Demographics and Global Security

Strengthening bonds between Indian, U.S. Soldiers

Image by The U.S. Army via Flickr

When I was in high school, I had a European History teacher who explained to us how countries with an large cohort of breeding-age young men relative to the rest of the population were more likely to make war on their neighbors. The argument was simple: too much young testosterone lying around was a sufficient domestic political liability that it needed to be spent in the advancement of national interests abroad. Hence, war.

I have always found this a tad deterministic, so I was pleased to see Martin Libicki and his co-authors publish Global Demographic Change and its Implications for Military Power. While the authors stop short of a full debunking of the population pressure theory of war, they analyze it in a modern context, incorporating historic data and using data to call into question the prospect of a future (2011-2050) conflict driven by “too many boys.”

The examination is thorough and convincing, but I have to wonder whether or not India’s growing working-age population vis-a-vis China will not, at some point, offer India a manpower advantage over China in any trans-Himalayan conflict. China’s effort to control its population and put its young people to work in more productive pursuits has been admirable, but India has not kept up to the same extent by either measure. Left with lots of young people, would not India choose to reclaim disputed territories on the Chinese border versus allowing their frustrations to fester into sectarian violence?

An excellent and worthy read, especially for those of us focused on Asian security.

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