The Business of War

April 17, 2024by Rajeev Hora0

One should always be wary about falling into the trap of claiming corelation to be causal.

 Having witnessed many a street fights in a Punjabi neighbourhood, I can vouch that there is no greater pleasure than observing how it all started. The quintessential bully would first push the underdog. Thereafter at the first hint of a retaliation, he would pile on the hapless guy, “Oye, Tu aukha kyon honda hain?” Meaning, why are you getting so upset?

This would be followed by a round of jostling to ascertain the power dynamics. By this time, a smart youngster would have gone back home in search of reinforcements. These would arrive, armed with hockey sticks or the easiest possible alternative in hand. Sometimes a melee and sometimes a quick de-escalation. Invariably a separation, with both sides claiming victory as they are pulled apart by neutrals. And threats of “Main tujhko dekh loonga”. Meaning, I will sort you out in the next round.

Notwithstanding the scope of impact, it can be seen that geopolitical military forays are sometimes no different. The ongoing brawly conflict in the Middle East stands testimony to this empirical hypothesis.

Geopolitics is an interesting field indeed. An absolute non-science. Don’t blame me if non-science rhymes with nonsense! Data matters but not quite always. Histories do matter but only sometimes and are dug up at convenience. Emotions and perceptions also have their place in claiming ‘notions of victory”. But most importantly, the size of the pocket and the stick have the greatest influence when it comes to the heady mix of realpolitik.

Like many others, I have also reconciled to the fact that the world will never be peaceful. Of course, not to the level of the classic Afghan who is at peace only when he is at war! As interdependency increases, the trend will certainly indicate a slightly less turbulent world order. But in the long term, a peaceful world is a utopian concept, an absolute antithesis of human nature.

From Romans to the Brits to the Yanks, many giants have tried to influence the course of history. Striving to be a superpower or remaining one is akin to the ambition of being the Alpha male of the pack. In due course, every Alpha realizes that time is the biggest leveller. But that does not prevent him from striving to retain his position till the inevitability of replacement faces him starkly.

In this interplay of power dynamics, manifestations of ego and risks of survival are the key drivers. The current leading superpower as we know it to be, has always reiterated that, “There are no permanent allies, there are only permanent national interests.” In this never-ending pursuit to retain the pole position, they have made war as their primary business.

Lemme put it slightly differently. For them war in any part of the world or rather the potential of conflict is ripe ground for investment. Simplistic formula it is. Enter a region and create influence with money and arms. Create an environment of insecurity through distrust and polarisation. It is well known that arms are seldom bought to fight wars. More often they are acquired to ward off insecurities. So, arrive on the scene as comforters and solution providers with multi-billion arms sales and follow-on support contracts. Exit the scene.

A slightly different long-term version is where inevitability of action is created, Iraq and Ukraine for instance. In such cases, the exit strategy has infrastructure rebuilding as the additional major component. The impacted state is thereafter indebted, sorry in debt for a long, long time.

The interesting part is that for ‘the power’, the outcome of the conflict rarely matters. As long as significant arms sales and rebuild contracts have taken place, it is an unqualified win. To hell with what happens to poor Ukraine and the like. As it is, was there any doubt from Day 1 that Russia will allow a buffer state like Ukraine to join NATO?

The iron-clad guarantees vanishing into thin air. Result? A totally beautiful country smashed-up and its wheat fields mortgaged to continue buying second rate arms and to rebuild from the ashes. Plus, concentrate at the arms sales which will happen to the new alliance joinees, Finland and Sweden.

There are no hearts and friends out there. Lives don’t matter. Only temporary allies and ruthlessness. The façade is claiming to work for the larger good and the stale excuse of protecting democratic values.

One should always be wary about falling into the trap of claiming corelation to be causal. But at the moment, the recent goldrush which is taking place, just can’t be ignored. The gold prices have skyrocketed with major national banks (including the Bank of China) all over the world hedging through gold. A reduced confidence in the pseudo security of US bonds and currency is widespread and evident.

Whenever people are buying more insurance, it simply implies that the flux and risk are increasing. And in the financial world, gold and not promissory notes still remain the only reliable insurance policy. China and other non-Western countries have learnt big time from sanctions on Russia, North Korea and Iran. They are in no mood to be pushed into a corner when the calling comes. The same may not be too far away.

The US having overextended its reach, is facing recession. The only alternative is consolidation and that means withdrawal from it policing positions from many parts of the world. The moment you withdraw, the vacuum created will be immediately filled by the prince-in-waiting China.The US example is illustrative but others will prove to be no different.

The imagery is of a receding ocean current and another one expanding simultaneously. A seamless blended takeover of the vacated space. Those caught in the crosscurrents or crossfire are considered expendable and do not matter for the heavy-weight Sumos. The balance is being upset and harmonic motions will prevail for quite some time before stabilization occurs.

Not wanting to be a pessimistic soothsayer, but the next few years are ominously looking as extremely volatile and turbulent. The only way the US can get out of recession is more arms sales and that in turn means raging more fires. Only difference between then and now would be that the US will totally avoid large-scale active involvement. It just can’t afford it at the moment.

Nationalism and associated protectionism are already coming to the fore. Stock markets will be volatile and unpredictable with the exchanges doing good business. Widespread ripples in industries and businesses will follow. Employments especially abroad, will become scarcer by the day. Sooner or later, oil will shoot up. Hmmm, not sounding too good.

Well, it is not absolute ‘doom & gloom’ but certainly not ‘boom & bloom’!

Crystal ball gazing,
Horax (Casper)

Postscript: Watch out for this space a couple of years from now as the good, the bad and the ugly play out on world stage.

First published at seekmediation.com on 17/04/2024
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