Despite significant human improvements in so many countries in the last few hundred years the drive for war and violence on a mass scale persists. To most people armed conflict is abhorrent so what motivates the resort to war? Amir Haidari reports
“The movement against war is sound. I pray for its success. But I cannot help the gnawing fear that the movement will fail if it does not touch the root of all evil—human greed”. Gandhi
19th Century general and German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz defined war simply as “the continuation of policy by other means”. According to him war is the extension of politics through brute military force in order to achieve political goals. This definition of war remains ever so relevant today as it was in the 19th Century.
Similar to the past, todays’ wars are fought to accomplish political and economic ends. From Afghanistan, to Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and even to Ukraine, wars are fought to control whole regions, countries, populations and perhaps crucially resources. The colonial expansions of major Europeans powers and its subsequent exploitation of Africa, Asia and Latin America was particularly motivated by these factors.
The legacy of these wars has been death, destruction, displacement and environmental devastation. The people of these countries have been treated nothing more than pawns in the bigger game of chess in the struggle for world domination and control.
More recently, war profiteering in the West has created a revolving door between politics, industry, media and corporations that have made a lot of individuals and corporations rich at the expense of the poor.
The military industrial, intelligence complex increasingly dominate every aspect of life in the West including Australia. They make decisions on wars by manipulating the public perception. They view the public as passive herds that have to be lied to for their own good without involving them in the process of decision-making. They pass sophisticated laws to protect massive corporations by giving them tax breaks, subsidies and bailouts. At the same time they pass draconian laws to give the police and the courts greater powers to prosecute protesters and whistle-blowers.
Consequently, the public is not only losing confidence in their leaders but also in their institutions. The political persecution of Julian Assange in the UK and David McBride in Australia and the subsequent failed calls for the charges to be dropped have further demonstrated the inability of the public to influence decision-making.
The permanent war industry will always seeks to win no matter the outcome of wars. Hence, in the current climate, as long as the incentive for war remains, we will continue to witness wars. Gandhi recognised the role of greed in war a long time ago.
He famously said that “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not for every man’s greed. The wars of our times spring from greed”. Gandhi’s observation remains relevant to this day as it was back in mid 1920s.
War is not necessary as Machiavelli and other present day Machiavellis claim. There is no such thing as “do evil for the greater good”. Evil is evil. In fact, “The greatest evil is war” according to Pulitzer winner journalist and author Chris Hedges.
War often comes from weakness and insecurity. It is usually the well-developed and powerful countries that instigate wars not the other way around. Therefore, “poor nations didn’t plunge the world into war. Rich nations that coveted even greater riches did”. L.P.Jacks
There are various examples from around the globe where countries have done well without resorting to war to guarantee their survival and their economic wellbeing.
Switzerland and Sweden are known for remaining neutral during major conflicts and they have some of the highest living standards in the world. For starters, they have heavily invested in their populations, industries and institutions. They have trusted in their own abilities to navigate any challenges that may arise along the way. The West, particularly Australia can do the same.
Australia is strategically located in the Asia Pacific, which is an advantage when it comes to trading. It has a relatively well skilled and agile workforce that can play a crucial role in its own advancement as well as the development of many other countries with low-tech industries.
Australia can produce more than just weapons. We should not be a global leader in high tech killing machines that is heavily subsidised by the government. Instead, we should be leaders in high-tech agriculture and other industries that can improve the lives people around the world. It can only happen if our leaders trust themselves; do not hijack us by appealing to fear and by not blindly following the U.S. in its misadventures abroad. We can do better than going to wars alongside the U.S. that has been at war almost in the entirety of its history. We are better than this.
Amir Haidari is an Afghan-Australian and has a BA and MA in international studies from UNI SA and the University of Adelaide.
We welcome contributions from AWPR members and supporters. These guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of AWPR.