2011 #17 Fall ~


Professor Emeritus Joseph Schwartzberg, Univ. of Minnesota

President, Minnesota Chapter of CGS

(reprinted from their fall 2011 newsletter)

[The following article is inspired largely by two provocative and highly recommended essays.

One, “Will Obama Denounce MLK as Memorial [Is] Dedicated?” by David Swanson,

 is excerpted and modified from his book War Is a Lie <http://www.warisalie.org&gt;.

The other is the article “To the Shores of Tripoli” by the left wing, generally dovish Israeli journalist, Uri Avnery.]

Early in his essay cited above, David Swanson quotes the following remarkable passage from President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

“There will be times when nations–acting individually or in concert–will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified. I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: 

‘Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.’ . . . But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by [King’s and Gandhi’s] examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism–it is a recognition of history. . . . So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace.”

In opposition to the President, Swanson argues as follows:

“Obama claims that his only choices are war or nothing. But the reasonpeople know the names Gandhi (who was never given a Nobel Peace Prize) and King is that they suggested other options and proved that those other approaches could work. This fundamental disagreement cannot be smoothed over. Either war is the only option or it is not–in which case we must consider the alternatives. “Couldn’t we have halted Hitler’s armies without a world war? To claim otherwise is ridiculous. We could have halted Hitler’s armies by not concluding World War I with an effort seemingly aimed at breeding as much resentment as possible in Germany (punishing a whole people rather than individuals), requiring that Germany admit sole responsibility, taking away its territory, and demanding enormous reparations payments . . . or by putting our energies seriously into a League of Nations and International Court as opposed to the victor-justice of dividing the spoils, or by . . . [several more possible options, including “massive nonviolent resistance” are here added].”

Avnery’s position is quite different. He says: “When I expressed my support for the international intervention, I was expecting to be attacked by some well-meaning people. I was not disappointed. How could I? How could I support the American imperialists and the abominable NATO? Didn’t I realize it was all about oil? . . . . 

“While the rebels were . . . fighting their way into . . . [Qaddafi’s] compound, . . . Hugo Chavez was praising him as a true model of upright humanity, a man who dared to stand up to the American aggressors.

“Well, sorry, count me out. I have this irrational abhorrence of bloody dictators, of genocidal mass murderers, of leaders who wage war on their own people. . . .

“Whatever one may think about the USA and/or NATO, if they disarm . . . a Qaddafi they have my blessing.

“All those who decry NATO’s intervention must answer a simple question: who else would have done the job?

“21st century humanity cannot tolerate acts of genocide and mass murder, wherever they occur. It cannot look on while dictators butcher their own peoples. The doctrine of ‘non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states’ belongs to the past.”

“I have mentioned in the past that I advocate some form of world governance . . . . This would include a democratically elected world executive that would have military forces at its disposal and that could intervene, if a world parliament so decides.” (Emphasis added,)

“This may be the music of the future, or, some may say, a pipe dream. Now, we live in a very imperfect world and must make do with the instruments we have. NATO, alas, is one of them.”

So, who is more correct: Swanson or Avnery? Swanson may well be correct in supposing that World War II could have been avoided if only the victors in World War I and others able to influence world affairs had acted in the ways he indicates. But they didn’t. And it would be expecting too much of human societies to act consistently with the good will and worldwide vigilance and understanding needed to avert all future wars. Avnery got that right. What would have been necessary to prevent China’s takeover of Tibet? Russia’s brutality in Chechnya? India’s and Pakistan’s violent repression of secessionists in their respective portions of Kashmir? The 1st and 2nd Intifadas and their suppression in Israel/ Palestine? The depredations of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda? How much goodness and wisdom is there to go around? In light of considerations such as these, the United Nations unanimously endorsed at its 2005 summit meeting a potentially transformative concept, “The Responsibility to Protect” (R2P). The concept embodies 2 basic principles:

A) State sovereignty implies responsibility and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself.

B) Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect. 

It would not follow, however, that any outside political act (say NATO or the US) could take it upon itself to judge that a given state had failed to live up to its sovereign responsibility to its own citizens and take military action to correct the wrong. Rather, such action would have to be authorized by the UN Security Council; or, in the event that the SC failed to act, by the General Assembly under the “Uniting for Peace” procedure; or by an appropriate regional or subregional organization in accordance with the UN Charter (subject to later SC approval).

Although duly sanctioned military intervention would be possible under an R2P regime, it was to be regarded as applicable only when some threshold had been passed in respect to large scale loss of life or large scale ethnic cleansing; and, even then, only as a “last resort” after all other ameliorative options had failed. Additional “precautionary principles” included: “right intention” (i.e., the need to prevent human suffering, rather than to achieve some other political goal); “proportional means” (i.e., insuring that the scale, duration and intensity of the intervention would be limited to what was necessary to achieve the desired human objective); and the existence of “reasonable prospects” for success, with “the consequences of action not being worse than those of inaction.”

Predictably, initial reactions within the UN to the R2P proposal were mixed. Many nations, especially in the global South, saw in R2P a means by which to justify neocolonial adventurism and hegemonic policies. The fact that the United States found it necessary to use the pretext of “humanitarian intervention” as one of its phony justifications for invading Iraq in 2003 could not but fuel widespread skepticism.

