It's Time to Junk the `War Paradigm'
`A NEW world order?" When George Bush first sloganized this phrase two years ago he did not intend that it would be followed by a question mark. But the disorder that has characterized the post-cold war world - most obviously in Somalia but also in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burma, Liberia, Afghanistan, and other places - makes the prospects for a new world order increasingly dubious.
With the communist threat quelled and the United States the only remaining superpower, what is preventing the new world order from taking shape? Simply put, this country, and most of the world, have not made the shift from a paradigm of war to a paradigm of peace.
Since the conclusion of World War II, the low incidence of violent conflict in Europe and the US has been remarkable. But the absence of war is not peace. Our national priorities and foreign policy are still determined by the victory-at-all-costs logic of war. Other concerns - justice, human rights, the economy - have been subordinated to the aim of war.
The effects of continuing the war paradigm beyond a period of war have been disastrous. The military industrial complex continues to skim money from our economy for the purpose of preparing for war. We will spend more than $4 billion next year on Star Wars, a program that never made much sense but now makes none. How much good could this money do in South Central Los Angeles, or in Somalia?
Politically, the war paradigm has endangered our whole system of government. It made possible in the late 1940s the creation of a Stalinist national security state-within-a-state that continues to operate without constitutional oversight. The CIA still operates with a "black" budget, the true size known only to a few elites. The war paradigm has given rise to a doctrine of despotic presidential power in foreign policy and has justified numerous secret actions by government agencies that do not accord wit h the activities of a democratic government - except in times of extreme emergency.
But this is just the point. Previously, after a war, the centralized despotic state power necessary for obtaining victory was dismantled. This time we have extended it for 50 years until it has eaten into the entire fabric of our democratic system.
The cold war is over yet the war paradigm persists unabated. We need now the equivalent of a Copernican revolution in terms of how we think about global security. Copernicus was branded a heretic for asserting that the earth - the world - was not the center of the universe. Today, those who assert that a new world must be based on peace are branded naive or utopian. And yet they are only telling the truth.
A peace paradigm would have peace as its central goal and justice as its basic principle. It would renounce the oxymoronic use of aggressive violence to bring about peace. Instead, it would rely on effective consensus to achieve policy goals. Effective consensus means that it is enacted in international law and practice and enforced with strong, vigorous sanctions, including a UN peacekeeping force with teeth.
It would be predicated on the protection of human rights, and would thereby abandon the policy of appeasement that so miserably masqueraded for peace during the cold war. If we had been operating in the logic of peace we would not have ignored the early signs that Iraq had designs on Kuwait nor facilitated Saddam Hussein's arms buildup. The logic of war created the conditions that allowed the invasion of Kuwait to escalate into a war.
The community of nations, one component of a new world order based on peace, cannot materialize until we begin to question the link between the sovereignty of nation states and national security. Some limits on our national sovereignty are necessary for collective security to be possible.
The US has a critical role to play in a new world order based on peace. This does not mean a Pax Americana. We cannot, nor should not, be the world's police force. But we are in a position to lead, starting with the payment of membership dues to the UN. We must not forget that our greatest influence on the world has been by example, not through military or political might. Remember the students on Tiananmen Square with their styrofoam version of the Statue of Liberty?
In the same way that our failure to abandon a war paradigm for one of peace ravages the rest of the world, its effects are felt at home too. There is a direct connection between submachine gun-wielding junior high school children in US cities and teenage terrorists in Somalia. Those young African-American men in Los Angeles who shouted after the Rodney King verdict, "no justice, no peace" understood something our leaders must learn.