There's money for war but not for poverty or peace
Globally, 800 million people still live in extreme poverty, 57 million children are still denied the right to primary education, gender inequality continues to persist, and economic gaps between rich and poor households are growing. At the three-day summit held from September 25 to 27, 2015 in New York, the largest ever gathering of world leaders, the 193 member states of the UN pledged to work together to help the world's poorest people. They agreed on a set of targets that became known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which include issues from eradicating poverty to preserving the planet. The implementation of the goals is expected to cost somewhere between $3.5 and $5 trillion every year until 2030. Experts, however, say the challenge lies in gathering the support and the funds to reach the 17 SDGs of the new agenda.
One can argue SDG funding is not just about money, it is about rich nations' political will and inclusion. There is a ton of money being spent in the wrong places. For the last several years, the Western rich and powerful nations have been preaching 'world peace' but the statistics shows that since 1776 the US has only been at peace for a total of 21 years. America has been at war 93 percent of the time -- 222 out of 239 years. In the history of warfare, the 20th century stands out as the most brutal -- three times as many people have been killed in wars in the last ninety years than in the previous five hundred. Since the end of WWII in 1945 there have been some 250 major wars in which over 50 million people have been killed, tens of millions made homeless, and countless millions injured and bereaved. It is ludicrous that the US Airforce boasts 'Peace is our profession' and nuclear weapons are named the Peacekeeper.
The issue of Western countries' double standards, including that of the US, demands immediate attention. The US government has a long and unbroken record of working with fascists, dictators, drug lords in every region of the world in its elusive but relentless quest for unchallenged global power. Since WWII, the US has undermined, subverted or violently overthrown some 60 -- mostly democratically-elected and independent -- governments worldwide and, replaced them with murderous corrupt dictators subservient to US dictates. To serve its interests, the US government and its allies backed and financed dictators like Augusto Pinochet of Chile, François Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc") of Haiti, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Arab dictators like Saddam Hossein, Jein al Abedin Bin Ali, Hosni Mubarak and Bashar al-Assad for their geo-strategic benefit, and then plotted to destroy them when they emerged as threats to their interests.
Recently, CNN disclosed that the American use of 'Agent Orange' in the Vietnamese jungles between the 1960s and 1970s has been instrumental in the killing of humans as well as plants and animals, eventually creating a severe ecological imbalance there. In 1970 the special forces of the US used Sarin to kill the rebels of Laos and in 1983 Saddam Hussein attacked Iran with US-supplied arms of mustard, Sarin and Tabun gas. And now, since August 2014, the US has been lashing airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and has spent more than US$1 billion in the process. However, it is believed that such air missions hardly prevented the radical Islamist's advances in parts of Syria and in western Iraq. Some analysts have said that the strikes weren't meant to help the country survive its internal struggles, but rather to destroy the Arab countries' infrastructures, taking out oil refineries and food storage silos, hurting the Syrian people in the process instead of the supposed enemy ISIS. They speculate that the US has to recover what it has spent on the air strikes by creating scenarios that would create the effective desire to warrant its manufactured arms and weapons by the countries in need. As Joe losbaker, said, "The US doesn't go to war to protect lives, it goes to war for profit," he said.
The arms industry is a serious matter. According to a report just released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military expenditures in 2012 totalled $1.75 trillion. And, the report revealed, as in all recent decades, the world's biggest military spender by far was the US, whose expenditures for war amounted to $682 billion -- 39 percent of the global total. In 2011, the 100 largest contractors sold $410 billion in arms and military services. Just 10 of these companies sold over $208 billion. These companies have benefited tremendously from the growth in military spending in the US, which by far has the largest military budget in the world. In 2000, the US defence budget was approximately $312 billion and by 2011, the figure grew to $712 billion. Arms sales also grew alongside general defence spending growth. SIPRI noted that between 2002 and 2011, arms sales among the top 100 companies grew by 51 percent. The combined military expenditure of the 27 EU member states is €194 billion. Today, 19 percent of the world's poorest people live in fragile and conflict-affected areas, and that figure will leap to 40 percent by 2030 if the current trends continue.
A different study shows that to end extreme poverty worldwide in 20 years, the total cost per year would be about $175 billion. This represents less than one percent of the combined income of the richest countries in the world. The annual defence spending in the US is about four times as much money as is needed to begin ending extreme poverty in the world.
But unfortunately, there is a huge gap between the world we live in and the world we want. If the world's so-called saviours really want to achieve the goal of eradicating extreme poverty from the world and establish peace then they need to change their mindset, attitude and policies. They need to understand, wars have not brought peace. Extreme poverty in our world could quickly become a thing of the past if only some of their monstrous military's budget could be diverted towards humanitarian goals, building schools and skill development institutions in countries that are struggling.
The writer is a businessman. He can be contacted at [email protected].