It’s time to move to the second assertion of my argument:
2. Most of us can’t make an informed decision about the history and contemporary context that lead to conflict.
Remember, this argument isn’t taking the form of a syllogism. It’s a probability argument. The 8 assertions contained in it are meant to show that the probability of any particular war meeting “just war” criteria is very low. A “just war” isn’t precluded by this argument, but it’s made to be highly unlikely.
Unlike propaganda, which deals with knowing true facts about current events and historical narratives, this assertion deals with knowing the contextual affairs that surround the parties at war. For instance, what is the history of a particular country’s economics and trade ties? Where did it’s current batch of leaders come from and why are they in power now? Who are their neighboring countries and what’s the history of dealings with them? What outside interference have they had from other major powers? What is their main export? Who is their main buyer for that export? Has that changed recently? Were they ever a colony of a Western power in the past?
These are all critical questions to understanding current conflicts, but they are questions that very few people know the answers to.
Let’s take Germany for example since they are the favorite whipping boy of the 20th century. Did you know that Germany, as it’s known today, only came into existence in 1871. In that sense, the United States is older than Germany:
By the time the Republic and Napoleon had finished disassembling and reassembling the map of Germany, almost 60 percent of Germany’s population had changed rulers at least once; by 1820, the 294 or so Germanic territories that existed in 1789 had been reduced to 39, many of them loosely grouped under the Confederation of the Rhine. The Confederation gave the Germanic states a common identity they had never before experienced, and as such helped prepare the way for the eventual unification of Germany fifty-five years after Waterloo.
Before unification in 1871, Germany was a loosely federated group of smaller states and territories that had been dominated and brutalized by European powers for centuries:
For thirteen years Europe’s largest armies fought across the face of Germany, waging campaigns of a geographical scale and complexity that would have been inconceivable in the medieval era. Not yet able to fully master the fiscal and logistical challenges of waging war on so large a scale, the occupying armies ravaged the land and terrorized the inhabitants as they sought to provide for their soldiers. Millions perished.
Unified Germany was born in the “age of empires”, when all the great Western powers were seeking colonial territories in Asia and Africa. In this milieu, Germany was the China of it’s day – meaning that the entrenched Western powers were terrified of a newly unified, organized Germany that could compete with them industrially on a global scale:
Germany’s entry on the scene, at Constantinople and elsewhere, marked the beginning of a new age in world politics. The German Empire, formally created on 18 January 1871, within decades had replaced Russia as the principal threat to British interests.
Half the world’s industrial production was then British-owned, but by 1870 the figure had sunk to 32 percent, and by 1910, to 15 percent.9 In newer and increasingly more important industries, such as chemicals and machine-tools, Germany took the lead.
They weren’t just competing. They were pretty much kicking butt:
The connection between imperialism and domestic reform was strongest in Germany. By 1880, industrialization was proceeding at a breakneck pace in the newly unified Reich—a process destined to propel it in less than thirty years from an agrarian state with only 38 percent of Britain’s manufacturing output to the exalted status of leading industrial power in Europe.
My point here is to show you that the common narrative of the “evil Germany” of World War I is just simplistic nonsense. It was war propaganda. But, if you didn’t know the historical context of European politics and Germanic/Austrian/Prussian history, then you’d have no way of knowing that it was propaganda. You might believe it was all true. You might believe that the Germans were simply the “bad guys”.
Just like the completely arbitrary distinction between microeconomics and macroeconomics, there is an unjustified distinction made between internal and external politics. They are, in fact, the same animal. Internally, big entrenched business interests use regulations to squash competition from smaller competitors. The same thing happens in inter-state politics. The big boys use war and destabilization to exclude competition. The problem for Germany is not that they were evil. It’s that they just didn’t know how to play the game. They were rookies.
Germany is just an easy example though. You must challenge your own assumptions about whatever the current war or conflict is. Ask yourself if you know anything at all about the country in question beyond simple rhetoric. Go and research the country or group in question using pre-conflict literature so as to minimize bias. In every case you will find that what you aren’t being told in the media makes critical differences in whether the particular war is “just”.