If you want affluence, prepare for war.
University of NSW, Kensington, Australia.
(Published in Democracy and Nature, 8, 2, July 2002.)
The economy underlying the way of life taken for granted in Western industrial-affluent-consumer societies is an imperial system involving extreme injustice, oppression and use of terror. After documenting this situation at some length, attention is given to the general issue of affluence, resource scarcity and peace and security in a world of limited resources, severe inequality and obsession with economic growth and ever-rising living standards. It is argued that peace and security cannot be expected unless the rich and over-consuming countries undertake a fundamental, enormous (and improbable) shift away from their commitments to affluence and growth and towards The Simpler Way.
The core elements in the response to the events of September 11, 2001 made by Western media, governments, and general publics was a stunned incredulity that anyone would want to do such things. As the editors of Monthly Review put it, people respond as if "A benevolent democratic and peace loving nation was brutally attacked by insane evil terrorists who hate the US " 1. Consequently the acts could only be interpreted as irrational, unjustified, criminal and driven by fanaticism and/or insanity.
This response derives from the dominant view of the way the global economy works. This view assumes a world market economy in which a nations fate is rightly determined primarily by its capacity to compete according to the rules of the impartial and efficient global market place. Rich nations are assumed to have achieved far higher living standards because they are further down the path to modernity, a path which all can and will follow, although many Third World countries are severely handicapped by corruption, difficult environments and lack of resources. Rich countries are taken to assist poor countries in their struggle to develop, giving aid and loans and bringing foreign investment. Because development is essentially seen in terms of increasing the volume of production for sale it is understood that the more poor countries facilitate market forces, trade and investment, financial transfers with rich countries the faster development will occur. The problems poor countries experience are seen to be either due to difficult circumstances beyond their control, such as poor soils, overpopulation, or corruption, or their technical and social backwardness. The relationship is therefore regarded as being based on mutual benefit, and more commonly as noble in that rich countries are helping poor countries to develop.
This dominant, taken for granted view of the situation is almost entirely invalid. Following are some of the core elements in a more accurate representation of the way the world works.
Rich countries are taking most of the worlds resource production. Their per capita resource consumption is about 20 times the average of the poorest half of the worlds people. That they are consuming far more than their fair share is evident in many measures; for example, to provide a North American lifestyle requires approximately 12 ha of productive land, but the per capital average amount of productive land on the planet is only 1.2 ha. The rich squander resources on affluent living standards and frivolous luxuries while billions live in poverty. Many of these resources are drawn from the Third World. Much of the productive capacity of the Third World has been allocated to the production of commodities and manufactured goods for the benefit of the corporations and banks in the rich countries, who own the plantations and factories, and of the people who shop in rich world supermarkets. Very little of the benefit goes to the poor majority in the Third World. Shirt makers in Bangladesh are paid 15 cents an hour.2 In other words, the development that has taken place is almost totally inappropriate to the needs of most Third World people. It has been development in the interests of the rich.
The crucial point about "development" is to do with options foregone. It is easy to imagine forms of development that are far more likely to meet the needs of people, their society and their ecosystems but these are prohibited by conventional/capitalist development. Needs would be most effectively met if people were able to apply their available resources of land, forest, fisheries, labour, skill and capital to the production of basic items such as food and shelter. This is precisely what normal conventional/capitalist development prevents, because it ensures that the available resources and the productive capacity are drawn into the most profitable ventures, which means mostly into producing relatively luxurious items for export to richer people. Compare the capacity of a worker to feed his family on the 15c an hour wage earned in a shirt factory, spent on food imported from a rich country, with the approximately four hours per week required by a home gardener to produce all the vegetables a family requires.3 The global economy is therefore an imperial system, one in which there is a net flow of resources and wealth from the poor to the rich and the resources the poor majority of people once had have been taken from them and now produce mostly for the benefit of the rich few.
These unjust distributions and the inappropriate development are primarily due to the market mechanism. Economic activity and especially development are not determined by reference to the needs of humans, societies and ecosystems. In the present global economy they are determined mostly by market forces. The inevitable result is that the rich get almost all of the valuable resources (because they can pay most for them) and that almost all of the development that takes place is development of whatever rich people want (because that is most profitable, i.e., will return most on invested capital.) It is in other words a capitalist economic system and such a system ensures that the few who own most of the capital (most is now owned by about 1% of the worlds people) will only invest it in ventures that are most likely to maximise profits, and therefore in ventures which produce for those people with most "effective demand", i.e., rich people. No other forms of development are undertaken, hence much of the productive capacity of Tuvalu or Haiti lies idle because people with capital can make more money investing somewhere else.
