Armistice Day

Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

Related Post Roulette

40 Responses

  1. Michael Drew says:

    Here here. Apocalypse now.Report

  2. I can’t remember how many years ago there was an article in The Atlantic charting the ever rising worldwide casualty rate from war. Then suddenly in 1945 it plummets and for the next 50-odd years has held steady at a dull roar.

    Free DVD of your choice to the person who can name the black swan.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Tony Comstock says:

      Integration of the Military?Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Tony Comstock says:

      Nookleear Freaking BombsReport

    • The black swan (if it even exists) is not so obviously nuclear weapons. Fat Man and Little Boy were pathetic nothings compared to Czar Bomba invented nearly twenty years later. The death toll from their combined employment in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (which we missed) was paltry compared to the conventional firebombing of Japan that preceeded nuclear attacks. There is a case to be made that peace has prevailed for so long because of the sheer dominance of global affairs by at first two relatively balanced superpowers, then one, and of course an ever-increasing economic interdependence.

      There is also a more practical case to be made that the Soviets who were then approaching Tokyo from the north assumed the U.S. supply of the “new bombs” was limitless and chose to simply not make an ill-fated land grab. I’m not really familiar with the situation in Europe in 1945 but imagine it was equally nuanced. Anyways, my point is that it probably didn’t happen that everyone saw the bomb, said, wow, let’s not start anything with America, and then denounced war forever. There is a solid case to be made that the nuclear peace theory is overrated.

      And what this has to do with Armistice Day is that Armistice Day celebrates an armistice, not a surrender. World War II will be seen by future historians as merely an extention of WWI after every party involved had time to rest and regroup (and a few switched sides). Because it was a complete surrender from both Germany and Japan with occupying victors and everything, it can be compared with the last time such a thing happened, which was after the Napoleonic Wars; the Council of Vienna more or less held for the entirety of the 19th century, minus a few scuffles and proxy wars, which is far longer than the post WWII order held.

      My third point: given the huge death tolls from dictators killing their own people (think Pol Pot, Mao, Saddam Hussein) which spiked after WWII but wouldn’t be included in the definition of “war casualties”, is it at all fair to say that such a chart is misleading?

      Taken altogether I think there’s enough evidence to cast serious doubt on the nuclear peace theory.Report

  3. Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.~

    Percy Bysshe ShelleyReport

    • Scott in reply to ScrubAssChump says:

      Why would I listen to some English loser that led a privileged life and never had to sacrifice anything to protect his country’s way of life.Report

      • ScrubAssChump in reply to Scott says:

        You assume Shelley’s life was inconsequential because your definition of strength is war?

        I’m quoting that English loser in 2010. I doubt anyone will be quoting you in 300 years time.Report

        • Scott in reply to ScrubAssChump says:

          Shelly’s opinion is inconsequential because he makes claims without any knowledge of what he speaks about. His opinion is just as inconsequential now as it was 300 years ago. I put my money where my mouth is and I joined the Army Reserve, in fact I just got back from five months of active duty.Report

          • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

            Have you ever committed murder, Scott?

            If not, then your opinion is inconsequential. You haven’t any knowledge of what you speak about.

            Either put your money where your mouth is — go kill someone — or stop spouting off about how you think murder is wrong.Report

            • Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

              I joined the military during a time of war to defend my country. While I was at the Army’s JAG school I learned that that there is no international law or otherwise that labels one combatant who kills another combatant as a murderer. So it that really the best you can do, Jason?Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

                Finding something written in a lawbook doesn’t necessarily make it right. But I’m sure it’s satisfying to believe it so.

                And again, have you ever committed murder? I mean, out of uniform, not in it. If not, murder could well be just fine — and you’d have no way of knowing it. At least going by your own argument. Put up or shut up!Report

              • Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Where in any of my posts did I say murder was wrong or right for that matter? At least read what I actually wrote before you twist it to try and make a point. By the way, Shelly never served in the army so by what right does he call what soldiers do murder?Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

                So murder really is okay then?

                See, your entire line of argument depends on the implicit premise that murder is wrong. If murder isn’t wrong, then what Shelley said is not a reproach. You have taken it to be one, so you appear entirely committed to the premise.

                A simple yes or no will suffice: Is murder wrong?

                And after that, I ask again, how can you possibly know? If you haven’t done murder, then you are in the same boat with poor Shelley, an ignorant man who speaks of things he doesn’t know.Report

              • Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Shelly was ignorant in calling soldiers murders. He didn’t serve his country but merely relied on the protection others afforded him and in return he called them murders. I have served my country unlike Shelly (and apparently yourself) and don’t consider soldiers to be murderers. You keep focusing on whether murder is right or wrong but that is irrelevant to the question of Shelly’s opinion that soldiers are murderers.Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Very well. If you can’t bring yourself to call murder wrong, then I will let it drop (for now). I’ll just do my best to remember it the next time you badmouth our good friend Osama bin Laden. Is murder right or wrong? You say it’s irrelevant!

                But anyway, if you haven’t been a murderer, how can you know that being a soldier and being a murderer are unlike one another? It once again seems that you, like Shelley, know not whereof you speak.Report

              • Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:


                How gracious of you to let this drop (for now). At least I’ve been a soldier unlike you or Shelly.Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Still, if you haven’t been a murderer, then you don’t know whether killing in uniform is the same thing as killing out of uniform. At least, by your own stated standards.

