Morgan Stanley makes the case for a swift war

 by Martin Belam, 8 March 2003

Whilst I was travelling home on the Victoria Line late on Wednesday, a couple of drunk besuited men in their late twenties / early thirties got on the train. They were waving around a print-out of a PowerPoint presentation, and were arguing about it. Eventually one got off, and the other settled down to make annotations on the report.

Reading over his shoulder I saw that the presentation appeared to be from Morgan Stanley, the financial services company, and the title of the presentation was "Iraq conflict scenarios".

There was a diagram in the presentation. Although I couldn't read all of the text, the axis "Peace in the world" was opposed to "Globalisation withering".

Here was big financial business at work in the West planning the post-conflict landscape of the Middle East purely on a financial basis. It made it absolutely clear that for the globalised West there is no moral case for war, just a need to ensure financial security for increased globalisation.

Another page posed the various scenarios. The favoured option was "a quick war" - again, not because it would mean less people would die, but because it would be cheaper and the disruption to the global market less.

I would have seen more, but ironically sitting between us was a teenager wearing a t-shirt of anti-capitalist band "System Of A Down". Unironically, my view was obscured by the globally branded paper McDonaldsTM cup he was drinking global brand Coca-ColaTM from.


"it made it absolutely clear that for the globalised west there is no moral case for war, just a need to ensure financial security for increased globalisation."

That is a big assumption based on a document you were looking at over someone's shoulder. That someone happens to work for a company that is trusted to give good financial advice to its customers. These customers have billions of dollars invested and are counting on them to make important, non-biased decisions on their behalf. If you watch CNBC or Bloomberg, they are not talking about the moral right or wrong of the war. Their are plenty of other channels doing that. They are talking about the economic effects of a war based on various scenarios. These outcomes affect everyone, including individual investors. The same investors that Morgan Stanley employees are working hard to protect.

I guess Rick you'd argue my moral compass is off - but I find the fact that it is more important to protect people's wealth against the damage war will do to the economy, than to do something to protect the innocent people who will be killed by that action is wrong. The two guys on the train clearly thought it was a drunken laugh and were not that bothered about people seeing the document. And the thing that struck me was that someone had been working to do the graphics for that image of global peace not being a goal in itself, but a means to an end.

It put me in mind of a conversation Matt had with me at work, just after Colin Powell made his PowerPoint address to the UN. Matt was talking about how as a designer you are used to the CEO leaning over your shoulder and saying "Oh, that's nice, but can you make this years figures look a bit better".

Matt posited the idea that some poor White House staffer was used to producing PowerPoints about unemployment or some such thing, then suddenly has Donald Rumsfeld or Colin Powell leaning over their shoulder saying, "Oh, that's nice, but can you make the font a bit more threatening. And those satellite pictures are great, but can you make the icons scarier".

Not a job I could get up for in the morning and still sleep at night.

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