Arms races do not cause wars

The springs of war lie in the readiness to resort to force against other nations, and not in ‘arms races’, whether real or imaginary. Aggressors do not start wars because an adversary has built up his own strength. They start wars because they believe they can gain more by going to war than by remaining at peace.

—Margaret Thatcher. Speech to the United Nations, June 23, 1982.

Military investment by the United States will not cause a war. On the contrary, the world’s best hope for continued peace is for the United States to continue to maintain an overwhelming superiority against all possible combinations of aggressor nations.

Missile defense is no exception; if the United States becomes immune to destruction by nuclear missiles, the status quo will be no different than it was between 1945 and 1949 when it alone had the bomb, and with it the power to impose its will on the whole world.

If the despotically-ruled Chinese or despotically-minded Russians were to gain such power, woe betide humanity. It is for this reason that it is quite horrific when feeble-minded presidents propose sharing missile defense technology with Russia. It is bad enough that the United States typically leaks all her most vital secrets to her enemies, but for it to begin giving them to its enemies as a gesture of candor is extreme folly.

How arms races are won

Both the Nazis (in World War II) and the Soviets (in the Cold War) proved that a country cannot win an arms race simply by turning over its entire economy to arms development and production. Producing arms consumes wealth, it does not create wealth. In the end, arms races are won by the side with the economy that creates the most wealth. In the Cold War, the Soviets lacked a computer industry. This meant they suddenly found themselves in the position of Indians armed with arrows going up against cowboys armed with machine guns. During World War II, Japan, for all it gained from its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, was doomed from the outset because the U.S. economy dwarfed its own. Germany lost both world wars because the ‘iron will’ of its people could not compensate for its shortages of war material. The same principle has applied throughout history all the way back to the Punic Wars—the side with the deepest pockets tends to win.

The struggle between the United States and China

Air armaments are not expressed merely by the air squadrons in existence or the aeroplanes which have been made; they cannot be considered apart from the capacity to manufacture. If, for instance, there were two countries which each had 1000 first-line aeroplanes, but one of which had the power to manufacture at the rate of 100 a month and the other at the rate of 1000 a month, it is perfectly clear that air parity would not exist between those two countries very long.

—Winston Churchill. Speech to the House of Commons, May 31, 1935.

To ensure the security of the Free World, the United States must maintain its economic superiority over all comers. The biggest strategic threat in this regard is clearly posed by China. This is because of:

  1. The size of the Chinese population;
  2. The Industriousness of the Chinese people;
  3. The Unabashed theft of intellectual property by the Chinese.

Combined, these factors mean the Chinese economy will eclipse that of the United States around a decade from now. To prevent this outcome, the United States needs to increase its rate of economic growth to a sustainable 10 to 15 percent per annum. This can only be achieved by fully implementing the and returning to the country’s nineteenth-century liberal economic roots. America must put enough distance between itself and China to postpone the day of reckoning 100 to 150 years into the future. By that time the Chinese will no longer pose a threat to world peace because capitalism, as it always does, will have inculcated a culture of liberty into the Chinese people.

It is pointless for the United States to outstrip China in weapons development over the next two decades and then collapse in exhaustion. That would mirror the mistake made by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. If the United States continues on its current welfare-corporatist path, it will continue along with its minuscule 0 to 3 percent annual economic growth rate, while China bounds along with 8 to 15 percent growth. Eventually, the American people will wake up to find they cannot hope to compete dollar for dollar with the Chinese in weapons development. The Chinese will be in a position to outspend the United States using a much smaller portion of their GDP—precisely the strategy the United States used against the Soviets to win the Cold War. Thus, the Cold War between China and the West has begun and China is winning.

Parallels in the contest between the United States and China can be seen in the struggle between Britain and Germany at the turn of the twentieth century. Industrialized Britain looked upon the newly-unified and agrarian German nation with patronizing scorn. Over the succeeding decades, however, they witnessed rapid growth of the German economy, more German manufactured goods in their shops, and more German machine tools in their factories. But the British were not particularly worried, not even by Germany’s massive conscript army, consoling themselves that the Royal Navy still ruled the waves. Then the Dreadnoughts arrived, rendering every ship in the British Navy obsolete. In Germany, Britain faced a country that had a bigger economy, more men under arms, and the industrial capacity to close down the Royal Navy. In their ensuing panic, the British sought to ‘contain’ Germany, but instead only hastened the outbreak of war.

The United States is in grave danger of repeating history by lethargically standing by while the Chinese rapidly build up an economy that can threaten its security. Just as the vaunted Royal Navy suddenly became obsolete, so too will America’s nuclear deterrent one day be rendered obsolete by Chinese industrial power and technical know-how.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove