The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How Can We Repay Our Teachers?

Some might call this paranoid, but it seems that in the health care discussion, the "elephant in the living room" is that the countries that provide health care as a basic service can afford it, and offer their citizens better life spans and infant mortality rate, at least partially because they aren't spending almost half a trillion dollars a year on military spending. Can anyone explain to me why we need to spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined? Why in the world we'd need to spend more than, say, twice as much as the next most powerful country?

When we say we're the wealthiest country in the world, but cannot provide what poorer countries offer their citizens, something seems damned odd. And I have a feeling that this is just what Eisenhower was referring to when he said to beware of the military industrial complex. Have a better military than anyone else? Sure. But by this much? This many multiples? Wow.

And I have a sinking feeling that unless the citizens of this country demand we change this, it won't happen. The people with the power at the top can't push this. It would be insane to antagonize people who have this much money at stake, are those most familiar with weapons and tactics, and know people experienced in killing. Talk about motive, means, and opportunity. And out of the many thousands of people heavily invested in things remaining the same, how many would it take to kill a politician who spoke too loudly? If we accept that 10% of people are assholes, what percentage of those are, well, murderous assholes? 1%.

Money, power, weapons, lethal experience...that would seem to be a perfect shit-storm that only an idiot would cross. Those of us who talk to folk from other countries who say, yep, single payer works just fine, and the rhetoric from those who don't like it basically boils down to "I don't want to pay for someone else's operation" (well, fine. I don't want to pay for the war in Iraq, but I understand that that's the consequence of living in a Democratic Republic. We end up paying for things others want).

I suspect that if we want this, we'll have to make it happen from the bottom up. The forces allied against it are gigantic, and potentially lethal. But we have dozens of role models of things working just fine (Harvard Medical School did a survey suggesting that the average Canadian has health care equivalent to the average INSURED American. Add the uninsured to the picture, and the average Canadian is kicking our ass. I don't like that.)

##

"Night At the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian."

On Mother's Day I was out of town, so to compensate Tananarive we declared Father's Day "Parent's Day" and I gave her some much-needed private time by taking Jason to the movies. About the only thing playing that I thought we could both tolerate was Ben Stiller's latest comedy. Now, the first movie was cute, but said about everything there really was to say: a museum's exhibits come to life at night. This time out, however, in typical sequel-itis, they do a few new things:

1) Add an "end of the world" scenario to increase tension (an undead pharaoh gets his hands on a magic tablet that will awaken an ultimate army. Wait...wasn't that "Mummy 3?"

2) The museum is bigger.

3) A sort-of love interest, the spunky Amelia Erhardt is introduced.

There's more, but you get the picture. Here's the problem...I actually liked it. The fact is that the underlying metaphor: "Museums bring history to life" is almost irresistable. Amelia is unbelievably perky and charming, and the Smithsonian really is an amazing complex. I can't help it. Jason and I had a great time, and if this sounds like your cup of tea, so will you. A "B".

##

Saturday, I attended Maha Guru Cliff Stewart's sixth "Camp of the Masters." Let's be clear: Cliff is one of the two most broadly knowledgeable martial artists I've ever met (the other is Danny Inosanto) and has about 15 advanced black belts. And by "advanced" I mean upwards of 6th degree. This is no joke--this man had benched 500, bodyguarded Muhammad Ali, kickboxed with Joe Lewis, and is the only human being to complete Masaad Ayoob's Lethal Force Institute LFI-1 and LFI-2 classes back to back. He is grizzly bear in human skin with a Buddha's smile--a gentle man with wrists as thick as my forearms (and by the way, like all real warriors I know, considers the idea of "not talking to your enemies" to be absurd and fearful. Doesn't make him right, but wanted to make it clear that on the wheel of archtypes, this is NOT a warrior attitude.)

Anyway, Cliff can attract absurdly knowledgable people to his seminars, including Graciela Cassilas, arguably the most lethal and beautiful female martial artist in the world, Capoiera master Dennis Newsome (MA choreographer for the original "Lethal Weapon". HIS Capoiera is real, and dangerous as hell. Almost all other Capoiera I've ever seen is clearly watered-down tourist stuff), Sijo Steve Muhammad (he and Cliff are pretty much best buds), Kilindi Iyi--a master of African martial arts, and a host of other notables. What an incredible amount of fun. Many of them are ex-military, all of them have genuine experience in street combat, all have produced (at least) expert-level students, and there was simply no ego in that studio. We were all just there to work our butts off and have a great time, and I did.

