Economics Trumps the Myth of Military Power

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi at his spinning wheel used it; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at his pulpit used it; even Egyptian protesters at Tahrir Square in Cairo now understand they can use power economics as a weapon to bring down a government.  How many Egyptian protesters realized when they started to protest that they could shut down the Egyptian economy?  I’m not sure, but it’s clear that peaceful protest can bring things to a boil.

Here’s an irony.  The United States tried to defeat North Vietnam for nearly two decades, overtly and covertly.  When we gave up and left, all reports suggest that Vietnam did become a capitalist country, with relatively good relations with the United States.  The “Chinese military threat to us” is another irony.  For decades politicians had us in fear of the Chinese “threat,” but now China is one of the most capitalist countries in the World.

“But Skip, if we go to war with China, we can probably only put 5 aircraft carriers in the Formosa Straight to defend Taiwan.  That means we’ll have not more than 500 airplanes, while the Chinese can put up 3,000 against us.”  These were the words of a worried friend, who flies F-18s off American aircraft carriers.   From his vantage point, at the tip of the spear, that is a real existential concern.

“Don’t worry about that!” I told him.  I reminded him of the trillions of dollars worth of American treasury bonds the Chinese own, and said, “Where will they cash those in if they go to war with us?”  More importantly, a war between the United States and China would mean the collapse of the Chinese economy, because most of their capitalist production is directed to the USA and Europe.  This would, in turn, lead to so much internal civil unrest, that the Chinese would not have time to fight an external war.

The people who want us to be fearful of the Chinese are the same people who want freedom from regulation, so that they can create yet another bubble to risk the global economy once again.  And yet, those same people profit hugely from the availability of cheap goods from China.  They don’t want the Chinese to allow their currency to float, because if they do, Chinese goods would inevitably become more expensive in the United States squeezing profits of importers.  Of course, a stronger Chinese currency would mean more jobs for Americans, who could then produce the same goods more cheaply.   The point is, allowing the Chinese to keep their currency cheap means that their economy is more dependent upon our economy, because we are their big customers.  That keeps us safer than any number of aircraft carriers.

Mohandas K. Gandhi’s salt march and other actions caused the British to leave India.  By boycotting British textiles and making salt, ignoring the British tax on salt, and by huge general strikes, which paralyzed the Indian economy, Gandhi paralyzed the British administrators.  He proved that the British could not rule, unless the people consented.  Indians would still be slaves of the British, but for the courage of Indians, who demanded their economic rights.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s movement to boycott city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, and other southern cities in the United States, put pressure on city finances, which made all Americans to sit up and take notice.  He had a dream and he did it peacefully.   Fortunately, visionary American politicians of the day, including many southerners, finally understood the message and passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  While all is not yet perfect in the United States, all of our citizens have far more economic opportunity than they did under the old system.

What we have seen in Tahrir Square in Cairo, the streets of Tunisia, and throughout the Middle East is populations fed up with being starved by their own leaders.  We will see economic opportunity improve in those countries, and the threat of terrorism aimed at the United States gradually fade away, once these economic inequities are rectified.  The people don’t need guns to achieve these results.  What they need is an understanding of the power of economics.


Skip Conover is an International Executive, Author, and Artist.  He has written a novel, a published current affairs book, and a published journal.    He turned his long time interest in Jungian Archetype into the Archetype in Action™ Organization.

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