A Global Security System (Part 3)


A Global Security System (Part 3) Sally Campbell

The core premises underpinning World Beyond War are that war is unnecessary, unjustifiable, does not keep us safe or bring security, contributes more to planetary destruction than any other human activity, and can indeed be replaced. If you hear yourself thinking: “Now wait a minute. They’re going a bit far there. Surely WW2 was necessary,” then register for what will be a fine on-line examination of that very subject on Saturday May 4th at 3pm. That’s when David Swanson (co-founder of WBW) will debate Jared Ball, Professor of Communication & Africana Studies, on the topic: “Can War ever be Justified?” (Go to World Beyond War to register).

The manual our WBW book club is reviewing, A Global Security System: An Alternative to War, was originally written by Swanson, Kent Shifferd & Patrick Hiller, with input from a wide range of peace researchers & scholars. It sets out a 3-pronged framework for an alternative global security system (AGSS):

  1. Demilitarizing Security
  2. Managing Conflict Without Violence
  3. Creating a Culture of Peace

The book clearly lays out the structural deficiencies of the current UN (the composition of the Security Council and the veto of the “permanent 5” being prime examples). It describes as well the weaknesses of our system of international law as structured. What is hopeful is that we have established much that is of value for creation of a system of humane global governance – a system that is not immersed in our, now dominant, cultural narrative of militarism.

Our culture of militarism is all-encompassing and elusive at the same time. As “the water we swim in”, we most often don’t notice it; it’s simply all around us. The idea of “us against them” and our competitive, distributional thinking around resources – either “they” get them or “we” get them – complement the mindset. My gentle 6 year-old grandson tells me about his latest video game – Minecraft – explaining the meaning of “pillage”: “The bad guys come to pillage the village, that means take everything, and the good guys in the village fight them off. The hero is the one who goes after the leader of the pillagers and gets him. If I win, I’m the hero.” In this innocent explanation of an exciting game lies the seed of what the field of conflict engagement calls The Drama Triangle, that seductive trap of labelling victims, villains & heroes. The good guys who fight are always justified as long as there exists a villain, no matter the devastation they cause in defeating that villain. My husband recalls the ubiquitous childhood game of “Cowboys & Indians”. The cowboys always won in his game. No one wanted to be an “Indian”. What he has only recently realized, he tells me, is that they were enacting as children a game of genocide. A game where the losers were literally wiped out.

The game that we see unfolding now in Gaza, where Israel, armed, aided & abetted by the Western powers, is hell-bent on wiping out, erasing, the Palestinians from the map. Israelis are the eternal victims; Hamas, which now stands for all Palestinians, are the villains; and the US is, of course, the hero sending the weapons.

What fuels our unquestioning acceptance, time and again, of the good guys/bad guys paradigm, as if it’s about immutable character rather than behaviours? Perhaps we’re oblivious to the pervasiveness of the propaganda our media delivers. Perhaps it’s our deep win/lose cultural conditioning. Or the multitude of distractions in our world. How can we become so numb as to consider “endless war” normal? Endless war is not normal behavior, it is suicidal behaviour.

The madness has to stop. In Gaza, the War System profits by sending more weapons, and Israel continues its cruel rampage unchecked. Now that Gaza’s entire healthcare system has been decimated, we will see vastly more people dying of human-caused starvation, living breathing people who could have been saved if aid were allowed in and medical care was available.

The work of restructuring and rebuilding is going to be massive. Israel-Palestine will have to become a place where all its inhabitants are free and equal, not just the Jewish ones. It is one land that will have to be shared by two peoples; there are plenty of organizations and individuals who can help bring that new reality into being. We must imagine it and insist on it.

The global community will need to bring forward our best ways of problem-solving and we will need to create better narratives. The AGSS manual is filled with ideas and stories from peacemakers, strategists, academics, and global thinkers about life-affirming, non-violent ways of addressing war-perpetuating differences. The power-hungry and the arms industry should not be running the show. Dialogue, mediation, partnerships, peace education, systemic change to address racism and inequality – we have so many avenues to pursue.

As my grandson’s story about Minecraft shows, we can’t insulate our young ones from the values currently being embraced by the general culture. Children see, children do, as the saying goes. That said, many children’s books and games feature cooperative play, integrative stories & non-violent approaches. Yet our predominant system of problem-solving globally is now a War System. It seems to me we have responsibility to figure out and implement other ways than the ones our leaders are currently choosing to resolve conflict – threats, competition, provocation, drones, bombs, retaliation, us vs. them, in endless cycles of violence.

If we as adults can’t imagine better ways to solve problems, how can we expect our children to feel safe and secure, let alone be safe and secure?