Thus, it seems likely that, were it not for warm support from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as well as from his High-level Panel on “Threats, Challenges and Change,” the R2P principle would not have been accepted. The key sticking point was thereport’s reformulation of the meaning of sovereignty.  

Annan put the matter this way:”[S]tate sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined . . . . States are now widely understood to be instruments in the service of their peoples, and not vice-versa. At the same time individual sovereignty–by which I mean the fundamental freedom of each individual, enshrined in the Charter of the UN and subsequent international treaties–has been enhanced by a renewed and spreading consciousness of individual rights. When we read the Charter today, we are more than ever conscious that it aims to protect individual human beings, not to protect those who abuse them.”

Lauded though it was when adopted in 2005, the R2P principle has yet to be unambiguously followed. The most obvious failure was in respect to the protracted genocide in Darfur. When push came to shove, the nations that might have made a difference failed to pledge the needed support for effective UN intervention.

And it looked as if the same might happen in Libya. Under the circumstances, the best that the UN could come up with was authorizing a NATO-enforced no-fly zone. But would this alone have prevented the massacre of rebels in Benghazi that Qaddafi declared he would unleash? I think not.

What then was Obama to do? There is only so much one can accomplish from the air. Were the choice mine, I’d have placed a small elite NATO force on the ground to separate rebels and loyalists, declaring that it would fire no shots except in self-defense, in which case  reinforcements would be introduced as needed. I’d have pledged that the NATO force would be withdrawn as soon as another internationally authorized and capable force (possibly from the Arab League) could be set in place and, in no case, would it remain beyond two years. I’d have then sought retroactive Security Council approval for the action taken and would have urged the Council to demand binding arbitration between the rebels and the Qaddafi regime. Gaining international acceptance of our pledge, given our past record of interventions, would not be easy; but, absent a better solution, most nations would presumably come aboard.

Taking a longer-range perspective, I would also push hard for the creation of a standing, internationally recruited, all-volunteer, elite peace force under direct UN command. I explain and justify this approach in my forthcoming book Transforming the United Nations System: Designs for a Workable World.


by Gwynne Dyer [New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2005]

(Book review by Ronald J. Glossop–July 9, 2011)

War: The Lethal Custom is a revised version of Dyer’s 1985 classic War which was written in conjunction with the similarly named popular public television series shown at the height of the nuclear arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States.

From beginning to end Dyer’s basic thesis is that to get rid of war we need a change in the international political system. On the first page he says: “Now, for the moment, we are safe. The only kind of international violence that worries most people in the developed countries is terrorism . . . . We are very lucky people—but we need to use the time we have been granted wisely, because total war is only sleeping. All the major states are still organized for war, and all that is needed for the world to slide back into a nuclear confrontation is a twist of the kaleidoscope that shifts international relations into a new pattern of rival alliances. That time may not come for another decade or so, but unless we can build institutions that move us decisively away from the old great-power game, sooner or later it surely will.” The book ends in the same vein: “Our task over the next few generations is to transform the world of independent states in which we live into some sort of genuine international community. If we succeed in creating that community, however quarrelsome, discontented, and full of injustice it probably will be, then we shall effectively have abolished the ancient institution of warfare. Good riddance” (p. 446).

A substantial portion of Dyer’s book is his very engaging and detailed history of warfare and of the development of new weapons and military strategies. Much of it is similar to the 1985 Cold War edition. But recent developments in armed conflict prodded Dyer to write the new tenth chapter titled “Guerrillas and Terrorists” in which he argues that this type of warfare is not new and, even with nukes, is much less dangerous than the “forty years with the daily threat of a global nuclear holocaust” (p. 416) through which we lived.

Another very important change is Dyer’s view about when in human history war begins and to what extent it is based in our genetic human nature The first chapter of the 1985 edition was titled simply “Roots of War.” The new third chapter adds “Rousseau, Darwin and Hobbes” to that title. Dyer’s view in 1985 was that war didn’t become an important part of human society until after humans became civilized. He now notes “When I wrote the first edition of this book twenty years ago, I used only the first quote [about the lack of militarism in a primitive group] that opens this chapter . . . and I used it as evidence that ‘real’ warfare did not exist before the rise of civilization. . . . This was how anthropologists invariably talked about warfare among hunter-gatherers at the time” (pp. 65-66). But that view has now become debatable. Dyer sees the dispute as a battle between those who tend to favor Hobbes’s view that precivilized humans are naturally vicious and those who favor Rouseau’s notion of the “Noble Savage” who gets spoiled by civilization. Dyer believes that Rouseau’s popular view misled anthropologists for decades. Now, says Dyer, “the available evidence argues strongly that our ancestors have been fighting wars since long before the rise of civilization” (p.79).

As interesting as this issue about basic human nature and when war began is, Dyer’s view about what needs to be done to end war remains unchanged. The problem facing humanity is not basic human nature or the existence of ever more horrible weapons but the failure to organize society in such a way that conflicts between groups with opposing interests can be resolved politically or judicially rather than by resort to violence.

