The Silent Ca­su­alty

The world could be headed to­wards an­other world war and com­plete an­hilla­tion of the planet earth this time if bet­ter coun­sels do not pre­vail and mil­i­tarism is not con­trolled.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Taha Ke­har

In the global mil­i­tary con­flict, planet earth would be the

ul­ti­mate ca­su­alty.

There is a fine line be­tween bel­li­cos­ity and mil­i­tary re­straint. Un­for­tu­nately, in a world that is fiercely dom­i­nated by post-truth pol­i­tics – where the bound­aries be­tween fact, fic­tion and be­lief are blurred by emo­tional ap­peals – any form of mil­i­tarism could trig­ger the im­mi­nent threat of war.

Such cir­cum­stances carry im­pli­ca­tions that stretch beyond short­term dev­as­ta­tion. As the world surges to­wards an apoc­a­lyp­tic con­clu­sion through ex­ces­sive mil­i­tarism, the dis­course sur­round­ing hu­man rights and the en­vi­ron­ment has en­tered rough ter­rain and lost its value.

Western po­lit­i­cal sys­tems have, since time im­memo­rial, safe­guarded ba­sic hu­man rights. How­ever, all rights are bal­anced against com­pet­ing lib­er­ties. Since the Western ethos tends to give need­less pri­or­ity to civil and po­lit­i­cal rights, there has been a grow­ing em­pha­sis on mil­i­tary spend­ing as a means of as­sert­ing the right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion. These at­tempts to ag­gres­sively pre­pare for a war help con­sol­i­date na­tional strength through a strong mil­i­tary force. For most coun­tries, mil­i­tarism al­lows the op­por­tu­nity to demon­strate arms po­tency. In many re­spects, it is con­sid­ered a struc­tural choice that is aligned with the de­sire to main­tain se­cu­rity.

How­ever, an­a­lysts are of the view that mil­i­tarism is not just a shield that pro­tects coun­tries against real or per­ceived en­e­mies. It has, on count­less oc­ca­sions, been used to achieve nar­row, na­tional in­ter­ests rather than de­ter coun­tries from a war-like sit­u­a­tion. For in­stance, af­ter a mil­i­tary base in Uri was at­tacked on Septem­ber 18, 2016 by four armed mil­i­tants, In­dia did not mince its words when it pinned the blame on Pak­istan. Soon af­ter the at­tack, ten­sions sharp­ened to a flash-point be­tween both coun­tries. In­dia an­nounced that it had car­ried out sur­gi­cal strikes in Pak­istan. The claim was de­nied by the lat­ter and a team of in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists were sent to in­spect var­i­ous sites to as­sess

the ex­tent of dam­age caused by the so­called ‘sur­gi­cal’ ac­tiv­ity. The team did not find ad­e­quate ev­i­dence to sug­gest that the strikes had oc­curred.

Nev­er­the­less, In­dia con­tin­ued to fire salvos at Pak­istan. Vi­o­la­tions along the LoC per­sisted. In­dia re­fused to at­tend the SAARC con­fer­ence and per­suaded other South Asian coun­tries to adopt a sim­i­lar stance. It also made con­sis­tent at­tempts to iso­late Pak­istan on the in­ter­na­tional level. In­dia re­vis­ited the In­dus Waters Treaty ( IWT) – which was rat­i­fied in 1960 – and made in­nu­mer­able ef­forts to uni­lat­er­ally wrig­gle out of the obli­ga­tions made un­der the agree­ment. Wa­ter was used as both a bar­gain­ing chip and a means of in­tim­i­da­tion. Re­ly­ing on this weapon to stoke ten­sions be­tween both coun­tries came across as a veiled at­tempt to re re­duce Pak­istan’s agri­cul­tural out­put and f food sup­ply.

How­ever How­ever, In­dia’s bel­liger­ence and brinkman­shi brinkman­ship did not solely rep­re­sent ef­forts to uph up­hold na­tional se­cu­rity. LoC vi­o­la­tions h have be­come a norm that does lit­tle t to shake the gov­ern­ment’s re­solve. As a re­sult, In­dia de­cided to en­gage in a form of mil­i­taris­tic na­tion­al­ism to pro­voke Pak­istan. The claims of ini­ti­at­ing sur­gi­cal strikes served to de de­flect pub­lic at­ten­tion and scru­tiny from the atroc­i­ties in­flicted in In­dian-Occu In­dian-Oc­cu­pied Kash­mir. In ad­di­tion, a mil­i­taris­tic ap­proach was adopted by the BJP to con­struct an anti-Pak­istan nar­ra­tive tha that could help them win the state elec­tio elec­tions in Ut­tar Pradesh and Pun­jab. In th the process, In­dia threat­ened to un­der­min un­der­mine the IWT and po­ten­tially jeop­ar­dize Pak­istan’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor sec­tor.