More importantly, no other forms of development are conceivable. The dominant ideology has ensured that "development" cannot be thought of in any other way than as investing capital in order to increase the capacity to produce for sale in the market.4. Thus the possibility that development might be seen predominantly as improving the quality of life, security, the environment and social cohesion, or that these things might be achievable only if the goal of increasing the GDP is rejected, almost never occurs in the development literature, let alone in development practice. Development can only be thought of in terms of movement along the single dimension to greater levels of business turnover, sales, consumption, exporting , investing and GDP.
Thus conventional development is only the kind of development that results when what is developed is left to be determined by whatever will most enrich those few with capital competing in a market situation. The inevitable result is development in the interests of the rich, i.e., those with the capital to invest and those with most purchasing power. The global economy now works well for perhaps less than 10% of the worlds people, i.e., the upper 40% of the people in rich counties, plus the tiny Third World elites.
Conventional development is, in other words, a form of plunder. It takes most of the worlds wealth, especially its productive capacity and allocates it to the rich few, and it takes much of this from billions of people who are so seriously deprived that 1200 million people are malnourished and tens of thousands die every day. Again the core point is that there are far better options; it is possible to imagine other forms of development in which the resources and the productive capacity of Third World people are fully devoted to production by the people of the things they most urgently need.
Structural Adjustment Packages
Since the 1970s the most powerful mechanism determining the plunder of the Third World has been the World Bank's Structural Adjustment Packages. When a heavily indebted Third World country faces an impossible repayment situation the World Bank undertakes renegotiation of deadlines and provision of new loans on condition that the country accepts a package of structural changes. These centre on opening the economy to market forces and foreign investment, increasing exporting, devaluing the currency, privatising, and cutting state spending and subsidies.
The rationale seems to make some sense in conventional economic terms since the objective appears to be to reduce debt and increase income. However there is extensive documentation that the strategy does not achieve its conventional economic goals (and this is even shown in the World Banks own studies.5)
But this is a minor consideration. As Chussudowsky explains, SAPs dismantle the economy and deliver it to the transnational corporations and banks. (Chussodovsky describes the sale of the USSRs biggest aero engine factory for $300,000.6.) Meanwhile deregulation increases the access to the economy for the corporations and the devaluation makes the country's export to us cheaper and its imports from us dearer, and the new loans saddle it with even higher repayments to our banks. Of course debtors must cut their spending, so governments slash welfare and assistance to the poor. The process is a bonanza for rich world corporations and banks and supermarket shoppers, while it further impoverishes the poor and raises their death rates. There is a vast literature on the catastrophically impoverishing effects of SAPs in the Third World and on the ways they enrich the already rich.7
In any case conventionally defined development for the Third World is impossible. A glance at the limits to growth literature shows that there are nowhere near enough resources for all people ever to rise to rich world "living standards". 8 This point is almost totally ignored in the development literature.
On those rare occasions when attention turns towards the rationale for conventional development the "trickle down" theory is revealed. The fact that the rich are further enriched immediately is justified on the grounds that in the long run the increased wealth will begin to trickle down to lift the living standards of the poor majority. Conventional economists point to the ever rising GDP of Third World countries and rest their case, ignoring the fact that economic growth is a poor indicator of welfare or quality of life ( which has been falling in the richest countries despite growth.9) and the fact that in this era of globalisation a rising average often results from a leap in the incomes of the rich along with a fall in those of the poor. It is therefore not surprising that the 1996 Human Development Report concluded that the poorest one-third of the worlds people are actually getting poorer.10
In addition conventional development, which virtually identifies development with growth, is ecologically suicidal. Even the richest countries are blindly committed to development without end, i.e., to the continual and limitless increase in production for sale and in GDP. Their supreme goal is in other words economic growth. However, over the past 40 years an overwhelmingly convincing limits to growth analysis has accumulated, making it abundantly clear that rich countries are producing is consuming at rates that are grossly unsustainable. The result is rapid depletion and destruction of resources ecosystems and social bonds.11
Globalisation represents the acceleration and intensification of all of the above, enabled by the elimination of the barriers which previously inhibited the access of corporations and banks to profitable business opportunities. The rules of trade, investment and service provision are being radically altered to remove the capacity of government to preserve and protect the existing jobs, markets, forests, fisheries, water, minerals and public services . It is now becoming illegal for governments to protect their own people from the predatory intent of the corporations. There have already been cases where governments which have tried to block undesirable corporate activity have been charged with "interfering with the freedom of trade" and fined hundreds of millions of dollars. Globalisation is a stunningly brazen and successful grab by the corporate rich for even more of the worlds wealth. The impacts are most devastating on the Third World majority, whose previously protected access to local resources and markets and state assistance is being eliminated as the business is being taken by the corporations. It is no surprise that global inequality and polarisation are rapidly increasing. There is a vast volume of evidence on the devastation globalisation is bringing to the poor majority of the worlds people.12
Third World participants in the global economy could be forgiven for being confused by the fact that the rich countries do not always play by rules of the neo-liberal agenda. For instance it sets freedom for market forces as supremely important and undermines regulation and protection, yet the most elaborate protective arrangements in the global scene are for the farmers of the rich countries. These have actually increased in the period of more intensified rhetoric about the sanctity of free markets (and in 2001 the US government tried to increase them by another 50%.) Consider also the somewhat puzzling insistance on the complete freedom that must be given to capital to go any where in the world and do anything it likes without any interference from governmental regulation, while at the same time there is not the slightest possibility that labour would ever be given the freedom to move to rich countries without restriction.
