Global spending on…

Annual global cost of removing all extreme poverty in the world (link): US$ 243 billion.

Annual global spending on ice cream in 2017 (link) US$ 54 billion.

Annual global cost of oceanic marine parks (link): US$ 12-14 billion.

Annual global military spending (link): US$ 1,700 billion.

 

“We need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs”

“We need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs”

Protecting jobs does not seem to matter in any other sector.  Why should defence be different from other sectors such as health, social services or education?

The defence sector comprises private industry, other government spending is mostly public sector.  Why should private industry jobs be protected by the government when public sector jobs are being cut?

“We need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs”

It is illegal under European law to prop up a filing industry to make it competitive.  This has been applied a number of times, for example to stop the French government propping up French airlines.  Counter argument: Why is the defence industry being propped up with government money?

“We need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs”

The UK defence industry is hailed as a great success as it is our biggest exporter.  If it is so successful and bringing in so much money, Why does the defence industry need propping up?

“We need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs”

If the purpose of defence spending is to protect jobs, why not give them jobs in another useful sector, working in a constructive way, such as civil engineering, major environmental projects, improved land management, improved water management, pollution control or research?  Why should they continue to work in the arms industry and not something else?

“We need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs”

It’s not really jobs that matter to maintain votes, it is standard of living.   If the purpose of defence spending is to keep these people in a manner to which they are accustomed, pension them all off.  Sell off their places of work, stop buying raw materials, stop using energy making stuff for the sake of it and stop producing unnecessary products that will require careful storage and subsequent disposal.  Why not save money by paying those people to stay at home?

Claiming “we need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs” does not stand up.

What do you think?

“Let Us Begin”, John Denver

In June 1986 John Denver released the album One World which has the track Let Us Begin, an anti-war song, which had been released as a single.  On this day of that year, 30th July 1986, his record label, RCA, pulled the single.  RCA had been acquired by General Electric, a major arms manufacturer, and they did not like this song with its lyrics of feeding the war machine but not babies.  Thus the powerful, who get rich from making killing devices, get to silence the pacifists to protect their profits.

A video John produced to go with the song, with a short introduction from him, is here on YouTube.

The lyrics.

This is simply the best piece of work that I’ve done in my career.

John Denver, 10th December 1987

Source: www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=10947# amongst others.

“Trump urges NATO members to double military funding target”

BBC news story “Trump urges NATO members to double military funding target” – Link.

Currently, NATO members are required to give 2% of the entire country’s Gross Domestic Product to the arms industry, with the non-democratic body NATO dictating what they have to spend it on.  This is so NATO can defend Western Europe from a Soviet invasion by the Warsaw Pact.  That’s the Warsaw pact that was dissolved in 1991, some 27 years ago.

That means the arms industry is given, each year, the entire productivity of much of Europe and the USA and other countries for one week.  We don’t do this for education, health, homelessness or all manner of socially good things – just the means to kill people.

But now President Trump wants that doubled – doubled! – to 4%.  He says one 25th of all production in every sector of society should be given to the arms industry.

The Cold War ended over half my life ago.  Why are we still funding it at all?

Why should we cut health provision, housing, education, social welfare or anything else to pay for the tools and means to kill people?  It is insane.

Unless he’s a puppet of the arms industry.  Happy to take their money and doesn’t care what the cost will be to the world.

It was this kind of uplifting of military expenditure prior to the Great War that, arguably, helped lead to it occur.

 

Smart missiles

Because of the current proposed airstrikes on Syria, I was trying to remember where the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital was that was attacked in an airstrike fairly recently.

Now that these days we have ‘smart missiles’ and ‘smart bombs’ and ‘laser guided precision’ and assurances civilian casualties are avoided, I just wanted to check the details.

On Googling it I found:

  • Médecins Sans Frontières hospital – Kunduz, Afghanistan – October 2015 – sustained air attack by USA – 42 dead, hospital destroyed
  • Médecins Sans Frontières hospital – Maaret al-Numan, Syria – February 2016 – 2 raids by Syria or Russia – 7 dead, hospital destroyed
  • Médecins Sans Frontières children’s hospital – Azaz, Syria – February 2016 – ballistic missile from Russia – 10 dead, hospital destroyed
  • Médecins Sans Frontières hospital -Hajjah, Yemen – August 2016 – airstrike by Saudi-coalition – 11 dead, hospital partially destroyed and closed down
  • Médecins Sans Frontières supported hospital – Saraqab City, Syria – January 2018 – 2 airstrikes – 5 dead, hospital closed down

They just go on and on.  Then I saw:

“In 2016, 32 MSF-supported medical facilities were bombed or shelled on 71 occasions. In 2015 we documented 94 attacks on 63 MSF-supported hospitals and clinics in Syria.”

It’s a good job there’s GPS and smart missiles and the like guaranteeing civilians don’t get killed in airstrikes.

The USA is happy with itself as it is: frightened

Having wasted most of the weekend online arguing with pro-gun people in the USA, I have given up.  I have tried this before and keep coming to the same conclusion: they are happy as they are.

They believe the level of violence and gun-related deaths is quite low compared to other causes of death, and so is quite acceptable.

