Thursday, October 21, 2010

War and Peace, and Pensions

Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle provided an unintended commentary on two related commons issues:  the role of work as it is understood in Europe, and the degree to which military spending is the one thing that almost no one is mentioning as a major source of the worldwide economic recession. 

Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative (by French standards) President of France, is seeking to raise the retirement age to 62 from 60.  Even teenagers took part in the resulting strike, with 261 high schools blocked or disrupted Monday. (“France Protests Disrupt Schools, Transportation” SF Chronicle, 10/19/10).  Further 71% of French people sympathized with the strikers, who have brought France to almost a grinding halt with blocked highway traffic, airlines instructed to bring enough fuel into France if they plan to fly back out, and shipping ports closed.  Almost 1 million people have participated in what is now several days of strikes and protests.  Critics of Sarkozy’s plan describe it as “American style capitalism.” 

To be fair to Sarkozy, France is suffering the worst recession in 70 years and the cost of pensions given to people at 60 who may well live to be 90, is astronomical. 

However, not in the newspaper, but in any reports on military spending to be found on Wikipedia or from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is the fact that France has the third largest defense budget in the world, behind China and of course dwarfed by the United States (which spends more than the next nine most militarized countries put together).  France has increased their military budget every year and shows no sign of slowing down.  In a cursory search of major news sources on the French protest I did not find one person quoted as suggesting a cut in military spending as a way to pay pensions. 

Pacifists and anti-war activists make the connection between war and world wide military spending, which globally tops $1.3 trillion a year.  (The USA accounts for 44% of the world’s military spending.)   Movement building and commons activists have got to start making connections between bloody and pointless wars waged around the world, ineffectual, bloated and corrupt clandestine “intelligence” efforts to prevent terrorism, suppression of dissent in the name of safety, and the global recession.  The only cuts in spending that would increase the health, safety and peacefulness of our planet are weapons and military and (with a handful of exceptions) the left is not doing nearly enough to call this out.

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