And then there are TRIMS and TRIPS, initiatives, which are moves to establish protection for rich world products and processes. Consider also the fact that rich world governments eagerly use their taxpayers money to pay off the debts that would otherwise bankrupt the banks that have recklessly lent large speculative sums to Third World governments when the neo-liberal agenda is supposed to be about taking risks in the market place, the avoidance of government protection, and going down when you make a mistake. SAPs do not bail out indebted Third World countries (since they usually come out more heavily indebted and in a worse position to pay debt off) they bail out the banks who have lent to them, because the main point of the package is to enable the country to go on paying off debt. And there is of course no question that a SAP would ever be inflicted on the most heavily indebted of all countries, i.e., the USA.
Thus neo-liberal practice involves massive and stunning self-serving hypocrisy on the part of the rich countries. The rich world imposes conditions on the poor world which further impoverish it while transferring more of the latters wealth to the rich, and the initiatives at the level of the World Trade Organisation are now establishing these rights of access, dispossession and control as the fundamental laws by which the world will function from here on.
Hence it is an imperial system.
The living standards we have in rich countries could not be anywhere near as high as they are if the global economy did not function in these ways. We could not have the resources, the products, the comfort or the security from turmoil if we were not getting far more than our fair share of the worlds wealth. It is a zero sum game; if we get the coffee that land cannot grow food for local people. If we get oil to run a ski boat , others get too little to sterilise the contaminated water that kills perhaps 5 million children every year.
In most cases market forces are sufficient to keep people in the plantations and sweatshops producing mostly for the benefit of others. People have no choice but to accept work for very low wages. Often the rich countries can get poor countries to accept rules that suit the rich simply by virtue of their superior economic power, for instance by threatening to deny access to rich world markets.
However, from time to time people rebel against these conditions and threaten to divert their productive capacity and their local resources to their own benefit, Sometimes they contemplate replacing the coffee trees with corn for themselves. Sometimes they move to nationalise the mines so that most of the earnings can go back to the people, or they attempt to block the export of logs and the destruction of their forests. Sometimes they threaten our access to "our" oilfields.
When things like this happen rich countries do not hesitate to support oppressive regimes willing to keep their countries to economic policies that will benefit local elites and rich countries, or to get rid of governments that threaten not to go along with such policies. Usually the rationale is in terms of the need to help a friendly government to put down a rebellion. Until recently this could always be labelled "communist subversion", thereby eliminating any concerns about the legitimacy of the action. However in Colombia it has recently been labelled as a "war on the drug trade", and in general it can now be labelled as a "war on terrorism". On many occasions governments of rich countries have waged ruthless war to install or get rid of regimes, according to whether or not they would facilitate the access of our corporations and the diversion of their resources and productive capacity to purposes that suited us.
In other words the rich countries have an elaborate and powerful empire which they protect and extend and control mostly via their economic power and via the supply of military equipment and training to repressive regimes, and via client regimes they support with money and arms, but often via the use of their own military force. Our living standards could not be as high as they are if a great deal of brutal repression was not being used to keep people to the economic policies which enrich us at their expense. As Herman says, there is a " ruthless imposition of a neo-liberal regime that serves Western transnational corporate interests, along with a willingness to use unlimited force to achieve Western ends. This is genuine imperialism, sometimes using economic coercion alone, sometimes supplementing it with violence."13
Following are some illustrative references taken from the large literature documenting the nature and functioning of the empire. Much of this evidence indicts the US but this is incidental. The core problem is the powerful acquisitive drive in the Western mentality which fuels the insatiable quest for greater personal wealth and higher "living standards", greater corporate wealth, and a rising GDP. Given this, nations will compete for scarce resources and one will emerge as dominant, and run the empire in its own interests. In our era the dominant power just happens to be the US. The fundamental long term task is not to restrain US behaviour but to deal with the underlying motivation that comes from deep within Western culture and that generates imperialism and related problems, such as ecological destruction and resource depletion.
