Friday, July 16, 2010

The Ultimate Weapon is No Weapon by Shannon D. Beebe and Mary Kaldor

The Ultimate Weapon is No Weapon: How Human Security Answers the Failure of Force and the Limitations of Pacifism

One mustn’t feel side-swiped by this discussion of a change in focus of the traditional military. In our hearts, we’ve known it for some time, that our military with it’s focus on heavy machinery and fighter-jets we can’t use (the F-22)—that this magnificent fighting force composed of brash young kids listening to i-pods and practicing on video games--wasn’t really “winning” the wars in Iraq, and in Afghanistan. We’ve seen also that our National Guard is increasingly deployed for disaster relief, construction and reconstruction, rather than for fighting. After the Haiti earthquake, we sent in troops—and they had to keep peace. It’s odd, that we spend so much time teaching our fresh-faced young men to kill and then direct them to save instead. It appears to be time to rethink this—rethink the plan we have for our military, the money we spend on it, the demands we expect to be placed on it.

I actually agree with the Kaldor thesis that we should fundamentally rethink our strategic balance of weapons. I believe it is very unlikely state-based government is going to drop a nuclear bomb on anyone, except possibly one as unhinged as the present North Korean government. Even then, it is likely cooler minds in the chain of command would stop that atrocity before it became reality. Kaldor argues that we provoke the deadly venom of mad-states by not having deniability when it comes to nuclear. In the end, I see no reason to preserve the nuclear option. Even in retaliation, it is unlikely a state contemplating using a nuclear weapon could present a reasonable moral argument for doing so.

I agree with the authors Beebe and Kaldor that non-state insurgent groups and weather are going to be the sources of our greatest security challenges in the coming years, and that perhaps we should think about creating a security force, a military, with a fundamentally different focus: defensive rather than offensive, stabilizing rather than destabilizing, sustaining a different kind of troop. Instead of the “militarization of diplomacy” where DOD personnel assume public diplomacy and assistance responsibilities that civilian agencies do not have the trained staff to fill, perhaps we should think about the ‘diplomization’ of the military, where a civilian-led operation has a policing arm separate from a military arm separate from a construction arm. Different roles, different teams, same mission?

Beebe, a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, talks about his work looking at what “security” means to people in different countries in Africa, and comes to the conclusion that their concerns are daily-living immediacies, not long-term possibilities. Mary Kaldor is the Director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Finally, the two authors directly address the role of energy in our on-going concerns: “Energy security is a global problem linked to climate change and so, instead of geopolitical competition, there needs to be a global strategy that combines diversification, transparency, and human security.” Both authors recognize they will be criticized for this approach (for being too optimistic), but our children may surprise us with their wisdom, pragmatism, and innovation. This is a short, clear, thoughtful framing of the debate.

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