Toward Common Security

By Dieter Heinrich | 1986-04-01 12:00:00

The arms race is driven by the argument (widely accepted among the public) That The nation state is responsible for its own defence. Everything else follows: States must have Their own militaries, and also the sovereign right to decide unilaterally when and how to use military force in defence of security, not to mention "vital interests." These basic assumptions are at the base of the present international order, the war system.

The key to The future of the peace movement lies in finding an alternative to the war system and to national military force as the means by which states defend their legitimate rights. Until The peace movement has an answer to the question of how, if not by force of arms, a nation is to protect itself, nothing much can change.

The most credible alternative, and the one which has by far the largest constituency, is to build confidence in the concept of "common security." Under a common security system the world community through its institutions, in particular The United Nations, would provide in a fair and effective way for The security of nations. If common security were working properly today, for instance, Nicaragua would be able to go to the U.N. for troops to protect its borders. As we strengthen the institutions and procedures for international security peacekeeping, mediation, law-making and adjudication) we reduce the likelihood of war, and undermine the most basic rationale of the arms race.

For the peace movement, international security would provide a whole other front for action and organizing. International security strategies would deal with positive, actionable measures Canada could initiate to prevent war and transform the international order toward a common security system. To attain international security, we must work above all to reform and strengthen the United Nations. "Strengthening the U.N." was adopted by The Toronto Disarmament Network as a principle in its statement of unity. It should be adopted by the whole movement. Like "end the arms race," it is an umbrella slogan for a whole range of possible specific strategies and demands.-

One such demand is Canadian support for the International Satellite Monitoring Agency (ISMA) proposal, which to date has not received nearly the attention it deserves by The peace movement. The proposal, which a U.N. group of experts studied and found to be entirely feasible, would have The U.N. acquire its own fleet of high-resolution observation satellites to enable it to independently monitor military activity and verify arms control agreements. By providing the world with a "non-aligned" source of information, the U.N. would remove one means by which the superpowers polarize international relations and influence smaller countries. Canada is ideally suited to be a sponsor of ISMA, given our record in peacekeeping and our expertise in satellite technology. ISMA could be put forward by the peace movement as a peaceful substitute for Star Wars as a way of stimulating the high-tech sector of the economy. It is encouraging that The Liberal Task Force on External Affairs took The position that ISMA would be a worthy project for Canada to undertake, on much The same rationale as suggested here.

Another demand that the peace movement should make is that Canada commit equal funding to the pursuit

of common security as to the pursuit of military defence Through the war system. If real security in the nuclear age lies in preventing war, and if this can be achieved more reliably through a functioning common security system than through supporting a system That constantly threatens war, then Canada should be even more prepared to fund the search for common security than to fund military defence. The common security paradigm provides us a credible multi-billion dollar program with which to compete head-on with the military for funds in The name of "security."

Disarmament and international security are chicken-and-egg aspects of peace: Neither comes first They must be pursued concurrently. To date, the peace movement has largely overlooked international security. It has concentrated on disarmament, and there are reasons for that But for The future, international security should be more equally stressed. It would open up a whole new dimension of possibility for really changing the war system.

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1986

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1986, page 20. Some rights reserved.

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