Conquest Is for Losers

More than a century has passed since Norman Angell, a British journalist and politician, published “The Great Illusion,” a treatise arguing that the age of conquest was or at least should be over. He didn’t predict an end to warfare, but he did argue that aggressive wars no longer made sense — that modern warfare impoverishes the victors as well as the vanquished.
He was right, but it’s apparently a hard lesson to absorb. Certainly Vladimir Putin never got the memo. And neither did our own neocons, whose acute case of Putin envy shows that they learned nothing from the Iraq debacle.
Paul Krugman, NYT Opinion pages

related: 2009-06  A decision model for justified war and a definition of victory


  1. It's not so much that conquest is for losers that Western states have evolved moral codes which prevent profiting from conquest.

    Our conquest of Iraq could have been highly profitable if we had completely ignored providing security or resources for the Iraqi population and only exploited its oil resources.

    1. Yeah, sure.
      Just as Hitler's conquest of Poland was highly profitable, released from morale restraints as he was.

      Oh, wait, no. The world consists of more than two countries, and some of the others tend to get hostile when one conquers and exploits another one.

      NATO would have been disbanded and the US would have lost all benefits from its relationships with Europe, Japan and Australia if it had behaved as in your scenario. The economic crisis of 2008 could have arrived in 2004 already, caused by an almost global economic cold war against the United States.
      All this for a couple billion dollars loot, most of which would have ended up in the pockets of a few hundred people.

      People who think it takes only ruthlessness to turn war profitable even in our time are fooling themselves.

    2. The irony is that the USA entered WW2 because it had opposed a country doing what you described; Japan trying to economically exploit China by force.
      Look how well Japan did with that strategy.

      The Third Italian War of Independence (1866) was probably the last really successful inter-state war of conquest (and at the same time war of liberation).
      The "liberation" of Kuwait is another curious case as the USA received subsidies which covered much of the direct material costs, but the actual benefits are questionable.

    3. The USA is currently bombing seven or so countries (I have trouble keeping track anymore) with no sign of losing alliances despite now decades of engaging in criminal aggression according to international laws we helped write.

      I'm not suggesting we should have directly exploited Iraq, only that I believe it would have been possible and certainly preferable to the idiotic policy we did pursue. Better still would have been to not invade Iraq at all, thereby incurring no cost and no risk.

      When attempting to exploit other countries by force, obviously the thing to do is cut in other regional and great powers on the deal so everybody wins (except the losers in the conquered country, obviously). This is probably the future as the West fades and outgroup altruism with us. Does anyone really think African states will be independent in 50 years?

      As to your Germany example, imagine instead if you had decisively won the war. That would've been very profitable indeed.

    4. The USA is bombing countries mostly with their government's permission nowadays, right now only Syria is an exception, and its government still likes to see the targets hit.

      WTF makes you believe "winning" WW2 would have been good for Germany? Wealth comes from productivity, not from exploitation or from playing Sparta. West Germany recovered to pre-WW2 economic output by the very early 50's already; that's how crappy the Nazis' economic policies were. To "win" WW2 would have led to decades more of their pro-monopoly and pro-oligarchy BS.
      BEST would have been to skip the whole nonsense and pull off a normalization of relations with France and a rearmament in time to peacefully keep Stalin at bay with an anti-Bolshevist alliance.

  2. Prussia's conquest of Germany doesn't look so bad, nor Charles Martel's conquest of France.

    The conquest of the America's is clearly an utter disaster.

  3. And constant failures are for inept losers.


    1. That's old news, was reported here before and last but not least it#s irrelevant to the topic.

  4. This seem to be a good companion piece for War is a Racket (http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html).

    1. http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2011/10/war-is-racket-repeat.html

  5. How far in History should we (arbitrarily) go, if we call Crimea 2014, a Russian Conquest over Ukrainians? Or should we call it a Russian Conquest over Tatars? And recognize Tatarstan at the UN, according to the same principles we recognize Ukraine?

    1. Very, very few commentators still consider the Russian grab of the Crimea as a net gain to Russia.
      Instead, more and more voices consider it as an example of the opposite.

      You should pay more attention to the news, anon.

    2. I pay attention to the facts on the fields, not on those on the news.

      'Crimea 2014' was a reserve-plan (never to happen) only in the case if the Ukraine, shift.
      It is a self-defence plan and last stand-defence-plan… (like Stalingrad?).

      The conditions that activated the plan gathered.
      Sevastopol is like Kaliningrad.
      The CIA agents that came in Kiev during the so-called 'pro-democracy secret meetings', actually met with GRU agents.

      I do not support nor approve conquest, quite the opposite.
      Peoples are territorial and I won’t argue on that.

      Europe is not threatened by Russian Conventional Army. And it cannot be.

      I also do not see how a 'poisoned gift' from the past Cold War, 'mistakenly taken from one CCCP People (originally the Tatars, then the Russians)/ and favourably given to another CCCP People (the Ukrainians)’, in the communist tradition of the USSR, without consultation of the Peoples concerned, can possibly be understood as a democratic move?

      The RF (Russian Federation) Peoples are under an embargo because of that situation and living under internationally never seen conditions.

      ‘Cantonized/partitioned’ States like Belgium (NATO Headquarters), Spain, Switzerland (World Banks), Bosnia and Herzegovina, UK… at times have shown shaken powers. And there are never been exposed to any embargo.

      I hope you will keep this blog alive with your criticism, I appreciate it.+

      ‘On tanks’, new hand-held AT hand-grenades blow up any modern tank.



    3. Recognize Tatarstan at the UN?
      Why not!
      Do you mean The Republic of Tatarstan,federal subject of Russia (a republic) located in the Volga Federal District?