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I believe that true democracy can only be an outcome of nonviolence

– Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi


men of peace

US Marines, invoking the Lord’s name, before kicking Iraqi butt (Iraq 2003)

At the end of the Cold War, the five permanent members (US/ Russia/ China/ UK/ France) of the United Nations Security Council decided to expand the council’s mandate and redefine the relation between what actions by sovereign states were to be considered the legitimate conduct of statecraft and what were unacceptable and therefore subject to legitimate international intervention. 

The mandate was ostensibly designed to target repressive regimes who perpetrated human rights abuses on their own populace as well as those that carried out cross-border incursions and annexed their neighbors’ land without due cause. 

At the time, this judge-jury-executioner bit suited the five oligarchic great powers. It meant that they could get together and barge into any sovereign nation in the name of civil rights or genocide or any other righteous reason as long as it could be suitably wrapped in sanctimony. 

The UN mandate also meant that those giant military hardware suppliers needn’t panic after the Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War ended. The gravy train just needed to change tracks and they could now look forward to a different kind of business opportunity, maybe not very high-volume but steady, where the market could be created as they went along. 

It has been a win-win situation. Any resolution that calls for armed intervention needs the simultaneous approval of all five, before it can be sanctioned. And of course, the other ten temporary members of the Security Council, just go along. They don’t have veto powers. 

Here is the interesting part – the five haloed ones always take care to elect one of the temporary members, the most insignificant one, as the ‘presiding nation’.  You might have Papua New Guinea presiding for one term, Chad the next and Togoland the third and so on. They will of course be thrilled to bits, being made to feel so important all of a sudden. One minute they are prancing around in grass skirts and the next they are leading the Security Council sessions. They are nations who would have difficulty distinguishing between the ends of their alimentary canals and their faces. So you have five haloed-be-thy-name permanent members and ten bozos making up the UN Security Council. 

In the early 1990s, the UN Security Council adopted a strikingly intrusive interpretation of UN Charter (Chapter VII) that endorsed an expanded form of collective intervention by force. 

Almost as if on cue, a series of ethnic and civil wars and genocides erupted across the globe. Immediate peace enforcement became necessary. The United Nations Peace-Keeping Force was born. Then, it followed that the UN Peacekeepers needed to be armed. They had to have guns, artillery, helicopters, fighter aircraft, unmanned drones, submarine-launched cruise missiles, B2-delivered bunker-buster bombs and who knows, maybe tactical nukes as well. If the Taliban suddenly turned to peaceful negotiations, General Atomics (makers of the Predator and Reaper drones) would go bankrupt. 

Now let’s see, who were making these munitions? Those haloed five of course. Peace-making had successfully turned into war-making, as if by a magician’s sleight of hand. The donations that these five nations provide, to keep the UN running, are seen as an investment that gives 500% plus returns. It is business, not personal, like Michael Corleone would say. 

In Bosnia and Somalia, new catch phrases were born – peace initiative, no-fly zone, safe haven, surgical strike, regime change, hearts and minds and many other cringe-producing terms flourished on everyone’s lips. In the initial euphoria, the sections of the populace who had been getting the short end of the stick by their rulers, looked up to the five as saviors. 

Actually I better amend the number to just two, instead of five. Only the US and the UK remained ‘concerned’ about the welfare of the downtrodden outside of their borders. Populations that they had previously enslaved, subjugated and denigrated suddenly became poor dears who needed saving. France, Russia and China just sort of went along quietly for selfish reasons of their own. 

Elsewhere, as in Rwanda 1994, the new UN regimen failed even to attempt enforcement, as all peace agreements between the majority Hutus and Tutsis fell apart. As a consequence, more than 1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus fell at the hands of genocidal Hutu extremists that had seized the government, as the UN Peace Keepers stood mute. 

“Non-Violence” sculpture by Karl Fredrik Reutersward outside UN headquarters in New York

“Non-Violence” sculpture by Karl Fredrik Reutersward outside UN headquarters in New York. Technically, the gun can still fire. It’s muzzle isn’t blocked, just bent smoothly so that it fires every which way. How very farsighted of the UN.