But one of the things that I saw there was that each of these masters honored their teachers fully and without reservation. In fact, this seemed to be one of the distinguishing marks of a true expert--the understanding that none of us get where we're going without standing on the shoulders of giants who came before. And even more--because I've known some of their teachers, I know that none of them move the way their teacher's moved. Well, that's not really true. None of them APPARENTLY moved the way their teacher's moved. They can't, and truely honor their teacher.

A martial art demands that you actually examine the word "martial art" itself. "Martial" means that the subject relates to war. Combat. Life and death. "Art" is trickier, but I would say that "art" means "Self" expression. That means that we go beyond technique to the point that conscious awareness of technical aspect disappears. It cannot be otherwise, if you are to function under stress, and a self-defense technique that doesn't work when you are tired, sick, fuzzy-headed, scared or surprised isn't really much use in the real world, now, is it? The disciplines that have taught me the most useful information about living my life were those that dealt with how to die with dignity, clarity, and courage: martial arts, yoga, and Sufism, among others.

So the water of technique has to percolate, go down deeply until it touches what Harlan Ellison calls "the burning core." At which point it explodes up into steam, belching out through the channel of discipline, focused on its target with will and clarity of values and intent.

But because no two bodies, no two lives, no two minds are identical, a true martial artist cannot look "just like" his instructor. Oh, yeah..you can while in the beginner or even intermediate phase. But by the time your training makes contact with your actual "Self", your "Is-ness" it must reflect that utterly unique aspect of universal truth. If you have remained in the illusion that you are like everyone else, then you might think that imitating the motion of your teacher is the ultimate rather than the beginning goal.

But if you go deeper...it's a different story. Of course, if we go deeper through the layers, we emerge at the universal. At this point, you look at a dozen different masters, and see the exact same thing. It is fascinating. They practice arts from different continents and cultures, call their techniques different things, and dress in different ways. Some teach kicking, some punching, some sticks or knives. Some work within a narrow range of motion (Steve Muhammad's Wu Shin Shur Chuan Fa) some use a true 360-degree sphere (Capoeira. And no, Aikido does not. Aikido uses 180 at best--to become a true sphere, they would have to invert the body). So to the beginner, or even intermediate student, it can all look confusingly different.

After 35 years in the arts, I suppose it would be disingenuous of me to pay attention to my pretender voices and act like I ain't advanced. So I'll drop the false ego about that, and say that I look at these things, and all I see is a flow of motion winding its way through an individual human spirit, molded by historical and social context. It's all the same. It's all wonderful.

The reason I bring this up is that I asked myself what their students can possibly do to repay those who offer freedom, offer truth, if we have only the courage to grasp it, to demand nothing less from ourselves. And I mean REAL teachers of any discipline. Those who point the way are of inestimable value, because to know anything to the level of mastery is to open the door to knowing all things. To knowing yourself. And there is nothing more important in life.

How can we reward those who give the greatest gift? What is the best way for us to repay our teachers?

35 comments:

Steve Perry said...

Pay it forward. Pass it on.

I don't have any aspirations to teach the stuff I'm learning outside the classes; however, I try to make it a point during those the sessions, as often as I can, to work with a beginner, or with somebody who would benefit from having a guy my size go at them.

Our teacher -- who is also one of Barnes's teacher, for those of you who might not know -- is world-class and he works with a mixed group, ranging from students who have been there a few weeks to those who have been there for fifteen years. He spreads himself around, but by necessity, when you have newbies, you have to cover the basics first.

Teaching a newbie means you have to internalize the material well enough to make it simple so they can get it -- at least the introduction to it.

One hand up, one down, a conduit from higher to lower ...

Mike Ralls said...

Short version for why the US military is so more expensive than most other armed forces;

1) It's designed to actually fight and win wars in other countries. Defense is a lot easier than offense, and most countries militaries are not designed to project force. The European Union collectively spend about half of what we do, but their armies are not half as powerful as our, but more like 1/20th as powerful. I the 1990's they couldn't even handle tiny Serbia on their own and they've decreased in force projection since then.

2) It has to compete with the US economy for personnel.

