From the Times of India
1 Oct 2001
If you thought modern wars are fought on a moral high ground, think again. Mostly, they are meant to augment or defend strategic or economic assets. Often, it is pure greed that drives the war machine, says Sonia Jabbar
World War I can be seen as a watershed in the history of the Royal Air Force. It played a minimal role here and would have been disbanded. Instead, thanks to its commander-in-chief, who suggested that Britain could end its long and costly land wars in the colonies by using air power, the RAF was revived. In fact, one week and 77,000 pound sterling later, the ‘Mad Mullah of Somaliland’ who had long defied the British, was driven out into the desert by the bombs and forced to surrender. The government then offered the RAF six million pound sterling a year to take over operations from the army in Iraq. Its services were then used to secure a quick victory in the third Afghan War. The RAF was finally in business. Henceforth, the bombing of civilians could not only be cloaked in fine sentiments such as ridding the world of ‘‘evil empires,’’ and ‘‘rogue states,’’ but the noble, and seemingly reluctant avenger could also make a quiet profit on the side.
The bombing of Hiroshima demonstrated to the US establishment the deadly capacity of the N-bomb, and paved the way for massive investment, $5,800 bn, into the development of nuclear weapons.
The Gulf war is the most recent example. Iraq was pounded into submission. Kuwait benefited and so did the Saudis. But the Americans profited on several fronts. The war provided the US testing ground to demonstrate the efficacy of new weapons but also an opportunity to double its arms exports. It increased arms sales to major oil exporters to help maintain America’s balance of payments. Thus the US share of the global export in arms moved from 28 per cent in 1987 to 58 per cent in 1997. The main importing region was West Asia.
In 1991, Kuwait had the dubious distinction of being the only country which spent more on its military than what its entire economy produced. Saudi Arabia which imported weapons worth only $9 billion between 1985-89, became the leading arms importing nation between 1995-97. It bought weapons worth $31.3 billion — mainly from the US.
Significantly, the sanctions against Iraq, which forced them to relinquish control over their oil (10 per cent of the world’s supply), directly benefited Saudi Arabia. Iraq’s share of three million barrels a day was added to Saudi Arabia’s. Its market share increased from five million barrels a day to eight million. Iraq accused it of sharing the spoils with the US.
Western exploits such as these make the current operation against Afghanistan tinged with suspicion. Is ‘Infinite Justice’ the US government’s attempt to seek retribution for the horrific terrorist acts of September 11, or a golden opportunity to consolidate ‘Infinite Power’?
The US is likely to use the battlefield again to test new weapons and prototype technologies (sensors, UAVs and cave-busting ‘earth penetrator’ bombs). The US Congress put a ‘‘down payment’’ of $40 billion for fighting terrorism, a significant part of which will be spent on ‘‘the highest levels of military preparedness.’’
Analysts expect President Bush to add $50 billion to the 2002 defence budget. Large, new orders for the arms industry may be in the offing. Bush may even use the opportunity to push through any opposition to the NMD or Star Wars. The project will not only translate into huge profits for the arms industry, but pave the way for the US’ complete domination of space.
The September 11 attacks-- where terrorists used paper-cutters costing a dollar a piece to hijack aircrafts-- should have demolished once and for all the belief that grossly-inflated defence budgets can effectively protect the people of the United States.