Is it the New World Order? Or is it Just the Yellow Ribbon Syndrome?

Douglas Roche was formerly Canada's Ambassador for Disarmament. He lives in Edmonton and lectures and writes on global issues and common security.
Shirley Farlinger, a journalist and peace activist. She has twice been a candidate for parliament.
Henry Wiseman has taught courses on peace and security issues at Guelph and McMaster Universities, and is preparing a television series on global issues.
Maxime Faille toured Canada's high schools with Students Against Nuclear Extermination, worked with the U.N., and now works with Parliamentarians for Global Action.

By Metta Spencer (moderator) | 1991-05-01 12:00:00

DOUGLAS ROCHE: The end of the Cold War was producing a new possibility for common security through cooperation rather than the old East/West confrontation. The Gulf War has derailed the peace dividend and succeeded brilliantly in reviving militarism as a response to conflict. As a result of the "TV-spectacular" treatment of hi- tech warfare, we have now entered a "Yellow Ribbon" syndrome. The Bush approval rating of 91 percent reflects the recourse once again to militarism. So I come out of the war pessimistic. However, even though the U.N. was used by the United States to legitimize the war, it can recover and help gather the multilateral community back onto a peace agenda.

MAXIME FAILLE: I am optimistic. We in the peace movement have long considered the U.N. the ideal mechanism to provide states with security, so that they would not have to arm themselves to the teeth. We have seen that happen now. Granted, the U.S. played a dominant role, but the U.N. forces and the military staff committee-simply were not there. We went with what we had and that was the United States. Regardless of their motives, this was an act of aggression and the international community had to respond. I am hopeful that the rule of law can be applied evenly in the future in all crises. It is possible we will build U.N. mechanisms so we can disarm.

SHIRLEY FARLINGER: I can't believe that the U.S. would let the Security Council take a similar decision against, for example, their invasion of Panama.

FAILLE: The U.N. is set up so that the U.S. cannot be subject to sanctions as other nations are. We need to address that. This crisis has exposed lots of weaknesses in the U.N. system but, rather than be cynical, we have to hold the U.S. to account for what it has said in support of international law. Let's build mechanisms so that the U.S. does not have to dominate in the future.

HENRY WISEMAN: At this stage, that's the best that we can do. Everybody in the peace movement was opposed to war but shocked by the invasion. We were unaware of the extent of the brutality inflicted on the Kuwaitis; we thought that sanctions would prevail and that Iraq would ultimately withdraw. Many people on the right in the U.S. were against the war. But once the war got going, it revealed a good deal about Iraq's intentions and that sanctions probably would not have worked.

ROCHE: With great respect to my fellow panelists, I have to disassociate myself from any approval whatsoever of this war. This was an immoral, unjust war, and the massive bombing raids on the Iraqi people, the destruction of the economic and social infrastructure of Iraq, were not contemplated by the U.N. in passing Resolution 678. That resolution was passed because the U.S. insisted that it be passed; no other member of the Security Council, including the four other permanent members, was in a position to counter their will. Article 42 of the Charter was invoked for the sanctions. They did an end run around 43 by marrying Article 42 with Article 51 on the right of self-defence.

If it was deemed that economic sanctions under 42 would not succeed, then the United Nations could have mounted a military blockade or a military action to enforce it. They were never given that chance. The Bush Administration countered the advice of at least three former secretaries of defence and the head of the CIA, who said that sanctions would work in time. The United States pursued the war to keep the coalition together and prevent erosion of American public opinion. It was done for their own selfish reasons, not the good of the world. I view the future with some concern that the unipolar world that has developed will not be able to stand up to the U.S. I hope I will be proven wrong. I hope the development of the new Europe and the strength of Japan and the U.S.'s current economic problems will bring us back from basing the New World Order on Washington's military industrial complex policies. It should be based on negotiation and the mediation of the U.N. itself.

PEACE: Would a veto have made any difference? If the Soviet Union, say, had vetoed resolution 678, would the United States have gone ahead with war anyway?

ROCHE: I can't answer that, but if the Soviet Union had vetoed 678, it would not have existed. There would not have been the U.N. legitimation, and the following vote in Congress under the umbrella of international approval might not have passed as it did. And so the Bush administration needed the Security Council resolution.

FAILLE: I'm not sure they did. Whether or not it had been legitimated by the United Nations would not have made much difference here in the U.S., given the lack of interest in the U.N., generally. And with respect to having let the U.N., in Article 41, mount a blockade, no one that I know in the U.N. Secretariat believes that the U.N. would have had the operational command and control structures in place to be able to mount such an operation.

