Does Weakness Lead to War?
The fear of war is always in the back of people’s minds. This is especially true today with political pundits on cable news and even world leaders eager to say that this action or that action will cause World War III. However, it's not just what is said, it’s about actions and in many cases about inaction. History has shown that inaction has emboldened hostile nations. In there lies the question, does weakness lead to war?
Deterrence Alone Doesn’t Prevent War
In the context of war, what is weakness? Weakness is defined by a state or condition of lacking strength. It can be applied to anything. However, in the context of war, weakness is the inability to be a deterrent power. Deterrence is a military strategy that uses the threat of reprisal to effectively preclude an attack from an adversary power.
Deterrence can be applied in different ways. A country can use its diplomatic, economic, or military power to deter an enemy. In addition, a country’s deterrent power discourages and prevents conflicts before they can happen. Despite this, weakness (or perceived weakness) in this aspect has resulted in many wars.
History of Weakness Causing War
There is a pattern in history where weakness has led to war. Weakness in deterrent power usually comes from appeasements. This happens when one power focuses on appeasing another power rather than using its power to deter them. Just like deterrents, these appeasements can come from a diplomatic, economic, or military approach. History has made it clear that is what leads to conflict. Although people talk about “accidental” wars, there are no accidents involved in regard to war.
The First World War was caused by decades of appeasement of Germany. War almost broke out two times till the last straw was broken.
In the 1930s, Germany was making acts of aggression by taking territories. Instead of taking a stand, Europe and Britain were using an appeasement policy. This policy lead to Germany seeing that nobody was going to stop their aggression, which led to World War II. For our part, America’s isolationism and appeasement policy failed and is widely recognized as the weakness that lead us into the war. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor ended that.
Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State in 1950, stated about South Korea being outside of U.S. protection and emboldened North Korea to invade. Regardless of other reasons, the show of weakness can lead to war.
From Building Strength to Showing Weakness
Even though history shows us how weakness often leads to a “hot war,” people still repeat the same mistakes. Through the years many have claimed that we are on the brink of World War III. In fact, many Democrats and people on the left were claiming that electing Donald Trump for president would make it happen. Well, under President Trump's leadership the United States actually had a growth in deterrent power. That is because his administration focused on using diplomatic, economic, and military force to keep enemies at bay. These came in the form of tariffs, reprisals for aggression, and strategic military placing.
When Joe Biden took office, the president immediately began dismantling this progress. With his stopping the Keystone pipeline and other executive actions he single-handedly made the U.S. dependent on foreign oil again. The Biden administration started to resend tariffs that were equalizing the economic power between the United States and trade partners. He has been reinstating agreements that do nothing but show that America is rolling over. Appeasement toward China, Iran, and Russia is causing enemies to become emboldened. It has gotten to the point that these enemies are doing war games together and taking provocative actions to display their strength.
Will Our Weakness Lead to War?
Let’s pray it doesn’t. However, in one respect it already has. If the U.S. and E.U. would have responded to Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014 under Obama, Putin might have not started the current war in Ukraine. Now, the way the United States pulled out of Afghanistan, and its interaction with China at every level, is telegraphing our weaknesses to them.