The Role of Developed Countries in War and Conflict

A summary of Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein and David Harvey’s views on mainly American militarism

Developed countries spend a lot more on their armed forces than developing countries, and the USA spends more than the next nine biggest spenders combined.

Many developed countries have full time standing armies, navies and air forces and some have nuclear arsenals, all of which need paying and equipping, which in turn means research and development budgets into the latest military technologies.

This high level of military expenditure is typically justified on the basis that it is necessary to ensure ‘Peace and Security’ both at home and abroad, and since the end of World War II developed countries have frequently intervened in poorer countries abroad by arguing that force is sometimes necessary to bring about a more orderly or stable society.

The recent full-scale wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were justified as necessary to root out the terrorist forces responsible for the 11 September 2001 ‘terrorist’ attacks on the United States, and today the ‘War On Terror’ continues, having largely shifted to now take the form of a ‘Drone War’ against suspected terrorists, which is occurring in numerous developing countries, but most notably Pakistan. 

The USA and its allies continue to justify a high level of military expenditure and the continued use of force on the basis that it is necessary to ensure peace and security both at home and abroad. 

There are, however, a number of radical theorists that argue this is a lie. Below we look at three academics associated with Dependency Theory tradition who argue that the West actually uses military force abroad in order to get rid of peaceful put anti-American governments, to secure oil resources (Americans do like their cars!) and to make money: there’s nothing like a war to generate a profit!

Noam Chomsky: The USA as Rogue State

According to Noam Chomsky (2004) the USA has used military force or funded the use of military force in over 50 countries since the end of World War Two.   The USA has over 1000 military bases worldwide, and is far the biggest aggressor of the last half a century.

Sometimes it has even used its military power to overthrow democratically elected governments that do not support American Interests.   Chomsky points out that if America really wanted to support freedom and democracy around the globe, then it would, by now, have tackled the oppressive communist regime in North Korea, and it probably wouldn’t do business with countries such as Saudi Arabia and China which have dubious records where human rights are concerned.  

Noam Chomsky’s view is backed up by John Pilger’s documentary ‘The War Against Democracy’ in which he points out that the use of military force against foreign governments that do not support American interests has formed the backbone of America’s foreign policy since the end of world war two.   Afghanistan and Iraq are just the last two in a very long list of countries that the United States has used organised state violence against.  

List of Countries Bombed by the USA since WW II  

  • China 1945-46
  • Korea 1950-53
  • China 1950-53
  • Guatemala 1954
  • Indonesia 1958
  • Cuba 1959-60
  • Guatemala 1960
  • Belgian Congo 1964
  • Guatemala 1964
  • Dominican Republic 1965
  • Peru 1965
  • Laos 1964-73
  • Vietnam 1961-73
  • Cambodia 1969-70
  • Guatemala 1967-69
  • Lebanon 1982-84
  • Grenada 1983-84
  • Libya 1986
  • El Salvador 1981-92
  • Nicaragua 1981-90
  • Iran 1987-88
  • Libya 1989
  • Panama 1989-90
  • Iraq 1991
  • Kuwait 1991
  • Somalia 1992-94
  • Bosnia 1995
  • Iran 1998
  • Sudan 1998
  • Afghanistan 1998
  • Yugoslavia – Serbia 1999
  • Afghanistan 2001
  • Libya 2011

Video – Noam Chomsky : The United States is the World’s Biggest Terrorist

David Harvey: The War on Iraq was ‘All about Oil’

The contemporary Marxist Geographer David Harvey (2005) has taken the above even further. Harvey argues that the Iraq War was really ‘all about oil’. He points out that the continued global economic and military superiority of the USA is dependent on securing for the future a reliable supply of oil, most of which lies in the Middle East. According to Harvey, there is documented evidence that members of George Bushes’ cabinet expressed a desire to increase US influence in the Middle East for precisely this reason. In this context, 9/11 and the linking of Iraq with the threat of terrorism provided a legitimate reason for the USA to secure its interests in that region.

Naomi Klein: The Shock Doctrine

Naomi Klein goes even further arguing in‘The Shock Doctrine’ (2008) that the American government uses war to destroy infrastructure in developing nations so that American companies can make a profit out of rebuilding that infrastructure. To support this Klein points out that Dick Cheney, vice president of the United States when the US went to war with Iraq, was also CEO of a Corporation called Halliburton, a company which won $2 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq after the war.

Sources/ Find out more…

Just so you’ve got the proper academic links to the books:

Noam Chomsky: Hegemony or Survival

Naomi Klein: The Shock Doctrine

David Harvey: The New Imperialism

Signposting and Related Posts

War and Conflict is taught as part of the second year sociology optional Global Development Module and related posts include:

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