The Jubilee

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  • August 2014
    M T W T F S S

Why the West needs war

Posted by Alex Krainer on August 11, 2014

In 2008 the RAND Corporation presented a report advocating war against a major power as a way to stimulate the U.S. economy. The report did not specify the target, but the main candidates were thought to be Iran, Russia, or China. RAND’s recommendations reflect a strategy favored by a part of western elites which is then subtly promoted through the mainstream media.

In October 2010, Washington Post published a column by David Broder suggesting that war with Iran could help solve the economic crisis in the U.S. In 2012, the all powerful Council on Foreign Relations called to give war a chance in an article by Matthew Kroenig, titled “Time to Attack Iran”. Plans to attack Iran have been shelved since then, but war hasn’t lost its appeal. In April 2014, historian Ian Morris penned a Washington Post article, “In the long run, wars make us safer and richer.” The article was featured on the Post’s web site with a picture of a nuclear bomb blast with the caption, “War is brutal. The alternative is worse.”


Not to be outdone, the New York Times gave its own contribution to the worthy cause in June, publishing Tyler Cowen’s article, “The Lack of Major Wars May Be Hurting Economic Growth.” Cowen strains to convince us that warfare isn’t as bad as it used to be, showing a chart of battle-related death rates from 1940 to 2010. It’s just fantastic – it falls from the peak of about 22% in the 1950s to 0.3% in 2010.

A safer world (for drone operators)...

There you have it – we probably needn’t be too squeamish about having a big brawl here and there, especially if it’s for such a noble cause as economic growth. Cowen goes on intellectualizing:

It may seem repugnant to find a positive side to war in this regard, but a look at American history suggests we cannot dismiss the idea so easily.”

In other words, war may seem repugnant to you if you are a thoughtless simpleton, but it really is a good idea (war is an IDEA!?). What Cowen and his fellow war advocates fail to mention is that since “battle-related” death rates only count combatants and civilians caught in the cross fire, they do not include civilians killed under missiles and bombing raids, terror attacks, unexploded ordnance and land mines and indirect deaths from war’s consequences like hunger, disease, homelessness, exposure, lack of clean water, lack of health care, etc. Cowen omits another fun fact about modern warfare: that civilian deaths constitute 85% to 90% of casualties of war with about 10 civilians dying for every combatant killed in battle. Cowen also forgets to mention the 110 million land mines planted in 70 countries since 1960… These continue to maim and kill for decades. As George Orwell put it, “Political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.”

Indeed, war is repugnant and so universally undesirable that we must pause to ponder who would wish for war at all? And why? Here again, is the instructive quote by Silvio Gesell from 1918:

In spite of the holy promises of people to banish war once and for all, in spite of the cry of millions “never again war” in spite of all the hopes for a better future I have this to say: If the present monetary system based on interest and compound interest remains in operation, I dare to predict today that it will take less than twenty-five years until we have a new and even worse war.

I tried to explain the systemic causes that inexorably push our societies toward military confrontation in one of my previous posts, so I will only sum it up crudely here. The peculiarity of modern economic systems is that they can only be stable while they grow. If they shrink, they can collapse, resulting in economic depression, social unrest, political instability and vulnerability to capture by rival powers. To keep the economies growing (and stable), governments are obliged to take on a major role. Left to themselves, economies tend to stabilize at depression level of activity. This is the result of our tendency to save a portion of our income.

Snowballing role of government in the economy and why it creates the military industrial complex

Because people normally prefer to save a portion of their income, all the goods and services produced can’t be sold for the same aggregate amount as the expenditure incurred in producing them (that expenditure is income to laborers, contractors and suppliers who earn it). To sell all the goods, prices must be lowered, which creates deflation. Unless aggregate savings can be reintroduced in the system as purchasing power in the form of investments, the system may slip into a self-reinforcing deflationary spiral. If private investment is less than savings it can’t bridge the deflationary gap and the government must step in to preserve economic growth. To do this, governments must borrow money and spend it into the system (just taxing firms and individuals is insufficient – taxes merely transfer the available purchasing power from private to public hands).