Regarding the difficulty in lowering military spending, it's not that difficult if people want it has and has been done in the very recent past;

http://media.photobucket.com/image/american%20military%20spending%20as%20%252525%20of%20gdp/TomThe/Misc%20for%20Blog/defense-spending-and-gdp.gif

Military spending as a % of GDP was halved between 1985 and 2001, and there was no serious attempt by a small % of the population to use violence to stop this. In post-WWII terms, US spending on its military in 2009 is below-average. By contrast, we are spending more now (as a % of GDP) on health care than we have ever spent in our entire history, and all indications are that that will increase in the coming years (Baby Boomer's getting old).

>(well, fine. I don't want to pay for the war in Iraq, but I understand that that's the consequence of living in a Democratic Republic. We end up paying for things others want).<

Only if those others can get it passed through the legislature, which is what the opponents of socialized health care are arguing against happening. One actually has a duty to argue against the legislature authorizing things one doesn't beleive in. What, you didn't argue against the legislature that authorized the Iraq War?

And there are other argument's against sociolizing it other then "I don't want to pay for someone else's health care" chief of which is a worry that it will retard medical advancements.

Dan Moran said...

Steve, doesn't sound paranoid at all to take note of the fact that the richest country in the world has a dreadful health care system. It's not an accident, either -- paying too much for lousy service is a Right ... not yours, that of the medical/insurance industry, and its employees in the government. (Almost all Republicans and many Democrats.)

For most of my adult life the gap between the rich and the rest of us has been growing. Things like this are why. I have it as no better than even money that a public option actually gets included in the upcoming health care legislation. It would most likely destroy the medical insurance industry -- no loss -- and the medical insurance industry knows it. Expect "Daisy" type ads if a public option actually looks to be getting into law, and the fiercest lobbying in living memory.

Dan Moran said...

Mike,

The cold war's over. The Iraq war was a dreadful miscalculation. We can't afford to fight North Korea; they'll destroy Seoul. A war with Russia or China's going nuclear as soon as either country perceives they're losing.

I'm OK with the U.S. cutting its military spending by a lot. All we've got to show for it, since the Cold War ended, is a bungled Afghan war and a series of historic errors in Iraq.

Christian M. Howell said...

I think your explanation of Martial Arts is why I'm the way I am. The world is violent and always thinking of new ways to be violent.

Fortunately, I found some things that it seems that no one else has. I only believe in "structured attacks" in very narrow terms.

I wouldn't mind discussing technique but I don't really like violence. I abstracted it to contact points and possible movements and find that it has served me well.

I really hate that my violence refuses to "practice" but I think I had an ancestor who was a bare fist fighter so any rub off would be strictly "kill or be killed."



As far as teachers I can say that my teachers supported me because they wanted to brag about having taught me (perhaps the joy of teaching) - of course that's OK since I stole from Einstein and Newton and developed a propulsion system that has actually been realized - slightly differently - by AdAstra (called VASIMR) and is being refined for use by NASA.

So teachers are valuable when they only want to produce better students than when they want to prove they can teach. I've had both in all levels of education and I got better grades from teachers who wanted to produce better students.


As far as the defense budget, I think Iraq showed that there is so much run-off that we don't know how much actually developed or manufactured a plane tank or rifle.

That's what we need to address - GREED. The type of greed that makes people risk everything for what amounts to nothing (read: our banks). Of course teachers and greed go hand in hand in that the greedy would do better to not have structured education. That way people vote "by commercial" rather than acquired knowledge.

This is also why I only try to help women. They are a large part of things and too many of them are hookers and porn stars - even the one that don't hook or fuck on film.

OK, I have to stop I'm feeling the anger rise.

Steven Barnes said...

Not only is Stevan Plinck one of my teachers, but I'd consider him to express his art with extraordinary purity. He is the very exemplar of what someone who has mastered a single movement system can be (he has studied more than Serak, but when he moves...Serak is in the room.) His clarity is just absolutely awesome. He is actually the man who gave Cliff his Maha Guru status, and that's saying a hellacious amount.

Mike Ralls said...

>I have it as no better than even money that a public option actually gets included in the upcoming health care legislation.<

I wouldn't say it's 50-50, but it is a possibility. My opinion of President Obama's skills will certainly go down if that is the case. With this Congress, this press, this economy and the lesson of Clinton if he still can't get it passed when it's evident that he really wants to then it would appear to me that he played his hand rather badly. We'll see.

