At the head of the large oval conference table, he swung in his chair towards the attendees. At his back was a large projection of the world map showing the Asian African region.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have to boost our sales in this area.” He paused for a while to look into the eyes of the participants, one after another, and continued “You know it is necessary not only to enhance our profits and the wealth of our shareholders but also to help create better employment opportunities, here in our country.” He sighed, “And thus you must do all that you can to enhance the demand of our products, especially in this region.” He pointed to the map behind him and emphasized: “Do just anything you can think of, but I need a continuously increasing demand.”
He was the CEO of a large corporation, enormous indeed; one of the largest businesses on the globe supplying arms and ammunition to almost all the belligerents in the world, state players as well as nonstate terror outfits, private militias, and warriors of all description.
It is an irony that a large number of humans earn their bread and butter not from producing anything which they can exchange with fellow humans for their consumption, but from products which are used to destroy humans, humans who are perceived as “others,” and whose life or death does not matter more than that of a mosquito or a bug.
These people produce bombs, warplanes, guns, bullets, and other devices of bloodshed. The highs and lows in the demand of such artefacts have, historically, affected the upswings and downswings of large economies in the world. The US economy, for example boomed with the onset of the first world war (US exports to Europe alone rose “from 1.479 billion dollars to 4.062 billion dollars” in just four years), faced the Great Depression within a few years of its end and recovered again with the second world war as is seen in the graph.
This graph showing unemployment over the years, through the Great Depression, was posted on Wikimedia Commons by Lawrencekhoo. I have superimposed the war periods on it in yellow colour.
The Manhattan project, which was the incubator for the world’s first atomic bombs – the Little Boy, which killed 70,000–80,000 people, around 30% of the population of the city, and maimed 70,000 more in Hiroshima, and the Fat Man which killed between 22,000 to 75,000 people and injured another 60,000 in Nagasaki; and destroyed the productive assets in these two cities completely – alone employed “labor force comparable in size to the American automobile industry,” approximately 1,30,000 people at its peak and resulted in a cumulative job generation which could be as high as 6,10,000 people.
The end of the second world war did not result in peace. It almost immediately gave birth to the cold war which sprang out of the great mistrust between wartime allies the USA and the erstwhile USSR, both expansionists in their own way. Proxy wars continued to be fought by the two superpowers, away from their homelands, keeping the market for the war-ware alive and expanding.
In December 1979, under its Brezhnev Doctrine, the USSR deployed army into neighbouring Afghanistan, to ‘protect’ the communist regime of the country. The American administration under President Carter, among other measures “stepped up its aid to the Afghan insurgents… vowing to protect Middle Eastern oil supplies from encroaching Soviet power.” The infighting in Afghanistan continued for a decade, and gave rise to business worth billions of dollars for arms and ammunition industry and nurtured radicalization of futureless Muslim youth into ‘jihadists’ under a particular radical Muslim school. The training and radicalization camps were established throughout Pakistan, which Pakistan freely used in its proxy war against India, as well.
The nurturing of Taliban against USSR backfired in the form of the 9/11 attack. A long drawn war on terror ensued but gave birth to the Baghdadi led ISIS, inspired by the same narrow and radical (mis)interpretation of Islam, leading to Islamophobia, the world over.
The threat perception as well as demand for military-ware kept growing, and so did the profit and wealth of the corporations, supplying these items to state as well as non-state entities involved in this bloody game.
The Cold War, though at times came very close to a direct confrontation between the rival superpowers but by and large, continued to be fought without affecting their homelands. The main theatres remained Palestine-Israel, Iran-Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, India-Pakistan-China and other such areas. Each bout of the skirmish increased the hatred, mistrust, and threat perception upwards resulting in an unending arms race. The demand for the killer machines kept growing, along with the profit and wealth of the arms manufacturers. It could be anyone’s guess whether the establishment of peace, easing of tensions, and a feeling of well being and fraternity would help the arms manufacturers or harm them?
In a recent report on the effects of unilateral withdrawal of the USA from its treaty with Iran, followed by stringent sanctions by the USA against it, Iran’s not too docile postures in response, perception of heightened threat by its rival oil-producing Arab states aligned with USA, and escalating tensions with Russia and China, Lee Fang, reporting about a conference of top brass in the arms industry, remarks that “While much of the world was on edge over simmering tension in the Middle East, as the U.S. and its allies have stoked tensions with Iran, the businessmen at the conference talked of opportunity.” He further writes that “The escalating tensions, while raising the potential for catastrophic conflict and loss of human life, could also be good for companies in the business of war.”
The arithmetic is very simple. War needs monetary expenses. The most cumbersome expenditure among all human activities. The governments since the time of the Romans, have been finding the source either in created money or in budgetary deficits. Either of them results in sucking of the necessities of life from the ordinary people to the purchase of arms and ammunition. Non-state actors generate their funds “from extortion and other local criminal activities,” sale of narcotics and even enslaved girls and women of non-friendly population groups in their vicinity. Again, the ultimate burden in its most cruel form is borne by ordinary peace-loving human beings. The result is massive devastation of the territories where they operate, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria are glaring examples.
Before the second world war and invention of weapons of mass destruction, along with ever-increasing ability to deliver them almost anywhere on the globe, xenophobia, hatred for the alien and hyper-nationalism of any description, could be thought to be beneficial to a particular nation if it proved itself to be sufficiently strong to either conquer and plunder the vanquished or to subjugate them into slavery, without the danger of complete annihilation of humanity; but not anymore. Now, the simmering tensions may any day reach the ultimate flashpoint, and the whole of humanity may get erased from the planet in a matter of a few hours, if not minutes. Now there is no option left for survival except subscribing by all to the ideology of a global human fraternity; to throw to the trash bin all ideas of the grandeur of ‘our’ race, nation or faith over ‘others.’
Do the super rich making money from this state of affairs really bother for the impending cataclysm? Only till they do not have a place in the outer space to relocate to. Once they get a foothold outside the planet they will no more care for it. In the event of a catastrophic end, they will simply migrate, much like those who migrate away from their own country after committing big frauds, these days.
Let us all therefore resolve, to do whatever we can, to stop hate-mongering of any sort whatsoever, with whatever small means we have.