In an article about China’s military, James Fallows says American forces are much stronger, partly because:
In modern times, American forces are continually in combat somewhere in the world. This has its drawbacks, but it means that U.S. leaders, tactics, and doctrine are constantly refined by the realities of warfare. In contrast, vanishingly few members of the Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army have any combat experience whatsoever.
He could have used the word readiness. One reason I believe my Umami Hypothesis — that we require a steady stream of bacteria in our diet to be healthy — is the underlying logic: That a steady stream of bacteria continuously activate the immune system, keeping it in working order. Without low-level activation, the immune system will (a) react too slowly, causing noticeable colds, and (b) overreact, which causes allergies and other immune system disorders, such as arthritis.
I wonder if the same logic applies in other situations — if a constant low-level threat improves performance. Is Chinese governance better because Chinese leadership feels threatened?