In the early 1980s approximately 40,000 people were killed by the ruling class in El Salvador, mostly via "death squads" composed of off duty military officers and police. "The regime which presides over these measures would long since have collapsed were it not for the support of the US. US backed loans in 1981 amounted to $523 million.14 The US ensures " the maintenance of a violent and undemocratic regime which without American intervention would clearly fall within the next three months " 15 Training by US military " has directly aided the oligarchy to carry out its terror campaign against peasant and worker masses "16 "The US has unfailingly supplied the tools of terror and repression to the Salvadoran military, as well as training in their use."17 After referring to similar massacres in Guatemala Chomsky says " this is international terrorism, supported or directly organised in Washington with the assistance of its international network of mercenary states,"18
In Indonesia in 1965 approximately 500,000 "communists" were slaughtered. The US fuelled the climate which led to the bloodbath, supplied names, provided equipment, and above all opted not to take steps to oppose the event it knew was coming.19
" the US has undeniably launched major terrorist attacks against Cuba " including attempts to assassinate Castro. CIA trained Cuban exiles bombed a Cuban civilian airliner, killing all 73 aboard "20 George notes that most of these attacks of terrorism were organised by the Kennedy administration.21
Chomsky says " the worst single terrorist act of 1985 was a car-bombing in Beirut on March 8 that killed 80 people and wounded 256. According to Woodward the attack " was arranged by the CIA and its Saudi clients with the assistance of Lebanese intelligence and a British specialist "22 In 1986 the major single terrorist act was the US bombing of Libya."23
US efforts to crush the Sandinista government in Nicaragua constitutes one of the clearest and most disturbing instances of sustained terrorism. The US. helped to install and then to maintain the Somaza regime for 46 years, (the Somoza family ended up with 30% of the country's farmland.24) As Easterbrook says " the US launched a war against Nicaragua. That was a terrible war. Tens of thousands of people died. The country was practically destroyed.. The Nicaraguans went to the World Court the World Court ruled in their favour and ordered the United States to stop its 'unlawful use of force ' (that means international terrorism) and pay substantial reparations .the United States responded by dismissing the court with contempt and escalating the attack. (Chomsky reports that $100m in military aid was immediately granted.25) At that point Nicaragua went to the UN Security council which voted a resolution calling on all states to obey international law. the United States vetoed it. Nicaragua then went to the General Assembly, which two years in a row passed a similar resolution with only the United States and Israel opposed."26
The Contras were organised by the CIA to attack the Nicaraguan government. " the documentation of the murder of civilians as standard operating procedure of the Contras was already massive in 1984."27 Former CIA director Stansfield Turner stated to a House subcommittee that US support for the Contras " would have to be characterised as terrorism "28
During the 1980s the US assisted South Africa in the wars it initiated against neighbouring states in its effort to defent apartheit. Gervasi and Wong detail the activities that resulted in 1.5 million war related deaths.29
Some people, regions and countries have endured especially horrific consequences of this imperial situation and have abundant reason for violent hatred of the systems and nations that have inflicted intense and chronic suffering and humiliation and indifference on them. This is most obvious in the case of the Palestinians, forced to live in squalid refugee camps for decades subject to periodic harassment and slaughter, while the US gives 40% of its foreign aid to Israel.30 Much of this has been military equipment used to kill Palestinian and other Muslim people. Some 20,000 were killed when Israel invaded Southern Lebanon. Israel has been frequently condemned by the UN for holding territory taken from the Palestinians and building settlements on it. When Iraq invaded Kuwait the US retaliated with military force, killing hundreds of thousands, but the US does not condemn Israels invasions and acquisitions. Pilger says "In Palestine the illegal occupation by Israel would have collapsed long ago were it not for US backing "31
Of course Israels behaviour must be seen as a response to a problem of extreme insecurity and the death of many of its own citizens; the point of these illustrations is not to condemn Israel and exonerate the Arabs, it is to insist that the Palestinians like many other groups have abundant reason to be extremely discontented about the way they have been treated by the West and therefore to make events like September 11 somewhat less unintelligible.
