Hans Blix on peace

I went to hear Dr Hans Blix at Sydney Town Hall this evening. Dr Blix is in Australia to receive the Sydney Peace Prize (from Paul Keating) tomorrow night.I wasn’t in citizen journalist mode, so didn’t take notes, so this report is limited. The subject of Blix’s talk was the prospects for peace. He discussed this under three headings: globalisation, international law and disarmament. In each category, there are both hopeful and “dismaying” signs. He argued that globalisation, through increased interdependency, has locked the European nations into a binding peace and shows every sign of doing the same elsewhere, so that even though there are tensions between, for example, China and the USA, their economic interdependency might be a formula for keeping the peace.

Talking about nuclear disarmament, he got a laugh with an old Swedish saying that “in old age, the devil turns to religion” – this was in relation to Henry Kissinger’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons in January 2007.

Of particular interest to Australians, especially as we face the prospect of a new Labor government within the month, was Blix’s reference to Paul Keating’s 1996 Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Blix positioned this as the direct precursor of his own Weapons of Terror, the 2007 report from the WMD Commission. It was a reminder of how Australia has in the past played a valuable role in the pursuit of peace, unlike its shameful role as tag along to the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq.

Update: here’s a very brief extract from Blix’s speech last night.

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Posted in activism, War
30 comments on “Hans Blix on peace
  1. kimberella says:

    It would be great to see Australia take such a role again, and one area where I think progressives have much to hope for from a Rudd government.

    He argued that globalisation, through increased interdependency, has locked the European nations into a binding peace and shows every sign of doing the same elsewhere, so that even though there are tensions between, for example, China and the USA, their economic interdependency might be a formula for keeping the peace.

    That argument of course goes back to Adam Smith and Kant. It was being made very prominently just before The Great War! Even if it’s true, it doesn’t prevent the explosion of “small wars” and “civil wars” and indeed wars like Iraq and Lebanon (where Israel was more a less a proxy for Cheney-ism or vice versa!). The 1990s when globalisation was at its peak as a buzz word was an immensely destructive period in terms of human life.

  2. melaleuca says:

    Eliminating nuclear weapons isn’t an achievable goal. All that is achievable is limiting the spread of nuclear weapons. However certain despotic regimes will acquire nuclear weapons irrespective of diplomacy, no matter how imaginative and exhaustive the diplomacy is. The question the soft Left must then answer is this: “Can we live with nuclear armed despots or do we go to war?”

  3. melaleuca says:

    “The 1990s when globalisation was at its peak as a buzz word was an immensely destructive period in terms of human life.”

    Actually it wasn’t. And most of the worst killing fields of that decade like Sudan, Congo, Burma and Rwanda had nothing to do with globalisation.

  4. kimberella says:

    “Can we live with nuclear armed despots or do we go to war?”

    Or you could reframe it as “do we rush in to attempt to prevent nuclear proliferation by making a bad situation even worse when the eventuality is actually quite distant”?

    Anyway, I have no idea who the “soft Left” are, and I think you might to check your figures on the 90s. And if you don’t think economic factors played any role in many of the conflicts of the 90s, I think you’re wrong. The argument relates to economic interdependency. I don’t know what your definition of globalisation is – it’s hardly a term with a straightforward meaning.

  5. melaleuca says:

    Here is an empirical refutation of Kim: http://www.ligi.ubc.ca/?p2=/modules/liu/news/view.jsp&id=208

    “Since 9/11 and the global war on terror, the world is a much more dangerous place. Right?

    Dead wrong, according to a recent in-depth study, which found that virtually every trend in global security in the past dozen years has been positive, and dramatically so.

    The world is today a safer place, according to the Human Security Report, a project funded by five nations and published by Oxford University Press. The study, which is the culmination of three years of research, offers a comprehensive look at the data on political violence from 1988–2005…”

    In spite of the rhetoric of naive soft leftists, globalisation has clearly and unequivocally contributed to a more peaceful world.

  6. melaleuca says:

    “And if you don’t think economic factors played any role in many of the conflicts of the 90s, I think you’re wrong.”

    Of course they play a part, probably the major part. But the Human Security Report is a comprehensive refutation of your claim that the 1990s was unusually war like.

