Blueprint for Alternative Defence

PressInfo # 93

 May 10, 2000




- to abolish war as an accepted social institution, precisely as we have done with slavery, cannibalism, child labour, rape, genocide,etc.;

- to provide survival, security and protection without causing an arms race and threatening other societies;

- to deal with conflicts and create peace by peaceful means, in accordance with the UN norm;

- to permanently secure the existence of the Earth and humankind, never put it at risk;

- to enable present and future generations to live in a world where the norms of the UN Charter are implemented;

- to preserve pluralism in all aspects of life, unity in diversity, respect for life, and

- to live in partnership with Nature.

Lesson 1 to implement:
In the militarised world system and the nuclear age, we can not afford to wait until war breaks out and then react with military force. We need an active peace policy that seeks to avoid violence and resolve conflicts long before they lead to war.

Lesson 2 to implement:
We can't disinvent nuclear and other technologies, but neither have we disinvented cannibalism, we abhor it. It should be perfectly possible to develop an equal, universal abhorrence against incinerating our planet.



There are four types of threats against any society: internal and external, direct and structural. Examples of Type 1, outside and direct: invasion, occupation, extinction, sanctions, nuclear warfare. Examples of Type 2, outside and structural: embargo, economic warfare, ecological breakdown, global crisis, poverty, maldevelopment, inequality. Examples of Type 3, inside and direct: state and private terrorism, warlords, civil wars, minority repression. Examples of Type 4, inside and structural: alienation, social disintegration, Mafioso, corruption, black markets, normlessness, drugs.

Lesson 3 to implement:
Only a fraction of these threats can be met with military means. Over a certain point, military means will add to the threat-production in one or more of the four categories. We must introduce limits to the role of the military and to destructive potentials. It's like medicine: up to a certain level it may be useful, beyond it has adverse effect.

Lesson 4 to implement:
In principle, there are no limits to what can be done for peace and security. It is possible to develop a culture of peace and nonviolence - but not if one element dominates over all the others, in this case the military in world security affairs.

Lesson 5 to implement:
There is far too much talk about social security, human security and environmental security that does not challenge the supremacy of the violent sectors. As long as this is so, these types of security will remain residual, complementary and war as an accepted institution will pervade.



1. Good only for defending ourselves, not able to attack others.

2. Shorter range and less destructive power, but denser.

3. The defensive capacity is bigger than the offensive potentials of others.

4. It is adapted to the needs and features of each unit, be it a municipality, a country or a region.

5. Shaped to not create excessive dependence on foreign deliveries (energy supplies, military components), i.e. reduce other-reliance.

6. Does not promote arms exports, has no economic profit motives attached and can thus be dismantled - or expanded - depending on the situation.

7. Has no connections with mass-destructive weapons or strategies.

8. Co-functions with a variety or other defence and security measures, including preventive diplomacy, peace-keeping, peace-making and peace-building.

9. Its leaders and staff (men and women) are trained in conflict understanding and -resolution.

10. Its tasks, structure and statutes are in compliance with the provisions and norms of the UN Charter, including UN peacekeeping principles.


Lesson 6 to implement:
By threatening someone else, we increase the threat against ourselves. It is wiser not to threaten anybody but be extremely difficult for anyone to control or subdue, should they try.

Lesson 7 to implement:
If others do harmful things, we are not helped by paying back in kind. If others cross red lights, we are not better off by imitating their folly. Small countries will remain weaker if they choose to defend themselves with the same weapons which bigger ones have plenty of, but can become stronger, more resistant, if they choose alternative means. That's why the U.S. lost in Vietnam and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Lesson 8 to implement:
There are two types of power: a) offensive power where we try to control and bully anybody around, effects well-known when it hits ourselves... and b) defensive power, power over ourselves and our own destiny, self-determination and making it impossible for others to rule over us.




A. Armed forces

B. Civil defence and protection

C. Nonviolent resistance

(A) Defensive military and civilian components must be separated in space. Military forces can not defend modern cities with dense populations. For urbanised areas, there are only civilian means; any use of destructive means will make a mockery of the word "defence". So, the military is only for area defence, in the countryside. Cities and town should be declared open according to international law, thus not defended militarily and not being attacked with military means. Women and men participate equally.

(B) Civil defence and protection is employed in urbanised areas which is also where refugees and wounded people will seek protection. It is about shelter, but much more. It is prepared in peace time and aims to help the population under most difficult circumstances; it is reserve stores of basic foodstuffs, the ability to switch to domestic energy sources, keep hospitals functioning etc. It is to make sure that public administration can survive computer sabotage etc.