                And besides, I didn’t imagine that you wanted my kind serving in the military anyway. It’s rather unfair to prevent me from ever knowing what I’m talking about… and then dismiss me for not knowing what I’m talking about!

                But…. while we’re still on the subject, I did — in actual fact — apply for the U.S. Army ROTC out of high school. They offered me a full scholarship and then withdrew it, not because I was gay, but because I had and still have, asthma. I flunked the physical, but I would certainly have gone otherwise.

                So anyway… I suppose asthma is to blame for my invincible ignorance, and my second-class status in the knowledge game we’re playing.

                But then… how on earth did I know that I wanted to join the army, when I’d never been in it? (And how did you?)Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                you are in the same boat with poor Shelley

                Was that deliberate?Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                I’m glad someone caught it.Report

  4. Scott says:

    Way blame industrial capitalism? Isn’t industrial totalitarianism just as bad or maybe you think it is better? It isn’t the ingenuity of private business that makes weapons more lethal but the ingenuity of humanity. If the deciding factor was the ingenuity of private business then it stands to reason that weapons made by communist govts would be inferior and they clearly are not.Report

    • Matty in reply to Scott says:

      Jason is a libertarian and certainly not arguing against capitalism, I take his point as -capitalism with technology is very effective at getting us what we ask for so we’d better not ask for destruction unless we really mean it.Report

      • Scott in reply to Matty says:

        My point still stands, what about totalitarian govt’s with technology. Aren’t they effective at getting what they ask for? Is the system of gov’t important or is it human ingenuity that is important?Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

          Totalitarian governments were not terribly good at anything except making weapons of war. A Soviet nuke will kill you just as dead, but Soviet toilet paper was terrible.

          Anyway, Matty got my point. Ludwig von Mises was one of the greatest champions of capitalism who ever lived, but even he saw the danger here. In this case, market discipline impels us to peace.Report

          • Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            Totalitarian gov’t are also very good at killing both there own people and others with those weapons. Are you are willing to admit that human ingenuity is more important than the system of gov’t?Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

              I view totalitarian governments here as being more parasitical than anything else. Stalin did steal American nuclear secrets, after all.

              And in any event, the question of how totalitarian states perform is extraneous. Capitalist states develop enormous capacities, and sometimes these are capacities for war. Nothing you’ve said makes this at all untrue.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                But the USSR developed the hydrogen bomb all on their own, and they built some damned good tanks and warplanes too. Totalitarian government are very good at focusing resources, and the military is their most common beneficiary.Report

          • Soviet toilet paper was excellent, but very hard to get.Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Tony Comstock says:

              I had a friend who visited in the mid-80s, when we were kids. His report was that the toilet paper was really, really bad. In previous eras, they used newspapers, which would also qualify, I’d say.Report

              • trizzlor in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                “in previous eras” 🙂 We were still using newspapers in ’92, and I’ve heard rumors from friends who’ve gone back since of newspapers being used at the Bolshoi.

                Funny thing is that we saw it as simple common sense – why waste good paper on shit? Every once in a while I lapse and the western style again seems wasteful.Report

          • Moreover, it must be remembered that capitalism is not a system of governance but rather an economic system – a country need not be democratic or republican to be capitalist, nor vice versa. LvM’s point here is that the industrial might of capitalism provides a useful tool for a government (whether authoritarian, totalitarian, or democratic) inclined to war to achieve its aims. That is not “blaming capitalism” in any meaningful sense but rather an acknowledgement that those inclined to war will have no compunction about utilizing capitalism as a particularly effective tool to achievement of those ends, even as they destroy capitalism in the process.

            Nor does the fact that capitalism provides a uniquely efficient tool for military capacity necessarily mean that capitalist countries will have inherently superior weapons than non-capitalist countries (although it must be pointed out that this does seem to generally be the case). Rather it means that capitalist countries can maintain or create a tremendous amount of military capacity with comparatively little effect on the economy at large.Report

          • MFarmer in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            Yes, state-capitalism can create big swords, turned to butter through anti-statism.

            The State orders the swords — free, peaceful consumers under a non-interventionst, limited government order butter.Report

          • Their propaganda was pretty diesel. And so was their sublime sense of the absurd. There was one Soviet law that every paper produced in psychology or neuroscience had to cite Pavlov at least once. It became kind of an unofficial contest who could most creatively and indirectly reference Pavlov.Report

  5. Francis says:

    I had grandparents that I never knew serve in WWI and uncles serve in WWII. One of them was on the Murmansk run, a particularly awful and dangerous assignment running supplies from England to Russia. He never ever spoke of his experiences, but when he died his obituary revealed a long list of impressive medals.
    The famous book “The Cruel Sea” is about that theater of combat. Captains of boats that evaded the torpedoes were, according to the book, known to run down men in the water, because they were (a) burning to death in the flaming oil; (b) choking to death on the raw unburned oil that was in their faces and lungs; and (c) freezing to death in the Artic waters, simultaneously. Stopping to pick up the men was impossible due to the threat of torpedoes.

    The idea that there is glory in war was created by someone who had forgotten or never faced combat.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Francis says:

      If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
      Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
      Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
      Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
      My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
      To children ardent for some desperate glory,
      The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
      Pro patria mori.

  6. Bob says:

    “Zeus sees to it that from our youthful days
    to our old age we must grind away
    at wretched war, till, one by one, we die.”


  7. North says:

    Most excellent summary Jason. Well done.Report