Exit strategies are double-plus ungood

Early on in COVID, when my church’s leadership was enthusiastically following the government impositions on meeting, distancing, masks, etc, and the Baptist Union guidelines even sought to out-do those restrictions, I became notorious in meetings for asking, “What is our exit strategy?”

This, obviously, was a reflection of the lack of any clear end-game for the national policies. It is now proverbial, on both sides of the Atlantic, that “Three Weeks to Flatten the Curve” soon led to to a whole sequence of mission-creep events that potentially ensured the pandemic would last forever. That, even now, is not unthinkable, since despite Britain’s relative lead in the relaxation of most restrictions, we still have compulsory masking in doctor’s surgeries (and vets!) and on planes, vaccines are being authorised for younger and younger age-groups, and the government retains all its lockdown options and sidelines all the evidence of their uselessness. It will take only some arbitrarily weaponised variant to bring back the whole vaccine-passport/digital identity package, if indeed that does not get rolled anyway out to detect Russians trying to evade the confiscation of their money.

The military comparison reminds me that the end of COVID has very much resembled the end of every one of the wars and proxy wars we have got ourselves involved in during this century. That is to say, the things drag on for decades at a cost of trillions of dollars and millions of local lives (and often hundreds of our own young people’s), until we bail out in dribs and drabs, having failed to achieve any lasting result except shattered nations and corrupt political institutions.

Just as in COVID, many thinking people asked during the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine just why governments didn’t think of how they were going to end what they had so enthusiastically started. In fact, it was as if the opposite occurred, and despite the bloodshed and anarchy, these wars were prolonged as long as possible.

For example, Afghanistan was invaded, ostensibly, to take out the Al Qaeda bases that planned the 9/11 attacks. That was the reason in Iraq too, incidentally, except that Al Qaeda had never had a significant presence there until we achieved regime change and destabilised it. But despite the way the Russians had got bogged down militarily in Afghanistan for years before, the war aims changed towards, impossibly, converting Afghanistan into a Western liberal democracy, using corrupt politicians, complete with state education, Western ideas of feminism and even urgent concern for Trans rights.

That went on for 20 years, until a shambolic retreat left the Taliban in complete control, only now armed with billions of dollars worth of abandoned state-of-the-art weaponry to sell on. It also left both US and UK military personnel behind, and a struggling indigenous church even more hated than it had been before the war, because of Christianity’s assumed connection with the corrupt West. Not for nothing was America called “The Great Satan,” but unfortunately that label was inevitably also attached to the religion of Christ, even apart from the historical intolerance of Islam towards the gospel.

Note that the same suspicion of Christianity as a front for Western imperialism has followed in the wake of these wars from Vietnam onwards. Long-established Christian communities fled Iraq originally because of the atrocities of (Western-trained) Isis, but have found on their return that the hostility has spread to the Muslim neighbours with whom they co-existed peacefully for centuries.

And so for people like me, the apparent total failure to consider exit strategies before committing money and blood to military, climate or pandemic “emergencies” suggests our political class is totally incompetent, and that the common people always have to pick up the tab for it. Only the constant stream of propaganda blinds us to the stupidity of agreeing to this.

But I’ve only just come to realise the error in my thinking, which as in most cases involves a category error. For I have always assumed that governments don’t want to go to war, upon nations or viruses alike, but that if they do, they want to get it over with as quickly as possible, to preserve the wealth and the lives of their people. If that is the case, then the lack of planning for exit-strategies is a gross failure.

But if, instead, one looks at government through the lens of the military-industrial complex (and/or the medical-industrial complex or the green industrial complex, all of which have powerful links to governments), then the calculus changes completely. Policy success is to have as many wars as possible, and prolong them as long as possible, because there are vast fortunes to be made from designing, making and selling weapons, or vaccinations, or green energy infrastructures.

So what if Europe has now fallen into stagflation because of economy-destroying COVID policies followed by sanctions against Russia? Whilst governments have any money at all, they will prioritise replacing the weapons they gave to Ukraine from Raytheon, Lockheed or BAE. The US is cannier, in that they are sending weapons to Ukraine on the same lend-lease system that put Britain in debt to them for 70 years. But the end result is the same – the more explosions, the more profits. And although not all the billionaires are in the arms industry, there is plenty to go round if one cycles through successive health and climate emergencies too.

Such a system is unsustainable, of course, because it’s a kind of pyramid scheme, in which the producers of wealth – ordinary taxpayers – believing that they are gaining security from governments they assume have their interests at heart because they voted for them, are the gullible bottom layer, until all the wealth runs out. At the top are the 1% who, apparently, control 99% of the world’s worth – Western “democracy” has contrived to create the greatest wealth inequality in history, but once the Ponzi scheme collapses in a big way, at least a good deal of that gold will perish with those at the top who sold their souls for it.

That end point looks increasingly imminent as I write.

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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