ANALYSIS: How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur - Sunday, February 13, 2011

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The use of force in conflict resolution seems to be more closely related to the perks and privileges that it brings to its initiators and supporters

Some decades ago, it was fashionableand even politically correct to condemn the arms race and demand global nuclear and conventional weapons disarmament but, of late, it seems the people have meekly resigned themselves to their fate and have accepted the curse of an arms race as something beyond their ambit of interests. People, if still bothered by the massive expenditures and destructive capabilities of these weapons, probably keep those concerns to themselves and casually go about their business or, possibly, people the world over have become so insensitive that they no longer bother if the world survives for their children or grandchildren; for them the future of planet earth is immaterial.

Only the Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute (SIPRI) seems to be bothered. Every year, it exposes the extent of the immoral and vulgar expenses of countries on arms instead of food, health and welfare of the increasingly tenuous lives of their citizens. The 2010 yearbook discloses that for 2009, the global military expenditure was over $ 1.5 trillion, a sum that is enough to feed all the malnourished and treat sick people all over the world for a few years. Unfortunately, even countries lagging pathetically behind in human development fields devote precious resources for Hataf 7s or Agnis, nuclear bombs, etc, while people are crushed under the tsunami of poverty and disease.

The inclination towards militarisation has been led by the US and it goads others too; militarisation has increased over time because resistance to this lethal folly is non-existent. The upward trend in global military expenditure is steady — the over $ 1.5 trillion spent in 2009 represents a six percent increase since 2008 and a 49 percent increase since 2000. It corresponds to 2.7 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) or approximately $ 225 per person in the world. The US, with its massive spending budget, now accounts for 46.5 percent — just under half of the world’s total.

Expenditure on the military is highly concentrated in a few countries; over 82 percent of the total expenditure is accounted for by only 15 countries with the US responsible for 46.5 percent, distantly followed by China at 6.6 percent, France at 4.2 percent, the UK at 3.8 percent and Russia at 3.5 percent. The other top 10, which include Saudi Arabia and India, account for 20.7 percent of the total. Pakistan with its military expenditure, officially standing at 2.6 percent of GDP, is bracketed among the higher spenders.

The regionwise share of military spending is that North America is at $ 684 billion, which is 46 percent of the total, Europe weighs in with $ 424 billion accounting for 27 percent, Asia and Oceania are at 18 percent of the total with $ 275 billion, the Middle East competes way above its size with 6 percent and $ 94.1 billion while South America and Africa respectively spend 4 and 2 percent at $ 59.2 billion and $ 27.7 billion. Now, for a moment, imagine the progress that could have been made if these sums were spent on the welfare of the people and research for the treatment of preventable diseases. This spending on such a massive scale, in spite of the global economic downturn, just goes to show how callous and hard-hearted governments are, spending money on the military and allowing people to suffer. Money spent on militaries is unaffected by any global or national crisis; militaries want their ‘pound of flesh’ by hook or by crook.

Spending on the military has never solved any problems and, on the contrary, has created more as is apparent in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Balochistan, Kashmir and other areas of conflict. The use of force in conflict resolution seems to be more closely related to the perks and privileges that it brings to its initiators and supporters.

It is little wonder then that, in 2008, the President for the 63rd Session of the UN, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, in his opening address said, “It is a sad but undeniable fact that serious breaches of the peace and threats to international peace and security are being perpetrated by some members of the Security Council that seem unable to break what appears like an addiction to war. The state of our world today is deplorable, inexcusable and, therefore, shameful.”

Condemning military spending in less stronger words would have been dishonest because that year’s SIPRI report stated: “The world’s 100 leading arms producing companies sold arms worth $ 315 billion in 2006. In the past decade, the Middle East has boosted military expenditure by 62 percent, South Asia by 57 percent and Africa and East Asia by 51 percent each.” All with a conscience will unequivocally agree and condemn the persistently growing trend of resolving conflicts through force.

The title of this piece is that of the 1964 film, ‘Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’, a satire on the nuclear scare as the nuclear arms race between the US and USSR was then at its peak. In it, a paranoid US General surreptitiously launches a nuclear attack on Russia. It is then disclosed that Russia has a “Doomsday Device” that will automatically destroy all life on earth if the Soviet Union were ever attacked. The attack is aborted but one disabled plane drops the bomb. The Doomsday Device does not activate immediately but does so after a while. This ever-increasing military spending is the real Doomsday Device, which will one day destroy the world.

To cure epilepsy, surgeons sometimes cut the corpus callosum (a band of nervous fibres), which keeps the two halves of the brain in constant contact. Patients, after undergoing this procedure, occasionally suffer from symptoms in which both brain hemispheres are in conflict. This is known as the Dr Strangelove Syndrome or the Alien Hand Syndrome. In it, the hand of the person is beyond his/her physical or mental control and does unreasonable actions like strangling or slapping himself or others. Militaries too are like that alien hand, beyond state control, in conflict with people, consequently hurting many while remaining self-satisfied.

As long as this immoral and obscene expenditure on the military and weapons continues and the Alien Hand Syndrome is continually strengthened, there can be no hope of peace in the world because militaries are very skilful at finding excuses for wars and conflicts. They thrive on conflict and require perpetual conflict for their survival, hence depriving and denying the people in those countries of their rights and opportunities to prosper.

Peace is not only desirable but is essential for the world to have real democracy because, as long as states know that they can unjustly bully others with powerful weapons and the military, they will never give rights or even listen to grievances. The might that they possess stops them from respecting human rights or, for that matter, any rights. So, until the world is rid of the Doomsday Device, i.e. militaries and arms that endanger its very existence, we should forget about peace and democracy.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at

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