George Macpherson: “Can Britain convert its ‘fighting force’ into a ‘force for nonlethal defence and law enforcement’?”

July 13, 2018

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An extract from an article by George Macpherson

Our ‘national defence’ forces do a lot of good: let’s keep them.

We are not against men and women in uniform – simply against the violence that is a small part of their existence. There are so many ‘better things to do’ that, in the long term, are less expensive.

  • Our politicians, influenced strongly by arms manufacturers, allow war while, personally, keeping away from any battlefield.
  • Every missile, mine, lethal drone, bullet and bomb exported supports our treasury and pension funds.
  • Our children are brought up to admire military exploits and stories of valour.
  • We celebrate our assassins and condone distant killing by remote control.

Can Britain, also, convert its ‘fighting force’ into a ‘force for nonlethal defence and law enforcement’?

This is a suggestion as to how – by keeping: the command structure; the recruitment; the excellent training in so many artisan and technical skills; the great engineering ingenuity; the communications excellence; the medical expertise; the pomp and pageantry; awards for bravery; the camaraderie and team spirit; the career structure; the overseas bases to meet emergencies; the sporting teams and the rules of conduct.

In my experience, all these existing things are not to be much bettered –I served three years in the RAF in the 1950s. Since then I have worked for other large organisations, but the RAF was outstanding in its procedures, humanity and efficiency.

Let us redefine the role of our military services and leave out weapons of war, mass destruction and combat. Instead, let’s expand into the design and development of nonlethal defence equipment for emergency use against crazed violence, criminal acts and despotic rulers.

Let’s refine prevention nets, vehicle cripplers, darting, Tasers, anaesthetic gases and, of course, digital intelligence to predict future incidents and prevent them.

Let’s redirect our spending towards, for example, disaster relief; housing and services; renewable energy; rapid response to pandemics; the United Nations and international law and order; and environmental conservation.

Read the complete article here: https://thefriend.org/magazine/issue/7600

 

Note that the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) has adopted a non-lethal strategy in along the border with Bangladesh. The force uses arms only for self-defence and fires weapons which are non-lethal.

 

 

 

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The Myanmar peace process

June 20, 2018

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Welcoming our first reader from Burma/Myanmar in May, prompted an attempt to find out more about the search for peace in that country.

This picture of a stilt village in Myanmar is the only reference made on this site to several descriptions of social and environmental diversity found online.

Having only received news of the plight of the Rohingya refugees and the condemnation of Aung Suu Kyi’s lack of support for this minority, the writer’s search unveiled a far more complex situation than ongoing news bulletins have indicated.

The Panglong conference of 1947 between the Shan, Kachin and Chin ethnic minority leaders and Aung San, head of the interim Burmese government led to an agreement to join in a union government that would give equal status to all citizens and press for independence.

The term ‘federalism’ was construed by many in Burma as being anti-national, anti-unity and pro-disintegration.

When the non-Burman ethnic groups pressed for autonomy or federalism, as incorporated in the 1947 Constitution, at a time when there was a weak civilian government, the military leadership staged a coup d’état in 1962, moving towards democracy gradually in the 90s.

Following the democratic election of the Thein Sein government in 2010, the government embarked on a series of reforms to direct the country towards liberal democracy, a mixed economy, and reconciliation, includes the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, the granting of general amnesties for more than 200 political prisoners, new labour laws that permit labour unions and strikes, a relaxation of press censorship, and the regulation of currency practices.

By 2011, the government accepted the concept of federalism, one of the core principles of the ongoing peace process with the country’s ethnic armed groups.

            Map of Myanmar and its divisions, including Shan State, Kachin State, Rakhine State and Karen State.

The government allowed the use and discussion of federalism and the drafting of a Constitution by individual states and regions and international approval included:

• ASEAN’s approval of Myanmar’s bid for the position of ASEAN chair in 2014;
• a visit by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December 2011 – the first in more than fifty years,
• and the participation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party in the 2012 by-elections.

