mercoledì, Luglio 24, 2024

The Corona. An opportunity to replace militarist security with common and human security. Part 3

Pubblicato online su The Transnational, un network globale di attivisti che lavora attivamente alla costruzione della pace con mezzi pacifici, l’articolo di Jan Oberg si propone di analizzare l’attuale epidemia di COVID-19 nell’ottica diagnosi-prognosi-terapia. Dopo la prima parte (dedicata all’analisi della spesa militare globale e della sua crescita a destrimento di altre voci di bilancio) e la seconda parte (dedicata al fallimento del modello militarista di sicurezza di fronte a crisi come quella del Covid-19), pubblichiamo qui la terza parte dell’articolo in cui l’autore presenta in modo analitico un modello alternativo di sicurezza, adeguato alle sfide del nostro tempo.


di Jan Oberg


Militarist threat analysis that lead to disaster

In spite of the often enormous sums at stake, few funds are allocated with so little intellectual input as those for the national military budget. It basically seems to be enough to point out – through the media – that there are some countries that threaten us and thereby instil fear among the citizens who are to pay for the policies.

Once it was the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, then Iraq in Kuwait, then Serbia, then Afghanistan (in response to 9/11), then Iraq again and Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, then Libya, then Syria, then Iran and – all the last 20 years, permanently, Russia. And, farther away, there was always the “Yellow Peril” – China – that comes and goes in the role as Threat # 1 when the MIMAC – the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex – sees it fit. And… it’s an economic anc world order threat too for the future.

These threats are all military threats. Most of them are direct which means that “they” behave in a way that “we” perceive as a threat to “us”. Others are vaguer and, to some extent, moralistic: “they behave indirectly threatening to “us” in that they do not adhere to and respect our values; they practise dictatorship, their leader kills his own people, we believe they are planning a genocide, they violate human rights and they must be seen as a threat in the slightly longer time perspective – unless we stop them now.

“We” meet the direct military threats by increasing our military budgets and improving, constantly, the quality of our military technology. The indirect threats “we” meet by measures such as selected bombings, invasions and occupations and they are often legitimized by reference to “humanitarian intervention” or “the Responsibility to Protect”.

In summary, our military budget is there to protect – protect ourselves from direct threats and – nobly and altruistically – to protect others from abuses by their own leaders and prevent those others to become a threat to us at some point in the future.

As you can readily see, there is no comparative attention to civilian threats – such as a pandemic. There are many explanations – but the main one is: Such threats are of no interest to the elites of the MIMAC. They can’t profit (or get comparable profit) from the storage of thing like seeds, canned food, face masks, hand sanitizers, etc. – not to speak of non-violent defence.

Furthermore, these civil defence means have no potentials for export – like arms, ammunition, troops and military expertise do. And they don’t work through having bases, troops and intelligence people stationed permanently abroad. These items stay in stores inside our own society.

Generally speaking, the politicians themselves probably wasn’t aware that they were taken for a ride. Defence ministers – like most others – are intellectually in the hands of experienced ministerial bureaucrats, interest groups (in this case the armed forces), the intelligence people and – if members of an alliance such as NATO, receiving good advice and recommendations from the supreme commander/leader, i.e. Washington – NATO’s His Master’s Voice.

At the end of the day, the representatives of the armed forces would always be considered the most weighty expertise on what threatened your country militarily. In reality, they were never more competent in world threat analysis than experts in international affairs – but the military would be essential in guaranteeing that your country would not reduce its military strength. And you can alwayscount on the military to find military threats somewhere.

In conclusion, whenever you remember to have read that your government’s National Security Commission issued a comprehensive threat analysis pertaining to the next decade or two and was told that this important document would serve as the basis for the government’s future policies in the areas of ‘defence,’ ‘security,’ and ‘peace’ – it was fake. Intellectual humbug. A show of the Theatre of the Absurd.


What a comprehensive threat analysis looks like

Here is a simple table with two dimensions each with two possibilities. There can be military and non-military threats – and they can come from the inside or the outside of society:

Typology of threats

Jan Oberg, The New International Military Order – The real threat to human security. An Essay on Global Armament, Structural Militarism and Alternative Security – Oslo/Lund 1978

It will be clear to the reader that contemporary security policies fall almost exclusively within Type I – International warfare.

