May 2008

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The reason The United States does not attack nations like China and North Korea is a simple one: they can, or appear to be able to fight back. Iraq, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Columbia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Lebanon, Hatti... the list goes on did not have the ability to fight back (or at least threaten the United States). Hence easy game.


Irak vs. Kuwait


>the VC vs US

Venture capitalists aren't exactly poor, though they seem to have installed a puppet government.

(I realize you meant Viet Cong, but that wasn't conquest of a rich country, it was revolution, which is different...same goes for other colonies.)

Ethan D

North Vietnam vs. United States didnt turn out too well for us.


I like this. Good Post!


"That would be the opposite of good leadership, but it might keep the country safer and richer."

Or it might not. It might leave us open to a sneak attack from a country that in the end doesn't care how big a customer we are because they have different priorities. So we would be devastated, with millions of casualties, because you looked at China through your own cultural filter instead of understanding the real issues.

Stephen W. Stanton

Be careful not to anthropomorphize nations.

Human beings usually have very different goals than the organizations they work for.

Indeed, the entire field of management is about improving this misalignment of interests (i.e., reducing agency costs).

Kim Jong Il, for example, lives pretty well by impoverishing millions of people. If he did what was best for the country, he'd need to give up a lot of power and security.


Obviously you don't think enough Americans were murdered for us to "bother" the middle east.
I wonder if you could put a number to such a concept... Personally, I find 1 sufficient to kill the terrorists until they die from it.
Someday, adults will look at current history and relegate such opinions like yours to the loony bin.

But of a "poorer" and smaller country defeating a larger richer one, look at the Egypt-Israeli war...lasted 6 days and Israel kicked their collective a$$es. Granted we were and are Israels ace-in-the-hole.


Yeah, all government decisions these days revolve around money. Some of them have been bad decisions, yes, but that's what it boils down to.

However, to answer your first question, I have two examples:

North Vietnam vs. U.S.
Afghanistan vs. USSR

The two most powerful and richest nations of the the mid-20th century were both defeated by dirt poor countries. You could make the argument that at both times the poor country was helped by the Communists or free world respectively, but there was no direct military assistance, and therefore, aid was minimal at best.


Patti says:
Scott, do you have a positive return.. for the time you put into this Blog?
I read where you were one of the first to make a profit on a website. What kind of return to do get? Is it financial or political (in case you do run for president)
Time I spend on here gives me a smile for the day, gets me involved in the fantasy world of Dilbert lovers and out of my daily chores (for those moments) ….. just before my normal routine begins for the day.
This blog sometimes makes me look up information I normally couldn't care less about (kind of like playing jeopardy.. only with various answers) and gives me an overview of other people's views. Some funny, some warped, some informative and some not. Although I have no financial gain to show for my time, the escape into reading and writing (and yeah....sometimes arithmetic) can be amusing and therefore worthwhile. Is it a waste of my time? No, not really. Unless I end up thinking about it while multitasking other more meaningful projects and come back to comment again.
Alas, my only return is the real-time moments shared with you exploring weird science, everyday nuances, political musings and world news events…usually with humor and wit.
You are always HERE and thinking.. you exist ..your comics arrive everyday.... the bloggers are arriving (and sometimes swarming) ..and I can take THAT to the bank!

Kevin Gibbs

someone probably mentioned it already, but you have the same economic policy as Eisenhower.


"I wonder if you could make all war decisions on a purely economic basis"

I think that's already the basis for all war decision in the capitalist nations (hence the "capitalist") .. it's the *excuses* that aren't.


In addition to WWII:
Sweden vs. Habsburgs, 30 years war.
Germany vs. France, the war of 1876.
Holland vs. Spain, most of 16'th - 18'th century.
Prussia vs everyone else, repeatedly, from its inception to the unification of Germany. (as someone at the time remarked - "Prussia is not a country with an army, it's an army with a country")
England vs. Spain, repeatedly, from the spanish armada to napoleon.

Do I really need to go on?

Robert Hamilton

And The NOBEL PRIZE for economics goes to Scott Adams! Accepting the award on his behalf is Dogbert. You finally got your Nobel prize Scott.

New Guy

"When was the last time a relatively poor country successfully attacked and conquered a richer country? You history buffs might come up with some examples, but I think they would be strange exceptions."

All those poor bastards that mention Vietnam. North Vietnam forcing the withdrawl of a far superior force is not the same as N. Vietnan 'conquering' America. I also think it would be inaccurate to say that S. Vietnam's capitulation to N. Vientnam is also an example. Wealth and riches are not the same as having a powerful ally backing you up. There's a difference between your own fat bank account and a friend with a fat bank account. The difference, the friend might leave you.

Scott can't really find any examples of a poor country conquering a rich country because, as the most I can recall, its the rich countries that will exploit the poor countries first. The most significant examples being Italy vs Ethiopia or the rest of the Africa colonization crowd. Japan vs Asia would also be a good example. Not to say that rich countries can't be beaten by poor countries (As I recall, Musket and spear wielding ethiopians defeated the Modern Italian army soundly) Its just the difference between chasing a burglar out of your house, and then chasing him all the way to his house and robbing him. Iraq invading Kuwait is probably the closest one would get to Scott's question, although wealth meant very little to the Iraqi's wielding AK's and T-something tanks.

