1 November 2011
Stephen Pinker (If it bleeds, it misleads: why the Cassandras got it wrong; Guardian 1 November 2011) sets up an Aunt Sally to press a dubious argument. Surely the task today is not to solve the impossible and rather pointless conundrum of whether more people are killed by wars today than in previous eras, but to rail against the iniquity of war itself as a means of solving the world’s problems. Body counts, even if accurate, can never reveal the true horrors of war. The fact is that the world today is devoting inordinate and unafordable amounts of wealth on weapons of war instead of on education, health and well-being - that is the real horror. In a report for the British American Security Information Council, the US alone is planning to spend $700bn on nuclear weapons over the next decade. This is how real destruction and killing takes place today.
What Pinker ignores is that all wars in history have, in essence, been fought for economic reasons. Today’s power-brokers have other means at their disposal than actual invasions or killing with weapons hardware. Hundreds of thousands are dying of hunger and poverty as a direct result of the wastage of weapons spending and imperialist policies of imposing imbalanced trading mechanisms; guns are a last resort to be used on those few incalcitrant nations that refuse to toe the line.