How to use "#SharedSecurityWorks. #PreemptiveWarFails!" Now
by Susan C. Strong
With President Trump's choice of Bolton as National Security Adviser and Pompeo for State, our country has reached a more dangerous place than ever, especially in the light of new U.S. air strikes on Syria. A wide range of Americans, even Republicans, have been appalled by the choice of Bolton, an open supporter of preemptive war. For us, the most urgent question is what can we do? Even more to the point, what can we say? Organizing, marching, protesting, lobbying, even suing, all start with what we say. That's why I'm proposing the phrases "#SharedSecurityWorks. #PreemptiveWarFails." But we must be able to back up what we say. And to do that we'll need quite a bit more. What follows is a comprehensive overview of the VIP topics (with resources) you can bring up by starting with "#SharedSecurityWorks. #PreemptiveWarFails." (You can also say "#War fails" too, of course. More thoughts on responses to our Syrian air strikes can be found in the comments or notes section.)
First, let's be clear about what "shared
security" is. A recent definition comes from the "Shared Security" program now
being run by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC): "Shared security is
a new paradigm for promoting the safety and well-being of people throughout the
world. It is based on the simple understanding that shared problems require
shared solutions, and that our interests are best served when we foster
peaceful and just relationships and protect the natural resource we all depend
on." Many specific examples of AFSC's methods and successes in creating "shared
security" in countries around the world can be found at "Shared Security .".
The same goal inspires the work of two other organizations I'd like to spotlight here . World Beyond War publishes a comprehensive annual overview of what a truly war-freeglobal security system would look like. It includes efforts being made to create it now by a variety of stakeholders as well. The latest edition is A Global Security System: Alternative to War(2017). Then there is the inclusive peace-building program described (and costed!) in Scilla Elworthy's recent book, The Business Plan for Peace: Building a World Without War . She is a distinguished, longtime peace builder at very high levels, as well as the founder of Peace Direct. Peace Direct specializes in "funding, promoting, and learning from local peace-builders in conflict areas." It's the manifestation of Scilla's main premise: peacebuilding begins at home. For almost every point she makes in her book, there is a concrete example of real peace-building action, at every level. (1)
All of these sources offer deep proof
that shared security works a lot better than war to provide what people really
need, including safety and jobs. As for the special case of preemptive war, recent
U.S. history provides glaring examples of the way that tactic in particular can
go devastatingly wrong:Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. (Bolton's often stated idea
that we could fix Iraq and the Middle East by launching yet another preemptive
Iraq war is a classic case of setting out to dig faster and deeper when you are
already trapped in a hole!)
But can the idea of "shared security" work in a world in where great power rivalries, particularly between the U.S. and Russia and China, are getting newly pushy? What about North Korea, a newly fledged nuclear power, flexing its young muscles now? Obviously, preemptive strikes against any of these players would be extraordinarily stupid and dangerous. But what about other kinds of military response, say to the regional conflicts now boiling over--Syria, Yemen, and so on? A different kind of comprehensive answer to all of these questions comes from what might be considered an unusual source for me: The January 27, 2018 Issue of The Economist. Their special report on The Future of War reviews in important detail the new kinds of weapons, war-fighting strategies, and war plans that are now the cutting edge . The gist of The Economist's survey is that even all-out conventional war and the weapons designed for it are rapidly evolving toward automation and robotic control. This trend includes the certainty of weapons that can make their own decisions about whom and when to kill, independent of human oversight. In tandem with this development comes the same kind of high tech innovation in nuclear weapons technology.
To sum up the point of The Economist's special report on the future of war, the risk of accidental conventional war, as well of accidental nuclear war, is now racing further ahead of human arrangements and decision making than ever. Moreover, as Daniel Ellsberg makes clear in the introduction to his recent book, The Doomsday Machine , even with the reductions in nuclear weapons stocks we've had over recent years, a single great power nuclear exchange would destroy all life on this planet: omnicide in short. Ellsberg points out that because of the way both the U.S. and Russia have delegated their response to missile launches widely, that outcome is inevitable, even from a single missile launch by either side. Moreover, it has long been official policy to keep this fact from both the public, lawmakers, and even presidents.
