Diana Francis

From Pacification to Peacebuilding
Chapter 4

Having devoted my first three chapters to conflict-transformation practice in the recent past and the present, I will now take a broader, more conceptual and analytical look at the global context: the big sea in which the little conflict-transformation boat is bobbing precariously and making slow progress.

In doing this I will outline what I see as two very different orientations to life and the systems and policies that they produce. I will argue that, although they are everywhere intertwined and one will never displace the other, the balance between them and the ways they are expressed will need to change if we are to make any major and lasting impact on the violence currently besetting the peoples of the world, and to achieve real progress in building positive peace.

Peace And Militarism

In the last chapter I suggested that there is already a global movement of people who come from different backgrounds and cultures yet nevertheless hold common values, and in their own ways carry forward the work of conflict transformation. Such work, as I argued in Chapter 1, is based on the assumptions that equal respect should be accorded to all and that cooperation for inclusive solutions is more effective for good than the endless struggle for domination and win–lose outcomes.

But the values of conflict transformation and of the kind of peacebuilding it envisions, though they are present in all cultures, are often undermined and overshadowed by radically different ones, which tend (perhaps unsurprisingly) to dominate. Here lies the heart of the dilemma: How can a value system that wishes to avoid domination avoid being dominated? How can inclusiveness include the non-inclusive? So although the work of conflict transformation receives support from high places, and ‘conflict prevention’ and ‘the peaceful resolution of conflict’ are promoted by governments, those governments usually spend vastly more money on building and maintaining military forces.
Some rich nations spend astronomical sums on waging wars in other countries, using violence on a grand scale and fuelling the desire of others to be ‘in the same league’ – that is, to achieve enough destructive power to be less susceptible to bullying (and perhaps better able to bully).

Militarisation of this kind results from the embedded structures and culture of militarism, which is first and foremost the militarisation of the mind:1 the entrenchment of a worldview that sees all things military as playing a key role in collective relationships, and embraces military power as a route to dominance and control. It is this militarisation of minds that makes fitness to be commander in chief an acid test for a US presidential candidate. It is this that makes governments opt for military ‘solutions’ that are in fact tailor-made for catastrophe. It is this that allows them to spend obscene amounts of money on destruction rather than well-being: an estimated global total of $1.2 trillion per annum2 on arms and armies, while millions lack adequate food, medicine and education. It is this that hides otherwise evident contradictions, and prompts the grieving mother of a murdered youth to tell a newspaper,3 as evidence of how peaceful he was, that he was going to join the army cadets.

‘Demilitarisation’ is a term usually applied to situations in which there has been armed conflict. In such contexts the need for it is apparently self-evident. But the wider prevalence of militarism and the need for the demilitarisation of global thinking and relationships seems less obvious – perhaps because this form of militarisation is so all-enveloping and profound.

Recent years have been marked by military interventions by Western powers, with the objective (whether declared or not) of achieving regime change and hegemony. In such contexts the term ‘peacebuilding’ has been used by them to indicate the things they then want to see happen. But these invasions have been followed by notional settlements only, without an end to hostilities, so that the term begins to invite scepticism and becomes difficult to associate with local self-determination. Similarly, the word has acquired military connotations that sit uneasily with its core meaning, and are related to the notion of security. ‘Security’, in turn, has been militarised to mean (more often than not) armed protection and control and the establishment of a newly-fashioned state’s monopoly of violence. And this is predicated on the approval and ‘assistance’ of those powerful outside governments whose capacity for violence is taken to give them the right to support, control or remove a regime.

The word ‘human’ has usefully been added to ‘security’ to counter this militarised notion of it. In the situations I have just outlined, other aspects of human security – for instance, continuous power and water supplies; the rights of the female half of the population to participate fully in their own society; the possibility of earning a living; and the rights of the population as a whole to benefit from the country’s wealth – are addressed woefully inadequately.

Protection from lawlessness and violence would, I am sure, come high on anyone’s list of human security needs. But it is usually assumed that it is military violence that must be the means of achieving that security, which in practice does not end militarisa- tion but reinforces it; it certainly does not facilitate the restoration of relationships and mutual accommodation that can provide the basis for the building of lasting peace.

I would argue that this kind of approach should be seen not as peacebuilding, but as pacification, and that it arises from a radically different worldview, as suggested in the Fig. 4.1,4 which will be explained and then discussed under a variety of headings. One side represents peacebuilding, as approached through the attitudes, assumptions and choices of conflict transformation; the other side represents the pacification model.

Two Worldviews

In Fig. 4.1 I have represented the idea that people’s orientation towards others is fundamental to their approach to life: whether they see themselves and others as bound together in a relationship of interdependence, of needing each other; or as obeying the so-called law of the jungle, in which they must ‘eat-or-be-eaten’. This starting point provides the pivotal orientation for social and political life, opening out like a fan and leading to very different notions of peace and of how it can be achieved. As I see it, peacebuilding, as understood within conflict transformation, begins from the worldview in which interdependence is the point of departure, orientating people and institutions towards peacebuilding as cooperation, while the worldview that sees life as a matter of eating or being eaten leads to what I have termed ‘pacification’.

An orientation to life that is grounded in the notion of interdependence will lead to the values of respect and care for all, while a sense of life’s being a matter simply of the ‘survival of the fittest’ will lead to the primary value of success for oneself or one’s own group. If one’s understanding of relationships is based on a sense of interdependence, and one’s primary goal is the well-being of all, power will be conceived chiefly in terms of the ability to achieve that goal cooperatively, through the pooling of resources. In the eat-or-be-eaten model, it will be understood as a contest for control or domination.

