Today is Star Wars Day and tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo and sandwiched in between, from sunset to sunset, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. We are an odd bunch. We commemorate those who sacrificed their lives in war and, as if that isn’t enough, we invent make-believe wars and then commemorate them as well. And then we do it all over again — It must all be a genetic trait.

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Ireland 3000 BC

We really don’t need to make up war stories or invent enemies or heros. We have plenty to go around. There is very little of our scarred and sodden planet that is not sprinkled with blood.

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We have always been fond of building earth and stone monuments to our dead heros or the fallen martyrs. War and battlefields bring out the builder in us. That helps us remember what we were — or what “they” were.

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Vietnam Memorial

What happens when we run out of stone to build memorials? Will we put an end to the warfare? We have accepted the industrialization of killing as part of our being. That’s what we do even though we say “Never Again”.

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Holocaust – Berlin

We are nothing if not a resourceful kind of being. Look how far we’ve come. We used to throw rocks and sticks. We have come so far — now we can incinerate cities or surgically remove unwanted foes anonymously. Two million here, six million there….the shear numbers render it all impersonal and anonymous. No one person can be responsible. But then we go back to the earth and stone and build a memorial.

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Sometimes we build war memorials and then tip-toe around them while we fight more wars generations later in the same place.  It doesn’t seem to matter. Why do we even bother? We turn a blind eye to the past and stumble forward and do it all again.  People blame this on religion or ideology or racism but it has to be some sort of genetic flaw.

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Battle of Waterloo

The Latest Field Test of Conventional Weapons

The business of warfare  is racing ahead unchecked and with no apparent end other than to create massive profits and keep the arms buying frenzy at a fever pitch. Some years back, probably in or around 1985, I was listening to some broadcast discussion of the arms race. The focus was on arms producers and how they market their military hardware at huge international trade shows. I think the trade show that they were visiting was in Europe…maybe Paris but I don’t recall exactly. Anyway, they were looking at the way competing companies hawked their products and tried to show that their products were much better and efficient than their competitors.

What they are talking about, then and now, is how efficient their products can eliminate or disable enemy soldiers or infrastructure. This could be by outright killing them on the battlefield or by drowning them at sea by sinking a ship. It could be by disabling the enemy’s command and control center or by disrupting lines of communication or transportation. I’m sure that in this age of technology there are ways of eliminating or disabling an enemy that we can’t even begin to imagine. This is all done in a clean and detached marketing approach.

I recall one of the phrases used back in 1985 to promote a manufacturer’s weapons. The marketing claim was that the product that they were selling, I think it was a missile, performed better than any similar product during “the latest field test of conventional weapons”.  That sounds innocent enough and we might think that they are talking about some sort of controlled test. What they were talking about and referring to as a “field test” was the Falklands War.

The Falklands War was one of those senseless conflicts that really could be handled without a lot of bloodshed but that was not the case. Granted, it was not a super high casualty conflict — total deaths reached 900 — but it was an interesting display of military weaponry. Over one-third of the war casualties died with the sinking of the Argentine cruiser, the ARA General Belgrano, a WW-II era former US ship originally called the USS Phoenix. There were 323 sailors lost. The ship was the first ship sunk during hostile action by a nuclear powered submarine…in this case the British submarine Conqueror.  As retaliation, the Argentine Air Force sank the British destroyer, HMS Sheffield, with an Exocet missile (20 sailors lost). The Exocet is a French missile acquired by the Argentine military, probably connected in some way to one of the arms shows.  So among other things during this “field test of conventional weapons” we saw a refurbished WW-II era cruiser sunk by a state of the art nuclear submarine and a state of the art modern destroyer sunk by a French missile fired by an Argentine pilot flying a modern French attack aircraft. Well played, arms dealers. Conventional surface naval vessels were not much of a match for modern weaponry. The British had over twenty ships damaged and several sunk by the Argentine Air Force. Much of the damage was caused by bombs that hit the ships but failed to explode. Maybe Argentina should have bought a higher quality bomb? I wonder if they got their money back. What kind of warranty do you get?

ARA General Belgrano
HMS Sheffield

That was then, this is now.

Fast forward to 2015 and we have a whole series of field tests of conventional weapons going on in Syria and the Middle East. The regional arms race is in full swing with the United States and Russia playing the part of puppeteers. The US and NATO had superiority in many respects until the Russian military arrived on the scene in support of Syria. There is not much to be done now other than escalate the conflict by adding more weaponry.

This is entirely to the benefit of arms dealers and manufacturers. There is money to be made so there is no interest in cutting back on the weaponry. As I was putting my thoughts together for this blog post I came across an interesting and informative web page for “Defense One”: http://www.defenseone.com/?oref=d-logo   .

Defense One offers up to date news on military arms developments…who needs what and why and also who is offering a solution to your military conflict problems. The news is wide ranging and we in the US don’t know much about these various conflicts. Nor do we know who is manufacturing these weapons or where they are located. Chances are that your retirement fund owns a piece of the action.