East Timor provides another of the most disturbing instances of recent Western state behaviour. Rich Western countries did not speak out, let alone condemn, let alone block the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, which they recognised as being in their interests. Instead they sold the Indonesians the weapons used to kill some 200,000 East Timorese people. US presidents Ford and Carter supported the takeover. Budiardjo quotes a US State Department official as saying Indonesia is " a nation we do a lot of business with...we are more or less condoning the incursion into East Timor."32 Britain " offered the Indonesian regime continuous and increasing military, financial and diplomatic support."33 "It is well established that the Western powers had already decided to give Indonesia a free hand."34
In Iran" the US installed the Shah as an amenable dictator in 1953, trained his secret services in "methods of interrogation" and lauded him as he ran his regime of torture."35 The United States supported Saddam Hussein throughout the 1980s as he carried out his war (with Iran) and turned a blind eye to his use of chemical weapons "36
"In Vietnam selected Vietnamese troops were organised into terror squads."37 " indiscriminate killing of civilians was a central part of a 'counter-insurgency war' in which 20,000 civilians were systematically assassinated under the CIA's Operation Phoenix Program 38" Pilger says this operation was the model for the later terror carried out in Chile and Nicaragua. 39
In the 1960s Kennedy instituted "counterinsurgency, essentially the development of "special forces" trained in the use of terror to prevent peasants from supporting revolutionary groups. For decades the US School of the Americas has provided this training to large numbers of Latin American police and military personnel, including many of the regions worst tyrants and torturers. As Monbiot says, "The US has been training terrorists at a camp in Georgia for years - and it's still at it."40. Training manuals include explicit material on the use of torture and terror. 41 " torture, 'disappearance', mass killings and political imprisonment became the norm in many of the nations most heavily assisted by the United States "42
Again, there is an extensive literature documenting these and many other cases.43. Herman and Osullivan present a table showing that in recent decades the overwhelming majority of terrorist actions, measured by death tolls, have been carried out by western states. "State terror has been immense, and the West and its clients have been the major agents."44 Any serious student of international relations or US foreign policy will be clearly aware of the general scope and significance of the empire which rich countries operate, and of the human rights violations, the violence and injustice this involves. Rich world "living standards", corporate prosperity, comfort and security could not be sustained at anywhere near current levels without this empire, nor without the oppression, violence and military activity that keep in place conventional investment, trade and development policies.
It should therefore be not in the least surprising that several hundred million people more or less hate the rich Western nations. This is the context in which events like those of September 11 must be understood. It is surprising that the huge and chronic injustice, plunder, repression and indifference evident in the global economic system has not generated much greater hostile reaction from the Third World, and more eagerness to hit back with violence. This is partly explained by the fact that it is in the interests of Third World rulers to acquiesce in conventional development strategies.
The US position
Given the foregoing documentation it hardly needs to be added that in the modern era the US by far the greatest practitioner of terrorism in the world. Again space permits no more than a brief selection from the many summary statements to this effect.
"The US has rained death and destruction on more people in more regions of the globe than any other nation in the period since the second world war it has employed its military forces in other countries over 70 times since 1945, not counting innumerable instances of counter insurgency operations by the CIA."45 " the US state has long been using terrorist networks, and carrying out acts of terror itself."46 The US " is the greatest source of terror on earth."47
"The greatest source of terrorism is the US itself and some of the Latin American countries."49
" the US is itself a leading terrorist state."50 "There are many terrorist states, but the United States is unusual in that it is officially committed to international terrorism, and on a scale that puts its rivals to shame."51
"We are the target of terrorists because in much of the world our government stands for dictatorship, bondage, and human exploitation We are the target of terrorists because we are hated And we are hated because our governments have done hateful things .Time after time we have ousted popular leaders who wanted the riches of the land to be shared by the people who worked it We are hated because our government denies (democracy, freedom, human rights) to people in Third World countries whose resources are coveted by our multinational corporations."52
In 1998 Amnesty International released a report which made it clear that the US was at least as responsible for extreme violation of human rights around the globe as -- including the promotion of torture and terrorism and state violence -- as any government or organisation in the world."53
"From any objective standpoint, Israel and the United States more frequently rely on terrorism, and in forms that inflict far greater quantums of suffering on their victims than do their opponents."54
That this has been clearly understood for decades by critical students of American Foreign Policy is evident in the following quotes from the late 1970s and early 1980s. "..the US and its allies have armed the elites of the Third World to the teeth, and saturated them with counterinsurgency weaponry and training Hideous torture has become standard practice in US client fascist states Much of the electronic and other torture gear, is US supplied and great numbers of interrogators are US trained "55.
"Many of the world's most brutal dictatorships " are in place precisely because they serve US interests in a joint venture with local torturers at the expense of their majorities."56
After documenting supply of aid to 23 countries guilty of "human rights abuses", Trosan and Yates say, "Without US help they would be hard pressed to contain the fury of their oppressed citizens and US businesses would find it difficult to flourish.," Whenever their people have rebelled and tried to seize power, thereby threatening foreign investments, the US has on every occasion actively supported government repression and terror, or has promoted coups to overthrow popular governments."57
Its a zero sum game.
The crucial role of oppression within the empire is made clear in the following quotes.
