Discover more from Learning by Proxy with Vivek Srinivasan
Why we fight
I was reading this book about the causes of fighting and then came across a few articles that beautifully meshed with the content
I have been reading this book for the past few weeks. It is a well-researched book with umpteen examples. I wanted to write a summary of the book. The Ukraine war offered itself as a great example to overlay on the summary.
If you had a 50:50 chance of winning a war would you start the war?
You probably would not. If you were to look at it as a game of chance, even if you win, the cost of war will inflict a huge toll on your economy and your people.
History also shows that for every war that has been fought an order of magnitude, more have been avoided through diplomacy. Chamberlain is often painted as an appeaser. He was in fact trying to avoid war, fully aware of the cost that the First World War had exacted on Britain. It is a misperception that Britain won the First World War. America did and Britain was left with a huge pile of debt to be paid.
So why do wars begin? What are the causes?
Unchecked Interests - When the interest of an individual supersedes that of the people who might be disproportionately affected by war.
Even before American independence, George Washington engaged in wanton wars with the French in the west because he wanted to appropriate the land for himself. It resulted in a war between England and France in Europe. He did not face the consequences. If he succeeded, which he did, the land became his (enormous upside). If he failed, he could take a shot at it another time (limited downside)
Every dictator that enters into war despite the lack of military strength knows that they will escape if they lost but have much to gain if they win.
Intangible Incentives - Sometimes the outcome of war is status. It is not for the tangible benefits that one starts a war but the intangible. If I win this, there would be no more bullying. People/nations will be sufficiently scared of me not to take a chance. Every conquest of Genghis Khan was a war of status. He wished to plant fear in the hearts of those who may want to stand against him. He wanted to make an example.
Gang wars are often meant to establish status alone.
Uncertainty (information) - Asymmetry of information makes nations enter into wars. This is often the reason for most wars. When you overestimate your position vis-a-vis the other. Or you could also underestimate the resources that someone else possesses. Sometimes you might underestimate the conviction of your opposition.
Commitment Problems - In game theory commitment problem refers to the inability to commit to a stand. When there is uncertainty about the other side committing to the stance taken then one side might be better off engaging the other in war than realising later that the other side reneged on the commitments made. The Iranian Nuclear Agreement is on this spectrum. Iran says it will not manufacture nuclear weapons but could it renege upon that commitment.
Two drug mafia groups agree to carve out a territory a certain way. What if one side does not keep off the other’s turf? They could fight, even if it is not all out victory; the side that inflicts more damage could come away with intangible gains.
Misperception - Group bias - My soldiers are better, theirs are not. This is what happened in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. There was an assumption that victory could be easily secured. They felt, they were more modern and had a superior force and superior numbers. All of which accounted for nothing in the jungles and the mountains and the deserts.
These misperceptions also apply to consequences. For instance, when Americans commit war crimes, it is a different brand of war crime but if the Russians commit it, it is somehow worse. The American war crimes are just soldiers under pressure, fear and anxiety. The Russian ones are heinous acts.
So in this context, the Ukraine war.
According to Bennett, as early as the second Saturday of the war, or a little less than a week and a half into the war, both Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian president Vladimir Putin made major concessions: Putin, by giving up on the goals of the “demilitarization” of Ukraine and its “denazification” — meaning, as Bennett interpreted it, regime change — and Zelensky by giving up on pursuing NATO membership.
Calling both leaders “pragmatic,” Bennett says that over the course of negotiations, he “was under the impression that both sides very much want[ed] a ceasefire” and gave the odds of any deal holding at 50-50. Over a “marathon of drafts,” he claims, seventeen draft agreements were prepared. But “they blocked it, and I thought [they were] wrong,” Bennett says, referring to the Western powers backing Ukraine.
Bennett’s claims here would be less compelling if they didn’t corroborate what has already emerged publicly in dribs and drabs. Back in May last year, Ukrainska Pravda (a broadly Western-aligned Ukrainian paper) reported based on several sources close to Zelensky that in April, then UK prime minister Boris Johnson appeared in Kyiv ”almost without warning” and told Zelensky the West would not recognize any peace deal he signed with Putin, because the Russian leader’s faltering invasion had shown he was weaker than they had thought. Zelensky should “press him” instead — meaning fight on and end the war through military victory. (Johnson later told French president Emmanuel Macron in a May call that he had argued against negotiations with Moscow during that trip).
Who says the western media is not censored. Apart from First Post, I cannot find one mainstream news organisation breaking this news!
This a proxy war fought by the west, where Ukraine and being used as cheap bait.
In the first few weeks of the war, UK and US thought they had the information that they needed to determine Russia’s military and financial strength. They ensured the peace talks do not progress and they kept Ukraine from making commitments against joining NATO.
Further, they thrived in the misperception about their own weapons being much better.
The defeat of Russia in Ukraine would provide the rest of the west a great deal of status as a block they would seem more powerful. This would be a useful leverage with China.
The interests were entirely unchecked - The people who were going to die and the people who were going to benefit bore no connection whatsoever. Ukrainians would die and be displaced. When the war ends the Western companies would move to in get all the lucrative reconstruction contracts.
The Americans tried level best to embroil the rest of Europe into the war. A false flag operation to make it look like Russia had attacked European Union infrastructure.
A veteran American investigative journalist has claimed that the September 2022 bombing of the undersea Nord Stream gas pipelines was carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in a covert operation at the direction of the White House. President Joe Biden’s administration has denied the allegations and called the report “utterly false and complete fiction”.
Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has previously worked with The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine, published the findings of his investigation on Substack. The report claimed that US Navy divers, operating under cover of a mid-summer 2022 NATO exercise, planted remotely triggered bombs to destroy three of the four Nord Stream pipelines.
Source: Indian Express
Again, not a single US news organisation reported this. The Times did.
After the bombing, the Americans claimed Russia did it. Nobody found it weird that Russia was spending money to repair the pipeline thereafter.