The Inadvertent Curse Of Abundant Natural Resources (IV)

Fri, 26 Nov 2010 Source: Baidoo, Philip Kobina

War, without exception, has been a plague of humanity since human beings graduated from the hunter gather era to live in communities and cultivate the land. The history of the world is, perhaps, the history of war, and it is not very difficult to come to that conclusion. A casual scan through the recorded history of man can be made abundantly clear that almost all our revered heroes are those with exceptional physical prowess and intelligence that led their people to military victories and conquest, for example, Washington, Wellington, Napoleon, Churchill, Caesar, Yaa Asantewaa, Alexander etc. Even the two most recognised Holy Scriptures i.e. the Bible and specifically the Old Testament is bursting with records of wars and for the Koran the best way to leave this life and insure your passage to eternal bliss is to die in war.

The nature of war that existed in the near east, which is part of the cradle of civilisation, embellishes atrocities to the extent that even the bible espouses genocide. For example, Israel conquest of Jericho, which has been immortalised by the walls of Jericho and the instructions given to Saul when he was ordered to bring God’s justice on the Amalekites. Human existence until quite recently, when humanity has known relative peace, was about war and defence, you are either attacking or defending yourself.

When eventually the internecine city state rivalry that existed in the near east finally reached Europe via Greece their graduation was incredible. War in Europe became the bread and butter of monarchs. Immanuel Kant was not being philosophical when he wrote ‘Our rulers have no money to spend on public education because all their resources are place to the account of the next war,’ he was complaining. The European wars were horrible; it was clan against clan, tribe against tribe, nation against nation and the empires brutalise and box everyone into shape through unimaginable atrocities. During the high tide of the Roman Empire for a Roman general to qualify for a triumphant entry into Rome he had to kill 5,000 people as a rule of thumb. Besides, the pillage and enslavement of a conquered people, the unbelievable humiliation and torture that is brought to bear on especially those that wage gorilla warfare to wrestle back their land and dignity will fill a whole library. The crucifixion, which has now been transformed into a holy icon was a horrible torture process deployed by the Romans to break the spirit and punish those who oppose them to die of excruciating heart wrenching death of asphyxiation.

The dialogue in ‘The Brothers Karamazov’, which the writer recounted the atrocities the Turks and the Circassians visited on innocent babies and the general population in Bulgaria were not the imagination of the writer. They were snapshots of the reality of wars in Europe and they were simply gruesome in detail.

It is inconceivable to think about the idea that property is theft in Ghana. But when the notion was advanced by Pierre Joseph Proudhon, the French political activist and philosopher, he was screaming against the order of the day during his time. He believed that all property in Europe was stolen through war and pillage. Obviously, the idea lingered on and festered in the minds of Engels and Marx giving birth to the Great October revolution and political and economic philosophies, which have outlived its sell by date and yet continue to wreak havoc in so many third world countries.

And I know that quite a substantial number of my readers will ask what has war got to do with abundant resources and our lack of development. And my humble responds is war is everything and the very civilisation that we boast of as human beings has been shaped and dictated by war, and the Europeans epitomise that history. Until just over sixty-five years ago when Europe has known relative peace, the European mind lived under the threat of constant war and to avoid all the evils of war visited upon a people they’ve got to be on a perpetual war footing to defend themselves. And we all know that the best form of defence is attack. With the threat of the atrocities of war especially enslavement at the back of every European mind how to defend themselves and obliterate any form of invasion was the waking thought of every monarch and their lieutenants.

As result the European mind was always on a constant and perpetual quest on ways and means to secure themselves and subjugate others. And the old proverb, which I have already repeated in this series come into vogue, necessity being the mother of invention kept them endlessly inventive. So the military in Europe was a source of technological powerhouse that sent people on mass to their graves and also brought better life to the living through its residual advantages. In effect the part that the military has played in the advancement of modern society is beyond measure for space and precious time I will catalogue a few military inventions that have been applied in civilian life to change our life for the better.

The main purpose of the construction of large wooden ships, which has now graduated into the construction of mammoth container ships and gigantic oil tankers that crisscross our oceans, was for the waging of wars. Nobody thought about the building of huge ships for trade but for monarchs to wage wars across seas, which they needed to transport large armies hence the need for large vessels became a necessity. The Greeks perfected the skill and though they have long been overtaken by the Koreans they still possess the managerial skill and financial acumen to manage large fleets that still generate a lot of income for Greece.

The invention of a working radar by Robert Watson-Watt was not meant for civilian air traffic control that is in use today but for the British to detect the German Luftwaffe approaching the British Isles. We all know that without radar commercial aviation as we know it today can never be possible but thanks to the military. Though we take GPS technology, commonly known as satellite navigation, for granted and get enthralled by the images beamed back to earth by the Hubble telescope and the wonderful advancement made in astronomy, non of these would have been possible without the appropriation of military technology. The Sputnik and the Apollo programme that sent man to space were developed from the V1 and V2 rockets that were used by the Germans to terrorise the Brits in the second world war.

The splitting of the atom in Hitler’s Germany was a turning point in the history of mankind. However, to bring the process to practical use required huge capital investment that was beyond private equity and financial institutions. It was only a country like United States with its massive economy that could support such enterprise fuelled by the terrifying knowledge that an enemy nation could first develop the atomic bomb. It was the Manhattan project, a military enterprise, that was able to first bring a practical use of the splitting of the atom, which is now being used in various civilian capacity such preservation of crops, electricity generation, smoke alarms and other atomic level detection equipments etc.

Modern civilian construction is the brainchild of military engineering. All the city-states of antiquity were all walled cities, e.g. Troy, Jericho and the one that has seared into our consciousness Jerusalem etc. These walls were not for decorative purposes; they were used as military defensive rampart. The hodgepodge of knowledge, which was applied by military generals in the transportation of their equipments and personnel over the rivers of Europe were transferred to civilians use as population growth made it economically viable and necessary. The castles that litter the shores of our country have theirs roots at the European war theatre. They were mainly built as fortresses at vantage locations by the various principalities, which modern day military vocabulary will refer to as bunkers. And they served a very useful purpose until the introduction of gunpowder into Europe. And the skyline of Europe speaks for itself by the nature, beauty and development of civil engineering, which has now been borrowed wholesale to other parts of the world with the requisite capital.

Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr



Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina