Monday, December 12, 2011

Post-war is pre-war and wealth is poverty

Civil wars are bad business, creating or exacerbating most woes from which humankind suffers, such as:
  • poverty
  • noncombatant mortalities and casualties
  • HIV/AIDS and other STDs
  • hunger
  • pollution of water, air and soil (thus food and drink)
  • drug trafficking
  • child sex trafficking
  • oppression
  • violence
  • low or no foreign direct investment
  • violent crime
  • disease
  • lack of health care
  • lopsided overspending on military
Sadly, the post-civil war nations are the most likely to fall back into violent conflict, with only a one percent decrease, on average, of that likelihood every year after the end of the hot war, according to UCLA conflict researcher Michael Ross (2003). Thus, post-war is pre-war, at least statistically.

"One of the most surprising and important findings is that natural resources play a key role in triggering, prolonging, and financing these conflicts," notes Ross (p. 17). Indeed, according to World Bank conflict researchers Ian Bannon and Paul Collier (2003), the outbreak and ferocity of civil wars is vastly increased as a function of exportable high-value natural resources. Ross calls it "the resource curse." Wealth is poverty.

So, under these circumstances, assuming we are in favor of ending wars in Africa, the Middle East and across the world, what can we do, as US Americans (I apologize to all non-US western hemisphere people for every time I am referring to my countrypeople in the US and I forget to modify American with US)?
  • Since the US is the largest arms exporter, we should support any and all efforts to curb and halt this war profiteering, making blood money on misery all over the world, whether those efforts are being launched by elected officials or nongovernmental organizations.
  • We should support any and all efforts to sanction any country that sells arms, period. Boycott, UN sanction, unilateral sanction--there are many possible routes to effective arms transfer reduction and elimination.
  • Supporting any and all aspects of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration from the UN or any other party.
  • Encourage investment in post-conflict societies from the small to the large, but focused more on value-added products (crafted or manufactured) than raw natural resource-based.
  • Support US or most nongovernmental organization humanitarian assistance that has zero military component.
Is this a low priority for US Americans who have other worries right now? Perhaps. It is hard to keep track of everything, all issues, every initiative on all vital problems and potential solutions. But if you hear from peace groups that some good legislation is in the works, tell your elected officials you support it. If you have a chance to work for and vote for a real peace candidate (Dennis Kucinich! Barbara Lee! Bernie Sanders! Save us!), please please do. In this season of peace, make it a priority for a minute. Every bullet we export might as well have a US taxpayer name etched on it and there may be a child on the disastrous end of that bullet. If you wouldn't pull the trigger, don't pay for the bullet, and if they make you pay for it, vote them out.


Bannon, Ian and Collier, Paul (Eds.) (2003). Natural resources and violent conflict: Options and actions. Washington DC: The World Bank.

Ross, Michael (2003). The natural resouce curse: How wealth can make you poor. In Ian Bannon & Paul Collier (Eds.). Natural resources and violent conflict: Options and actions. Washington DC: The World Bank.

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