By Kusal Perera –
With the end of the Second World War, strengthening and uniting the larger world as the “United Nations” despite a slow growing cold war between two super powers, the USA and the USSR, the decade of 50 began with some sense of relief. The world psyche in general was that there will not be a “Third World War”, on this planet earth.
There nevertheless were serious localised armed conflicts even in the decade of 50. They were cocooned in smaller geographical areas like Korea, Vietnam, Algeria and the Suez Canal. The Korean and Vietnamese wars ended leaving 03 countries instead of 02. There were also internal armed uprisings and civil wars like in Cuba, Kenya and also in Rwanda towards 1959.
But, there was good and the bad of the Second World War. The good was that, science and technological leap in this human world was immense and unprecedented in post world war two, than ever before. Starting with the Soviet Russia’s Sputnik, man is said to have landed in the moon, brought its soil back home and is studying Saturn and Venus. The bad is that, this knowledge advancement was not focused or was not meant for the development of the quality of human life, only. While in general terms, life expectancy at birth increased, child mortality at birth decreased, deceases like malaria and polio were almost eradicated and more humans started living much longer than pre WW II, commuting and communicating in unbelievable speed, wide spread famine, hunger, poverty in most parts of the world, not only remained at pathetic levels, but increased too.
Its not that the world does not produce enough for the 7.2 billion people living on this planet earth. According to FAO (2002) the modern world produces enough food for every human to consume 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day. That’s what’s required for a decent healthy life. Problem is, the lop sided global economic order does not allow fair distribution and access to all. “The causes of poverty include poor people’s lack of resources, an extremely unequal income distribution in the world and within specific countries, conflict and hunger itself.” says the “2013 World Hunger & Poverty Facts and Statistics” sheet.
Yet the world has powerful nations speaking of and advocating justice, democracy, accountability and good governance. There are powerful nations that have “coerced” members of the UN to adopt universal charters on human rights, child and women’s rights, labour rights, have laid down restrictions on use of weapons and ammunitions in conflicts, on collateral damage in armed conflicts and wars, inter State and governmental responsibilities and much more, to keep the world in peace and with decent living. That’s for the rest of the people on this planet and not for them. They go unchecked and unquestioned with a right to violate all that. They have usurped the right to police this planet. Not simply on the strength of their economies alone, but also on the strength of their modern armed forces, their military hardware and mass scale arms manufacture.
This had led to new military thinking and wars are no more “Napoleanic” wars. Wars are no more about humans fighting to acquire ground space and building large empires. Its now about keeping a world economy on military budgets and humans have become just another object that can be destroyed as “collateral damage”. Big nations have come to dictate on the world, where conflicts would continue and how. They decide who controls natural energy and how. They dictate on who acquires nuclear power and what for.
Today there are heavy restrictions in acquiring nuclear power. From year 1968, access and development of nuclear power is controlled under an international law called the “Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” (NPT). Ironically, the world allowed this treaty to be adopted, with clear permission given to “France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States”, who by then had accessed their share of nuclear power and weaponry. Today therefore, “nuclear proliferation” is when other countries try to acquire that same power allowed for the big five. Iran’s conflict with the US and the EU countries is that.
Today, each of these countries put together total almost 60% of military expenditure in the world, with the US (37%) and China (11%) accounting to 48% of that expenditure. In 1995 the world (does not necessarily mean countries like Maldives, Bhutan or Nepal account for this sum) had spent 1,150 billion US dollars on warfare. In 2013 that expense peaked over 1,700 billion US dollars. (Check SIPRI data base) Annual US military spending accounts for 10% of total government spending and had spent 640.2 billion US dollars in year 2013 (Bloomberg 2014). That’s “No Change” even after Obama as US President.
Leaving out the dead in WW II, the Algerian war, Korean and Vietnamese wars, Iran-Iraq war, Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, Bangladesh liberation war, Khmer rouge killings, Somali civil war and the like and taking year 2000 which is beginning of this New Millennia as the starting point, we have had 986,650 human fatalities at an average every year, over the last 13 years. Meanwhile, World Food Programme (WFP) says, Asia has the largest number of people, over 500 million who starve without food with 827 million totalling in the developing world. We don’t even know, 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry, across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone. The WFP says, hunger kills more people every year, than AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis added together.
WFP estimates 3.2 billion US dollars per year can reach all 66 million hungry school-age children and what is that against 640.2 billion US dollars spent as military expenditure in year 2013 by the US ?
Its NOW time to decide, we should turn this planet into a de-militarised, conflict free planet. That requires a total phasing out of arms and weapons manufacture. Requires a total dismantling of nuclear power. Unless these twin demands are met, we would go on seeing unwanted and avoidable conflicts created on the strength of high tech modern weaponry. Created for political and economic control of energy resources and to maintain arms and weapons markets. That would keep us counting the dead in Iraq, Gaza, West Bank, Ukraine, Darfur, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma and in many other places across the globe. We would witness new markets being created for arms and ammunitions through new conflicts.
The fact is, this World can live without arms and weapons manufacture. We can earn a decent living in market economies without arms and weapons deals and sales. That effort and money channelled for research and development of new military hardware can be channelled for human development and comfort.
While the lobby for a stable ceasefire is strengthened in Gaza, in Sudan, in Syria, in Ukraine, in Iraq and everywhere else a conflict is raging, the world citizenry should start a new discourse, a new campaign and a new lobby to demand “Right to Life” is guaranteed anywhere on this planet and accordingly by 2025,
- all nuclear weapons capability irrespective of whether they are pre 1968 or not, should be completely dismantled and destroyed. No country should have any preference or right to maintain nuclear power, on this planet. The treaty should not be about proliferation, but about eradication of nuclear power, where ever they are.
- major arms manufacturing countries should stop all manufacture of military hardware, weapons and ammunitions. They should halve their military spending by 2020 and withdraw their naval presence from international waters.
- at least half the money they were spending on armed conflicts in other parts of the world, to be channelled for schools and health facilities in those countries (e.g. US should spend half what they spent on Afghanistan and Iraq in 2012, for schools and hospitals in those countries)
In South Asia, the SAARC citizenry should demand and facilitate,
- a South Asian Human Rights Commission, where citizens could complain against State terror, racial or religious hatred/inciting and violations of child, women and labour rights with provision for public interest litigation.
- “Right to Life” of every child born and every citizen as an uncompromising responsibility of the elected government and to be said so in clear terms in every Constitution of SAARC member countries.
- serious cut back on defence spending by half, as military, navy and air force is not necessary for internal conflicts. All elected governments are mandated and required to resolve conflicts with neighbours, without pushing its Citizenry into armed conflicts.
Monies spent for armed conflicts and wars should be naught, by year 2025, ten years from now. Ten years is too long to go on with conflicts, but, it is going to be a long journey in this greedy world of conflicts, dictated not by the Citizenry, but by mega arms dealers and States run by them. It is time to turn the planet round, for people to live peacefully, with States without a military, governed by governments that have no right to war. Start life with a good and efficient police department, to maintain law and order, equal to all.
The whole planet can be without a military budget, be a “Mauritius”.