spurred missionary crusades. Ethnic pride has led violent agendas to carry out the white man’s burden.

Karina Tregub

In analyzing the flaws of Norman Angell’s arguments against war, many have pinpointed the misconceptions he has about human nature. Angel insists that war “depends upon whether we become a little less or a little more wise. If the former, we shall have it; if the latter, we shall not”. Contrary to this belief, as Edward and others have pointed out, education does not necessarily lead to pacifism and peace. Although education and knowledge can bring about less violent action, it does not yield the absolute result that Angell claims. He does not contextualize the “wisdom” he speaks of within the theories and dynamics of international relations. When countries go to war, it is not because they are not wise enough to see the negative consequences that war brings. Rather, the country may feel that the positive, economic, political, or national gains outweigh these consequences. Or, the country may be misperceiving the situation entirely, either exaggerating its advantages or the disadvantages of its enemies.

The workings of international relations, especially with the growing interdependence of globalization, cannot be summed up as the wise versus the ignorant. Anyone can be wise or ignorant, depending on the situation one is in, and the viewpoint that one has. For example, Angell’s viewpoint is that “it is not the likelihood of war which is the illusion, but its benefits”. However, past wars have proven to be beneficial to countries, the US after WWII being a prime example, as Amanda has pointed out. Although the nature of war is destructive and devastating, there can never be a global consensus that it is unbeneficial and pointless. This would mean that countries would cease to care about their power, both relative and absolute, in the international arena. Since this is unlikely to happen anytime in the near future, Angell’s insights and conclusions were not just flawed for the world of the 20th century, but are still flawed for the world today.

Julia Lohmann

In agreement with what many people have already pointed out, I feel that the fundamental flaw in Angell’s argument is his misplaced faith in human nature and the ability of people to become what he called ‘educated.’ I will not repeat the arguments others have made, but point out another reason I believe he was wrong. To me, the education he is advocating sounds not only utopian and naïve, but also dangerous. His argument is similar to that of Bertrand Russell, who wrote about power politics shortly before the First World War began. Both men believed in ‘educating’ the masses of people (of the greater benefits of peace), of indoctrinating them with their ‘ideology’ for the good of all mankind. History has proven that people will always take advantage of power they are given (especially charismatic power), and wars are not fought for purely economic reasons. His constant emphasis on ‘educating’ the people strikes me as eerily similar to the fanaticism that was so prevalent in the years following his writing, and although his justifications may be honorable, there is an inherent danger in this kind of propaganda.

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