PEACE: What is the attitude to the war around the U.N.?

FAILLE: They are divided, just like this panel.

PEACE: The Secretary-General was quoted as saying that it was not a U.N. war but a U.S. war.

FAILLE: I haven't heard that.

ROCHE: In any event, that is a correct assessment. It is wrong, in a historical sense, to depict the Gulf War as a U.N. war.

WISEMAN: I agree. The U.S. has the power and the intent to go ahead and do what it wants. But there is no other way that the U.N. would have worked. It is not a club of gentlemen that decides what is moral and just and act accordingly. It acts according to national interests, and the U.S. national interest was the most powerful. But still, the U.N. was faced with a grievous act of aggression. Whether the war was just depends on whether it was a just cause with just means-and of course the means were excessive. All that bombing, particularly of the army retreating from Kuwait, was hardly necessary, so it wasn't just. Will it be more peaceful now? It is not a peaceful area of the world.

FARLINGER: That is mainly because of the imperialistic interests that have been involved there. Some results are not just, and one of them is the enormous cost: $50 to $100 billion, to be paid by various countries. Another cost is the environment, where tremendous damage may affect the monsoons and cause widespread starvation in India. When will we ever have civilian control over military people?

ROCHE: The cost of the war is crucial: Are we going into a combat culture in which military spending is used to maintain the industrialized states' control over the exploitation of the world's resources, technology, and capital? The real losers in the war are the people of the Third World, who are being marginalized off the economic agenda. The real winners of the Gulf War are those involved in the military industrial complex of the U.S. and, to some extent, Canada and Europe. They are going to get the political agenda back onto militarism, as opposed to the improvement of economic and social infrastructures globally.

FARLINGER: And we're moving away from the idea of common security. It was a man's war (if you'll pardon me, gentlemen) with male solutions, based on negotiating from strength. That's no longer acceptable. The only people involved in negotiations were men. It's men who make the weapons and men who run the Security Council.

WISEMAN: Well, prescribe for us a scenario for overcoming male desire for war in the Middle East.

FARLINGER: Virginia Woolf says, you always ask us how to stop war, you never ask us how to prevent war or make peace. We negotiate issues all the time without using force.

FAILLE: Well, but occasionally we do have to use force.

FARLINGER: I disagree. I really believe that we can no longer use force.

FAILLE: If a burglar were to waltz in here now and hold us hostage, I'm not so sure how much negotiating I would want to do with him while he was torturing us.

ROCHE: Max, bombing is quite different from the internal use of police force to maintain law and order.

FAILLE: I agree that the use of force was excessive, and I think we can build up preventive mechanisms, but occasionally and unfortunately, force is the final arbiter because it is used by people like Saddam Hussein.

PEACE: Doug, what would you have done, as a person promoting common security?

ROCHE: No one has the answer to how the Gulf War should have been prevented. Let's all get onto preventing future wars. The first thing is to have a permanent U.N. police force appointed. Canada is instrumentally placed to contribute a certain amount of our forces on a standby basis to begin it. The Secretary General, Perez de Cuellar, has been calling for this repeatedly. Nations don't want to pay for it. There are other steps to strengthening the U.N., the Canadian call for a U.N. summit on global arms trade is a good idea. The flow of arms into the Middle East and around the world has to be shut off. But it is the major players, the five permanent members of the Security Council, who are the major arms exporters. And instead of being shy about opposing the U.S., Canada ought to be trumpeting our views. Indeed, I sense that Mr. Clark would like to get Canada back onto the U.N. peace agenda, and quit the Mulroney attachment to the U.S. combat culture. Canadians should say, "We have had enough militarism, and we don't approve of adding to the Canadian defence budget. If there is any money around, it ought to go into international development, which is the basis for a solid security policy."

WISEMAN: Right. I think that that is the way to go right now. But we must distinguish between a peacekeeping operation, which is a minimal interposition of force to keep parties apart, and enforcement action, such as the one that has just taken place.

ROCHE: I agree totally with that distinction. We should move up a step from the ad hoc peacekeeping, which we have had, into a U.N. police force that can enforce Article 42.

FAILLE: Then you're not ruling out the use of force.

ROCHE: If any force is going to be needed to uphold U.N. sanctions in the future, it ought to be totally a U.N. force and not that of a single state or even a coalition of states.

FAILLE: I agree with that.

