In this article I explore the hypothesis that war and peace follows each other as part of an ongoing, recurring cycle. Although such cycles could go back for centuries, I focus only on the last century. To sensibly describe such a cycle, I build on the work of earlier pioneers like professor Spykman from Yale University. If a cycle is defined as starting with a financial crisis and a serious economic downturn, followed by a great war and then a long period of economic boom, four such cycles could be distinguished for the period 1907-2007. I also ask the questions: why do such cycles occur in the first place, and what are the predictions that follow from it? An important prediction seems to be that a great war against Iran can be expected in the next few years.
Peace and war are unpredictable. This is what most people believe. But is this really the case? Some analysts are of the opinion that this is not what history - especially that of the wars in which the British participated - tells us. According to them there is a certain regularity according to which war and peace arrive on the scene. They distinguish a pattern of successive war and peace cycles that go back centuries. If this is true, the implications for our world could be profound? A model based on these cycles, for example, predicts a great war against Iran in the near future.
In all studies – including those of international affairs – it is important to carefully evaluate historical trends, hoping to learn something useful that could help us to better understand the future. The important question is whether such trends are accidental, or if there are some patterns that underlay them. We can do the same in our study into the possible existence of recurring war and peace cycles. If we find evidence for the existence of such cycles, we can ask what such a model predicts for the future.
One of the most important studies ever conducted on war, was done by Nicholas J. Spykman, Sterling professor of International Relations at the Yale University. In his study, “America's Strategy in World Politics”, sponsored by the Yale Institute of International Studies and published in 1942, he came to the conclusion that some wars – those conducted by Britain – followed a clear cyclical pattern. According to him, the British policy of the previous centuries was characterized by “a constant succession of cycles of shifting partners, isolation, alliance and war”.
Prof. Spykman distinguished three types of wars that Britain participated in. The most important of these are the wars waged against countries that were considered, at that stage, to be the greatest competitors of Great Britain. The purpose of these wars was to ensure that Britain keeps the balance of power in Europe in her favor, restricting the political and territorial expansion of other nation states. For this purpose, military alliances were formed that were stronger than those of Britain's opponents. These alliances changed continually with the changing international political situation. Over time, these wars formed part of a pattern of cycles of wars. The second type of wars are those that set the stage for the next great war. The third type was conducted to gain control of strategic sources.
According to him, the following wars formed part of the cycles of war:
- The Napoleonic War of 1793-1815 against France
- The Turkish War of 1827-1829 against Turkey (and Egypt)
- The Crimean War of 1853-1856 against Russia, (Prussia) and the USA
- The Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878 against Russia
- The Spanish-American War of 1898-1899 against Spain (and Germany)
- The First World War of 1914-1918 against Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria
- The Second World War of 1939-1945 against Germany, Japan, Hungary, (Italy) etc.
In his book entitled “The Empire of 'The City', the Jekyll/Hyde nature of the British Government” (1946), E.C. Knuth wrote that the real hand behind these wars were the financial magnates of the City of London. According to him they are effectively concealed behind the Bank of England (which is in private hands), operating in the name of the “Crown”. He mentioned especially Lord Rothschild, whose role in this regard is well documented by the British premier David Lloyd George (1916-1922) in his book “Better Times”.
According to Knuth, these financial magnates are also concealed behind institutions like the IMF and the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development, set up at Bretton Woods in the USA in 1944 (Together with the International Development Association, established in 1960, it now forms the "World Bank"). According to the statues of these organizations they are effectively above the law, immune against all law actions to search, confiscate or alienate anything from them.
Knuth also called attention to the involvement of the French in all the British cyclical wars since the time of the Napoleonic War (1793-1815). According to him, this involvement stemmed from the power that the French financial oligarchy, under the leadership of Baron Edouard de Rothschild, exercised over the French. I must mention that this British-French alliance came to an end with President De Gaulle, who withdrew France from the integrated military command structure of NATO. It was only recently (in 2010) renewed by President Sarkozy. Knuth mentioned that the British financial magnates around Cecil Rhodes also concluded an alliance with their American counterparts in 1902. This alliance is well documented by the historian, Professor Carroll Quigley, in his book “The Anglo-American Establishment” (1949). This alliance holds to this day.
Although I have until now focused on wars, these financial magnates of the City and Wall Street, are obviously also important role players in the world's money markets. The supposed war and peace cycles are accordingly also closely connected with the world economy. Another book that focus mainly on this economic aspect, is “War Cycles, Peace Cycles” (1985) by Richard Kelly Hoskins. According to him the typical war and peace cycle is 50 years long, implying that it is a “jubilee cycle”. He distinguishes a period of high prices and economic boom as well as a period of low prices, depression/recession and war. His work show some agreement with (and are probably based on) the well-known Kondratiev (also called Kondratieff) economic wave theory which postulates 50-60 year economic cycles.
