When world leaders discuss global affairs, the term we hear repeatedly is “security.” They tell us that our government is ensuring our “national security” or protecting our “security interests” in some far-flung region.
Underlying this worldview is the implicit use of force. Theodore Roosevelt’s line, “I speak softly, but I carry a big stick,” is the preferred security stance of some nations, particularly the United States. Governments often view global security as the projection of military power.
If we reflect on this approach, how much security has it acquired for ordinary citizens? Global Research calculated in 2015 that the United States had been at war 93 percent of the time since its founding in 1776.
Thus, for 222 years of its 239-year history, the United States has involved itself in some sort of violent conflict. The US started most of these wars, particularly those since the Second World War.
Most regular citizens equate security with peace. On that basis, it’s pretty clear that our current approach to global security is an unmitigated failure.
Most regular citizens equate security with peace. On that basis, it’s pretty clear that our current approach to global security is an unmitigated failure. Is there a better approach?
Old school diplomats argue that nations don’t have friends, only interests. The challenge that governments face with this model is that they treat security as a win/lose proposition, or what strategists call a “zero-sum game.”
Under this mentality, a country can only enhance its security at the expense of some other country. This reduction in security will threaten that other country, causing it to do something to restore its security. The resulting tug-of-war will generate an arms race or trigger an all-out shooting war. The global security that this model envisions is a mirage, as we can frequently observe.
The foundations of genuine security are human and ecological needs. Those needs include keeping families, homes, communities, habitats and society safe and secure. These are the national interests that people elect governments to protect, and not the narrow interests of the One Percent.
The United Nations has established eight action areas for achieving this kind of genuine security. They are:
- Fostering a culture of peace through education.
- Promoting sustainable economic and social development.
- Promoting respect for all human rights.
- Ensuring equality between women and men.
- Fostering democratic participation.
- Advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity.
- Supporting participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge.
- Promoting international peace and security.
Each of these action areas is important, but the first three steps are the priority. People need to unlearn the view that war is inevitable and that there are just wars that nations can and must win. We need them to stop believing that any other view is dangerously naïve. Indeed, the truly naïve fell for the lies that created the Vietnam War—which America lost—or the invasion of Iraq. These poor decisions cost us all dearly and eroded our security.
The United Nations has also fostered 17 interrelated Sustainable Development Goals to achieve its second action area. All UN members have agreed to work towards achieving these goals by 2030.
In addition to global security, these Sustainable Development Goals are also the foundation for the third action area--human rights. The UN has a seven-point human rights plan. In addition to sustainable development, the other points are crisis prevention, gender equality, citizen participation, rights of future generations, collective action and new perspectives.
This last idea of new perspectives is essential. The current domination model of global security may defend the interests of an influential elite. However, it destabilizes the lives of the people.
Education, both formal and informal toward basing global security on human and environmental needs is the new way forward. Is such a world possible? The alternative is no world at all.
David Morton Rintoul
David Morton Rintoul publishes the peace and human rights website Dare to Know.