Monday, March 30, 2009

It's Human Security, Stupid, Not National Security


She is emotional, strong-willed and determined. She is also passionate and not averse to yelling, swearing or pounding on the podium to make a point. And when it comes to national security, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jody Williams is dead set against using our country's power and resources to kill or maim other people. Instead, she promotes “human security” as a way of forging world peace.

“We can only be secure when justice and the sharing of resources in the world are present,” she said to an audience of nearly 400 at the annual Great Lakes PeaceJam held last weekend at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. “Human security, not national security will bring security to everyone in the world.”

PeaceJam's (www.peacejam.org) mission is to work with Nobel Peace Laureates to help create a new generation of young leaders committed to peace through positive change in themselves, their communities and the world.

Williams won the Peace Prize for her work in starting and heading up the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (www.icbl.org) in 1992. Five years later she and her team of activists persuaded 121 nations to ban the use of landmines, which at the time was considered a conventional practice in supplying over 80 countries' military arsenals. Unfortunately, the United States, Russia and China did not sign the treaty. But that has not stopped Williams from continuing her effort to rid the world of violence.

In fact, she has stepped up her campaign for human security by participating in PeaceJam's “Global Call to Action.” The program involves several Nobel Peace Laureates who work with and inspire the youth of the world to be involved in a decade-long quest to effect change by addressing the following needs:
· Providing equal access to water and other natural resources
· Ending racism and hate
· Halting the spread of global disease
· Eliminating extreme poverty
· Fighting for social justice and human rights
· Promoting rights for women and children and their roles as leaders
· Restoring the earth's environment
· Controlling the proliferation of weapons
· Breaking the cycle of violence
Many governmental leaders believe that they need a mighty military machine to make their people safe and secure, said Williams. Investing in human security, however, means that when we work to stop global warming; provide people with decent housing, education and health care; and deal with conflict through compromise instead of violence, then we are creating a more secure world.

To illustrate the hapless pursuit of national security, Williams noted that on September 10, 2001, the United States had the strongest military presence the world had ever seen. On September 11, after Americans “freaked out” over four hijacked airplanes, $44 billion was allocated to the Pentagon “to make our country more secure.”

Beefing up the military, as important as it is for the defense of our nation is not the path to increased security, said Williams.

“We talk about U.S. interests being advanced by the military,” said Williams, who received a master's degree from the prestigious School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University, which trains American diplomats, policymakers, businesspeople and organizational leaders. Her experience of the SAIS curriculum was that its emphasis on economics left out the human element.

“The military is supposed to be our last resort when diplomacy has been lost,” said Williams.

“We make all sorts of calculations and analyses of our military actions but forget to analyze the impact we make on the people we bomb.

In fact, Williams hated her time at SAIS and they hated her, she said—until she received the Nobel Peace Prize. Paul Wolfowitz, who was dean at the time, sent
her a letter inviting her to receive recognition for the most achieved alum award.

“I didn't answer it and threw the letter away,” she said with disgust.
However, Williams takes pains to distinguish between the policymakers and the soldiers who are sent to do battle.

“I have nothing against soldiers who die for our country, but rather for those who send them there to die.”

Of late, she is very concerned about President Obama's decision to step up the war in
Afghanistan and send drones to bomb Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan.

“Won't the people who are bombed there try to send some drones over here?” she asked.
Williams promotes peace activism but warned her audience that such work is considered as kumbya, guitars, doves and rainbows.

“They call us peaceniks and tree-hugging liberals. That means that we are little wimps who don't understand what makes peace in the world. It implies that we can't deal with the complexities of national security like the big-time policymakers do.”

Attaining peace in the world today, she said, requires a different mindset and a new way of thinking that advocates justice and equality and strives to meet basic human needs.

There is something wrong when 20 percent of the world's population controls 80 percent of the planet's resources, she said. There is something wrong when 1.5
billion people are without clean drinking water. There is something wrong when a handful of billionaires have more wealth than sub-Saharan Africa. That's why people strap on a bomb and blow it up.

“We need to think about security in terms of human beings, not the state,” said Williams. “We'll still have conflict, but not at the scale we have now.”

Williams also urged her audience to commit themselves to a brand of peace activism that is bigger than just being against war. Instead they should be focused on making sure that people's basic needs are met, they are treated with dignity, they have a right to choose their own forms of government, and that conflicts are resolved without violence.

She also advised that activists can get more done if they join together with activists of
different causes and “realize that we're all part of the same thing” when we contribute to human security and not national security where we strive to have “the biggest, most muscular missiles and defense in the world.”

PeaceJam participants donned gray t-shirts with Williams' advice printed on their backs: “Emotion without action is irrelevant.”

“Emotion is the first step,” said Williams. “But if it's not channeled positively, it
is a waste.”

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