Opinion: Profits (and losses) of war


Published: 04-12-2024 5:05 PM

John Buttrick writes from his Vermont Folk Rocker in his Concord home, Minds Crossing. He can be reached at johndbuttrick@gmail.com

The objectives of a war are inevitably costly. There is the cost of children’s lives. The war in Ukraine has killed 500 children in two years and the war in Gaza has killed over 10,000 children in less than five months. In Gaza, thus far, war has resulted in 62% of Gaza’s homes and apartments destroyed or damaged. Almost 84% of healthcare facilities have been either damaged or destroyed. It has also damaged or destroyed 61.5% of Gaza’s electricity network and around 57% of its water infrastructure, and the water and sanitation system can only fulfill less than 5% of its pre-invasion function.

Israel has inflicted “unprecedented” damage on Gaza’s infrastructure. Also, Israel has experienced some losses of civilian lives. To this list can be added the direct costs of military personnel deaths and injuries and the destruction of military armaments and equipment.

Another cost of war is sustained racism. There have been over 200 Palestinian aid workers killed in Gaza. Except for acquaintances, relatives, and Palestinians, the grief over their deaths and the sense of injustice has been minimal. However, there has been a different response to the blowing up of three World Central Kitchen vehicles killing seven international aid workers. The death of those seven volunteers has nations in an uproar and Israel defending itself from the protests. Some lives have more value than others during a war.

However, what is seldom considered are the profits of war. The massive destruction of infrastructure and military equipment can be understood as a great loss to the people and countries involved. However, these same losses can be understood as conditions for profits. The most obvious profit comes from the production of items necessary to wage war.

The U.S. defense industrial base (DIB) is the network of people, organizations, facilities, and resources that provides the U.S. government, particularly the Department of Defense (DOD), with defense-related materials, products, and services. Congress appropriates hundreds of billions of tax dollars annually to acquire the supplies from the United States Defense Industrial Base. This money serves to generate profits for the civilian defense contractors. The five largest U.S. Defense contractors are Lockheed Martin, RTX, General Dynamics, Boeing Co, and Northrop Grumman.

The U.S. Aerospace and Defense industry is one of the largest high-technology manufacturing sectors in the United States. The industry supports nearly two million civilian American jobs. These companies, and others, also profit from selling weapons to many other countries and entities that help them continue their conflicts.

As long as wars persist, the defense industry will thrive, profiting directly from restocking war materials. The indirect costs follow the end of a war. They involve the costs of the rebuilding of homes, businesses, and infrastructure. The cost of damage to Gaza as of the end of January amounted to 97% of the 2022 gross domestic product of both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, a World Bank and U.N. report found. This cost is approximately $18.5 billion. It will take that much and more money to rebuild the country, no matter who “wins” the war. The longer the war, the greater the need for reconstruction and the potential for more billions of dollars in profits. Therefore, there is an incentive to continue wars to create more jobs and more profits.

War for profit is a dark stain on the objectives of war. When the objective becomes profit and jobs for the private military industrial complex, it would seem the cost is too high. There should never be rewards for extending war with its death and destruction. Also, citizens pay the cost in taxes that Congress then appropriates to the profit-taking private sector. The average citizen is providing profits to private contractors like General Dynamics, Boeing Co, and Northrop Grumman. Also, these contractors put financial pressure on Congress to continue supporting them.

Instead, it seems that Congress should be using funds to encourage private contractors to refocus their mission toward a peacetime industrial complex. If Congress must give them money, let it be for energy efficient homes and transportation. Let high-technology companies retool to develop ways to synchronize our lives with the ecology of the earth, perhaps even seek knowledge and understanding of the cosmos. Let them focus more time and energy on research and development of comprehensive healthcare.

Meanwhile, with this encouragement, the private sector may find new ways to make a profit and have less need to sell weapons to sustain wars in foreign countries. We may find that peacesense is a worthy cost for discouraging future conflicts.