The real cost of war (Photo courtesy: Businessinsider.com)
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist……… US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell address, 1961
Soon after the Second World War ended, a realization dawned on the movers and shakers of developed economies that long-term peace and tranquility was not good for overall economic growth. The defense industry and those allied to them, such as the petrochemical, construction, automobile and aviation sectors, would face severe cutbacks if there were no wars at all.
Wars began to be seen as necessary, in the same way as governments see cigarette sales as necessary. Wars just had to be controlled, much like fission reactions are, inside a nuclear reactor, from which you get a steady stream of energy that can be harnessed and used. To harness war became the mantra.
There had to be a method. Wars had to be conducted far enough away from western shores for them to have no direct impact on their populations. A controlled state of chaos could exist and that would ensure a steady flow of business and thus, prosperity. People would die but they would be folk whom the western populations have never seen or met. As Michael Corleone said in ‘The Godfather’, it was all strictly business, not personal.
It was easy. The west had something that would allow them to perpetrate aggression in the name of a host of fancy words, such as peace building, preventive diplomacy, human rights and democracy – the United Nations.
Post 1945, the UN immediately proceeded to write large treaties and laws stipulating how conflicts should be initiated, fought and then mediated, how peace-keeping should be conducted in order to give the poor third world sods a chance to have a breather before the bell sounded for the next round.
At the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the UN expanded its mandate, defining the difference between what member states can see as acts carried out in ensuring legitimate state sovereignty and those that were considered unprovoked acts of aggression that were subject to international military intervention.
From 1990 through 1993, the UN Security Council adopted enforcement provisions that allowed a member state to start a war if it could get a mandate from the UN collective, in the form of a resolution that has been voted upon and passed.
The international community now had a new means of expressing its collective will. The UN Security Council became a global judge and jury that appeared to represent not only the member states but also the collective will and voice of the entire international community. (The UN Security Council includes five permanent members (US, Russia, France, UK, and China) and ten rotating non-permanent, elected members).
Military forces, deployed in peacekeeping operations, increased from fewer than 10,000 to more than 70,000. The annual peacekeeping budget skyrocketed correspondingly from $230 million to $3.6 billion in the same period, three times the UN’s regular operating budget of $1.2 billion.
A military intervention by the UN requires the affirmative vote of at least 9 states, including yes votes from all five permanent members and four of the other ten non-permanent members. There are other requirements – that the votes should be cast by a diverse group of different races and religions, large and small countries, capitalist and socialist economies and democratic and non-democratic polities. The combination makes for a genuinely international and impartial intervention.
The above idealistic view is what the UN wants us to see. On the ground it is vastly different. The so-called uniform representation is horse-shit. Having a guy from Togoland sitting next to you in the Security Council is a ridiculous sight. Furthermore, the UN Secretary General is always chosen from a tiny, militarily and politically inconsequential nation that has very little say or even interest in world affairs. So far, the UN Secretary Generals have been a Norwegian, a Swede, a Burmese, an Austrian, a Peruvian, an Egyptian, a Ghanaian and now, a South Korean. Terrific. They’ll have a Fijian next.
The Secretary General himself is carefully chosen. They invariably pick someone who resembles that ‘what me worry?’ guy from MAD Magazine. It is not rocket science why. The UN Secretary General has to be malleable. Not being malleable could cost him more than his job. It could cost him his life, as has been made evident lately, in the case of the Swede, Dag Hammarskjöld.
Hammarskjöld was killed while flying on a peace mission over Congo in 1961. He was trying to negotiate a peace agreement between Congo’s Soviet-backed government and Moise Tshombe, who had declared independence for Congo’s mineral-rich province of Katanga. Wikileaks revelations in 2013 suggest that NSA monitored radio traffic, transcripts of which confirm the testimony of one survivor who had claimed that the DC6 plane was shot down by a fighter jet which had no markings on its fuselage. The fighter is reported to have appeared out of nowhere and begun firing without any warning or radio contact.
Rwanda is a non-permanent member of the current UN Security Council. Now, lets look at a hypothetical scenario, spun around Rwanda……
Let us suppose that a military intervention has just been mandated in Nigeria. The mission is to eradicate the Islamic militant organisation, Boko Haram, which have joined forces with the AQIM and built up a strong standing army, battle-hardened and armed to the teeth. The intervention is being planned on the request of that impotent schlep named Goodluck Jonathan, President of Nigeria.
As a member of the UN Security Council, Rwanda is required to cough up its share of the troops and funds required for its part in the international coalition that will execute the military intervention. Unfortunately, Rwanda is a two-bit bankrupt country, living on handouts from it’s former colonial masters, Belgium. It will not be able to afford even the troops’ shoelaces. Expecting this country to spend $20 mill on an open-ended expedition in Nigeria is expecting too much. It won’t happen.
But that’s just fine. That is what some folk are actually hoping for. They would like to see Rwanda stand aside and let them handle the whole thing.
So what happens next? That’s an easy one. The rich nations will take over the intervention mission, with the US in the lead. They will overrun Nigeria and proceed to wipe out Boko Haram. Wiping out those extremist kooks is actually a cinch. The Americans already know where the m—er f—ers are hiding, just as they knew all along where Bin Laden was holed up. One MQ9 Reaper with two Hellfire missiles will vaporize the Boko Haram’s command post and it’s leadership and by the end of the day those two GIs in Nevada, who did the vaporizing, will be at their kids’ soccer practice.
But of course they won’t do that. A quick resolution is not good for business. Wars on terror have to be at least a decade long, in order to break even. The Americans will take their time going in and busting the Bokos. Meanwhile, a grateful Nigeria will lay itself bare, to be tied up in no-bid mineral extraction contracts, communication deals, transportation deals, construction contracts and just about every other large commercial contract, for the next three decades.
War has now been successfully harnessed. Doesn’t matter that the lab mice are a bit on the heavier side, 180lbs give or take and they arrive dressed in body bags.