Global arms industry, worth billions of dollars, clear and present danger to planet
The success of those engaged in the business of producing weapons is measured by the extent to which more and more weapons with higher destructiveness are promoted and peddled
One of the most perplexing questions of human life on earth relates to why weapons capable of destroying all life on earth have been developed, accumulated and persisted with, particularly since year 1914 onwards.
Nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons exist in the world today and the actual use of less than 0.5% of these can destroy human beings and most life forms on earth, not only directly by fire, heat and explosion but also by ushering in a nuclear winter that will deny sunlight, food and other essentials of life.
With the escalation of tensions and enmity among the various nuclear powers, with the reduction of response time, with the increased possibility of misreading of situations and accidents, with the development of ‘tactical’ and smaller nukes, with the increasing possibilities of terrorists acquiring and even using these, with the increased risk of proliferation and with stalemate or regression in disarmament talks and agreements, the possibilities of intended or accidental use of nuclear weapons and exchange of nuclear weapons in increasing.
Dangers from actual use of chemical and biological weapons, robot weapons and space warfare also remain.
At the same time, conventional weapons are also becoming more and more deadly, and depleted uranium weapons have already been used extensively in some wars. The number of deaths caused by extensive use of the most destructive conventional weapons has sometimes almost equaled the use of a nuclear weapon or two, as seen in the Second World War, Vietnam and Iraq.
In fact, even the actual destruction caused by various kinds of small arms, in small and big conflicts and crime in daily life, is immense. The number of yearly deaths caused by small arms worldwide is much more than that caused by the use of the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima.
While the total number of people engaged in the production and distribution of these weapons worldwide is likely to be quite high, most of them are engaged in earning their bread and butter which they can also earn in other less destructive lines of work. The crucial decision makers, controllers and big profit earners constitute a much smaller group. Their number may be much less than a hundred thousand worldwide. Thus, just about 0.001 per cent of world’s people play a critical role in endangering the safety and security of the entire planet.
These persons, and particularly an even much smaller core group, benefit from and are engaged relentlessly, even feverishly, in trying to create conditions in which more and more destructive weapons in increasing quantities can be produced, invented, ‘improved’, ordered, sold, tested and used. It is the daily business of these people, and their success is measured by the extent to which more and more weapons with higher destructiveness are promoted and peddled.
A robber who indulges in some violence once in a while is jailed. But these persons who pursue the peddling of most deadly weapons, routinely employing deceit and deception, corruption and cunning, to maximize the spread of the most destructive weapons which will kill so many, are celebrated among the most successful people of high society, rubbing shoulders with famous politicians and officials.
The arms sales of the 100 largest arms and military service companies added up to $531 billion in year 2020. 41 of these are in just one country, the USA, with annual sales of 285 billion dollars. Such big companies, if they are selling food products or textiles, have to reach out to millions of consumers. But such companies selling arms for domestic use or exports have to engage with just a few politicians and officials to ensure their multi-billion orders.
Hence, they are both willing and capable of spending billions on election and selection of politicians and officials. They can make and perhaps unmake governments or at least those sections of governments most relevant to them; they can ensure what war, invasion and arms export related decisions are actually taken.
Hence, the constant activity of about a hundred thousand persons, with billions of dollars at their disposal, to increase destruction and conflict in the world and to produce and procure the tools for this is a constant danger to our world’s peace and security. Something effective must be done to check this completely irrational and in fact insane pursuit of destruction.
(The writer is Convener, Campaign to Save Earth NOW. His recent books include A Day in 2071, Planet in Peril and Protecting Earth for Children. Views are personal)