>paying too much for lousy service is a Right ... not yours, that of the medical/insurance industry, and its employees in the government.<

I haven't found the service I've received lousy, quite the opposite. Like 89% of Americans, I'm satisfied with the health care I receive.

>Expect "Daisy" type ads if a public option actually looks to be getting into law, and the fiercest lobbying in living memory.<

That's a probable scenario.

>I'm OK with the U.S. cutting its military spending by a lot. All we've got to show for it, since the Cold War ended, is a bungled Afghan war and a series of historic errors in Iraq.<

The chief benefit of having a hegemonic power is that they are often a factor for greater peace simply because they are in a position beyond challenge. When there is no hegemonic power, states are more likely to jostle for the top dog position, with frequent bloody results. Hegemonic periods tend to be the most peaceful periods in history and as far as we can tell, now is the most peaceful period in the history of the human race. Ever.

I don't believe in the end of history. I don't believe that my people having a hegemonic position will be bad for them or that there will never come a time when power is not needed. There are certainly incidences of states spending so much on their militaries that they bankrupt themselves, the Soviet Union being the most obvious modern example but far from the only one, but not at 4% of GDP. That's, historically, a very low amount for a hegemonic power to spend.

Lobo said...

A couple of thoughts I've had about health care in this country:

What's the difference between a government bureaucrat deciding what kind of care you receive and an insurance company bureaucrat deciding what kind of care you receive? At least with a government option everyone can get some kind of health care.

Also, we need doctors to set broken bones far more than we need House. The uninsured don't need someone to diagnose some obscure disease, they need doctors to set bones, perform appendectomies, treat ear infections, etc. Even IF providing a public option was to retard bleeding edge medical research, which I seriously doubt would be the case, big deal. It's a small price to pay for making treatment available to everyone. I bet there's far more economic advantage to having a healthy, productive population than a new boner pill.

I don't know much about martial arts, but Mr. Barnes description of the masters put me to mind of the Destroyer books. I think it's interesting that in real life these men and women are the epitome of humility and modesty, but in this particular series of books Chuin(sp?) is the absolute best martial artist in the world and drips arrogance out of every pore. Makes me wonder how the authors thought of martial arts when they created the character.

Mike Ralls said...

>Even IF providing a public option was to retard bleeding edge medical research, which I seriously doubt would be the case, big deal. It's a small price to pay for making treatment available to everyone.<

That is a value judgment, and one I don't share. On the personnel level, if cancer medicine were say 10 years behind what it is now there is a good chance my Dad would be dead right now. On the macro level, slowed growth can effect things exponentially. Assume that the rate of medical advancement is, to pull a number out of a hat, 5% per year and that socializing it will bring it down to 4% per year. One percent is a small price right? Well, the end result is that by the end of the century, medical science would be half as advanced as if there was 5% growth. Half! Imagine if we had 1950's medicine right now. Now, as those numbers are made up they don't prove anything, but they do illustrate the concern.

Marty S said...

I have to chime in on Mike's side on the health care issue. Which country has better health care depends on the measuring system you use and what weight you give to different factors. So when my six year old was limping and early diagnose, early hospitalization and treatment for a rare hip disease was the difference between suffering occasional bouts of pain and being wheelchair bound at some point in his life I was grateful for the care he he received and would weigh it highly as compared to say the percent of population receiving preventive flu shots each year. One way of measuring the relative goodness in the U.S. versus Canada is to look at how many people each year leave Canada to come to here for medical treatment versus how many leave here to go there for treatment. I think you will find its pretty much one way with Canadians leaving there to come here.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I can't imagine a military revolt over a cut in the budget. I'm looking at this from the outside, but I think the US military culture is too solid for that.

Also, I don't think the military-industrial complex needs to threaten violence. The combination of money/influence, the idea that the military and big weapons are cool, and the fear of attack are enough to get them plenty.

I don't know if there's a good way out for the American medical system. It's amazingly corrupt and has a lot of political influence. It may have less infulence than it seems because Obama has proven he can get tremendous support from individual contributions, but I'm concerned that we'll just end up with a different flavor of mess.

Two things that I think would help a lot with cost and quality of care: paying more for longer intake appointments, and paying for home care as easily as for institutionalization.

Maybe I just know a lot of sick people, but getting competent diagnosis can take many years. Meanwhile, the original condition isn't being treated, may be getting worse, and the patient is at risk for side effects from the wrong treatments. It's no guarantee, but if doctors got paid for spending more than 10 or 15 minutes with their patients, it could help.

