In destructive economic systems, there is a feedback loop wherein it becomes self-confirming that greed and aggression lead to gains rather than acts that involve "playing by the rules", sharing profits, cooperating and helping others to prosper. As activities on Wall Street and in transnational corporations confirm, successful players are expected to produce income by any means possible, pay workers as little as required, charge as much as can be obtained for products and always tap into new markets for an enlarged customer base. It, also, requires a perception to be created that some newly devised product is desirable and must replace the older versions for which there is often built-in obsolescence.
In any case, new markets must always be found in order to raise financial yields. Any corporate manager who did not strive to develop them would quickly find himself in an unemployment office in addition to his being blacklisted by former colleagues.
Moreover, new stocks of resources, the raw materials from which products are made, must be tapped for global industries regardless of whether the people in the regions supplying these stores want to share them or not. In a similar vein, large scale commercial operations heavily rely on fossil fuels in the obtainment of raw resources, haulage of them to manufacturing sites, production of finished products and transportation of merchandise to market. So a steady source of petroleum must, also, be guaranteed.
Capturing Marketing, Taking Resources
This entire process, therefore, requires government leaders in support of their countries' industries to wrestle control of needed goods. Simultaneously, they have to convince the public that there are solid reasons to carry out assaults in resource-rich regions of the world -- places like the Caspian Sea, with its oil estimates ranging up to about 200 billion barrels or 15% of total world reserves. Add to this treasure the fact that the Caspian Sea, also, is believed to contain 4% of the world's proven reserves of gas according to the Congressional Research Service, an organization supplying bipartisan information to Congress, in its report titled "Caspian Oil and Gas: Production and Prospects".
Indeed, its author Bernard A. Gelb, a specialist in industry economics, states:
"There is a likelihood of relatively large reserves of crude oil and natural gas in the Caspian Sea region, and a consequent large increase in oil and natural gas production from that area. Because diversity of energy sources and energy security are considerations in Congressional deliberations on energy policy, this prospect could play a role in such discussions. However, there are obstacles to increases in Caspian Sea region production of oil and gas [such as Russia's and Iran's unwillingness to hand Caspian Sea resources over to U.S. control] that may slow development." He goes on to add: "However, Iran now can compete somewhat with the BTC pipeline through oil “swaps” that ultimately divert Caspian region oil away from Western, including U.S., markets. Iran has enlarged its tanker terminal at Neka on the Caspian Sea coast, enhancing its capacity to deliver Caspian oil to refineries for local consumption, with an equivalent amount of Iranian oil exported through Persian Gulf terminals.
Put alternately, uncooperative countries, such as Iran and Venezuela, with assets coveted by Western corporations give the perfect excuse to western governments to demonize them, threaten them and seek out destabilization of their regimes. All the same, the maligned nations will not let their reserves be plundered whether bullied or not by outside groups willing to use any means possible to obtain their prizes.
Further, full government support of corporate goals is nearly always available. After all, members of Congress want huge donations for reelection campaigns.
At the same time, it becomes quickly clear about whose interests they, ultimately, serve (rather than the public's) when government officials' desire for these contributions, lucrative future jobs after exiting public service and maximization of personal profits from their financial holdings are added into the mix. Indeed, "members of Congress invested nearly 196 million dollars of their own money in business that receive hundreds of millions of dollars a day from Pentagon". So taken all together, these conditions provide plenty of motivation to keep the nation's war drums beating.
Therefore, wars are big business, most notably for investors and employees in the aerospace and defense industries. The related purposes, like the ones guiding most corporations, are hardly humanistic. Instead new sources of revenue, cheap resources from conquered lands, and new markets for products and services are the sine qua non.
Accordingly, the Pentagon and the corporations that supplies goods and manpower for wars have one general intention in mind and that is not even to win wars. Winning wars would mean that money-spinning contracts and growth of the organizations' national and global influence would shrink. Jobs, then, would disappear, high salaries would not be commanded and gargantuan earnings would cut back if wars were, actually, won and, thus, completed.
