Wednesday, June 1, 2016

SDGs: Does US Militarism Harm "Peace and Justice" (and Other) Efforts?

Peacekeeping and peacebuilding are keys to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). How is the US contributing? How is the US creating problems?

The UN International Day for Peace 2016 has been tied to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, the day for recognizing US peacekeepers was May 29. It is seems like an appropriate moment to consider this aspect of the SDGs.  Peace and Justice is goal #16.

The UN and peacekeeping: how does the US contribute? 

When A Global Security System: An Alternative to War was first published, and we were preparing the online version, I was very impressed by the importance of the UN to peace and security generally, and particularly to the question of how peacekeeping and peacebuilding would be carried out.

The US, as the richest and most powerful country in the world, provides a large amount of support to the UN.  However, consider the support the US gives compared to its own military budget:

Two rectangles showing the relative size of the U.S. military
budget (over $600 billion/year), left, vs. the U.N. operating
budget (under $3 billion/year, from contributions from every
country in the world), right.

What does this tell you about the US commitment to peaceful conflict resolution?

Moreover, the US Congress chronically blocks US payments that have been promised to the UN. (What does this tell countries in the rest of the world about US intentions?)

As the UN General Assembly opened in fall, 2015, the US was
behind in its payments to the UN to the tune of $3 billion.

By the way - the vast majority of peacekeepers serving in UN peacekeeping operations are supplied from countries other than the US. In my opinion, it's fine (and perhaps preferable) for the US to be a minor or absent supplier of personnel for any specific UN peacekeeping mission, or, in fact, for all of them. However, every peacekeeping mission depends, in substantial part, for its strength and credibility on the overall strength and credibility of the UN. That's where US support indirectly makes or breaks UN peacekeeping efforts.

What's the non-governmental role in peacebuilding?

UN peacekeeping missions, which include uniformed peacekeepers ("blue helmets") from member countries, are just part of the solution.

A vast network of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) work in peacebuilding conflict zones worldwide.

A quick review of the range of organizations involved in peacebuilding makes it clear that civil society plays a vital role in building and keeping real peace.

Part of the reason that NGOs are so vital to this process is precisely that they do not represent national agendas, and, in particular, are not yoked to national militaries.

I think this is important because it underlines the fact that bringing about peace really isn't a military operation.

Those other US activities . . . . 

Everyone knows about the major aspects of current US militarism: invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq . . . ongoing drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen . . . air strikes in Syria . . . .

What message does US enthusiasm for kinetic military activity send to people engaged in diverse aspects of peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts around the world?

Moreover, the US seldom seems to miss an opportunity anywhere in the world to encourage militarism. Four news events from recent days are a reminder of this:

* Barack Obama made a visit to Vietnam and signaled improved relations . . . by authorizing arms sales. ("Vietnam Arms Embargo to Be Fully Lifted, Obama Says in Hanoi")

* The US signaled improved relations with Nigeria . . . with a promise to sell weapons. ("After Years of Distrust, U.S. Military Reconciles With Nigeria to Fight Boko Haram")

* Suggesting a return to the days prior to political changes in the Philippines in the early 1990s, the US is back to leasing military bases there. ("Eye on China, U.S. and Philippines Ramp Up Military Alliance")

* The US military is training soldiers and police in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Gabon, Senegal. ("U.S. Increases Antiterrorism Exercises With African Militaries")

What message is the US sending to the world with this pattern of activity?

A Peace Day 2016 proposal

Here's a proposal for Peace Day, September 21, 2016:

What would happen if the US Nobel Peace Prize President Barack Obama gave an order to "slow it down"? He only has a few months left in office. There's little he can accomplish now. But wouldn't it be worth something if US military officials around the world got the message to just back off, give the world a breather, and slow the spread of militarism for just a few weeks or months?

Think of the message it would send . . . .

Related posts

It will benefit us antiwar activists in the US to attend to and reflect upon the importance of these Sustainable Development Goals to achieving the goal of ending war.

(See PEACE DAY 2016: What comes first? Demilitarization? or Development?)

To those of us who have worked hard to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, it is flabbergasting to see reports that U.S. officials see a "need" for someplace else to send troops and material: apparently, there's no such thing as demobilization, only re-deployment.

(See AFRICOM: The Heart of Darkness)

As I read the Chinese language paper every day, it is clear to me that -- in the absence of sustained civic discourse on the security issues in the Pacific region -- our future is being shaped by military posturing.

(See SOUTH CHINA SEA FACE OFF: Does this make ANY sense?)

Today, we may not be seeing kinetic (currently unleashed) violence on anything like the scale that consumed Europe and other parts of the world and resulted in 60 million deaths. Instead, thanks to technology, we have potential (waiting to be unleashed) violence -- nuclear devastation just the push of a button away.

(See Obama's (and Putin's) Missed Opportunity at Hiroshima)

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