Dead end military solutions – market hegemony over the state

Posted on | maart 30, 2011 | No Comments

A number of years ago, I was invited to an international conference on war and peace. Participants were academics from different parts of the world. Next to me was sitting a colleague from the University of Arizona who happened to be Jewish and he and I saw ‘eye to eye’ on issues covered at the conference.

One of the speakers who was a noted scholar on international relations stated very calmly that from the end of the Second World War until 2000 ‘X number of millions’ had died in wars (the figure now is 51 million). With detachment as though the X number of millions were toys instead of human beings, he added that was not such a bad number all things considered.

My colleague from Arizona who had a profound sensitivity to mass killings like the Jewish holocaust, turned to me and whispered: “I am sure none of the dead were his relatives”. At that moment, it occurred to me that my colleague from Arizona may have lost relatives in concentration camps.

Neither he nor I doubted that the speaker was trying to appear ‘coldly realistic’ and embrace the way things are. I wondered if he would have the luxury of such academic realism in a situation where his close relatives and loved ones were killed. I wondered if the luxury that his petty bourgeois academic status afforded him that kind of attitude, combined with the tangible rewards of his conformity to the reality that states are mass killing machines of innocent people.

We see similar attitudes today in connection with military campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya. There is something incredibly simple-minded if not downright barbaric and short-sighted – some would argue stupid – in advocating peace and social justice is unrealistic; that embracing a political solution instead of a military one is naive, no matter the evidence that shows the contrary is true.

Claiming that discussion about peace-oriented political solutions must be relegated to the realm of intellectual exercise is indeed a manifestation of disregard to what best serves society – both the aggressor in war and those on the receiving end who must suffer the consequences. When studying foreign policy it helps to at least consider the consequences of power on the party (ies) who are at the receiving end. This is a very difficult lesson to learn even for great scholars throughout history that have been mesmerized by power.

Equally shortsighted and naive is to believe that the state is dominant over markets and to advocate that exploitation is ‘normal’ between countries on the model of ‘old-style’ neo-imperialism. Unless the apologist of such a view has shares in BP or another oil company operating in Libya and seeking better contract terms, is it wise to remain in the darkness of the Cold War? Regardless of ideological and political orientation, most scholars agree that markets enjoy hegemony over the state in many countries around the world. This is not the case for countries where quasi-statism is practiced, beginning with China, and to a lesser degree Cuba, Russia, India, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Norway, and a number of others.

Certainly the goal of countries where markets dominate over the state, namely the G-7, it is easy for the casual observer or even professional analysts to be fooled by the neo-corporatism and to conclude that neo-corporatist model entails that the state, which is merely a tool for markets, is hegemonic. For example, one can make this observation about Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. As a tool of markets, however, the state conducts policy accordingly. For states like US, UK, France and Germany where markets determine policy, that may mean war when necessary to further market interests.

Why not have perpetual war and bombings, mass killings and mass destruction as a means of resolving conflict and strengthening markets? And why stop there. Why not disregard political solutions and go right to military options as a first choice because it is a testament of raw strength that is important for politically symbolic considerations, it helps strengthen defense contractors, and it creates demand amid contracting economic cycles on a world scale?

For those who calmly and coldly adopt the attitude that it is merely an academic exercise to debate human rights, peace and social justice, and debate the merits of military solutions vs. political options, all so that the peace advocates can feel good about embracing ‘love and peace’, I wonder how they would feel if their country is bombed in the exact same manner as any of the Islamic nations – Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya – in the name of democracy, and if their loved ones were killed or injured in the process.

This is a very harsh way of making the case against military solutions (dead-end solutions), but I believe people have to put themselves in the feet of those on the receiving end of bombs dropping on them. Why not have foreign military intervention every time a country experiences internal social strife? And why not go after the natural resources that the vanquished country has, and leave its population destitute, so that markets continue to enjoy preeminence? I suspect that very soon Portugal will have workers and middle class professionals demonstrating in Lisbon, just as Londoners did and will again in protest of wealth redistribution from the bottom up.

Why not have NATO bombs drop on Lisbon to prevent the government from sending out the police to stop demonstrators? For the noble goal of strengthening markets, why shouldn’t the state resort to military solutions first and ask questions later? Who is more delusional, the advocate of political solutions to sociopolitical conflict, or the warmonger policymakers and profiteers standing in line behind them as the only way to retain their privileged positions at the cost of mass destruction? Is it any wonder that advanced capitalist nations have the highest consumption of psychotherapy services and products on the planet not only because they can afford them, but because they really need them to cope with a culture of destruction?

AUTHOR: Jon Kofas
E-MAIL: jonkofas [at]


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