But the Economist's report doesn't just stop with a warning about the risks of accidental war. It also includes an important analysis of exactly how Russia, China, and N. Korea are themselves carefully avoiding any appearance of preemptive strike by a set of civilian plus low grade military strategies nicknamed "hybrid warfare," plus the more familiar "salami tactics," slicing a little off at a time, like a sausage. Difficult to deal with as these tactics are, they are still firmly situated in a relatively low grade tit for tat kind of potential equilibrium. This situation is better dealt with by non-military measures like sanctions and other "diplomatic" pressures. (Of course, we'd have to restore our State Department to full functioning for that to really work!) Compared to what our potential opponents are doing, the ham-handed U.S. National Security Strategy released in November 2017 looks like a "cut off your nose to spite your face" loser's throwback to the 1950's. As reported by Professor Michael Klare, the plan imagines that we can keep or regain global dominance today by selling off all of our own fossil fuel resources. This is a move guaranteed to put us at the mercy of both our antagonists and throw away back-up fossil fuel supplies we might need if our necessary transition to a renewable energy economy stalls.(2) All just to put money in fossil fuel cabal pockets, it seems, not to create any real U.S. national security.
The final conclusion of The Economist's report is sobering. Given the incalculable risks of today's new war-fighting technologies , great power negotiations to create a new form of shared security are vital for humanity and our ecosphere. The last chapter of The Doomsday Machine also contains Daniel Ellsberg's recommendations for a program to reduce our nuclear risk, starting now. But before you throw up your hands in despair, given the international rivalries we face now and the current government of the U.S., let me point something out to those too young to recall it. A lot happened in the anti-nuclear, anti-Reagan "Star Wars," anti-cold war struggle of the 1980's and 1990's. As a veteran of that struggle, I sometimes feel a strong sense of de'j vu when I hear talk of "battlefield nukes" or "space as a war-fighting arena" today. This is an old movie, and it's where I personally came in during the spring of 1981. And I also know that we saw amazing, unexpected things happen during those two decades. Events and changes brought an end to the Iron Curtain control of Eastern Europe, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and the end of the Cold War. These were changes we didn't even expect when we started organizing. (We responded to the new levels of government insanity then, because as American citizens, it was just who we were, unable to just sit back and take it.) The changes I mentioned above were in part the result of a mushrooming grass roots U.S. peace movement , combined with a strong, unofficial grass roots citizen diplomacy campaign. (Detailed accounts of these stories can be found in the work of David Cortright and accounts of the Citizen Diplomacy initiatives of that era.)
But just a few stories here will give the flavor of those times. The first Bay Area Citizen Diplomacy trip to the U.S.S.R. featured private citizens carrying pictures of their grandchildren to show to ordinary Russian people on the street. The first man they approached who ignored his mother's political fears to actually look at the photos marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Then there was the moment at the S.F. Masonic Auditorium when the Beyond War group of that era collaborated with the U.S. branch and the Soviet branches of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War(IPPNW) and some Silicon Valley innovators to create a "space bridge" event. During the presentation, the American audience could see the Soviet audience (with a slight time lag), and after a tense moment, the Soviets began to respond to the Americans waving at them with their own waves back (after the president of the Soviet IPPNW group led by waving back.)
My last story is about what happened when the Soviet bureaucrats we sponsored and funded on return citizen diplomacy visits to the U.S. were taken to the Marina Safeway (a particularly opulent branch in San Francisco.)They would ask us,"Who can come in here?" In the U.S.S.R. at that time, only the most high-ranking political elites would be able to go into a store like that. Our answer? "Anyone." That was it, I believe. The Marina Safeway was the real winner of the Cold War, at least in our area! As there were U.S. Citizen Diplomacy initiatives like this happening all over the U.S., there must be many stories like that one.
Yes, all the
great powers, the U.S. included, need to get serious about developing a new
"shared security" regime at every level, but they will only do it when the
people start pushing for it from below. Divided and distracted as Americans are
now by economic inequality among all the other outrages of the day, we must still
start a new push for a safer international community. The marches to protest
gun violence were a good start. We must take the next steps now. Today more
than ever, "#shared security works" and "#preemptive war fails."
Susan C. Strong,
Ph.D., is the Founder and Executive Director of The Metaphor Project, http://www.metaphorproject.org, and author of our new book, Move Our Message: How to Get
General Comment re our new Syrian strikes: Immediate responses to the latest U.S. air strikes on Syria should include a demand that the Senate delay confirmation of Pompeo until they get a firm commitment from the Administration to seek congressional authority before any further expansion of the war.
(1) If anyone asks you how
measures like the ones described in the body of the blog above can stop the
many terrorist groups active worldwide, point out that these groups are fueled
by injustice, the international arms trade, and foreign money. Action at every
level to stop all of those flows, injustice, arms, and money, can go a long way
toward reducing the amount of terrorist activity everywhere. Particular
examples of success in doing this work can be found in all of these sources,
but especially in Scilla Elworthy's book and her Peace Direct reports.
(2) Of course, such a strategy is also national insecurity madness, given the climate change impact of it. Right now it's being reported that the Gulf Stream "conveyer belt" is slowin g, with predictable damage to Europe's climate and crops, as well as to our own East Coast fisheries.