I would argue that the interdependence model brings with it a sense of reality as complex and shifting, as a matter of relationships and processes in which an ‘outcome’ is simply a moment in something that continues, rather than something fixed. On the other side, reality is something to try and fix, or at least control, and is therefore viewed hierarchically, in the sense of ‘being on top’ of things. These contrasting approaches have huge consequences for how conflict and change are understood and treated. On the right-hand side conflict tends to be understood as a binary affair, whose sides are in themselves monolithic and framed by those who have positioned themselves to control them. On the left-hand side conflict appears multifaceted – a complex of different actors and issues that cannot be controlled, but can be worked with.

From the perspective of the eat-or-be-eaten side of things, if the status quo is conducive to ‘business as usual’, conflict must if possible be prevented; but it must be waged vigorously if that is seen as necessary to the protection of entrenched interests. Either way, it is a matter of control, and violence may be thought necessary. People are instruments of goals, and as such are expendable.

From the ‘true peacebuilding’ perspective on the left, conflict is seen as potentially constructive, and often necessary for changing the things that are unjust. Constructive conflict seeks solutions that address the rights and needs of all who are involved. Violence goes against the value of inclusive respect for people and for life, so nonviolent methods must be used. Coercion, if and when it is used, must be temporary, and must not inflict lasting harm. It should open the way to dialogue. True peacebuilders will be broadly positive in their approach to international bodies and regulations, since these are potentially instruments of cooperation . However, they will want to see the principles of fairness, nonviolence and inclusion – the hallmarks of positive peace – applied to the structure and workings of these institutions.

Pacifiers, on the other hand, will be unwilling to be fully committed to bodies and regulations that could compete with their own interests. Their approach to them will be conditional, and they will tend to use them when doing so will serve their own ends (as we saw in the run-up to the Iraq war, when the US and UK tried to ‘persuade’ other countries to support the invasion, and went ahead without a UN resolution when they failed).

The notions of peace that emerge from these two tendencies are, unsurprisingly, very different. Those who see the world through the lenses of interdependence understand peace as grounded in – even consisting of – what Adam Curle calls ‘peaceful relationships’:5 those characterised by justice, mutual care and the cooperative exercise of power and responsibility. And from this standpoint a peaceful society would be informed by a ‘constructive conflict culture’6 that was translated into customs and institutions, and that excluded the use of violence.

On the pacification side, peace is understood in terms of hegemonic stability, hierarchically managed, which in the first place meets the economic and political interests of those who control it, though its beneficiaries may seek to justify it in terms of ‘trickle-down’ benefits for others. Conflict should not rear its ugly head: it must be kept down or extinguished through the monopoly of violence.

From the peacebuilding perspective, positive peace will include a caring approach to other species and to our planet, which together constitute our wider family and our home. On the pacification side, the planet is a resource to be exploited, and the universe is out there to be conquered.

At the heart of this analysis lies the question of gender. These two approaches bear a direct relationship to the way gender is constructed (rather than to genetic differences between the sexes). In the constructions of gender that are globally dominant, femininity is associated with softness and mutuality, and masculinity with the power to coerce and control. Masculinity equals machismo, and its archetype is the warrior. These cultural constructs involve the glorification of violent strength and male domination over women. It is no accident that war has been associated with the violation of women. (All to often, women have accommodated themselves to their lot and joined in the perpetuation of these constructions, by the way they raise their children – male and female – with dire consequences for both.) The issue of gender (like that of militarism itself) is so huge, pervasive and complex that, paradoxically, it easily becomes invisible. But until its profound importance is taken for granted and incorporated at the heart of our theory, and until it is addressed in serious and radical ways, we shall be unable to move from pacification to peacebuilding.7

Fig. 4.1 and the ideas it represents invite all kinds of criticism, the first of which may be that it is in itself polarising and confrontational, inviting a contest between these two orientations, and so contradicting the spirit of ‘true peacebuilding’. When this was first pointed out to me I found it ironic and discomfiting. I later remembered Michael Billig’s thesis that thinking always involves arguing, setting one thing against another,8 and I choose to frame this apparent contradiction as a ‘paradox’ (and therefore something to be accepted and enjoyed). That does not, however, let me off the philosophical hook, and indicates real tensions and challenges.

There is another fundamental objection to be made, which is that this kind of dichotomising is deeply misleading, because in practice all these approaches and tendencies are mixed together. These two orientations are not really discrete, either in themselves or in their expressions in policy and practice. Rather, different institutions and people will tend more to one than the other, and most – probably all – will combine them. I accept that; but at the same time I believe that thinking about them as fundamentally different orientations, each with its own logic, can be helpful. I would argue that the mixtures and contradictions between them should give us serious pause for thought, in the first place to help us to anatomise the way we all think, and in the second place to consider from a different angle the goals that we have and how we might be most likely to achieve them.

Addressing Violence: Dilemmas And Ethics

Those engaged in pacification often wear peacebuilders’ clothes, covering themselves with the benign language of ‘humanitarian intervention’, ‘peacekeepers’, ‘peace enforcers’, ‘force’, ‘strength’, ‘liberal interventionism’, ‘security’, ‘normalisation’, ‘regime change’, ‘nation-building’ and so on. ‘Peace is our profession’ says the army. Similarly, the ugliest elements of pacification are hidden by the airbrushing-out of casualties in opposing armies and civilian populations. Yet many soldiers have a serious moral commitment to what they do; and genuine peacekeeping, whether it is carried out by soldiers or by civilians, can create a space for peacebuilding.

On the other side, all of us who work in the world of conflict transformation and are committed to peacebuilding are, whether we like it or not, caught up in the world of pacification. Some of us work alongside armies, and many of my colleagues will feel that I have divided things in too sharp a way, believing that there is a necessary role for the military. They will, for instance, refer to the ‘responsibility to protect’ and will argue that ‘peace enforcement’ can be necessary, for the general good.

