Wednesday, August 26, 2009

War in Decline

Since World War II, the USA has been the preeminent military power on Earth with the sole capacity to deliver the full weight of its conventional war making capacity to any border on earth. That plans are afoot for global supremacy is at best moot. That the military mind is trained to be paranoid and hyper alert is also true and throws up odd programs from time to time that at best can be described as overkill.

It is always an eye opener to listen to the pronouncements of military types from other powers such as China or Russia. They are just as bent as some of ours.

The military reality is that once Russia woke up to the futility of sustaining its effort to match the USA with look alike weapons systems, there has been no credible military counterweight. Nor realistically will there be. It is a question of why bother in the first place? The USA is well cured of actually attempting to govern any of these places (although not of meddling) as is just about every body else and act as a global insurer that preserves exactly that status quo.

So long as you do not march into some foreign village on the road to world conquest, odds are you have a pretty free hand to sort things out your way. That has made war steadily decline in the affairs of men.

If we ignore the press, who would paint every conflict as a major event and think of the hard numbers, the numbers have been in steady decline. Most activity now is in the form of tribal conflicts rather than conflicts between states. We still have low level conflict in the Caucasus waiting for a political solution that could be settled if the will was applied. We have the hot Pathan war in the Afghan Hills and remnant echoes of wars everywhere else but Africa. National governments everywhere are sorting out there internal conflicts and developing lasting political solutions. For all of them, Europe is the proof that it can be done.

Africa still suffers from weak central governments unable to quell the internal tribal conflicts or marshal the resources needed to accelerated internal development. If Africa went on a development binge like that of China, it is a certainty that the tribalism would be brought under control by the people themselves. This can not happen so long as it is seen as a road to individual power.

The second military reality that the US military must face is that no country on Earth is prepared to now spend resources playing military catch up. It is economically insane and huge economic advantage accrues to nonparticipants. Also the concept of catch up is itself mindboggling. That is why no one has produced a single creditable carrier fleet to challenge the dozen plus that the US has.

The fact is that the US has far more than is actually necessary of all arms except plausibly ground forces. The past several years for the air and naval arms have been mostly low intensity with brief display of overwhelming firepower such as the recent aerial entrance into Helman province in Afghanistan. Once engaged, the birds’ activity will be minimized and that of ground forces will be maximized for simple cost reasons and real effectiveness also.

The US as super power has made war making an unattractive option for all would be Alexanders. Sixty years of global economic expansion has made these same geniuses reluctant to risk their gains, particularly since the poverty machine of communism is effectively out of business.

Anyway, after writing this I went out and grabbed a copy of the National post and this article was in it. It marshals a few actual statistical facts that fully support my thesis, although that has actually been obvious if you were looking.

Peace has a chance

John Horgan, Published: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The West Point War Museum, right across the Hudson River from my home, offers a brisk tour of the history of weaponry, from Paleolithic stone axes to Fat Man, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. A sign at the museum's entrance states, "Unquestionably, war-making is an aspect of human nature which will continue as nations attempt to impose their will upon each other." Actually, this assertion is quite questionable. A recent decline in war casualties -- especially compared to historical and even prehistorical rates -- has some scholars wondering whether the era of international war may be ending.

Counting casualties is fraught with uncertainty; scholars' estimates vary according to how they define war and what sources they accept as reliable, among other factors. Nevertheless, a clear trend emerges from recent studies. Last year, 25,600 combatants and civilians were killed as a direct result of armed conflicts, according to the 2009 Yearbook of SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Two thirds of these deaths took place in just three trouble spots: Sri Lanka (8,400), Afghanistan (4,600) and Iraq (4,000). In contrast, almost 500,000 people are killed each year in violent crimes and well over one million die in automobile accidents.

SIPRI's figure excludes deaths from "one-sided conflict," in which combatants deliberately kill unarmed civilians, and "indirect" deaths from war-related disease and famine. If these casualties are included, annual war-related deaths from 2004 to 2007 rise tenfold to 250,000 per year, according to The Global Burden of Armed Violence, a 2008 report published by an international organization set up in the aftermath of the Geneva Declaration. Even this much higher number, the report states, is "remarkably low in comparison to historical figures."

For example, Milton Leitenberg of the University of Maryland's School for International and Security Studies has estimated that war and state-sponsored genocide in the first half of the 20th century killed as many as 190 million people, both directly and indirectly. That comes to an average of 3.8 million deaths per year. His analysis found that wars killed fewer than one-quarter of that total in the second half of the 20th century -- 40 million altogether, or 800,000 per year.

Even these staggering figures are low in comparison with prehistoric ones, if considered as a percentage of population. All the horrific wars and genocides of the 20th century accounted for less than 3% of all deaths worldwide, according to one estimate. That is much less than the probable rate of violent death among our early ancestors.

