INSTEAD OF WAR:
by Timothy A. McElwee
Perhaps the oldest and most widely cited maxim of international relations is the Latin phrase si viz pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war).1 Sociologist and political economist William Graham Sumner once suggested: “A wiser rule would be to make up your mind soberly what you want, peace or war, and then to get ready for what you want; for what we prepare for is what we shall get.” Rather than continued preparation for war, the world—and the United States as the lone military superpower—must prepare for and build a global peace system if we are to move safely into the twenty- first century. To do so, we must concentrate our efforts on three fundamental goals: 1) strengthen international norms and institutions against war (what is sometime referred to as negative peace ), 2) eliminate the conditions that give rise to war and violence (often referred to as positive peace ), and 3) support and encourage alternative means of international conflict transformation. 2
The Bush administration, however, seems intent on moving the United States, and with it the global community, toward an increasingly deadly cycle of war and retaliation through the pursuit of a strident new imperial and unilateralist foreign policy that weakens the very international institutions upon which a global peace system could be constructed. Rather than strengthening the bonds of multilateralism, increasing numbers of former allies are becoming alienated from the United States. Six months prior to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the Guardian of London stated: “Instead of leading the community of nations, Bush’s America seems increasingly bent on confronting it.” 3 The attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11 served as a painful and shocking exclamation mark on this observation.
For the purposes of this inquiry, it is
important to distinguish between the commonly accepted war system
and what has been termed a global peace system. Peace scholar Robert
Johansen provides an extremely useful comparison of these concepts
in his essay, “Toward a Dependable Peace.” Johansen defines the
war system as:
Conversely, in a global peace system, as Johansen explains, “conflict is resolved through nonviolent, political, social, and judicial processes. There are no expectations of war and no national military arsenals. There is a widespread sense of solidarity with the rest of the human species.” 5 Building upon these points of distinction, this essay is informed by three central assumptions:
1) Nonviolent conflict transformation, and efforts designed to make peace through peaceful means, conform closely to historic peace church traditions. These approaches are also morally sound, and most closely adhere to the way of Jesus.
2) Pacifists and practitioners of nonviolence share several common aspirations with those who believe military force is the preferred means of resolving international conflict. Each group seeks: a) a secure, just and peaceful world; b) an international order in which human rights are protected; and c) an international legal system with compulsory jurisdiction able to ensure that those guilty of violating international law—including the crime of terrorism—will be brought to justice.
3) Pacifists and practitioners of nonviolence believe that the goals found in assumption number 2 require engaged, concerted action, but also argue that attempts to achieve these aspirations through military action: a) will perpetuate the cycle of war and violence, b) are inevitably extremely costly—not only financially, but in terms of lost or harmed human life, and c) will not achieve a sustainable and just global peace system.
While each of these assumptions is important and undergird this analysis, my primary purpose in this essay is to advance the last set of assumptions, i.e., the low utility and inability of military force to create a sustainable, global peace system.
There is no better illustration of the inability of military action to create a peaceful world order than the recent U.S.-led war against and the subsequent military occupation of Iraq. Rather than creating greater security for the citizens of the United States, the U.S.-led war against Iraq has increased international tension, continued to flame the fires of hostility against the United States, weakened multilateralism, fueled terrorist sentiments against the West, and accelerated the international pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Conversely, there is perhaps no better contemporary illustration of the promise of a global peace system than the recently established International Criminal Court (ICC), a permanent tribunal charged with investigating and trying individuals for the most serious crimes under international law, viz., genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Many scholars consider the ICC to be the most important international institutional advance in decades. It marks a major development in the pursuit of international justice and the protection of human rights. However, despite its promise, the United States under the current Bush administration has withdrawn U.S. support for the ICC.
