The War and the Circus

Perhaps most humans are congenitally belligerent and can be reasonably expected to get into fights. But it takes institutionalized big businesses to create a war machine that raises ordinary human belligerence to levels of superhuman insanity. The war machine — and one can argue that indeed there is only one such thing but with a global reach, even though its components are multinational in the sense that people from various nations participate in their creation and maintenance — is so pervasive that it seems to be as natural, unchangeable, and logical as the seasons. Like the seasons, the war machine dictates how people carry on with their lives unquestioningly. People generally accept the war machine as naturally they do the seasons.

But if one stops to think about it, unlike the seasons, the war machine is entirely man-made. The men (and they are overwhelmingly men, regardless of the color of their skins or their eyes) in charge of the military-industrial complex create the war machine for their own amusement and aggrandizement. They have the power to create ever more lethal, ever more expensive components of the war machine, and that power extracts ever more resources from the global economy to ratchet up the destructive power of the machine monotonically. The machine almost literally sucks up life out of the people who have no power over it but who eventually pay for it with their blood, sweat and tears. The men controlling the machine, however, get more of what motivates them — raw, naked, unimaginable power.

Every nation on earth is involved in this insanity, directly or indirectly. The desperately poor third-world nations starve their own people to buy ever more expensive weapons from the advanced industrialized countries. By keeping these nations fighting amongst themselves, the advanced industrialized countries achieve two goals. First, income.

The desperately poor third-world nations pay the advanced industrialized countries for weapons they cannot afford. If one side of a particular conflict involving two desperately poor third-world countries is unable to afford the weapons, the advanced industrialized countries give out “aid” to prop it up so that it does not lose and thereby end the conflict. The other side, to maintain balance, then has to become a paying customer and buy an equivalent set. This is a source of income for the advanced industrialized countries, and more damagingly, a transfer of wealth from the desperately poor to the amazingly prosperous.

The second goal of the advanced industrialized countries (AIC) is the disposal of obsolete weapons. Weapons age and become useless to the original developers. Instead of scrapping them, they are sold to the desperately poor third-world countries. (As the saying in Hindi goes, “आम के आम, गुत्लियो के दाम!”) This provides them the space and the funds required to develop the next round of more expensive weapons — which when the time comes, will similarly be sold to the desperately poor third-world nations.

In effect, to a large extent the poor of the desperately poor third-world countries fund each round of successive advanced weapons development. Of course, the poor of the DPTWC (shortened now since I have repeated “desperately poor third-world countries” enough times to get the idea across) often cheer when their leaders buy these weapons. Their jubilance at what grinds them into further poverty arises out of the same attitude that dragged them into poverty in the first place: an astounding stupidity that is matched only by the immorality of the venal bastards in power.

I should note here that the venal bastards in power are not men of any specific skin or eye color. The VBiP occur in all nations — whether in DPTWCs like India and Pakistan or in AICs like the US and Russia. All these VBiP have their incentives aligned and act accordingly. They are the politicians, the generals, captains of the military-industrial complex, and weapons dealers. They are found in Washington, DC, New Delhi, Moscow, Islamabad, Beijing, and other such fine places that the poor of the DPTWC do not inhabit. The names of the politicians are all over the newspapers and their faces on TVs and magazines: Bush, Clinton, Putin, Manmohan Singh, Sharif, Mugabe, . . . The generals, CEOs of the military-industrial complex, and weapons dealers are not usually household names but they are there from all parts of the world, rich or poor.

Talk of poverty, inequality, development, and such have been all the rage for the past so many years. There are those who are convinced that entrepreneurship and innovation will solve these pressing problems. Some lean heavily on hi-tech gizmos and declare that One Laptop Per Child is the obvious answer to poverty; some others flog the horse of micro-finance mercilessly convinced that it will pull the poor out of poverty; some high-mindedly declare that taxing the rich and re-distributing the proceeds to the poor will be best (whilst all the while handling the money with very sticky fingers); some others believe that the only way out of any problem is killing sufficient numbers of bystanders through suicide bombing in accordance with their religious beliefs; the nuttiest argue that globalization, capitalism, and the market are the real villains and the best way out of poverty is to prevent any sort of industrialization, and so on. The notion that perhaps the poverty of the poor in the DPTWCs is related to the weapons (that the AIC build, operate and sell, and which the powerful in the poor countries so eagerly buy) is not advanced frequently, if at all.

