The End of Modern Civilization: Capitalism and the Arms Race.

That the fate of the global economy and all nations have been at the threshold of continuous freefall in recent years can be no less a telltale sign of the coming end to modern civilization and its inherent prosperity. For those who understand how the world works, it is common knowledge that our fate is fixed within a cyclical shift that is embodied in our world’s body system.

History has taught us that our ancestors have lived from one civilization to another. We have learned of the great empires of Mesopotamia, Babylon, Egypt, Persia and many that have dominated their world at different points in ancient past. We have read about the great warriors of past, of kings, civilizations and of many extinct cultures and unless the current civilization will mark the end of human existence, a shift is inevitable.

History has shown that at the reign of every civilization there have been marked epochs of enlightenment and prosperity followed by great declines and an eventual demise. Before the final conquest of Constantinople by the ottomans in 1453 for example, the Roman Empire was already at its weakest - facing serious political, economic and military crisis. The Greeks similarly prospered in abundance at the time of classical Greece but saw huge decline in size, trade, unity and power before been finally dominated by conquerors from the east.

From history, we have learned that civilizations have fallen as a result of wars, invasion by others and lack of resources to sustain their reigns. In what I see as the approaching end to modern civilization and its prosperity of over 1000 years, not only will a virulent transatlantic warfare cause destruction of unprecedented measure to the advances of citizens of the modern world causing the collapse of our intellectual and material accomplishments altogether. Our inability to sustain the current civilization as a result of the dearth and waste of resources will also be a major problem and capitalism will be at its heart.

To make a rehash of the Antrosopher Joel Wendt, it might seem like this is predicting the future or some paranoid conspiracies. It is not, this is rather about predictable things. About systems failure, about structures that reach the end of their life and the inevitable consequences of arrogance and stupidity. It is about very natural and expectable happenings in the life cycle of a civilization, and about how people react, or don't, in a crisis.

The ongoing economic chaos in Europe and the United States of America would attest to the limits of capitalism and what Joel Wendt sees as the consequence of systemic failures and the inevitable consequence of structures that reach the end of their life cycle. Intellectuals often profess capitalism as being the best system under which humanity could have reached its present state of enlightenment. For too long, these intellectuals have failed to acknowledge that capitalism also has its limits and cannot be sustained for the future generation. It is advanced in the thesis of modern economics that the future of our world depends on sustainability being its watchword but as it has come to be, sustainability itself is at the mercy of capitalism.

In the scheme of capitalism; crass materialism, greed, corporatism, exploitation and all the disdains of the bourgeoisie society will no longer be possible when the abundance of money, oil and control come to their end.

In the seminal work of Robert Freeman Will the End of Oil Mean the End of America? He rightly contends that when oil is gone, civilization will be stupendously different. The onset of rapid depletion will trigger convulsions on a global scale, including, likely, global pandemics and die-offs of significant portions of the world’s human population. The “have” countries will face the necessity kicking the “have-nots” out of the global lifeboat in order to assure their own survival. Even before such conditions are reached, inelastic supply interacting with inelastic demand will drive the price of oil and oil-derived commodities through the stratosphere, effecting by market forces alone massive shifts in the current distribution of global wealth.

Not only has some of Freeman’s prediction started to manifest in the context of the present oil shocks seen in the industry today. His proposition will in the future manifest in the challenge that countries will face in the scramble for providing for future energy needs.

Some capitalists believe that with the proliferation of modern technology, alternative sources of oil can be found by harnessing many natural and artificial sources of energy. The problem with such view is that it ignores the enormity of global energy consumption and what it would be in some decades to come. Technology and alternative energy sources will certainly play a crucial role in future energy security but not at the scale that will match the relative power of oil and the demands of industries and individuals.

The problem might not lead the world to the ‘dark age’ as some proponents of ‘peak oil’ would suggest, it will surely mark the beginning of a global catastrophe that will shake humanity to its roots.