Sim­i­larly, the Si­achen con­flict be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan had also re­sulted in the de­struc­tion of the re­gion’s ecosys­tem and cul­ture. Heaps of waste dot the re­gion and the re­mains of crashed he­li­copters and the shards and splin­ters of gun shells and empty fuel bar­rels have be­come the or­der of the day. Toxic residue flows into the ad­join­ing Nubra River and there has been a con­sid­er­able loss of plants and an­i­mals. Ow­ing to the press­ing need to as­sert mil­i­tary might in the re­gion, lit­tle has been done to pre­vent en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion.

The em­pha­sis on mil­i­tarism has led a clus­ter of re­pres­sive regimes in Iraq, Myan­mar and Syria to­wards dev­as­ta­tion and hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion. How­ever, the US has also suf­fered the ad­verse ef­fects of mil­i­tary spend­ing. Although the logic that mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­ture can re­duce the like­li­hood of a re­ces­sion has not been ques­tioned by most US ad­min­is­tra­tions, mod­ern eco­nomic thought sug­gests that this ap­proach hin­ders eco­nomic progress. Such prac­tices also in­crease a coun­try’s propen­sity to go to war and im­pact the eco­nomic rights of peo­ple.

And yet, the US spent $2 tril­lion on de­fence while re­duc­ing tax­a­tion dur­ing the Rea­gan years. With Don­ald Trump at the helm, the risk of nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion re­mains high. The new US pres­i­dent wants to pro­voke a new arms race by en­hanc­ing nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties and thereby bring­ing other coun­tries to their knees. Ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates, Rus­sia and the US have 7,000 nukes and could eas­ily de­stroy the en­tire planet. At this crit­i­cal junc­ture, mil­i­tarism will do lit­tle to show the US army’s strength. Ex­ces­sive mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­ture will bring the US – and the world at large – a step closer to an­ni­hi­la­tion.

Fur­ther­more, the gen­eral per­cep­tion among an­a­lysts in the US is that the use of nu­clear weapons is only le­git­i­mate if it serves as a form of de­ter­rence and there is an am­ple stock of con­ven­tional weapons to com­bat threats. This is a prob­lem­atic as­ser­tion as var­i­ous con­flicts have also been trig­gered by con­ven­tional weapons.

Global mil­i­tarism in Myan­mar has led to a scourge of hu­man rights abuses. Vi­o­lence and big­otry has taken hold and dam­aged the fab­ric of so­cial life. Un­em­ploy­ment and in­come dis­par­i­ties have be­come the new norm and count­less cases of rape, tor­ture and un­jus­ti­fied im­pris­on­ment have sur­faced. Mil­i­tarism, in this con­text, has proved to be a source of con­sid­er­able dis­sat­is­fac­tion. The worst ca­su­alty of this mil­i­taris­tic, op­pres­sive ap­proach has been in­flicted on the Ro­hingya Mus­lims. Many of them have been forced out of their homes and have sought refugee sta­tus in Bangladesh. How­ever, their or­deal is likely to con­tinue as their lib­er­ties are re­peat­edly be­ing in­fringed. Bangladesh re­cently mulled over plans to re­lo­cate all Ro­hingya refugees in the coun­try to a re­mote is­land. The move has been heav­ily crit­i­cised and serves as a chill­ing re­minder of per­sis­tent hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions.

More of­ten than not, mil­i­tarism is aligned with the de­sire to main­tain se­cu­rity. How­ever, there is a press­ing need to reeval­u­ate the no­tion of se­cu­rity and break away from lim­ited ap­proaches to­wards un­der­stand­ing the con­cept. We must adopt a broad­based anal­y­sis of se­cu­rity that ac­counts for the so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal costs of mil­i­ta­riza­tion. These are the silent ca­su­al­ties of mil­i­tarism and nu­clear war which should not be ig­nored.

There is an ur­gent need to rad­i­cally al­ter our per­cep­tions on nu­cle­ariza­tion and war­fare and to re­think our per­cep­tions of mil­i­tarism so that they could serve as a use­ful first step in this di­rec­tion.

In a scathing ar­ti­cle pub­lished in TIME mag­a­zine, Mikhail Gor­bachev states that a “ru­inous arms race” looms over the world. The for­mer pres­i­dent of the Soviet Union ar­gues that the mil­i­ta­riza­tion of pol­i­tics and ex­ces­sive mil­i­tary spend­ing sug­gest that the world is inch­ing to­wards war. Pol­i­cy­mak­ers must not over­look these signs and pre­vent the bat­tle lines from be­ing drawn. If bel­li­cos­ity and a nu­clear arms race are given ex­ces­sive im­por­tance, they will con­tinue to trig­ger hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and im­pact the en­vi­ron­ment in an un­fa­vor­able man­ner.

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