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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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The new ‘best defense’

SMUndinista!
 The new best defense
The new ‘best defense’

The new ‘best defense’

The last days of this week are abuzz with anti-war activity. At 12:30 p.m. today, the Hughes-Trigg Student Center will be playing host to a forum about the potential hostilities against Iraq, and I fully intend to be there. Two days later, I will be among those gathered behind Guadalupe Cathedral on Ross, preparing to march to the Kennedy memorial as part of Dallas’ contribution to the global protests occurring that day.

It looks as if I will be joining a contingent of SMU students and faculty, and we fully intend to march together as one of the groups making known its opposition to the Bush administration’s war plans. At the same time, I will be joining a large number of other marchers, both individuals and groups, and while we all have the same desire to see conflict averted, the similarities end there.

I know I will be marching with people I disagree with on some important matters. Such is the nature of any mass popular movement that hopes to make an impact – it has to make just enough room to include members with varying ideologies, and hold it together long enough to achieve its objectives. Anti-war movements, today and in the past, are no different.

I’m not a pacifist, for one thing. “If I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists,” said a Welshman about to embark on a journey to Spain to participate in that nation’s civil war in 1936, and my feelings are largely similar. At the same time, I have avoided the trap that erstwhile leftist Christopher Hitchens seems to have fallen into, as he voices his support for war as a way to eliminate “Islamofascism” from the planet.

I disagree quite strongly, but not on grounds of a philosophical avoidance of violence under any and all conceivable circumstances.

My attitude toward war these days is similar to the attitude shared in most countries of the First World. Their militaries are geared toward two distinct tasks. First, they intend to protect their nations from external attack. Second, they aim to provide a suitable contribution to international peacekeeping efforts and police actions, under the auspices of the United Nations.

Thus, First World countries tend to buy only what they need in terms of weaponry, while Third World nations tend to buy all they can afford, and then some. Unilateral military adventurism is mostly a thing of the past, though certain countries with a large amount of “baggage” in the form of dysfunctional former colonies sometimes have their militaries undertake certain actions alone. The French Army is currently in the midst of fighting a little war with rebels in the Ivory Coast, and the Belgian Army has frequently been called into action in the country sometimes known as Zaire.

The United Kingdom also recaptured the Falkland Islands from Argentine invasion in 1982 without international assistance, but all things considered, the citizens of rich countries are not receptive to the idea of independent military action far from home, and their military capabilities reflect this. Military spending is thus kept low, with some interesting results.

When the Eurofighter Typhoon (a state-of-the-art multi-role aircraft designed and built by the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy) is fully in service, it will be the second most capable fighter in the world, after the American F-22 Raptor, also due to enter service fairly soon. The measure of capabilities becomes more complicated when one realizes that the F-22 is set to cost five times more than the Typhoon. I’m not sure of the exact figure, but it’s an astronomical sum of taxpayer money regardless. Additionally, the Typhoon may win some export sales, which is probably out of the question for the F-22. Eurofighter is not alone in the quest for military efficiency.

Advanced fighters from Sweden, France, Russia and Japan all are vastly more cost-effective than America’s current offering. Though some of these countries may protect their defense industries from the marketplace, the American weapons industry is a gargantuan corporate welfare program, sucking away half of every discretionary dollar in the budget, and it simply does not have to be that way.

Keeping a nation’s military capability in check has only a partial effect on the behavior of other nations, and that’s where waging peace enters the picture. It may seem like some sort of silly hippie’s dream, but the world today features several examples of disputes ended and hostilities ceased without one side conquering and absorbing another.

France and Germany, Greece and Turkey, South Africa and the world – each one of these hotspots (the first two going back millennia) was defused through active, but non-violent means, though the last required some crafty subversion. Really, there is no better form of defense.

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