Global Domination: U.S. Applications of the Modern War System
The recent U.S.-led war against Iraq represents a radical departure in U.S. foreign policy that strikingly demonstrates the role the Bush administration intends for the United States to play in what has been termed a Pax Americana . In this modern version of the Pax Romana , the United States is poised to follow the course of ancient Rome and, like the Roman Empire, fail to maintain imperial strength due in part to what Paul Kennedy has termed, “strategic over-extension.” 6 Evidence of the decline are increasingly evident. In fact, instances of failed U.S. foreign policy ventures are routinely chronicled by the Central Intelligence Agency. The Agency has coined the term “blowback” to describe international reactions to U.S. foreign policies based on global, military domination. Chalmers Johnson has summarized the term as, “the unintended consequences of policies that were kept secret from the American people.” He states further, “What the daily press reports as the malign acts of ‘terrorists’ or ‘drug lords’ or ‘rogue states’ or ‘illegal arms merchants’ often turn out to be blowback from earlier American operations.” 7 Although many people were surprised by the President’s vitriolic rhetoric, beginning with his 2001 State of the Union address, and the increasingly threatening tone following the tragic events of September 11, the recent war against Iraq has actually been in the planning stages for nearly fourteen years. The roots of this war are found in three key documents: First in an internal Pentagon document known as Defense Planning Guidance (DPG). Initially written in 1989–90 by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (then serving as Undersecretary of defense policy at the Pentagon) and Vice President Richard Cheney (then serving as Secretary of Defense in the first Bush administration), 8 the final version of the study was released in 1992. Second in the September 2000 document, Rebuilding America’s Defenses , a publication of the Project for the New American Century (a non-profit educational institution that demands our close attention), and finally in the September 2002 Bush administration’s National Security Strategy . Major motifs are recast and restated throughout each of these publications, but the message is consistent and clear: in our unipolar world, the United States must remain the militarily dominant superpower. A distillation of this chilling new foreign policy was presented by the President on June 1, 2002 in his speech to the graduating class of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Emphasizing his insistence on the use of preemptive military strikes, the President declared, “we must take the battle to the enemy, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.”
The DPG, written around the time of the collapse of the former Soviet Union, was the initial call for a global American empire. With the Soviet threat in decline and the U.S.-Soviet arms race no longer politically viable, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and their colleagues grew increasingly alarmed by public demand for a “peace dividend” and proposals to realize significant reductions in military spending through force reduction and the elimination of major weapons systems. Therefore, as the sole superpower still left standing, the DPG asserts that the United States is duty-bound to seize the moment, expand military spending, claim an unquestioned position of global leadership, and maintain unipolar dominance through unequaled military superiority. In short, the DPG declares that the U.S. must maintain a position of preeminence. David Armstrong, an investigative reporter for the National Security News Service, reporting in Harper’s magazine, concisely summarized the document with this baleful observation:
The overt theme is unilateralism, but it is ultimately a story of dominance. It calls for the United States to maintain its overwhelming military superiority and prevent new rivals from rising up to challenge it on the world stage. It calls for dominion over friends and enemies alike. It says not that the United States must be more powerful, or most powerful, but that it must be absolutely powerful.9
As Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff during the first Bush administration, Colin Powell advanced the need to support the DPG in a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee. Explaining the need for U.S. military dominance, Powell asserted with astonishing brashness, “I want to be the bully on the block.” 10
In 1997, while out of public office, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, among others, formed the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). The stated goal of the non-profit educational organization is “to promote American global leadership.” The founding Statement of Principles pointedly asks, “Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?” Sounding the call to action through a shrill warning, the Statement of Principles firmly declares, “If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests.”
PNAC members delivered a strongly worded letter to President Clinton in January 1998 urging him to mount a military assault on Saddam Hussein and to consider his ouster “the aim of American foreign policy.” Signed by Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz; as well as John R. Bolton (current Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security); Richard Perle (until recently chair, and a continuing member of the Pentagon’s defense policy board); Elliott Abrams 11 (Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on the NSC for Near East and North African Affairs); and PNAC Chairman, William Kristol (editor and chief columnist for the Weekly Standard ), the letter forcefully states, “American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.” Similarities between the DPG and PNAC foreign and military policy recommendations are arresting. As Armstrong reports, the DPG stressed that “It was essential to create ‘the sense that the world order is ultimately backed by the U.S.’ and essential that America position itself ‘to act independently when collective action cannot be orchestrated’ or in crisis situations requiring immediate action.” 12
The definitive PNAC study, released in September 2000, is Rebuilding America’s Defenses . The statement asserts boldly that “America should seek to preserve and extend its position of global leadership by maintaining the preeminence of U.S. military force.” 13 The predominant influence of the PNAC statement on current U.S. foreign policy is without question. For example, as Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has pointed out, in its statement, Rebuilding America’s Defenses , PNAC asserts that to enforce the Pax Americana , “the United States would have to increase defense spending from 3 percent of gross domestic product to as much as 3.8 percent. For , the Bush administration requested a defense budget of $379 billion, almost exactly 3.8 percent of GDP.” 14 This is the case despite the fact that the U.S. spends as much on military attempts to achieve peace and world order as the next fifteen nation-states combined.