Both those engaged in pacification and those who work for true peacebuilding are confronted with the dilemma of uncontrolla- ble violence and situations in which they fail to find any effective response. And the lack of any kind of positive peace (the goal of peacebuilders) is often the ground for the kind of escalating disturbances that both pacifiers and peacebuilders fear, and that need to be addressed. This may involve conflict, if only of a nonviolent kind. At the same time, conflict is a disruptive and risky business, and is sometimes wrong-headed and unnecessary. Most of us dislike it for good reasons.

In the currently dominant paradigm of eat-or-be-eaten, greed and grievance are two sides of same coin.9 Some may fight because war makes them rich, and some may do so because they suffer from the greed of others. The sad reality is that most of those harmed by violent conflict had no interest in it – they only suffer from it.

Ethical systems usually give a high place to altruism, and ‘greed’, by definition, is a pejorative word, whose only association with ethics is negative. Part of my subtext is that peacebuilding is more ethical than pacification; but I can see that altruism is not the exclusive domain of the left-hand side of Fig. 4.1, since the eat- or-be-eaten perspective might involve courageous loyalty to one’s own, as well as being expressed in a more expansive commitment to humanity. But in this case the scope of altruism is limited, and its impulse and direction, one might argue, distorted or limited. The collective that is the object of such partisan altruism could be seen as an extended version of the self.

Yet partisan allegiances are also part of conflict transforma- tion, as people mobilise and take action for change, disturbing the apparently calm surface of the ‘interdependence’ model. Here we have the double paradox that pacifiers hate conflict but embrace war, while peacebuilders (in my analysis at least) hate war but embrace conflict. Since we live in unpeace, radical change is essential if we are ever to get beyond fire-fighting, and this will necessitate ‘constructive conflict’.

At the same time, it is clear that a degree of stability is necessary for lives to be lived and for new forms and patterns to emerge and become established. Can we shake up social arrangements at the same time as building them? Stability can in any case never be absolute, since its maintenance requires continuous effort and adjustment, and change is continual. Moreover, the process of active participation is fundamental to peace, which is why it needs to be understood as an ongoing process rather than a fixed state.

Security (which, of course, can never be permanent) does imply a tolerable degree of stability, if – and this is a big if – the existing situation does meet people’s needs. But ‘stability’ achieved by dominatory methods is inherently unstable. The pressure-cooker effect renders it so. Stable governance requires consent.

As we have seen, conflict transformation is concerned with addressing the causes of conflict, actual and potential, which may mean bringing hidden conflict into the open when it is only latent, confronting oppression and injustice nonviolently. This involves taking sides on what is at issue, assuming a moral position, and entering into what can be seen as a competitive power dynamic. The daily violence of severe economic or social exclusion, or chronic direct violence in streets or in homes, is as much in need of an effective response as an invasion or a terrorist attack. And, as with any kind of violence or conflict, the goal will be to achieve the inclusion of all in a just outcome.

How can violent power be countered when power disparity makes dialogue impossible? How can a space be created for the negotiation of peaceful relationships? What kind of power can be deployed by the apparently weaker side? Coercion cannot itself build peace, but in some circumstances and some moments coercion may play a role in creating the space for peace to be built. Within the framework of transformative peacebuilding, where a marginalised group would not otherwise be listened to or where coercive (or lethal) power is used or threatened by another, coercion can be one element in creating a route to dialogue and creating the circumstances for future cooperation and positive peace.

Is There A Role For Violence In Building Peace?

As I have suggested, ‘humanitarian intervention’ is not without its supporters in the world of conflict transformation; indeed, it has gained new momentum under the current banner of the ‘responsibility to protect’. In the past, the primacy of state authority had been accepted as precluding external interference; but more recently, and rightly, there has been a growing concern with the responsibility of human beings to stop terrible things being done to each other. Surely there are situations in which the processes of peacebuilding and conflict transformation are impossible, and where decisive action is needed?

But what is described as ‘humanitarian intervention’ is usually nothing of the sort.10 Militarism is part of the eat-or-be-eaten paradigm, and military action is rarely taken for purely humanitarian reasons – particularly by the powers with the greatest military resources, which often collude with some of the most corrupt and despotic regimes. In cases where there is no vested interest to motivate serious intervention, humanitarian disasters – both chronic and acute – are regularly ignored, or addressed in shamefully inadequate ways.

Furthermore, the effect of military assault and invasion (inhumane in themselves) is not usually to build peace. Unless the task is to police a peace that is already more or less in place (as the UK did in Sierra Leone and the US did in Liberia), and to do so by agreement, there will always be the serious risk that ‘decisive force’ is not in fact decisive, and a high chance that the intervention will become an ongoing war. Even in the short term, violent intervention may only intensify the violence against those whose protection is the declared aim of the exercise.

Thus, as I have pointed out elsewhere,11 and as BBC reporter Bridget Kendal noted recently,12 the killing of Albanian Kosovars, despite the impression so often given to the contrary, rather than being stopped, was in fact hugely escalated in response to NATO’s ‘intervention’ – and was followed, in the true spirit of warfare, by the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Serbs, Roma and other minorities. Military ‘solutions’ in Kosovo and East Timor followed years of neglect and failure to give serious support of any kind to those resisting tyranny – whether by diplomatic persuasion, preventing weapons from reaching the oppressors, or creating economic incentives for change. The outcomes of invasion in both cases, many years on, remain depressing in many ways (quite apart from the high levels of violence, including rapes, that were suffered by the local population at the time, along with the other ills of occupation, such as the displacement of local actors and the distortion of the economy).

‘National security’ is the other banner under which military invasion is justified. It is hard to imagine that security can in fact be furthered by such means, and there is plenty of recent evidence to counter that claim. Equally, it is unlikely that terrorism can enhance anyone’s safety. Both war and terrorism are attacks on the security of human beings, and are profoundly unjust and destructive in their impact. Victory in either case is not only unpredictable but necessarily pyrrhic. In the words of Yugoslav graffiti, ‘To the victor go the spoils, and the spoils are a heap of ashes’.