However, there were ongoing conflicts in Myanmar:

• The Kachin conflict between the Pro-Christian Kachin Independence Army and the government;
• a civil war between the Rohingya Muslims, and the government and non-government groups in Rakhine State;
• Armed conflict between ethnic Chinese rebels and the Myanmar Armed Forces have resulted in the Kokang offensive in February 2015. The conflict had forced 40,000 to 50,000 civilians to flee their homes and seek shelter on the Chinese side of the border
• a conflict between the Shan, Lahu, and Karen minority groups, and the government in the eastern half of the country.
• A widely publicised Burmese conflict was the 2012 Rakhine State riots, a series of conflicts that primarily involved the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist people and the Rohingya Muslim people in the northern Rakhine State—an estimated 90,000 people were displaced as a result of the riots.

The recent violence in Kachin State, where thousands have been forced from their homes because of renewed fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which has not signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) that was reached under former president and retired army General Thein Sein. And despite this agreement, even groups that signed the deal are regularly having to fend off incursions by government soldiers into their areas.

Armed conflict between ethnic Chinese rebels and the Myanmar Armed Forces led to the Kokang offensive in February 2015. The conflict forced 40,000 to 50,000 civilians to flee their homes and seek shelter on the Chinese side of the border.

The army has stepped up its campaign while global attention focuses on the Rohingya crisis, which has seen some 700,000 people flee to Bangladesh.

General elections in November 2015 gave the National League for Democracy (NLD) an absolute majority in both chambers of the national parliament and Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed that peace with the ethnic minority groups would be her top priority. However, she has not continued with the talks initiated under the previous administration and it is reported that some negotiators who had championed her cause have been sidelined. Ethnic groups now say that the government team charged with finding peace rarely travels to their part of the country to see or hear at first-hand what the issues are.

The Myanmar Government does not include the Rohingya as a Burmese minority group

They are classified as stateless Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh since 1982—on the government’s list of more than 130 ethnic races and, therefore, the government states, they have no claim to Myanmar citizenship.

Wayne Hay reports that in 2012, there was a series of Rakhine State riots, conflicts that involved the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist people and the Rohingya Muslim people in the northern Rakhine State, displacing an estimated 90,000 people.
The Myanmar government’s Nationwide Ceasefire now has eight ethnic armed groups as signatories which could participate in the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference. The third meeting of the conference in the second week of July will discuss fundamental principles on federalism in Myanmar.

The Diplomat reports that the Tatmadaw (Burmese army) continues to insist that there should be a single army under the new federal arrangement. The ethnic armed groups, however, prefer having a federal army, which could allow them to keep their respective armed forces:

“Essentially, the Tatmadaw deems that the ethnic armed groups will be a threat to territorial integrity if they are to retain their weapons and personnel. It is also concerned that the union government would have little authority or control over the regional governments if there is a federal army.

“On the other hand, the ethnic armed groups argue that their forces have to be retained to serve either as a deterring factor or as a counter in the event of unexpected or unprovoked attacks from the Tatmadaw. Any conflict settlement arising from the process will not be sustainable if there is an element of mistrust between the negotiating parties.

“Trust cannot be built if attacks by the Tatmadaw continue alongside the civilian government’s efforts to conduct the peace process. Early this year, the Tatmadaw launched attacks on the Kachin and northern Shan States, triggering renewed clashes with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). The Tatmadaw’s actions also strengthen the case for retaining the ethnic armed forces”.

Serving in the Kachin Independence Army

However, preservation of the union has been a longstanding belief of the Tatmadaw and its uncompromising stance could trigger the ethnic armed groups to maintain arms and continue the fight, providing justification for maintaining military operations against these armed groups.