Also, there are a lot of people who would be happier and possibly healthier if they were getting help at home, it costs a third as much as being in an institution.

Marty S said...

Okay more thoughts on government health care. We already have a government health care program. Cost wise its one of the biggest factors driving our deficit, yet when I turn 65 and go on medicare I will need to purchase a medicare supplementary policy to cover those medical needs covered by my current employee plan but not by medicare. So clearly without purchasing this supplemental plan the government plan with its current high cost is inferior to my current coverage. Why should this not be the general case if we go to universal health care. Also lets look at Nancy's comment about physicians spending more time with their patients. There are only so many minutes in a doctor's day. If the doctor spends more time with each patient he can see fewer patients. If we expand the number of patients through universal health care where do we get the more minutes from, where do we get the more hospital beds the more xray machines etc. Undoubtedly universal health care will be better for those with no coverage, but it is virtually certain to mean worse coverage for those who have coverage, the problem is weighing the overall benefits of both and it comes down to, as I said above, the measuring rod you choose to weigh the two against each other.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Marty, the hypothesis is that if patients got significantly more accurate diagnosis, they wouldn't need as many appointments.

Christian M. Howell said...

The problem with health care in general is that it tends to be after the fact. The government should be promoting healthy lifestyles and subsidizing fitness programs at work. Then people wouldn't get sick as much.

People think a lot of crazy things about me but I have only spent two days in the hospital in my life and that was for appendicitis.

And when I got out I walked a couple of miles to a friend's house with no problem.

The one thing that the military does is keep people in shape.

Steven Barnes said...

I don't worry about a military revolt. I worry about people who stand to lose billions of dollars in defense contracts deciding to kill someone who is standing between them and money. People murder people every day over pennies. It takes just a few people with money, equipment, and access to skilled experienced killers to put a hole in a couple of selected politicians, or make their planes crash. THAT's what I worry about. Motive, means, and opportunity. It takes .001% of the affected group to do it, so please don't act like I'm implying the entire system would go whacko.

Steven Barnes said...

Sapir and Murphy, the guys who created "The Destroyer" were creating a delightful parody, and I must have read fifty of those things, back in the day. Chuin was a hoot. A real shame that they never found a cinematic home, or that when they tried, they had to cast Joel Grey (film) or Roddie McDowell (television) as Koreans.

Steven Barnes said...

Another thing about Guru Plinck: he and his family are the epitome of good, Christian, salt of the earth folks. Humble, kind, hard-working, decent people. I could not have a higher respect for them, or for his skills.

Mike Ralls said...

>It takes .001% of the affected group to do it, so please don't act like I'm implying the entire system would go whacko.<

I didn't. I said that defense spending was cut in half from 1986 to 2000, so it can be done if people want it to be done. I am not aware of any murders committed to stop or slow the decrease in the 1986 to 2000 period. US Presidents have had trouble keeping two-bit robberies and blow jobs secret, so I I have my doubts that multiple murders could have been committed by some minority with the intention of slowing the defense spending cut without it leaking out in some manner.

coxcrow said...

I have to say that outside of Steven's insight, the thing I enjoy most about this blog is the intelligent and POLITE commentary. Kudos all.

Dan Moran said...

Mike,

Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Like 89% of Americans, I'm satisfied with the health care I receive.

Here.

Somehow 89% of Americans are satisfied with their healthcare, and yet 41% of Americans still want to scrap the entire system as it now exists ... which means that 30% of your 89% ... taking both from 100%, I'm not going to bother with the math to get the actual percentage of the 89%, even if it would give me a higher number to be ironic about ... 30% of the 89% are both satisfied with their health care, and want to scrap the entire system.

Americans' perceptions are much more negative when it comes to healthcare coverage. Only about one in four Americans currently believe healthcare coverage in the country is excellent or good.

So 26% of Americans think healthcare coverage in the U.S. is excellent or good, which means that 63% of your 89% are somehow both satisfied and think the system doesn't work well ...

Also, the overwhelming majority of Americans -- 79% -- say they are dissatisfied with the total cost of healthcare in this country, a figure up slightly from the 71% found in 2001.

And so on. It's a good read.

