"Every perception is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination."
-- Gerald Edelman, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge
3 Chapter 7: US-China Relations and Wars5 Chapter 7: US-China Relations and WarsChapter 7: US-China Relations and Wars2020-10-18Journal
My main principle about war is:
When two competing entities have comparable powers that include the power to destroy the other, the risks of a war to the death are high unless both parties have extremely high trust that they won’t be unacceptably harmed or killed by the other. Imagine that you are dealing with someone who can either cooperate with you or kill you and that you can either cooperate with them or kill them, and neither of you can be certain what the other will do. What would you do? Even though the best thing for you and your opponent to do is cooperate, the logical thing for each of you to do is to kill the other before being killed by the other. That is because survival is of paramount importance and you don’t know if they will kill you, though you do know that it is in their interest to kill you before you kill them. In game theory being in this position is called the “prisoner’s dilemma.” It is why establishing mutually assured protections against existential harms that the opponents can inflict on each other is necessary to avoid deadly wars. Establishing exchanges of benefits and dependencies that would be intolerable to lose further reinforces good relations. Because a) most wars occur when it isn’t clear which side is most powerful so the outcomes are uncertain, b) the costs of wars are enormous, and c) losing wars is ruinous, they are extremely dangerous and must only be entered into if there is confidence that you will not have unacceptable losses, so you must think hard about what you will really fight to the death for.