and Proactive Security Policy
Fischer, TFF associate
Some have argued that we can never disinvent
nuclear weapons and thus will have to live with them as
long as civilization exists. But nobody has disinvented
cannibalism either, we simply abhor it. We must now learn
to abhor equally the thought of incinerating entire
cities with nuclear weapons. The abolition of nuclear
weapons with thorough verification is a totally realistic
goal - we already have treaties banning biological and
chemica weapons - and is necessary for human survival.
Why ballistic missile defence is not the answer
Reagan's defence secretary Caspar Weinberger, arguing
for ballistic missile defence (BMD), inadvertently
provided a strong argument against it, saying, "If the
Soviet Union got such a system first, we would face a
grave danger, because they could launch their missiles
without fear of retaliation." The same, of course, is
true in reverse.
It is doubtful that such a system would ever work
reliably, but even if it does not work, a leader who
falsely believed it would work could be tempted to strike
first. Therefore Russia and China announced they would
have no choice but to increase their nuclear arsenals to
make clear to a potential opponent that they could
penetrate any such system. Thus if the United States
were to embark on a plan to build a ballistic missile
defense system, this would precipitate a new nuclear arms
BMD would violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM)
treaty and could unravel the whole process of arms
control. Yet even if it worked perfectly, it could not
protect against bombs in a suitcase, on a truck, or
The main beneficiaries and supporters are US defence
contractors, who hope to make an estimated $60-billion.
If the nuclear powers break their commitment under the
ABM treaty gradually to eliminate all nuclear weapons,
this double standard encourages "countries of concern"
(formerly called rogue nations) and terrorist groups to
acquire their own nuclear weapons.
Focus on prevention
Rather than waiting until war erupts and then
responding with military force, it is far preferable to
pursue an "active peace policy" that seeks to detect
potential violent conflicts early and transform them
peacefully. Conflict itself is not necessarily bad
--sometimes it helps change unjust conditions--but
violent conflict can and must be prevented.
It is unlikely that two NATO members would go to war
with each other. If they disagree, there are numerous
institutions, including the Organization for Security and
Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union (EU),
the Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD), and NATO itself with mechanisms to
resolve differences peacefully. For example, when the UK
believed it paid excessive contributions to the then
European Economic Union (EEC), Prime Minister Thatcher
and President Mitterrand, the rotating EEC chair,
negotiated a reduced assessment. Neither side ever dreamt
of using its heavy artillery. Such institutions must be
expanded, with emphasis on economic and political, not
only military cooperation.
Recommendation 1: Hold SUMMIT MEETINGS twice a year
among NATO and former Warsaw Treaty members (like the G-8
summits)--with parallel meetings among members of civil
society--to address common concerns.
During the 1980s, the greatest fear of a Balkan war
focused on Romania with its ethnic Hungarian minority.
But a small NGO, the Project on Ethnic Relations, brought
senior Rumanian officials together with Hungarian
minority representatives and helped them reach an
agreement allowing the Hungarians to use their own
language in schools and local papers, in return for a
promise not to seek secession. This effort, which cost
only a few thousand dollars, may well have helped avoid a
civil war. By comparison, military interventions can cost
billions. Expelling Iraq from Kuwait cost $100-billion,
not including the damage caused. Most importantly,
preventing war saves many lives.
A similar initiative helped bring peace to Ecuador and
Peru, which have fought four border wars since 1941.
Although this conflict is outside of the North Atlantic
region, similarprinciples apply everywhere. Johan Galtung
suggested to Ecuador's incoming president in 1995 to make
the contested territory a binational zone with a natural
park. The president was at first skeptical, but proposed
it to Peru, which agreed, with minor modifications,
leading to a peace treaty. Creative imagination can often
help find mutually acceptable outcomes.
Recommendation 2: Create a permanent CENTER FOR
CONFLICT RESOLUTION under OSCE auspices where members
from conflicting parties from around the world--official
and unofficial--can jointly explore peaceful solutions to
their problems, assisted by experienced mediators.
Combine it with a TRAINING CENTER FOR PEACEFUL CONFLICT
TRANSFORMATION for young diplomats, peacekeepers,
teachers, and others.
The safest security policy has many redundant
components, so that if one fails, others can back it
The United Nations has been remarkably successful in
preventing aggression across borders, the main task for
which it was created, but it was explicitly prevented
from helping avoid civil wars, considered interference
into member states' internal affairs. Thus civil wars
It is recommended to use three successive barriers to
help prevent not only international but also internal
(1) Remove the causes of conflict, wherever
(2) If conflicts emerge nevertheless, seek to
transform them by peaceful means.
(3) If conflict resolution fails, resist
aggression by nonmilitary means, and if that fails by
purely defensive military means.
Let us briefly examine these three approaches in turn.
(1) Removing the causes of conflict
A first approach to preventing civil war is to remove
the underlying sources of grievance, such as denying
minority rights, including the right to use their own
language. Sri Lanka's policy of making Sinhalese the sole
national language in 1956 caused deep resentment among
the Tamil minority and sparked a civil war that
continues. Switzerland prints elementary school textbooks
for its one per cent Romansch minority in five different
dialects. Though costly, this is far cheaper than
fighting a civil war.
