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The Fear of the Underdog: Understanding the real reason for 21st century wars

By       Message Ramani K V       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   14 comments

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The obvious cause of today's global wars without end is the burning quest of the US for world empire. It outrages our sense of morality, justice and compassion. Peace-loving Americans are in fact, the most articulate against these wars. They are shocked and dismayed by the chaos their government is sowing around the world in the name of an empire that the American public did not ask for, nor authorized. They, and the victims of the wars, cannot comprehend the insanity of the warmongers, the savagery of weapons that rain death from the skies, the sheer brutality and heartlessness of it all. Has America become the fallen angel, evil personified, in its quest for an empire of conquest and glory like others before it? Or is there something more to it, something other than greed that drives the quest?

Everything about today's America is at odds with its origins. The Declaration of Independence captures the fierce spirit of pioneers who freed themselves from imperial tyranny to set up the world's first nation of commoners. Yet, today the same nation, still a toddler in civilizational time, is waging wars against everyone for an empire of its own. What has changed?

Two things have changed. We are approaching the natural resource limits of the planet against an exploding population. The mix of this population is an existential threat to the West's five centuries old world domination.

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From the appearance of the first homo sapiens, it took us almost 200,000 years to reach a population of 500 million ahead of the industrial revolution in the 18th century. Barely 300 years have passed since then and the world is groaning under the weight of 7.5 billion people. To appreciate how violent this growth has been, the world population was about 3 billion in 1945 when WW II ended. In just the last 70 years since, it has more than doubled. UN population projections suggest it will rise to between 11 and 16.5 billion by the year 2100 if fertility rates don't fall steeply.

We are looking at a Malthusian nightmare come true. Not the way Robert Malthus envisaged it in terms of food scarcity alone. But a more varied population-natural resource gap forecast by the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth. Setting aside the question of global warming, we are simply hollowing out the earth to feed, clothe, house and equip a runaway population with a burgeoning range of technology-created needs far beyond the scope of what Malthus and Limits to Growth authors foresaw.

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The global wars are ultimately resource wars as powerful nations of the West seek to seize control of the world's most critical remaining resources for themselves. Their obsession with economic growth makes the situation worse. But even if they were to settle for zero growth, they will feel compelled to act.

Alongside this lies the West's shrinking share of population. Of the 7.5 billion in the world today, only one billion are in the West. The East outnumbers the West by six and a half times. Most countries in the West are experiencing stagnant or declining populations. Future population growth will occur almost exclusively in the East, especially in Africa. The West fears losing control over the world, a control built up over 500 years since the beginning of the colonial era, infamously characterized as the "white man's burden" by Rudyard Kipling.

In fact, the process has already begun. Just two countries, China and India, have a combined population of 2.7 billion today, nearly thrice the population of the entire West. Historically, these two countries dominated the world economy for 1,700 years before the industrial revolution tilted the scales in favor of the West. Today, the pendulum is swinging back in a tectonic reversal that will reduce the West to a demographic minority of just 10% and an economic underdog. By 2100, US and Europe are estimated to have a combined GDP of $140 trillion, just 20% of the world GDP of 900 trillion, less than the $190 trillion of China and India alone.

These are the harsh realities against which the ongoing global wars should be understood. They are about a civilizational upheaval, a contest for world supremacy prompted more by fear rather than ambition. It will be a folly to identify this with the US alone. Europe is every bit as complicit because of its geography. Surrounded or easily accessed by a multitude of nations from Africa and Asia, Europe is in mortal fear of being overrun by modern hordes of barbarians. It is this fear, not subservience, that makes Europe a handmaiden of the US today.

We can only guess how it will all turn out. A peaceful coexistence under a new balance of power or a hard reboot of the entire world order following a devastating holocaust.

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Disillusioned economist and retired UN staff, religious and political agnostic, wanderer and global citizen.

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