"To maintain its levels of production and consumption the US must be assured of getting increasing amounts of the resources of poor countries. This in turn requires strong support of unpopular and dictatorial regimes which maintain political and police oppression while serving American interests, to the detriment of their own poor majorities. If on the other hand Third World people controlled their own political economies, they could then use more of their resources themselves much of the land now used to grow export cash crops would be used to feed their own hungry people for example."58
"It is in the economic interests of the American corporations who have investments in these countries to maintain this social structure ( whereby poor masses are oppressed and exploited by local elites) It is to keep these elites in power that the United States has provided them with the necessary military equipment, the finance and training."59
"The impoverished and long abused masses of Latin America will not stay quietly on the farms or in the slums unless they are terribly afraid the rich get richer only because they have the guns. The rich include a great many US companies and individuals, which is why the United States has provided the guns ."60
With the explosion of neo-liberalism onto the global scene since the 1970s the need for physical force to maintain the empire has been greatly reduced. Now the new rules of the global economy do the job very effectively. As has been explained, the Structural Adjustment Packages and the laws being introduced to govern trade, investment and provision of services force all countries to facilitate uncontested access for rich world corporations to almost all resource, regions and markets. Gunboats are no longer so necessary, and less often do nations need to be conquered or ruled via a client regime. If a few men in suits soon finally establish the neo-liberal agenda as the only set of rules governing the world economy no nation will be able to resist, and if that exclusive agenda continues to be taught to economics students no one will want to.
To summarise, the global economy is grotesquely unjust. A few have high material living standards primarily because of the economic arrangements which deliver most of the world's wealth to them and seriously deprive billions of people. If access to the world's resources was allocated more justly people in rich countries could hot have anywhere near the affluent lifestyles they do have. We could not be so rich if we did not operate an empire and maintaining our empire involves a great deal of grabbing, repression and terror.
It should not need to be said that none of this is to justify the actions of September 11. It is about understanding why things like that happen. In my view "terrorist" actions by oppressed people are neither morally nor strategically desirable; they are in general not even likely to contribute to desirable outcomes for those people. Although in certain situations violence may be the only means to eliminate oppression I do not see it as having a central role in the liberation of the Third World from rich world domination. The transition strategy I advocate is necessarily non-violent (i.e., it cannot succeed if it involves violence), and indeed is subject to attack from the Left for its deliberate avoidance of confrontation.61.
The broader context; Peace vs Affluence..
There is little evidence on the precise motivation behind the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. It is not possible to say whether they derived primarily from fundamentalist religious concerns or from awareness of global economic injustice and the long history of appalling treatment of Islamic peoples by the West, There is at least some indication that the former elements are central in bin Laden's thinking. However even if those attacks were not responses to the imperial situation the point of the foregoing discussion is that they are the sorts of acts which must be expected given the existence, nature and functioning of the empire.
If we are determined to maintain let alone increase the rich world's high material "living standards" and its commitment to ever-increasing levels of economic turnover then we must maintain the empire. We cannot have these living standards unless we get much more than our fair share of the world's resource wealth. Therefore these living standards are incompatible with global economic justice or with enabling all Third World people to use their own resources to meet their own needs. It is a zero growth game; if all that land growing our export crops was diverted to growing basic foods for Third World people we would get far less coffee and pork. If more of their labour was to go into producing things they need we would get fewer cheap shirts and TV sets. There are no where near enough resources for all people to rise to our affluence so if we are going to maintain our levels of material consumption they will have to go on getting a miniscule share and go on seeing most of their resources flow to us.
The limits to growth perspective.
As is the case with the other major problems confronting the planet, such as environmental destruction, it is essential to understand the problem of global peace and conflict from the "limits to growth" perspective. This analysis focuses on the fact that the present living standards of the rich countries involve levels of production and consumption that are grossly unsustainable. Just to note two of the lines of argument documented in the large literature from the limits perspective, if all 9 billion people likely to live on earth by 2070 were to have the present rich world lifestyle and "footprint" we would need about 12 times the area of productive land that exists on the entire planet. Secondly if we were to cut greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to prevent the carbon content of the atmosphere from increasing any more world per capita energy consumption would have to be cut to about one-eighteenth of its present amount If all 9 billion people likely by 2070 were to have the present rich world per capita resource consumption, resource production would have to be about 8 times the present rate.
These multiples underline the magnitude of the overshoot. Sustainability will require enormous reductions in the volume of rich world production and consumption. Yet its supreme goal is economic growth, i.e., to increase the levels of production and consumption and GDP, constantly, rapidly and without any limit. That the absurdity of this is never recognised in conventional economic and political circles defies understanding. If we in rich countries average 3% economic growth to 2070 and by then all the worlds people had risen to the "living standards we would have by then, the total world economic output would be 60 times as great as the present grossly unsustainable level.
If this limits to growth analysis is at all valid the implications for the problem of global peace and conflict and security are clear and savage. If we all remain determined to increase our living standards, our level of production and consumption, in a world where resources are already scarce, where only a few have affluent living standards but another 8 billion will be wanting them too, and which we the rich are determined to get richer without any limit, then nothing is more guaranteed than that there will be increasing levels of conflict and violence.
To put it another way, if we insist on remaining affluent we will need to remain heavily armed.
