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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NATO: ensuring stability and security? Or a real barrier to peace?

June 1, 2018

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Dr. Ian Davisnews about the May meeting of the NATO Military Committee in the alliance’s new headquarters in Brussels was followed by Peter Hitchens’ succinct reflection.

Chiefs of Staff discussed proposals that will go to the defence ministers of 29 countries at their NATO meeting in June and ultimately to alliance heads of state/government at the July NATO Summit. The meeting had four key sessions (summarised):

  • A ‘scene-setting’ discussion on the key strategic issues facing the alliance;
  • Security and stability in Europe’s southern neighbourhood, with a focus on instability and conflict in the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahel, as well as the continuing mission in Afghanistan.
  • Enhancing NATO’s deterrence and defence, including NATO-EU cooperation, especially in regard to military mobility, the reinforcement of the alliance maritime posture and the NATO Readiness Action Plan; and
  • Alliance modernisation with a focus on the proposed adapted command structure.

A pdf briefing may be accessed here.

Peter Hitchens writes:  

If NATO was dissolved tomorrow, you’d be amazed how peaceful Europe would become. The reason for its existence – the USSR – vanished decades ago.

We don’t keep up a huge alliance to protect us from the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Ottomans, or any other powers that have disappeared.

So why this one?

It was preserved to save the jobs and pensions of its staff. It was only expanded because American arms manufacturers were afraid they would lose business when the Cold War ended.

So they spent huge piles of cash lobbying the US Senate to back eastward expansion, as the New York Times uncovered.

Having survived and expanded, it needed something to do, and began to infuriate the Russians, and so that is where we now are.

If you look for trouble, you get it. 

SCROLL DOWN TOTHE SECOND ITEM: http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2018/03/peter-hitchens-the-patriotic-thought-police-came-for-corbyn-you-are-next.html

 

 

 

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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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Ministry for Peace initiative – recruiting

January 28, 2018

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“We must wage peace with sophistication and commitment just as we now wage war.” Marianne Williamson, US Department of Peace Initiative

In 2003 a bill was presented to Parliament to pave the way for the formation of a Ministry for Peace. Introducing his bill, Labour MP John McDonnell called for a new Government Department whose sole purpose would be to focus the resources of government on the promotion of peace and the eventual abolition of war. Diana Basterfield was active in organising meetings and a support network

In 2011 he set up and chaired the all-party group on conflict prevention and conflict resolution whose secretariat was provided by Engi. The group went into ‘abeyance’ seeking another way forward in 2016.

Jeremy Corbyn has revealed that he will appoint a minister for peace and disarmament if he becomes Prime Minister. The Labour leader outlined his plan in an hour-long documentary, directed by award-winning filmmaker Ken Loach, detailing his interactions with party supporters. A brief video on the subject may be seen here.

In November, Conscience met the Shadow Minister for Peace & Disarmament, Mr Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East at a meeting where many gathered to hear what a Minister for Peace & Disarmament would really do, what their role would consist of, and suggest their own thoughts on what the Minister’s remit should be.

A member of Scientists for Global Responsibility has forwarded information from Conscience, which campaigns for a progressive increase in the amount of UK tax spent on peacebuilding, and a corresponding decrease in the amount spent on war and preparation for war.

Conscience: Taxes for Peace not War is looking for someone to write an evidence-based academic paper on the pros and cons of having a Minister for Peace/Ministry for Peace in the UK based on experiences elsewhere and anticipated benefits here. The post will be fully funded by Conscience.

Details are here:

http://www.conscienceonline.org.uk/2018/01/conscience-is-hiring/

 

 

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The journey into world disorder: 14 years later – a downward spiral?

January 23, 2018

Extracts from the introduction*: Martin Bell writes

“This is a time for storm warnings if ever there was one. Some of those storms, of war and terrorism, are already breaking over us. We worry ourselves to bits about little and local issues ­footpaths, flight paths, career paths and the like, as if the conditions of peace and freedom, on which our societies depend for their normal functioning, are natural entitlements, which can safely be taken for granted  . . .

It is when war becomes a local issue that we really will have something to worry about. And it is worth remembering that in the end war always is a local issue, claiming individual lives in specific places. It is the trench or cellar or street or field where its victims, soldiers or civilians, breathe their last. It is the pilot who says, `I didn’t know who was there. I really didn’t care. You fall totally into execute mode and kill the target‘ . . .

“If we don’t blow ourselves into oblivion the quest for regime change, or whatever other military adventures attract our leaders, and if we don’t continue to go to war for its own sake, then future generations will look back on life in the Western democracies at the start of the twenty-first century, at least until 11 September 2001, as a sort of golden age, or fools’ paradise – depending on the strength of the hostile forces ranged against us.

From where I have been and what I have seen, my antennae tell me that the fools’ paradise theory is very much nearer the mark. The Second Gulf War, an exercise of raw power that applied the values of the Wild West to the relations between states, has sharpened the edge of the argument . . .

“We share with creatures who are in every respect less destructive than we are. With a few exceptions, the fiercest predator or venomous reptile kills only one at a time, for food or in self-defence, and is benign in relation to man.

“We kill our own more than any other species on earth, and we do it to the point of genocide. In the ratio of civilian to military casualties, the wars in the collapsed states of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have mocked the Geneva Conventions and victimized the innocent to an unprecedented degree.

