Category Archives: Disarmament

War: Does it make us richer or poorer?

In February this year, The Washington Post featured an op-ed titled, “In the long run, wars make us safer and richer,” written by Stanford Professor Ian Morris. The guts of his case is that if we take the long term view there has been huge progress in life expectancy and economic and social well being and fewer and fewer people as a percentage dying a violent death and this has come about through war. And according to Morris, war is the only way this degree of progress can happen.

The world of the Stone Age, …was a rough place; 10,000 years ago, if someone used force to settle an argument, he or she faced few constraints. Killing was normally on a small scale, in homicides, vendettas and raids, but because populations were tiny, the steady drip of low-level killing took an appalling toll. By many estimates, 10 to 20 percent of all Stone Age humans died at the hands of other people.
This puts the past 100 years in perspective. Since 1914, we have endured world wars, genocides and government-sponsored famines, not to mention civil strife, riots and murders. Altogether, we have killed a staggering 100 million to 200 million of our own kind. But over the century, about 10 billion lives were lived — which means that just 1 to 2 percent of the world’s population died violently. Those lucky enough to be born in the 20th century were on average 10 times less likely to come to a grisly end than those born in the Stone Age. And since 2000, the United Nations tells us, the risk of violent death has fallen even further, to 0.7 percent.
As this process unfolded, humanity prospered. Ten thousand years ago, when the planet’s population was 6 million or so, people lived about 30 years on average and supported themselves on the equivalent income of about $2 per day. Now, more than 7 billion people are on Earth, living more than twice as long (an average of 67 years), and with an average income of $25 per day.

So how did war contribute to this progress? Well according to Morris:

This happened because about 10,000 years ago, the winners of wars began incorporating the losers into larger societies. The victors found that the only way to make these larger societies work was by developing stronger governments; and one of the first things these governments had to do, if they wanted to stay in power, was suppress violence among their subjects.
The men who ran these governments were no saints. They cracked down on killing not out of the goodness of their hearts but because well-behaved subjects were easier to govern and tax than angry, murderous ones. The unintended consequence, though, was that they kick-started the process through which rates of violent death plummeted between the Stone Age and the 20th century.
This process was brutal. Whether it was the Romans in Britain or the British in India, pacification could be just as bloody as the savagery it stamped out. Yet despite the Hitlers, Stalins and Maos, over 10,000 years, war made states, and states made peace.
War may well be the worst way imaginable to create larger, more peaceful societies, but the depressing fact is that it is pretty much the only way.

Paul K. Chappell, West Point graduate and NAPF Peace Leadership Director, has provided a powerful and comprehensive response to this. His article, War makes us poorer argues that Morris’s argument is faulty on many counts

Firstly, it is faulty because it neglects to factor in the huge costs of war, and not just to people, but to the planet, to our resources to our and to our common good.

To illustrate this point he draws on the perspectives of, writers and politicians over time:

Sun Tzu 2000 years ago:

The common people are deprived of seventy percent of their budget, while the government’s expenses for equipment amount to sixty percent of its budget.”

George Orwell, dystophic author:

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.

Dwight Eisenhower ex general:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children . . . Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Major General Smedley Butler:

War is a racket . . . A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

Secondly, he takes apart Morris’s data about murder reductions over the 10,000-year period

Professor Morris is correct that there has been a dramatic decrease in death by violent means over this time period but Chappell refutes that this has anything to do with changes in society brought about through war. Medical technology has completely revolutionized the impact of violence in society. To put it crudely, violence actions have not necessarily reduced but today we are far less likely to be killed by the same violent acts.

If we had 1930s level technology in America today, the murder rate would easily be ten times what it is. 1930s level evacuation technology, no ambulance services, no cars for most people. 1930s notification technology, no 911 systems, no phones for most people. 1930s level medical technology, no penicillin [penicillin was first discovered in 1928 but was not used widely until the late 1930s and early 1940s], no antibiotics . . . What if every gunshot wound, every knife wound, every trauma wound, there were no phones, there were no cars, and when you finally got the guy to the hospital, there were no antibiotics or penicillin? How many more would die? Easily ten times as many.

Thirdly, he argues that social, economic and political well being owes more to the actions of civil society and non violent protest than to war.