All the arguments that are marshalled to justify war gloss over its hideous reality: death and mutilation on a massive scale; bereavement and trauma; destruction of habitat, livelihood and infrastructure; displacement; and lawlessness – with the privatised violence of kidnap, murder, rape, domestic assaults and the further disempowerment of women, new feuds and power struggles, hatred, and despair. This is hardly the stuff of peacebuilding.

Citing Bosnia, Edward Luttwak argues that what he would describe as half-hearted military intervention cannot work, but will leave behind a situation in which war could start again at any time. His logic is that, without real and determined national interest expressed in a fully imperial way – that is, as a complete takeover – there cannot be a new and lasting regime; and if there is not the will for such a takeover it is better to let local forces fight through to a decisive victory.13 This is pacification par excellence; but it does not necessarily work, even in its own narrow terms, as is woefully clear in Iraq and Afghanistan, which may be seen as sufficiently imperial test cases.

Peace and democracy cannot be imposed by guns and bombs, but only built through practice. To try to crush violence with greater violence is to sow the seeds not of harmony and cooperation, but of more violence to come – even if, for a while, that violence is hidden behind house doors, where the sexual violence that is part of the fighting continues within families. Furthermore, future violence cannot be ruled out: those who have lost may in time regroup and begin to fight back in new ways. There has been no accommodation or building of trust because a win–lose outcome has been brought about by invasion, which has not resulted in locally owned peace, but has given another vigorous spin to the wheel of violence.

In situations brought about by violent intervention, ‘peacebuilding’ becomes a post-violence exercise, rather than a step in the process of conflict transformation. When, as in Afghanistan, pacificatory action has been taken and a programme of peacebuilding is declared, international organisations that are devoted to conflict transformation can find themselves in a difficult moral position. The situation that has now been created cries out more than ever for peacebuilding. Yet this peacebuilding will be contaminated, in local eyes, by its association with invasion and occupation, and the ongoing violence will make it very difficult. Any work to try to achieve it can also be seen as supplying a fig-leaf to cover the naked aggression of war, lending credence to its justification and making future wars more likely. This is a dilemma for NGOs, whether local or international. It can be compounded when the funding for proposed peacebuilding work actually comes from the governments that have directed the invasion.

Moving straight from war to peacebuilding is like trying to step from a boat to distant dry land without any kind of bridge. In conflict transformation, the post-settlement stage of peacebuilding is based on the capacities for peace developed in earlier stages of the conflict and through the resolution process. When ‘regime change’ has been brought about by war, there has been no resolution process, only ‘winning’, and local capacities have been destroyed or swept aside. In such circumstances of extreme discontinuity, the social and political fabric is torn apart and the foreign presence, both military and civilian, occupies centre-stage.

I have witnessed this in Kosovo, where most old colleagues, if they were lucky, were given ‘bit parts’ in the new show, working in humble capacities in international organisations, and were ‘let go’ once those organisations began to cut staff. In the few cases where former activists have been drawn into elevated positions following an invasion, they have consequently been lost to grassroots leadership, cut off from their former colleagues, to operate in a context that is still highly militarised.

For peace to be built, it is necessary for conflicting groups to negotiate the means of coexistence, and for military factions to be dissolved or converted into political parties. Military occupation is unlikely to promote demilitarisation and genuine accommodation of this kind, and in the end it is only local people who can build and sustain peace.

Terrible violence continues in Africa (especially in the DRC and Sudan) and lives continue to be devastated, despite the efforts of the African Union, with some support from other countries or from the UN. Indeed, the conflicts are so complex and state structures so weak or irrelevant that it is hard to see how any top-down solution could be applied.
Even if we wished to do so, we would not have the capacity to deploy forces to protect human rights around the world. The UN is only as strong and well resourced as its member-states can or will make it. Nor would such a pax Romana, or perpetual military pacification, constitute the kind of global peacebuilding we need, even if emergency protection is sometimes necessary. Genuine peacebuilding and effective human rights protection need to be home-grown, even where they need support, and will thereby be far more effective than military measures.

Can People Power Meet The Challenge?

Rather than thinking about more and bigger armies, under whatever command, we should be giving serious attention to capacity-build- ing for peace and human rights around the world. When we see an abject population driven hither and thither by violence, we should be asking ourselves some profound questions about their powerlessness and vulnerability, and the ways in which these are reproduced. It is precisely peacebuilding that is needed, not ‘peace enforcement’ – which is a contradiction in terms, particularly where ‘enforcement’ is carried out violently.

In such circumstances, participatory peacebuilding would need to include the most basic elements of development, with empowering education (including new thinking on gender) at the top of the list. For there to be positive peace, in the sense of general well-being and peaceful relationships, there is a need for transformation: personal, cultural and structural. If the rich nations that are able help are to have any moral legitimacy internationally, or indeed the capacity to help support such a transformation, they too need to transform their own social attitudes and economic and political policies, and to take peacebuilding seriously, for what it is.

But surely, sometimes, coercion will still be needed? As I have outlined above, I believe that the power of violence to make good things happen is fictional, though its capacity to coerce through pain and destruction, and through the threat of them, is all too real. Yet there remains the question of how to stop bad things happening for long enough to be able to do good. Can nonviolence do this?

If the principle of not harming others is adhered to, and if the goal of nonviolent coercive action is the good of all (including those who are currently being confronted), there is no contradiction in principle between nonviolent coercion and interdependence. I am not convinced that nonviolence is ever truly coercive, or indeed that it needs to be. Its power lies more in its psychological than its physical effects. So-called ‘direct action’ (such as occupying seats in a segregated café, or damaging the control panel of a bomber aircraft) is indeed direct in its nature, but its power for change is not restricted to its nuisance value, but extends also to its symbolic power. In both cases, to be sure, there is an economic cost involved, but the opportunity of presenting a justification in court, of raising public awareness and of pricking consciences is far more important.

Non-cooperation with wrongdoing is a key principle of non-violence, and it is the most powerful tool of ‘direct’ or supposedly coercive action. It may express itself visibly, on the streets. For instance, rulers may be deposed by the sheer force of the numbers of people demonstrating their unwillingness to accept their rule by surrounding a parliament. But their power lies not so much in keeping politicians out or in, as in winning over others so that they too withdraw their support. Governments can govern only with the consent (whether active or passive) or their people. Withdrawal of labour can, in itself, bring a regime to its knees. As we have all too often seen, removing a ruler or a regime does not in itself build peace, but it may create an opportunity for peace to be built.

Although, by definition, nonviolence does not inflict violence in any direct way, given that it carries real power, it is essential to its nature and necessary to peacebuilding that it is harnessed for purposes that are respectful, caring and inclusive, and that it is employed in a manner that is assertive rather than aggressive. The question of ‘just causes’ and related issues will be discussed, among others, in Chapter 6, where I will reflect further on the power of nonviolence and take a radical look at the very notion of power. I will underline the argument I have already suggest here – namely, that coercion, though it may in extreme cases be crucial, nonetheless has a limited role to play, and that confrontation itself may often be the least effective means of transformation.

Disarmament And Demilitarisation Of Existing Security Systems

One of the reasons why nonviolent action requires such courage is the large quantity of armaments in existing systems, both official and unofficial. The world is awash with weapons. This is the current reality: one that needs to change, with all that this means for the arms economy. Currently, nonviolent assertiveness has to take place in a militarised context. This means that a process of disarmament must be one goal of global conflict transformation. In the meantime, is it possible for people’s security to be protected, when necessary, by unarmed forces, whether they are operating at home or abroad? (I will discuss in Chapter 6 the risk incurred by nonviolent activists who choose to assert their own and other people’s rights in the face of violent systems and in violent situations.)

I am old enough to have seen the gradual increase in the use of firearms by police that has taken place in my own society: a trend resisted by older police officers. Even now, most policing is carried out by unarmed officers, and I believe that most of my fellow citizens, like me, feel safer if they see unarmed rather than armed police on the streets. When, as happens occasionally, an armed person is holding a victim hostage, the police almost always disarm that person and release his (or occasionally her) prisoner unharmed without resort to arms. It seems probable that those carrying out criminal activities have themselves carried guns more often, as police practice has changed. If this is accepted, it is clear that it is necessary to de-escalate and reverse the trend, however difficult that may be.

I would suggest that both in countries that are ‘at peace’ and in places where a transition is needed from armed violence to established peace, it is possible to offer protection without resort to lethal weapons. Unless police, like armies, are to become involved in shoot-outs, their power lies very largely in the respect in which they are held, the consent of the majority in upholding their power, and their skill in defusing aggression and persuading miscreants to submit. Playing their role in this way will entail some risk, but so does engaging in shoot-outs, and there can be no doubt that there is greater readiness to shoot an armed person than an unarmed one.

Occasionally, those who are charged with maintaining order and security may resort to immobilising those who threaten them, or who become a threat to themselves or others, by using the physical restraint techniques they are trained in. Can immobilising weapons play a role in peacekeeping or policing, without causing permanent harm either to people or to relationships? This is a knife-edge question for me. When I watch a nature programme on television and see a huge and dangerous animal felled instantly by a tranquil- lising dart, recovering later with no apparent ill effects, I wonder how we can have developed the ability to do this with other species and not our own – as if their well-being mattered more to us (in these contexts, at least).

I know how easily non-lethal but highly coercive weapons can become instruments of tyranny by police, and how much pain they can inflict. Perhaps research would be useful into possible means of humane disabling in highly exceptional circumstances. However, for those circumstances to be highly exceptional and for the object of the research to be sincerely compassionate, it would be necessary for the norms within which such use was contemplated to be nonviolent. And I believe that this would need to be seen as an interim objective within a more radical disarmament process.

This whole uncomfortable interface between pacification and peacebuilding requires serious, committed attention from all those who wish to shift our global systems and culture from one paradigm to the other. Practitioners of nonviolence around the world will have much to offer to the building of knowledge and thought in this area.

Peacebuilding And International Relations

States that are internally democratic and peaceful (relatively speaking) can be the least democratic and peaceful – the most prone to pacification – in their external relations. This seems to escape popular notice for much of the time, because it is so familiar a pattern, so hidden by comforting and rationalising language, and because its effects occur so far from home. As I have already noted, the mode of operation of the US and the UK within the United Nations points to a desire to use and manipulate it for their own purposes rather than to cooperate with others, in a consensual manner, for the good of all, and to uphold the rule of international law. Our preference for unilateral military action over global solidarity and cooperation puts us at odds with democracy, just as our policy of nuclear armament contradicts our insistence that other countries should not acquire or develop nuclear weapons.

The culture that prevails within our democratic systems is mixed. Our governments can be seen both as agents of control and as vehicles for cooperative action. The way multi-party democracies work, however, is often highly antagonistic. Politicians gain ascendancy by undermining the credibility of others, rather than by offering realistic and principled policies that people are likely to support. Election campaigns have the rhetoric and bitterness of wars.

Within governments, different tendencies often predominate in different departments. For instance, the UK the Department for International Development (DFID) is influenced by peacebuilding, while the dubiously-named ‘Ministry of Defence’ (MOD) can, generally speaking, be located on the pacification side. (The Prime Minister’s Office will have its own style and focus, determined by the incumbent of the day.) Foreign policy, as pursued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), takes a diplomatic rather than a military approach. Establishing constructive relationships is an important part of its work, sometimes with recommendations for exerting influence through the use of ‘sticks and carrots’. The FCO can thus be seen as straddling the two sides of Fig. 4.1. Doubtless, these differing tendencies could be attributed to departments and positions in other governments, as well as to different intergovern- mental institutions, both regional and international.

