3. All states shall reduce their militaries and not plan war for “national security.”

Metta Spencer, Rapporteur

This is the key plank in the whole platform. It is also the hardest. We may not succeed with this one, friends, but if we do, the other 24 planks will come more easily, for militarism is the linchpin of the system —the problem that holds the five other threats in place. War and weapons not only kill people directly, but by exacerbating global warming, famine, pandemics, radiation exposure, and (probably next) cyberattacks.

War is hard to eliminate, though — not because anyone actually likes it but because people don’t know how to do without it. A few wars are fought over trivial matters, but most of them occur because a conflict is immensely important and neither side can think of other ways to settle it. So, we must propose some other ways to handle conflicts.

But first let’s consider the meaning of this plank. Notice that it calls upon “states” to reduce their militaries – but what about non-state militaries? ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, the Taliban, Boko Haram, ETA and FARC, for examples, are not owned by states, and elsewhere there are still a few warlords and oligarchs with their own armies.

And United Nations Peacekeepers are also military. To get rid of war and weapons, we must probably eliminate (or anyway vastly reduce) all kinds of militaries except peacekeepers, who are supposed to be like a global constabulary. We will need more, not fewer, peacekeepers, as substitutes for the armed forces of national governments and rebels.

The value of an organization depends on its mission, so the question is whether military units are mandated to defend and protect people or to attack and destroy them. Nowadays, most armed forces are for war-fighting, but every city has a police force to protect its citizens. Our ancestor, the caveguy, stood guard at the cave entrance with a spear, lest a saber-tooth tiger arrive unexpectedly. That was for security. But even then, caveguy perhaps also belonged to a warrior gang that raided other settlements for booty. That was not for security. Lives were short in those days, partly because the police force and peacekeepers hadn’t been invented yet to protect citizens.

Basic civility requires us to honor “those brave men and women who risk their lives to defend our country,” though in fact many wars are not defensive in nature. And logically, for every military action that is truly defensive, there must be at least one — the opponent’s — that is offensive. Too often, it is impossible to know which side deserves the glory and which side the shame. Triumphant warriors can now all claim to be heroes, for if ever there was a clear distinction between protective military actions and aggressive attacks, that clarity has long been blurred.

This indistinctness has arisen from the increasing acceptability of two principles. The first is preventive war—military action against an adversary while he is presumably preparing to attack. If self-defence is justifiable, then it is not irrational to consider a pre-emptive strike moral too. But we know where that idea leads.

Read more

Notes

  1. World Nuclear Weapon Stockpile, The Ploughshares Fund  (back)
  2. Jenny Awford, “Biggest Bombs in the World”, The Sun (UK Edition) 20 Apr 2019.  (back)
  3. Bruce G. Blair, “Why Our Nuclear Weapons Can be Hacked”, The New York Times, March 14, 2017. See also Andrew Futter and Des Browne, Hacking the Bomb: Cyber Threats and Nuclear Weapons, Kindle edition. (Georgetown University Press, 2018).  (back)
  4. George P Schultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, “The Threat of Nuclear War is Still With Us”, Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2019; Mikhail Gorbachev, “The Madness of Nuclear Deterrence”, Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2019.  (back)
  5. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “World Military Spending” Update of April 2019.  (back)
  6. Quartz, The United Nations General Assembly 2018,  (back)
  7. Newsweek, “How Much Does the United Nations Spend on Peacekeeping? Here’s What We Know”, Wed. June 12, 2019.  (back)
  8. Michele Giddens, “The SDGs are an Opportunity Not Just a Challenge”, Forbes, May 24, 2018.  (back)
  9. Kevin Bullis, “How Much Will it Cost to Solve Climate Change?” MIT Bulletin, May 15, 2014.  (back)
  10. Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in a Global Era. London: Polity, 2013.  (back)
  11. Mary Kaldor, “New Wars,” The Broker, May 28, 2009.  (back)
  12. Ibid.  (back)
  13. Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Action. Columbia University Press, 2012.  (back)

Author: Metta Spencer

2 thoughts on “3. All states shall reduce their militaries and not plan war for “national security.”

