Investing In Peace

I can't really see a theme overarch on this site, although perhaps others can. Say so if you can. I started this thing as a way for Muscovites and Gainesvillians to track us as we moved between towns, but if the blog were to survive it obviously needed to become a little more than that after we'd resettled in G'ville. At first I wrote more about poetry and stories, I think, some history, but have recently gotten more into opining on newpapaper articles, news, etc. That's all right, I guess, but I'm becoming a little bored with myself, I'll admit. I just finished Eastern Approaches, by Fitzroy McLean, in which that worthy describes his days as a diplomatic attache to the U.S.S.R. pre-WWII, his escapades in Afghanistan and along the Silk Road, and his wartime experiences with the S.A.S. in north Africa (the Desert Rats) and Persia, and then his work with Tito's partisans in Yugoslavia. That'll be fun talkin', but meanwhile, here's a little something from the Economist.

But trust me, this is not a newsie blog. If only because nothing's ever fresh. The following is taken from the April 24 Economist.

Apparently there was an Oxford University study examining the "cost" of civil wars worldwide. By "cost" the didn't mean "human cost," rather "moe-nay," but of course, that translates into human cost. There were some pretty outlandish figures, many of which the authors themselves labelled as tentative or speculative, but the report (or the Economist's report on the report) was very interesting nonetheless.

Apparently these guys (Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler) took a look at five ways to "reduce" the cost of civil wars.

1. a yearly increase in aid to the poorest countries of the world of 2% of their GDP per year. By their figuring (you'll understand after these numbers why I have no clue how they concoct these things) a $195 billion investment would save the world economy $16 billion in a "projected gain from peace." Not, as the Economist pointed out, good value for money.

2. a worldwide requiring that nations rich in one or a very few resources detail where the proceeds from sales of those resources were going. The most well-known example of this are the Sierra Leone Blood Diamonds. This is sort of creepy in a world-government sort of way. In exchange for the relatively negligible costs of setting up and maintaining a bureaucracy, an $89 billion "peace dividend" (love that phrase!)

3. sanctions (not called sanctions) ensuring that commodities from intrabellic countries (like that term? So do I) sell for lower prices. A ten percent reduction in the price of such commodities results in a $5.9 billion bonanza o' peace.

4. a sort of relapse prevention. Apparently the same countries keep getting into trouble, and often immediately after the embers from the previous wars stop smoldering. A country-specific boost in aid in the shape of 2% of that country's GDP every year for five years in the middle of the decade after the end of a civil war. For an investment of $13 billion, a $31.5 billion payoff.

5. finally, unilateral intervention is cited as a way to save money wasted in civil wars. Specifically, the U.N.-backed (an important detail!) British intervention into Sierra Leone a few years ago (I don't know if anyone remembers how the British Army refused to negotiate for the release of some captured soldiers; instead, they kicked folks around Israeli-style). According to the good authors of our study, interventions in around 12 "post-conflict" countries for 10 years would cost the intervening countries (with U.N. help?) $4.8 billion, for a gain in the world-wide economy of possibly...$400 billion.

You're kidding...this must be a new discovery, that a gun could be used to safekeep or improve commerce. The article in the Economist ends with a very British summation: "In purely economic terms, then, military intervention by a foreign power is the most cost-effective of the policies reviewed, and by a wide margin. Many, of course, will regard that as barely relevant: such intervention raises a host of non-economic issues, not the least the charge that the intervening powers are behaving like imperialists. On the other hand, people living in desperately poor countries torn apart by strife might sometimes long for the protection of an imperial power." Amen. My beef with a U.N.-style world government is that there'd be no such thing: there would be a U.N. empire. Rather an American empire (or a Brazilian, or a Polish) than a U.N. one. But that's an aside (irresistible).

As I said, I have no idea what the actual statistics look like, but this seems very common-sense to me. Save folks suffering and money at the same time: deploy armies. It's that sort of writing that keeps me reading the Economist, even when they call for Rumsfeld's resignation over recent scandal.