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BUYING INTO THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX June 13, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in CENTRAL ASIA, Peace.
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As George Orwell notes in 1984, military spending is waste.

When a large amount of money is expended on military purchases, it is likely that to be used on some pretext or another. And yet the justification of violence or force is that it is used as the last resort, or that negotiation with the enemy is simply implausible. Once started these wars because a test of resoluteness, even as the costs in waging them become prohibitive.

Afghanistan seems the illustration. After the years of war in Afghanistan, what has been gained? Have they gained a land base to counter the supposed threat of China, or secured a pipeline pathway from Central Asia? So what is the purpose of war?

Johan Galtung points out two things amount the points he makes. He says that Afghanistan is much like Switzerland, and therefore aspires to be both independent and neutral. He also says that he was told the US was going to invade prior to the events of 11 September 2001. It makes sense that Generals would be better placed to engage in long term strategic planning than politicians who necessarily focus on the short term electoral cycles.

Here is Johan Galtung:

Echoing retiring insider Secretary of Defence Gates, The New York Times in it’s editorial recently railed against the other members of NATO proclaiming:

America’s key strategic alliance throughout the cold war is in far deeper trouble than most members admit. The Atlantic allies face a host of new and old dangers. Without more and wiser European military spending — on equipment, training, surveillance and reconnaissance — NATO faces, as Mr. Gates rightly warned, “a dim if not dismal future” and even “irrelevance.”

Overlooking that it might be better to irrelevant than broke or insolvent, whichever is the more accurate description. Juan Cole observes:

The US is is peculiar among industrialized democracies in the massive war budget it passes every year, and in its constant war-making. There is every reason to think that the bloated Pentagon budget actually drags the US into wars. Much of the money is given out to private contractors, who use it to lobby Congress for wars whereby the contractors can make more money. And, having a lot of shiny new military toys creates an impetus to use them before they become outmoded and the comparative advantage that they bestow is lost.

The German economy is doing rather better than that of the US, suggesting that a bloated military budget doesn’t make a country better off. The same could be said of the Chinese.

Getting altogether out of Iraq and quickly winding down the Afghanistan War would allow the US to start moving in a modern, European, direction, toward a smaller military budget and less reliance on land wars as policy tools. Gates himself said that the next president who considered launching a land war in Asia should have his head examined. What Gates does not understand is that the degree of militarization he is demanding of the Europeans, and which already characterizes the US, is what leads to such ruinous adventures. It is the US that needs to change, not Europe.

The counter argument is perhaps without all these wars the presence of military power, domination and potential violence, it would not be possible for countries such as Australia to enjoy the peace and prosperity they experience. Thus we have to enter into the Faustian bargain to buy expensive military equipment of dubious utility and engage in wars without end, as is the apparent case in Afghanistan. Otherwise, to use the terminology of The NY Timees we would be free loaders.

Should we seek an alternative? Does a practical alternative exist? Militarism contributes significantly to climate change, whereas the pressures that such changes to the Central Asian Plateau and to the patterns of the Monsoon will overwhelm whatever violence we might be able to direct. Typically our politicians focus on the cruel and ineffective short term solutions rather than thinking with the time horizon that genuine solutions require.

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