FARLINGER: I'd go further. I don't see much virtue in a U.N. force flying the hundred thousand bombing raids that we just saw. What we need is a team of people from various countries who can go in right away, before trouble gets to the boiling point, and negotiate. I don't think you can have the two protagonists, Bush and Hussein, negotiating without other people being involved. In fact, they shouldn't be involved at all.

ROCHE: I agree with that, Shirley.

FAILLE: I agree, too.

WISEMAN: I don't. It's naive to tell the President of the U.S. and the President of Iraq, "You guys can't be involved here. You go home and wait for us. We'll get together and see who are moral and solve this for you." We have to work with the world that we've got.

FARLINGER: The people who are naive are those who think that they can do it through military force.

FAILLE: How long do we negotiate when Saddam Hussein is occupying a sovereign state, pillaging and torturing its people? You could go on negotiating forever. At some point we have to use force. We need international burden-sharing via the United Nations. The U.S. didn't have to go to the U.N. but by doing so, it may have tied its hands in the future. And that's what we have to concentrate on.

ROCHE: On this question of torturing Kuwaiti people, Max, it's unlikely that Saddam Hussein would ever have invaded Kuwait, had there been a U.N. peacekeeping force in place, in anticipation of the trouble.

FAILLE: I agree.

WISEMAN: A peacekeeping force was in Lebanon when Israel went in. It showed that it's not an absolute assurance that aggression won't occur.

FAILLE: A lot of people here are talking about preventive peace-keeping-having a lightly armed, U.N. Show-the-Flag force, to be deployed early in a conflict.

ROCHE: If anything good is to come from those terrible 42 days, then let it be a lesson for all of us to insist that the U.N. be strengthened structurally to prevent war and to treat seriously the North-South agenda-resources, poverty, population. That is what we hoped would come from easing the tension between East and West. If Canada is to play a role, it's got to be in these solutions rather than in recourse to militarism. The readers of Peace Magazine are activists; they need to be reinforced at this moment of the Yellow Ribbon. We cannot let the militarists take over Canadian policy.

WISEMAN: Like Shirley, I want negotiation to be pursued with greater vigor. However, when it comes to those who are already at war, what can restrain them from using military means while negotiations go on? So one has to address the use of war for foreign policy objectives.

FARLINGER: At the end of a war, we have negotiations. We had years of negotiations at the end of the Korean War. What we have to do is move to holding similar negotiations before the first shot is fired.

FAILLE: That assumes good faith on all sides-which isn't always the case.

WISEMAN: Negotiations take place under very different conditions after the war has begun. Damage has been done, and …

FARLINGER: War actually makes negotiations more difficult because you get the revenge factor.

WISEMAN: But you just said that negotiations succeeded after wars when they didn't succeed before. You can't have it both ways.

FARLINGER: I said that they always occur after wars. Finally somebody talks both sides into negotiating. I am just suggesting that we get this started before the war starts, instead of cutting off communication, as we now do. It's not as though negotiations had never been tried. We do it all the time. Women are good at this but we are never asked to be at a negotiating table. Margaret Papandreou, head of Women for Mutual Security, goes to all the negotiations that she can get a foot into and she says you're missing half the possible resources you could be using.

FAILLE: Some aggressive males-like Saddam Hussein-could not care less about negotiation.

FARLINGER: My information is that in August, Saddam Hussein made many attempts at negotiation, all of which were turned back by Bush.

WISEMAN: Mubarak also said that Saddam Hussein promised he wouldn't invade, yet he did.

FAILLE: In the 1960s, when the police in the South of the U.S. did not want to enforce the law, the National Guard had to come in and ensure that the law was enforced. The same thing has to happen at the international level. If Saddam Hussein had known what was going to be rained on him, he would not have invaded. He assumed the U.N. would turn a blind eye, as it did when he invaded Iran.

FARLINGER: The size of the military threat doesn't always matter. It didn't work in Vietnam. I don't think most people obey the law because they are going to be shot by the police. When international law is obeyed, it is because both sides can see some advantage in obeying, that is what we must pursue.

WISEMAN: People who negotiate issues of peace and war do not operate on the basis of their own individual morality. Leaders have to respond to military industrial complexes, or democratic public opinion, or national interest. So, while we want more women in negotiations, I think the peace movement must exert more pressure at home so that in the future the instructions to the negotiators will differ from those given now.

Peace Magazine May-Jun 1991

Peace Magazine May-Jun 1991, page 11. Some rights reserved.

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