War may have been used as in part a means to win independence and end slavery in the US but these were pretty hollow victories. They did not bring with them mass changes in voting and other rights

Key aspects of human progress: more humane labour laws; democratic institutions, a free press, the right to vote, the rights of the child; civil rights, anti-discrimination laws, Occupation, health and Safety, maternity leave, childcare, universal education for all, superannuation, welfare services , unemployment benefits were not won through warfare but through civil society struggle and non violent actions.

These victories for liberty and justice were achieved because people waged peace, but most of us are not taught this important part of our history.
Although the American Civil War kept our country together, it took a peaceful movement—the civil rights movement—before African Americans truly got their human rights. And how many European countries fought a civil war to end slavery? Zero.
Recent research shows that another commonly believed myth in our society is also harming us. Professor Morris echoes this myth by saying, “People almost never give up their freedoms—including, at times, the right to kill and impoverish one another—unless forced to do so; and virtually the only force strong enough to bring this about has been defeat in war or fear that such a defeat is imminent.
However we have witnesses the end to unjust regimes that did not involve war time and time again, for example peoples powering the Philippines, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the re-unification of Berlin to name just a few.

Chappell quotes the groundbreaking research of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, that debunks the myth that war isthe only way to overcome oppression. In fact, according to this research nonviolence has become much more effective.

From 1900 to 2006, nonviolent campaigns worldwide were twice as likely to succeed outright as violent insurgencies. And there’s more. This trend has been increasing over time, so that in the last fifty years, nonviolent campaigns are becoming increasingly successful and common, whereas violent insurgencies are becoming increasingly rare and unsuccessful. This is true even in those extremely brutal authoritarian conditions where I expected nonviolent resistance to fail.

Fourthly, Chappell argues that the ravages of warfare in terms of its impact on poverty, human rights and the environment can become triggers for more violence and warfare.

Even the military reports acknowledge this:

The 2009 U.S. Army Sustainability Report lists several threats to national security, which include severe income disparity, poverty, and climate change. The report tells us: “The Army is facing several global challenges to sustainability that create a volatile security environment with an increased potential for conflict . . . Globalization’s increased interdependence and connectivity has led to greater disparities in wealth, which foster conditions that can lead to conflict . . . Population growth and poverty; the poor in fast-growing urban areas are especially vulnerable to antigovernment and radical ideologies . . . Climate change and natural disasters strain already limited resources, increasing the potential for
War cannot protect us from any of these dangers, and if we keep believing the myth that war is the only way, we will not be able to solve the problems that threaten human survival in the twenty-first century. Because we have the ability to destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons, if we keep believing the myth that war is the only way, we will keep pursuing war despite the clear evidence that it threatens human survival. If we keep believing the myth that war is the only way, we will continue to create conditions that make us less safe.
His final argument is that the opportunity cost of the resources sucked up by being permanently on a war type footing must be taken into account:

And finally, Chappell comes back to his first point, that war sucks up huge resources that could be used to benefit all humanity

What could humanity achieve if we end war? According to a study conducted by Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, an economy focused on peaceful priorities would employ many more Americans than an economy that wages war. In their study they said: “This study focuses on the employment effects of military spending versus alternative domestic spending priorities, in particular investments in clean energy, health care and education . . . We show that investments in clean energy, health care and education create a much larger number of jobs across all pay ranges, including mid-range jobs and high-paying jobs. Channeling funds into clean energy, health care and education in an effective way will therefore create significantly greater opportunities for decent employment throughout the U.S. economy than spending the same amount of funds with the military.
What else could humanity achieve if we end war? General Douglas MacArthur, who had a deep understanding of war that we can all learn from, said, “The great question is: Can global war now be outlawed from the world? If so, it would mark the greatest advance in civilization since the Sermon on the Mount. It would lift at one stroke the darkest shadow which has engulfed mankind from the beginning. It would not only remove fear and bring security—it would not only create new moral and spiritual values—it would produce an economic wave of prosperity that would raise the world’s standard of living beyond anything ever dreamed of by man. The hundreds of billions of dollars now spent in mutual preparedness [for war] could conceivably abolish poverty from the face of the earth.

 

 

Global Day of Action on Military Spending

Today is the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) , as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute released the numbers for the world’s military spending in 2013!

The Reaching Critical Will Project plan to post an analysis on their website that talks about the general trends and makes some suggestions on what could be done with the money instead.