Instead, the intention is to strengthen control of regions and their resources, open up new markets for one's own country's products, continually advance into new territories to create the same outcome and, eventually, dictate assorted policies across the entire world. Consequently, the U.S.A., despite having a $12T federal deficit, aims to advance its ongoing plans to have full-spectrum dominance over the economies, territories, politics, military affairs and other entire governments on a full global scale and in support of American enterprises.
It, also, means that an all-out attempt to quell the Taliban will take place since Afghanistan and Pakistan are both needed to move the fossil fuels to emerging markets and ensure that central Asian economies are tied to U.S. corporate interests rather than those of Russia and China. On account, it is critical that both latter nations be blocked if western dominion over Asian markets for obtainment of raw resources and sales of final products, i.e., fossil fuels, are to result.
In the same vein, American citizens are not much of a consideration. After all, markets and remuneration for oil and other supplies might be superlative in India, China or other lands with advancing economies and plenty of money to spare. As such, concern over protection of us from terrorists (the latest justification for carrying out assaults abroad in lands like Yemen) and any desire to improve the lives of peoples in the U.S. or developing countries are minor considerations at best. Instead, it is far more on the mark to ask, as did Woodrow Wilson: "Is there any man, is there any woman, let me say any child here that does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry?"
So one winds up wondering whether a moment will ever arrive in which the public can, actually, identify this origin for wars and rise up in resistance to such a degenerate state of affairs. As an alternative, the populace can continue to equate support of war with a patriotic spirit, enthusiastically wave flags every time that there's a parade with tanks and other weaponry, and endorse far-away assaults with hardly a dissenting murmur. Meanwhile war activities, themselves, increasingly bankrupt the country morally and financially.
As such, it is useful to bear in mind that warfare almost exclusively concerns resources and trade except for religious rivalries and the small scale fighting of feudal lords. With the desire to gain ever greater advantages for oneself and one's own group by taking these away from other subjugated groups, campaigns have always been perpetuated under false pretexts, especially so when energy supplies are involved.
It follows, then, that any politician not exhibiting Woodrow Wilson's stark honesty on this point is both a liar and a propagandist with the ulterior motive to control public perception so there is advancement of war. This understanding, if nothing else, should be absolutely clear.
At the same time, the use of contractors all but guarantees that the sort of public backlash that occurred from so many troops having been killed and injured in Vietnam will not be repeated. If there exists no mandatory conscription due to freelancers being used, American citizens will feel less threatened by war even though they are paying an exorbitant amount for it and for the aid to far-away lands that the U.S. government wants to influence through bribes.
And the bribes keep coming. For example, a record State Department and foreign aid budget, amounting $49 billion, cleared the House last summer.
So is it surprising that some Americans are furious that universal single-payer healthcare, infrastructure repairs, WPA-style jobs and budget relief for insolvent States in the union aren't adequately provided? Is it flabbergasting that they are outraged over Israel receiving $2.4B in foreign aid (ostensibly used to buy weapons primarily manufactured by U.S. companies) in 2008 with an additional $30B promised over the next 10 years period? Should there be annoyance that many other countries receiving aid, i.e., Egypt ($1.7B in 2008), have the funds slated to purchase armaments ($1.3B of that Egyptian total) and have less than sterling human rights records? In any case, USAID's total assets amounted to $26.1 billion as of September 2009. This huge amount will, certainly, help guarantee that many U.S. agendas abroad will be heartily followed by others.
Moving to become a largely authoritarian militaristic state -- the U.S.A. shows little self-constraint as it forces its will, through a combination of buy-offs and assaults, wherever and however it pleases upon the rest of the world. As a result, it has to create a positive perception and ever larger gifts of money to acquire allies, certainly, fit the bill.
In addition, Americans no longer getting riled up because their sons were conscripted through a mandatory recruitment system, also, does so. Instead of a draft, the Pentagon will authorize, according to the Congressional Research Service, between 26,000 to 56,000 additional battlefield contractors in Afghanistan, which would total as a force between 130,000 to 160,000, or very nearly two for every single troop despite the added 30,000 troops recently authorized to ship off to Afghanistan.
