[FOUNTAIN]Want a nuke with that burger?

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[FOUNTAIN]Want a nuke with that burger?

"Globalization effectively deters war and raises its cost above that of any given time in the past."

This is written in the best-selling book "The Lexus and the Olive Tree," by Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist. Mr. Friedman generalizes his thoughts in the "golden arch theory." He argues that countries with McDonald's restaurants, famous for their golden arches, do not go to war with each other. His reasoning is that countries that are international enough to have McDonald's are aware of the irrationality of war.

This assertion goes in line with the theory that in the event that war does break out, economic power determines the outcome. An American historian, Paul M. Kennedy, argues in his book "The Rise and Fall of Great Powers" that major conflicts involving alliances in Europe or across the world resulted in victory for the side with the more prosperous production base. World Wars I and II, the American Civil War, the Korean War and the Gulf War are examples.

In reality, however, the Friedman and Kennedy theories do not always prove correct. The golden arch theory lost attractiveness two months after being published in 1999, when the United States went to war with Yugoslavia, a country where McDonald's was doing well. After the Sept. 11 attacks, McDonald's announced the closure of 175 restaurants in the Middle East.

A British political scientist and economist, Niall Ferguson, challenged Mr. Friedman's theory on the power of economic rationality to deter war, calling it an illusion of peace. He said that fear of economic costs and differences in economic power cannot stop war from happening. He emphasized that in some nondemocratic countries where people in power obtain the benefits from war and powerless people make the sacrifices, going to war becomes the rational choice.

Germany and Japan during World War II are examples. During the early stages of war, military destructiveness is superior to economic ability. Mr. Ferguson says that this tempts dictators who fail in the economic contest to go to war.

North Korea's decision to reactivate its nuclear program has become a key issue in this election, posing a major threat to peace, but South Koreans do not seem to be very nervous. Are we blinded by an illusion of peace? North Korea does not even have one McDonald's.

The writer heads Forbes Korea at JoongAng Ilbo.

by Sohn Byoung-soo

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