Recommendation 3: GRANTING MINORITIES A HIGH DEGREE OF
AUTONOMY, if they wish, and treating them well, can avoid
discontent that may lead to civil war.
Violence erupted in Kosovo after Milosevic withdrew
itsautonomy. When the French-speaking minority in the
Jura region of the Canton Bern, Switzerland, chose in a
1978 referendum to form its separate canton, this ended a
simmering conflict between French-speaking Catholics and
German-speaking Protestants. Similar solutions might
defuse tensions in Northern Ireland and Turkey's Kurdish
Granting people self-determination is no guarantee
that they will always make the best decisions, but they
will learn from their own mistakes. However, they resent
a central authority forcing them to act against their own
interests. Self-determination can help avoid such
Mutually beneficial trade and cooperation can help
reduce international conflicts. The EU, which began as
Coal and Steel Union--Jean Monnet's brainchild--has ended
the century-old cycle of wars between Germany and France.
Similar types of cooperation should now be developed
between NATO and the former Warsaw Treaty members, to
prevent another Cold War.
Recommendation 4: Expand EAST-WEST COOPERATION through
such projects as building a high-speed rail network
connecting all of Europe; jointly developing less
polluting and energy-saving production methods; expanding
the free flow of people, ideas, and goods; joint medical
and scientific research, including space exploration;
deep mutual arms reductions.
Recommendation 5: BAN WEAPONS EXPORTS to countries at
war and to regimes violating human rights (Arias 1997).
(2) Peaceful Conflict Transformation
If conflicts emerge, there are many approaches to
resolve them, through negotiations, mediation, or
arbitration. For example, the United States and Canada
took a dispute over fishing rights before an arbitration
panel, both pledging to accept the verdict, whatever it
may be. The proposed CENTER FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION can
help defuse potentially violent conflicts at an early
Recommendation 6: Support the INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL
COURT to bring individuals who commit human rights
violations, aggression, or genocide to justice.
Recommendation 7: To OPPOSE TERRORISM AT ITS SOURCE,
help search for just solutions to conflicts everywhere
(Galtung 2000) and refuse to pay ransom which encourages
(3) Resist Aggression
If efforts to remove sources of conflicts or to
resolve them peacefully fail and a conflict party resorts
to the use of force, there exist a whole range of
nonmilitary approaches to resist aggression, including
noncooperation with an occupation force, and publicizing
gross human rights violations to ostracize
internationally those who commit them. But there are
situations where the protection of innocent lives
requires that violence be stopped with force. It has
been estimated that a relatively small armed
international peacekeeping force of 5,000 troops could
have prevented the genocide in Rwanda that cost over a
Recommendation 8: Create a STANDING PEACEKEEPING FORCE
under United Nations auspices that can rapidly stop
genocide, repel aggression or respond to natural or
industrial disasters. Preventive stationing--as in
Macedonia--may sometimes avert war. Such a force should
also include civilians to mediate disputes, maintain law,
and provide medical services.
A comprehensive security policy
We must seek protection not only from war, but from
any threats to human life or well-being, including
disease, pollution, poverty, and human rights violations.
The 1918 flu epidemic alone took twice as many lives as
World War I! New dangers after the Cold War include drug
addiction, AIDS, corruption, terrorism and streams of
refugees that strain social services.
Recommendation 9: DRUG EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION to
reduce demand is essential to eliminate the profitability
of the drug trade, which helps finance many civil wars
and organized crime.
Recommendation 10: Greater DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION AND
MEASURES TO REDUCE POVERTY, INCLUDING DEBT RELIEF, are
necessary to avert huge streams of future economic
refugees (Tinbergen 1991). Fences will not suffice.
Granting ASYLUM TO THOSE PERSECUTED undermines tyrants by
depriving them of their best citizens (Galtung 1996).
The best security policy seeks to identify potential
problems early and to avoid or resolve them before they
escalate. Waiting until a disaster occurs before reacting
to it would be like driving a car with closed eyes,
waiting to hit an obstacle and then calling an ambulance,
instead of anticipating and avoiding dangers.
Dietrich Fischer <firstname.lastname@example.org> is a
Co-Director of TRANSCEND: A Peace and Development
Network, and a Professor at Pace University,
Pleasantville, New York. This article is based on a
statement prepared for the session on Post-nuclear
Security Policies in the North Atlantic Region at the
Consultation on NATO Nuclear Policy, National Missile
Defense, and Alternative Security Arrangements, Ottawa,
September 28-30, 2000, convened by the Simons Foundation
and Project Plowshares.
Arias Sanchez, Oscar (1997) "Some Contributions to a
Universal Declaration of Human Obligations." Tokyo:
Fischer, Dietrich (1993) Nonmilitary Aspects of
Security: A Systems Approach, A report to the United
Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. Brookfield,
Galtung, Johan, and Jacobsen, Carl G. (2000) Searching
for Peace: The Road to TRANSCEND, With contributions by
Kai Frithjof Brand- Jacobsen and Finn Tschudi. London:
Galtung, Johan (1996) Peace by Peaceful Means. London,
New Delhi, and Thousand Oaks CA: Sage.
Tinbergen, Jan (1991) World Security and Equity.
Brookfield, Vermont: Gower.
TFF & the author 2001
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