(C) Nonviolent resistance is everything - some hundred methods, big and small - that prevent an aggressor from gaining access to and utilising the territory: go-slow, sabotage, deception, ridiculing, moral appeals, demonstrations, refusing to co-operate, acting defiantly, using culture, gaining moral support abroad - it's the utilisation of Internet, videos etc.

B and C are particularly suitable for those who want to defend their society but do not want to carry guns. Alternative defence offers a role for all - it does not punish conscientious objectors nor those who think military defence is best.

Lesson 9 to implement:
While a society may well need military defence, it can not survive in the long run unless civilian preparedness is much upgraded from what we have today - where little investments have been made to secure the population's survival. So, military and civilian components each have their role, can co-function but must be separate in space.

Lesson 10 to implement:
This defensive defence mode is able to function as a deterrent. It makes occupation and control, utilisation of resources virtually impossible. It boosts social cohesiveness and any occupier will think twice. In addition, all the world's sympathy will be on the side of the strong and defensive, not on the (morally) weak, militarised aggressor.

Lesson 11 to implement:
Legitimate defence means to protect oneself and be strong and powerful but NOT to threaten anybody else. With alternative defence there will be no doubt who "began" it all or who violated international norms and laws. The party with defensive defence simply can not commit aggression.



1. Military - conventional, paramilitary, guerrilla, home guard, techno-commandos, module defence etc, small mobile units. That depends on the society, and models are plenty.

2. Economic - the self/other-reliance problem should focus on what a society should be able to do on its own if cut off in a crisis or war. Equal interdependence, trade and openness is great, dominance-dependence or asymmetric relations are not. To be strong in the defensive mode, each society should be able to stand on its own feet and satisfy its citizens' basic needs when the going gets rough.

3. Political - the relations between citizens and the state operating security means, the problem of legitimacy, law and order, of democratic decision-making about defence and security. The above mixed civil and military model allows pacifists as well as those who want to carry arms to serve their country.

4. Civil defence - shelters, evacuation plans, caring for victims and refugees, etc.

5. Civil preparedness - making society operate under the crisis conditions, energy storage, hospitals, mass communication, schooling, production and distribution.

6. Nonviolent defence - non-cooperation with enemy, persuasion, strikes, moral pressure, political "jiu-jitsu," social boycott, teach-ins, refusal to pay tax and fees, parallel society, civil disobedience, alternative economics, dual sovereignty, symbolic actions, etc.

7. Society's invulnerability level - decentralisation, robust technology, infrastructure, self-reliance in basic needs categories such as food, water, shelter, and basic health.

8. Community, human beings - cultural identity, morale, belief in the future, crisis and problem-solving orientation, solidarity, civil society, participation, freedom and reliable media.

Lessons 12 to implement:
There are many means, one military and 7 civilian. Traditionally, only 1 and 3 are used; we need to re-conceptualise defence and security to integrate the rest. The more means we have developed, the safer we are. While arms cannot be exported to crisis areas, many of these other means will also be qualified to serve in UN and OSCE missions - civil affairs, police, monitors, reconciliation workers etc.

Lesson 13 to implement:
Defence is an all-society matter, not the monopoly of elites. Being protected by elites is potentially dangerous and undemocratic. The comprehensive, democratic 'mixed defence' outlined here opens up for public participation and the creation of strong, resistant - but non-threatening - societies.



1. Inner human being (psychological security)

2. Individual citizens (human security)

3. Municipality/local society (local)

4. Nation-state or state-nation (national)

5. Region (regional)

6. Inter-national (international)

7. Global - or world order - level (world order, transnational)

Lesson 14 to implement:
The dominance of national security is outdated. States are too small to handle the big conflicts and problems and too big to handle the small ones. From contemporary history we know now that the all-pervasive national security paradigm can co-exist with insecurity at virtually all other levels. We need a security thinking across these levels. The world cannot be sure if individuals feel insecure somewhere - and individuals can't be secure when regional or global security needs are neglected.

Lesson 15 to implement:
Security is multi-dimensional, multi-level, multi-cultural and multi-intellectual. Neither pacifists nor military should be allowed to monopolise it. This model offers them co-operation and thus legitimacy throughout society.



It's not enough to have a system aimed at deterrence or military balance. What if deterrence fails - which it is likely to in a system where there are no rules agreed upon by all actors? Contemporary military defence may deter many from war, that is true. On the other hand, if it fails and war breaks out - thousands or millions may perish. This must never happen. A genuine security system must function well through the following five phases:

1. Prevention of violence and dissuasion from attack

2. Crisis, tension, threats

3. Defence, struggle, if need be

4. Conflict-resolution, regulation - towards:

5. Normalisation, prevention, dissuasion (full circle).

Lesson 16 to implement:
The way we are 'protected' today means that if deterrence fails and some fool starts a larger war, it could be the end. No state has invested enough in surviving a period of fighting or reducing the harm an opponent can inflict.