Eugene Mark, a Senior Analyst with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore, ends:
“Immense challenges lie ahead for the peace process in Myanmar. However, if the peace process is to have any chance of succeeding, one should look at building trust between the Tatmadaw and the ethnic armed groups as the starting point. Perhaps the best solution is for the two sides to listen to each other’s concerns and be ready to compromise in the larger interest of the country.

“Conflicts that are political in nature require political consensus”.

Those who want to read more about Burma’s complex and eventful history during these years, with one ference to CIA/USA intervention, can do on these sites:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panglong_Agreement
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panglong_Conference 47-62
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1962_Burmese_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-43933332
http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-06/20/c_137267461.htm
https://thediplomat.com/2018/02/myanmars-challenging-path-to-peace/
https://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2018/05/struggles-myanmar-peace-process-180502064233955.html

 

 

 

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Is Donald Trump’s letter being undervalued by the media?

May 24, 2018

The Financial Times reports that Donald Trump has cancelled the meeting with Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, which was to have taken place in Singapore on June 12.

It provided a copy of the cancellation letter from the White House released hours after North Korea said it had destroyed its nuclear test site in a move that was designed to show its sincerity about pledges to denuclearise.

 

 

 

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The two Korean leaders have declared there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula

April 27, 2018

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A tentative hope was fostered after reading – on December 17th – about South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s meeting with China’s Xi Jinping. The trip — Mr Moon’s first state visit to Beijing — was used to mend bilateral ties, which disintegrated this year after China launched an economic boycott of South Korean companies and goods. In Beijing, Mr Moon urged Xi Jinping, China’s president, to step up efforts to solve the nuclear crisis with North Korea.

The earlier hope has been strengthened by the news in the Korea Times today

Read [FULL TEXT] Panmunjeon Declaration

President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have now signed the “Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” in which they made it clear there would be no more war on the peninsula and that a new era of peace has begun.

President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have announced that South and North Korea will seek to hold tripartite talks with the United States, or talks including China, with the goal of declaring an end to the Korean War (1950-53) this year and establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, Friday.

Kim Jae-chun, a professor at Sogang university, said: “South Korea believes there is a role to be played by China . . . China could become an arbiter between the US and North Korea. The Moon government will be turning to China to say you guys have to calm things down with North Korea. But China will also ask South Korea to try convince the US to lower its rhetoric.”

Kim Rahn (Korea Times) reports that, in a joint declaration they announced after the summit at the truce village of Panmunjeom, the two leaders reaffirmed the joint goal of making the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free through complete denuclearization. To attain this goal and for further discussions on the North Korea nuclear issue, Moon will visit Pyongyang this autumn. Points made in the declaration were summarised:

(1)  Two Koreas agree to declare the end of the Korean War that has been suspended since an armistice agreement in 1953.

(2)  Two Koreas agree to set denuclearization as a common goal and work together to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear free.

(3)  South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit Pyongyang in autumn.

(4)  Two Koreas agree to stop a range of hostile acts on the ground, in the air and on the ocean.

(5)  Starting May 1, the two Koreas will stop broadcasting propaganda on the inter-Korean border.

(6)  Two Koreas will set up a jointly operated liaison office in Gaeseong, North Korea.

(7)  On Aug 15, the two Koreas will host reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

(8)  Two Koreas agreed to reconnect an inter-Korean railroad on the East Coast.

(9)  Two Koreas will jointly participate in the 2018 Asian Games.

Moon said, “North Korea’s pre-emptive nuclear freeze will be a valuable beginning for complete denuclearization of the peninsula.” Kim said, “I’m making efforts so that the agreement we made today will not turn out like before, but produce a good outcome  . . . If the people of the two Koreas can pass on the road I passed today, if Panmunjeom becomes a symbol of peace, the people of the two Koreas will enjoy joint prosperity.”

Moon added: “Today I and Kim set a milestone, which will not be shaken, toward co-prosperity and unification”.

 

 

 

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Hundreds of Israelis rally for Gaza following the “Great Return March”

April 3, 2018

In +972 magazine*, Joshua Leifer reports that some 300 Israelis protested along the Gaza border last Saturday in solidarity with the Great Return March demonstrations in Gaza that began a day earlier.