In other words, outsourced war, while terribly expensive for taxpayers, seems the wave of the future as it doesn't foment comprehensive anti-war activism. As such, the act of killing will increasingly become a large scale, lucrative industry supported by U.S. taxes and overseas loans (most notably from China).
So if any unemployed American wants a job, all that he needs to follow is the money, which is increasing going into U.S. invasions largely carried out by private mercenaries. Besides, he has many options if he doesn't want to become an outworker.
For instance, he could join the armed forces, which offer plenty of opportunities for work since the U.S. government currently has over 1,000 military bases spread out across the world and roughly the same number on U.S. soil. He'd, also, have plenty of company as there, presently, exist 1,445,000 active-duty armed service members, 800,000 Department of Defense civilian employees and 1.2 million National Guards, along with other reservists who are periodically tapped for Middle East ventures.
This vast setup translates to the U.S., with only 4% of the world's population, allocating more than $711B annually in military spending, which obviously burdens the taxpayer and removes funds from other programs that would, actually, serve human welfare at home and abroad. In addition, arrangement, obviously, does not lead to global security, nor the alleviation of poverty. If there is any doubt on these points, ask any Iraqi or Afghani his assessment.
Instead regions are destabilized, and the social and material structures that previously had contributed to human benefits largely are blown to smithereens. Even so, fighting insurgents, at least for the U.S.A., will continue to be a mainstay of foreign policy, as well as the U.S. economy, itself.
All in all, the following facts well lay out the course that, instead of heavy reliance on diplomacy, the U.S. leadership has chosen:
- US military spending accounts for 48 percent, or almost half, of the world’s total military spending
- US military spending is more than the next 46 highest spending countries in the world combined
- US military spending is 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran.
- US military spending is almost 55 times the spending on the six “rogue” states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) whose spending amounts to around $13 billion, maximum. (Tabulated data does not include four of the six, as the data only lists nations that have spent over 1 billion in the year, so their budget is assumed to be $1 billion each)
- US spending is more than the combined spending of the next 45 countries.
- The United States and its strongest allies (the NATO countries, Japan, South Korea and Australia) spend $1.1 trillion on their militaries combined, representing 72 percent of the world’s total.
- The six potential “enemies,” Russia, and China together account for about $205 billion or 29% of the US military budget."
"[T]he lion’s share of this money is not spent by the Pentagon on protecting American citizens. It goes to supporting U.S. military activities, including interventions, throughout the world. Were this budget and the organization it finances called the 'Military Department,' then attitudes might be quite different. Americans are willing to pay for defense, but they would probably be much less willing to spend billions of dollars if the money were labeled 'Foreign Military Operations,'” according to the Center For Defense Information at World Military Spending.
Letting Blackwater off the Hook
In any case, anyone choosing to enter military service should keep in mind that contracting companies often show little loyalty to U.S. troops, nor a sense of responsibility for their actions when involving civilians of war torn countries. This lapse in accountability is clearly demonstrated by the shootings and the recent dismissal of charges against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards for civilian deaths in Iraq.
So instead, there increasingly exist situations in which depraved indifference to life is exhibited. One of many such circumstances is this one describing KBR's seemingly deliberate neglect to inform in a timely fashion about troop exposure to a highly poisonous chemical, sodium dichromate, at a site in Iraq overseen by KBR. In addition, KBR is fighting a reparatory lawsuit related to the incident. After all, any deserved payout for damage and death is to be avoided at all costs as remuneration would, absolutely, impact company earnings.
Concerning the event, from NBC News:
"What upsets some of the Guardsmen most of all is that, after serving their country faithfully, they believe the Army and KBR let them down by not fully acknowledging or investigating their exposure to the toxic chemical or their serious health problems. Some suffered for years and only recently have a possible explanation why.
[Sodium dichromate] had been used by Iraqi workers prior to the war to prevent corrosion in the pipes at the plant. There were hundreds of bags at the chemical at the plant, some of them clearly labeled.
The mission's official military name was Task Force RIO ('Restoration of Iraqi Oil'). KBR got the contract.