Although there are many other authors who have written about these things, these are sufficient for our purposes. Since some of the above-mentioned authors wrote some time ago, it is an open question if these cycles still occur today. In this article I propose that, although there is a large element of contingency in the world markets and economy, it does in fact seem that such cycles exist. To find them, however, one should not focus on economics, but rather on the war cycles that are embedded within the economic cycles. Furthermore, both periods of war and peace are inseparable parts of the same cycle.
War and peace cycles
It follows from the work of the above-mentioned authors that war and peace cycles incorporate two consecutive periods in one cycle, namely one of financial crisis, economic downturn and war, and one of economic growth and boom. In this study into the possible existence of these cycles, I focused only on the events of the last century.
I suppose that the war phase of the cycle typically commences with a financial crisis, followed by a recession/depression and a period of economic stagnation. Thereafter occurs a great war against one of the most important imperialistic competitors of the Anglo-Americans. Sometimes the initial crisis is followed by short period with some economic growth, but eventually it results in a recession, after which the war starts. During the war there is a concerted effort (not always successful) to restrict and reduce the power of their most important political and economic competitors and to promote the Anglo-American political-territorial interests. A new balance of power is also established with the purpose of keeping the most important role players in check.
As for the peace phase, it starts directly after the war. It is typically characterized by a post-war recession (a “reconversion crisis”), followed by a prolonged period of economic growth and boom. During this period some mild economic downturns may occur, but on the whole it is a long period of growth. Although it is called a peace phase, some of the other types of war (mentioned earlier) do occur during this period, through which the scene for the next great war is set up. During the peace phase the objective is to include as many countries as possible in the framework of world trade with the purpose to maximize the gains of the Anglo-American financial magnates, who pursue a policy of free trade.
I was able to distinguish four such war and peace cycles since the beginning of the previous century. Since the USA became the senior partner after the First World War, I focused mainly on their role during this period.
- This cycle starts with the panic of 1907 and the recession of 1907-8 in the Western World. During this time the USA experienced a 31% decline in business activity. This was followed by the recessions of 1910-11 and 1913-14. The events of 1907 culminated in the 1914 law that established the Federal Reserve Bank (in private hands) in the USA. In Britain the 1913 depression was especially severe. Then followed the First World War of 1914-18 during which Germany was the most important imperialistic opponent. The war stimulated growth in the USA economy. Britain was not so lucky, and came out of the war with an enormous debt, followed by the post-war depression of 1919-21. In the USA the years 1921-1929 was good years, known as the “roaring twenties”. This period lasted 22 years.
- This cycle starts with the stock market crash of 1929. This was followed by the “Great Depression” of 1929-1933, during which the USA GDP declined by 26.7%. The global economic stagnation persisted until the late 30's and into the recession of 1937. Then the Second World War (1939-45) broke out, again against Germany and her allies. At the post-war Yalta Conference, the balance of power for the next few decades was established. The war again stimulated growth in the USA economy. The years 1945-56 were for the most part a period of economic growth; especially during the “booming years” of the early 50's. This was interrupted in 1953 by a mild recession (the post-Korean War recession). The period lasted 28 years.
- This cycle do not commence with a crisis because a “no-panic” consensus existed in financial circles. Still, the global recession of 1957-8 was the worst since the Great Depression. The economic stagnation persisted until the early 1960's. In 1961 the USA concluded a military treaty with the South-Vietnamese government. The first support troops were send in 1961, and were thereafter constantly increased until 1965 when the USA became directly involved in this Cold War era conflict. (As co-chair of the Geneva Convention, Britain was not able to participate in this war. Classified documents show, however, that Britain was in fact clandestinely involved.) This war was mainly targeted against the USSR – who was substantially, although indirectly, involved – to curtain their expansion. No direct confrontation between the main opposing powers took place (as was the case during the earlier wars) because both had nuclear weapons. During the years 1961-69 the USA economy grew again. In 1973 (when the USA involvement in the war stopped), the first oil crisis occurred. This led to a recession followed by a further period of growth. The period lasted 22 years.
- This period starts with the second energy crisis of 1979, followed by the global recession(s) of 1980-82. The 1981-2 recession is considered the worse since the Great Depression. In 1982 the Latin-American sovereign debt crisis also intensified dramatically. In my view, the well-known speech by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, in which he described the USSR, who was the great enemy of NATO, as “totalitarian evil”, should be viewed as the start of this "war". It led to a dramatic intensification of the Cold War. Thereafter the military spending of the USA military grew enormously, and with it their economy (1982-90). (On the other side of the world, the two enemies also fought each other, although indirectly, in Afghanistan.) After the fall of Communism in 1989-91, the longest period of growth in American history ensued. This was interrupted by the dot.com crisis (the stock market dipped a lot, but the accompanying recession was mild), with another period of strong growth. The period lasted 28 years.
