Peacekeeping Debate

In the Jan/Feb issue appeared a letter by my friend and fellow peace activist, Alan Weatherley. In it he criticized one proposal in the brief, "Canada's Security:

Threats and Responses," prepared by the Defence Policy Advisory Group of Science for Peace, which was condensed under the title "No Army!" in the Sept/Oct issue of Peace. I think Professor Weatherley's letter needs a reply.

The brief argues that Canada is unique among middle powers in having no use for war-fighting forces to defend itself, and that it could seek non-military ways of addressing the world's woes. Indeed, the only responsible reason now offered for Canada to maintain combat forces seems to be for U.N. peacekeeping operations - a field where we are justly proud of our early leadership. However, the problems surrounding recent U.N. operations suggest that these matters need rethinking. The brief proposed that there may be frequent situations in which military forces are not useful, but in which unarmed U.N. peacekeepers would be very effective. If so, Canada might show new leadership by training and organizing a corps of such people. Under U.N. direction, they could assist with conflict resolution (at an early stage where possible), and in the relief of disasters which so often lead to conflict. By its example of not introducing weaponry, such a corps might encourage civility and discourage the resort to violence. This initiative would represent a new thrust in U.N. peacekeeping, but need not preclude other methods where those are, for the moment, more appropriate. Canada need not do everything. I and the other members of the group that proposed the brief feel that the proposal is worth further examination.

The gist of Professor Weatherley's letter is to point out that it is easy to imagine situations in which the introduction of unarmed civilian peacekeepers would not be appropriate, which is of course true. It is really setting up a straw man to evoke the image of unarmed Canadians facing Hitler's S.S.! (One may question, in passing, whether any real protection is offered our current Canadian peacekeepers by the light armaments and personal weapons they now carry, in the face of the often far greater destructive power of the forces

around them. Even now is it not the case that only their symbolic role defends them?)

It is valid to ask whether, as the brief proposes, one may expect situations to which specially-trained unarmed peaceworkers form an appropriate response. It does not, however, help answer that question to point out situations in which they do not. Instead, we need to specify the conditions under which such a corps might be effective and the level of risk one could with conscience ask it to face. The brief began this analysis but, if the proposal is to become viable, further discussion is wanted.

John Valleau, Science for Peace, Toronto

Doing Something Right

I wouldn't miss Peace for the world! I think it is getting even better. The pieces on Colombia and Myanmar (Jan/Feb) were excellent and the latter shows our implication in the arms industry - a clear instance! Keep it up.

Jack Mills, Toronto

Does Peace Self-Censor?

I enjoyed reading the Jan/Feb feature on Chomsky -particularly the discussion of "self-censorship" in free societies; a theme also repeated in your editorial.

Then I searched in vain to find any mention of "Team Canada" who in early November returned from China -- the only nation on our planet still testing nuclear weapons - touting the sale of CANDU nuclear reactors to Li Peng as their crowning achievement.

Finally I found a tiny reference to the CANDU sale -- four words buried in a book review by Shirley Farlinger, on page 30.

Please tell me the non-coverage was because of publication deadlines, and not self-censorship! This is a serious issue for the Canadian peace movement! If we really "think globally and act locally," this should (in my humble opinion) be the cover story of your next issue.

Irene Abbey, Vancouver

Chomsky Should Support Peace

While I am usually sympathetic to the political analysis of Noam Chomsky, several points in the article "The Politics of Noam Chomsky" (J an/Feb) make me question his arguments, because of his selective mention of some facts over others. The problem that l have with Chomsky is that everything seems reducible to simplistic conspiracy theories.

I recently returned from a year living in Jerusalem where I saw a lot that sadly backs up Chomsky's version of events concerning the Israel/PLO peace agreement. But when Chomsky tells his Toronto audience that stopping U.S. aid to Israel will restore some justice for Palestinians, he is selling an illusion. There is just no reason to suppose that punishing the relatively robust Israeli economy would directly benefit the Palestinians. Unfortunately, the Palestinians are largely dependent on the Israeli economy anyway.

In Israel/Palestine, I met people who are just beginning to live with an agreement that sets up a whole new dynamic in the Middle East. I don't think that this dynamic automatically assigns the United States future hegemony either, contrary to what Chomsky says. The agreement itself originated from the work of the former Norwegian foreign minister and a couple of Israeli academics at Haifa University. The State Department was taken by surprise at the events of 1993. In fact, this agreement will eventually force Israelis and Palestinians to trust each other, not the U.S., for their own well being, even if they need to be physically separated from each other. This is the only way to achieve a lasting peace. Of course the Israelis have the upper hand, but the best way to engender parity for the Palestinian negotiators is to support the goals of the process (against the wishes of the region's extremists), not denounce it as a ploy.

Being on the political left these days is truly unbearable, but our unease should not excuse us from trying to understand all the facts involved on any given issue. Denouncing something because of a possible conspiracy theory at work is dangerous, and in this case, the failure of the peace process would be catastrophic, especially for the Palestinians.

Paul Allen, Ottawa

Weary Of Conflict

I am very weary of conflict in any form and tend not to listen to the news with its daily ration of horrors.

I have come to the conclusion since the Gulf War that all military are cowards. They have refined their weapons to shield themselves from harm. The "enemy" - those they kill - are now women and children. Statistics show very few military casualties and massive "collateral damage." It is shameful that we can tolerate that all our economies are based on the manufacture of arms - at least in the First World.

Future conflicts should be even more horrendous. I would like to see the U.N. evacuate all women and children, and let the armies kill each other.

Another aspect which puzzles me: Why is it considered normal for armies to rape women, and why is rape not highest on the scale of war wounds?

Mrs. A. Taube, Grenfell, Sask.

Peace Magazine May-Jun 1995

Peace Magazine May-Jun 1995, page 5. Some rights reserved.

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