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European community...

I've been reading a book by the name of Return of the State by Adam Harmes which attempts to sketch a picture of the many, often opposing or contradictory, forces behind globalization in the post-WWII era. Harmes' report has a number of defects stemming from the fact that he unconsciously adopts a rationalist, neo-institutionalist approach to history and politics. The inevitable and unenviable result of wearing such tinted lenses in front of his eyes is that he tends to be rather unaware of great swathes of reality.

One of the more egregious examples of this distorted vision, which Harmes only shares with the majority of his contemporaries in the social sciences, is the insistence that the economic integration of Europe since the Treaty of Rome through towards to the current European Union is primarily responsible for preventing another continental or world war. The logic of this argument is invariably this: by integrating the coal and steel industries of France and West Germany, and by later expanding the depth and breadth of economic integration among European Community members as a whole, war became too costly to become a viable tool of state action.

When I hear stuff like this, it makes me want to smack an "intellectual" upside the head. First obvious question: is it the cost of war to states that is the important consideration in this thesis, or is it the fact that economic integration makes it so that supporting or pushing for intra-European war is no longer profitable for companies on the continent or for those with significant investments in them? Second obvious question: since when do people resort to accounting before starting a war? Personally, I find it doubtful that if Fritz really wanted to blow the top off of Jean's cranium with his fancy new pistol, that he would be dissuaded because his accountant informed him of the impact it would have on his retirement investments. Hell, if his accountant was Jewish, that would probably only graduate the occasion into a double homicide, after which Fritz would go home, have an Heinekin, and convert his affected assets into some nice East Asian sovereign bonds.

Third obvious question: since when do merchants start wars that they think they might personally have to fight on the front lines? It's always possible to profit from a war that you're certain to survive by staying far, far away from the fighting. If wars were only fought in the trenches by money-lovers thinking only of their next foie gras, then maybe this sort of reasoning would make sense. But it doesn't. Beancounters rarely start wars and rarely elect to inhabit muddy foxholes with shrapnel flying past their skulls (though may often end-up there, as in WWI & II); it's just not a sound financial move.

Knowing this, it makes one wonder why folks like Mr. Harmes seem to think that tying-down our Jewish accountant is a better idea than locking Fritz in a looney-bin, or at least buying Jean a really good helmet and a running head start. The Second World War was not started by the construction industry. Nobody came into a board meeting one day and said, "You know what would be great for business? If the entire continent was just bombed to shit! It'll be great; it will totally clear-out our inventories!"

No, I hate to break it to Mr. Harmes and his like-minded colleagues, but wars aren't ultimately about beancounters, and nobody ever backed away from a war that they really wanted to start because they suddenly realized that it would be a risky investment. If Fritz Jr. has been deferring from doing unto Jean II as their fathers did unto each other, I would humbly suggest that there are better reasons than those posited by Mr. Harmes.

But I won't mention them, because I hate to belabour the obvious. Let us just say, that by only making it completely unprofitable for any businessperson from any industry in Europe to make any money off of WWIII, one would take out only the smallest of factors contributing to a cycle of wars stemming back to the Roman Empire. Congratulations! Now start working on the other 400, and tell me when you get to the top 10...

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