Security Politics Is a Major Threat

PressInfo # 92

 May 9, 2000



"What does it mean to defend modern society? What does security mean? 99 per cent of the public information and debate as well as research on defence and security policies omit every philosophical problematic and plunge directly into the issues of what weapons or military budget a country should have. The only armament the world needs, it seems to me," says TFF director Jan Oberg, "is a philosophical and intellectual armament in academia, in politics and in the media."



"If we need military defence, that military must be fundamentally different from the one we see around today. But more importantly, the world - 'we, the peoples' - needs something the militarist elites and the military-industrial-bureaucratic complexes can't deliver: innovative, comprehensive models with mixed civilian and military components and structured according to each country's and region's needs, not to the needs of these elites, complexes or to the needs of NATO.

Just look at how different the world's countries and cultures are: is it realistic to believe that, irrespective of their different history, culture and security problems, NATO-like high-tech military defence is the remedy for them all? It resembles giving all patients, no matter their health problems, the same medicine &endash; which, of course, the medical-industrial complex (white uniforms instead of green) may find a charming idea."



"We hear the word BALANCE but it is used subjectively; those who are ahead feel that there is a balance. If all parties in a system agreed that there was an objective balance and each had only peaceful motives, there would be no arms races. In addition, the real arms race is one of quality (i.e. on whose technology is most sophisticated), not quantity (i.e. on how many pieces you have). Further, we hear the word STABILITY again and again. I remember having a long conversation years ago with a high-level American diplomat in the Balkans who told me, in response to any question I raised, that U.S. policy aimed to create stability. But the Balkans is not stable.

We are always told that our country needs MORE, AND MORE SOPHISTICATED, WEAPONS even when there is no threat; we never hear leaders say that now we can do with less. We hear that there are always NEW THREATS we have to adapt to provide security for future generations; however, the lesson we should learn is that most threats are constructed to fit the military-industrial complexes, not the other way around.

We have been told time and again that weapons serve to DETER enemies and AVOID war, that if we want peace, we should prepare for war. So weapons are there NOT to be used? Wrong! Deterrence theory assumes a willingness to USE weapons: if the other side knows that I will under no circumstance ever use my arsenals, he is not deterred. So every single weapon is there to be used if/when deemed necessary. If decision-making elites really understood and wanted peace, they would prepare for that together with others.

We are told that "we" have weapons for purely DEFENSIVE purposes while "they" have expansionist motives and offensive weapons; the fact is that the West has been expansive and projected its military, political and military power around the world. It is not Iraq or Serbia or other designated 'rogue states' that have attacked the West. We are told that military research and development has so many CIVILIAN SPINOFFS, but military researchers and engineers make up the largest single group in the world of research, some 400.000. If most of them were put to find solutions directly useful for humankind's welfare, health, environment, technology, infrastructure, transport - if they devoted all their creativity to close the gap between rich and poor worldwide - isn't it quite likely that we would see some marvellous products coming out of that without the de-tour around the weapons laboratories, and that the world would be more peaceful? I believe so," says Dr. Oberg.



"I have worked with these issues for more than 20 years and I think we are being taken for a ride. And we are paying, first as tax payers and, in the worst of cases, as victims. Imagine that a global opinion poll was made and people were asked whether they would like to have nuclear weapons, i.e. having the enemy using them against their own territory or letting their governments or allies use on their own territory to defend them and to fight back an enemy. Ask them whether there is any thinkable value, any political goal, that could ever justify killing millions of people. Ask them whether it is compatible with the values of human rights, humanitarian intervention and democratisation to even plan for such an eventuality.

Until I see such a poll, I shall believe only a few per cent would vote "Yes". I am not aware that so-called democracies have ever asked their citizens whether they wanted nuclear or other mass destructive weapons as part of their governments' arsenals to 'defend' them. When will democratic governments turn to their constituencies and say: 'Look, here you have three different models of defence - a) high-tech, offensive, b) a mix of defensive military and civilian components and c) one with exclusively civilian, non-violent components. Which would you like our country to have?' Only in Switzerland were the citizens once asked whether they wanted an army at all - and surprisingly many wanted it to be abolished altogether!

Ultimately, what is at stake is humankind's survival in an ever more turbulent, fast-changing world system. Alas, the dominant security discourse and debate is devoid of new thinking and trivialised to banality. It runs on good old fear. Whenever some security high-priests state that "our security is at stake and weapons system X will restore the balance and create stability", some kind of paralysing group-think enters.