WILPF International have also posted a blog on their website which provides a country level perspective on alternative uses for the military spend monies.

Australia’s response to this is not yet included. What would you suggest?

F35 damned as a boondoggle: at Defence HQ SpeakOut

The Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) will be marked by an open mike SpeakOut outside Defence HQ

12.30 – 2.00 pm am Monday 14 April 2014
Blamey Square, Russell, ACT.

GDAMS coincides with the release by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) of their annual statistics on global military spending which reached $US 1.75 Trillion in 2012.

At present the Australian government spends $26.5 billion pa on the ADF. But at a time when the Abbott government is slashing spending to health, education and environment, a military White Paper is claiming more military spending is necessary.”

“From nowhere, the arbitrary figure of 2% of GDP has been hailed as essential by the military and its think tank advocates,” said SpeakOut organiser Graeme Dunstan of Peacebus.com. “This translates as an extra $8 billion a year. But the White Paper is urging even more spending – a staggering $50 billion pa.”

“And this after 12 years of a failed and costly war in Afghanistan – it cost Australia taxpayers $7.5 million!” exclaims Mr Dunstan.

“There appears to be no end to the spending aspirations of the military and the greed of its armament suppliers.”

“Time to rethink the role of the military and to employ non violent means to resolve regional conflict,” he said. “Let the lessons of the costly failures of following the US into imperial wars be learned. Non violent resolution to conflict is known to be less costly and more enduring.”

Also under fire at the GDAMS SpeakOut @ Defence HQ will be the recently confirmed $7.74 billion acquisition program of the F35 Strike Fighter by the RAAF, the most costly ADF acquisition ever.

“To ADF we will be saying loud and clear that this war plane is unnecessary and wasteful. That it is a fraudulent project designed to make shareholders in Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest war profiteer – about $2.7 billion annually – even richer by stripping funds from health, education and environment in Australia and elsewhere,” said Mr Dunstan.

“Even promoters of the project such as Lockheed Martin’s salesman, Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, admit the F35 has ‘reliability and maintainability’ problems.”

Some countries who initially signed up for the project such as Italy and Canada are hesitating and dropping out because of the ballooning unit costs. A Canadian government audit estimates that the “cradle-to-grave” bill to taxpayers for buying and operating 65 of the F-35 warplane will exceed $600 million per unit. Which is way in excess of the $90 million per unit presently toted as the cost to Australian taxpayers.

“This war plane is a flying lemon and a boondoggle,” concludes Mr Dunstan.

“The project has had no public assessment of its usefulness to Australian defence needs and one has to ask how much of the $US14.4 million spent annually by Lockheed Martin lobbyists is being spent buying the Abbott government,” says Mr Dunstan.

Further information
Graeme Dunstan, Peacebus.com 0407 951 688

IT IS TIME TO BAN THE BOMB

A new Report by the WILPF project Reaching Critical Will was launched this month arguing that although the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been important, its structural weakness are becoming more significant and it is time to address them.  In particular its time to look at how we can move forward on the possession of nuclear weapons themselves and not just regulate who has access and on what terms.

Here is the report’s conclusion:

Forty-three years since the entry into force of the NPT, the international community is facing significant challenges around nuclear weapons.  If not addressed, the core principles of the NPT and the existing norms constraining nuclear weapons could be weakened or even lost. There is an urgent need to reinforce the principles of the NPT by addressing the fundamental problems facing the treaty. A treaty banning nuclear weapons could be instrumental in this regard.

The preamble of the NPT is explicit in its objective of facilitating “the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons,” “the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles,” and the elimination of all nuclear weapon delivery systems. Yet the operative paragraph dealing with nuclear disarmament is comparatively vague.

Banning nuclear weapons would promote each of the goals and obligations as set forth by the NPT. It would make operational the Treaty’s goal of achieving a nuclear weapons free world and ensure that its non- proliferation aspirations are thoroughly supported.

It has been 68 years since nuclear weapons were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States. The continued possession of nuclear weapons undermines the existing non-proliferation regime and presents a significant risk that nuclear weapons will be used again one day. It is time to establish a legal standard against the use, possession and development of nuclear weapons. This will change the political and economic landscape that currently allows some states to remain nuclear-armed.

