2023: The Year Global Corporations Fund and Fight Wars

by | Dec 19, 2023 | Corporate power | 0 comments

Article by Zayn Iskandar

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash



The world is in political turmoil. With conflict between nations heightening by the day, whether in Europe or the Middle East, it comes as no surprise that governments feel the need to protect their national identity and political agenda. Such conflict, however, has seen a rise in actors who have taken up the role of protecting their own political agenda, whilst also making a buck off of it; global corporations. Whilst large corporations have a deep history in profiting off of conflict, the influence such corporations have in global matters has only expanded in a more interconnected global scene; politically, economically and socially. Owing to this, it’s pivotal we explore the various facets of corporate involvement in war, both historical and contemporary, shedding light on how they exert influence and reap financial gains from these situations, and what this might mean in future conflict.


Globalisation has granted corporations the ability to use third-world countries as a means of profit; with little to no ramifications despite the conflict such a drastic change in tradition and lifestyle may cause. A notable example of global corporations’ influence in conflict is Meta’s, formally Facebook, role in the rise of right-wing movements in Myanmar. Meta struck a deal with phone manufacturers and retailers in Myanmar in 2014, [1]which preloaded Meta onto newly purchased phones. Following this, the platform spread rapidly; 99% of social media traffic in the country in 2014 was through Meta[2], with only China and India beating Myanmar in the number of people who signed up for Facebook in 2015[3] Meta became the largest source of information online for the Burmese people as a result. The platform had little to no ability to limit misinformation and fake news, which led to ethnic tensions and contributed to the persecution of the Rohingya minority through the spread of extreme right-wing ideas and misinformation about the Rohingya people, with one post picturing a Muslim human rights defender as a “national traitor”; comments calling for ethnic cleansing of Muslims followed, such as “Remove his whole race, time is ticking”[4]. Meta furthermore played a part in exacerbating said tensions through the echo chamber their targeted advertising causes, reinforcing the ideas of their users whilst profiting off of the user engagement said advertisements provide. The anti-Rohingya motion culminated in the displacement of 700,000 Rohingya people, who were forced to flee to refugee camps in bordering Bangladesh, following the systematic attack by the Myanmar military in August 2017. In which the military raped, murdered and burnt the homes of the Rohingya people. Whilst there are some calls for Meta to pay reparations for their role in the Rohingya conflict, namely by Amnesty International, Meta has taken no responsibility for its actions, and therefore has faced no legal ramifications; simply profiting off of exacerbating conflict and highlighting how global corporations can influence real-world events.


The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine is a more direct example of how corporations can profit off war, and their political influence in conflict. Naturally, large military companies profit off of conflict; supplying weapons and technology to the fight. One look at how the U.S defence market grew over 30 billion dollars following the Hamas attack on the 7th of October[5] helps us understand how large corporations can influence conflict; These corporations profit immensely from the perpetuation of conflict and instability in the region, as demand for their products remains high. Amidst this ongoing tragic conflict, head officials of Morgan Stanley were seen to discuss the potential profits of the event as noted by the Guardian[6]; expressing how the White House’s call for aid in Israel and Palestine will show financial growth in the sector. A similar notion was shared in General Dynamics’ earnings call. It presents the idea that such corporations have little to no remorse in discussing financial gain in an ongoing human rights atrocity, with their position in the conflict being solely to profit, in contradiction to their respective human rights statements.[7] It creates the impression that global corporations are bodies that function outside of the current structure of society, with profits and the notion of revenue coming before the rights and well-being of society itself.


Military corporations are not the only global corporations to profit and exert influence over conflict. With companies such as Walmart and Amazon having yearly revenues in the hundreds of billions, it is no surprise that such corporations have a massive impact on the global economic ethos. What is surprising is how such corporations use their position in the global scene to push their individual political agenda; McDonald’s decision to close all Russian branches following their full-scale invasion of Ukraine expresses this, essentially functioning as a type of embargo or sanction onto the nation owing to becoming dealigned with their companies values. In relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an interesting relationship between a nation’s political agenda and a company’s has sprung into the limelight. McDonald’s decision to provide free meals to the IDF[8] being disavowed by many national branches of McDonalds in the Middle East, including Oman and Turkey, shows how a global corporation’s political agenda can fall on both sides of conflict; a corporation’s agenda being challenged by national agenda. These declarations can lead to both financial repercussions and intensified conflict. The influence of corporate interests on the political landscape adds another layer of complexity to war zones and their resolution, further blurred by the relationship between corporate interests and national interests.


The involvement of global corporations in conflicts presents several ethical and practical concerns. Firstly, the pursuit of profit can be shown to, on occasion, take precedence over the humanitarian consequences of war by global corporations. This creates a moral dilemma, as corporations must weigh their financial interests against the well-being of affected nations. Furthermore, corporate involvement in the war can prolong conflicts. The military-industrial complex, driven by financial incentives, can perpetuate hostilities as long as there is a demand for their products and services. This can hinder conflict resolution efforts and perpetuate human suffering. To address these issues, it is pivotal that governments, international organisations, and civil society bodies advocate for transparency, accountability, and ethical standards in corporate activities during times of conflict, holding global corporations to account for their claims to protect human rights and society’s balance as a whole. Regulations and oversight are necessary to ensure that corporations do not exacerbate or profit from war at the expense of global peace and security.


In conclusion, the involvement of global corporations in war is a complex and controversial topic. While some corporations may unintentionally influence conflicts, others actively seek profits from conflict and show little remorse in doing so. The Israel-Palestine conflict and Meta’s role in the Rohingya conflict serve as stark reminders of the impact of corporate interests on conflict, historically and contemporarily. The ramifications of such involvement are minimal, therefore imperative that society addresses these issues to promote peace and stability in the future.



[1] https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/seac/2021/06/23/how-activists-are-using-facebook-in-myanmar-for-democratic-ends-but-facebook-itself-also-facilitated-hate-speech/

[2] https://gs.statcounter.com/social-media-stats/all/myanmar/2014

[3] Shadows Across The Golden Land: Myanmar’s Opening, Foreign Influence And Investment – Simon S C Tay, p34

[4] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/09/myanmar-facebooks-systems-promoted-violence-against-rohingya-meta-owes-reparations-new-report/

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/dereksaul/2023/10/09/lockheed-martin-northrop-grumman-stocks-notch-best-days-in-years-amid-israel-hamas-conflict/?sh=4ca4cee06a0c


[7] https://www.morganstanley.com/about-us-governance/pdf/human_rights_statement.pdf

[8] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/free-meals-israeli-soldiers-divide-mcdonalds-franchises-over-israel-hamas-war-2023-10-17/



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