  7. kimberella says:

    I didn’t say that the 1990s was “unusually warlike” but rather that it was a period “immensely destructive of human life”. So have other periods been, and more so, but this cold calculus of death proves nothing. That study, it appears to me, ignores much that could also be captured under the rubric “political violence” – see this report for more:

    http://www.fcnl.org/smith/world_war-1.htm

    As to your value-laden sloganeering, I suspect you just want to pick a fight with whoever you think “the soft left” are. You haven’t demonstrated any cause and effect relationship to underpin the ideological mantra in your penultimate comment. Nor, since obviously what would normally be define as globalisation (that is to say, the integration of the world into one economic system) was at work in earlier decades (the end of the Soviet Union was directly related to the need on the part of the USSR and its satellites to borrow to earn hard currency and an end to the attempt to maintain autarkic economies), can you, I suspect. You certainly can’t without defining your terms, whose meaning, as I’ve said, is not self-evident.

  8. wbb says:

    War is economics by other means. As the global human population is at such an uncomfortable level and still heading up – we are in a constant battle to provide for more by peaceful economic development and trade (aka globalisation) – when we fail we suffer war.

    Common failures are such as the battle for oil and water – which economics and trade cannot solve. We lazily opt for war. Especially when we are too piss-weak to embrace solutions that need to be very creative.

  9. jo says:

    Not so fast Steve…it is big report, and it would be good to go through it, without any ‘gotcha crapola’ – for the time being:

    “Some critics have questioned the relevance of this data noting that conflict and violence are still significant obstacles for human development, worldwide security and sustainable peace. For example, the latest UN Human Development Report agrees that the number of conflicts has declined in the last decade, but claims that the wars of the past 15 years have exterminated a larger number of human lives.”

    “Some critics have argued that there is too much focus on battle-related ‘direct’ deaths in the Report, however an entire section discusses the large number of ‘indirect’ deaths caused by war-exacerbated malnutrition and disease. In some cases the Report says, the ratio of indirect to direct deaths is higher than 10:1. Indirect deaths––the hidden cost of war– will be one of the two main themes of the 2006/07 Report.”

  10. kimberella says:

    Steve was just looking around for some sort of support for his ideological talking points, jo. I’m thoroughly over commenters who just want to waltz in, pick some sort of argument to support some sort of dumb ideology. It’s normally done with lots of moral self-righteousness, too.

  11. melaleuca says:

    KIm,

    You said the 1990s was immensely destructive of human life and you linked it with globalisation: “The 1990s when globalisation was at its peak as a buzz word was an immensely destructive period in terms of human life.”

    Your statement is false in spite of what the Quakers say (as much as I respect them). The 1990s were relatively peaceful. Since 1992 the number of wars has dropped by 40%; the number of military coups has plummeted; we’ve had the longest period in hundreds of years without a war between major powers and the good news goes on and on. See here: http://www.humansecurityreport.info/press/Press_Release.pdf

    The aspect of globalisation that I think most contributes to peace is trade and in particular the realisation of the benefits of comparative advantage. Liberal democracies are generally well aware that trade is a far better path to prosperity than imperialism. And in general, voters in liberal democracies tire of war very quickly. It may be illustrative for you to compare conflict “destructive of human life” in the current epoch with that under feudalism.

    Rather than simply slur the five-nation multiple-university sponsored HSR and the ongoing HSRP, I suggest you at least peruse their work: http://www.hsrgroup.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

    Also see http://www.humansecurityreport.info/

    The HSR has been widely endorsed including an endorsement by Gareth Evans, President of the International Crisis Group. I doubt he has a motive to talk down the extent of conflict.

  12. melaleuca says:

    Kim says:

    “Steve was just looking around for some sort of support for his ideological talking points, jo.”

    You once had a much more open mind, Kim.

    Anyway I’ll peruse what the Quakers have to say before I comment further. I’ve had the great fortune to speak with some very thoughtful and perceptive Quakers in the past and as I say I respect them.

  13. jo says:

    it is ‘A’ big report (too many big beers at the bill callahan/smog gig just finished – freaking wednesday night gigs.)

    though, my typos are chronic most of the time, without being alcohol affected.

    this graph from the report is interesting – it shows an exponential rise in intrastate conflicts since 1946 (dwarfing all other conflicts) and although the drop off from ‘92 is significant – it’s still showing a large amount of conflicts all through the 90’s until 2002, in fact, it’s only come back to 1970 levels according to the graph
    http://www.humansecurityreport.info/figures/Figure1.1.pdf

    as for steve – yeah borink – but he did point out this report, which if he’d bothered to read its conclusions and purpose, is all about UN activism being the main reason for the decline in conflict, not the GWOT.

    “Conclusion 155
    Since the end of the Cold War the UN has led an upsurge of international activism that has played a critical role in reducing the number of violent conflicts.”