The West fights one-party systems and calls them dictatorships. What should we call the ongoing Western triumphalist promotion of one-economy and one-defence and one-peacemaking systems? I think it is time for some pluralism in the field of security, to restore democracy and self-determination to that sector," continues Jan Oberg.



"What a world we are going to see if each and every new state, former Warsaw Pact member and the South, has no better idea than just importing a NATO replica defence irrespective of its social, economic and other problems - and paying for this military sophistication through their noses.

Imagine the opportunity costs, i.e. how much welfare, environmental security and cultural growth the former Warsaw Pact countries and new Balkan republics could buy for what a future high-tech military adapted to NATO membership will cost! NATO and its defence philosophy looks like a smiling crocodile. What a tragedy that countries which fought for independence will have to pay for generations only to become clients and submit to the wishes of new masters. And what a dangerous world with ever more countries with ever more arms and soldiers."



"Every time one actor gets more arms, others may argue that they feel more insecure. So, they acquire more arms and make yet others more insecure. If it wasn't so absurd, it would be a joke. It isn't. It's human folly. It has, year by year, caused more human suffering - directly in war, indirectly by diverting trillions of dollars away from basic human need satisfaction. World inequalities have risen tremendously the last four-five decades, the period in human history with the highest economic growth rate, in what was also the most violent century ever.

The facts of global poverty in the year 2000 are an indictment of the Western-dominated global political, economic and social order. The overall picture suggests that absolute poverty is likely to have risen to 1.5 billion people - one quarter of the world's population - at the eve of the new millennium. Samir Amin, a world economist, tells that 'The ratio used to measure inequality in the capitalist world (1 to 20 toward 1900; 1 to 30 in 1954-48; 1 to 60 at the end of the post-war growth spurt) increased sharply: the wealthiest 20 per cent of humanity increased their share of the global product from 60 to 80 per cent during the two last decades of this century.'

To protect themselves from that structural violence - from the 'damned of the earth' domestically and worldwide - elites need the arms, the means of direct violence. The more you possess and control, the more you need means to guard it. And to legitimise and finance this world disorder and civilisational paranoia, citizens must be made to believe that threats are lurking around every corner: pay and trust us and we will protect you!

Something is madly wrong. It's a perpetuum mobile unless we stop and begin to think.

One country, the United States, accounts for more than 40 per cent of the whole world's military expenditures. US defence for 2000 will be more than three times greater than the combined military spending of China, Russia, and the 'rogue states' Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea and Cuba. A social body needing that much security 'medicine' is not healthy.

We need disarmament plus alternative security (= transarmament). But it will remain a dream if we do not address and criticise American economic, foreign and security politics. As Der Spiegel wrote in 1997: 'Never before in modern history has a country dominated the earth so totally as the United States does today. America is now the Schwarzenegger of international politics: showing off muscles, obtrusive, intimidating. The Americans, in the absence of limits put to them by anybody or anything, act as if they own a kind of blank check in their McWorld.' NATO allies and EU partners are the closest to help the United States out of its overconsumption. If not, world confrontation - civilisational clashes or wars between the over- and the underprivileged - seem unavoidable," predicts Jan Oberg.

"Security elites tell us that they produce security and peace. But after all these years of production, the world is still full of violence. More people than ever feel insecure. Behind almost every refugee is a weapons trader. Under almost every 'ethnic' war, we find socio-economic disparities. Behind almost every fundamentalist or terrorist movement, we find people who once were allied with Western arms and intelligence agencies.

There is no evidence that the world is a safer place because of the last fifty years of armament. If Europe today is more safe within its walls (which is debatable), it is because of people like Willy Brandt, detente, Olof Palme, the peace, women's and environmental movements, economic development, general education, folk-highschools, cultural growth, dissidents in the West and East, Mikhail Gorbachev - NOT because of NATO, the Warsaw Pact, nuclear weapons or Realpolitik. Miraculously, it survived in spite of them. If militarism did not exist, if we had been forced to learn to deal intelligently with our conflicts in less violent ways since, say, 1945, then the world would have been a safer place."



"But what about arms control and disarmament negotiations? I think this is a dead-end. Peace-minded people begin to recognise that the last 50 years of peace and disarmament activism, although successful in many ways - not the least in putting an end to the Cold War and the bloc system - has failed abominably in one sense: it was never able to develop and agree upon constructive alternatives. The history of 'disarmament' talks can be easily summarised: the parties got rid of what was outdated, not military-technologically or defence-economically interesting and could thus free resources to develop new weapons.

