Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The US and the global arms business

Jean-Paul H├ębert and Philippe Rekacewicz give some perspective on the current scale of military spending in "War without end - The military industrial complex doesn't lack business" Le Monde Diplomatique English 11/01/2010:

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of its standoff with the US ushered in a period of chaos, with inter-state wars giving way to civil wars. Concurrently with the Gulf war of 1991 and the emergence of "humanitarian wars", anti-ballistic and cruise missiles were perfected and the use of precision-guided weapons became widespread. These were supposed to allow "surgical strikes" - which were never surgical enough, since civilians invariably died. During the invasions of Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) - although not the subsequent occupations - the invading forces were so far superior to the local military that the outcome was never in doubt.

The Middle East has seen continuous experimentation with the techniques of urban warfare and the use of weapons of terror against non-combatants ...

These new techniques have become indispensable in wars conducted by western armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have often found that ultra-sophisticated equipment designed for use against the Soviet armed forces was ineffective.

Their opponents use rudimentary but effective techniques, such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) placed beside roads, and suicide bombers. The US has responded with increasing use of drones and missions against "terrorist" targets, although it has often missed its aim and ended up killing civilians.

The cost of arms has soared: the US accounts for 50% of global spending, and 10 nations account for 75% of it. The price of a single B2 bomber exceeds the annual military budget of 122 countries, even though its use outside of a US-China conflict seems unlikely.

The nature of conflicts has changed over the years, reflecting political developments and technological advances. Human intelligence has perfected the art of war, and new weapons and techniques have made it possible to kill at ever greater distance, faster and more efficiently (and at greater expense). But they often prove ineffective in dealing with popular insurrections and seem to do little to reduce the number of civilian casualties. [my emphasis]
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