"I think someone smart could develop a theory that a strong economy is as good a national defense as having excellent weapons. Obviously you need a minimum baseline military deterrent. But anything beyond that might be a waste. Your international trading partners would band together to help you out if you are attacked, to protect their own economic interests."

International Trading partners helping each other out really has happened much, has it? The Gulf War, if you were to use as an example to support the above, I think doesn't have to do too much with trading partners. The Gulf War was the legitimate, moral response to such an outrageous act that was Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. Kuwait had offered no provocation and was a legitimate sovereign power. Saddam's greed for Kuwait's Economic powers convinced him that invading Kuwait was good. The Guld War, as argued, might be seen as a more altuistic war than any previous. Although, it would be Ignorant to factor out Kuwait's Friendlieness to the rest of the world in the realm of trade. All i'm saying is that the Gulf war should be considered an altruistic war to return sovereignty after insanity. The point i'm making is that while it might make since to defend a trading partner, It doesn't seem to happen much in the real world.

"I don’t know how many nukes the United States has pointed toward China, but one would be too many. China isn’t going to attack its biggest customer. And in the unlikely event that some other country attacks China, we’d offer military assistance in a heartbeat. There’s too much money at stake on both sides."

Too bad you weren't around to comfort those Russian Train Engineers back in 1941. They were damned confused as to why they were being passed by german armour units while the trains headed west into germany. And, as previously stated, France was Germany's biggest trading partner when the swastika painted tanks did doughnuts in the French countryside. The presumption of Economic interdependence being a shield from war is a false notion. Most wars start with politicains being bad economists. Instead of seeing the Economy, for all pratical purposes, as having limitless growth potential, they start seeing the economies of the world as a pizza. Instead of just going and making some more pizzas when they're hungry, they think some else is taking their slices. So, they attack in order to take back the slices stolen from them. (Shamelessly stolen from P.J. O'Rourke.)If it does come to a war with China, I hope we'll offer military the other side (IMHO)


Poor defeating the Rich:
1) Rome wins over Carthage, Greece, and especially Egypt.
2) Landless Germanic hoards beat Rome (ok they teemed up and it took them a few hundred years)
3) The Mongols win over Imperial China (and every following dynasty was pretty much a poor nation taking over and then being bred out of of power - China's defense strategy for the last two thousand years has been "we build a wall to keep the small fry out and then when the big ones arrive we intermarry with them till they disappear
4) England (poor) over France 100 year war.
5) the Ottomans (dirt poor) over the Byzantine empire. Istanbul was Constantinople, now its Istanbul not Constantinople... hey that is catchy I will write a song.
6) the US vs. the UK 1776-83
7) Prussia (initially poor) over everybody in Europe from 1848-1918.
8) pick any colony vs. its mommy country 1776- Dien Bien Phu.
9) the VC vs US (can I buy a vowel?)
10) Iraq

A poor but motivated nation, or one with a lot of young people and a martial culture can beat a rich one, especially if fighting on home turf.

Chris Marshall | Martial Development

You support a reduction in American defense spending, based on economics?
With ARABIC numerals?

Maybe you should move to Arabia, Scott Adams, since you so obviously hate our freedom.



Macedonians beat Greeks. Barbarians beat Romans. Mongols beat everybody. Americans beat British. Soviets beat Germans. Algerians beat French. Vietnamese beat Americans(or, if you prefer, hippies beat Americans, but the effect is the same). As a rule, when you've got a decadent or divided rich nation fighting a poor warrior nation, the rich guys are toast.

And trade preventing wars is a minor factor, at best. All through the 1930s, Germany's biggest trading partner was France. How did that one turn out?



I know you love/hate to hear this:

Read The Rise & Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy

Economic prowess as a way to being a great military power is the basic premise of the book


Sigh. I see here that many of your commenters seem to believe that the US *lost* the Veitnam war. Actually, the US left after the North signed a peace treaty, and then later the North broke this treaty and invaded again once they'd built their forces back up from the last ass kicking we gave them. We just didn't want to go back in again.

And as far as attacking trading partners goes, in 1938 the biggest trade partners for Germany were France and Russia. We saw how well that worked out now, didn't we?


No the first question is what is the return. If it is positive then you can ask what assumptions can I change and produce a positive return. For example, If a politically correct war, whatever that is oh I forgot the way we operate in Iraq, is too expensive to get a positive return would a vicious not worry about collateral damage and religious sensibilities turn the analysis positive. Don't know just know the way we are approaching in now is giant loser and does not need a lot of analysis.


Spoken like someone who has no understanding of China, or really any culture other than his own.


Probably already been mentioned, but what your describing is the reason for the GATT (General Agreement on Trade & Tariffs) after World War II. It was a conscious decision to link the economies of the allies with the axis countries, and it was made behind closed doors because public opinion would have destroyed it.

(an) andrew from california

Methinks Simon Blake | April 11, 2008 at 04:48 AM might fly a confederate flag in this front yard.
What sayest you?


China wouldn't need to use physical force to attack the states. They could just foreclose.

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