More alarming is the suggestion by the authors of Rebuilding America’s Defenses that the United States should be prepared to use preemptive military assault to remove from power leaders of sovereign states whom U.S. leadership consider a threat. The 2000 report criticizes previous Pentagon war planners for failing to make plans to “unseat militarily” South Korean President Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein. The study asserts: “In both cases, past Pentagon wargames have given little or no consideration to the force requirements necessary not only to defeat an attack but to remove these regimes from power and conduct post-combat stability operations.” 15
The “regime change” that the U.S. achieved in Iraq this year was forecast prior to the current Bush administration assuming office. The means employed, i.e., through the use of preemptive military assault in concert with very few allies, was initially prescribed in the first draft of the DPG in 1989. The tragic events of September 11 provided the rationale and generated the public support to launch this radically new approach to U.S. foreign policy.
The PNAC study, which refers to U.S. armed forces as the “cavalry of the new American frontier,” sets the stage for U.S. military dominance in the Middle East, and throughout the world. Beyond the approximately 125 nations in which U.S. troops are already deployed, the PNAC document recommends a dramatic increase in a global U.S. military presence, while also expanding U.S. military presence in Europe, East and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Persian Gulf. In the case of Iraq and its massive oil reserves, the study makes it clear that no matter who assumes political leadership in a postwar Iraq, the U.S. will control Iraq’s resource distribution. Couched in international security jargon, the intent is obvious:
Regarding the establishment of permanent U.S. military bases in postwar Iraq, Donald Kagan, project co-chairman of the PNAC study, and professor of classics and history at Yale University, explained, “When we [i.e., the U.S.] have economic problems, it’s been caused by disruptions in our oil supply. If we have a force in Iraq, there will be no disruption in oil supplies.” 17
The third key policy paper that undergirds the administration’s foreign and defense policies is the President’s National Security Strategy (NSS). Released in September 2002, the NSS justifies the radical departure from U.S. foreign policy through reference to the tragic events of September 11. Sadly and ironically, the terrorist attacks themselves illustrate the profound limitations of defining security in strictly military terms. Although the United States remains the indisputable global military superpower, we were—and many would argue we remain—extremely vulnerable to devastating attacks from those with vastly inferior military resources and sophistication. Germane to this point, Joseph Nye, Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, has stated:
On many of today’s key issues, such as international financial stability, drug trafficking, the spread of diseases, and especially the new terrorism, military power alone simply cannot produce success, and its use can sometimes be counterproductive. Instead, as the most powerful country, the United States must mobilize international coalitions to address these shared threats and challenges.18Much of the language of the National Security Strategy and many of the stated goals of the NSS are extremely similar to the PNAC document. They also strike resoundingly clear tones consonant with the DPG. These three authoritative statements, representing an ideological triumvirate within the administration, provide the foundation of President Bush’s emphasis on an overwhelming U.S. global military presence and, as the administration deems necessary, a unilateralist foreign policy. As with the other two policy statements, the NSS extols the advantages of a “good offense” in place of a traditional defensive posture, 19 the value and legality of preemptive strikes,20 and the necessity of occasional unilateral action as the world’s sole superpower.21 The radical shift in foreign policy has generated deep concern even among neo-conservative policy analysts such as Clyde Prestowitz, President of the Economic Strategy Institute. Quoting and commenting on the NSS, Prestowitz writes:
Prestowitz later observes that this “dramatic new doctrine of supremacy and preemptive attack not only reversed years of American national security policy, it also struck at the heart of the Treaty of Westphalia which has underpinned the modern international system of nation-states for more than three hundred years.” 23
Most disturbing among these pronouncements is the administration’s insistence that the U.S. government need not be compelled by international norms and centuries-old international legal constraints against the offensive use of force and wars of aggression. Article 2(4) of the United Nations charter specifically stipulates that nation-states must “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” In response to military assault, as Article 51 of the Charter makes clear, “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. . . .” The necessity of adhering to Charter Articles 2(4) and 51 was at the heart of international debate in the months prior to the recent war against Iraq. Less than a week before the administration launched its attack on Iraq, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned, “If the U.S. and others were to go outside the [Security] Council and take military action, it would not be in conformity with the Charter.” 24 Arguing the opposite point of view, the NSS asserts,
In the case of the 2003 war against Iraq—claims by the administration notwithstanding—no such threatening military mobilization had taken place prior to the introduction of force by the U.S. and its “coalition of the willing.” 26 Perhaps most instructive here is Cicero’s ancient dictum: inter arma silent legis (in war the law is silent). Whether the war is correctly understood as law-enforcing or illegal under international law, few would disagree that it has seriously damaged relations among U.S. allies, reduced support for diplomacy, eroded the rule of law, and weakened adherence to international norms pertaining to the proper use of force. Reflecting on White House deliberations during the Cuban missile crisis, Arthur Schlesinger, historian and former aide to President Kennedy, recalled that former Attorney General Robert Kennedy referred to a proposed preemptive attack on Cuba as “Pearl Harbor in reverse,” then added, “For 175 years we have not been that kind of country.” 27 In 2003, the United States became “that kind of country.”
