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The Economics of Violence

By Anita Krishan

Crash of airbus A321, the chartered Russian flight, in the north east of Sinai, killing all 224 passengers on board including children and the crew, has once again raised speculations as to the safety of air travel. But the assertion by the Islamic State (IS) militants that the plane was downed by their surface-to-air missile is even more alarming.

The terror group has claimed that the strike was in retaliation to Russian airstrikes in Syria that had targeted IS. A few weeks earlier, their spokesman had urged a holy war against the Russians for their offensive. Was this dastardly act in reality a vengeance against a state? Is the latest terrorist strike on Paris that killed 129 innocent people and injured more than 350, also an act of revenge?  Was the Mumbai attack that killed 166 harmless people an act of retribution? Vengeance against whom? Innocent unarmed people?

Though the claim of the militants has been dismissed by aviation experts, who say that IS’s surface-to-air weaponry is incapable of hitting a plane more than 30,000 feet in the air, it reveals the dreadful fact; it is definitely not hard for the radical factions to acquire the latest weapons. The rise of Taliban in Afghanistan and the IS militants in Syria are just a few examples of how easy it is for the radicals to procure weapons. It also reveals what the power of weapons can do to the human mind.

Where do these weapons come from? Who supplies these weapons to the groups which are bent upon destroying world peace? If they have already acquired such highly sophisticated weapons, are they close to getting hold of a dirty bomb in near future? 

These questions invite more queries. Who is behind furnishing these mordant groups with means to cause havoc in the world? Is there someone who wants the world to be engaged in conflicts for own interest? Is there a monkey waiting to ha
rvest profit while the two cats fight? The monkey, who knows that once a common man tastes the power of a gun in his hands, he can easily turn into blood thirsty hound?

The companies and the individuals who make profit out of the bloodshed are the ones who will be economically worst hit if all the disputes ceased to exist. Their every effort has to be towards keeping the present disputes alive and looking for the possibilities of creating fresh disputes to achieve their sales targets. 

This monkey; the billion dollar weapon industry will go bankrupt if, by chance or by sensible awakening, all the countries decided upon long lasting peace in the world. The industry that openly or sneakily keeps supplying weapons to the warring countries or groups and instigating them into fighting. No wonder the conflicts once started never see the end. The dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir has been broiling for nearly seven decades. Each time the political parties decide upon a friendly meeting to come to a common consensus, there comes a terrorist strike as a disruption and the two countries revert back to square one of the dispute. One wonders if the politicians too are under the obligation of the weapon manufacturers. And whether all that show of trying to solve disputes is just eyewash for the common citizens who keep craving for safety and peace.

The arms companies, known as the defence contractors, manufacture and supply products of all types. Countries and individual groups acquire guns, missiles, military aircrafts, military vehicles, electronic systems, war ships with rocket launchers and so on, from them. They also provide logistics and operational support. It is estimated that over 1.5 trillion US dollars3 are spent on military expenditure worldwide, which is 2.7% of the world GDP.

The five biggest weapons exporters in 2010-2014 were the United States, Russia, China, Germany and France4. And, the five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, China, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.  To top it, an illegal trade in small arms is rampant in many countries and regions affected by political instability.

Of the top 20 global weapon dealers, 16 are US corporations. These include Lockleed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and Raytheon. At a time when a deep economic recession is causing much turbulence in the civilian world, defence giants such as Boeing and EADS, or Finmeccanica and Northrop Grumman, are enjoying a reliable and growing revenue stream from countries eager to increase their military might.

The arms deals have become the single most lucrative business. Black-market arms deals occur in dark shadows. The money thus generated is incredible. The black market’s illegal trade is divided into two categories; the black and grey markets. The black markets are driven exclusively by the individual or private companies while the grey trade are made by, or with the complicity of national agencies. The rebels and terrorist groups from all over the world get supply through the flourishing black markets.  The money so exchanged comes from the diverted development funds, production and sale of drugs. Money can also be generated by petty crimes like kidnapping or bank robbery. The Taliban cracked down on opium production when they came to power in early 19905, but soon they found that the amount of money they could earn through opium trade was too lucrative. At one time, they had 4 billion dollars worth of heroin.

During the standoff with Russia, the US funded all terrorist in Afghanistan, including Bin Laden. But, what is more troublesome is the role the United States plays in continuously barraging the world with deadly weapons in this half trillion dollar market. The US with its massive spending budget has long been the principal determinant of the current world trend, often accounting for close to half of the world’s military expenditure.

Despite it all, the US has been perpetually trying to intervene to stop war be it Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, but the irony of the state of affairs is; that the weapons used in these wars are mostly made in the US.  Won’t it be a better solution that the supply of weapons be controlled rather than allow the dispute to flare, provide all factions with weapons and then try to stop the wars.

But the rot of violence is deeper than that. The guy considered terrorist by one state is considered freedom fighter by another state. Although, there is no direct evidence that IS gets arms supply from supporting states like Saudi Arabia or Qatar, individuals working in the private sector of arms companies make these deals. Further, sympathetic foreign governments, corrupt government officials, or simply poor supply chain control anywhere in the world can lead to weapons getting into the hands of terrorists. The terrorist also look for weak spots at the world’s customs ports where there is almost a universal prevalence of poorly-paid officials taking bribes for looking the other way without any hesitation. There are, thus, really a few impediments to purchase and ship weapons to almost anywhere in the world.

When the rifts and the resultant weapons trade bring so much profit for the powerful and sustain the world’s economy, when the militants are raised to fight the cold war of the mighty and then let loose to use the acquired weapons at free will, when people are instigated and isolated on the basis of their religion, are we far from a larger catastrophe? The malaise is far deeper than visible; it is about acquiring riches, territories, and oil/mineral fields. In these convoluted murky affairs, the biggest question is; will it ever be possible to ascertain security and peace for the common citizens of the world?

Anita Krishan chose superannuation, after a tenure of 25 years as the teacher of English, to confer time to her passion of writing. She is a published author of the fictional and autobiographical works: ‘Tears of Jhelum’ and ‘Running up the Hill’. Also an ardent poet, educationist, and environmentalist, her humanitarian side is well revealed in her literary works. She has extensively travelled around the world. She holds degrees in Bachelor of Life Sciences, Bachelor of Education and Masters of English Literature.


  1. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/13/us-mideast-crisis-islamicstate-idUSKCN0S72DH20151013
  2.  http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/14/world/paris-attacks/
  3. http://defenceunlimited.com/2015/10/07/defence-military-contracting/
  4.  http://www.sipri.org/yearbook/2015/10
  5. http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/resources/taliban_opium_1.pdf

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