Type II threats are exemplified by revolts, guerilla warfare, liberation movements – which are obviously perceived as threats by the centres/elites but not necessarily by the people.

Terrorism and the Global War On Terrorism can be placed in both I and II, it depends. September 11, 2001, hit the Empire’s economic centre (The Twin Towers, Wall Street), its military centre (Pentagon) and was supposed to also have hit its political centre (the White House). It wasn’t a military attack, no one wore uniforms or used weapons and no international border was transgressed – even though foreigners were carrying out the attack. But the Global War On Terror that followed is exactly that – global.

In this category we would also find peaceful mass demonstrations, things like the Arab Spring when they grow, or are, violent and we would put urban shooting events and other violence there too.

Type III threats have to do with various pressures from outside which are not military or directly violent but may aim to break up social and economic structures. It may be threats experienced during an energy supply crisis, it may be economic sanctions and embargos aimed at suffocating an entire society and people and/or hamper economic development – often the prelude to a regime-change policy.

Or it may be the challenges in handling refugees who flee from war, environmental destruction and which are met with barbed wire, police or military or even walls as well as are considered an economic burden that threatens the existing welfare.

Today – rather than in 1978 when the above theory and table were developed – we would probably add cyberwarfare, media campaigns, disinformation, propaganda, fake and omission in this box – coming from the outside and being basically non-military although militarily connected.

And we would add pandemics – whereas an epidemic would be a Type IV threat.

Type III threats are typically not directed at the territory – they can be understood more as threats to a particular lifestyle, societal model, one’s culture or – like migration and refugee mobility – as a threat to the long-term composition of one’s population.

By and large, they can be perceived as structural challenges to our society and its future development.

It is also in this box we shall find the challenges – or threats, to some – of modern globalization. Western society has chosen to make itself extremely other-reliant on supplies from the outside – “global sourcing.” If products could be bought abroad at a lower price, most countries would do so and cancel production at home.

However, simple logics would tell that too large reliance on others invariably leads to dependency – as we have seen in the case of the Coronavirus: Tons of goods are more or less dependent on Chinese production facilities – for instance, allegedly 50% of all facemasks produced worldwide. Of all food consumed in Sweden, only 10-15% originates in Sweden, everything else is imported. Volvo, the iconic “Swedish” car icon is no longer Swedish in any sense; it’s owned by a Chinese car-maker.

And long ago, once British-owned Jaguar was bought first by Ford Motor Company and then by the Indian Tata Corporation. The Swedish fighter aircrafts are, when it comes to basic technology and engines, made in the United States. Sweden is totally dependent on spare parts and therefore extremely other-reliant, depending on shaping policies to please the US.

The lack of self-sufficiency when it comes to basic goods and services is, philosophically as well as in practical political terms, a security threat. Countries that are fundamentally dependent on others for their basic day-to-day operation are – whether we choose to see it or not and whether we like to talk about it or not – other-reliant or dependent and that means that they are vulnerable and insecure the day the crisis hit them.

The same applies to the human being who is dependent on, say, medicine, injections or psychological counselling on a more or less constant basis.

It means that there is no human security built into the policies, neither into the structures and functions of society.

All this is illustrated by the Coronavirus crisis, as visibly and tragically.

And if you try to meet Type III threats by military means and thereby transform them into Type I threats – such as occupying the country in which your strategic goods exist – you are not solving any problems; instead, you increase your insecurity by making that country hate you.

One – obvious – example is the US policies since the 1950s in the Middle East, much of it to secure the oil for the US itself and its Empire. It is now backfiring or coming back as boomerangs – in the shape of hatred, terrorism, rivalry, eternal moral responsibility for millions of dead people there and for the destruction of countries and essential parts of the cultural heritage of the Western world itself. And lost wars, whether in Iraq or in Syria – predictable fiascos – which over time wear down any Empire no matter how rich and omnipotent it may believe it is.

Imagine if the US, in an early stage, had done all it could to become self-sufficient in sustainable energy sources. It may still have been imperialist, we do not know – but it would not have had to be.

Future thinker and peace intellectual, Robert Jungk, seems to have connected the dots to the MIMAC when he said something to the effect that if the sun could kill (like the atom can with the atom bomb), the world would have had solar energy long ago rather than nuclear energy.