Survey data confirm the impact of this shift and the perceived arrogance behind the drive for global dominance. For example, the Global Attitudes Project , a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, recently found that in none of the countries surveyed did a majority have a favorable opinion of the United States. The countries surveyed included Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Russia, Poland, Turkey, France and Germany. 28 Current and former allies, distressed by the stated goals of the new U.S. security strategy, find themselves today discussing the need to be prepared to deter a possible U.S. attack, or contemplating how they might contain U.S. power. Rather than strengthening alliances—economically and politically—the Bush administration appears to be unaware, or unconcerned, about the implications of these ruptured relationships. The acknowledged “dean of the realist school,” Kenneth Waltz, is clearly aware and evidently quite concerned about these implications. In a recent interview with Harry Kreisler, Waltz was asked to comment on the “greatest danger” we face in our unipolar world. Waltz began by quoting an eighteenth-century French cleric and political counselor, who said: “I have never known a country disposing of overwhelming power to behave with forbearance and moderation for more than a very short period of time.” Waltz concludes that, “[this tendency] illustrates nicely how states fail to learn from history, from other countries’ experiences. Time and time again, countries that dispose of overwhelming power, as we now do, have abused their power.” 29
In his ground-breaking article in Foreign Affairs , John Ikenberry addresses many additional alarming and problematic ramifications of a unilateralist posture and the use of preemptive force. Regarding the dangers of precedence setting, he writes:
The specific doctrine of preemptive action poses a related problem: once the United States feels it can take such a course, nothing will stop other countries from doing the same. Does the United States want this doctrine in the hands of Pakistan, or even China or Russia? After all, it would not require the intervening state to first provide evidence for its actions. 30
The approach also risks exacerbating one of the most troubling problems faced by the international community, that of the proliferation of WMDs. Using Cold War reasoning, states that fear they may be the next victim of a U.S. preemptive attack, may reasonably conclude that the U.S. did not attack the Soviet Union because of the rough parity of the two superpowers’ nuclear arsenals. Therefore, as Ikenberry points out, a policy of preemptive war could lead hostile states to accelerate programs to acquire deterrent mechanism in the form of WMDs. In short, pursuit of the doctrine of preemptive war could lead to the unintended consequence (a new version of blowback ) of a new and more deadly round of arms races. From the vantage point of a distinguished historian, Schlesinger explains that preemptive war is “based on the proposition that it is possible to foretell with certainty what is to come. [However,] the possibilities of history are far richer and more varied than the human mind is likely to conceive—and the arrogance of leaders who are sure they can predict the future invites retribution.” 31
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger,
recognized as an ideological leader of the realist school, once
stated, “The desire of one power for absolute security means
absolute insecurity for all the others.” Insecurity is a powerful
motivating force for leaders of nation-states and for those outside
of governmental office. Rather than thwarting further terrorist
attacks, ostensibly one of the overriding goals of the war against
Iraq, the use of overwhelming military prowess incites further
hatred of the U.S., and flames the fire of hostility among those who
strongly oppose a unilateralist U.S. security posture. A global
American empire, maintained by military
dominance, plays directly into the hands of terrorists seeking
recruits to wage war against what is perceived as U.S. imperialism.
As Gary Dorrien has observed, “We cannot diminish terrorism by
incinerating Muslim nations and causing most of the world to despise
The cycle continues. Violence rebounds. War begets war. Mennonite peace scholar, John Paul Lederach has compared a military assault on terrorism to that of striking a mature dandelion with a golf club: the head can removed, but the seeds spread far and wide. 33 In a similar vein, Church of the Brethren peace scholar Kenneth L. Brown has observed: “If violence and retaliation were truly an effective way to fight terrorism, the Middle East would be the safest place in the world.” The seemingly endless loss of life throughout Israel, the West Bank and Gaza tragically illustrate the fact that overwhelming military might doesn’t assure military victory. Neither is it likely that the recent war against Iraq will produce the homeland security for which U.S. society yearns.