I don't mind you quoting the 89%, but in the hunt for the truth, if you're going to quote the poll it came from, maybe you should mention that the poll said other stuff as well?

The chief benefit of having a hegemonic power is that they are often a factor for greater peace simply because they are in a position beyond challenge.

I'm quite sure we could be in a position beyond challenge for less than we're now paying.

now is the most peaceful period in the history of the human race. Ever.

Because of nukes.

I don't believe in the end of history. I don't believe that my people having a hegemonic position will be bad for them or that there will never come a time when power is not needed. There are certainly incidences of states spending so much on their militaries that they bankrupt themselves, the Soviet Union being the most obvious modern example but far from the only one, but not at 4% of GDP. That's, historically, a very low amount for a hegemonic power to spend.

I don't believe in the end of history either. But I do believe that spending money you don't need to spend will catch up with you.

http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending

The U.S. has more than doubled its military spending since 1998. And we were a hegemonic power then, too.

Dan Moran said...

Not only do I not believe in the end of history, but the bastard lifted a chapter title from me -- "The Mechanism of Desire" was a short I wrote many years before Fukuyama used it.

Silatyogi said...

Mr. Barnes

It was Create to see you there at Guru Cliff's Camp. It was indeed a magical event with some of the nicest and most dangerous human beings to ever congregate in a little place in Van Nuys CA. See you soon.

Best wishes

Santiago Dobles

Mike Ralls said...

>So 26% of Americans think healthcare coverage in the U.S. is excellent or good, which means that 63% of your 89% are somehow both satisfied and think the system doesn't work well ...<

It's not that uncommon for people to be satisfied with something on the personal level (how it effects them) and still think it doesn't work on the societal level (how it effects others). People _know_ how they think something effects them whereas they are only guessing or going from much more limited data on how it effects others.

> Also, the overwhelming majority of Americans -- 79% -- say they are dissatisfied with the total cost of healthcare in this country<

I would be shocked if there was not a majority YES to the question "Are you dissatisfied with the total cost of X in this country?" where X is practically any major social institution you can think of (education, sanitation, whatever).

> Because of nukes.

Nukes were around in the 1945-1991 period and the level of global violence was higher then than now.

Also, all it takes is one bad day to turn it from the most peaceful period to the most violent period in human history. I beleive that a strong hegemonic power will help put off that day.

> The U.S. has more than doubled its military spending since 1998.<

Not as a % of GDP, and if as stated you are worried about the fiscal consequences, % of GDP is what matters. There it is around a 50% increase.

Mike Ralls said...

Sorry, brain slip, meant 33% increase.

Dan Moran said...

Sure, the ending of the Cold War made the world a safer place; there were no longer two superpowers to wage proxy wars. But the lack of major global conflicts since the end of WWII is due to nuclear weapons, period.

Sorry, brain slip, meant 33% increase.

Only if you omit the spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if you count Homeland Security separately from DOD.

Mike Ralls said...

>But the lack of major global conflicts since the end of WWII is due to nuclear weapons, period.<

As there were no major global conflicts from 1815 to 1914, I don't see why it would be that simple. A factor, certainly. Period, no.

And of course global conflicts are not the only source of violence, and in fact are a small % of the total number of deaths caused by wars in human history. We are more peaceful now than the 1815 to 1914 period when there were no major global conflicts as well.

>Only if you omit the spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if you count Homeland Security separately from DOD.<

I thought the raise from 3 to 4% of GDP counted for that, but shall check on it.

Dan Moran said...

As there were no major global conflicts from 1815 to 1914

We may disagree on this one, unsurprisingly.

Between the end of the Napoleonic wars and 1914:

The US went to war with Mexico

France, the UK, and the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey, went to war with Russia.

Italy and France went to war with Austria.

The U.S. had a major civil war.

Germany, Italy, and Austria went to war. (Don't ask me who fought who, I've never got the seven weeks war straight.)

France went to war with Germany.

Russia and a bunch of Balkan countries went to war with Turkey.

The U.S. went to war with Spain.

Eight countries including the US, UK, France, Japan, invaded China.

Japan went to war with Russia.

There's been nothing similar among the major world powers since the end of WWII. Not even close.

Mike Ralls said...

>There's been nothing similar among the major world powers since the end of WWII. Not even close.<

Korean War. Chinese troops fought US troops on a battlefield and millions died. Both the US and China were major powers in 1950 (by any standard that would include many of the countries you listed).