Increased conflict in at least the following categories can be expected. Firstly the present conflict over resources between the rich elites and the poor majority in the Third World must increase, for example as "development" under globalisation takes more land, water and forests into export markets. Secondly there are conflicts between the Third World and the rich world, the major recent examples being the war between the US and Iraq over control of oil. Iraq invaded Kuwait and the US intervened, accompanied by much high-sounding rhetoric, (having found nothing unacceptable about Israel's invasions of Lebanon or the Indonesian invasion of East Timor.) As has often been noted, had Kuwait been one of the world's leading exporter of broccoli, rather than oil, it is doubtful whether the US would have been so eager to come to its defence. At the time of writing the US is at war in Central Asia over "terrorism". Few would doubt that a "collateral" outcome will be the establishment of regimes that will give the West access to the oil wealth of Central Asia.
Following are some references to the connection many have recognised between rich world affluence and conflict.
General M.D. Taylor, U.S. Army retired argued "...U.S. military priorities just be shifted towards insuring a steady flow of resources from the Third World." Taylor referred to "...fierce competition among industrial powers for the same raw materials markets sought by the United States" and "... growing hostility displayed by have-not nations towards their affluent counterparts."62
"Struggles are taking place, or are in the offing, between rich and poor nations over their share of the world product; within the industrial world over their share of industrial resources and markets".63
"That more than half of the people on this planet are poorly nourished while a small percentage live in historically unparalleled luxury is a sure recipe for continued and even escalating international conflict."64
The oil embargo placed on the US by OPEC in the early 1970s prompted the US to make it clear that it was prepared to go to war in order to secure supplies. "President Carter last week issued a clear warning that any attempt to gain control of the Persian Gulf would lead to war." It would " be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States."65
"The US is ready to take military action if Russia threatens vital American interests in the Persian Gulf, the US Secretary of Defence, Mr. Brown, said yesterday."66
Klare's recent book Resource Wars discusses this theme in detail, stressing the coming significance of water as a source of international conflict. "Global demand for many key materials is growing at an unsustainable rate." " the incidence of conflict over vital materials is sure to grow." "The wars of the future will largely be fought over the possession and control of vital economic goods." " resource wars will become, in the years ahead, the most distinctive feature of the global security environment."67
Much of the rich world's participation in the conflicts taking place through out the world is driven by the determination to back a faction that will then look favourably on Western interests. In a report entitled, "The rich prize that is Shaba", Breeze begins, "Increasing rivalry over a share-out between France and Belgium of the mineral riches of Shaba Province lies behind the joint Franco-Belgian paratroop airlift to Zaire." "These mineral riches make the province a valuable prize and help explain the Wests extended diplomatic courtship,..."68
Then there is potential conflict between the rich nations who are after all the ones most dependent on securing large quantities of resources. "The resource and energy intensive modes of production employed in nearly all industries necessitate continuing armed coercion and competition to secure raw materials."69
"Struggles are taking place, or are in the offing, between rich and poor nations over their share of he world product, within the industrial world over their share of industrial resources and markets "70
Growth, competition, expansion and war.
Finally, at the most abstract level, the struggle for greater wealth and power is central in the literature on the causes of war. "...warfare appears as a normal and periodic form of competition within the capitalist world economy." "...world wars regularly occur during a period of economic expansion."71 "War is an inevitable result of the struggle between economies for expansion."72
Choucri and North say their most important finding is that domestic growth is a strong determinant of national expansion and that this results in competition between nations and war.73.
World Wars I and II can be seen as being largely about imperial grabbing. Germany, Italy and Japan sought to expand their territory and resource access. But Britain already held much of the world within its empire which it had previously fought 72 wars to take!
"Finite resources in a world of expanding populations and increasing per capita demands create a situation ripe for international violence."74
Ashley focuses on the significance of the quest for economic growth. "War is mainly explicable in terms of differential growth in a world of scarce and unevenly distributed resources " " expansion is a prime source of conflict. So long as the dynamics of differential growth remain unmanaged, it is probable that these long term processes will sooner or later carry major powers into war."75
The point being made can be put in terms of security. One way to seek security is to develop greater capacity to repel attack. In the case of nations this means large expenditure of money, resources and effort on military preparedness. However there is a much better strategy; i.e., to live in ways that do not oblige you to take more than your fair share and therefore that do not give anyone any motive to attack you. Tut this is not possible unless there is global economic justice. If a few insist on levels of affluence, industrialisation and economic growth that are totally impossible for all to achieve, and which could not be possible if they were taking only their fair share of global resources, then they must remain heavily armed and their security will require readiness to use their arms to defend their unjust privileges.
In other words if we want affluence we must prepare for war. If we insist on continuing to take most of the oil and other resources while many suffer intense deprivation because they cannot get access to them then we must be prepared to maintain the aircraft carriers and rapid deployment forces, and the despotic regimes, without which we cannot secure the oil fields and plantations. Global peace is not possible without global justice, and that is not possible unless rich countries move to "The Simpler Way."
