WASHINGTON - US President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has created tensions in the Middle East that could escalate into a bloody war.
The situation may have generated excitement among warmongers sitting in the power corridors of Tel Aviv and Washington, but it has traumatised the people of Syria and other parts of the region who are already grappling with the effects of a Western-backed jihadist insurgency.
The war in Syria has already killed more 500,000 people and displaced 11 million others. The country has also lost more than $230 billion owing to the destruction wreaked by this war. Around 13.5 million Syrians are dependent on UN humanitarian assistance. It is not clear whether Trump’s decision will affect Iran or not. But it has the potential to turn Syria into a battleground between Tel Aviv and Tehran.
Why doesn’t the plight of those battered by wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of world prompt Americans to prevent their own rulers from unleashing destruction. Why do Americans elect warmongers who play with the lives of millions? Why haven’t they elected a president over the last seven decades who isn’t involved in some conflict or the other? Why are wars a permanent phenomenon in American history?
According to some historians, the US has militarily intervened more than 223 times since its independence. So, does the fault lie in the evil nature of individuals who ascend to power or it is the gargantuan appetite of the military-industrial complex that prompts every US president – whether he is a pacifist Democrat or a hawkish Republican – to wage a war. Does the nature of the American economy contribute to this phenomenon of permanent war that the mighty superpower has been unable to wipe out despite having a plethora of nuclear arms?
Economists believe that US economy is heavily dependent on the war industry. America is a state that is created from the womb of war and genocide. It is believed that the alliance between the US arms industry and the government is as old as the country itself.
Even the American Civil War turned out to be immensely profitable for arms manufacturers. The end of the war resulted in a collapse in demand and pushed several gun-makers towards bankruptcy. But those who managed to secure foreign contracts continued to make money. Later, the Spanish-American War also helped warmongers and arms manufacturers.
The dependence of the American economy on wars and conflicts continued to grow in the 20th century as well. Under capitalism, the destruction of one country or region feeds into the prosperity of another state or region. This is what exactly happened during World War I. The US remained neutral during most of WWI and only entered the conflict in April 1917. But the mobilisation of its economy was extraordinary. Over four million Americans served in the armed forces and the American economy produced a vast supply of raw materials and munitions.
The end of the war caused a drastic slump in production. Some historians claim that the state of peace was one of the contributing factors that led to the Great Depression. The economic crisis created joblessness and some experts claimed that the unemployment rate was over 25 percent.
The situation prompted Roosevelt, the then US president, to launch the ambitious New Deal. But it is believed that the deal created jobs for only four million Americans while World War II provided every American with a job.
According to Dr Jacques Pauwels, it cannot be denied that the Great Depression in America only ended during, and because of, WWII. “Economic demand rose spectacularly,” Pauwels writes. “The war allowed American industry to produce unlimited amounts of war equipment… In addition, [the] American industry also supplied gargantuan amounts of equipment to the British and even the Soviets via Lend-Lease. The key problem of the Great Depression – the disequilibrium between supply and demand – was thus resolved because the state ‘primed the pump’ of economic demand by means of huge orders of a military nature”.
The war put an end to the effects of the Great Depression, giving Americans higher wages and increasing their purchasing power. It is believed that American corporations also immensely benefited from this great slaughter of the 20th century.
According to historian Stuart D Brandes, “between 1942 and 1945, the net profits of America’s 2,000 biggest firms were more than 40 percent higher than during the period 1936-1939… This largesse benefited the American business world in general, but in particular that relatively restricted elite of big corporations known as ‘big business’ or ‘corporate America’. During the war, less than 60 firms obtained 75 percent of all lucrative military and other state orders”. Many economists claim that a phenomenal increase was witnessed in economic activity during wartime. For instance, the GDP growth skyrocketed to over 17 percent in 1942.
After WWII, the USSR was used as a bogey to continue military spending. The Korean War may have killed three million people but it helped Washington achieve a GDP growth rate of 11.4 percent in 1951 despite the fact that WWII was over. Although this growth decreased in subsequent years, it once again witnessed a boost in 1966 during the Vietnam War.
So, the entire cold war supported the American arms industry. The industry simultaneously became one of the largest sources of employment for Americans. The arms industry’s role in job creation continues to this day. To some extent, such dependence fuels conflicts as well. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the arms industry witnessed a downward spiral. But soon, the bogey of Al-Qaeda and the war on terror was coined.
The dependence on the arm industry for jobs and the immense profit that began during the American Civil War continues even today. The largest American export deal is related to arms. Trump struck a deal worth over $300 billion with Saudi Arabia. His administration is also making efforts to strike arms deals with Japan, Qatar and other states. So, the question is: who is going to buy American arms if there is peace in the world?
According to an article penned by history professor Robert Reich in 2010: “Over 1,400,000 Americans are now on active duty; another 833,000 are in the reserves, many full time. Another 1,600,000 Americans work in companies that supply the military with everything from weapons to utensils”. This reflects the dependence of Americans on arms companies for job creation. After 2008, the spectre of unemployment haunted Americans. Reich believed that if the country did not have this giant military jobs programme, its unemployment rate would be over 11.5 percent in 2010 instead of 9.5 percent.
Intellectuals believe that the US needs to get rid of this military spending and direct its resources towards other sectors that could create more jobs. A research report of Brown University found that investments in elementary and secondary education create nearly three times as many American jobs as defence spending while healthcare creates about twice as many jobs. While $1 million spent on defence creates 6.9 direct and indirect jobs, the same amount spent on elementary and secondary education creates 19.2 jobs. Around$1 million spent on healthcare creates 14.3 jobs.
America’s ruling elite needs to divert its people’s hard-earned money towards such sectors. This policy will not only end Washington’s reliance on wars to create jobs at home but will also save millions of lives that are annihilated due to the gargantuan appetite of the military-industrial complex.
By: Abdul Sattar: The writer is a freelance journalist.