Working Paper 94-3, February, 1994.

By Robin Crews

Executive Director, Peace Studies Association

(C) 1994 Robin Crews. Do not reprint without permission.

I want to start with a caveat. This panel is composed of three white males from the United States sitting together, thinking about solutions for the world's conflicts. Clearly we shouldn't stop ourselves from thinking about solutions, but if we are going to get anywhere, we obviously are going to have to be talking with a variety of people from different cultures. A second caveat is the concern that it is fairly difficult for any of us, who are not living in a particular culture, to be thinking about intervention strategies that relate to that given culture--even if we have visited there, or have lived in there for an extended period. These are problems that make our task a lot harder.

I also share Paul's concerns about intervention. Clearly, we don't want to bury our heads in the sand; clearly, we don't want to be isolationists. But, it is ironic that we in the United States have come up with the wonderful notion of peacemaking teams. I am very much troubled by the idea of Christian peacemaking teams. Despite good intentions, the teams find it immediately attractive to pop themselves into somebody else's backyard, as opposed to dealing with the cultural violence in their own backyard. It is fascinating that we find it a lot easier to help somebody else remodel their house than to remodel our own. This stems from cultural imperialism and conflict avoidance in our country. So, I am deeply troubled by our immediate fascination with solving the rest of the world's problems, despite the fact that we are often part of the problems that many of those cultures are facing. This doesn't make our task any easier.

We may all be talking about different solutions to ethnic violence because we identify the problem differently. Clearly, for me, citizen-based exchanges and peacemaking teams are a part of the solution to some problems. We need to talk about those as partial solutions. But, we also need to be thinking about how we reform on-going institutionalized infrastructures that are theoretically there to make a difference but, perhaps, are not making a difference. Perhaps they are actually part of the problem much of the time. I am thinking of the UN as an example, and I want to focus on that today.

Whatever strategies we come up with for solving these problems tend only to be strategies for stopping the immediate bloodshed. Such strategies are like putting more police on the street--they merely put bandaids on a big wounds. Such tactics attempt to keep people from hurting each other. They do not deal with institutionalized cultures of violence, nor do they solve the core issues in these intractable conflicts, which are value-based and identity-based, as well as ethnic-, nation-, and state-based. We shouldn't delude ourselves when we talk about ultimately solving the intractable nature of the conflict, although maybe we can. But, right now we are talking about bandaids. We have to be honest about that.

Behind specific ethno-nationalist conflicts, whether they are in our own country, Bosnia, Haiti or elsewhere, cultures of violence exist. These cultures of violence hold the fundamental belief that violence is the appropriate way to resolve conflict, that violence will solve problems.

That view is absolutely absurd. Violence is the problem; it is not the solution. All of these conflicts involve the problem of nation-state sovereignty. People want to be in charge of their own political destiny. We all very strongly believe such sovereignty is important--witness our own Constitution and Declaration of Independence. We believe in democracy. So do those who are killing one another in Bosnia (in some sense). Another aspect of these problems is the power that political leaders of nation states and their military forces seem to have, and want to gain more of, as opposed to the power that people have, in their societies. Inherent in these immediate problems is the phenomenon of the militarization of the world's societies, including weapons production and arms sales.

There are also difficulties within the UN. For example, Article 51 of Chapter 7 reads:

Nothing in the present charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security...

The rest of the Charter talks about making peace. Yet there is this lovely loophole implying that nothing should stand in the way of the ability to conduct warfare, if it is deemed self-defense. And each member gets to decide what is self-defense. This can lead into a discussion of "just war" and who gets to decide which wars are just. Usually the people who want to fight the wars are the ones calling their wars "just."

Another difficulty is Article 42 of the UN Charter, which says:

Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for Article in 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces, as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.

That gives the UN the right to conduct warfare. Yet, my notion of the UN is something entirely different, and that is the image presented by much of the rest of the Charter--that the UN is to be a peacekeeping and peacemaking body, not a war making body.

These are contextual parts of the problem that are not going to be resolved with a peacekeeping team or an intervention force. Adding to these problems are specific events- and data-conflicts, interests-conflicts, and values-conflicts relevant to a particular war or battle. So the question becomes, which of these do we try to address in an intervention and in what kind of time frame?

Obviously no one solution is going to address all these issues. One kind of peacekeeping force, whether it is citizen based or governmental, isn't going to be a complete solution to any of these intractable ethnic conflicts. Perhaps many efforts--many strategies--need to be pieced together into a package. Hopefully, what we are trying to do is stop the bloodshed, so people can start to deal with the underlying conflicts. It is very difficult to make any intractable conflict tractable if people are still killing each other.

