The following interesting questions have been posed on the Cat. They are worth discussion.
Here is a question for the history buffs that frequent the Cat:
1. do you think the post WW II world has been more or less peaceful than the century prior to WW I,
2. or has been more peaceful because of nuclear détente?
The premise of question 1 is false and is denied (which does not stop the comparison from being interesting).
The century prior to WWI was built on a balance of the six Great Powers (Imperial Russia, Austrian Empire, German Empire, French Empire, British Empire, US ‘Great Republic’) and saw a seventh Great Power emerge at the end of the period (Empire of Japan). The years since 1945 fall into three parts: the first was the immediate emergence of a sole global power (USA) on the smouldering wreckage of the Great Power System the collapse of the final Great Power (British Empire): the USSR was temporarily prostrate in this period. The second was the re-emergence of much-reduced Great Powers and a superpower competitor (Russian Empire under its new hereditary aristocracy).
The third period was the collapse of this superpower competitor back to Great Power status and the emergence of a second competitor (Chinese Empire under its new aristocracy).
More on this period in a moment.
Survey of the period from the Battle of the Nations to the Battle of the Frontiers vs the period from the Surrender of Japan to the present shows the same endemic prevalence of small wars in both periods, and less (as in zero) Great Power wars in the recent period. Therefore the second period was more peaceful than the first.
The difference lies in the lack of wars between the Great Powers (including the Superpowers) since 1945. They have fought wars, but as proxy wars, which are generally the analogue of colonial wars in the previous period. The reason for that has been the new strategic structure created by nuclear weapons in large numbers yet limited to the Super and Great Powers. This made any Great Power war existential, or at least potentially existential, which raised the risk profile to an entirely unacceptable level. Therefore they reduced their risks to acceptable levels by only engaging in proxy wars at worst, and not many of them. Losses and costs were very low even in the biggest of these (Korea and Vietnam): the Vietnam war cost the USA 58,220 dead and 303,644 wounded. This was a total over 1963-74 which was simply dwarfed by losses during the 18 week Battle of the Somme 1 July – 18 November 1916 (624,000 Allied and ~500,000 Central Powers of whom at least 200,000 were dead).
This suppression of Great Power wars is due entirely to the post-war strategic structure created by nuclear weapons. They raised the risk of Great Power war to unacceptable levels.
This is changing now that nuclear weapons are spreading to the third and fourth rate powers such as North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others – almost certainly to include Ukraine in the very near future. This is generally the responsibility of the astounding strategic incompetence of the international left, which has long formed the core of European power-elite ideology (‘international leftism’ being as useful in cementing their own positions as the new pan-European hereditary aristocracy as Roman Catholicism was to the pan-European hereditary aristocracy of the Holy Roman Empire) and the similar incompetence of the now the rapidly expanding American ‘left-oriented’ power-elite, who are ‘hereditary aristocracy wannabes.’
The result is both inevitable and predictable. These third and fourth rate powers will possess only small numbers of nuclear weapons of small yield, and will have inferior delivery systems. Therefore they are in the position to regard them as merely large bombs. They will rarely or never have enough to pose an existential threat to another second, third or fourth-rate power (physically extremely small nations like Israel and Singapore are the exception). Therefore, they are far more likely to use such weapons as the Iranian mullahs have repeatedly said they will do over the last decade. This is the fruit of deliberate policy choices by the centre-left power elites mostly of the EU and USA, who alone could have conducted a long-term, coordinated plan to prevent such proliferation, but who chose not to. Two Great Powers (the Chinese and Russian Empires) have deliberately aided and abetted this proliferation to unbalance the other Great Powers. They have been highly successful in this strategy.
Of note, three of the new nuclear powers (North Korea, Pakistan and Iran) are willing to pass nuclear weapons on to non-state actors, although North Korean has done this by proxy, aiding Pakistan and Iran in their own weapons programs.
Uniquely, we are in the process of seeing this floodgate opened by the strategic incompetence of the one entity still actually able to stop this process, Obama’s administration. The clearly demonstrated incompetence, weakness, stupidity and sheer laziness of this administration has removed all observable restrictions on Iran and Pakistan should they choose to release nuclear weapons to non-state actors. Having done so, use of nuclear weapons by these actors or their proxies is close to inevitable in the sort to medium term (5-20 years).
To paraphrase Churchill: ‘The terrible ‘ifs’ have accumulated’