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Chapter 11: War (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)

There was a time when wars made sense to some politicians – it was when wars were profitable and easy. In 1914, the British controlled the Nile Valley and the Suez Canal for decades without much push back. The U.S won the war against Mexico, gained a landmass equivalent to Western Europe, for the price of only 13,000 men. But these days, war is not an attractive proposition for large nations, although it still is one for non-state actors. The amount of wealth that can be gained by war is a fraction of what can be gained from a technologically advanced economy engaged in free trade.

If we look at the world, we will see that those who have waged wars in recent history have seldom benefited. The Iraq-Iran war greatly harmed the Iranians and discouraged them from entering other direct confrontations. Iranian influence in the Middle East today is a result of the U.S war with Iraq which destroyed Iraq and pushed the U.S towards loosening their grip on the country, serving Iranian interests in the process. Similarly, Israel has avoided direct confrontation with Syria, as they understand the damaging consequences of war. Capturing an oil field or arable land is not the prize it used to be. Today, it is far more exciting to build the next Google than it is to capture another oil field. The shift in value towards a silicon-based economy of bits and bytes has contributed to a more peaceful world.   

Yet, human stupidity is to never be discounted. Otherwise rational leaders can make poor decisions simply because the world is too complex, and they do not properly understand the ramifications of their ideas. The Japanese only managed to prosper after it lost control over Manchuria – and yet it was the reason they went to war with China in the first place.

Read 21 Lessons For The 21st Century

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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