Saturday, 8 March 2014

A Note on Global Military Expenditure and the Quest for Natural Resources.

One of the peculiarities of radical 'anti-war' critics, who regard war as the inevitable outgrowth of 'capitalism' and 'imperialism', is how they seem more obsessed on using evidence of increased military expenditure and actual armed conflicts in the post Cold War world as proof of the validity that their ideological obessions are true.

Richard Seymour, a staunch critic of western military intervention in the previous decade and author of The Liberal Defence of Murder writes in The Guardian
'there is no inherent reason why geo-economic competition should lead to defence spending consuming trillions of dollars of value each year'.
Actually, there is. Modern geopolitical competition and the potential for conflict in the post Cold war world is mostly about rival power blocks competiting control over supplies of resources,such as oil and gas, that are diminishing relative to the huge demand for them caused by global industrialisation.
As Seymour is a militant progressive and a sort of ideological Marxist, with a nostalgia for some mythical idea of global communist revolution, he has to see increased militarism across the world as the function of the USA's military-industrial complex spurring on economic growth and 'state building strategies'.

Obviously, there is a military industrial complex. Yet , apart from that and the colossal profits it makes and the research and development it stimulates, the reason for increased global military spending lies in 'extractive states' using oil and gas revenue to build up their military capacity.

Hard facts rather than the sort of windy ideological platitudes on offer by Seymour confirm that. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s Year Book 2013 is packed with necessary facts and figures needed to comprehend global arms expenditure. It notes,
“rising military spending for the USA, as the only superpower, and for other major or intermediate powers, such as Brazil, China, Russia and India, ( that ) appears to represent a strategic choice in their long-term quest for global and regional influence; one that they may be loath to go without, even in hard economic times”,
Seymour ignores the evidence that connects increased global military expenditure on the quest for control over resources as he is confined to tired ideological contructs about 'western imperialism' that can be 'unmasked' and, therefore, state power on a global scale can be 'challenged'.

It is very comforting to believe that only the west is responsible for driving on military expenditure, with the US being focused on. If 'US Imperialism' and its 'hegemonic project' is defeated somehow ( by Islamist or Marxist revolutionaries for example ), the world will be necessarily transformed for better.

These preoccupations are largely parochial. Even if 40% of all global military expenditure still comes from the US, the startling increases are to be found elsewhere in states such as Russia, Brazil, China and India which have ambitions as regional superpowers. Seymour is not, however, much bothered by them

More intelligent critics of militarism who are prepared to do actual research offer a far more interesting perspective on the very real potential for conflicts and proxy wars over regions though integral to the continued security of energy supplies to developed and developing nations.

One such example in Michael T Klare whose chilling books on resource wars such as Blood and Oil, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet and The Race for What is Left detail what is really at stake in the post Cold War age. Anyone ignoring the race for resources is not worth taking seriously.
“With energy demand on the rise and sources of supply dwindling, we are, in fact, entering a new epoch — the Geo-Energy Era — in which disputes over vital resources will dominate world affairs. In 2012 and beyond, energy and conflict will be bound ever more tightly together, lending increasing importance to the key geographical flashpoints in our resource-constrained world.'
The odd thing about radical critics of capitalism is how their 'explanations' for the Iraq War only tend to mention US Imperial projects, 'hegemony', the need for profits and, in relation to that, the control of oil in order to benefit large energy corporations.

The truth is that the possibility of war and conflict has become greater in the 21st century because of a massive increase in global energy consumption and the fact that access to those resources from diverse regions, and in areas riven with sectarian and ethnic tensions, is regarded as part of national security.

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