April 14, 2018 11.51 am This story is over 41 months old

Barry Turner: The impotence of power

There can be no winners in a global war.

The escalating tensions in Syria have driven a new fear of impending global conflict, of a major war between what we called in the Cold War, the ‘West’ and Russia. Even serious political and military analysts have joined in this somewhat silly speculating, driven in large part by the even sillier macho bragging and threats of some of our more colourful world leaders.

Discussions about who is, and who is not a military world power are a distraction. Both Russia and the US are only powerful against minor actors but are mutually impotent against each other.

Neither Russia or the US could win a major conflict so there is no purpose in comparing the ‘military might’ of one against the other. Whether one side has ‘better’ or more weapons is entirely irrelevant. Both sides would inflict total destruction on each other’s society and infrastructure in a major conflict and that is why it will not happen. That is why it did not happen in the five decades we call the ‘Cold War’.

There is no point in being a billionaire in a nuclear wasteland or spending the rest of your life in a concrete bunker, however well furnished it might be.

It is high time that the utterly stupid macho military posturing stopped on both sides. It is time for a return to a massive reduction in military spending on both sides and for a country’s prowess to be measured in its ability to serve its people, not destroy the people of other countries.

If Russia and America increased their armed forces by 100%, if they quadrupled the spending on weapons, they would not be more powerful, they would still be impotent against each other. They would still not be able to achieve ascendency over one another.

It is now nearly 30 years since the cold war ended. Since that time the old cold war adversaries have dabbled in a dozen wars to no avail. Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Syria, Libya, and a good few others are still basket cases riddled with factionalism and terrorists. Hundreds of thousands are dead and as things stand, hundreds of thousands more will be joining them. In short, in 30 years no one has ‘won’ a war.

Just like there can be no ‘winners’ in a global war, there are none in the multiple proxy wars that have blighted the world for more than 70 years since the end of World War 2.

It’s time to stop fighting them and certainly time that the big boys stopped perpetuating those wars that are still being fought by the little ones.

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Barry Turner is Senior Lecturer in Media Law and Public Administration at the University of Lincoln.