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Editorial War and the quest for profits are intrinsically linked

THAT estimable publication, the London Review of Books, is popular in progressive academic and intellectual circles, although it betrays no ambition to become a journal of popular opinion. 

Its birth was occasioned by the Wapping industrial dispute in which Rupert Murdoch locked out printers and journalists who refused the reorganisation and redundancies which his assault on trade union power in the workplace entailed.

Among the casualties was the Times Literary Supplement and the LRB came to occupy a vacant spot in the market. 

One of its most entertaining features is its letters page where contributors get taken to task by critics who have perfected the art of expressing, in extravagantly polite language, withering contempt for supposed errors and omissions. 

Among the regular critics specialising in the demolition of orthodox opinion is Edward Luttwak, sometime servant of the British, French and Israeli military, defence strategist and maverick policy wonk for various branches of the US military.

The nuclear button issue — a device much favoured by media types who want to frame the defence narrative to the disadvantage of those of us who think a nuclear exchange too frightful and pointless to be considered — was Luttwak’s subject just a year ago.

By his account Luttwak was in the room when the then newly elected US president Ronald Reagan was first briefed by his State Department officials. 

Luttwak claims that, to their horror, Reagan was adamant that he would not press the nuclear button and that his counter-revolutionary aims in the Third World and his clear intent to roll back Soviet power would rely exclusively on subversion, the arms race and overwhelming military expenditure.

According to Luttwak: “Reagan did not believe in mutually assured destruction. He would not press the button, even if they bombed Washington DC (What is the point?).”

Make what you like of this, but it suggests that Rebecca Long Bailey’s neat footwork to avoid too much entanglement in the nuclear button issue — which she evidenced by pointing out the absolute futility of a nuclear retaliation  — has antecedents more politically diverse than might first appear.

Luttwak claims that Reagan made an absolute principle of not meeting Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko or Communist Party chief Leonid Brezhnev but eventually was “happy to meet Gorbachov, already at work to dismantle the USSR.”

Untold fortunes were made from arms manufacture during the cold and hot wars of the 20th century. And in this century, for a bourgeoisie facing mounting difficulties, arms sales have become even more vital to maintain profits.

Saudi Arabia is Britain’s biggest customer and the long intimacy between the despotic Saudi ruling elite and Britain’s ruling class (and royalty) is as shaming as it is profitable. 

Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite is facing serious economic and political problems that it finds impossible to deal with under its present set-up. It is fearful of an increasingly restive population and its Shi’ite minority. 

British-supplied weapons and aircraft systems are deployed by the royal regime to suppress opposition in Bahrain and Yemen in flagrant breach of international law and the guidelines that nominally regulate arms exports.

Not only does it brutally repress its own population but Saudi Arabia uses British weapons to crush democracy protests in Bahrain while Saudi Arabia’s British-made warplanes bomb Yemen.

Last June the Court of Appeal ruled that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen were unlawful and this is a temporary barrier to the issue of new arms exports licences to Saudi Arabia and its reactionary regional allies, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt. Meanwhile US supplies continue.

The connection between war and profits defines the capitalist system.

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