There’s a discussion going on in comments about the relationship between military strength and peace. I don’t think there is a clear, straight line relationship. It may come down to the old butter or guns model used in Econ 101 (at least it was mentioned in my first economics course which, as it works out, was Economics A01—FWIW I also took C01, C03, and C05).
Let me give an example using my favorite outlier, Switzerland. Switzerland hasn’t participated in international war since 1815 but not by virtue of pacifism. By some measures the Swiss are the best-armed people in the world.
That’s a proud Swiss tradition. Machiavelli wrote of the Swiss: they are the most armed and the most free, following up with an example of the Swiss response to foreign invasion.
The Swiss are obstinately neutral: during World War II the Swiss shot down both Allied and German aircraft that strayed into their air space.
How has Switzerland avoided war? All Swiss men between the ages of 18 and 45 serve in the Swiss military, keeping their service firearms in their homes. It has been remarked that Switzerland is an army.
Further, Switzerland has little in the way of resources to attract an invader. It is rich by virtue of its people and its people are ready to oppose any invader.
Essentially, Switzerland has avoided war by virtue of cost-benefit analysis. The Swiss have raised the cost to an invader and reduced prospective benefits (additionally even belligerents need bankers).
One of the benefits of long periods without war is that my family’s written records of baptisms and deaths go back to the 13th century.
How does this relate to the United States? Here in the U. S. we have raised the cost of a prospective attack to a devastatingly high degree. We also attempt to ensure that hostilities will take place far from our soil, a legacy, I think, of the American Civil War. Only a country whose leaders’ utility function was drastically different from ours would essay such an attack.
It’s been observed that liberal democracies don’t go to war with one another. That’s the reason, I think: their utility functions are too similar. I think the Russians’ utility function is sufficiently similar to ours that their attacking us is unlikely. The Russians are, however, more paranoid than we are if anything (it’s a quality we have in common).
Is the assessment of risk and reward by the Iranian regime sufficiently similar to ours that we can deter them? I honestly don’t know. The mullahs’ utility function is very, very different from that of our leaders. It’s possible to be simultaneously sane and non-deterrable.
On an unrelated subject I read and speak Russian fluently. I am reasonably conversant with Russian history, politics, and culture. I was once offered a job as a Soviet analyst. Although my knowledge is a bit dated I still read Russian newspapers (in Russian) on a regular basis. When making assertions about what Russians would or would not do under this or that circumstance, please provide citations. Or at least present your credentials.