“Weapons of mass destruction proliferate – and not only those in the hands of sovereign or rogue states. A passenger jet flown into a skyscraper is as much a weapon of mass destruction as a nuclear warhead. So is a sea mine rolled downhill into a village, or a 500 pound aircraft bomb bolted to a rocket and fired into a crowded city centre, or a mortar bomb aimed at a market place. These are not imagined examples. I have seen their effects at first hand  . . . 

“The Cold War was safer than this . . .

“Our way of life is defended by new and ever more ingenious ways of death. The sole remaining superpower seeks out its enemies and blasts them with the firepower of its missiles, drones, long-range bombers and carrier-based aircraft. By answering terror with counter-terror, it bids for the status of the world’s most hated nation. Too bad about the collateral damage and the needless taking of life. The higher the warplanes fly, the harder it is for their pilots to distinguish between a friend and a foe, an allied and an enemy reconnaissance vehicle (Iraq), a tank and a tractor (Kosovo), a terrorist cell and a wedding party (Afghanistan). The mark of Cain is upon us . . .

Language is another casualty

“When we speak of degrading an enemy’s assets, what we actually mean is killing people – the unarmed and the armed, the innocent and the guilty, blown to bits in the same high-explosive inferno. The same applies to `blue on blue’ or ‘friendly fire’ – the code for attacking our allies. Power and ignorance, like officers and maps, are a dangerous combination . . .

“The United Nations, the last best hope of mankind, is a forlorn cave of winds on New York’s First Avenue – invoked (when it is convenient to do so and bypassed when it isn’t

“The most vital issues of war and peace are resolved in something close to a state of anarchy. The rule of international law is whatever the White House, with an obedient echo from Downing Street, says that it is in the New American Century. ‘If we need to act we will act,’ said President Bush, `and we don’t need the approval of the United Nations to do so’ . . .

The war in Iraq, waged without a specific or sufficient United Nations mandate, was the sort of imperial enterprise that, in the sweep of history, belonged more to the nineteenth than the twenty-­first, century. It was gunboat diplomacy, conducted not with ships’ cannons, but with all the weapons of mass destruction that at the science of the new millennium can procure . . .

Our media, which should be informing us, are instead turning out the light and joining the stampede from reality in the blind and mad pursuit of commercial advantage, of profit without honour.

“The culture of celebrity, like an army of ants, has colonized the news pages both tabloid and broadsheet . . . Television is the god that failed . . . It has not yet become the worst that it can be, but it is working hard on the project and is still on a downward trajectory. Just when you think it has hit the bottom, it finds new depths to plumb.

“The outcome is that it serves us less as a window on the world than as a barrier to it. Its screen is only a screen in the original sense – something that blocks our view of what lies on the other side of it . . . and then, because we find these things strangely unreal (and they have already been censored by the `good taste brigade’ of broadcasting to stop them upsetting us too much), we take refuge in `reality TV’ and the bromides of Big Brother.

“Our reach has exceeded our grasp. Something is seriously out of joint. We are left with no heroes, but only celebrities. We need a survival strategy, but seem to lack enough of what it takes to put one together: understanding, courage, compassion, common sense, connectedness, care for each other, steadiness under fire and memory. 

“What follows is a journey through the new world disorder Better fasten your seat belts. This could be a rough ride.”

 

 

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*THROUGH GATES OF FIRE – A journey into World Disorder, by Martin Bell, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003


The overriding moral imperative: to avoid war

August 20, 2017

In the Financial Times recently Dr Jenny Clegg wrote: “The overriding moral imperative has to be to avoid war. The preservation of the international multilateral system requires it”.

She added, “Britain is in a position to exercise some influence here . . . At the moment, other world leaders are calling for calm, with German chancellor Angela Merkel saying clearly that she sees no military solution to the conflict, but we hear nothing from UK prime minister Theresa May”.

Dr Clegg points out that Russia and China have called for North Korea to put its nuclear and missile programmes on hold, while the US and South Korea cease their joint military exercises. The aim is to create an atmosphere more conducive to the resumption of the six-party talks, in line once again with the latest UN resolution.

Two days later, on August 17th, Brian Eno, Bruce Kent, Mark Rylance, Emma Dent Coad and Michael Rosen were among the signatories to a letter calling for Theresa May to exert diplomatic pressure on Donald Trump to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Last November, RAF Mildenhall announced that the Royal Air Force took part for the first time in military exercises on the Korean peninsula alongside the US and South Korean military.

Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, the RAF chief of air staff; Lt. Gen. Won, In-Choul, the South Korean Air Force Operations Command commander; and Lt. Gen Thomas W. Bergeson, 7th Air Force commander, participated in a media event for Invincible Shield at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 8, 2016

The civilised echo Dr Clegg’s call: “Will Theresa May now take the step to support the “freeze for freeze” by ruling out committing any armed forces, including for joint exercises, in the region?”

Dr Jenny Clegg (Chorlton, Manchester, UK) is a senior lecturer in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Central Lancashire. She first visited China in the 1970s and has followed developments there closely ever since. Her published work includes ‘China’s Global Strategy: towards a multipolar world’ (Pluto Press, 2009), and ‘Fu Manchu and the ‘Yellow Peril’: the making of a racist myth’ (Trentham Books, 1994). She has produced a number of publications on China’s rural reforms as well as foreign relations.

 

 

 

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