It’s amazing what can be accomplished … in war

Reading Flight into the Abyss: Zeppelin Operation in Africa 1917-1918 by Owen P Hall Jr, if what he’s written is accurate (one too many fundamental errors for my liking about the war in East Africa), it cost $750 000 to manufacture the zeppelin which went to provide supplies to the Germans. That works out at roughly 0.8% of what the East Africa campaign cost the British government. That is quite an investment – especially given the chance being taken that the airship would arrive.

The British also embarked on huge cost initiatives which didn’t last. Aside from air, weapon and ammunition development, railways were built – not all in places which would add value after the war – the Voi to Moshi railway springs to mind. Also the incredible cost of tarring roads which, after the war, reverted to bush (Edmund Yorke, Britain, Northern Rhodesia and the First World War).

Money seemed to be spent without second thought, by all belligerents, although the British Colonial Office did seem to try and curb what they thought unnecessary expenditure. Yet, today, when people in Africa and elsewhere are in desperate need, money is not forthcoming. What does this tell us about humanity’s priorities and values?

Lord Kitchener had the idea that by lifting the people who were at the bottom of the economic ladder, thereby reducing the wealth gap, one would reduce the potential for conflict (Egypt). He was also very creative in using budgets to get buildings he needed built (prisons vs warehouses in Red Sea Literal). 

How do we get the balance right between peace-time investment and development so that we don’t end up in war where money is spent needlessly?  If we can make incredible achievements and investments in war for no long-term gain, why can’t we do the same for long-term progress in peace-time?

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