They believe there is a huge threat to society waiting to get them and, unless there is a ready civilian militia armed to a military standard, it could get them at any time.  They need to be ready.

They believe that people being armed is why their society is so peaceful, that it is only unarmed people that are victims of crime, and it is their own fault for not being armed.

It is a belief system.  Facts and statistics are immaterial and disregarded.  You cannot argue using logic against a belief system.

Essentially what they have developed is a Gun Faith.  Guns are worshipped, adored, protected by the constitution and idolised.  ‘Idolised’ being the operative word.  Some people carry a St Christopher, some wear a cross, some carry a picture of Mary and some wear a birthstone crystal.  In the USA people carry a gun for the same reason: faith it will protect them.  Despite the factual evidence to the contrary.

A funny thing about religions is how people take it to extremes to prove their faith: growing a couple of locks of hair really long, totally covering their women, refusing to shave.  In the USA Gun Faith the extremists carry semi-automatic rifles simply as symbols of devotion.  The NRA is the church of this religion.  I get all that now.

That’s why people have started referring to the pro-gun lobby online as The American Taliban.

“civil wars are always more brutal than other wars”

In a Facebook discussion:

it would have been interesting to see how the Balkan war late in the 20th C arose and why there was such genocide.

I can’t remember the ins and outs of it – but civil wars are always more brutal than other wars.

My response—off the top of my head—was:

  1. Civil wars are not covered so much by modern war legislation nor the ancient rules of war, so there are no limits to methods or violence.
  2. The opposing sides are not easily differentiated so anyone can be a target to anyone.
  3. In civil wars dividing lines shift as power struggles occur: you don’t know who you can trust.
  4. Civil wars often have a variable number of sides which keep changing as alliances shift.
  5. Civil wars have greater confusion as communication and hierarchies are far weaker than in conventional wars.
  6. External states always take advantage of them to weaken the warring state, usually by propping up the weaker side to keep it going.
  7. Civil wars are great opportunities for proxy wars which means external material and money to keep them going long beyond a natural end.
  8. Civil wars are a great opportunity to sell untested weapons to see how they perform, debug them and advertise them.
  9. Defeat in a conventional war is easier to identify as battle lines collapse so they stop sooner.
  10. A conventional war can end with one side giving up, a civil war often requires complete crushing of the loser.
  11. You cannot retreat to your own country in a civil war.
  12. The infrastructure is usually so badly affected that the injured cannot be sent somewhere to be cared for in a civil war.
  13. There is less likely to be a safe family at home to return to in a civil war.
  14. In a civil war there is a greater tendency for revenge and cruelty (exacerbated by armed militia and little legal constraint).
  15. In a civil war each side is usually more equally matched using the same techniques, language, cypher systems, weapons and training meaning they have to slog it out to round 12 to win on points rather than get a quick knockout in round 2 or 3.
  16. Civil wars make use of mercenaries and attract and welcome psychopaths, extremists, revolutionaries and criminals.
  17. Civil wars make use of untrained armed civilians who both die more messily and kill more messily than trained soldiers.
  18. Civil wars are invariably total wars meaning everyone and everything is a valid target.

That’ll do for now. Oh, please, lets have a 2000 word essay on civil wars!

Although, with hindsight, that is the makings of a book.  Or a thesis.  I left out child soldiers, PTSD in armed civilians, how much harder it is to catch the war criminals afterwards, how much harder it is to reconcile, the damage to the society, recovery of the post-war bankrupt economy, the long-term consequences of having had an armed civilian population and the opportunity cost.

Principles of Just-War Theory

Lynn Roulstone at the Open University raised the questionsWhat do we think to Aquinas’s Just War theory?  Is it ever possible to have such a thing?” and provided a link to a short explanation of the seven principles of Just-War Theory.

I wasn’t particularly impressed by them and this was my response:

1. Last Resort
Sartre, Ghandi and Jesus said a violent response need not be the final resort.  Deciding not to use violence is also an available option.  It was certainly the best way for your civilisation to survive an invasion by the Roman empire, the Mongol hordes or many other invading forces who purpose was to subjugate.

2. Legitimate Authority
We have a representative democracy so if Tony Bliar decides to start a war despite dodgy evidence and 3 million people protesting, he is perfectly entitled.  If Obama declares war on Mexico tomorrow, he has legal, personal, absolute authority to do so under USA law.

3. Just Cause
Righting a wrong done to A committed by B by killing C is as logical as bombing for peace.  It just results in tit-for-tat feuds that need never end.

4. Probability of Success
If it is wrong to fight in case you lose – and there is always the possibility of unexpectedly losing – then one should not fight.  Conversely, if one has such overwhelming power that victory is inevitable, there must be diplomatic alternatives to using overwhelming violence.

5. Right Intention
A hollow argument.  The victor is always right, after the event.  Also, if the intention of war is to re-establish peace, then the best outcome is genocide of one’s enemies and destruction of their culture since that best guarantees peace.

