Violence finds its home most often in some of the poorest places. But money filtrates its way through often gathering in arms businesses and corrupt governments. In recent times, this has been true in many countries throughout Africa and the Middle East. Is the price of death worth it?
There is a moral question that has surfaced over the years on whether you would have to choose between the death of someone you loved or thousands of strangers. Most of the time it would be frowned upon if you picked one life at the expense of thousands. But not everybody agrees. That moral standard doesn’t translate when power is involved. Too often the death of innocent people is picked for monetary gain. This isn’t just found with governments often associated with corruption but also can be found in US foreign policy and even in the UN. Just look at the Rwandan Genocide and Iraqi War for example. The US tends to only involve itself in conflict in which it has another interest in, often oil or another economic benefit. In Rwanda, the UN actually left the country when violence broke out and only got re-involved once it reached international attention. After the genocide ended, the country got so much foreign aid that its capital city, Kigali, is being recreated as a post-modern enterprise focused solely on appearance and not reality. This pattern has continued throughout many conflicts. It is, quite frankly, the business of war.
This best current examples of this trend lie in South Sudan and Yemen. The rise of the Arab Spring lead to the intermingling of conflict, with wealthy monarchies fueling and funding neighboring battles. This is seen in both Syria and Libya. The most notable pairing though is the UAE in Yemen. Like most foreign involvement it is motivated by economic gain, namely control of the Red Sea coastline, and military prowess, as presence equals power. The UAE’s influence has led to the risk of starvation for 14 million people and a much more complex civil war. The leaders of militia groups are now benefiting greatly from foreign aid while the gap between rich and poor continues to spread.
South Sudan follows a similar pattern. The civil war has led to leadership on both sides of line pocketing millions and pursuing private business in real estate acquisitions and capital investments. South Sudan’s economy is completely dependent on oil leading to endless conflict over oil reserves and wealth distribution. The war has left over 5 million in need of aid yet little is being done to stop it. When those in charge get nothing but wealth, why save the people?
One of the biggest culprits of profiting from war lies in the companies controlling valuable natural resources. Often these companies are foreign owned and operated and give little thought to the violence surrounding it, focusing only on the influx of cash. These goals often coincide with a repressive regime. A study from the World Bank found that if one-fourth of the country's GDP is from primary commodity exports, the possibility of a civil war increases by 30%. Two examples of this are in Columbia and Tibet. Both areas have repressive governments with Tibet under illegal occupation of China. This has allowed for the expansion of foreign interest in mining in both countries, often with little regard to the surrounding area and the people that live there. In Columbia alone, 68% of displacements occurred in mining areas.
As long as money is involved and there are people, governments, and companies benefitting from war and violence, there is little motivation to change. If only we could learn that you don’t need to fight violence with violence, you fight by combatting the wealth of those with power.
DEVIN O’DONNELL’s interest in travel was cemented by a multi-month trip to East Africa when she was 19. Since then, she has continued to have immersive experiences on multiple continents. Devin has written for a start-up news site and graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Neuroscience.