War at the end of history

Adam Tooze over at Chartbook:

War and history are intertwined. Entire conceptions of history are defined by what status one accords to war in one’s theory of change. War is certainly not the only way to punctuate history, but it is clearly one of the pacemakers. Battles and campaigns are not the only events that define winners and losers, but they do matter. In its heyday war was the great engine of history.

One of humanity’s recurring hopes has been that through history we might escape war. Since World War II Western Europe in particular has been invested in the idea of consigning war to the past. That is a hope that is based not just on a humanitarian impulse, but also on the sense that the basic questions of international politics were resolved and that for the settlement of whatever remained, the modern instruments of war – most notably nuclear weapons – were likely counterproductive. The era of military history was thus consigned to an earlier developmental phase.

If it was once sensible to think of war as the extension of policy by other means, historical development had closed that chapter. Both the main questions of policy and the repertoire of sensible policy tools have changed. With the passing of that epoch, war belonged to the past. Skepticism about war was not, first and foremost, a matter of moral values, it was a matter of realism, of understanding what actually made the modern world tick.

More here.