  1. IT MAY ONLY TAKE 3.5% OF THE POPULATION TO TOPPLE A DICTATOR — WITH CIVIL RESISTANCE (From The Guardian)

    Many people across the United States are despondent about [Trump] – and the threat to democracy his rise could represent. But they shouldn’t be. At no time in recorded history have people been more equipped to effectively resist injustice using civil resistance.
    Today, those seeking knowledge about the theory and practice of civil resistance can find a wealth of information at their fingertips. In virtually any language, one can find training manuals, strategy-building tools, facilitation guides and documentation about successes and mistakes of past nonviolent campaigns.
    Material is available in many formats, including graphic novels, e-classes, films and documentaries, scholarly books, novels, websites, research monographs, research inventories, and children’s books. And of course, the world is full of experienced activists with wisdom to share.
    The United States has its own rich history – past and present – of effective uses of nonviolent resistance. The technique established alternative institutions like economic cooperatives, alternative courts and an underground constitutional convention in the American colonies resulting in the declaration of independence. In 20th century, strategic nonviolent resistance has won voting rights for women and for African Americans living in the Jim Crow south.
    Nonviolent resistance has empowered the labor movement, closed down or cancelled dozens of nuclear plants, protected farm workers from abuse in California, motivated the recognition of Aids patients as worthy of access to life-saving treatment, protected free speech, put climate reform on the agenda, given reprieve to Dreamers, raised awareness about economic inequality, changed the conversation about systemic racism and black lives and stalled construction of an oil pipeline on indigenous lands in Standing Rock.
    In fact, it is hard to identify a progressive cause in the United States that has advanced without a civil resistance movement behind it.
    This does not mean nonviolent resistance always works. Of course it does not, and short-term setbacks are common too. But long-term change never comes with submission, resignation, or despair about the inevitability and intractability of the status quo.
    And among the different types of dissent available (armed insurrection or combining armed and unarmed action), nonviolent resistance has historically been the most effective. Compared with armed struggle, whose romanticized allure obscures its staggering costs, nonviolent resistance has actually been the quickest, least costly, and safest way to struggle. Moreover, civil resistance is recognized as a fundamental human right under international law.
    Nonviolent resistance does not happen overnight or automatically. It requires an informed and prepared public, keen to the strategy and dynamics of its political power. Although nonviolent campaigns often begin with a committed and experienced core, successful ones enlarge the diversity of participants, maintain nonviolent discipline and expand the types of nonviolent actions they use.
    They constantly increase their base of supporters, build coalitions, leverage social networks, and generate connections with those in the opponent’s network who may be ambivalent about cooperating with oppressive policies.
    Crucially, nonviolent resistance works not by melting the heart of the opponent but by constraining their options. A leader and his inner circle cannot pass and implement policies alone. They require cooperation and obedience from many people to carry out plans and policies.
    In the US on Tuesday, dozens of lawmakers have said they will boycott confirmation votes for Trump nominees. Numerous police departments countrywide have announced that they will not comply with unethical federal policies (particularly regarding deportations). And the federal government employs more than 3 million civil servants – people on whose continued support the US government relies to implement its policies. Many such civil servantshave already begun important conversations about how to dissent from within the administration. They, too, provide an important check on power.
    The Women’s March on Washington and its affiliated marches – which may have been the largest single-day demonstration in US history – show a population eager and willing to show up to defend their rights.
    Of course, nonviolent resistance often evokes brutality by the government, especially as campaigns escalate their demands and use more disruptive techniques. But historical data shows that when campaigns are able to prepare, train, and remain resilient, they often succeed regardless of whether the government uses violence against them.
    Historical studies suggest that it takes 3.5% of a population engaged in sustained nonviolent resistance to topple brutal dictatorships. If that can be true in Chile under Gen Pinochet and Serbia under Milosevic, a few million Americans could prevent their elected government from adopting inhumane, unfair, destructive or oppressive policies – should such drastic measures ever be needed.
    Erica Chenoweth is the co-author of Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *