The paradox of disarmament


The latest CPNN bulletin illustrates clearly the paradox of disarmament. On the one hand, there seems to be no progress at all, and then we see what seems like a “breakthrough” in the agreement to inspect and destroy the chemical arms of Syria. Immediately, a Nobel Peace Prize is awarded!

But is it really a breakthrough? I don’t think so. Look at the other articles this month. There is no progress in nuclear disarmament. Even the Arms Trade Treaty that was drafted by the UN this spring with apparent support from the major countries, now seems useless, as senators in the US refuse to allow it to be ratified.

How can we explain this?

The explanation is simple. Over the centuries the nation-state has come to monopolize war. Only the state has the “right” to make war. Hence, the state does whatever is needed to ensure that weapons do not fall into the hands of non-state actors. That’s why the urgent agreement on the chemical arms in Syria; with the disintegration of the state during the civil war, it seemed likely that the chemical weapons would fall into the hands of terrorist groups, and it was urgent to prevent this from happening.

The state’s monopoly on war is its fundamental power, its “sovereign prerogative.” This was clearly expressed by the researcher for the International Peace Bureau in the CPNN article this month: “It is counter intuitive that a state would educate its own population to question its sovereign prerogatives, and the author was not optimistic of finding a genuine disarmament education program run by a state.”

Although military force is usually justified by the state as being needed to defend itself against foreign powers, its ultimate value for the state is to suppress internal opposition to its power.   It is for this reason, rather than external defense, that the culture of war is an essential aspect of the nation-state.  I have described this in detail for the case of the United States in the article I wrote for the Journal of Peace Research, Internal military intervention in the United States.

The effort by states to prevent “terrorist groups” from obtaining weapons of mass destruction is ironic. We must ask “what was the greatest example of terrorism in our time?” How can we avoid the fact that the greatest terrorist attack in world history was the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? What are nuclear weapons except terrorist weapons? They are not useful in ordinary warfare. Instead, they are the “ultimate terrorist weapon.” They hold the entire enemy country hostage, threatening to wipe out its civilian population. That’s why they are not an effective counter to terrorist groups, because the terrorists have no civilian population that can be destroyed.

All terrorist acts committed since Hiroshema and Nagasaki are pale by comparison, including the destruction of the World Trade Towers in 2001. And all terrorist threats pale by comparison to the MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) policies of the US and Soviet Union during the Cold War, each threatening to destroy the civilian population of the other.

Since the culture of war is essential to the state, we need to seek another system of governance.  This is why, in my books such as World Peace through the Town Hall, I advocate a new world system with the United Nations based on regional representation of city governments (See my blog of August 2013). City governments, unlike the nation-state, have no militaries, no military contracts, no borders to defend, hence no interest in the culture of war or its terrorist manifestations.