What is happening in Korea is giving us the impression that a large-scale
armed conflict cannot be excluded: After the bombing of a South Korean
island by North Korea, South Korea has decided to arm itself; North Korea is
threatening to « annihilate » South Korea, Japan is « ready for any
eventuality. » And if the two Koreas are in conflict, the United States and
China will support their military ally. And this is taking place where
Russia and China meet, a crossroads where many conflicts are predictable.
This tension comes when the economic crisis seems in a dead end. And many
past crises, not finding a solution in a time of peace, found it in war,
which allowed a stronger central government to mobilize free resources.
Today, when, as in an avalanche, the size of financial problems continues to
grow, leaders are only concerned about saving their face, buying time, by a
thousand and one expedients, while waiting for a miracle.
It could take the form of some formidable technical progress, a reordering
of the finances of the superpower, the birth of a new superpower or a
redistribution of wealth for the benefit of the poorest to make them
solvent. All this took place, in other crises. But today, no such a thing
There remain two outcomes of the crises: inflation and/or war.
Inflation would allow the elimination of part of the public and private
debts, and the restoration of the banks balance sheets. It is at the end of
the road for today’s unlimited money creation, but it will only come when we
shall meet the constraint of scarce production capacity and raw
materials. It is still far away.
The war would silence social protests, to work more for less, justify the
transformation of public debt into taxes, and justify the disappearance of
infrastructure, forcing them to rebuild.
We have already seen it several times in history. In particular, the
resolution of the crisis of the 30s owes nothing to Keynes and everything to
the entry into war of the United States.
This seems unlikely today. On the one hand wars of great magnitude would be
needed: For a war to be now on the same relative scale than World War II,
more than 150 million deaths would be needed. On the other hand, the wars of
today are opposing nations to non-State groups, which does not require, for
the moment, the same mobilization of free resources to serve the community
than the war between nations: this is a case for specialists.
This may change: we can imagine a mass mobilization against terrorism, with
the same economic consequences than a war between nations. This implies the
crystallization of a still diffuse fear that would impose a reorganization
of powers for the benefit of the military and the sidelining of social
The evolution of NATO strategy, which is gradually becoming a global
alliance of democracies against pirates and terrorists, state or non-state,
is moving in that direction. As is moving in that direction all forms of
glorification of national identity and rejection of others.
Such a development is not more improbable than was the current crisis five
years ago. And if no other solution is able to reverse this threatening
depression, we will find excuses to launch it.