The organizers of the Gaza return march had said explicitly that the protest was meant to be nonviolent. But even before the march began Israeli security forces launched a public campaign describing it as a violent, Hamas-sponsored event. The Israeli army’s chief of staff announced the deployment of 100 snipers, and Israeli generals warned ahead of time that there would be Palestinian casualties.

The Israeli solidarity protest was organized by the Coalition of Women for Peace. Founded in November 2000, after the outbreak of the Second Intifada, CWP today is a leading voice in the Israeli peace movement, bringing together women from a wide variety of identities and groups. CWP is committed to ending the occupation and creating a more just society, while enhancing women’s inclusion and participation in the public discourse.

On Friday, Israeli troops killed at least 15 and wounded 1,400 demonstrators taking part in the first day of the “Great Return March,” 45 days of protests and events planned to mark 70 years since the Nakba. On the Gaza side of the border fence, Israel forces reportedly wounded 25 Palestinian demonstrators on Saturday, though the Israeli army did not report a single injury among its troops.

“I don’t know what to say. There was no justification for what they did to us,” Hasan al-Kurd, one of the organizers of the Gaza return march, said after the protest ended on Friday. “I saw children and entire families standing more than half a kilometer from the fence and they still shot at them. Why? What threat do children standing hundreds of meters away pose to tanks and armed soldiers?”

*+972 Magazine is a blog-based web magazine that is jointly owned by a group of journalists, bloggers and photographers whose goal is to provide fresh, original, on-the-ground reporting and analysis of events in Israel and Palestine. The collective is committed to human rights and freedom of information, and we oppose the occupation. However, +972 Magazine does not represent any organization, political party or specific agenda. Its name is derived from the country telephone code shared by Israel and Palestine. Read the full article here: https://972mag.com/following-deadly-march-hundreds-of-israelis-rally-for-gaza/134256/

 

 

 

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Pope Francis’ Easter message – summary and link to full text

April 3, 2018

On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis implored the world to seek out solutions to its geopolitical conflicts.

Excerpts from Ana Campoy’s summary:

He first addressed the “beloved and long-suffering land of Syria” in his traditional Urbi et Orbi (“to the City and the World”) address. “May the light of the risen Christ illumine the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in course”.

Then he asked that the warring parties respect humanitarian laws and open access to the country so aid could be delivered to the millions of Syrians whose lives have been ravaged by civil war.

The Pope cast a blessing on the rest of the Middle East, too, “so that dialogue and mutual respect may prevail over division and violence.”

In addition, he addressed conflict in South Sudan, pleading that the world “not forget the victims of that conflict, especially the children!”, and Venezuela, where he hoped for “a just, peaceful and humane way to surmount quickly the political and humanitarian crises that grip it.”

Francis also offered a blessing for those trying to ratchet down tensions in the Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea’s current leaders are set to meet at the end of April for the first time; US president Donald Trump has said he will sit down with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un by May, saying:

“May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment.”

We invoke on this day fruits of hope for those who yearn for a more dignified life, above all in those areas of the African continent deeply affected by hunger, endemic conflicts and terrorism. May the peace of the risen Lord heal wounds in South Sudan and open hearts to dialogue and mutual understanding. Let us not forget the victims of that conflict, especially the children! May there be no lack of solidarity with all those forced to abandon leave their native lands and lacking the bare essentials for living.

We implore fruits of dialogue for the Korean peninsula, that the discussions under way may advance harmony and peace within the region. May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment to promote the good of the Korean people and to build relationships of trust within the international community.

We pray for the fruits of new life for those children, who as a result of wars and hunger, grow up without hope, lacking education and health care; and to those elderly persons who are cast off by a selfish culture that ostracizes those who are not “productive”.

