General Question

atlantis's avatar

How come war is a trillion dollar industry in the world (the largest industry) when it would only take a few billion dollars to bring green, sustainiable energy to the poorest, war-torn countries in Africa?

Asked by atlantis (1862points) June 21st, 2011

Is it within human nature to be destructive of the inherent capacity we have developed for advancement and civilization? An existential imperfection which makes us destroy our own humanity? Why are we so apathetic about our survival but strongly hell-bent on our self destruction?

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33 Answers

BarnacleBill's avatar

Because sustainable energy was developed by the nerdy guys who were stuffed into lockers in high school by the testosterone John Wayne types who sit in Washington and look for ways for their friends in the military weaponry industry to make money. It’s all about playing armchair cowboy-and-indians, for a profit.

trickface's avatar

Because the bankers and politicians think war is more profitable than green energy in Africa.

@atlantis This docu is a good answer to your question

Hibernate's avatar

The struggle for power and respect and let’s not forget fame.

Better try to look like a big shot then to just help those who actually need help.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

I have been thinking about this a great deal lately.

I believe a large part of the population of any country, including the inhabitants of the richer ones, feels unsafe and insecure in general at any given time. That population may shift as people feel better about themselves and content people feel worse.

Unsafe feeling people are worried about protection, and motivated towards asserting themselves. They are very willing to see enemies everywhere, and buy into the arguments of the people who will profit as @BarnacleBill suggested.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Gee, one makes more money and breeds more business and dependence, while the other doesn’t make as much and fosters independence. I wonder…

ETpro's avatar

Great question, but the premise isn’t quite accurate. The fossil fuel industry is worth about $37 trillion per year. Before the collapse of Wall Street’s Casino Capitalism, the derivatives market (mainly bundled, oleveraged mortgage-backed securities) was $72 trillion a year. You see why they are pushing Republicans so hard to life all regulation and let them do it again.

But to answer your question, Greed. Greed is NOT good. In fact, the Bible says in 1 Tim , “For the love of money is the root of all evil…” It’s usually translated money but the original Aramaic made it the “Lust for mommon” Mammon is more enlightening than simply money. Mammon means worldly goods, material things. It could be money, jewels, land, a beautiful person, power. Unchecked lust for mammon drives men to unspeakable acts of brutality. Greed destroys all it touches.

wundayatta's avatar

Because a nation with a lot of stuff is very concerned about protecting that stuff. That is a much higher priority than helping a few small nations. The US government believes that people will only act rationally when faced with the possibility of death. So the US has to make that threat credible.

atlantis's avatar

I don’t see how we can stand to gain less from sustainable infrastructure development. If we could spend about $12 trillion on war in the last decade, imagine where standards of living would be today if we had put that into building a sustainable future.

@wundayatta Is the mere threat of such a possibilty all that takes to turn ordinary people into “rational” actors. I think anyone who has watched faux news would beg to differ.

What I’m trying to say here is that someone in the upper echelons of government should have the insight to see through that. I mean they’re supposed to be the smart ones right? That’s why we elect them to represent us.

Jellie's avatar

Because everyone wants to live in the now instead of planning for the future unfortunately.

cheebdragon's avatar

Since when does America really care about Africa?

Linda_Owl's avatar

Greed & power from the money that the greed produces – that & the fact that people with money/power have no points of reference with the poorest of the poor & therefore no recognition of them as actually being people. (And to cheebdragon there are a LOT of people in America who care about Africa & the people in Africa, but most of us are powerless to do anything for them.)

YARNLADY's avatar

I have often wondered the same thing. I think war is not about people, but rather about power.

cheebdragon's avatar

(I’m not saying that I dislike Africa, to be honest I don’t really have time to think about all of the other people with fucked up lives, because I’m dealing with my own fucked up situations. Maybe that seems mean but I highly doubt anyone in Africa is losing any sleep over my problems in life either.)

quarkquarkquark's avatar

It’s a colossal cop-out to cite pure profit as a motivation for the supremacy of the military-industrial complex, as I see some Flutherers have done above. In fact, it’s flawed reasoning, if only in that it’s incomplete.