In the wake of September 11, in many quarters of the U.S., there was a pronounced, nearly palpable ache to understand. Many were overwhelmed with a desperate search for the etiology of these shocking terrorist attacks. But most inquiries rather quickly dissipated into expressions of anger, nationalistic zeal, and cries for revenge. Soon self-righteous appeals for retaliation dominated the airwaves and much of U.S. public opinion. In fact, there seemed to be a concerted effort to discourage U.S. society from understanding the motivations and the meaning behind the attacks.34 Commenting on this shift of societal attention, Robert Bellah observed,
“Moral clarity” became the watchword: any effort to understand the enemy, above all any attempt to show that the U.S. might bear some responsibility for conditions leading up to the attacks, was denounced as showing a lack of moral clarity, as moral relativism, postmodernism or worse.35Clarity of any sort regarding the roots of terrorism continues to elude humanity. Hypotheses and theories abound, but little in the way of solid theory has been put forward. Lee Griffith has remarked that as analysts and political pundits churned out countless explanations regarding the causes of the terrorist attacks of September 11, no mention was made about possible connections to the war system itself. As Griffith observes,
There was not the slightest change to the reality that there is nothing on the planet—absolutely nothing—which does more to create refugees and to spread hunger, starvation, and disease than war or the threat of war.36
Some scholars believe terrorist motivations may revolve around the perceived threat to one’s culture, identity or dignity. We may disagree as to the legitimacy of this or other hypotheses regarding the cause of terrorism, but it is clear that none of these possible terrorist motivations can be addressed—and certainly not resolved—through the use of military force. They can be addressed, and the root cause of the conflict much more likely transformed, through non- violent, diplomatic, and judicial processes.
The Urgency and Promise of a Global Peace System
Global problems such as terrorism and the proliferation of WMDs require cooperative, multilateral efforts through which the international community can pursue effective intelligence gathering, international arms inspections regimes, and international law enforcement initiatives. Instead of perpetuating the cycle of war and violence, international law can be enforced through institutions such as the ICC. Other diplomatic tools, such as what some analysts have called smart sanctions , 37 and the use of UN civilian police, would also strengthen the potential for nonviolent conflict transformation. It is beyond the scope of this analysis to critically assess the latter diplomatic tool. Regarding smart sanctions, suffice it to say that they are designed to freeze assets and prevent international travel of corrupt governmental rulers. They are not intended to bring a nation to the point of economic collapse, but to pressure ruling elites to comply with international norms such as the protection of human rights and to discourage crimes against humanity. 38
Although attempts to create a secure, just and peaceful world cannot be achieved through continuation of the war system, nonmilitary yet coercive forms of law enforcement hold great promise for promoting international conflict transformation and respect for human rights. Here it is useful and necessary to distinguish between the pursuit of peace and justice through police action and military action. A concise delineation of these critical points of contrast is provided through a study commissioned by the Church of the Brethren General Board. The study document, which was adopted as the official stance of the church in 1996, is entitled Nonviolence and Humanitarian Intervention . The distinctions between police and military action are summarized as follows:
1) Law enforcement, in intent, avoids killing rather than seeking it, as is the case with military combat. 2) Law enforcement focuses upon individuals suspected of guilt; military combat dehumanizes an enemy people and does not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty.
The recent war against Iraq resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, and billions of dollars that could have been used to meet pressing human needs. Even in pursuit of the most laudable purposes, the use of military force exacerbates rather than transforms conflict. Military instruments perpetuate the cycle of violence and injustice even in compelling cases such as efforts to thwart gross violations of human rights. As Robert Johansen has observed,
The need to employ military instruments for humanitarian intervention is almost always a sign of international failure to deal with fundamental causes of poverty, prejudice, and inequity. Military means would normally be unnecessary if other instruments were fully utilized in a timely fashion.40
At present, nonmilitary instruments are woefully underfunded and rarely considered by governmental officials as a means of enforcing international norms. According the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute the world spent $839 billion in 2001 in pursuit of military solutions to national and international conflict. If a fraction of the financial resources currently devoted to military expenditures were committed instead to increasing the use of UN police forces, nonmilitary enforcement actions could be greatly expanded, with a concomitant increase in international confidence that conflict can be effectively and justly transformed. Since the United States spends more on the military than the next fifteen countries combined, 41 and sells more arms than the next nine arms dealers combined, 42 the U.S. is clearly in a position to assume global leadership in this potentially transformative shift in priorities.