On the imminent warfare, I see an impending global war as inevitable neither because of the tension between Iran and the United States nor because of the opposing clash between Israel and the Middle East but because of what thinkers have proliferated as visions about the inevitability of war as a result of the unending arms race which is capable of making states intolerable of each other. In Albert Einstein’s view; “to arm is to give one’s voice and make one’s preparations not for peace but for war”.

Since the cold war, the arms race has led to a state of competition in which for every military invention made by one state, others respond in many folds.

This explains the stable and increasing budgets of many western and developing states on military and defence every year. Seemingly unscathed by one of the worst recession in modern history, Over $1.75 trillion was spent on arms by nation states across the world in 2012 with Russia, China and Middle East countries increasing their spends on arms proliferation year on year. Since 2010, Russia has outspent France and Britain to become the world’s third largest spender on national defence. China has since 2002 increased its budget on defence by over 170% with an estimated $143 billion spent in 2011. Apart from these notable increase on budgets, there have been remarkable spur in inter-country alliances and military agreements. In 2010, Britain and France broke a long period of rivalry to sign a military pact that will allow both countries to jointly share military intelligence and develop defence capability.

China and Russia have similarly started to cooperate in different areas of military and security in what the Asia-pacific tigers see as a way of asserting their power and curtailing the increasing influence of the United States on their region. Of course there is the old –long US-Israel relation which Alan Dowty, a professor of political science describes as “not a simple linear cooperation, but one based on a series of tendentious bargaining situations with different strategic and political components in each”.

Apart from formal military and defence alliances, there are clandestine armaments developments by states, corporations and defence departments at the scale of which humanity can be consumed in days.

The question is why form these unrelenting strategic partnerships and alliances within and across the ocean without preparations for war? Why spend more on defence than on other ailing sectors of the economy? Why develop military capabilities and advances just for improving the defence system? Why develop clandestine military armaments unknown to perceived enemies and the world?

Nation states will justify their participation in the arms race as the need to protect their territory against external aggression and that has been the continuous justification of every state amassing weapons of mass destruction. But I see this continuous acquisition of arms as an acquiescence declaration of wars that are yet to be fought. In the arms race, the proliferation and development of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction would attest to the fact that the race has led to a condition of competition and such competition is not merely underlined by states ambition to defend but to prepare for war and send warning to others.

In the classic view or Joan Robinson; “still, the arms race continues, the weapons multiply and become more specialized, and the likelihood of their utilization grows. As Robinson notes “the very process of building up destructive power has contributed to keeping ideological conflicts alive”.

The arms race which Robinson sees as a consequence of self righteousness and mutual distrust, she says is further induced by an atmosphere of a war of ideology. In her masterly view, she contends that the war ideology is also inspired by ingenious and clever ideas to match or exceed technological progress by a rival military service and victimized by rumours and phony intelligence”.

In my view, the present atmosphere of war have also been long underlined and exacerbated by an un-relentless desire for power and control by those at lust for global power and dominance. More often than not, that is the scheme of political Islam and the fascists on the western divide. But intellectuals also see the ongoing race as one fuelled by the return of traditional rivalries between nations and a result of the clash of opposing civilizations. The realists see the arms proliferation as one necessary to maintaining the balance of power in a conflicting world. Each of these explanations represents aspects of the prevailing reality whose end will be nothing but the demise of modernity and post modernity combined.

Numerous thinkers have proliferated visions about the arms race and where it could end. Lewis Richardson in his pioneering work contends that the race cannot go on forever and can only end in war. In the same thinking, Michael Wallace in an empirical study in 1979 conducted a test on 99 militarised disputes between 1816 an 1965 and find that 23 out of 26 disputes that led to war between different states were characterised by an ongoing arms race. Opposing views to Richardson and Wallace argues that nuclear proliferation arms race have been particularly stabilising since no nation has acted against each other in terms of any serious declaration of war, therefore the arms race can be infact good for peace.

The view on the opposing side has been well supported by contemporary political scholars like Kenneth Waltz who argues that “states are rational actors who seek survival above all else - this interest in survival leads policy makers to avoid nuclear war at all costs”. In his view, ‘a mutually assured destruction (M.A.D) would create a more secure environment because no state believes it will survive in the event of a nuclear war”.

Proponents of the (M.A.D) idea like Waltz fail to recognise the potential and existential threats of rogue states and terrorist groups to the possibility of triggering a nuclear war. They also fail to recognise the possibility of accidental discharge which can overshadow all threats combined. While scholars like Waltz would acknowledge the existence of rogue states, they argue that such states are also deterred by nuclear proliferation because nuclear war is not in their interest as well. Such argument lacks substantiation because most rogue states by their nature do not act rationally or within their own best interest.

As noted in a UN paper on global security, all it takes is one bout of extreme insanity to cause massive damage to global security through the unleashing of nuclear weapons. Terrorists can also be a potential source of triggering a nuclear war. Terrorists could sabotage nuclear facilities through different means. A document was leaked in 2011 where interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at the Guantanamo Bay says that if Osama bin Laden was killed, al-Qaeda will detonate a "weapon of mass destruction" in a "secret location" in Europe which would be "a nuclear hellstorm". Rationalists would argue that neither al-Qeada nor any terrorist organisation has the capability of striking a nuclear war because no evidence suggests that they have enough uranium and key resources to do so, the main argument here is not that terrorists could start a nuclear facility from start, it is that terrorists could hijack existing facilities with a well coordinated plan.                                                                                                                       

Beyond the above threats combined, accidental discharge could trigger a nuclear war. In a thesis by Alan Phillips, he opines that one way a war could start is through “a false alarm via one of the warning systems, followed by an increased level of nuclear forces readiness while the validity of the information was being checked. This action would be detected by the other side, and they would take appropriate action; detection of the response would tend to confirm the original false alarm; and so on to disaster. A similar sequence could result from an accidental nuclear explosion anywhere”.

The risk of such a sequence developing would be increased if it happened during a period of increased international tension. Alan went further that: on the American side many "false alarms" and significant accidents have been listed, ranging from trivial to very serious, during the Cold War. Probably many remain unknown to the public because of individuals' desire to avoid blame and maintain the good reputation of their unit or command. No doubt there have been as many mishaps on the Soviet Side as well. As the rising moon was at first thought to be a missile attack during the early days of long-range radar, so is there the possibility of misinterpreting many new systems related to nuclear.

Beyond the opposing views on the possibility of a nuclear war, a careful observation of global politics, its actions, threats and permutations would show that the current civilization is nearing its cycle. Today, the process of globalization and many existing instruments of human homogenization and advancement - as was never witnessed in history would attest to a world that has become increasingly smaller and closer – making global polity becoming so inextricably aligned and interconnected. This allows for more confrontation and interaction amongst different ideologies. The problem with such closer interactions as noted by Donald Horowitz is that it would enhance more ‘civilization-consciousness’ of people that would in turn invigorate differences and animosities that can stretch back deep into history.

Horowitz’s proposition not only manifests in the present clash of ideological and cultural conflicts which has bred a new form of religious terrorism and awakened a revival of the extremists, his word also manifests in the opposing threats of the neo-fascists whose regimes prevail through aggression, false intelligence, quest for domination and invasion of others. The ongoing misunderstanding between these opposing interests as we have continued to see over the past decades will not only aggravate the current atmosphere of war but will indeed culminate into a more complex difference which could trigger more hatred and desires from the different sides.

The world certainly needs more tolerance, innovation and coordination to overcome many of its present threats but it’s like a book of chapters. It is inevitable to open the next page; the end of our civilization is inevitable. The question is for how long can we sustain it before the next chapter?

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Artice title: The End of Modern Civilization: Capitalism and the Arms Race.