I am conflicted when I consider this issue. Is it the stupidity of the poor, or is it the greed of the rich and powerful that is the primary source of this state of affairs? Perhaps it is a tango and both have to be involved for the dance to happen. Whatever it is, though, it is all karma. Or as they say, you makes your bed, you perforce has to lie in it.

Anyhow, now that I am done with the preface, here are some items (in no particular order) which may be relevant in the context.

Item: The Acorn ponders “the absurdity of giving Predator drones to Pakistan.” Ostensible reason: for Pakistan to fight the Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Yeah right! Pakistan gave birth to them and nourishes them. Why would it want to kill its own babies? Real reason that the US continues to gift weapons to Pakistan has to do with what I wrote above.

I reproduce below the comment I made at The Acorn:

The absurdity of the situation is resolved if you consider that the military-industrial complex of the US is involved in a simple dollar auction.

Briefly, the US gives Pakistan drones under some pretext. Since Pakistan is broke, it cannot pay for them. So the US gives military assistance to Pakistan to buy the drones with. Which basically means that the US pays its weapons manufacturers for supplying the Pakistanis. That’s the first-order effect of military aid to Pakistan: US weapons manufacturers continue to be in business.

The second-order effect follows predictably. India now has to match Pakistan’s weapons. India pays the US to buy drones. This means more business for US weapons manufacturers.

The war on terror has to continue because that’s what allows the machinery of the military-industrial complex humming away. The US is a military superpower and any day of the week it actually wants to, it can totally wipe off global Islamic terrorism. That it chooses not to do so is simple: its weapons industry will hurt like hell. Sure the US exports a lot of stuff other than weapons. But the politicians who make the policies are in the pockets of the weapons manufacturers.

Allow me to quote from an essay I wrote many years ago, “Dollar Auctions and Deadly Games.”

In a recent op-ed piece, “Stopping America’s Most Lethal Export,” in the New York Times, winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize Oscar Arias wrote: “While the arms industry profits, people throughout the world suffer… the true weapons of mass destruction are the jet fighters, tanks, machine guns and other military exports that the United States ships to non- democratic countries–a record $8.3 billion worth in the 1997 fiscal year, the last year for which figures are available.” Aside from anything else, the incontrovertible fact is that war is costly for all except for weapons manufacturers.

Moving on, let’s consider another example of DPTWCs buying useless junk from AICs.

Item: In January 2004, India signed a deal to buy the antique and obsolete 1980s-design Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. Originally the deal was for $1.5 billion but the Russians later said that the retrofitting will take an additional $2 billion. The heap of prettied-up scrap will be delivered to India sometime in 2012, and it will be accessorized with 16 matching MiG-29Ks. The deal was made by the Congress-led UPA government. Pranab Mukherjee and lots of other people got lots of foreign trips out of the deal. The Indian navy big bosses must be looking forward to having another floating deck to strut about on.

Meanwhile, however, aircraft carriers have become sitting ducks. Gary Brecher writes, “THIS IS HOW THE CARRIERS WILL DIE

I’ve been saying for a long time that aircraft carriers are just history’s most expensive floating targets, and that they were doomed.

But now I can tell you exactly how they’re going to die. I’ve just read one of the most shocking stories in years. It comes from the US Naval Institute, not exactly an alarmist or anti-Navy source. And what it says is that the US carrier group is scrap metal.

