The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

When Life Imitates Sports

February 7, 2012

Lots of folks use war as analogy for football (US version) or football as analogy for war, such as the blitz starting with war going to football and going back to war.  How about we take a key concept from football and from other sports and apply it to US (and perhaps NATO) defense policy: the salary cap?

In professional sports, leagues have had to impose restraints upon owners of teams since competition among them (combined with nepotism leading to lousy decision-making) cause salaries to escalate.  As a result, bargaining with unions tends to be about the split of the income, with each team limited either strictly or not so strictly from spending over a certain level.  This provides some competitive balance.

Well, how about we develop a “war cap” limiting either how many wars the US or anyone else fights over a short time frame.  Perhaps countries, such as the US, might want to consider restraining themselves from repeatedly fighting in the same region to prevent exhaustion at home and alienating entire neighborhoods abroad.  Given that folks seem to be advocating for war hither (Iran) and thither (Syria), perhaps we need to restrain ourselves, even if we allow folks without military experience or kids in harm’s way to talk.

So, if we set a Middle East war cap at three for a rolling five year period, the US would be beyond the cap: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya with war-ish activities in Yemen and Somalia.  As a result, any war-monger in the US would have to wait until 2015 to start a new war, as Iraq would then be rolling off the list and would no longer count against the cap.*

 *  The funny thing about all these wars the US has fought, none, except for Afghanistan, have much to do with 9/11.  Now, would I waive the cap if the US wanted to attack Saudi Arabia?  Hmmm.

On the other hand, perhaps three wars in the same region is too low of a cap?  What say you?

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Steve Saideman is Professor and the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He has written The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy and International Conflict; For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism and War (with R. William Ayres); and NATO in Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone (with David Auerswald), and elsewhere on nationalism, ethnic conflict, civil war, and civil-military relations.