A substantial body of literature exists on
the topic of a permanent UN police force. 43
It has commanded considerable interest among Canadian and European
policy analysts, yet it has generated little attention in the U.S.
regarding its potential application in situations of international
hostility. Johansen explains the significant advantages afforded
through a permanent UN civilian police force:
Because it would be dedicated to UN
causes, such a force could be specially trained in a way ad
hoc forces cannot be. Within the
force, specialized units could be highly trained for different
missions (e.g., unarmed monitoring, patrolling with executive or
enforcement authority, tension-diffusion and crowd control, police
training, investigating, witness protection, accompaniment, or
arresting indicted war criminals). Its command structure could
function more dependably because it would be an integrated force not
drawn from national contingents. It could be more rapidly deployed
because it would be a standing force, ready at all times, not an ad
hoc force to be created after a
conflict erupts and moves into stages in which police enforcement
becomes far more difficult. Deployment would be more dependable
because the decision about whether to deploy would not be held up by
national political reluctance to call for deployment that would
obligate their own nationals to be placed at risk. 44
Such a police force would not be a panacea. No doubt there would be instances in which a permanent UN civilian police unit was unable to achieve an effective reduction in hostilities or create lasting peace out of the fires of a protracted conflict. Of course, similar limitations are also widely evident when attempting to build peaceful relations through military action. Regarding the relative effectiveness of a permanent UN civilian police force, Nobel Laureate Dr. John C. Polanyi provided this helpful observation: Fire departments and police forces do not always prevent fire or crime, yet they are now widely recognized as providing an essential service.
Similarly, a rapid reaction capability may
confront conditions beyond its capacity to control. This should not
call into question its potential value to the international
community. It is a civilized response to an urgent problem. 45
Thus, rather than seeking compliance to the demands of a U.S. “self-appointed global security protectorate,” 46 as called for in the three interlocking policy guidelines noted above, the serious problems of terrorism and the proliferation of WMDs can be addressed more effectively through inter-governmental agencies such as a permanent UN civilian police force, and by strengthening other multilateral institutions geared toward eliminating the conditions that give rise to violence. In place of unilateral military dominance that seeks power over others, U.S. leadership is urgently needed within the global community to mount an effective and sustainable response to these legitimate security concerns.
Just as the U.S.-led war against Iraq is the best illustration of the increasingly dangerous war system, the International Criminal Court provides one of the best illustrations of the promise of a global peace system. The ICC is designed to hold individuals, rather than states accountable for violations of international humanitarian law. It is to be distinguished from the International Court of Justice (the ICJ, sometimes called the World Court), which is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. Both the ICC and the ICJ are located in The Hague, in the Netherlands. Whereas the ICC is charged with investigating and trying individuals accused of violations of international law, the ICJ is utilized when one state accuses another of violating international law. 47
Based in part on the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals following World War II, 48 the ICC will prosecute three core crimes: genocide , “the killing and/or intending to kill, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” (based primarily on the 1948 Genocide Convention); war crimes , which initially proscribed only the ill-treatment of the sick and wounded in war, but through more recent international humanitarian law, also speak of protecting civilians during times of war (based on the 1907 Hague Convention and the 1949 Geneva Conventions); and crimes against humanity , defined as “systematic attacks on civilian populations, murder, extermination, rape, sexual slavery, forcible transfer of populations within or across national borders, torture, enforced disappearances, and apartheid” (based on numerous human rights and internation al humanitarian treaties). As previously mentioned, many scholars consider the ICC to be the most important international institutional advance since the founding of the UN more than half a century ago. Nearly all of the world’s democracies support the court, with the glaring exception of the United States. As of June 2003, 139 countries had signed the treaty and 90 had ratified it. The founding Rome treaty, which was adopted in July 1998, was entered into force on July 1, 2002. As recently as June 16, 2003, Luis Moreno Ocampo of Argentina, was sworn into office as the first ICC prosecutor.