Six years later, some of the Guardsmen assigned to provide security for Task Force RIO at the plant are dead, dying or suffering from serious health problems--including rashes, perforated septums and lung disease. One of the foremost experts in sodium dichromate, Dr. Herman Gibb, says the Guardsmen's symptoms are consistent with 'significant exposure' to the chemical.
KBR argues that the company is not to blame. The company says it told the Army about the dangerous chemical as soon as it was identified at the plant. That, the company says, was on July 25, 2003.
"But, international KBR documents contradict that claim, and indicate that the company became aware of the chemical at the site two months earlier."
Of course, one cannot expect mercenaries and outside contractors operating in war zones to care much about the lives of troops or others. After all, their main loyalty is not to the U.S. military, nor the U.S.A. as a whole, but to the companies that hired them and through which they are being paid to do whatever they are told.
Transnationals Have It Their Way
Aside from war zone contracting firms, many other transnational consortiums are doing equally well during the economic downturn, as the multimillion dollar bonuses given to management of these power houses continually remind. One such company is McDonald's. In fact, its balance sheet even indicates that it has been wildly prospering since the recession worsened.
With always more deforested land available around the globe, impoverished peoples looking to make a fast buck are more and more turning to cattle ranching and soy farming for animal feed. So therein lies plenty of breaks for McDonald's.
Not having to subsume the environmental costs for its policies, it and several other fast food syndicates are cornering the market in sales for families wanting to eat out, but without the funds to dine at more costly eateries. So for the first quarter of 2009, sales went up and earned an impressive $979.5 million, a nearly 4% increase. The rest of the year followed suit despite fears that a strengthening dollar might lower gains due to the exchange rate for other currencies collected at overseas' sites.
However, the company's management in Oak Brook, Illinois, really needn't have worried. After all, there are over 31,000 restaurants worldwide, with more than 1.5 million workers operating in 119 countries on six continents with over 47 million daily customers. So major losses would hardly be in the picture given that the majority of people around the world are now struggling to make ends meet.
At the same time, these stats are bound to change for the better when even more populations are inundated by American armed forces bent on subduing them, inadvertently destroying local businesses and creating opportunities for ever more McDonald's workers forced to accept minimum wages as an alternative to no job in their newly destroyed lands. Like their impoverished American counterparts, who've been stripped of good jobs with decent wages in the mad rush towards globalized industry, they too can find the satisfaction of a secure employment position with a low salary and, at the end of a weary day, a happy meal as an extra perk.
As McDonald's leadership surely must know, bringing "democracy" to developing nations, eventually, has a big payoff for American businesses focused on wiping out the small scale competition like Mom and Pop restaurants overseas. If one can endure patient waiting, the further openings will be a veritable whopper. It's just a matter of time.
In the end, wars are successful commercial enterprises. As a result, they are, progressively, becoming the foundation for the new American economy. Especially this is so as former jobs are not coming back to the American shores in that it's cheaper for transnational companies to outsource and offshore work.
No From World War II Bounce
In relation, the Second World War not only jump-started the American economy in the aftermath of the Great Depression, it provided lots of employment prospects for many subsequent years on account of the need to rebuild across whole continents and in their devastated cities like London, Dresden, Mukden (now Shenyang) and Ningbo. This is not the case this time around due to the heavy reliance on outside contractors, who more often than not don't reconstruct much well at all, as the U.S. soldier electrocutions on a base in Baghdad and the Task Force RIO poisonings clearly demonstrate. In other words, they often are potentially dangerous and largely useless.
This all in mind, any financial and other benefits from warfare will not uplift Main Street. Instead, they increasingly will serve the special interests of corporations. As such, the economic downturn will continue to deepen throughout the U.S.A. while thousands of foreigners in assault zones are maimed and murdered.
Consequently, all that we can hope is that Russia and China will persist in making improvements in their own nations and the lives of their citizens. It's obvious that, if they were to mimic America's squandering of money in ever enlarging wars, the outcome wouldn't be good at all.
Emily Spence is an author living in Massachusetts. She has spent many years involved in human rights, environmental and social services efforts.