A Roomful of Dust: Update

Every so often I remember this post and think I should do an update.

At this point, it is obvious that the Roomful of Dust is less explosive than I feared it was. In the past six months, Pakistan and India, then Iran and everybody, have stood on the brink of war, yet no war has appeared. This is a potent reminder that war is not only not healthy for children and other living things, it’s also not healthy for existing power structures. All the players have their own cold-steel goals, but they all have a lot to lose as well. The lack of line warfare in recent decades, combined with jumps of weapons technology, means that it’s impossible to know what could happen once the reins are off.

In fact, it’s possible war might bring nothing good even for the winners. Saudi Arabia and Israel want regime change in Iran—but if the collapse of the Islamic Republic led to a massive failed-state zone, they might end up longing for the ayatollah’s time. China’s neighbors would like the PRC to cool it with the efforts to become hegemon of East & Southeast Asia—but they might like mass chaos in interior even less. Everyone’s aware just how economic stability, let alone growth, would pop like a soap bubble under wartime conditions. Any war in the Persian Gulf would immediately chop world oil supplies by more than half, instantly creating a global depression.

So I’m not as nervous as was. And yet.

The problem is that most of the time, war is always the stupid move. Peace is the result of geopolitical equilibrium; geopolitical equilibrium is the product not of universal satisfaction with the state of affairs, but with universal acquiescence that there’s nothing that can be done about it. Generally speaking, peace is always the smart move. Wars occur when someone, out of arrogance or desperation or both, decides to forget what the smart move is. Austria forgot in 1914. Japan forgot in 1941. Israel forgot in 1967. Sometimes it works out. Usually it doesn’t.

So the question is: will someone in the Room choose to forget? They haven’t. There’s been ample opportunity, yet they haven’t. May they continue to not forget.

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