The Chinese military has developed a ballistic missile, Dong Feng 21, specifically designed to kill US aircraft carriers: “Because the missile employs a complex guidance system, low radar signature and a maneuverability that makes its flight path unpredictable, the odds that it can evade tracking systems to reach its target are increased. It is estimated that the missile can travel at mach 10 and reach its maximum range of 2000km in less than 12 minutes.” That’s the US Naval Institute talking, remember. They’re understating the case when they say that, with speed, satellite guidance and maneuverability like that, “the odds that it can evade tracking systems to reach its target are increased.” [1]

I believe that a large part of the answer to the persistent and pervasive poverty of the DPTWCs lies in the insanity of modern war. And the answer is that until the people realize what is going on, they are unlikely to move a finger to change the system. But then that requires an understanding of what is going on, an understanding that in our case we don’t have given the dismal state of our educational system. Indeed, one could cynically argue that the educational system is deliberately not allowed to function because otherwise the people may become smart and stop feeding the machine. Cynical but perhaps closer to the truth than what those in power want you to believe.

Meanwhile, the poor will continue to be distracted from the real issues by the routinely staged three-ring circus called “democratic elections.” Let the circus begin. Because the least one can give them in exchange for their blood, sweat and tears is some entertainment.


[1]. You should go read that article for more but I cannot resist quoting a bit more from it because I like the way he puts it:

The lesson here is the same one all of you suckers should have learned from watching the financial news this year: the people at the top are just as dumb as you are, just meaner and greedier. And that goes for the ones running the US surface fleet as much as it does for the GM or Chrysler honchos. Hell, they even look the same. Take that Wagoner ass who just got the boot from GM and put him in a tailored uniform and he could walk on as an admiral in any officer’s club from Guam to Diego Garcia. You have to stop thinking somebody up there is looking out for you.

Remember that one sentence, get it branded onto your arm: “Ships currently have no defense against a ballistic missile attack.” What does that tell you about the distinguished gentlemen with all the ribbons on their chest who’ve been standing up on carrier bridges looking like they know what they’re doing for the past 50 years? They’re either stupid or so sleazy they’re willing to make a career commanding ships they know, goddamn well know, are floating coffins for thousands of ranks and dozens of the most expensive goldplated airplanes in the history of the world. You call that patriotic? I’d hang them all.


Author: Atanu Dey


4 thoughts on “The War and the Circus”

  1. So you see, my dear Coningsby, that the world is governed by very different personages from what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes.
    – From Coningsby by Benjamin Disraeli


  2. Hey, Have you read 1984 by George Orwell? In it, there is a chapter called “War is peace”. Go read it. No one has ever been so articulate in putting forth the other side of “The War” than George Orwell:

    Here is one nugget:

    The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of
    DOUBLETHINK, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by
    the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the
    machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end
    of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of
    consumption goods has been latent in industrial society. At present, when
    few human beings even have enough to eat, this problem is obviously not
    urgent, and it might not have become so, even if no artificial processes
    of destruction had been at work. The world of today is a bare, hungry,
    dilapidated place compared with the world that existed before 1914, and
    still more so if compared with the imaginary future to which the people of
    that period looked forward. In the early twentieth century, the vision of
    a future society unbelievably rich, leisured, orderly, and efficient–a
    glittering antiseptic world of glass and steel and snow-white concrete–was
    part of the consciousness of nearly every literate person. Science and
    technology were developing at a prodigious speed, and it seemed natural to
    assume that they would go on developing. This failed to happen, partly
    because of the impoverishment caused by a long series of wars and
    revolutions, partly because scientific and technical progress depended on
    the empirical habit of thought, which could not survive in a strictly
    regimented society. As a whole the world is more primitive today than it
    was fifty years ago. Certain backward areas have advanced, and various
    devices, always in some way connected with warfare and police espionage,
    have been developed, but experiment and invention have largely stopped,
    and the ravages of the atomic war of the nineteen-fifties have never been
    fully repaired. Nevertheless the dangers inherent in the machine are still
    there. From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it
    was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and
    therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the
    machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt,
    illiteracy, and disease could be eliminated within a few generations.
    And in fact, without being used for any such purpose, but by a sort of
    automatic process–by producing wealth which it was sometimes impossible
    not to distribute–the machine did raise the living standards of the
    average human being very greatly over a period of about fifty years at
    the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.



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