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Claire has started two excellent discussions here and here about the causes of war. I look forward to reading her argument in subsequent posts. But I also wanted to throw out my anticipatory two cents on the subject without being constrained by commenters’ 250-word limit. In the case of The Big One – China – the causes of war, if there is to be one, will be the same structural ones identified by Thucydides 2,500 years ago. Like Athens and Sparta, this is a paradigmatic case of rising and declining powers clashing. But in the case of lesser conflicts, one can never overestimate the role of ordinary human stupidity and inability to grasp the perfectly predictable consequences of foolish actions.
Consider the current situation in Europe. In April 2008, NATO held a summit in Bucharest, Romania. At the end of this summit — as is the custom for these kinds of things — NATO issued a lengthy declaration. Paragraph 23 of this declaration states, in full (emphasis added):