Foreign policy, as its name suggests, is predicated on the notion of one state in relation to others, those others being seen and described as foreigners. We are ‘us’ and they are ‘them’, and our interests come first. This formulation fits into the ‘pacification’ side of things, though I am sure that those responsible for it also take interdependence or mutual interests seriously, in some instances and relationships, if not all. But there is the rub: mutuality of interests in this context is conditional on particular circumstances, rather than being seen as universal.

The ethical norms and goals implicit in a more radical understanding of peacebuilding and conflict transformation are not at the heart of UK foreign policy. In this the UK is, of course, not alone. Doubtless, most if not all governments reassure their people that their foreign policy is designed to further national interests. In any case, in the UK at least, the rhetoric of self-interest has traditionally been regarded as a vote-winner. The announced intention some years ago of the then-Foreign Secretary Robin Cook of pursuing an ‘ethical foreign policy’ had an air of novelty about it, but was followed by disappointment and cynicism on the part of those who longed for such an approach.

Whether a majority of the electorate would currently support a truly ethical foreign policy is another matter. The notion of ‘enlightened self-interest’ has the appearance of offering the best of both worlds and of leaning towards the notion of interdependence. Nonetheless, national interests prevail, albeit sometimes disguised as humanitarian or global ones, and on occasion combined with genuine (if not overriding) concerns of a more altruistic nature. Truly enlightened self-interest would be founded in the notion of interdependence, and would not be in any way at odds with a truly ethical foreign policy.

In its current publicity, the FCO advertises policy goals on conflict that are to ‘counter terrorism, weapons proliferation and their causes; prevent and resolve conflict’. But these policy goals are either disingenuous in presentation, or surprisingly lacking in insight. The UK government is determined to retain and ‘modernise’ its own weapons, including nuclear weapons, thereby helping to perpetuate the arms race and providing the incentive for other countries to join in. The UK is one of the world’s major arms exporters, imposing only very few restrictions on itself, in the most convenient of ways. It is also a country that has seemed second only to the US in its willingness to engage in violent conflict, creating enemies around the world. These pacificatory policies run counter to other more constructive behaviours, and suggest rather little attention to the notion of interdependence.

The UK government supports some genuine conflict-transforma- tion initiatives and programmes. However, its current key phrases are ‘prevention’; ‘mitigating, winning, resolving’; ‘stabilisation’; and ‘consolidation’.14 The presence of the word ‘winning’ in this collection is both honest and significant, making it clear that the thinking behind the words is related to perceived national interest and the UK’s own possible involvement in the conflicts in question. It suggests that, where national interest is involved, UK action on conflict is in sharp contradiction to the values and methods of conflict transformation. ‘Prevention’, ‘mitigating’ and ‘stabilisation’ indicate that the (presumably) violent conflicts of others are undesirable, whereas ours may be fought and won. (‘Losing’ is of course not part of the picture.) ‘Resolving’ is, I imagine, therefore, intended largely for the conflicts of others.

If conflict resolution is indubitably right for others, why is it not always right for us? Whereas it is easy for a disinterested third party to see that a ‘win–win’ solution may be desirable from a broader perspective, when it comes to one’s own conflict, if there is a likelihood of all-out victory this will tend to be seen as preferable to a solution negotiated in a process predicated on equality and give-and-take. That is indeed the logic of working ‘in the national interest’. If it is to be countered, then ethics need to come into play more forcefully, and the notion of interdependence, with all that it implies, must be brought to the fore. (Renaming ‘foreign policy’ as ‘international policy’ – and meaning it – would be a good beginning.) The understanding of national self-interest requires radical re-examination and debate, both public and academic, around the world. It has gone unchallenged for far too long.

States And The Limitations To Their Sovereignty

While local peace needs to be built primarily by local inhabitants, it is increasingly evident that security anywhere is dependent on security everywhere. Peacebuilding cannot, in the end, be piecemeal: it needs to be a global process. The most direct impact from global unpeace is that of hegemonic interference by big states in the affairs of smaller ones, whether through invasion or more subtle forms of military or political action.

As we have seen, wherever NGOs are working to support peacebuilding and conflict transformation they are aware of the influence of powers and forces that are beyond their scope. Yet by and large (though with notable exceptions) they continue to try to address internal conflicts as if their outcome were in the power of local actors alone. All over the Caucasus, for instance, the hand of Russia is seen at work (as is the influence of the US), but there is little engagement with Russia by international NGOs working in the region, and there has until recently seemed to be an increasingly confrontational or distant relationship between many Western governments and Russia. Moreover, governments that are themselves involved in hegemonic activities are hardly in a position to wag fingers, and are unlikely to be heeded when they do.

Ironically, however, while big states constantly interfere in the affairs of smaller ones, and peoples secede and seek new statehood, the notion of sovereign and inviolable states is pivotal in the eat- or-be-eaten view of things, and is associated, as we have seen, with holding a monopoly on violence. Normally speaking, this monopoly is represented by a state army.

The ‘international community’ (that informal and shifting alliance dominated by the powerful) is extremely reluctant to countenance the creation of new states, or to see any weakening of the state concept – presumably because of the threat this would pose to the stability of the current system. In the case of Kosovo, for instance, while a de facto separate entity was created militarily, without negotiation, the issue of the territory’s final status remained unresolved until 2008, when Kosovo’s independence was unilaterally declared – with the support of some states and the disapproval of others, who pronounced the declaration illegal. The ‘frozen conflicts’ in Moldova, Georgia and elsewhere are influenced by the desire of current power-holders to maintain the status quo rather than entertain the risks of throwing old assumptions into question and precipitating the disintegration of states – their own or others’.
This fear is understandable. But the ‘freezing’ of conflicts has so far failed to deliver the kind of stability and consensus necessary for peacebuilding. ‘Frozen’ conflicts are inherently unstable. Our attachment to the notion of the nation-state proves unhelpful in the many situations where old borders and entities – often highly artificial and imposed – have been and continue to be the focus of costly conflict. It blocks the evolution of more viable, flexible and acceptable units of identification and governance, impeding the way to peace, and should therefore be rethought.