Dan Moran said...

OK, I'll give you that. I'm speaking sloppily, but I stand by the argument in broad. To be more precise, since it became possible for one country to utterly destroy another with nuclear weapons, and directly due to that, global conflict, particularly among superpowers possessing such weapons, has declined to near-zero.

The forgotten war (forgotten by me, too) is much closer to being one of the regional wars involving non-nuclear powers that still go on -- it started in 1950 when the U.S. had no ICBMs capable of reaching China, and China had no nuclear weapons at all. It wasn't fought on either Chinese or American soil, and the real risks to both the U.S. and China were minimal.

I wouldn't swear no nuclear power could go to war with another in this day and age, but it would be either 1) over VERY QUICKLY, or 2) a regional conflict not directly threatening either principal.

Steven Barnes said...

Mike--you say 89% of people are satisfied with the health care they receive. In 2003, 16% of people had no health care. That tells me right there that the numbers need to be examined more closely--there's more to the story.

Steven Barnes said...

And Santiago--
great seeing you, too!

Mike Ralls said...

>In 2003, 16% of people had no health care. <

Incorrect. There is a difference between having no health care insurance and having no health care. Having no health care which would be if people went into a hospital bleeding and were turned away.

Mike Ralls said...

>t started in 1950 when the U.S. had no ICBMs capable of reaching China, .. . the real risks to both the U.S. and China were minimal.<

ICBM's didn't exist in 1950 in any workable form. A-bombs were delivered by airplanes then, and US bases in Japan and the Philippines meant that it would have been realivly easy to nuke every major Chinese city pretty much from the first day they attacked US troops to day of the armistice. And indeed, some in the US military did want to use the nuclear option. Truman wouldn't go for it, thanks be, and this was a major factor in the formation of the nuclear taboo. Didn't have to go that way though. If their enemies had decided to act differently it could have been an existasential mistake on China's part. Mao was willing to take that risk because as he said, "If you kill 300 million Chinese, there will still be 300 million Chinese." Dude was seriously indifferent to the loss of the lives of his subjects, as his reign showed.

And I'm not disagreeing with your broad point that nuclear weapons have been a force for peace, by and large. I just don't think they are the only reason for this being the most peaceful period in human history and that US hegemony is also playing a large role. As an example, Japan by any standards is a great power and by traditional rules should want nuclear weapons to defend herself in case rising China gets any ideas. But Japan feels secure under America's hegemony, and doesn't feel the need to increase her military might with nuclear weapons. If she did, her neighbors would get very worried and tensions in Asia would increase, and so would the risk of conflict. The stronger the American hegemony is, the more that advanced countries will feel secure under its protection and won't feel the need for nuclear weapons themselves. And the fewer nuclear powers there are, means a lower chance of a Very Bad Day happening.

Dan Moran said...

I'll make one more point and then withdraw on this one. The era from the end of WWII has been the calmest since the invention of gunpowder, and the era following the collapse of the Soviet Union has been calmer yet. The willingness of major powers to engage in adventures has dropped dramatically (even including our recent disaster) and there have been virtually no conflicts between nuclear powers -- not even including Korea, since China wasn't one at the time. Mao's 300 million quote is new to me, but hardly surprising given the source.

But since we got past the point where the U.S. could devastate China but not destroy it, since we got to the point where the U.S. could make the entire country and everything in it uninhabitable, when we got to the point where China's ~150 nukes could turn the U.S. into a third world nation with one surreptitious strike ... things have been calmer, haven't they?

India and Pakistan fought wars in 1947 and 1965 and 1971. But they've fought none since, and it's not American hegemony that's stopped them: it was Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, begun in 1972 in response to India's nuclear weapons program, begun in response to China's kicking India's butt in a border dispute in 1962.

Since the three countries became nuclear powers, China, India, and Pakistan have had no armed conflicts (albeit having come close to it a couple times.)

This is practically a laboratory example of how nuclear deterrence has worked, and U.S. hegemony had zip to do with any of it.

Mike Ralls said...

Al Qaeda has just publicly stated that they'll use Pakistan's nuke if they manage to take control of Pakistan;

http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-40495320090621?sp=true

and I absolutely think they would. It would be in line with their past actions and stated goals. Increase in the number of nuclear powers = increase in the number of countries that could start a nuclear war if they are crazy enough. Again, it just takes one bad day.