Certainly, the executives of defense contractors the world over stand to benefit from endless war, and it is certain that they exercise what influence they do have to ensure that they will remain employed in the service of this dubious cause. But to ascribe a kind of bottomless malice to the world’s military structures is a mistake.

The argument goes like this: “We won’t be able to protect the Earth if we aren’t here to protect it”... having been killed off by Communists, Islamofascists, the Chinese, whatever. The U.S.‘s massive defense budget doesn’t run simply off the influence of the executives in charge. In runs off the unfalsifiable hypothesis that all other privileges and responsibilities come second to the U.S.‘s continued survival. And, in fact, there is something to that. If the U.S., for example, didn’t have an army, we would be at the mercy of any number of expansionist, fascist, theocratic or otherwise perfidious powers. Our geographical advantages would be of little use were we not to have an army. Now imagine the position of the world’s less blessed nations—those countries boxed in on all sides by hostile powers, or living in the shadow of a fledgling hyperpower. Short-term survival, for nations, is the first priority—just as it is for solitary human beings.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@quarkquarkquark I respectfully disagree.

My comment was that many people see enemies where none are present, and some foster and benefit from this.

Your comment seems to suppose that there are enemies present, and we would be at their mercy unless we pay money for protection.

atlantis's avatar

I think to de-link war entirely from profiteering would be naive and unsubstantiated. Some of the world’s most geographically endowed countries are in a state of war, from Congo to Sudan to Iraq.

Given that the US has a right to protect itself from threats but what track record does the US have of identifying and specifying what those threats effectively are (Vietnam anyone?) Now history is repeating itself with Iraq and Afghanistan, where soldiers for hire are taking out unarmed civilians and destroying infrastructure. Not to mention holding the entire continent hostage. And for what? To prolong their energy sufficiency by another half-century or so?

The US establishment will have to answer to international law and morality one day as to it’s own expansionist and hegemonic foreign policy.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Not to mention that traditional cultures with locally sustainable economies have no reason to go into business with outsiders.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought- I should probably have made clearer that I was really just stating the thinking behind the primacy of the defense industry. I don’t necessarily believe that as well.

Although, reading over my comment, I think it’s a defensible position. I want to be careful not to accuse you of naivete—but the country does indeed have enemies, and they’re growing by the day. The question of whether any of these enemies pose an existential threat is, of course, unanswerable. But it’s important to note that the perverse logic of the defense industry—that while we may seem too safe for our militarization, it’s precisely because of that militarization that we’re safe—is rational as well as perverse. Eliminate a country’s capacity to defend herself and enemies will materialize from the ether.

That said, I think the U.S. could substantially diminish her defense budget for the sake of worthier programs without being invaded by China.

atlantis's avatar

The Hegemon sees threats everywhere. Ever peruse through Macbeth? What is the rational for a nuclear stockpile that can destroy the planet not just once but several times over? Is it not the senseless warmongering, hatred loving, business as usual ideology of the defense industry?

To an unbiased observer from, say Mars, who would seem like they are seriously considering a real leadership role for the planet? China and Russia who are calling for US missile shield program to be scrapped or the US which has 20% of the world’s population responsible for 80% of the world pollution. Mass extinction

The US is already hostage to China. $3 trillion in forex reserves. In fact the Asian tiger economy is based on buying US treasury bonds and exporting goods for consumption to US markets.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar


Thank you for your response. I do not think we are so far apart.

I understand the position that we must defend to discourage aggression. I have lately come to the view, however, that an overzealous defense sparks resentment and aggression, which justifies a greater need for defense.

The expansionist powers I can name from history, all had populations who felt that they could only achieve safety through extensive militarization. That line of thinking feeds on itself.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought, you’ll hear no argument from me on that front. It seems that what’s necessary is for us to walk the fine line between the necessity of national defense and the ostensibly more important areas that the military exists solely to protect.