Fear, Control And Future Security

Greed is not the only motivation for the drive to control, or that lies behind the tendency towards pacification. Fear arguably goes even deeper, and underlies the eat-or-be-eaten approach. That is why so many citizens of the US place such emphasis on presidential candidates’ fitness to be commander in chief, as against their character and gifts for leadership, dialogue and governance. Perhaps the knowledge of our own vulnerability and mortality lies at the root of all our struggles for identity and control. (Surely, acts of ‘senseless’ violence, like starting wildfires or gunning down children in school, are a response to feelings of powerlessness. Destruction is so easy, and its effects o readily apparent.)

However that may be, fear and frustration at our lack of control are blocks to the kind of creativity we need if we are to enjoy and cherish life and each other, developing the understanding and the sources of power that will enable us to meet our own and others’ needs. Clinging to our belief in the power of violence to protect us and make our will prevail is like clinging to a comfort blanket that does nothing to cover our nakedness; in doing so, moreover, we in fact sustain a vast, deadly and pervasive complex of killing mechanisms that make all our lives less, not more, safe. Can we kick the habit of fear and place our faith in each other’s capacities for empathy and resourcefulness?

There are global, structural threats to future peace that go beyond the deadly effects of militarism, and can be viewed through the same lenses of interdependence and self-interested competition. Economic dominance and injustice not only militate against peacebuilding, but cause immense resentment and perpetual instability that no amount of pacification can begin to address. The lack of any economic democracy and the decrease in political control over increasingly vast, transnational economic interests mirrors the controlling and reactionary relationships both between nations and built into global political structures.

Security, in this context, should be understood broadly as ‘human security’: all that is needed for physical and mental well-being. It is abundantly clear that a large proportion of the world’s human occupants have a big deficit of it in every respect: their dignity is disregarded, their autonomy denied, their participation blocked, their lives and livelihoods threatened. Those who are utterly crushed by their lot and denied even the tools for thinking are indeed pacified – that is, made passive. But those who have enough education and space in their lives to think a little, and the determination to act, will not submit forever to such inequities and the sense of humiliation that they bring. One precondition for peace is respect – in attitude and in action. Those of us who live in countries that are now dominant must realise that our assumed cultural superiority, our easy justification of our actions, and our endless double standards are felt as a daily outrage by others. Peacebuilding at the local level cannot address such profound asymmetries. Global peacebuilding must do so. The perpetuation of resentment makes no one secure.

Perhaps there is some hope to be found in the new rhetoric of politicians and the surge of public awareness about the need to tackle global poverty. But real action on that front would mean acceptance of lower levels of consumption by those of us in relative wealth. Truly enlightened self-interest is likely to require a different understanding of human security and well-being. One thing that could help us to respect each other as equals is the fact of our common, global peril: the environmental crisis that could overwhelm us all. If we are not prepared to cooperate on a truly global scale to address this common threat to our security, we will be driven ever further apart, with disastrous consequences. If this does not persuade us of the reality of our interdependence, as participants in one ecosystem, then probably nothing will. The shift in global economic (and therefore, inevitably, political) power to the global South and East is also a wake-up call to those who have taken for granted their own perpetual dominance, making the cooperative model immediately more attractive.

Shifting The Culture And Bridging The Divide

There is a prevailing, global assumption that conflict must have winners and losers, and that, when it comes to vital collective interests, violence is likely to be the most effective means of winning.
This belief in the efficacy of deadly force manifests itself in the military metaphors that pepper our everyday language and find their apotheosis in the ‘magic bullet’.

This cultural tendency towards pacification is expressed in the fact that we have the military edifice to match it, which in turn consolidates the culture. Globally, we have highly developed systems and resources for military responses and far weaker ones for responding in other ways. In global terms it is plain from public spending patterns that conflict transformation is, relatively speaking, a hobby, while maintaining powerful military positions and exercising military strength is a very serious business. Even countries that are, from the military point of view, small fry spend an inordinate proportion of their GNP on weaponry and armies.

Though violence is presented as a ‘last resort’, in fact it never is, since alternatives are barely thought of – and certainly not resourced and developed. Since the machinery of violence sucks up such vast wealth and attention, most governments fail to build up sufficiently strong policies and strategies for avoiding it, or the means of achieving security in other ways – ways that do not replicate violence, and that might be effective for security and peace.

At the same time, there are governments, such as those in Sweden and Canada, that have for some years been pushing in quite another direction. They have not divested themselves of all traces of militarism, but they have begun to rethink the role of armies, have put a substantial proportion of attention and public funds into support for conflict transformation and peacebuilding, and have contributed to a reduction in the flow of arms and bans against landmines and cluster bombs. They have resolutely remained free of nuclear weapons, and have encouraged multilateral processes to de-escalate the arms race. This other trend – based, I would argue, in a stronger sense of interdependence and mutuality – should give us hope that the tide can be turned away from pacification and towards global peacebuilding, based on the principles of interdependence and common security.

The pivotal assumption of interdependence and the related value of unconditional respect for fellow human beings (as moral equals, if not equally moral) require clear ethical choices. Although human nature and all of our societies embody both cooperative and competitive tendencies, the capacity for moral choice enables us to privilege one over the other in our personal, social and political thinking and aspirations. Ethical judgements must, by definition, be practicable, which must mean that they take account of both tendencies. These tendencies are not exclusive to particular people, groups, institutions or cultures, and many of us who have strong ideological commitments to one side may have equally strong personal tendencies towards the other. (I hope I am not alone in this!) We might also do well to examine our own organisations and practices, and consider how consistent they are with the values we hold and with our peacebuilding values.

