“The budgetary cost to the UK of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through 2010 will total more than £18 billion. If we include the social costs the total impact will exceed £20 billion.”
— Joseph E. Stiglitz (The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict)
2 May 2011
Jo Smit writes:
It is looking unlikely that the UK will take delivery of the 150 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet planes it had planned to buy, given that these highly sophisticated new aircraft are expected to cost around $70 million each. At the same time, US investment in the jet’s development is under question as President Obama seeks to cut $400 billion from the country’s defence and security budget over the next 12 years.
The bottom line in all warfare is the expenditure of energy, whether it is human muscle throwing a spear, or a rocket delivering a nuclear warhead. The cost of delivering the missile has to be balanced against the likely destruction of those involved. Unless you’re a kamikaze pilot or jihadist, lives are important and risking one’s own life against the death of someone else is always part of the equation.
But today’s sophisticated weaponry is draining both financial and environmental resources beyond sustainable limits. An aircraft carrier is basically a pile of floating steel and oil, resources that are becoming progressively more expensive with the consequence that the vessels now come with a £5 billion pricetag.
Building weapons and waging wars are luxuries that we can clearly no longer afford, so why do we keep on doing both? Aircraft carriers are being built to keep shipyard workers in employment, but the carriers will have no aircraft because that is beyond our budget. We continue to manufacture weapons because not to do so would throw thousands of workers into unemployment and affect ”political credibility” at the great council tables of the world where we expect to sit with our imagined peers as ‘superpowers’. All are engaged in a desperate attempt to maintain their reputation on the world stage, but the energy sources needed for that are becoming too expensive.
We are now squandering our precious natural resources, and money, on a desperate bid for more than our fair share of the few resources that remain. As in Iraq, the battle in Libya is really all about oil. Warplanes now flying over Libya cost about £80,000 an hour to run, but the ultimate prize is its oil reserves. As the academic and commentator Noam Chomsky said, if the main Libyan export was asparagus, the US, France and Britain wouldn’t be spending their hard cash to ‘protect’ its people
We all view war for its potential benefit, not its immediate cost and that has been all too apparent during the Arab spring. Syria has no oil, so western leaders are merely asking the Syrians to stop killing each other. They’ll make no intervention in Bahrain because that might upset the balance of Saudi oil supply altogether and throw the world economy into a downward spiral of chaos.
We may not realize it yet, but we are actually now in a period of fierce resource wars. Modern technology has given us new tools of destruction, but it hasn’t changed our mindset from that of the spear thrower of 20,000 years ago. Like the stone age hunter, the hungrier we are, the more desperate we become. We’ll fight to maintain our lifestyle, whatever the cost.