Academic journal article The Innovation Journal

Disarming Conflict: Why Peace Cannot Be Won on the Battlefield

Academic journal article The Innovation Journal

Disarming Conflict: Why Peace Cannot Be Won on the Battlefield

Article excerpt

Ernie Regehr Disarming Conflict: Why Peace Cannot Be Won on the Battlefield Toronto, Canada: Between the Lines, 2015

Let me begin with a comment about the question of war in the United States of America. It is intended to illustrate how greatly the context for discussion of intrastate conflict has changed in the past seventy years or so. An appreciation of this change will help show how important it is to "re-think" warfare in general and to prompt awareness of the rather desperate need for all countries and international bodies from the United Nations to the signatories of treaties to become innovative in their approaches to local, regional and global confrontation and armed struggle.

The USA last declared war when it commenced hostilities on Japan and Germany in 1941 (on December 8 and December 11, respectively). It has not, technically, been "at war" since September 2, 1945 when Japan signed its official document of "unconditional surrender" aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Americans, however, have continued to use the language of war constantly ever since.

Everything is what it is, and not any other thing." - Joseph Butler, 1726

When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - Humpty Dumpty, 1872

Chief among the usages was the so-called "Cold War." It was arguably begun with Sir Winston Churchill's far-famed "Iron Curtain" speech on March 2, 1946 in Fulton, Missouri and concluded at the Malta Summit on December 3, 1989, when Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev and US President George W. Bush declared that an abiding era of peace between the two "superpowers" had begun. Less dramatically, the "war on poverty" (1964), the "war on drugs" (1971), and the "war on terror" (2001) are only the most obvious examples, of the deployment of the metaphor. They have recently been supplemented by the ongoing Republican Party's "war on women" and the Fox News inspired "war on Christmas." Apart from these dubious rhetorical tropes, however, the USA hasn't formally been at war on anyone since the end of World War II.

At the same time, the USA has experienced very few days and fewer weeks and months when it hasn't been involved in some foreign conflict, whether overt (through bombing, invasion and occupation) or covert (by enabling and assisting in assassinations, kidnapping of heads of state, sponsoring insurrectionist groups, military coups d'états and civil wars in dozens of countries on at least four continents plus Central America). All that's been missing are formal declarations, but the US Congress, which holds exclusive constitutional authority to declare war, has long since effectively ceded that responsibility to the Chief Executive and Commander-in- Chief of the US Armed Forces, which is arguably a severe breach of the intent of the Constitution of the United States of America and its primal doctrine of "separation of powers."

Oddly, at least to an outsider, no authority-executive, legislative or judicial, or even the sovereign citizenry-seems especially worried about that.

"Through a combination of executive initiative and congressional abdication," writes US military authority, Joseph V. Gallagher III, "the United States has engaged in large scale offensive wars absent congressional war declarations ... [involving over 160] notable military deployments [in which] the nation failed to articulate political objectives commensurate with its sacrifice of blood and resources" (Gallagher, 2011: 22).

Gallagher's highly regarded and expert opinion highlights the ambiguities of military action. He backgrounds the degree to which violent conflict among sovereign nations has been replaced by uprisings, revolutions, civil wars, warlords, guerrilla forces, covert operations, terrorism, counter-terrorism, paramilitary initiatives and old-fashioned assassinations of dissenters, government officials and heads of state. In the process of devolving into hostilities involving both state and non-state actors far more complex relations emerge than were typically seen when soldiers in brightly coloured uniforms . …

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