The approaches that I have seen to date don't practice what they preach. We have turned the UN into a world military force that doesn't have the resources or the commitment of its member states to back it up. It is often seen as somebody's handmaiden. Various countries hide behind the UN to get it to do what they want--witness the Gulf War and the U.S. I am very troubled by the UN becoming a military force. The UN needs to be a nonviolent role model and we need to alter the Charter accordingly to ensure that this can happen.

NATO still exists, but I'm not sure why. NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries existed to compete with one another for military security during the Cold War. But the Warsaw Pact is gone. Previous countries and republics that were part of the Warsaw Pact are now desperately trying to get into NATO. Why? Because of a "one for all and all for one" rule that is built into NATO--if any member country of NATO is attacked, then all member countries of NATO respond. Who are they fighting against? Who are we defending ourselves from? We have to get rid of NATO. We can do the same thing with the UN (i.e., an "all-for-one" alliance), only it should instigate nonviolent, rather than violent, action.

I really don't want to sound too idealistic, but we need to be very bold. What is very, very clear is that violence is a failure. Systems of violence are failures. Militarization of the world is a failure. These are the problems; they are not the solutions.

If violence hasn't worked, logically, we only have one alternative: nonviolence. We have to set up infrastructures, whether they are governmental or not, predicated on not reproducing the past mistakes of violence. We need to have nonviolently armed forces. We need to have a nonviolent NATO. We need to have a nonviolent UN.

There are several reasons why we need to do this. First, violence is currently the norm, the modus operandi. But violence doesn't work. So we need to change the modus operandi. This is the long-term goal, because it is something that can't be solved tomorrow. But, clearly there has to be education and legislation that moves us away from this nonsensical belief that "John Wayne" behavior is the best way to solve a problem.

I am reminded of Kenneth Boulding's notion that the best way to the end the Cold War and the best way to prevent a nuclear exchange between the superpowers would be to have hundreds of thousands of American students and children living in the Soviet Union and vice versa. He reasoned that we would not bomb hundreds of thousands of our own citizens. Using this logic, le me suggest that we need massive citizen exchange programs all over the world, not just with countries that have nuclear weapons.

Violence is not the way to peace. As we learned from Gandhi, the means are fundamentally connected with the ends. If we think we can achieve a peaceful world by having standing military armies that we send in as intervention forces, we have not thought this method through logically or ethically.

Also, we have learned from Gandhi, King, and others that nonviolence has a cost as well. The price of achieving these goals involves personal commitment, self-sacrifice, and suffering--as opposed to hurting somebody else. You have to be able to transform your opponent's sense of morality or logic by looking him or her in the face as he or she hits you. By choosing nonviolence, we will pay a price, but hopefully it will be minimal. We would be very idealistic and unrealistic if we think we can change this paradigm of violence without experiencing any consequences.

We also have to observe that one of the problems (for example, in Bosnia) is the fact that we are allowing people to negotiate at the same time that we are allowing them to continue to murder each other. As long as they are allowed to sit at a negotiation table and are still killing each other and trying to gain more territory before a political settlement is reached, we are not going to be able to encourage them to stop killing and grabbing territory.

This leads me to suggest a partial solution. It is based on Article 2, Chapter 1 of the UN Charter:

3. All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

4. All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.


6. The organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.

If membership criteria require that member states not conduct warfare on one another, then nobody is living up to their membership obligation to the UN, and they should be kicked out. The U.S. should be the first to be kicked out, and we should go from there. Then the UN can be re-created to function as it was supposed to. I don't mean this to sound abstract and philosophical; I mean it very seriously. Nobody is living up to the UN Charter. It is a joke. Why do we continue? I am ashamed that we already have allowed this to continue the way it has for so long.

I would propose that we create a nonviolent peace force, not just re-train Marines to go in as "peacekeepers." I can't think of anything more absurd than teaching young kids how to kill as part of our military forces, and then trying to teach them how to be peacekeepers. These are mutually exclusive processes of socialization. Every member country of the UN wouldn't be squabbling about sending in their troops if every country was required to have 50,000 nonviolently-trained troops. I don't mean peacekeeping forces but forces, trained in nonviolent intervention, which would take years of serious training. Therefore, every country in the UN would have 50,000 human beings that could be air dropped into troubled areas, which every country would do simultaneously. We would have a sea of between 5 million and 7.5 million people who would become a human barrier to continued shelling. Some people may die. If people can't shoot at each other because there are massive numbers of unarmed people in the way, and the whole world is watching, that is an entirely different situation than dropping in a few forces wearing blue berets and asking them to be casualties in the process. Also, weapons have to be taken from all armed countries immediately and simultaneously, and, of course, arm sales have to be stopped.

We need to practice what we preach. We can't have violent peacekeeping forces. The UN has to be changed fundamentally and we have to play a role in that.