Surviving Human Nature

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Munitions Industry

The 21st century expression of ancient tendencies is to apply advanced technologies to the design and manufacture of weapons. Every country that can afford high tech weapons makes a substantial investment in armaments. As new weapons are manufactured in more affluent countries, older weapons are sold to poorer countries so that the ability to destroy property and kill humans is well distributed all over the planet. The AK-47 is a hand-held automatic rifle, an agent of death, that is distributed worldwide. Kalashnikov designed the rifle when he was a sergeant in the Russian army. AK 47s and variants are cheap to make, reliable to use and readily available on gun black markets. Several countries manufacture and export them. They are sold to governments, criminals, civilians, terrorist and are used by child soldiers. In Africa, the cost of buying an Ak47 varies from $30 to $120 (US). Hodges described Kalashnikov societies where the proliferation of the weapon “makes it impossible for civil society to assert itself and halt the killing.”

When US President Eisenhower retired in 1961, he warned US citizens of the military industrial complex in the US. He stated prophetically: “The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Bender reported that the United States supplied $8.1 billion worth of weapons to developing countries in 2005, 45.8 percent of total arms sales; in contrast, Russia sold 15 percent of total arms and Britain, 13 percent. The US also signed $6.2 billion worth of new deals to sell attack helicopters, missiles, and other armaments to the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India, Israel, Egypt, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. New contracts for future weapons deliveries were worth $44 billion.

A report compiled by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service stated: “"We are at a point in history where many of these sales are not essential for the self-defense of these countries and the arms being sold continue to fuel conflicts and tensions in unstable areas...Where before the principal motivation for arms sales by foreign suppliers might have been to support a foreign policy objective, today that motivation may be based on economic motives."

India and China, the two most populous nations on the planet are creating large, powerful military organizations with nuclear weapons. China has advanced missile and submarine technology that gives them the offensive capacities that rival the worst that the US and Russia have to offer. The balance of power is shifting to Asia.

Weapons systems are evolving into networked extensions of human brains. Warriors imagine high technology coalitions such as NATO who will police the planet, with smart weapons and aircraft that can be remotely controlled by pilots sitting safely at workstations close to home. High performance jet fighters are still highly regarded in the US, Russia and Europe and come with price tags of 30 to 100 million USD each. Fighter pilots still talk about dog fights but they are flying at supersonic speeds and shooting guided missiles miles away from their adversaries. The good old days of acrobatic flying and daring maneuvers is gone. Increasingly, weapons become robots with their own electronic guidance and control systems.

Weapon lovers talk about the enemy with great enthusiasm. They want to use freedom destroying weapons to defend freedom. Without an enemy, expensive weapons look ridiculous. Hopeful idealists imagine a different nonviolent world with an external nervous system that links minds in grooming and altruistic information sharing that will render military activities obsolete.

A sober realist who studies weapons technology and the mind set of the creators will have serious doubts about the prospects for peace in centuries to come. For the foreseeable future, competition to establish military dominance would seem inevitable. It is easy to argue that most humans are ready to fight and support governments with stockpiles of weapons. The idea is not avoid war, but to avoid losing a war. Eisenhower was right. The military industrial complex is a powerful parasite that absorbs inordinate wealth, dedicated only to destruction and death.

The cover of national security and military honor keeps most citizens confused and docile. At home, military personnel wear attractive uniforms adorned with badges, and medals. They have bands, marches, and perform impressive funerals. Their cemeteries and national monuments to honor dead soldiers are often visited by patriotic citizens.

Anyone who really wants peace will have to confront and constrain governments that spend their money on weapons. They will have to reduce and redefine the nature and conduct of military organizations. The power of the military industrial complex must be reduced. The international sale of surplus armaments must cease. Guns at home must be limited.  The problem, of course, is that no country will agree to unilateral disarmament. In the USA, few citizens will give up their own guns. They are ready to fight. Everyone has to disarm at the same time to the same degree and so far, this is impossible.


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