Sensible disarmament: Peace dividend and security


Il Partito Nuovo

ABSTRACT: A new political will is needed, not only to give voice and strength to sensible proposals for the reduction of military spending and for a new model of defence, but also to construct new and more credible policies for security and development that would render these proposals urgent and necessary. Authority for collective defence must be transferred to the United Nations, to which all democratic countries must assign their own military contingents, as laid down by the Charter.
(The Party New, n.2, July 1991)


The belief that it would now be sensible to reduce world military spending by 2 to 5 per cent is shared not only by political forces in opposition and by pacifists, but also by the most prestigious organizations of the United Nations and by many world leaders. The end of the "Cold War" between the two superpowers would, in fact, allow considerable resouces to be transferred from military spending to civilian spending -- the peace dividends -- without compromising existing defence capacities.
With a reduction of 5 per cent a year, world military spending would be reduced by 40 per cent in ten years, making around 2,300 billion dollars available for peaceful uses -- almost twice the Third World debt.
For the countries of the Third World and for the ex-Socialist countries this reduction would provide immediaterelief in dealing with their dramatic problems of development.
The industrialized countries, on the other hand, could use part of the resources -- half, let's say -- on domestic spending (the conversion of military facilities, social programmes, settlement of the public deficit) and the other half on tackling the emergencies of our times, above all the death of millions of people due to famine and malnutrition and the destruction of the environment in whole regions of the world.
A reduction of 5 per cent in military spending by the OECD countries would release about 1,400 billion dollars in ten years. Half of this sum could be devoted to defending the world from the new threats: the environmental risks, desertification, and the desperation of over a billion people forced to live below the minimum threshold of poverty. èIi should be remembered that this decision would merely serve to bring spending on aid and development loans in the OECD countriesto 0.7 per cent (the figure is now about 0.3 per cent), finally putting into effect, after 21 years, a directive approved by the United Nations Assembly in 1970.
So far we have considered the figures and the reasons that show the decision to be sensible. But we know that they are not enough.
What is needed, in fact, is a new political will, not only to give voice and strength to the sensible proposals for reduction in military spending and for a new model of defence, but also to construct new and more credible policies for security and development that would render such proposals urgent and necessary.
We know, in fact, that despite the end of the opposition between the two military blocs, war has massacred and continues to massacre entire populations. We know that even the repeated, and for the first time unamimous, appeals by the UnitedNations for the restoration of the rights violated in the Gulf did not prevent arms from having the last word once again.
We also know that there is a risk that even such substantial funds would be used in such a way as to perpetuate the errors and the failures of present development aid policies if new political restrictions were not applied both to the contributors and the beneficiaries of aid.
We are, in fact, powerless witnesses to the improper use that the wealthy country make of "aid", to the exclusive benefit of their own exports, often of arms, for the control of prices of raw materials and for the support of "allied" totalitarian regimes; and, in the poor countries, to the use of gifts and èloans to the prevalent or exclusive benefit of the corrupt political and military classes who manage, thanks to international aid itself, to impose regimes of hunger and fear, violating the most elementary human rights.
But as radicals, we also know that there are two political paths that must be explored and followed with determination in order to defeat resignation to mass famine and world disorder and to develop a credible alternative to the military option: the gradual transfer of national authority in the field of security and development to new institutions of international rights,and the affirmation of democracy as the most effective antidote to war.
It is therefore necessary to affirm, even through limited but concrete decisions, that the authority for collective defence must be transferred to the United Nations, to which all the democratic countries must assign their own military contingents, as laid down by the Charter. It is necessary to spread the awareness, even through limited but symbolic decisions, that the power of persuasion of the weapon of information is equal to, if not greater than, that of military weapons: the weapon of information, that is, can save the world from the horror not only of wars of aggression but also of "just wars".
It is necessary to take the management of possible peace dividends out of the hands of individual nations, as far as possible, by transferring authority on the matter of global commons to an institution of supernational law: whether we have to fight the "greenhouse effect" or whether we have to win the battle against mass famine. One hypothesis worth considering and developing is that the peace dividends and the current national funds for development could be brought together in a "Fund for èWorld Security" (FWS), run by the United Nations Security Council with the full participation of the important supernational institutions that already exist, or that are set up in the future, provided they are founded on democratic principles and are legitimized by popular suffrage.
The concession of aid must also be subject to precise guarantees on the part of beneficiary countries: respect for human rights; agreed reduction in military spending; the renouncement of weapons of mass destruction, either chemical, bacteriological, nuclear, or conventional; the commitment to give priority to those initiatives which allow appreciable and demonstrable growth in the "index of human development" defined by the United Nations (life expectancy, level of literacy, level of education, and per capita national income).