Space and the futility of war
When George W Bush knee-jerk reacted to the horror of 911 by declaring war on the Axis Of Evil, he achieved nothing as there was no Axis Of Evil, and the war he wanted rapidly turned into something he hadn’t bargained (or prepared) for – and wasn’t actually a war either….
He got a lot of people killed (54,800 Americans, over a million Iraqis, some 50k Afghans and several thousand Pakistanis); and also amongst many other ramifications, delayed Planet Earth’s expansion into space by at least three decades.
Bush Junior also spent huge amounts of money: $1.8 trillion on military and conflict-related costs since 2001. Long-term medical care for US veterans alone is estimated at between $600m and $900m. Building a basic infrastructure in all the impoverished nations of this troubled the region, which would have cost a lot less but gone a long way towards creating lasting peace.
Instead, once the last spasms of Republican jehad are over, the West will abandon Iraq and Afghanistan to their own devices.
Trauamtised by asymmetric warfare, all those involved – returning western veterans, guerrilla fighters, local inhabitants, local governments, tribal leaders et al – are now far less able to make the decisions and do the work necessary to create a lasting peace.
The western armies return home, to grateful nations in the throes of cost-cutting. They face troop reductions and the unemployment of recession.
There are no transferable skills to be gained from asymmetric warfare – especially for those allowed to remain in uniform. All these years of low-to-medium intensity counter insurgency, as with the more intense operations of the Vietnam War, kill people but teach bad lessons which haunt commanders for decades to come.
The British Army will take a long time to recover from Afghanistan. Apart frm the effect of not having trained for anything else apart from Afghanistan, it also needs considerable additional funding to develop the weaponry and other equipment to fight wars in places other than Afghanistan, against enemies other than the Taliban….
Wars can only succeed if they have serious, honestly defined purpose. When I was at Staff College, Vendetta was never considered to be an act of war – rather one of the many follies of politicians. The result of the Bush vendetta is a politically gridlocked USA, the Leader of the Free World strapped for cash, unable even to provide hospital care for its less affluent citizens.
Coupled with revolution in an Arab world stirred up by the Bush “War’, there is poverty elsewhere; actual real grinding poverty for most people, and impending poverty for Europeans. As for space…. forget it!
But now the Chinese are taking up the torch – or rather lighting the lantern of their intention to place humans on the Moon by 2020. This effort will benefit their nation enormously – technology, national purpose, pride and genuine achievement. But far more than this, it continues human progress outwards and upwards, diverting us from the sordid, pointless exaction of revenge. It’s an honest effort. A worthy project. A humanitarian endeavour. (But I do hope there won’t be official Chinese slogans along those lines….)
So why can’t we just bury our differences and all work together to get men back on the Moon. We could all build a space station there to do the medical research required to allow men to get safely to Mars and back? Our two knights of the realm Branson and Forte could combine forces, build hotels and run excursions there… We’d all benefit…
Whereas it’s certain that our planet’s combined resources are equal to this challenge, on their own, it’s hard to see how the Chinese can do any other than exhaust their spare capacity. Mining the Moon or Mars for resources could turn a huge profit but requires far more investment of time, effort and treasure than any other project thus far attempted by humans. It would be far more worthwhile than the brutal, bloody waste of time, lives and money forced upon us by calculating terrorists, and the unthinking reactions of our organ-grinder-like politicians – of Bush, with his Blair.