By Abdul Sattar
Veteran communist leader and the former head of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, has expressed his fears about a possible war in the world. In an article published last week, Gorbachev noted: “Politicians and military leaders sound increasingly belligerent and defense doctrines more dangerous. Commentators and TV personalities are joining the bellicose chorus. It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.”

The recent deployment of Nato troops on its eastern flank, the biggest military build-up in Eastern Europe since the cold war, the chilling pictures of Russian missiles, the participation of 40 million Russian in nuclear defence drills and the preparedness of Nato Rapid Reaction Force indicate that such fears are justified. The statement of former US secretary of defence Ashton Carter last year, claiming that Pentagon was being readied for “a return to great-power competition,” including the possibility of all-out combat with “high-end enemies” like Russia and China, also lends credence to Gorbachev’s fears.

Security experts claim that an escalation of tension in Syria between Moscow and the West, Nato’s attempts to blockade Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave in the Baltics and a possible cyber attack by Moscow could push the world towards a conflagration that might incinerate a large part of the world. Some security analysts fear that even a mistake or an accident could trigger a catastrophe that would prove dangerous for all of human civilisation. Gorbachev thinks that Trump and Putin could help ward off this possible catastrophe.

The spectre of a nuclear war naturally scares pacifists all over the world but mere passionate appeals in the name of humanity cannot end the business of the killing machine called war. The economy of Western countries like the US, UK and France heavily depends on arms manufacturing. Russia is not an exception, ranking second in arms sale in most CIPRI reports since 2000. During the height of the cold war in the 1980s, global military spending was around $1000 billion. It went down in the 1990s only to skyrocket again since the start of the holy doctrine of the ‘war on terror’.

The civilised world pumped $1.7 trillion in 2015 alone into military expenditure aimed at protecting this global village that has witnessed over 280 conflicts since 1945, annihilating around three million in the Korean War, seven million in Vietnam, more than a million in Iraq-Iran, more than a million in the two Gulf wars and over two million in Afghanistan. This heap of human corpses does not include the terrible cost of the internecine wars that shamed humanity in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Burundi, East Timor, Sudan, Angola, El-Salvador, Laos, Cambodia, Syria, Iraq and many other parts of the world.

So, why is the world always plagued by war? From Malthus to Henry Kissinger, the sages of the Western world will come up with different theories to prove war is inevitable. A myriad of reasons – from nationalism to Islamic terrorism – can be offered as an excuse to commit this senseless violence. But does the West not need to do a bit of soul searching? Do they not need to admit that it is they who greatly benefit from this heinous business of war? If they are churning out arms, they must be used somewhere. If there is peace in the world who is going to buy their arms?

The US is the largest supplier of arms in the world. Its military budget is larger than the next eight higher spenders. Armament is one of the major sources of employment in the US and other Western countries.

The contribution of arms manufacturing to American economy and jobs creation can be gauged from Washington’s biggest export deal with Saudi Arabia – worth over $30 billion dollars. This deal is likely to save thousands of jobs. Obama authorised $60 billion arms deals with Saudi Arabia alone from 2010 to early 2016. The biggest arms deal of the UK has also been with Suadi Arabia – Al Yamama worth $52.3 billion. This deal too saved thousands of jobs.

The Tony Blair government supplied arms to 15 African states with the worst human rights record. Blair came to India on a peace mission during a standoff between Islamabad and New Delhi. While there he made a deal to sell 60 hawks, which saved 5000 jobs at a British aeronautical firm. David Cameron’s government alone struck deals with Riyadh worth over five billion pounds.

India intends to pump more than 100 billion dollars into arms by 2050; most of the suppliers will again be from the Western world. Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Israel, Arab countries and a number of other such states were armed to the teeth by these Western powers which claim to champion the cause of peace.

The nexus between Western economy and arms manufacturing is so profound that it prompted Howard Zinn to claim: “The New Deal put a few million Americans into work, but the Second World War provided job(s) to every US citizen.” With increasing war-mongering, the powers of arms manufacturers also grew, forcing Eisenhower to declare the military industrial complex a threat to American democracy. Even today they are so powerful that John Pilger claims no British prime minister can sit in 10 Downing without the approval of a major aeronautical company.

So, perhaps Gorbachev needs to understand that war is one of the most lucrative businesses in modern times. It is also a means to create investment – destroy countries and hold reconstruction conferences and then dole out contracts. Every product needs to show its efficacy; and the real performance of a weapon is not possible without spilling human blood. So, conflicts and wars are also a way to test the efficacy of lethal killing machines. Until arms manufacturing is replaced with consumer goods, it will be difficult to see peace in the world.

The writer is a Karachi-based freelance journalist.