The ICC stands on the foundation of international law, which in turn, is grounded in inter-governmental organizations. It is independent of the UN, but related to the United Nations Security Council. Like domestic law, the ICC is designed to function as a nonviolent means of enforcing the rule of law; it is not intended as a component of military action. Therefore, it is endorsed by pacifists and non-pacifists alike. It conforms to the belief that what is ethically desirable is also politically prudent. International law requires the same fundamental conditions as domestic law. It requires a law-making process (i.e., the United Nations, and specifically Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice) 49 to develop legally binding rules that proscribe certain behavior; a law- adjudication process (the ICC for individuals, and the ICJ for nation-states) to determine whether a law has been violated; and a law-enforcing process (UN police forces, international sanctions, etc.) to provide means of responding to and punishing illegal behavior. Cases can be brought to the ICC through one of three channels: 1) by a member of the Assembly of State Parties, 2) referred by the UN Security Council, or 3) the ICC prosecutor can start an investigation based on information received from victims, non-governmental organizations, or other reliable sources.
The International Criminal Court will not, in itself, achieve the basis for a global peace system. It will, however, deter war crimes, protect human rights, and help to end future cycles of violence. As an impartial legal institution, it holds great promise for bringing to justice those responsible for the most serious crimes under international law, including the most heinous crimes against humanity and crimes against the peace. Until the ICC came into existence, the most serious perpetrators of war crimes have been able to escape with impunity. For example, in the cases of Pol Pot, known to have overseen the slaughter of two million Cambodians, and Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans, both escaped prosecu tion. War criminals such as these can now be brought to justice, and the ICC can require compensation for the victims and survivors of similar atrocities.
Despite the great promise represented by
the ICC, the Bush administration actively opposes the court and
consistently challenges its legitimacy. Both the Clinton
adminstration and the current Bush administration recommended that
the U.S. Senate not ratify the ICC treaty. President Clinton
initially signed the Rome Statute, but did so with the goal of
drastically revising the treaty that had already been agreed upon by
120 countries. President George W. Bush, further illustrating his
strong preference for unilateralism, “unsigned,” or nullified
U.S. participation in the treaty last year, and by doing so once
again removed the U.S. from the community of nearly all democratic
states. 50 Among the stated
concerns, the administration has complained that the ICC could limit
U.S. military power. But the laws governing international military
conduct are not changed by the ICC. If U.S. military personnel were
charged with committing any of the crimes to be tried by the ICC,
the U.S. government is already duty-bound and treaty-bound to either
prosecute or extradite those indicted. The administration has also
warned that the ICC prosecutor might bring politically motivated
charges against U.S. officials. But the treaty will be limited to
only the most serious international crimes: genocide, war crimes,
crimes against humanity; and, through the principle of “complementarity,”
the court will act only in cases where states are unwilling or
unable to do so. Finally, with reference to the American
Servicemembers’ Protection Act, the Bush administration has
threatened that any members of the Assembly of State Parties
refusing to sign a bilateral immunity agreement with the U.S. by
July 1, 2003, will lose their U.S. military assistance. These
bilateral agreements require cooperating states hosting
At the heart of U.S. opposition is the administration’s contention that the ICC will undermine national sovereignty. Ironically, in reaction to the new U.S. security strategy that includes preemptive wars of aggression, it is the U.S. misuse of sovereignty that has most alarmed friends and foes alike. In fact, the ICC will enhance the sovereignty of all nation-states by providing an impartial setting and a permanent presence for the pursuit of international justice. Robert Johansen captures the essence of these strengths when he writes: Human brutality is not produced simply by the evil that lies within some other men and women. It can also arise from our failure to build on the Nuremberg precedent and to ensure that mass murderers are indicted, that law is enforced equally throughout the world, that the content of that law is taught in every village and town on this planet, and that the norms of acceptable conduct are repeatedly affirmed by a legal process made robust because it represents the entire world community. 52
Attempts to capture, prosecute and/or
execute terrorists and other war criminals through unilateral
military intervention is highly unlikely to achieve an effective and
broadly respected sense of international justice. More troubling,
such an approach will expand tendencies among those who feel
victimized to seek revenge—perhaps through the use of terrorism—and
may increase the appetite of those seeking to exact revenge to
acquire WMDs. Without doubt, the pursuit of war criminals through
military action will further undermine the international rule of
law. Conversely, the United States could reclaim a position of moral
leadership in the global community by supporting the ICC and the
equal application of law as a means of bringing war criminals to
justice. All countries have a duty to prevent the commission of
terrorist acts and to bring alleged terrorists to justice. U.S.
support for the ICC would send a compelling signal to the world that
we seek multilateral, collaborative means of restoring justice as we
address security concerns and violations of human rights.