We also implore fruits of wisdom for those who have political responsibilities in our world, that they may always respect human dignity, devote themselves actively to the pursuit of the common good, and ensure the development and security of their own citizens.

The love of God “dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty” (Easter Proclamation).

Happy Easter to all!

 

 

The full text of the pope’s 2018 Sunday Easter address: https://qz.com/1242396/on-easter-sunday-pope-francis-doled-out-blessings-to-syria-and-other-geopolitical-hotspots/

 

 

 

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FT reader suggests ‘NATO – just STOP’!

February 4, 2018

 Anti-Russian propaganda escalates

Just one example: there were warnings about “huge” Russian wargames in September, raising alarm among the credulous. A briefing by Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, warned that Russia “has used big military exercises as a disguise or a precursor for aggressive military actions against their neighbours”, citing Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014.  The British Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, said the exercise was “designed to provoke us” and appeared to accept the estimate of 100,000 troops.

But Zapad-17 offered nothing more alarming than footage of Vladimir Putin observing the exercises through binoculars and a report that three people had been injured when a Russian helicopter accidentally fired on spectators.

The numbers forecast as 100,000 were put by all observers at between 10,000 and 17,000. Russia pointed out that their given numbers had been accurate and international borders had been respected.

Is this briefing done to strengthen the case for NATO expenditure and expansion?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. When that was dissolved in 1991, NATO decided to expand eastwards, though newly declassified documents confirm that – as Rodric Braithwaite, former British Ambassador to the Soviet Union, recounted in March 5, 1991 – British foreign minister Douglas Hurd and British PM John Major assured the Soviet leader that NATO would not expand eastwards.

Despite this assurance, expansion continued, with Albania, Croatia, Montenegro as the latest recruits. Roger Boyes, Berlin correspondent to The Times, warns that NATO’s expansion eastward needlessly provokes Russia and must stop growing if it wants to survive. Sardonically, Small People Against Big Government published this map:

He sees Turkey’s plans to buy a Russian-made S-400 missile defence system that cannot be integrated into NATO’s radar network – and the consequent training of Turks by Russia – as a serious problem for the alliance. Boyes believes that the Turkish president should observe its membership conditions or leave the alliance, losing nuclear weapons from the Incirlik base, new F-35 jets, training of Turkish soldiers and intelligence sharing.

Take seriously Putin’s fear of encirclement and end the process of NATO enlargement

Boyes concludes: “The correct response to Putin, then, is a paradoxical one. It doesn’t mean shelving rigorous sanctions policies against Putin, and it doesn’t mean we should recognise his illegal annexation of Crimea.  It is to take seriously his fear of encirclement and end the process of Nato enlargement . . . to stay credible a defence alliance has to live within its means, stay alert and regain the will to act. That has to be better than the present enfeebled ambiguity”.

Dr Harlan Ullman, described as the principal creator of “shock and awe”, fears that Vladimir Putin is turning this concept against NATO and “understands well how to rattle us” but adds that “Mr Putin has no intent of starting a war or invading any NATO member”.

In the Financial Times he deplores “relatively tiny deployments of military forces to central and eastern Europe that will still not be complete for months” adding that “While these token forces may reassure Nato allies, it is unlikely that Mr Putin is impressed”.

He prescribes a variant of shock and awe to defend ”the easternmost allies”: providing large numbers of anti-aircraft and anti-armoured-vehicle shoulder-fired missiles and local forces that would make any incursion very costly. Ullman also believes that assigning a US or UK Trident or French ballistic missile submarine to NATO would be a significant signal, as Russia has a ‘shorter-range nuclear numerical advantage’.

Though both conclude that Russia has no aggressive intentions towards NATO they could go further and heed the advice of an FT reader to STOP:How about just stopping to provoke the Russians? Stop your ‘colour’ revolutions in Russia’s backyard, stop trying to roll NATO’s (Washington’s occupation forces for Europe) tanks on Russia’s doorstep and stop any economic warfare”.

 

 

 

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