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Commentary– What Will Be Wrapped For Christmas?

 Thanksgiving is over — both eating and leaning what the early settlers ate—and it wasn’t turkey.

There was little, if any, political discussion before and during dinner, but looking around the very large double dining room table, I quickly realized the majority of those present were age 16 to 24. It was then that my internal worry button was pressed. I have long stopped worrying about the world as it is or will impact upon my children and their spouses, but it is the life of the younger generation that will feel the blunt of today.

The world is turning nationalistic, and although that is worrisome enough, it is just below the radar screen supporting that movement that is unsettling. It is the growth and flourishing of a prime industry: the manufacturing and distribution of military hardware including the proliferation of nuclear bomb making knowledge and material.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute –“After 13 consecutive years of increasing in global military expenditures from 1999 to 2011, and relatively unchanged spending from 2012 to 2016, total global military spending rose again in 2017.” The total amount spent worldwide in 2017 was an astonishing 1.7 trillion dollars. This would represent in 2.2 per cent of the global gross domestic product. Translated it means that worldwide, each person would theoretically have spent $230 towards the purchase of military hardware. The increases in spending are partially due to China, India and Saudi Arabia and their race to dominate their region or world competition.

Not surprising, the US spends more money on military expenditures than any other nation. But surprising to me was learning that we spend more money than the next seven highest spenders—combined! And under President Trump that number is growing, notwithstanding that there are almost 40 million people in the United States living under the poverty level. In addition, not lost in the global picture is that although Russian military complex is the leading edge of its world political posture and aggressiveness (its present naval attack against the Ukraine), its military expenditures have been reined in by its economic stagnation since 2014, and actually fell in 2017. In the 10 countries in the Mideast, Israeli is number 8 in military spending.

Not only are these worldwide spending numbers staggering, one particular item creates the greatest risk–more than guns and tanks, jets and submarines is the amount spent on the nuclear arsenals. And while there is abundant knowledge of what has been spent, there is a wide area that the amount is not known. This presents a far greater global threat than any fighting unit of tanks or squadron of jet fighters.

In 1987, the US entered into a treaty with Russia that prohibited either country from positioning missiles with a firing range from approximately 320 miles to a bit over 3400 miles. Many military strategists believe this treaty eliminated nuclear missiles from the European continent. It is Trump’s position that the Russians have been violating this agreement for years, and with China’s globally strong entry into the political/military equation, US international strategy must change. Thus, this agreement became irrelevant. Trump is in the process of unilaterally cancelled the agreement with Putin.

More than two dozen nations have nuclear power. Only nine possess actual nuclear weapons: Russia, the United States, China, India, Israel, France, North Korea, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. Combined, they represents a present day arsenal of 14 plus thousand nuclear warheads, a significant reduction from an earlier high of over 70 thousand.

At least two issue major issues are apparent to me. The first, within the group that possesses an actual nuclear weapon; there are two that I fear have a dangerous political posture in their control and stockpiling of these weapons. They are not being held as deterrents against would-be aggressors but as offensive weapons in their expanding arsenal—North Korea and Pakistan.

Second, recently reported in some of the press, the CIA has raised the question of whether the Saudis are preparing for the building of their own atomic bomb. The Saudis crown prince (the one accused of ordering the killing of a journalist) has been in negotiations with both the United States’ Department of Energy and the State Department for the sale of nuclear “designs”. The deal is worth some allege 80 billion dollars, contingent upon the ultimate number of nuclear plants to be built. One demand by the Saudis has produced flashing red lights. They have demanded that instead of their purchasing nuclear fuel abroad, they produce their own. The New York Times reported that that the Saudis could purchase that fuel in the open market at a cheaper cost than generating it at home. What concerns those familiar with the negotiations is that if they produce their own nuclear fuel, it would be possible for them to covert the end product into an atomic bomb without any UN oversight or limitations. This places Washington and the West in the same dilemma that was presented prior to the conclusion of the Iran nuclear accord in 2015. The open competition for a bomb making between the rival Saudis and Iran would become a reality.

So on this gloomy Monday morning, with the caravan of immigrants being turned away at our boarder, with tear gas in response and the haunting picture of an immigrant mother fleeing from tear gas with her child, what rings hollow and violates my sense of logic and humanity is the world spending 1.7billion dollars for military destruction. What have we become and what are we leaving to our grandchildren?

Richard Allan,

The Editor