America can’t Help Fighting Wars
The question that always haunts the intelligentsia and the hoi polloi alike is that why America can’t help fighting wars? Why its chequered history is replete with wars without any apposite casus belli? The answer to such questions is quite simple: war is an economic sine qua non of the existence of the United States. Its economy is heavily dependent on its military capital; hence, if there is no war in the world, its economy is likely to nosedive—though the fact is never acknowledged by US political leaders, and seldom by even US media. The big arms companies operating in the United States serve as vertebral column to its economy. Without continuous and prolonged warfare that requires the deployment of their guns, bombs, tanks, warships, submarines, and other military paraphernalia, they would go out of business. This very situation eggs on the US to go to wars either overtly or covertly. According to chronological account of the United States, it has militarily intervened 223 times since its independence.
So, does the fault lie in the evil nature of the individuals who ascend to power or is it the gargantuan appetite of the military industrial complex that prompts every US president—whether a pacifist or hawkish—to wage wars? Definitely, it is America’s big arms manufacturers that keep the country engaged in wars since it is the question of their survival. The record further shows that whenever there is a conflict anywhere in the world; nine times out of ten, it is the US that is involved in one way or another. It has a long history of engineering coups, toppling regimes and backing juntas all around the world. Some examples of such interventions include: Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Congo in 1960, Dominican Republic in 1961, South Vietnam in 1963, Brazil in 1964, Chile in 1973, Iraq in 1992 and in 2003, Syria in 2011, and finally Ukraine in 2014. Currently, it is Iran that is facing the wrath of Uncle Sam. Most economists believe that the United States is a state that is oxygenated by its war industry. The joint venture of the US arms industry and the government is as old as the country itself. Even American civil war turned out to be immensely profitable for American arms manufacturers. However, the end of the war resulted in a steep decline in demand of their products that led many companies to bankruptcy. But those who managed to secure foreign contracts, continued to mint money out of this business.
Later, Spanish-American war also helped the warmongers and arms manufacturers. The story does not end here. In capitalism, the destruction of one country or region feeds into prosperity of another. This is what exactly happened during World War I. The US remained neutral during most of WWI and only entered the conflict in April 1917. But the mobilization of its economy was extraordinary. Over four million Americans served in the armed forces and the American economy produced a vast supply of raw materials and munitions. The end of the war resulted in a huge slump in production. Some historians even claim that the state of peace was one of the contributing factors to the Great Depression. This economic crisis caused soaring of unemployment to new heights—as high as 25 percent. This grim situation prompted Franklin D. Roosevelt, the then president of the United States, to launch the ambitious New Deal. But the deal created jobs for only four million Americans while, on the contrary, World War II provided every American with a job. According to Dr Jacques Pauwels, a Research Associate at the Centre for Research on Globalization, it cannot be denied that the Great Depression in America only ended during, and because of, WWII. Dr Pauwels writes: “Economic demand rose spectacularly when the war … allowed American industry to produce unlimited amounts of war equipments … In addition, the American industry also supplied humungous amount of equipment to the British and even the Soviets via Lend-Lease. The key problem of the Great Depression—the disequilibrium between supply and demand—was thus resolved because the state ‘primed the pump’ of economic demand by means of huge orders of a military nature.” The war warded off the effects of the Great Depression, giving Americans higher wages and increasing their purchasing power. It is widely believed that American giants also immensely exploited this dreadful carnage of the 20th century. According to noted historian, Stuart D. Brandes, “[B]etween 1942 and 1945, the net profits of America’s 2,000 biggest firms were more than 40 percent higher than during the period 1936-1939 … This largesse benefited the American business world in general, but in particular that relatively restricted elite of big corporations known as ‘big businesses or ‘corporate America’. During the war,
fewer than 60 firms obtained 75 percent of all lucrative military and other state orders.” Many economists claim that a phenomenal increase was witnessed in economic activity during wartime. For instance, the GDP growth skyrocketed to over 17 percent in 1942. After WWII, the USSR and its communism were used as a bogey to multiply affluence earned through military spending. The Korean War may have killed three million people; it helped Washington achieve a phenomenal GDP growth rate of 11.4 percent in 1951 despite the fact that WWII was over. Although this growth decreased in subsequent years, it once again witnessed a boost in 1966 during the Vietnam War. So, the entire episode of Cold War supported the American arms industry. It became one of the largest sources of employment for Americans and its role in creation of jobs continues to this day. To some extent, such dependence fuels conflicts as well. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the American arms industry witnessed a downward spiral. But soon, the bogey of Al-Qaeda and the war on terror was created. Hence, it may not be astonishing that the largest US export deal to date is related to munitions. Trump struck a deal worth over $300 billion with Saudi Arabia. His administration is also making efforts to strike arms deals with Japan, Qatar and other states. So, the million-dollar question here is: who is going to buy American arms if there is peace in the world? According to an article penned by history professor Robert Reich in 2010: “Over 1,400,000 Americans are now on active duty, another 833,000 are in the reserves, many full time. Another 1,600,000 Americans work in companies that supply the military with everything from weapons to utensils.” This reflects the dependence of Americans on arms companies for jobs. After 2008, the spectre of unemployment haunted Americans. Reich believed if the country did not have this giant military jobs programme, its unemployment rate would have been over 11.5 percent in 2010 instead of 9.5 percent. Intellectuals argue that the US must get rid of this military spending and direct its resources towards other sectors that could create more jobs. A research report by Brown University found that investments in elementary and secondary education creates nearly three times as many American jobs as defence spending while healthcare creates about twice. While $1 million spent on defence creates 6.9 direct and indirect jobs, the same amount spent on elementary and secondary education creates 19.2 jobs. Spending of around $1 million on healthcare creates 14.3 jobs. To cap it all, America’s ruling elite needs to divert its people’s hard-earned money towards such sectors. This policy will not only end Washington’s reliance on wars to create jobs at home but will also save millions of lives that are annihilated due to the insatiable appetite of the military-industrial complex. Americans should take inspiration from the “Cross of Iron” speech that president Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered in April 1963. Here is a crucial excerpt from that speech: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” The writer is a legal practitioner-cum-columnist based in Quetta.