As for you, @atlantis, you’ll notice that very little of our defense budget in this country is devoted to building up our nuclear arsenal. As a matter of fact, we’re in the process of reducing it, along with some of the world’s other nuclear powers. I agree that the spectre of nuclear destruction is so terrifying as to warrant the destruction of all the world’s weapons. The question I have for you is this: would you have it so that we’re the first to get rid of all of them?

flutherother's avatar

@quarkquarkquark The United States military is transforming the way war is fought. Future wars will be fought electronically in cyber space and with smart weapons that can cripple a country’s essential infrastructure and paralyse its government. Nuclear weapons no longer make any sense and the United States should lead the way in scrapping them.

atlantis's avatar

@quarkquarkquark You’re right. Nuclear is out drones are in. Did you hear about the trillions of dollars they are asking for developing drone technology? While we could divert that amount to restoring a badly ailing economy?

We are increasingly de-humanising the way war is being fought. That is the key to understanding our war-obsessed human history ever since the dawn of civilization. It doesn’t matter what we fight war with. As long as we transgress the bounds of common humanity and international morality, we are all looking at a bleak future which is fast becoming the present. Fate will drop the ultimate bomb on us and she won’t discriminate.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

@flutherother, @atlantis, I don’t dispute that the U.S. should indeed lead the way in scrapping nukes. And what I hear from you guys are some greatly important ideas about what the future should like like, and what the U.S.‘s place in that future should be. But I also hear a little bit of naivete. There’s no geopolitical expert on earth who would agree that it would be a good thing for global peace and stability if the U.S. got rid of all of its nukes before, say, China or Pakistan. Part of our potential as a supporter and, perhaps, enforcer of global peace includes military power. If you dispute that, what I would like to hear from you is a reasoned argument, not a reiteration of a humanist ideology or reinforcement of a discursive position.

Again, @atlantis, if you go up and look at my posts you’ll notice I’m not defending the absurd amounts we spend on our militaries; I’m offering an explanation and asking for a bit of breathing room between our present level of defense spending and a future where all that money goes toward schoolbooks, health care, and flowers to put in the barrels of guns that belong to soldiers attempting to invade.

ETpro's avatar

@quarkquarkquark If by leading the way you mean pushing for world action to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles, then I can support that. But unilateral nuclear disarmament for any of the major nuclear powers today would likely be tantamount to committing societal suicide. Hideous as the threat is, mutually assured destruction (MAD) has prevented another all-out war now for 66 years. Looking back in the past, before nuclear weapons were developed, you have to go way back to find such long stretch free from major global conflict.

flutherother's avatar

Afghanistan is a good case in point. While half the population lives on around $1:00 a day, the US is spending $6.7 billion a month on fighting the Taliban. That is the equivalent of the Gross National Product of the country every four months. It makes no sense but that’s the way it is.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

@ETpro… that’s pretty much what I was saying. I urge you to read whole posts instead of just the first sentence.

atlantis's avatar

@quarkquarkquark I personally think the detente era has run its course and wore it out too. So I guess what you would look at as naivete is an earnest effort on my part to understand where the US, being the supreme power with substantial voting power in major world institutions, can rethink its foreign policy. When you say you want a balance between current military spending and putting flowers in the barrels of the guns of future invaders, I hear, “I wish my government had at least listened to my point of view when we invaded Iraq, or bombed Libya or embarked on the other increasingly blatant military misadventures.”

Because whether you’d openly admit it or not, foreign policy around the world, especially in the US, can benefit from a populist referendum rather than being dictated by an archaic geopolitical concept dating back three centuries, the aftermath of industrial prowess and the subsequent imperialism which remains entrenched to this day.

ETpro's avatar

@quarkquarkquark Guilty as charged in this instance. The hour was very late, and in truth, I didn’t take the time to read your entire answer or I would have probably just posted a “Well said.” I apologize.

cheebdragon's avatar

Why must we always be up some other countries ass?

ETpro's avatar

@cheebdragon The glib answer would be “Pearl Harbor” and “9/11” and so forth. But truth told, a great deal that appears unprovoked attacks on us happens now because we have such a global domination aim in our foreign policy and covert operations around the world, and we keep getting hit by the blow-back. So maybe a more honest answer is what goes around comes around. You try to dominate others, they try to stop you.

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