Different games

Humans (actually, almost exclusively men) are divided by having two entirely different games in mind when they approach military policy.

In one rarely played game the military is something like a fire department. A usually necessary expense. Nobody but sick people want to see houses burn or even sets them on fire, but the fire department saves the day when it happens and the rest of the time it prepares and tries to do preventive work.

The other game has entirely different rules. In this game it's all feelings-oriented. This game has almost exclusively male fans and players. I have likened this to hunter-gatherer 'caveman' clans, for the rules of this game were likely written by evolution when humans lived in small clans with little if any cooperation or trade with other clans. It may even pre-date human speech, and thus all forms of diplomacy and almost all forms of trade.*
This game is very much about "us" and "them". Any minor injury suffered  or perceived threat leads to great hostility. The amount of effort required and the quantity of casualties of conflict don't matter in this game - it's all about overpowering if not annihilating another clan or at least having more chest-thumping clubmen.
Fans and players of this game may create an impression that they're very abstract in their thinking, but the abstraction is nothing but ignoring costs and suffering - unless wasteful spending means that they can't afford as many more or less shiny clubs as they wish. They don't even pay attention when hardly any harm was inflicted on them, and their reaction to a provocation is much more harmful.

I have no doubt that the latter game worked admirably much more often than not - in prehistoric Europe and maybe even to this day in some remote South American jungle regions. The moderate pacifist point of view is still that we really, really should move on for our own good, though.

Challenge yourself: Make a note "What game do I play?" and every time you have had some thoughts about military affairs you read that note and answer yourself.



  1. Cannot agree more with you. But what are the forceful conclusions from the fact, that most humans even today play the feeling-oriented game and moreover there are still many sick people adding to the common disaster?

    In my opinion the forceful conclusion is, that a simple fire department is insufficient because it lacks the quantity and the equipment to deal with the catastrophes to come. Instead we need a strong high qualitiy civil protection organisatioon with several subordinated fire departments.

    In another post you said, there must be a rule to determine the right amount of military spending at least in theory. Without it, nobody would have a clue about what's the right level.

    Here it is: because of the very true nature of the humans itself one should invest as much as sustainable affordable into the military. A strong nation therefore need a military as strong as possible. This forces all other who cannot afford this way into alliances or it weakens them effective which reduces the threat they are.

    Moderate pacifism cannot be the answer to the human nature, because this nature is to often irrational, even sick, and will not fit to this strategy. Therefore moderate pacifism should not dominate military policy. Simply because to many other humans play not our game and will not play it at any point in the future.

    1. Economic theory has a variable to describe your attitude; demand elasticity. Your demand elasticity is close to zero.

      Another economic model that fits is the one I quoted often; Niskanen's budget maximising bureaucrat.You behave like him, except that (seemingly) you're an outsider.

      I advise you to look at history. You'll see many countries that prospered and were not conquered even though they spent much less than the affordable limit on military power.
      Your advice thus fails on even a casual plausibility test.

      And that's before we take into account that sometimes more military power means less security and less peace.

  2. And to the opposite more countries in history were conquered and/or destroyed because the did not spend the affordable maximum in military power.

    Moreover i am talking about the human (genetic) nature, about culture, about how humans are in reality. And here is the real difference between us: you look at humans in general with a positive attitude and to the opposite i am very misantrophic and especilly pessimistic about the future.

    The earth cannot sustain our current lifestyle and neither the sheer quantity of humans that even life today. If we do not change and prepare our culture and our military (both interact with each other) the west will fail and we will loose our wealth as our very lifes. Then will we suffer our Manzikert because of our hybris?

    1. It was proved by history that countries can spend well less than affordable maximum on military power without falling to aggression.
      The opposite is not true. It cannot be proved that countries which fell to aggression did so because they didn't spend the affordable maximum on military power. You "because" is thus an unproven assertion, making your case weak.