Dyer’s opinion is that “only profound institutional change can provide long-term safety” (p.285). “At bottom, the problem of war is political . . . .” (p. 441). Dyer’s last chapter titled “The End of War” is a masterful analysis of the contemporary situation and the challenges facing humanity. A 1945 quotation from Dwight MacDonald provides the theme, “We must get the modern national state before it gets us” (p. 429). Dyer traces the efforts to deal with international anarchy from the creation of the League of Nations after World War I to the development of the U.N. after World War II to current efforts to put at least some limits on national sovereigny, but it is a difficult struggle. As Dyer notes, “Most people are reluctant to accept that war and national sovereignty are indissolubly linked, and that to be rid of one they must also relinquish much of the other” (p. 438). Dyer never uses the expression “world federation,” but that is what he seems to be advocating throughout this book as the solution to ending war.

An Alternative Way of Trying to Get Rid of Nukes

Ronald Glossop, For Hiroshima Day Commemoration, August 7, 2011

Ever since the August 6, 1945 catastrophe at Hiroshima, a major challenge for humanity has been how to get rid of nuclear weapons so that they are not used again. The urgency of solving this problem has been persuasively presented by Tad Daley in his recently published book APOCALYPSE NEVER: FORGING THE PATH TO A NUCLEAR WEAPON-FREE WORLD. On pages 223-24 of that book Daley presents the details of his plan for changing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty into a Nuclear Weapons Elimination Convention which aims to ensure that all nuclear weapons would be abolished by August 6, 2020. His proposal depends on national governments taking the necessary steps to make such a change and to abide by this treaty after they have created it and ratified it. 

The past behavior of national governments provides little reason to think that they will create such a treaty or abide by it. On pages 183-86 Daley addresses the issue of whether all nuclear weapons could be abolished without first having a world federation that relies on world law enforceable against individual violators rather than unenforceable treaties among sovereign nation-states. He argues that nation-states would be more likely to give up just their nuclear weapons than to transfer their sovereignty to a federal world government. He cites the success of the existing treaties which outlaw the development, production, and use of biological and chemical weapons, and claims that it would be possible to do the same with regard to nuclear weapons. Daley notes that an important aspect of enforcing a ban on nuclear weapons would be an inspection and verification regime that would be limited so that national governments wouldn’t regard it as too intrusive (p. 177) but which also would not be structured in such a way that a national government could veto actions to inspect its own activities (pp. 180-82).

One provision of the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention (MNWC) of 1999 discussed by Daley deserves special attention. All citizens of the human community would be personally prohibited from participating in any of the activities banned by the convention, would be responsible for reporting violatons coming to their attention, and would receive protection for doing so (pp. 162-63). The MNWC contains specific provisions that make it a crime for any citizen of the world to participate in work directed at reintroducing nuclear weapons, and also obligates every state party to make such activities a national crime as well. Such crimes would be indictable and prosecutable before either national courts or the new International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC was created in 1998 to prosecute (and, we hope, to deter) genocide and other crimes against humanity when national legal mechanisms are inadequate to the task. Because endeavoring to renuclearize the world ought to be considered a crime comparable to genocide, the drafters of the MNWC felt that the ICC would be a natural and critically useful tool for enforcing the convention (p. 182).

These details provide the basis of a possible alternative way to get rid of nuclear weapons. Instead of developing and enacting a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention, suppose that the Rome Statute establishing and governing the International Criminal Court were to be amended so that the jurisdiction of the ICC would be expanded to cover the crime of participating in any activity which in any way supports the maintenance and/or creation of nuclear weapons. Such an approach would have the additional value that it would apply even to individual terrorists who are not working under the auspices of any national government.

Such an extension of the jurisdiction of the ICC could be based on the July 8, 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the use of nuclear weapons is contrary to humanitarian and other international law regulating the conduct of warfare. In that case 10 of the 14 judges voted in favor of the illegality of nuclear weapons. If the use of nuclear weapons is contrary to humanitarian law, it seems completely appropriate to treat any efforts to maintain or make such weapons as crimes against humanity.

There is of course no guarantee that such an extension of the jurisdiction of the ICC could be accomplished or that all countries will sign, ratify, and abide by the Rome Statute, but such an approach does provide an interesting alternative way to try to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

“A federation of all humanity, together with a sufficient measure of social justice to ensure health, education, and a rough equality of opportunity, would mean such a release and increase of human energy as to open up a new phase in human history.”                        -H.G. Wells


Anita Koester Freeman was an expert on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted unanimously by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. She not only wrote a book on the subject but worked to implement those rights locally and internationally. She did that for decades as an active member of the League of Women Voters, the United Nations Association, the Citizens for Global Solutions. She represented the UNA on the St. Louis Coalition for Human Rights which sponsors an annual student essay contest with cash prizes for the winners being awared at the annual Human Rights Day celebration. She was always one of the main supporters of that activity.

Anita died on July 10, 2011 as a result of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Memorial contributions can be made to the ALS Assn., 1276 K Street NW, #1050, Washington DC 20005 or the UNA of St. Louis, Treasurer Bob Wilcox, 6915 Amherst Avenue, University City MO 63130.

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