The screaming banner headlines about how French defence manufacturer Dassault won a massive 20 billion dollar fighter plane purchase deal with the Indian government and how the company’s rivals, the nearest one being EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space company) but including four others in the fray earlier namely, American firms Lockheed Martin (F-16) and Boeing (F/A-18), Russian United Aircraft Corporation (MiG-35) and Swedish SAAB (Gripen) also tell a story other than an exciting business battle that involved not just individual corporations but also national governments. All these countries belong to the developed world and are supposedly champions of international peace and human rights. They have plenty of money to sink into the peace and conflict studies, as well as to fund the human rights movement around the globe. Indeed their money is the fuel behind a majority of NGOs around the world working in these areas of growing global concern. From this bare outline the irony is already apparent.
The UN Human Development Report, 2002, dedicated to a study on deepening of democracy quite accurately pointed out that two democratic countries have never gone to war since WW-II and is unlikely ever to go to war again for apart from everything else, democracy is about settling national disputes by civilised debates, business competitions, and not the least, sports. The report probably had the so called mature democracies in these rich countries in mind. Indeed, it is unthinkable today that any two Western European countries or North America would go to war with each other. But the fact also is, they do not hesitate taking wars and weapons of war to other countries. If the international peace campaigns were to mean a complete ban on weapons manufacturing, probably these democratic countries would be the first to back out and begin a process of redefining democracy through cleverly sponsored NGOs and academic think tanks, to suit their ends. They remain the biggest merchants of weapons of war and therefore the vendors of death as well. Though they would talk peace, they would not like wars to end and put a seal on their highly profitable businesses. They would however not want these wars to be on their soils. Can there be a bigger hypocrisy than this?
Probably the argument then would be these weapons are not meant for war but for preventing wars. We have all heard this argument before haven’t we? Modernising the military, making nuclear weapons, developing terrible chemical and biological weapons, are all meant to be deterrents of future wars, provided of course these activities remain the monopoly of the developed countries. If other states even nurture vague ambitions to emulate these manufacturing capabilities, they would be termed as rogue states, and possibly bombed out of sanity. Iraq and Afghanistan learnt this the hard way. Iran and North Korea are also dangerously coming into the firing line of this outlook.
It must come as extremely disheartening to genuine peace workers that disarmament still remains highly unrealistic because of what Noam Chomsky called the “military industrial complex”. Both the military as well as the arms industries around the world need each other in what can actually be called an unholy alliance. If there is any alliance that is beyond severance at this moment it must be this one, considering the numerous vested interests intertwined and cemented so securely by prospects of making billons and trillions of dollars.
Beyond the “military industrial complex” and therefore the perpetuation of weapons circulation around the world, there are other implications. The one most noteworthy is the outcome, though perhaps not part of a design, of an unseen equation between this complex and the NGO movements campaigning for peace and disarmament. On this canvas, disarmament has come to virtually mean neutralising the war capabilities of non-state actors only. Recognized states can buy the deadliest and costliest weapons legally from the world market, but nobody else can. If the latter want to arm themselves the weapons have to be bought from the black market, and it is no surprise that beyond the legal arms market, an illegal one has also become a reality. In this sense even the “military industrial complex” is an endorsement of the Weberian notion of legitimate violence as a monopoly of the state. The vicious cycle of conflict, it seems is not just about to end in the backdrop of this sinister “military industrial complex”.