Since 9/11, you’ve heard it a thousand times: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”  My question: What about your enemies?  If they want peace, should they prepare for war, too?

Yes, it’s a trick question.  Who’s going to say, “If Kim Jong Il wants peace, he’d better pour more money into his nuclear weapons program”?  But it’s also a serious point.  Even the hard-line American hawk thinks that if Kim Jong Il really wants peace, he should just back down and disarm. 

When you think about it, the prudential value of peace is one of the most amazing features of the modern world.  Stop
scaring people in other countries, and they’ll leave you alone.  In the Middle Ages, if one princeling unilterally disarmed, he’d probably be invaded before he could say, “Doh!”  But when Russia disarmed after the Cold War ended, in contrast, not even North Korea saw a golden opportunity to attack. 

Is preparing for peace always the best path to peace?  No.  But especially in the modern work, it works more often than you’d think.  And if you retort, “Yes, but that’s only true for our enemies,” consider: How many of your enemies would admit that they would be safer if only they were weaker?  In all likelihood, they’d pant, “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?!  As soon as we lower our guard, you’ll slit our throats!” 

The lesson: “If you want peace, prepare for war,” may sound like a universal truth, but at least nowadays, it’s something we tend to believe whether or not it’s true.