At the systemic level, we need to recognise that people often work from one perspective in an organisation that we would see as largely informed by the other. They may choose to work there because they believe that to do so will offer them opportunities to make a difference or work for change in the system. They may see us as potential allies and look to us for support. We, in turn, need them. It is they who may be best placed to begin the work of transformation.

One of the dangers of clear moral thinking and strong moral views is that they can lead to self-righteousness and intolerance. In Brecht’s words, ‘Even anger against injustice makes the voice grow harsh’.15 As a peace movement activist, I am acutely aware of the frequently strident harshness of our collective voices. This is not just paradoxical: it is contradictory; and this kind of advocacy is counterproductive. Communication is a two-way process, and if we have a message we want it to be heard. Ears will close themselves to insulting messages and attitudes of moral superiority (quite different from moral judgement).

I believe that we should assume a level of good-will on everyone’s part, and try to communicate at that level. We will need each other’s knowledge and experience if we are to flesh out our own analysis and think creatively about how things could be done. I would not for a moment suggest that all government policies are malign – even less that all those who work to formulate and implement them are lacking in care, commitment and passion, or that support given to initiatives for conflict transformation and peacebuilding are all self-serving and cynical. Rather, it is as if the left hand and the right hand are working in very different ways.

But the impact of the aggressive military policies and actions described above runs counter to, and threatens to overwhelm, these positive initiatives, and undermines their integrity. Government policies and actions that ignore the long-term, global impact of this kind of violent power are bad ones. We need internationalist, humanitarian policies that contribute to global demilitarisation.

We need to face up honestly to the dilemmas and challenges that confront us all as we work for peace within the current dispensation, and to develop an ongoing dialogue between those of us working within the two different paradigms and anywhere in between. We must, for instance, grapple with the issue of nonviolent leverage (such as the use of incentives and sanctions) within the paradigm of interdependence and respect.16 Is it possible to exert such power effectively, in such a way as to foster constructive relationships rather than creating greater hostility and resistance? What gives laws legitimacy within the context of global interdependence, and how is the rule of law to be upheld?

We need to wrestle with the relationship between ethical judgement and the tolerance of difference, knowing that reconcili- ation may in practice involve living gracefully and creatively with tension and disagreement. We need to find out what is essential and non-negotiable within the reality of competing goods.17 And while each of our countries has a remit to act for the well-being of its people, we need to explore how ‘enlightened self-interest’ can be related more fully to the notion of interdependence and mutuality.

If we are to build peace, we need to relinquish our reliance on bullets – ‘magic’ or otherwise. We must escape from the dynamic of enmity and put our faith not in commanders in chief, but in the human kindness that still manifests itself in so many day-to-day attitudes and actions and in the civility that almost all of us, regardless of culture, consider vital to our own dignity and identity. We need to extend the founding principles of our ordinary social lives, which demand at least civility, to our global, political relationships. We must identify and develop sources of power (both for parties to conflicts and for third parties) that build rather than destroy relationships, and shift the emphasis from controlling violence to building cooperation and community.

All this will require philosophy and imagination (including the emotional imagination of empathy), creativity and intelligence. ‘Facts’ will take us only so far. There is no map, and no certainty. The way we value different things and formulate moral priorities is not the province of ‘hard knowledge’. It is, in the end, a matter of how we understand our lives as human beings, and how we create meaning within them. It is, I believe, a spiritual matter. Eat-or- be-eaten means in effect that might is right. It is no motto for the sociable human animal, whose evolved nature is capable of altruism and finds meaning in it. It is through our capacity to cooperate with each other that we have flourished as a species. Our propensity for domination has brought misery and injustice to each other, and extinction, or the threat of it, to other species. As applied to other species and to the earth, it has brought great wealth and security to some of us, along with poverty of spirit and the ill health of over- consumption and pollution. Now it threatens our future well-being, and even our survival. It is only through cooperation that we can build a future for humanity.

  1. See H. Clark, Demilitarising Minds, Demilitarising Societies (CCTS Newsletter 11, Winter 2001), available at www.c-r.org/ccts.
  2. A. Shah, ‘World Military Spending’, article published on their website by Global Issues, available at www.globalissues.org/articles.
  3. The Metro (London), 2 September 2008.
  4. First published, in an earlier version, in CCTS Review 30 (March 2006).
  5. Curle, True Justice, p. 37.
  6. Francis and Ropers, Peace Work.
  7. See the works of C. Cockburn – for instance, From Where We Stand: War, Women’s Activism and Feminist Analysis, London: Zed Books, 2007, and Francis, Rethinking War and Peace.
  8. M. Billig, Arguing and Thinking, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
  9. Berdal and Malone, Greed and Grievance.
  10. See Francis, Rethinking War and Peace.
  11. Ibid.
  12. BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, at the time of Radovan Karadzic’s arrest (21 July 2009).
  13. Edward Luttwak on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’, 15 February 2008.
  14. See the paper commissioned by the UK Government’s Global Conflict Prevention Pool and authored by Nicole Ball and Luc van de Goor, Promoting Conflict Prevention through Security Sector Reform, London: Price Waterhouse Coopers, 2008.
  15. From a translation of Bertolt Brecht’s An die Nachgeborenen.
  16. See Conciliation Resources, Accord Policy Brief: Incentives, Sanctions and Conditionality in Peacemaking, London: Conciliation Resources, 2008.
  17. Isaiah Berlin, ‘My Intellectual Path’, New York Review of Books, 14 May 1998, pp. 53–60.