As a rule, government intervention creates a privileged class whose affluence grows along with government spending. Now, governments could step in and build new roads, railway lines, parks, libraries, theaters, hospitals, schools… or whatever would improve a society’s quality of life. But this benevolent form of spending is always susceptible to political squabbles – if you build a new highway between the city A and city B, cities C, D, and E might put up a stink. If you build shelters for the homeless or provide help for the poor, someone will object that you’re squandering resources on the undeserving and creating dependencies… Most government giveaways will be disputed by some group in the society. National security is a different story.

Because national security tends to generate the least political dissent, government spending gravitates toward defense contractors and the military, entrenching a powerful military-industrial complex. This dynamic has a gradual snowball effect: the wealthier the defense contractors, the greater their political clout and ability to influence the public opinion (through the media and hired opinion leaders) and the state (through lobbyists and corruption). Credible security threats and wars are necessary to justify ballooning defense budgets. Peace would deflate them rapidly. In an economy like that of the U.S. where defense spending constitutes more than 5% of the gross domestic product (GDP), peace is a very threatening prospect. To make sure peace doesn’t break out, the military industrial complex relies on worldwide networks of powerful players in key positions of influence including the academia, media, diplomacy and intelligence circles.

Keeping us at war, guarding against peace

With the United States as its home base, this system has thus far spawned some 1,000 military bases in at least 130 countries. Between the end of World War II and today, the U.S. launched more than 200 overseas military operations – a staggering 80% of all wars during that period. It has attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments (most of them democratically elected), dropped bombs on the population of over 30 countries, and acted to supress populist/nationalist movements in 20 countries. Today, this formidable war-making machine has a new target: Russia. Looking at day-to-day events through the prism of western media, one could be forgiven for thinking that we are facing the sudden threat of Russian aggression. That’s the effect of western propaganda whose purpose – among others – is to keep the US/western military industrial complex prosperous.

On 19th March 2014, after giving a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen spoke to Washington Post. He said that because of the Russian threat, Europe had to invest more in defense and security, and that “many Europeans would like a reaffirmation of the U.S. commitment to European security.” He did not say how many exactly, but for sure we’re talking dozens of them. Before his speech, Rasmussen attended a “working dinner” hosted by the US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Secretary of state John Kerry and the National Security Advisor Susan Rice where he was no doubt briefed on his talking points.

Downing of Malaysia Airlines jet and the renewed call for more NATO military spending

This month, after the tragic downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine, UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron renewed the call for a major expansion of the military budgets of all NATO countries and issued a letter to all NATO member states to increase their military spending to at least 2% of their GDP.


Canada’s Stephen Harper is another voice seeking to escalate tensions with Russia. In a recent op. ed. In the Globe and Mail, Harper stressed how, “There can be no weakening of our resolve to punish the Putin regime for threatening the peace and security of Eastern and Central Europe… Our duty is to stand firm in the face of Russian aggression.” Harper’s voice brings me right back to 2003 when he stuttered through a speech to Canada’s parliament about our duty to stand firm in the face of Saddam Hussein. The most fascinating aspect of that speech was that it was identical to the speech delivered by Australian Prime Minister John Howard (see below).

How is it that two different heads of state deliver the same exact speech? Who wrote it? Who has the power to put such speeches in front of democratically elected leaders and tell them, “This is the speech you will be delivering today?” Who is choreographing this whole theater?

The key battle is the battle for our minds.

As for the Ukraine crisis, at the present juncture, humanity’s hope lies with Putin’s ability to outmaneuver the west’s drive for war. Thus far, his sober and restrained leadership has shown greater strategic and diplomatic skill. However, blowing things up is easier than keeping them intact, and the war seeking cabal in the west may yet have its way. What we need to recognize though, is that the key battle here is the battle for our minds. The ceaseless demonization and scaremongering is targeted at us, the disenfranchised constituents of the dysfunctional western democracies, and it is we who must pull the rug from under our “elite’s” insane and dangerous project. How? The start is to arm ourselves with facts and the truth and to reject their propaganda. Honestly, is war really the best idea they can come up with to fix our economies?

P.S. It wouldn’t be right to finish this article without giving due recognition to Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt for his unwavering commitment to demonization of Putin and escalation of hostilities against Russia. Bildt was also identified by professor M. F. de Noli of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, as one of the key players behind the scenes of Ukraine’s February 2014 coup. Surely, it must be only a coincidence that Carl Bildt also used to serve as a Member of the Board of the RAND Corporation (he is also a “friend” of Syria, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, and no doubt one of the top candidates for a nobel prize for peace in the near future).


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