THE ROOT CAUSES OF WAR
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In one crucial respect, however, the 1985 analysis was incorrect. It failed to take account of the military-industrial complex that had grown to be the most powerful force of the Soviet economy, a mirror image of its equivalent in the West. The importance of this was brought home to those of us who attended a briefing on economic conversion from military to civilian production that was held at the United Nations on November 1, 1990, a critical time for Gorbachev's program of Perestroika in the Soviet Union. The speaker, Ednan Ageev, was the head of the Division of International Security Issues at the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was asked by the Gorbachev administration to find out the extent to which the Soviet economy was being used for military production. Naturally, he went to the Minister of Defense, where he was told that this information was secret. Secret even to Gorbachev. In conversation, Ageev estimated that 85-90% of Soviet scientific researchers were in the military sector. That seems high until you realize that the Soviet's were matching U.S. military research, development and production on the basis of a Gross National Product only half as large. Since about 40% of U.S. research and development was tied to the military at that time, it would make sense that the Soviets would have had to double the U.S. percentage in order to keep pace.
How could the Gorbachev administration convert their economy from military to civilian production if they could not even get a list of defense industries? Keeping this in mind, along with the enormous militarization of the Soviet economy, it is not so surprising that the Soviet economy collapsed, and with it the entire political superstructure.
The origins of the Soviet military-industrial complex can be traced back to the Russian revolution which instituted what Lenin, at one point, called "war communism". He warned that war communism could not succeed in the long run and that instead of a top-down militarized economy, a socialist economy needed to be structured as a "cooperative of cooperatives." But war communism was entrenched during the Stalin years, carried out of necessity to an extreme during the Second World War, and then perpetuated by the Cold War.
The economic causation of the war system is not new. It originated long before capitalism and socialism. From its beginnings in ancient Mesopotamia, the state was always associated with war, both to capture slaves abroad and to keep them under control at home. As states grew more powerful, war became the means to build empires and to acquire and rule colonies.
In fact, the economic causation of war probably extends back even further into ancient prehistory. From the best analysis I know, that of Mel and Carol Ember, using the methods of cross-cultural anthropology, it would seem that war functioned as a means to survive periodic but unpredictable food shortages caused by natural disasters. Apparently, tribes that could make war most effectively could survive natural disasters better than others by successfully raiding the food supplies of their neighbors.
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