War, Who Needs It? Well … Politicians, Bankers, Arms Manufacturers, and the Oil Industry for Starters
And then there’s Hollywood. “The Goats of Navarone” just doesn’t cut it. Kidding aside, this is instalment number two of my series on the ten harbingers of doom we face going into this summer of 2011. War. War is always a danger in human societies, hell, it’s one of the most popular organized activities in history. And for a number of reasons, the danger of war is higher than usual this summer. No in so much as I have specific wars in mind, just that a number of factors that contribute to wars are in play. (Well, there are a few specific danger spots, but I’ll get to them.)
The first factor is just the general instability in the world. There’s likely more failed states than at any time since the end of World War Two. And there are lots of wars and insurgencies going on. In other words, the background level of violence is very high right now. There’s a number of ways this increases the risk of wider war, some of them obvious, some less so. The main problem is that this means there are millions of people now whose only career is mercenary or soldier. Out of work mercenaries tend to find work … or cause problems. Too many farmers, too many factory workers, too many doctors … with most professions too many of them is no big danger to society at large. Too many soldiers, well, that can be a problem.
Hand in hand with this is the fact that there are mind numbing amounts of weapons out there. It’s a lot easier to start a war if there’s piles of weapons laying around. Yeah, a lot of them are decades old, and dismissed as obsolete by our hi-tech obsessed media. In reality, 50s and 60s era weapons work just fine if the people you’re fighting have the same, or no weapons at all. Still, the world has been brimming with weapons for decades. This is a background condition, higher than usual, but only because it’s been slowly ratcheting up since World War Two.
One of the more direct issues is the economy. Especially world oil supplies. A lot of World War Two was driven by oil, including the attack on Pearl Harbor. Demand for oil grows ever greater, while supplies grow less. This is kind of the meme I’m trying to present here. In a lot of war related areas we have intersecting lines where demand is going up and supply is dropping, and sooner or later they have to cross. Oil and food are the big two. Others are more subtle, like pollution and the environment’s ability to neutralize it. I will leave this to the gentle reader’s contemplation, but when leaders are faced with situations where they face consequences because some essential commodity is no longer available, war is an option. Or more simply stated, a lot of war is about acquiring wealth, especially when other sources of wealth dry up.
Even more specifically, difficult times and widespread wars are sometimes great cover for ethnic cleansing, war, and genocide. Possibilities include Israel annexing parts (or all) of the occupied territories and “transferring” Palestinians elsewhere. A Chinese invasion to bring Taiwan back into the fold. Korea. Any number of examples in Africa and the Middle East. Granted, ongoing war is pretty much the natural state for mankind, but the point here is that when wars are raging, positive feedback occurs as other potential wars and such erupt.
Lastly and most specifically, in the past decade it seems like the USA has become addicted to war. Or the US government has at least, and the American public is numb to it if not actually supporting it. Not that the USA has ever been a paragon of peace, but at least in the past there was some semblance of public debate before wars, Obama going for the trifecta dispensed with that step entirely in Libya. And as the American economy comes under more stress due to the rising price of oil among other things, not to mention our increasingly fractured internal political system, I can only see this tendency increasing. I mean, the administration just lied our way into another war and the public simply rolled over like the sheep they have become.
And these are only some of the factors that make wider war in our future an unpleasant possibility. The spread of fundamentalism and fascism, both at home and abroad, is another disturbing development. And the topic of the next post in this series.
(The above image, having been created nearly 500 years ago, is probably still Public Domain under US copyright law. It’s part of a print possibly called “Bad War” by Hans Holbein around 1520. I chose it for the obvious reasons, it illustrates a battle, gives some idea of what a confused mess battles and wars become, and it’s an interesting image in its own right. I also suspect it’s a reasonably accurate historical image in terms of the weapons and such in the image, fighting with pikes was a big deal before gunpowder dominated the battlefield.)