The Indian Peacekeeping Mission in Sri Lanka, whose goal was to form a buffer between the Sinhalese forces and the Tamil population in the north and be a catalyst in the peace talks between the warring sides, was one such catastrophe. The Indians ended up taking sides, fighting a gory battle with the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Finally, by the time Indian boots left Sri Lanka, 1200 Indian soldiers had senselessly given away their lives and an LTTE zodiac boat had dropped off a Sri Lankan Tamil female insurgent with an RDX-stuffed suicide belt on a deserted beach south of Rameswaram in Southern India, her target – the Indian ex-PM, Rajiv Gandhi, who would eventually be turned into a rag doll a few months later. 

To be fair, the UN’s ‘war-making for peace’ has helped in at least one occasion where collective security has indeed been achieved, though it remains precarious – Korea. However, given the volatility of the North Korean regime, it would be premature to say, even after the passage of 60 years, whether the UN Peace Keepers have succeeded. 

Beyond the one example of Korea, you could be charitable if you mentioned Kosovo and East Timor. In the case of East Timor, it has successfully formed an independent nation but the task of assisting the development of a viable government in Kosovo has barely begun. 

If you were being the Mother Teresa of charity, you could mention so-called UN Peacekeeping successes in El Salvador, Guatemala, Namibia, Eastern Slovania (Croatia) and Mozambique. The peace achieved, in all of these places, is a tenuous one, just waiting to unravel. In Cambodia the United Nations formed the United Nations Transitional Authority but the peace it left behind in 1993 was partial because the murderous, ultra-left Khmer Rouge resumed sporadic armed resistance. Cambodia also suffered a coup in 1997 and has since struggled with an elected government that has been accused of gross election irregularities. 

All in all, the UN Peace-Keeping Forces have been a disaster, instead of being effective peace enforcers. Worldwide, civilian deaths as a percentage of all war-related deaths increased to 90% in 2014 from approximately 50% in the 18th century. Internal wars have created approximately 26 million refugees and 58 million internally displaced persons. 

The costs of failing to build peace are stark. A significant number of armed conflicts relapse back into war, and many new wars occur in countries that have failed to consolidate peace. When peace building fails, parties to conflict often unleash greater violence than in the prior war, grimly attested by the nearly two million dead after peace unraveled in Angola (1991) and Rwanda (1994). War also erases the gains of development contributing to further warfare, violence and impoverishment, a process that some have called reverse development

War-torn societies, characterized by high rates of displacement, damaged infrastructure and weak or absent institutions are also more vulnerable to disease and may under some conditions provide fertile ground for other international ills like arms trafficking and terrorist networks. 

In order to justify it’s existence and be seen to be doing something about the way conflict was spreading and the numbers of fleeing refugees were growing all over the world, the UN launched some initiatives in 2006 – the UN Peace Building Commission, a Peace Building Support Office and a Peace Building Fund. These initiatives did not help one bit and durable peace remains illusive.

Worldwide, by 2020, the number of refugees and displaced persons is estimated to touch 100,000,000. Country-sized populations are going to try to move up into the developed west and give rise in turn, to increased racism, bigotry and ultra-right wing mindsets and vote banks. Ask the Italians. They know exactly what I mean. If you start a refugee supply business, selling first-aid kits, tents and blankets, you are sure to turn into a billionaire overnight.

Why should it not get to be so? Durable peace has never been the objective of the haloed five. Let us look at the Abu Ghraibs and the Guantanamos, the renditions, the Hadithas, the Mai Lais and the decades of support to murderous despots, including murderously misogynistic regimes like the Saudis.  Let us revisit how completely innocent aborigines of a remote chain of Indian Ocean atolls were unceremoniously evicted from their own homeland so that America could build a military base and name it Diego Garcia. 

When the peacemakers themselves are so morally corrupt, how can any peace they engineer be durable? When conflict is their golden goose, why would they kill it?

What do you say about folks whose only goal is to jerk you off?