Think of all the disarmament appeals, demonstrations and resolutions. Listen to all the pleas and urgent calls made now during the Non-Proliferation Review conference in New York. 'We urge the nuclear powers to...' - and all feel good and nothing happens. Schwarzenegger and his brothers feel perfectly safe when, for instance, the Swedish minister of foreign affairs appeals to them. Like most other countries, Sweden believes in the primacy of the military in security affairs (not in civil defence or non-violence) and, like everybody else, is willing to disarm only when someone else has taken the first step. Sweden's former disarmament ambassador, Ms. Inga Thorsson, was completely marginalised when advocating studies of worldwide conversion from military to civilian industry - and directed such a study of Sweden's military industry in 1984 - well-timed given the end of the pact system five years later.

The only surprise about these summit rituals or performances of absurd theatre (Waiting for Disarmament à la Samuel Beckett) is that they are not the focus of worldwide protests. They are reported by the media without critical - several media corporations affiliated one way or the other with the military-industrial complex. And, after all, reporters are citizens like everybody else, having heard and seen that the world is a dangerous place. How could we really be safer without all these weapons?

Peace movements in a broad sense HAVE alerted people worldwide, but no strategies exist to undermine militarism everywhere it rears its ugly head. And in its indirect and direct consequences it is as ugly as, say, Nazism, Stalinism and ethnic cleansing. Weapons kill people, even when not fired.

Disarmament and arms control has led to virtually nothing except regulating the arms race more smoothly and pacifying mass fears about the long-term consequences of the ongoing arms race. When citizens around the world have been told for years that they are threatened and that 'we need more or more sophisticated arms to be secure' - it convinces only a few peace intellectuals or pacifists when we argue for dis-armament. The vast majority equate the thought of disarming their country with being "defenceless" because of the systematic militarist propaganda and war-oriented media coverage they are exposed daily. Happiness/security is a "warm gun." And we are taught to believe authorities.

We need a new kind of discussion about what defence, security and peace could be. It is legitimate, indeed very human, to want security and feeling protected. But it is pure deception to maintain that the present global military armament culture is the only possible, or the best way to meet that very legitimate human need. This is where the ideas and principles of TRANS-ARMAMENT should appear. It is not a question of more or less of this dangerous system, we need a fundamentally DIFFERENT system."



"We need a worldwide, nonviolent confrontation with these elites who operate outside every democratic order, often in collusion with intelligence services and other psychological warfare agencies churning out absurd enemy "assessment." We need to discuss how psychological warfare is targeted on millions of citizens to make them fearful of the world and thus receptive to new deadly, expensive arsenals. We need someone to say that the truth is the opposite: that today's 'security' is a major threat to us all, to 'we, the peoples...'

A beautiful world could begin to emerge the moment we redefine - through democratic open, critical and creative dialogue also with the military, of course - how to change towards a security for the common good, for all humankind. Some twenty years ago, peace researchers including myself predicted that if the Soviet Union fell out of the world today, NATO would continue its armament and rapidly find new threats and enemies to legitimate this madness with tomorrow. That's exactly what happened, the arms race is driven by internal forces, almost autistically.

The confrontation should start not with shouting or throwing stones but with better ideas about what defence, security and peace means. Citizens must reach and challenge the numerically tiny group that are the real decisionmakers in the world military system. It means attacking a huge problem and duelling on ideas, it does not mean attacking people. It means helping them getting off their favourite drug, relax, let go of their obsession with physical power and do things useful for all - toward a true globalism that permits us to rid ourselves from artificial, self-created fears and projections of these fears onto the "Evil" others."

Ends Jan Oberg: "I feel quite convinced that people around the world have enough ideas and common sense to revolutionise this whole deadly structure, although it is getting late. If people can see a better alternative, they'll work for it. The global arms system is sick, a little less isn't our goal. The goal is a healthy system that embodies the values it is supposed to defend such a democracy, dialogue, and development and common global governance. A good defence system engages women and men alike and meets our legitimate needs for safety and protection, it puts and end to the armament culture and opens a road to a Culture of Peace and the abolition of war.

In the next PressInfo we'll offer some thoughts and models in that direction. Unrealistic, you may think. But it is not half as unrealistic as it is to assume that the present global arms system and humankind can co-exist much longer."



© TFF 2000


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