The inconsistency of the Peace Movement
In general the Peace Movement has failed to attend to these themes. It has been largely made up of people in rich countries who are pleading for an end to armed conflict while they go on living affluently without recognising that their own lifestyles are the main cause of conflict in the world. Global peace is not possible without global justice, and global justice is not possible unless people in rich countries dramatically reduce their over-consumption. A peace movement cannot make sense unless it is connected to the quest for transition to The Simpler Way.
The conditions for peace.
The logically inescapable implications from the foregoing discussion is that global peace cannot be achieved before there has been a vast and historically unprecedented transition to "The Simpler Way'. The accelerating global predicament cannot be remedied until social, economic, political and cultural systems based on competitive individualism, acquisitiveness, affluence and growth are abandoned and replaced by ways of life based on production to meet needs rather than profits, high levels of individual and local self-sufficiency, cooperation, participation, mutual assistance and sharing, and above all on willing acceptance of materially simple lifestyles within zero-growth national economies.76
This does not mean hardship and deprivation; indeed it can be argued that high levels of simplicity, self sufficiency and cooperation are the necessary conditions for a high quality of life, as well as for global justice and ecological sustainability. Nor does it mean absence of sophisticated technology and research. It does mean a landscape made up mostly of small towns and villages within comfortable distance of small cities by public transport, with relatively little heavy industry, travel and transport, international trade or big firms. Most "government" would have to be carried out through small local participatory assemblies. Because large sectors of the present economy would no longer be necessary, the overall amount of work for monetary income would probably be reduced by two-thirds, enabling a much more relaxed pace of life. There would be no need to reduce the sophistication and quality of research and technology within socially desirable fields.
Needless to say the simpler Way would require the abandonment of an economy in which profit and the market are the major determinants of production, consumption or development, and it would require a steady state or zero growth overall economy. Most difficult would be the radical changes in values.
That the prospects for such a transition are poor in the extreme is not central to the present discussion. Any rational observer of the global situation must give little chance of the present accelerating race to catastrophic breakdown being halted, given that the fundamental cultural and systemic causes of the predicament are in general not even recognised by publics or governments. However the source of what hope there is lies in the recent emergence of the Global Alternative Society Movement. In the last two decades many small communities and regions have begun to establish settlements and economies more or less based on the principles of The Simpler Way The argument in my What Should We Do? Is that the prospects for transition depend primarily on whether or not this minority can develop rapidly in the next few decades, and that by far the most valuable global contribution one can make is to work within this movement.
3. C. Blazey, The Australian Vegetable Garden, (Diggers Seeds, Dromana, Victoria, 1999).
4. Trainer, F. E. (T.),"What does development mean; A rejection of the unidimensional conception ", The International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 20, 5/6, (2000), pp. 95-114.
6. Chussodovsky, The Globalisation of Poverty.
7. http://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/DocsTHIRDWORLD.html#STGRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT PACKAGES).
10. United Nations, Human Development Report, (1996).
11. See note 7.
13. E. S. Herman, 'Folks out there have a distaste of Western civilization and cultural values", www.globalresearch.ca, (15th Sept., 2001.)
14. New Internationalist, (Feb., 1983), p. 30. See also Sydney Morning Herald, (4th Feb., 1982), p. 4.
15. The Guardian, (8th March, 1981).
16. El Salvador, A Dossier, Sydney, CISAC, (1981), p. 32.
17. A. George, Introduction, in A George, Ed., Western State Terrorism, Cambridge, Polity, (1991), p. 5.
29. S. Gervaszi and S., Wong, "The Reagan doctrine and the destabilisation of Southern Africa", in A George, Ed., Western State Terrorism, Cambridge, Polity, (1991), pp. 222, 226. See also J. Hanlon, Beggar Your Neighbours; Apartheit Power in South Africa, Islington, London, Catholic Institute for International Relations.
42. McClintock, "American doctrine and counterinsurgent state terror", p. 142. For documentation on the campaign by School of the Americas Watch to have the School closed see www.soaw.org.
43. See for example the overviews by E. S. Herman, The Real Terror Network, (Southend Press, 1982), W. Blum, The CIA; A Forgotten History, (London, Zed Books, 1986), N. Chomsky, Pirates and Emperors, International Terrorism in the Real World, (Claremont Research and Publications, 1986), A. Cockburn, Corruptions of Empire, A George, Ed., Western State Terrorism, (Cambridge, Polity, 1991), N. Chomsky and E. S. Herman, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, (Sydney, Hale and Iremonger, 1979.)
47. Pilger, op cit., note 19
54. R. Falk, "The terrorist foundations of recent US foreign policy", in A. George, Ed., Western State Terrorism, (Cambridge, Polity, 1991), p.108.
62. J. M. Cypher, "The basic economics of rearming America", Monthly Review, (Nov., 1981), pp. 16-18.