US outspends everyone on arms, funding enemies, too
Science as a shaper of global diplomacy
US taxpayers not only spend too much on weapons and bases, their public revenue also ends up in the wrongs pockets. Might there be a better way to settle disputes and secure people? A way based on economic justice? We trim, blend, and append three 2010 articles from: (1) MarketWatch, Jun 18, on military spending by Christopher Hinton; (2) BBC, Jun 22, on funding warlords; and (3) The Los Angeles Times, Jun 27, on diplomacy by Ahmed Zewail of CalTech, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in chemistry and President Obama’s science envoy to the Middle East.
by Christopher Hinton, by BBC, and by Ahmed Zewail
Global military spending to outpace GDP growth in 2010
Global military spending for technology, fighter aircraft, tanks, guns, and combat boots, from 2000 through 2009, surged 49% versus a global GDP increase of 24%.
For 2009, despite broad economic weakness, annual spending among the world’s militaries rose about 6% to $1.53 trillion — a record year even after accounting for inflation.
Slightly more than half that increase came from the US, which alone accounts for 43% of total military-related purchases. Most of the remaining growth came from the emerging economies of Russia, India, and China as they modernize their armed forces.
Many major countries, such as those in Europe, have spending that is or is almost flat.
Over the past year there were 17 major armed conflicts from Colombia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Palestinian territories and the Philippines.
Natural resources provide a direct source of income to a government that can be easily spent on arms, unlike tax revenue form the general population, which could carry a higher political risk. Increasing oil revenues in the developing world have been accompanied by rapid increases in military spending and arms imports.
The oil- and gas-producing state of Chad saw its military spending skyrocket 663% in the last decade, while former Soviet state Azerbaijan’s military budget grew 471% and Kazakhstan’s rose 360%, albeit off of low levels.
The Middle East has for a long time been the region with the highest level of military expenditure relative to GDP in the world. This is a factor behind the high level of conflict in the region and the low level of democracy.
Wall Street analysts have been concerned that US military spending for big weapon systems will begin to decline as the Pentagon re-aligns its priorities with the winding down in Iraq operations and greater emphasis on fighting terrorist organizations and insurgencies.
JJS: So, if peace were profitable, Wall Street would be pro peace? And if people got the worth of Earth instead of politicians, then nations foreign policy could become less belligerent, more tolerant? And we could evolve beyond war?
Investigators claim US money is funding Afghan warlords
After a six-month investigation, Congressional investigators say the US military has been giving tens of millions of dollars to Afghan security firms who are channelling the money to warlords.
Trucks carrying supplies to US troops allegedly pay up to $4 million (£2.7m) per week to the firms to ensure their safe passage in dangerous areas of Afghanistan.
One of the security companies in question is allegedly owned by two cousins of the Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Bribes are paid to the Taliban and virtually every governor, police chief, and local military commander whose territory the convoys pass through.
Thus money from the US taxpayer is being used to finance the enemy, but also to undermine international efforts towards stability in the country.
The convoys are attacked if payments are not made.
The security agreements violate laws on the use of private contractors, as well as US Department of Defense regulations.
JJS: If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But the US has much more than a hammer, a destructive tool thats been more costly than effective. America also has openness.
Science as a shaper of global diplomacy
In today’s world, America’s soft power is commonly thought to reside in the global popularity of Hollywood movies, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Starbucks. But in a recent poll involving 43 countries, 79% of respondents said what they most admire about the United States is its science and technology. The artifacts of the American entertainment industry came in a distant second.
In the 1970s, what I, as a foreign student from Egypt, found most dynamic, exciting, and impressive about this country is its open intellectual culture, its great universities, its capacity for discovery and innovation.
I discovered how science is truly a universal language, one that forges new connections among individuals, and opens the mind to ideas that go far beyond the classroom. I appreciated more the value of scholarly discourse and the use of the scientific method in dealing with complex issues. It sowed, then nurtured, new seeds of political and cultural tolerance.
In many Muslim-majority countries, education seriously lags behind international standards. That, poverty, and lack of opportunity are sources of frustration and despair for many young people. These problems are rooted in poor governance and growing corruption, compounded by overpopulation and movement away from enlightened education.
There are positive signs. Muslim-majority countries such as Malaysia, Turkey, and Qatar are making significant strides in education and in technical and economic development. Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, and Indonesia are rich with youthful talents. Many Muslims in the West have excelled in their fields of endeavor. Can the Muslim world recover its venerable heritage as a leader in science?
It is in the best interests of the United States to foster relations with moderate majorities who today find themselves locked in struggle with minorities of fanatics. By catalyzing progress, America could help redirect the region’s energies into constructive and mutually beneficial channels. The soft power of science has the potential to reshape global diplomacy.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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