Rather than the usual paradigm of security through arms, humanity needs a completely different peace and security system
Published: Aug 01, 2023 05:38 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

The world's taxpayers pay $2.24 trillion to their national military defense in 2022. That is the highest ever and more than 600 times the regular budget of the United Nations, three times the total trade between China and the US. The five largest spenders are the US (39 percent of the total), China (13 percent), Russia (3.9 percent), India (3.6 percent) and Saudi Arabia (3.3 percent). Worldwide, governments maintain they need that much to secure their people's survival, national defense, security and stability - and that global peace will come.
With the exception of the elites of the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complexes (MIMAC), we all know this is one big fallacy. Today's world is at a higher risk of war, including nuclear war. It is also more unstable and militaristic than any other time since 1945. 
At the end of the West's Cold War, over 30 years ago, peace became a manifest possibility, NATO could have been dismantled since its raison d'etre - the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact - fell apart. A new transatlantic common security and peace system could have replaced NATO.
Tragically, "defensive" NATO not only failed to keep its promise to Russia not to expand "one inch," but it also extended its reach right up to Russia's borders, as Mary Sarotte's brilliant 550-page book, Not One Inch, vividly illustrates.
The NATO world now postulates that both Russia and China are threats to be met with even higher, de facto limitless, military expenditures. But wait! What would you think and what would you say if you witnessed a team of doctors perform one surgery after another on a patient who, after each operation, came closer to death? 
You'd probably say: They are quack doctors. Their diagnosis and treatment lead to a devastating prognosis. Instead of health, they produce more of the problem they should be solving! 
Given that history's highest investment in peace and security has caused the highest risk to humanity's survival, why don't we have a vibrant global debate? What is fundamentally wrong with the entire paradigm of security through arms? Where are the critical analyses of the world's most enigmatic and dangerous logical short circuit?
The dominant security paradigm builds on factors like these: deterrence - we shall harm them if they do something we don't accept or if they don't do as we say; offensiveness - our defense is directed at them even thousands of kilometers away, not on our own territory; military means are all-dominant; civil means - like minimizing society's vulnerability; civil defense, nonviolent people's defense, cooperation refusal, boycott - are hardly discussed; our intentions are noble and peaceful, but theirs are not; our defense is not a threat to them, but they threaten us all the time; ignoring the underlying conflicts that cause violence and war - and the keys to conflict-resolution - and preparing for war to achieve peace.
This is, by and large, how everybody "thinks" - and then they blame others for the fact that this type of thinking can not produce disarmament or peace.
Even worse, when that peace doesn't come, everybody concludes that they need more and better weapons! In reality, this system perpetuates the world's tragic militarism and squandering of resources that are desperately needed to solve humanity's problems. 
There must be better ways to think. But there is far too little research and debate and the MIMAC elites thrive from war. Thus, decision-makers lack political will.
What would be the criteria for good peace and security? 
Conflicts are addressed and solved intelligently by mediation, international law, and creative visions that address the parties' fears and wishes. Violent means should be the absolute last resort as stated by the UN. Peace is about reducing all kinds of violence and creating security for all at the lowest military level - like the doctor who shall never incur more pain than necessary to heal a patient.  
Here are some alternative ideas and thinking - not fixed but to promote discussion: instead of deterrence, seek cooperation and common security - the latter means that we feel secure when they do; make the goal to be invincible in defense but unable to attack anybody else - have weapons with limited destruction capacity and range; make control/occupation impossible by our country's non-cooperation with any occupier; balance defensive military and civilian means; prevent violence but not conflicts; never do tit-for-tat escalation; do something creative to de-escalate; show that your intentions are non-threatening and take small steps to invite Graduated Reciprocation in Tension-Reduction (GRIT) without risking your own security; handle conflicts early; build peace first and then secure it; address underlying conflicts, traumas, fears and interests; educate and use professionals in civilian conflict-resolution and mediation, not only military expertise; develop and nurture a peace culture through education at all levels, ministries for peace, and emphasis on conflict-resolution instead of confrontation and re-armament; replace outdated neighborhood ethics with global ethics of care. 
There are limitless possibilities. Conflict and peace illiteracy have brought us where we are today. It has nothing to do with whether or not human beings are evil or good, or both. It is a systemic-paradigmatic malfunctioning that must change in the name of civilization. 
We can learn to peace.
Masters of war are hated worldwide. A country that takes concrete leadership in developing new principles and policies for true global peace and human security will save humanity and be loved forever.

Let a thousand peace ideas bloom!

The author is the director of the Sweden-based think tank Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research. The full version of the article can be read here. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn