“War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it. Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.” – George Orwell
Many weeks ago, I attended a lecture – Inconclusive Wars – by Mary Kaldor where she discussed the changing nature of war; essentially criticising an orthodox Clausewitzean position when discussing contemporary wars. For Kaldor, war is organised violence between two sides framed by political factors, with a focus on inconclusive, persistent progress. Kaldor emphasised the production of extreme identities due to wars and conflict. Furthermore, she highlights the economic gains of war, making people ‘trust’ in the state and its power (Bush and USA after 9/11, for instance), arguing that a war isn’t a war without a political motive.
The good work Gaddafi did in Libya for instance (which isn’t to deny the corruption), and his close relationship with the West, like Mubarak’s, is all nicely swept under the carpet when invasions and revolutions occur. That’s not to say that the USA still don’t have power, as they pretty much control the Egyptian army, who are practically a military junta clamping down and attacking protesters, whilst controlling and undermining the constitution and elections. All the USA do is announce fluffy sound bites.
Kaldor discussed the War on Terror, highlighting how the United States needed a long war to justify their own role of supposed promotion of political ‘democracy’, ensuring that dodgy self-interested military, defence and infrastructural contracts were signed and implemented (as well illustrated by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 911). On the other hand, terrorists needed a long war to justify their terrorism; the very presence of Western forces often turns the public against what they see as colonial oppressors coming into their country to enforce their codes and customs (which is so often the case). We often end up legitimatising say the segregation of Palestine because of our own actions and responsibilities regarding the conflict and area.
Essentially, for Kaldor, war is a mutual enterprise. Consequently, Kaldor, without providing a lot of detail, advocates the creation of new political dimensions/spaces, with a focus upon international law/justice. I personally, advocate the creation of political units/space/assemblies where people are able to have real collective power and their views help form decisions. International law needs to be strengthened. We only have to look at Syria to see the abuse by Syrian officials of the Arab League and the obvious buying of time while they conduct more atrocities. Interestingly, Kaldor believed that the Arab Spring was the democratic political answer to the War on Terror.
There are reservations I have with Kaldor’s lecture, namely her desire of silencing/marginalising certain people without outlining and recognising the problems with how we choose these people, what methods we use and the retroactive, undemocratic nature of such techniques. Nevertheless, her lecture was illuminating when considering the War on Terror and the potential problems with future Iranian conflict. We badger Iran for having nuclear weapons, something they have denied, whilst we proudly have our own and host arms fairs in the middle of the Arab Spring in their backyard, place sanctions on Iran and then are surprised when they hit back.
Interestingly, it is only recently that Philip Hammond and Leon Panetta have been speaking about how the ‘debt crisis’ aka the capitalism crisis is resulting in their defence budgets being cut:
“Without strong economies and stable public finances it is impossible to build and sustain, in the long-term, the military capability required to project power and maintain defence.That is why today the debt crisis should be considered the greatest strategic threat to the future security of our nations. The fact is, in this era of austerity … not even the United States can afford the astronomical resource commitment required to deal with every threat from every source.” – Hammond.
However, really, there should be no problem with defence being cut; but it is so often the wrong things being cut as nuclear weapons and the arms trade are extended and invested in. Most expenses are purely politically motivated, and often dated say in the Cold War era (Trident for instance). However, if done properly, the idea that a cut defence budget is a security risk ignores the fact that the real risk is the idea that there is a ‘debt problem’. This ignores the reality of a capitalist system reliant upon debt. Capitalism itself is the problem.
There should be consideration of the underlying reasons for why these conflicts and dis-juncture occur – as explored briefly above. Our economic system is riddled with inequality, greed and divisions. Capitalism needs poorer and richer countries to promote its social Darwinistic economic and political policies, as exploitation where limited union, working and labour movement rights exist to produce mass cheap products for limited labour costs, alongside tax havens, corporate and military control, dumping of drugs all in the aid of profit and unsustainable greed and ‘false needs’. Wars too often intend to capitalise on these divisions for money, profit and also reinforcing the capitalist relations that rich countries rely upon.
I watched An Inconvenient Truth last night, and it reminded me of how dangerous inconclusive wars are. Developing countries produce significantly less pollution than developed countries, but the latter are exploited and invaded whilst disproportionately experiencing more of global warmings’ effects. The evidence is all there, more carbon dioxide from heavily intensified industrial production increases the temperature, which melts ice, raising sea levels, disrupting natural weather systems, increasing the velocity of hurricanes, also creating droughts and general destruction. We have to put our energy into tackling this environmental crisis that, rather than debt, is a security threat alongside being an important moral issue that is largely again due to capitalism and its related debt – which is partly related to the destruction caused by endless politically and economically motivated wars and conflicts. This relates to the need to decommission weapons and move away from arms trading – all of which have featured as important parts of recent conflicts say with Iraq, the Arab Spring and the brewing dispute with Iran. We need to move towards localised, cooperatively produced renewable energy.
The elite promote the idea of ‘insecurity’ to attempt to justify their own political and economic goals of domination and profit; when really they create the insecurity and resulting conflict, destruction and division partly through politically and economically motivated wars. The social, political and economic capitalist relations need to be fundamentally challenged,with a focus on the causes of conflict and divisions such as intensive capitalist production and senseless out-dated, profit motivated arms deals and nuclear power.