- This cycle starts with the financial crisis of 2007 and the Great Recession of 2008-9, the worst since the Great Depression. It ignited the EU sovereign debt crisis that persists to this day.
From this analysis it follows that war and peace cycles, which include both phases, lasted 25 years on average. The average length of the war phase is 13.7 years, and the peace phase, 11.2 years. This corresponds quite well with the average period between the commencement of the various great wars, which followed each other with predictable regularity, namely 23 years (this includes all 9 wars since the Napoleonic War of 1793). This period is about the half of Hoskins's 50 year cycle (or the Kondratiev wave), which imply that he effectively combined two cycles in one.
The recessions/depressions with which the cycles start (1907-8, 1929-33, 1957-58, 1980-82, 2008-9), which preceded the previous great wars, are not only neatly spaced in time with 22-28 years between them; it also represents the worst economic downturns of the past 100 years. It is clear that during each war, the military-industrial complex was responsible for the concurrent growth in the Anglo-American economies. (Countries like China use large infrastructure projects to drive economic growth.) The wars also promoted the financial interests of the Anglo-American financial magnates at the expense of their major opponents in other countries. It seems clear that the cycles did not stop in the time of the Second World War, but continues to this day. It is, however, important to note that the use of nuclear weapons changed the structure of the conflicts, with no direct confrontation between die Anglo-American allies and their opponent (the USSR) taking place since the Second World War.
Predicting a war against Iran?
According to my analysis of the war and peace cycles, the present cycle started in 2007. From the trends in the previous cycles, it seems that a further mild recession, followed by another great war, can be expected. When will this next great war start? The average time from the beginning of the cycles (with the financial crises) to the outbreak of the wars (or the involvement of the Anglo-Americans therein) was seven years for the previous four cycles. From this we can conclude that 2014 represents the most likely date for the outbreak of such a war. If we take into consideration that it has been 30 years since the intensification of the Cold War, which is considerably longer than the average of 23 years between the outbreak of these wars, then it seems that this war can start even earlier. (The first two wars that were taken into consideration commenced 34 years apart).
It is not difficult to predict which country would be the next target of the Anglo-American war machine. It is Iran. At this stage Iran presents the greatest danger to the Anglo-American interests in the Middle East – especially because they may soon have nuclear weapons. As with all the previous opponents of this group, Iran has imperialistic intentions and support countries and groups outside their borders who are hostile towards the West.
In recent times the Anglo-Americans have conducted (as expected) various wars through which the stage for a war with Iran has been set up – the two Gulf Wars, the war in Afghanistan and the Libyan War (all of these are wars of the second and third type). Two neighboring countries, namely Iraq and Afghanistan, now have good relations with the USA (although Iraq is more open to Iranian influences since the withdrawal of American troops at the end of 2011). USA troops are also stationed all around Iran, in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen and Saudi-Arabia. Saudi-Arabia, Libya and Iraq will ensure that the West has access to enough oil during such a conflict. Since the European economy is seriously impacted by the present economic crisis, I expect that Britain and France will take a leading role during such a war (to stimulate growth in the European economy).
I do not think that the Anglo-Americans will try to eliminate Iran as an enemy. The inclusion of various Arab countries in their coalition (those where the revolutions were successful, who are moving towards democracy) rests on the continuation of the Iranian threat. It is quite possible that such a war against Iran will be the first of a series of wars, in the same way that two World Wars were conducted against Germany and two great wars were conducted against the USSR – the Vietnam War and the (intensification of the) Cold War. After a war against Iran, a new balance of power will be established between the great powers in the Middle East (the USA, EU and Russia). One can expect Syria to become part of the western sphere of influence.
Nobody knows the future. This is also not an attempt to predict the future. What I do in this article, is to study the historical war and peace cycles with the intention of determining if there is enough evidence for the existence of such cycles. My conclusion is that such cycles seem to exist. Although there is an element of contingency, it is possible to use the recurring elements to construct a model that one could use to make certain informed predictions about the future. On the basis of this model, we can expect another economic downturn – typically occurring just before the outbreak of the war – as well as a great war there after. Other considerations show that Iran is the most likely Anglo-American opponent against whom such a war will be conducted. It furthermore seems that such a war can be expected in the next few years.
If these predictions are correct, we will have more confidence in the existence of war and peace cycles. It will imply that we do not simply read these patters into history; they probably exist. If this is so, we can also study other aspects of the cycle more carefully.
Author: Dr. Willie Mc Loud. This article was first posted on 8 January 2012 in Afrikaans on “Willie's blog”, http://wmcloud.blogspot.com/. It has been translated from Afrikaans into English.