Of Missiles and Butter
I'll be back/You'll be back
According to Hitler, a staunch anti-communist, "a man does not die for business, but only for ideals." Still, a thriving business community is as fine a thing as any. Granted it is much more exhilarating to either revolt in the name of lofty catch-phrases, or, conversely, defend the status quo against change in the name of competing slogans. The dictator continues, "when a man begins to fight for an economic interest, he avoids death as much as possible." True. But what is wrong with an economic system that includes everyone, all over the globe, that actually works, and provides for a sustained peaceful co-existence? This futuristic scenario would be worth fighting for. The underlying grievance today, at least in part, is that just twenty years after a cold war reached an historic, bloodless conclusion, missiles are taking center stage. Drones were one thing. This is another.
For a more serious discussion of missiles, consult the heavyweights who have access to information and are themselves experienced in the globals arms race. As an intellectual exercise, however, since this might well be all that is left to thinkers in a world allied against free thought, there are many good reasons why missiles should not be touted and glorified. A recent test conducted in the Pacific has made Lockheed Martin rightfully proud of its contribution to national defense. But if Russia is the target, the test leaves room for doubt. Those death-defying ideals are mixed up in the unholy smorgasbord. Ideals that are the raw material fascists draw upon to stir men and women into frenzies. Support the troops? Sure. But how about a just war, Uncle Sam. And in the Middle East, there is no such thing.
Russian leadership never appears before our eyes in terms of diffuse, soft focus photography, does it? If its murderers row mug shots are not designed to make Americans queasy, they do the job anyways. In contrast, 8-by-10 American leadership tends toward warm smiles and charming diversion. Our leaders wear different hats and jackets. Nice -- but they must also be held accountable. Apart from the resonances of politics and the plastic arts, what are American diplomats doing to ease the situation, and why are they not empowered more effectively to avert ballistic testing? There are many, highly qualified American scholars who spend their lives watching and analyzing Russia in word and deed. Why not include them in the peace process? There are highly trained agents on both sides actively seeking solutions. Why not give them greater latitude? Surely, post-cold-war communication has not broken down altogether. American negotiators who walk away from the peace table are motivated by and large by the irrational highs of the adrenalin rush. The overdramatic resort to force is unrealistic, bad judgement, and unnecessary.
Recently, Russia indicated that it will stop aiding Americans in their military endeavors in Afghanistan. Iran is making new threats. Talk of missile shields is provoking back talk. An incident -- perhaps only a spark -- of one kind or another is in the offing. What next? The fact is, Americans and Russians must never directly confront one another in the field. Russian blood must not be shed, whether in Syria or elsewhere. Its cost could not be cheap. There well may be short term gains to be had. But long term, efforts would better be served in the direction of stopping this idiotic machoism. Its rhetoric makes for great sound bites and video clips and little else. Contrarily, if today's stand-off can be turned into a stand-down, a life-saving precedent could be set for decades ahead.
Naturally, there are no guarantees either way, with or without missiles. To be honest, those infrared recorded, heat-seeking interceptions are impressive. But the idea of preferring economic progress to political maneuvering needs to be re-examined. Certainly, in the mid-1920s, economic conquest was out of the question. But how about now? After opening and revving up new markets in trade, ratcheting ever upward to such dizzying heights, someone, such as Jeffery Sachs, can write a book entitled The End of Poverty (2005), and actually be taken to heart. In the tug-of-war between guns or missiles, and butter, the latter, if at all possible, is the more favored choice. As to economic systems, they have evolved. The simplistic either-or of communism contra capitalism is obsolete. The use of missiles to win an argument should be, too.
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