Finally, the Type IV threats. They are exemplified by the existing, sometimes increasing or deepening, of social problems within society. It may be (over)centralization of people, capital, transport or communication which increases vulnerability of society as a whole and tendentially may develop into authoritarian systems.

Other threats may be that people detach themselves from democratic processes and choose to rather engage in entertainment and consumerism – a threat to the vibrant, dialoguing democracy that seems to be the least bad system. Or it may be signs of social disintegration – measured by indicators such as increasing criminality, corruption, decreasing health standards, urban segregation and violence, lack of value-orientation, decreasing solidarity, increasing environmental destruction.

In short, it is about the reduction of all social function to one question: What’s the prize? Rather than, is it good and for whom?

As examples of other threats, one may mention increased individualism, the emptiness of materialism versus an intellectual and spiritual life. Or stagnation of science and innovation – all representing a threat to the future, but not caused by any external actor and not military in nature.

Here one may add a specific reflection on the demise of the modern welfare state.

There doesn’t seem to be a well-defined concept and there is no comprehensive sociological theory about it. But it denotes a thinking in which the State apparatus is geared to provide a minimum of welfare for all, assistance to those with special needs, a strong belief in material development but only as a means to a life of a higher non-material individual and collective quality – while at the same time not ending up in being a paternalistic, all-managing, authoritarian colossus (Leviathan) that would deprive citizens of their freedoms and creative individual search for the good life.

While originally a Northern European (German) idea, it was a focal characteristics of the Nordic countries (Denmark/Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland) and a model in the eyes of millions around the world. Not a minimal state and not a maximum state. Both culture and materialism. Social justice with individualism within the common good.

That entire model was demolished, step-by-step, with the neo-liberal policies introduced in the 1980s: Collective, solidaristic thinking, care for the common good and social quality was thrown out and substituted by one measure of virtually every policy: the Market. If students with a PhD in philosophy could not immediately get a job at the market, better close down that useless university faculty. Knowledge that had been generally cherished throughout society as indicators of both development and civilisation was kicked out if it was not immediately applicable to a product that could sell.

One of the casualties of this one-dimensional and narrow-minded “Zeitgeist” was the civilian defence measures. In the days of the welfare state, there were stores of what would be needed in a crisis, a lockdown or an embargo. A policy of economic defence would have been as natural as a policy against external military aggression.

And there would have been security and peace experts who were searching for good answers to a question such as this: If we do not manage to deter an enemy from attack and also cannot withstand the enemy’s attempt to control our country by occupying it, what kind of defence should we then have to enableus to finally liberate our country again?

This is where social defence and non-violent resistance etc would come in. As would a determined policy of international disarmament. Both Denmark and Sweden had government wit ministers if disarmament.


Disarming and abolishing the civil tools and re-arming the military dimensions

The interesting fact for the post-1989 period is this: When the Wall came down and the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact dissolved and disappeared, the civilian stockpiles that were aimed at protecting citizens in times of crisis and war were sold. The threat was gone, so why keep these expensive stockpiles?

But that was a way of reasoning which was only applied to the civilian security measures. When we look at the military measures, they were not changed fundamentally.

The MIMAC elites quickly found new enemies to legitimize their insatiable elite interests with. If we take the example of Sweden – all the content of the civil defence stores were sold (and we see the result of that now under the Coronavirus where the country has no facemasks) and while there was a slump in the military defence capacity (depending on how you measure) – the Swedish government and MIMAC elites dropped the neutrality policy, global solidarity, the disarmament policy, the strong support of the UN and peacekeeping worldwide and instead did everything they could to support, at least politically, every war the US started and to prepare Sweden for NATO membership. (Today Sweden doesn’t have a single UN peacekeeper but participates in a series of NATO/US lead operations).

In summary, instead of abolishing NATO when its adversaries were dead and gone, we have seen the expansion of NATO up to the very borders of Russia (Russia’s military expenditures is 8% of NATO), we’ve seen the complete disarmament of every civilian defence and human security dimension and the re-armament of everything military.

Had governments applied a comprehensive – and yet simple – threat analysis to their defence, security and foreign policy like the four-fold table above, the world could have been much safer today and much better prepared for predictable threats such as a pandemic.

And the world would not have suffered from arrogant militarism, warfare and waste of scarce resources so urgently needed to make the world a better place in accordance with the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).


Fonte: The Transnational, 16 April 2020.