Alphen, Netherlands. 23 January. This is Grand Strategy for Dummies (and Economists). No wonder it is called the dismal science. I have just been listening to a leading economist being interviewed in Davos by the BBC - nice work if you can get it. His line was that conflict between China and Japan is impossible because they are economically-interdependent. Let's face it most economists cannot even get predictions right in their own field let alone in mine.
The 'war is impossible between the economically-dependent' argument was shot dead - literally - a century ago in 1914. Much of continental Europe was economically-interdependent at the time but war still broke out. This is because international relations is about so much more than economics. The drivers of systemic change include structural political shift, identity, nationalism and, of course, the domestic political and personal interests and imperatives of hard-pressed elites. This potent and potentially parlous mix is particularly powerful and persuasive in emerging, illiberal states that seek to challenge the world status quo.
During this interview one of the BBC's many strategically-illiterate, air-brain interviewers said she could not understand why China and Japan could possibly have a shooting match over a few small islands (Diaoyu/Senkaku). Der! The conflict between the two great East Asian powers is about for more than the islands. At one level it is about the potentially massive amount of hydrocarbons that lie beneath the islands and at the grand strategic other level it is about the strategic pecking order in what will be the twenty-first century's global security crucible. Where do the BBC find these people?
There is one other question I must pose this morning. Does anyone know what Davos is for and what value if any it adds to anything or anybody?