This is clearly a direct and strong challenge to the status quo around nuclear weapons where the nuclear armed state parties have been able to portray themselves as moral actors on the world stage without much pushback.  In fact the report notes that the 5 nuclear armed state parties currently dominate NPT discussions thus ensuring that the focus remains on non-proliferation and not on possession and nuclear disarmament.

The report notes that nuclear-armed states are uncomfortable with any discussion about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons:

These discussions are challenging because they highlight how unconscionable it is for anyone to possess these weapons. By moving ahead with a ban on nuclear weapons, non-nuclear-armed states are setting the stage to change the status quo in discourse and elaborate an explicit legal standard prohibiting these weapons.

The nuclear-armed countries have so far faced no effective pressure to advance with their disarmament commitments within the NPT context or other UN fora, because they can veto or ignore decisions to which they object. Banning nuclear weapons without expecting their consent will remove a key obstacle to progress—the veto—and empower non-nuclear-armed states to make effective change.

Syria Statement from the International Crisis Group

The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation Set up in 1995, it is committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict.

Today it issued a statement on the Syria situation and US deliberations.  The following is an extract

Assuming the U.S. Congress authorises them, Washington (together with some allies) soon will launch military strikes against Syrian regime targets. If so, it will have taken such action for reasons largely divorced from the interests of the Syrian people. The administration has cited the need to punish, deter and prevent use of chemical weapons – a defensible goal, though Syrians have suffered from far deadlier mass atrocities during the course of the conflict without this prompting much collective action in their defence. The administration also refers to the need, given President Obama’s asserted “redline” against use of chemical weapons, to protect Washington’s credibility – again an understandable objective though unlikely to resonate much with Syrians. Quite apart from talk of outrage, deterrence and restoring U.S. credibility, the priority must be the welfare of the Syrian people. Whether or not military strikes are ordered, this only can be achieved through imposition of a sustained ceasefire and widely accepted political transition. 

To precisely gauge in advance the impact of a U.S. military attack, regardless of its scope and of efforts to carefully calibrate it, by definition is a fool’s errand. In a conflict that has settled into a deadly if familiar pattern – and in a region close to boiling point – it inevitably will introduce a powerful element of uncertainty. Consequences almost certainly will be unpredictable.

and 

Whether or not the U.S. chooses to launch a military offensive, its responsibility should be to try to optimise chances of a diplomatic breakthrough. This requires a two-fold effort lacking to date: developing a realistic compromise political offer as well as genuinely reaching out to both Russia and Iran in a manner capable of eliciting their interest – rather than investing in a prolonged conflict that has a seemingly bottomless capacity to escalate. 

In this spirit, the U.S. should present – and Syria’s allies should seriously and constructively consider – a proposal based on the following elements:

1.     It is imperative to end this war. The escalation, regional instability and international entanglement its persistence unavoidably stimulates serve nobody’s interest.

2.     The only exit is political. That requires far-reaching concessions and a lowering of demands from all parties. The sole viable outcome is a compromise that protects the interests of all Syrian constituencies and reflects rather than alters the regional strategic balance;

3.     The Syrian crisis presents an important opportunity to test whether the U.S. and the Islamic Republic of Iran can work together on regional issues to restore stability;

4.     A viable political outcome in Syria cannot be one in which the current leadership remains indefinitely in power but, beyond that, the U.S. can be flexible with regards to timing and specific modalities;

5.     The U.S. is keen to avoid collapse of the Syrian state and the resulting political vacuum. The goal should thus be a transition that builds on existing institutions rather than replaces them. This is true notably with respect to the army;

6.     Priority must be given to ensuring that no component of Syrian society is targeted for retaliation, discrimination or marginalisation in the context of a negotiated settlement.

 

Such a proposal should then form the basis for renewed efforts by Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint United Nations/Arab League envoy, and lead to rapid convening of a Geneva II conference. 

Debate over a possible strike – its wisdom, preferred scope and legitimacy in the absence of UN Security Council approval – has obscured and distracted from what ought to be the overriding international preoccupation: how to revitalise the search for a political settlement. Discussions about its legality aside, any contemplated military action should be judged based on whether it advances that goal or further postpones it.  

http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/media-releases/2013/mena/syria-statement.aspx.

32 Australian Federal Parliamentarians have committed to support the Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a global campaign coalition working to mobilize people in all countries to inspire, persuade and pressure their governments to initiate and support negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

One of the ICAN projects targets parliamentarians.