      And frankly, a plaidoyer for maximum affordable military spending doesn't fit well to concerns about the economic sustainability of mankind in its current form.

  3. Instead of you i even named a practical example, the byzantine empire in the middle ages before manzikert. Same for egypt in the eve of the hyksos, same for the late achaemenid persian empire, same for Tang China in the time of the first big muslim attacks, same for aztecs, same for late ming china, same for the Quing, same for germany 1900 to 1914 and so on and so on.

    And exactly because we life not sustainable we need more weapons and a strong military now, as long as we can afford it. The economical, financial and enviromental breakdown in the next decades will rob us the fundament for future military spending. We will fight the next war mainly with the weapons we buy now, not with any future armaments.

    Because our lifestyle is not sustainable and we are not able to change this and will not change our way of life everything will fail. Because we cannot prevent this, we need now the necessary military power and a change of our culture to simply survive what will come.

    1. Again; it cannot be proved that spending according to your rule of thumb would have saved those states from defeat. Meanwhile history proves that states which spent well less than your rule of thumb suggests did survive.
      The assertion that's the foundation of your rule of thumb cannot be proved while a plausibility check raises strong doubts.

      Your dystopian view on the future is at most partially justified (and frankly, just about nobody calls the Mongol horde invasion of China "muslim attacks"!).
      Dystopian fiction is very fashionable nowadays; the arts are full of dark motives while even during the near-apocalyptic 80's things were much colourful.
      It is very likely that the fashionable doomsaying is an exaggeration. The environment in particular is in a pretty good shape in the Western countries compared to the previous decades, despite global climate change. Rivers are less poisonous, emissions are filtered better, less soil is or gets poisoned etc.

      Most military power cannot be saved up for later times anyway. Munitions can be stored for 15-40 years depending on type and care, but most military training becomes irrelevant after about 20 years due to ageing of the people, aircraft become obsolete within 10-20 years, missiles become obsolete within 15-20 years, barracks need major repairs after about 30-40 years and so on.

      Save for training areas little investment in military power remains relevant against peer powers past 40 years. Most expenditures become quite meaningless if not a burden (see show the French artillery suffered from its overemphasis on the soixante-quinze) after 15-20 years.

      Finally, Russia is going nowhere as an economy and society under its current regime nor can the Arabs expect a better future under theirs. The Chinese are far, far away and it's most unlikely that they will affect Europe or America much at home. So as long as Russia and China don't ally against us we could suffer a 60% breakdown of our fiscal and economic ability to sustain military power and would still be safe.

      A sustainable limit for military spending by Germany might be close to 10% GDP in the really long term and 20% GDP for a generation. Those would be outright insane spending levels.

      It is most disappointing that such an insane proposal popped up in the comments in exactly THIS blog post after exactly the PREVIOUS blog post. It's almost as if you wanted to troll here.

  4. I do not want to troll, but i have a very different view of our near future. I agree absolutely, that a high military spending now will become worthless within some decades but i am absolutely convinced, that a major (and global) breakddown will occour in exact this next decades.

    And it is not important, that the enviroment in our western tm states perhaps becomes better in some parts of the country, what matters is the global situation and there are three main factors: climate change, rapid growth of mankind and the complete dependence of our civilisation from oil and other fossile energy. The combination of this 3 facts will result in a new dark age full of war. The oil we eat will be gone, the numbers of humans unbearable and the climate change will result in a major crash of our way to life.

    The results will be catastrophic and the suriviving states will be in a all time war status. This will not be mainly wars against other nation-states which is your focus, but for example assyemtric wars in europe, civil wars in germany and so on.

    Perhaps my in many parts neo-malthusian world outlook is wrong, but we cannot afford to gamble and simply put our heads in the sand and think everything will become nice and fine without any fight.

    PS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Talas

    TANG Dynasty i wrote, and nothing about mongols.

    PPS: Symptomatic that everyone that do not agree with you is a troll.