The military-industrial complex with its eye on business profits and its nexus with governments, makes sacrificial lambs of young, testosterone-driven recruits to defence services, points out Vithal C Nadkarni
At the start of the last century, no prophet could have predicted two World Wars and the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not to forget the killing fields of Cambodia or Rwanda and myriad other minefields scattered all over the globe. Soothsayers since then seem to have grown savvier: Nothing less than the end of the world as we know it has been foretold by a blind clairvoyant called Baba Vanga. The Bulgarian mystic — who died 20 years ago — supposedly predicted the 9/11 attacks (in USA) and the rise of the Islamic State. Having foretold Barack Obama’s election, she also said he’d be the last President of the United States.What about the present incumbent of the White House? Perhaps we should be asking that question to the Doomsday Clock-keepers why they pushed the hands five minutes closer to nuclear catastrophe after Donald Trump got elected.
In contrast to these ‘nabobs of negativity’, science writers are predicting the end of war and a brave new start of moral progress. So are we really becoming less violent and more progressive as Harvard egghead Steven Pinker argues in his Better Angels of Our Nature? He’s wrong, asserts British philosopher John Gray. Pinker’s facts are ‘murky,’Gray alleges,‘leaving a vast range of casualties of violence unaccounted’.
Gray’s got a point.US military campaigns, which have been going on since September 11, 2001, in Afghanistan, Iraq,Syria and Yemen,are nowhere near eliminating extremist violence. If anything, they seem to have made it even more virulent and widespread.At $596 billion,America’s defence expenditure is the world’s highest, which is more than the combined military budgets of China,Saudi Arabia,Russia,UK,India, France, and Japan. The US glowers over the global arms bazaar due to its position as the ‘dominating innovator,manufacturer and exporter of arms in the world’. Imagine then this mighty industrial behemoth meekly vacating its market just to placate anti-war sentiment.
If you think that’s possible,you might as well believe in the tooth fairy. So whatever else he had to say with ‘alternative facts’, the one thing POTUS Trump got right was his statement that ‘the US wasn’t so innocent’when he was told about Vladimir Putin being ‘a killer’. These so-called ‘Globo-Cop’ corporations stand to profit most from conflict because their political patrons love to lavish billions of dollars upon them to conjure up ever more lethal weapons, spook-and-dagger gizmos,bombers and submarines for wars whose end is never in sight.(Over the last 50 years,shares in the major US arms manufacturers have risen 27,699 per cent versus 6,777 per cent for the rest of the market, according to a Morgan Stanley report, Lockheed Martin returned 149 per cent, Raytheon 124 per cent and Northrup Grumman 114 per cent to their investors.) More than one-third of all engineers and scientists in the US are said to be engaged in military-related jobs. But they are not the ones topping the list of the fallen from the wars around the world.According to one study,nearly 75 per cent of the war dead come from working class families.They surely needed the pay check, but not what it cost.
Certainly not the war.Also, the soaring disability costs from these wars are expected to continue for decades. America’s most decorated war hero shared that message in the four-word title of his memoir,War is a Racket.‘Fighting Marine’ S D Butler, who won two medals of honour,essentially said wealthy elite benefit financially from war while everyone else suffers, either through fighting in the wars or else from paying for the wars from which the fat cats get fatter and richer. Another war hero,who became US President, was even blunter than Butler:“ Every gun that is made signifies,in the final sense, a theft,” Dwight Eisenhower said.
Now how does one factor Eisenhower’s bon mot in America’s longest running global war on terror? The million-dollar question, literally, is who fights these conflicts and who pays for them? Significantly, the US National Defense Strategy’s enemy is no longer terror,but a bigger, vaguer and more entrenched entity called ‘tyranny’. A bigger challenge would be to fight the pervasive militarism in the country. This tends to romanticise soldiers as paragons of honour; as true measures of manhood and national greatness. No cost seems too great to pay. Which is why we have the slaughter of lambs in uniform, all harvested in the poppy fields or alien deserts for their true-grit testosterone. They bring home the dead in flag-draped coffins with all pomp,spit-and-polish and to the sound of the mournful bugle.Tears flow. But beneath bitten lips,fires too are lit:Spectators ache for revenge. Young aspirants dream of glory.
And parents and kin kneel in grief over the folly that is war. For all that outlay, for all that expenditure of blood,sweat and tears,only about one-half of one per cent of Americans have been on active duty since 9/11 at any given moment. A tiny minority from the Congress have known combat,or have relatives who have fought wars. An intriguing quandary is whether they would rally and root as much for the war machine as they do if they had personally suffered more cuts from war’s testosterone-culling scythe? Their ego-driven mythmaking and love of glory and the indifference to the brutality of war is a manifestation of our all-too-human denial of death, said Pulitzer-winning anthropologist Ernest Becker.We need to confront Thanatos or Death even more frontally as Krishna advised warrior-prince Arjuna on the battle-field of Kurukshketra. And embrace the right sort of life, ever more urgently.


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