Parliamentarians have a vital role to play in advancing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. The ICAN appeal to parliamentarians aims to build global support for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. It will be presented at various intergovernmental meetings in 2013 and 2014 aimed at promoting nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

It is pleasing to see that Australia is one of nine countries where parliamentarians have responded to this appeal – in significant numbers.

This is what they have pledged:

We, the undersigned parliamentarians, conscious of our duty to protect and promote the safety and well-being of the people we represent, express our deep concern at the continuing threat posed by many thousands of nuclear weapons across the globe. Any use of these ultimate weapons of mass destruction – whether by accident, miscalculation or design – would have catastrophic consequences for humanity and the planet as a whole.

The only way to guarantee that they will never be used again is to outlaw and eliminate them without further delay. We call upon all national governments to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons and leading to their complete eradication. A global ban on nuclear weapons is a humanitarian imperative of the highest order. It is necessary, feasible and increasingly urgent.

 

Australian Commonwealth Parliamentarian Signatories

 

Mr Adam Bandt MP

Senator Simon Birmingham

Senator the Hon Doug Cameron

Senator Trish Crossin

Senator Richard Di Natale

Mr Peter Garrett MP

Ms Sharon Grierson MP

Ms Jill Hall MP

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

Mr Stephen Jones MP

Mr Andrew Leigh MP

Senator Sue Lines

Senator Scott Ludlam

Senator Gavin Marshall

Senator Christine Milne

Mr Rob Mitchell MP

Senator Claire Moore

Hon Judi Moylan MP

Mr Ken O’Dowd MP

Hon Melissa Parke MP

Mr Graham Perrett MP

Senator Louise Pratt

Senator Lee Rhiannon

Ms Janelle Saffin MP

Senator Ursula Stephens

Mr Kelvin Thomson MP

Dr Mal Washer MP

Senator Larissa Waters

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson

Mr Andrew Wilkie MP

Senator Penny Wright

Mr Tony Zappia MP

Citizens can support this project by showing public support to the above parliamentarians and urging others to sign this pledge.

US nuclear policy and nuclear disarmament: moving further apart

This is a summary of an article published by Stop War Sydney

In April 2009, in Prague, president Obama stated that the U.S. government was committed to building a nuclear-weapons-free world. Then on 19 June 2013 he called for nuclear disarmament negotiations with the Russians. Yet just a few hours later the pentagon released its ‘Nuclear Employment Strategy’

This strategy makes it clear that, nearly a quarter century after the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the U.S. government is still getting ready for nuclear war, including retaining the ‘first strike’ option.

In 2010, the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review declared that it would work toward making deterrence of nuclear attack the “sole purpose” of U.S. nuclear weapons. The 2013 report, however, without any explanation, reported that “we cannot adopt such a policy today.” Thus, as in the past, the U.S. government considers itself free to initiate a nuclear attack on other nations…..

The 2013 “Nuclear Employment Strategy” also retained another controversial aspect of U.S. nuclear policy: counterforce strategy. Designed to employ U.S. nuclear weapons to destroy an enemy nation’s nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and associated installations, counterforce is potentially very destabilizing, for it provides an incentive to nations caught up in a crisis to knock out the opponent’s nuclear weapons before they can be used. And this, in turn, means that nations are more likely to initiate nuclear war and to desire large numbers of nuclear weapons to avoid having their weapons totally destroyed by a preemptive attack. Consequently, as Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists has noted, the report’s emphasis on counterforce “undercuts efforts to reduce the role and numbers of nuclear weapons.”

Yes, the rhetoric of 2009 was very inspiring, landing Obama a Nobel Peace Prize and raising hopes around the world that the nuclear menace was on the verge of extinction. But fairly little came of it, with the modest exception of the New START Treaty with Russia.

This administration unwillingness to discard the immensely dangerous, outdated nuclear policies of the past flies in the face of public support for abolishing nuclear weapons, whether expressed in public opinion polls or in the resolutions of mainstream bodies like the National Council of Churches and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. But, unless there is a substantial public mobilization to end the American government’s reliance on nuclear war, it seems likely that U.S. officials will continue to prepare for it.

To read the full article, go to http://original.antiwar.com/lawrence-wittner/2013/07/08/us-still-preparing-for-nuclear-war/#.UdyMdMpOc