War means war, like gay means happy. That is to say, it kind of does but … it doesn’t. Like gay now refers to sexual orientation rather than someone’s mood, war refers less to a fight, and more to a transfer.
A few weeks ago, President Trump, doing his best Emperor Palpatine, announced, “Space is a war-fighting domain just like the land, air, and sea. We may even have a space force—develop another one—space force. We have the Air Force, we’ll have the space force.” It seemed like the first official trailer for an impending space war.
This week, Trump’s administration turned up the heat on the escalating trade war with China. First, the administration called for 25% tariffs on $50 billion worth of imports from China. The Chinese government responded with a plan to impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of American products. Trump fired back by calling for additional tariffs on $100 billion of Chinese imports. By the time you read this, it is likely more arrows will have been slung.
In a quest for historical reference, many are looking to the trade war which ensued after the passage of the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930. The Act, which imposed heavy tariffs on imports, was a disaster. From 1929 to 1933, US exports went from $5.24 billion worth of goods to $1.68 billion. The general consensus is that the Act and trade war exacerbated the Great Depression and contributed to the rise of radical nationalism, such as that seen in Adolf Hitler.
Those less historically inclined need only look back to the start of this millennium for a different example. In 2002, the W. Bush administration imposed tariffs on steel of up to 30%. In the 21 months before the administration withdrew the tariffs after international pressure and a strong reprimanding by the World Trade Organization, some 200,000 US manufacturing workers lost their jobs
Most fundamentally, however, tariffs and trade wars are less about countries and more about companies.
An American steel manufacturer that has its competition restricted by tariffs and finds itself with domestic market domination and increased profits does not pass this bounty on to consumers. Rather, they use their control of supply to raise the price of demand. Nor do they pass the bounty on to their workers, as can be seen by the steady decline of the American worker through numerous administrations and mainstream political ideologies.
Further, a company which relies on steel or aluminum in their own production, say a car manufacturer or brewery (aluminum cans), does pass their increased cost of doing business on to their consumers and workers. The story is the same for a company that relies on exports and finds itself restricted by an escalating trade war.
But enough about trade wars, what about space wars and Trump’s proposed ‘space force?’
The last time a new military department was created for a hyperbolic war was the Department of Homeland Security for the ‘War on Terror’ in 2002. Nowadays, Americans spend over $50 billion per year on this department, a number which is only increasing. Of course, the ‘War on Terror’ has also led to billions being spent on security and surveillance apparatus, and trillions being spent in the Middle East.
This money does not appear out of thin air, nor is it poured from a basket into a hole … at least not literally. It comes from every American and is given to contractors who produce military equipment, surveillance equipment, to private security firms and private prisons. It is taken from the pockets of people and placed in the pockets of big companies.
So Trump is promoting a trade war and planning a space war while conducting the ongoing ‘War on Terror’ and trying to ramp the ‘War on Drugs’ back up.
I know ‘war’ is a loaded term for which support implies patriotism, but all of these “wars” are making me decidedly un-gay.