The economist Samuel Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute recently analyzed dozens of archaeological and ethnographic studies of hunter-gatherer societies like the ones our ancestors are thought to have lived in for most of our prehistory. Warfare and other forms of violence led to 14% of the deaths in these simple societies, Bowles concludes.

In his influential book War Before Civilization, the anthropologist Lawrence Keeley of the University of Illinois estimates that violence accounted for as many as 25% of all deaths among early societies. Keeley includes not only hunter-gatherers but also tribal societies such as the Yanomamo in Amazonia and the Enga in New Guinea, which practice simple horticulture as well as hunting. These early people racked up such murderous totals with clubs, spears and arrows rather than machine guns and bombs --and Keeley's stats don't even include indirect deaths from famine and disease.

Our prehistory seems to have grown more bellicose as time went on, however. According to anthropologist Brian Ferguson, there is little or no clear-cut evidence of lethal group aggression among any societies prior to 12,000 years ago. War emerged and rapidly spread over the next few thousand years among hunter-gatherers and other groups, particularly in regions where people abandoned a nomadic lifestyle for a more sedentary one and populations grew. War arose, according to this perspective, because of changing environmental and cultural conditions rather than because of "human nature," as the West Point War Museum suggests.

This view contradicts what many people believe about war. Since 2006, when I first started teaching a college course called "War and Human Nature," I've asked hundreds of students and other people whether humans will ever stop fighting wars. More than four in five -- young and old, conservative and liberal, male and female -- answer, "No." Asked to explain this response, they often say that we have always fought wars, and we always will, because we are innately aggressive.

Of course, all human behaviour ultimately stems from our biology. But the sudden emergence of war around 10,000 BCE and its recent decline suggest it's primarily a cultural phenomenon and one that culture is now helping us to overcome. There have been no international wars since the U. S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and no wars between major industrialized powers since the end of the Second World War. Most conflicts now consist of guerilla wars, insurgencies and terrorism -- or what the political scientist John Mueller of Ohio State University calls the "remnants of war."

Mueller rejects biological explanations for this trend, noting in one paper that "testosterone levels seem to be as high as ever." At least part of the decline, he says, can be attributed to a surge in the number of democracies since the Second World War, from 20 to nearly 100 (depending on how democracy is defined). Since democracies rarely, if ever, wage war against each other, we may well see a continuing decline in the magnitude of armed conflict.

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker identifies several other cultural factors contributing to the modern decline of violence, both between and within states: First, the creation of stable states with effective legal systems and police forces has eliminated the endless feuding that plagued many tribal societies. Second, increased life expectancies make us less willing to risk our lives by engaging in violence. Third, as a result of globalization and communications, we have become increasingly interdependent on -- and empathetic toward -- others outside of our immediate "tribes."

If war is not inevitable, neither is peace. "This past year saw increasing threats to security, stability, and peace in nearly every corner of the globe," warns the SIPRI 2009 Yearbook. Global arms spending -- especially by the United States, China and Russia--has surged, and efforts to stem nuclear proliferation have stalled. An al-Qaeda operative could detonate a nuclear suitcase bomb in New York City tomorrow, reversing the recent trend in an instant. But the evidence of a decline in war-related deaths shows that we need not -- and should not -- accept war as an eternal scourge of the human condition.

In fact, this fatalistic view is wrong empirically and morally. Empirically, because war clearly stems less from some hard-wired "instinct" than from mutable cultural and environmental conditions; much can be done, and has been done, to reduce the risks it poses. Morally, because the belief that war will never end helps perpetuate it. The surer we are that the world is irredeemably violent, the more likely we are to support hawkish leaders and policies, making our belief self-fulfilling. Our first step toward ending war is to believe that we can end it.

Pentagon Plans For Global Military Supremacy:

U.S., NATO Could Deploy Mobile Missiles Launchers To Europe

By Rick Rozoff

URL of this article:

Global Research, August 22, 2009

From August 17-20 the annual U.S. Space and Missile Defense Conference was conducted in Huntsville, Alabama, which hosts the headquarters of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

I have omitted remainder of this lengthy article but you may go to the link to get it.

1 comment:

Tarun Kumar said...

Official government measurements show that the world’s temperature has cooled a bit since reaching its most recent peak in 1998.

That’s given global warming skeptics new ammunition to attack the prevailing theory of climate change. The skeptics argue that the current stretch of slightly cooler temperatures means that costly measures to limit carbon dioxide emissions are ill-founded and unnecessary.

Proposals to combat global warming are “crazy” and will “destroy more than a million good American jobs and increase the average family’s annual energy bill by at least $1,500 a year,” the Heartland Institute, a conservative research organization based in Chicago, declared in full-page newspaper ads earlier this summer. “High levels of carbon dioxide actually benefit wildlife and human health,” the ads asserted.