Lesson 17 to implement:
Security is not a linear function, but one of cycles. It is not about extinction if...but about survival and permanence. A strong, defendable society has various means to use through the entire conflict cycle. And it cares about protecting people - both in the countryside and in urban areas.

Lesson 18 to implement:
Alternative defence and security are means to surviving crises without being killed having your society totally destroyed. Thus, alternative defence embodies the HUMAN RIGHT to live without the fear of annihilation, a right to peace. A right for future generations, although they cannot voice that right here and now. Alternative defence is fundamentally responsible vis-a-vis a sacred value: that there shall be something rather than nothing, that the world shall exist indefinitely.

Lesson 19 to implement:
There is a fundamental contradiction between the modern industrial society and modern military technology: if used, it will destroy that society because its destructive power is out of proportion with defence and because modern society is extremely vulnerable. (Even a computer love message can paralyse it...)

Lesson 20 to implement:
Stop believing in all the 'threat' assessment, refuse to let somebody play on your deep fear. Security and defence - and peace - is not about death and destruction, it's about life and development. Of course there are threats, challenges and worries. We are not taking the easy line and saying that everything is fine and we should just love one another. In fact, there are so many serious challenges to our survival and well-being that it is absurd to let military-industrial-bureaucratic complexes create even more for the sake of their own elitist benefits. Civilian and military leaders of virtually every state have built shelters for themselves and their families , but not for their citizens.



Says Jan Oberg, "So,it looks like alternative defence is more or less the opposite of what is preached today! Here is a definition by TFF associate Johan Galtung from 1984:

'Security is simply here defined as one's own invulnerability minus the capacity of the other Party to destroy. I think it is a fairly reasonable definition of security: it means the capacity to come out of a conflict unscathed, in other words the probability that human beings, society, nature and also one's own defence system will survive. One may later on decide to change them, but then out of one's own will. If the invulnerability level is insufficient, then one is insecure."

In contrast, today's 'security' could be defined somewhat like:

'Security is one's own vulnerability plus our capacity to inflict destruction on the Other. If actually used, it will destroy what should be defended. Only when we have more destructive and offensive power than the opponents or can intervene far away, can we be safe.'

Because the alternative defence model - and many other thinkable ones - will reduce the threat and fear levels everywhere, resources can be devoted to improve the living standards of those most in need. Thus, it reduces both direct and structural violence to much lower levels.

You may see this and similar models as defence and security in transition: after some time when the arms race and the threat-psychology has declined, some countries may think it much safer to go on and switch to purely non-military defence and security - we thus get a kind of disarmament race leading in the longer run to a nuclear-free and weapons-free world where the skills of conflict-management and dialogue are as natural and highly developed as are the skills today in computer management.



There is a violence of the underdog - of the disadvantaged, humiliated, victimised, hopeless. And there is a violence of the topdog - of the arrogantly powerful, the privileged who want more, the empire-builders, those who need to be the judges of everybody else, those who see themselves as God-chosen to fulfil a mission. There is a violence with those who obsessively have to mould, force, engineer and control their surroundings and fellow human beings.

Violence CAN be justified when used as the last resort by those who have tried everything else - or by the dispossessed who have no other way to be heard. But in nine of ten cases violence is an indicator of disorder, it's a disease. It is anything but mastery of the situation, it's the negation of leadership and statesmanship.

In contrast, there is no violence of the happy, the balanced, those who feel they live a rich, meaningful life, those who have seen through propaganda, who let go of fear. There are few violent impulses with those who have some kind of inner harmony and can enjoy the here and now.

Violence is the life not lived. The world military system is the future not perceived. Non-violence opens opportunities in individual and social life. It's the only means to protect pluralism.

Isn't it time we create a global dialogue - over Internet, for instance - about what makes a healthy defence and security for the whole human being and all human beings, sustainable over time and in tune with the existential challenges facing us all in the 21st century? Isn't it time to let citizens have a say in how we want to achieve security instead of letting elites play on our fears to accept militarist 'protection' offers-you-can't-refuse?

There are many alternatives, not only the one presented above. In fact, given the wish for us and future generations to live in peace, I believe there are only alternatives to the present militarist, nuclearist system. And those alternatives are compatible with the global campaign for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence. We shall only achieve such a culture of peace if we kill two things: the ability to harm and kill and the perverted belief that our security lies in that ability.

You are hereby invited to brainstorm, explore and discuss democratic, alternative defence. Sooner than you think, alternative security even for big powers may be the theme of a CNN Q&A..," ends Jan Oberg.

Please also read the articles on TFF's site by our associate Dietrich Fischer, one of the world's leading thinkers on alternative defence and peace.

© TFF 2000


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