Embracing a Global Peace System
As noted at the outset, I believe that
nonviolent conflict transformation and attempts to make peace
through peaceful means, conform to the historic peace church
traditions and most closely adhere to the way of Jesus. I also
consider active nonviolence to be morally and pragmatically sound.
What is currently lacking is the resolve of international leaders to
consider and invest the necessary resources in nonviolent means of
conflict transformation. Former UN Ambassador, Adlai Stevenson, once
remarked, “We do not envision a world without conflict; we do
envision a world without war. This inevitably requires an
alternative security system for dealing with human conflict.” And
a Texas aphorism declares, “If the only tool in your toolbox is a
hammer, all of your problems start looking like nails.” Rather
than considering alternative security systems and the pursuit of
nonviolent conflict transformation, the Bush administration is
of singular vision and is steadfastly intent upon maintaining U.S.
global domination through the war system and the application of
overwhelming U.S. military might. This unilateralist, neoimperial
vision of the Bush administration, based on military domination,
will, if continued unabated, move the world further from a just and
sustainable global peace system. It will, as Ikenberry has warned,
“leave the world more dangerous and divided—and the United
States less secure.” 53
The truth is attempts to achieve peace through military action often
fail. It is also true, of course, that military successes can be
found. However, accounts of devastating military losses—even by
Walter Wink provides a concise summary of the remarkable nonviolent political transformations that took place around the world not long ago. He writes: “In 1989–90 alone, fourteen nations involving 1.7 billion people underwent nonviolent revolutions, all but one successfully (China). During the twentieth century, 3.4 billion people were thus involved.” 55 These remarkable nonvio- lent revolutions succeeded despite the commonly held assumption that nonviolence is effective only when used against “civilized nations” such as Great Britain, but decidedly ineffective against ruthless tyrants such as Communist rulers. Certainly nonviolence, like military force, sometimes fails and lives are lost. My reasons for advocating nonviolent social change are based primarily on my belief that it is the most faithful Christian stance; I mention the above historical instances only to assert that nonviolence is also an effective means of building a sustainable global peace system. In a similar fashion, John Howard Yoder once explained that because of the predominance of the consequentialist approach, “nonviolence must claim and prove its ‘power.’ Killing my neighbor at the behest of my government can only be shown to be wrong if I can propose an alternative means, promising equal effectiveness, to attain what the government wanted to use killing to achieve.” 56 While I am convinced that it is powerful, the efficacy of nonviolence does not serve as the basis of renouncing violence. A humble, yet determined, yearning to follow in the peaceful way of Jesus does.
Therefore, in place of Pax Americana , and the war system, I urge the embrace of a global peace system. Instead of a global American empire, I advocate what Robert Johansen has called, a principled world policy, “one designed to implement and institutionalize clearly desirable values that serve not just one or several national interests, but what might be called the ‘human interest.’” 57 I am convinced that the world grows less secure through the pursuit of a peace by military might.
A war on terrorism and efforts to quell the
spread of WMDs cannot be effectively managed unilaterally, no matter
how overwhelming one’s arsenal may be. These urgent global
concerns can be resolved, however, through multilateral
collaboration and adherence to the rule of law. Because security in
today’s world requires more than military force it must include
more than the pursuit of one country’s national interest. A
principled world policy, in the human interest, is ethically
desirable, theologically sound, and politically prudent. War
criminals can be brought to justice, international conflict can be
transformed through non- violent, political, and judicial processes,
and through a widespread sense of solidarity with the rest of the
human species, there need be no expectations of war.
1. Roman general Vegetius is credited with
having coined this phrase.
14. Project for the New American Century, Rebuilding America’s Defenses (Washington, DC), 75. For more information on this point, see Bookman’s editorial in the September 29, 2002 Atlanta Journal- Constitution .
15. Project for the New American Century, Rebuilding America’s Defenses , 10. 16. Project for the New American Century, Rebuilding America’s Defenses , 14. 17. Jay Bookman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution , September 29, 2002, editorial. 18. Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “U.S. Power and Strategy After Iraq,” Foreign Affairs , Vol. 4, No. 4, July–August 2003, 73.
19. George W. Bush, National
Security Strategy of the United States of America (Washington,
DC: White House publication, September 17, 2002), 6.
36. Lee Griffith, The
War on Terrorism and the Terror of God (Grand
Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002) 274.
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