6. Proportionality
The minimum amount of force absolutely necessary is often the assassination of one person or one dynastic line.  However, international conventions have long, long agreed that targeted execution of the leaders of sovereign states is against the rules.  Killing millions of the people who happen to live in the same country is OK though.

7. Civilian Casualties
The concept of total war (which is thousands of years old) means that the economy and production ability of the enemy are part of the war machine and valid targets.  Bombing dams to flood valleys is fine.  Armaments factories employ civilians as do the mines and refineries that serve them.  There is no point continuously killing their soldiers if they just keep breeding and equipping more – one must raze their cities, salt their fields, sabotage their infrastructure and starve the population into defeat.  The civilian capacity to raise armies must be destroyed.  The alternative is to not use total war, but then you lose to someone who is.

I do not see how there can be a just war.  Expedient, yes, but just, no.

How might post-traumatic stress disorder change warfare?

This is a brief note from thinking about Open University DD210 Living Psychology module, book 2, chapter 13, page 149…172 ‘3. The impact of extreme circumstances‘, ‘4. Recovery, resilience and post-traumatic growth‘ and ‘5. Perils, pitfalls and positive effects of psychological interventions‘.

Post-traumatic stress disorder.  People can be damaged by what they are ordered to do; might this change how warfare is conducted?

Millennia ago and centuries, marching off to another country or city allowed preparation time, bonding and training time on the way there.  On the way back there was lots of time for reflection with those who had been through the same experience, done in an environment of routine, with physical activity and done outdoors.  Might that have prevented PTSD for most people?  Is PTSD a phenomenon that arrived with the ability to leave the front line and go home fairly quickly?

Might the consequences of PTSD on military personnel make government change the way warfare is conducted so that it is prevented?  If so, what will that look like?

Is PTSD just an infantry complaint?  Do snipers get it worse than combat area engineers?  Do bomber crews get PTSD?  What about drone pilots who work 9-5 and go home every evening?  Who suffers most: conscripts, volunteers or militia?  Do revolutionaries / guerillas / freedom fighters get it?  Do victors get it?  Is it worse for those who suffer defeat?  How bad is it for child soldiers?

How bad is it for civilians in a war zone?  Refugees?  Survivors?  Orphans?  (And does anyone in governments care about civilians in war zones? It does not seem so.)

What research is being done in PTSD?  By whom?  Why?  Is it for peaceful purposes to demonstrate how warfare is bad, or to make warfare and killing less stressful for the troops so that it can continue?

What happens now about the burning Syrian oil fields?

The oil wells currently being blown up in Syria and being used by IS should have been dealt with months ago.  This has been said by quiet lone voices but only became newsworthy just this past week as the airstrikes against them began.

We know from the 2nd Gulf War that these will burn and continue to burn until the fighting is over.  Presumably, if IS somehow manage to put out and cap a well, it will become a target again and this continue until the territory is retaken.

This will mean months, or years, of the burning of crude oil polluting the local land indefinitely and air downwind for the duration, which the government cautiously warns will be three years or more.

What a waste of an irreplaceable commodity.  What a filthy, highly carcinogenic, CO2-filled cloud it will produce.

And the workers at these oilfields are not going to be AK47-wielding jihadists but the same oil-field workers who were there before.  Civilians.  Likely doing their job at gun-point now.  Now being blown up or burned to death by our bombing.  Airstrikes kill civilians.

War is great, innit?  Lovely grainy black-and-white pictures of something going “Puff” from 12,000 feet up reported as the good work of terrorists being dealt with, when actually it is just destruction and killing and maiming and polluting.

About 300 to 1,000 civilians were killed in Iraq for each person killed in the Twin Towers terrorist attack.  I wonder what the kill ratio will be for the Paris terrorist attack.  At that rate it will need to be about 39,000 to 130,000 ‘collateral’ civilian deaths.

62 workers were caught up in the recent Azerbaijan oil rig fire accident, of whom half are likely dead.  It is looking like a tragedy caused by lax safety measures and a violent storm.  Bad enough, but still not as bad as the awful, no, horrific Piper Alpha disaster which took 167 of the 228 lives on board.

Syria has about 40 oil fields with a number of wells per field but I cannot find the latter number – shall we assume 10?  Assuming 62 workers per well (as they are all land-based, I believe) that gives us 34,800 civilian workers as potential death targets of the oil well bombings.  That’s a ratio of 190 civilian deaths for each Parisian victim.  I wonder if that will be enough to satiate the politicians’ blood lust?  If not, there’s the fire control crews, the replacement workers for wells that are put put and repaired, pipeline maintenance crews, pumping station crews, management and admin offices and all manner of other support and ancillary staff who come under the heading of ‘infrastructure’.

I’m sure that with a bit of effort—killing the accountants, secretaries, maintenance staff and cleaners too—it ought to be possible to get up to the same kill ratio of 300 foreign civilians to victim as was achieved in Iraq.

Do think on that when being impressed by those grainy, black-and-white videos taken from long range – that ‘infrastructure’ includes the people who work there, leaving their widows, angry fathers and brothers and embittered children ready to refresh the ranks of IS or produce the next generation of terrorists.

Assuming the cancer from the oily black smoke doesn’t deal with them first, of course.