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Editorial: What About Nuclear Weapons?

When someone enlists in a military or paramilitary organisation they swear or affirm their willingness to obey all orders issued to them by their superior officers. In turn, such officers, in ascending order, are subject to the orders and instructions of their superiors who, ultimately, must respond to a national executive of politicians or an individual with executive power.

Effectively, then, this means that armed forces throughout the world are composed of people who have abnegated their sense of right and wrong when such a sense is in conflict with the orders they are given.

Like so many things in capitalism, it sounds absurd – and very frightening – but, in a world where there is at least one war going on every single day, it is consistent with the lunatic logic that underpins a wasteful and outmoded system of social organisation.

At the moment the problem preoccupying the most powerful nations of the world and their politicians is the conflicting politico-economic interests confronting the Syrian dictator and General Secretary of the Ba’ath Party, Bashar al’Assad, who took over power from his deceased father in 2000.

Like Saddam Hussein, his predecessor and holy war suppressant in Iraq, Assad’s power lay in his ability to suppress the toxic feuding and internecine killing that reside in the different strains of Islamism – just as they do in Christianity. It is possible that the present Syrian conflict may be the prelude to a more diverse sectarian conflict in which the US, Russia, Britain et al, will have more direct sponsorship as the awful potential of Cold War politics returns.

In the old cowboy films the Sheriff could deal with impending strife by collecting the gun belts and guns of the gunmen. In capitalism this would not be possible nor would the capitalists and their political agencies desire it. The arms trade, bordering on some two trillion dollars per annum, is a major source of profit - and, of course, employment - for the major nations of world capitalism. But weaponry, necessarily visible weaponry, is essential in dictating the terms of the system’s uneasy ‘peace’ agreements. Capitalism’s temporary periods of peace, like its industrialised phases of killing, requires a heavy investment in armaments.

The Syrian crisis has again brought the shadow of the Cold War with the same players who terrorised the world for decades following the Second World War. Then – in what was openly referred to as ‘a balance of terror’ - they threatened the planet with nuclear destruction. The US, Russia, China, France and Britain produce  the bulk of the world’s armaments; all have stockpiles of nuclear weapons and, if they were not all-powerful and beyond the control of the United Nations Organisation, it is likely that all five would be adjudged ‘war criminals’.

Obama and Putin lecturing the world about ‘morality’ and civilised human standards from behind their massive stores of the most awesome weapons demonstrates the veniality of what they defend as democracy. Yet in all the scores of interviews we see on our TV screens never is the issue of their nuclear weapons raised. Unquestioned virtue would appear to be the reward for power.