  14. melaleuca says:

    Jo quotes this from wiki, I presume:

    “Some critics have questioned the relevance of this data noting that conflict and violence are still significant obstacles for human development, worldwide security and sustainable peace.”

    I’m not denying that. We are better than we were but we still need to do much, much better. I’m sure the report is no comfort at all to the victims of conflict in DR Congo, Burma and Iraq.

  15. melaleuca says:

    “as for steve – yeah borink – but he did point out this report, which if he’d bothered to read its conclusions and purpose, is all about UN activism being the main reason for the decline in conflict, not the GWOT.”

    You dishonest smart arse. I never even mentioned the GWOT, which I agree is a farce.

    Also, I read the report after it was widely publicised in the media two years back. A hard copy sits on my book shelf.

  16. kimberella says:

    You once had a much more open mind, Kim.

    That’s as may be, Steve, but since you’re not willing to define your terms and spell out what you’re actually arguing, what should I reasonably assume your motive in commenting is?

  17. kimberella says:

    You dishonest smart arse. I never even mentioned the GWOT, which I agree is a farce.

    See that’s my point. You quote a slab from the intro going on about the GWOT, and don’t note your disagreement. What exactly are you saying? What’s your argument?

  18. melaleuca says:

    Kim,

    I specifically spelt out “comparative advantage” as a result of international trade is the key factor in globalisation contributing to peace. How more specific can I be?

    As to “soft left”- I mean those on the Left who are not willing to face up to the fact that some dictatorial regimes have evil intent and that only force- or the threat of force- will restrain them. Having said that, I’m equally perplexed with the “rabid right” for whom war is always the answer.

  19. jo says:

    jeez and i thought i’d been on the piss! steve – you said this only an hour ago:

    “Since 9/11 and the global war on terror, the world is a much more dangerous place. Right?

    “Dead wrong, according to a recent in-depth study, which found that virtually every trend in global security in the past dozen years has been positive, and dramatically so.”

    Get your story straight mate.

  20. melaleuca says:

    Excuse me Kim, Jo’s comment was uncalled for.

    As to points, I’m equally unclear about yours.

    Here’s mine:

    – The world is now relatively peaceful. Although too many people continue to suffer in armed conflicts, the world may now be more peaceful than at any time since the commencement of the feudal era.

    -As the HSR intimates, the UN has an important role to play in conflict management and reduction.

    -In spite of our hopes, liberal democracies will still need to occasionally wage war against belligerent regimes. To fail to acknowledge this is dangerously Chamberlainesque.

  21. melaleuca says:

    You are on the piss, Jo. I never said that, it is a quote, hence the quotation marks. In any event the quote itself isn’t an endorsement of the GWOT altho I can see why your beer goggles might convince you otherwise 🙂

    Anyway, this pumpkin needs to sleep. G’night.

  22. kimberella says:

    the world may now be more peaceful than at any time since the commencement of the feudal era.

    Huh? Since the “commencement of the feudal era?”…

  23. kimberella says:

    I specifically spelt out “comparative advantage” as a result of international trade is the key factor in globalisation contributing to peace. How more specific can I be?

    Buggered if I can see how WW1 broke out after an era of free trade, then?

  24. kimberella says:

    You said the 1990s was immensely destructive of human life and you linked it with globalisation: “The 1990s when globalisation was at its peak as a buzz word was an immensely destructive period in terms of human life.”

    Not in a causal sense. And you’ve failed to:

    (a) take into account that many of the factors which are collapsed under the term “globalisation” were at work in previous decades. Although there’s a big debate about how long globalisation has been in process (and my point is the term itself came into fashion in the 90s) what’s conventionally understood by the term (and what you gesture to with your talk of “comparative advantage” etc.) is normally seen as having gathered weight after the oil shock of 1973 when liberalisation of exchange and capital movements was a response to stagflation and the tendency of the rate of profit and productivity to both fall;

    (b) the fact that if globalisation is defined in terms of “free trade” it certainly doesn’t exclude imperialism or war; and indeed “free trade” is nothing of the sort.

  25. Tony D says:

    If anyones in Melbourne this afternoon (thurs 8th)…

    Ali Allawi is speaking at Monash clayton, lost the rest of the details though sorry but you can probably look them up

  26. Tony D says:

    Oh and btw the term ‘globalisation’ refers to the net increase in ‘globalism’.

    ‘Globalism’ is the extent to which multi-continental linkages exist (trade, people flows, military alliances, etc).

  27. suzeoz says:

    Re comment 1: Hans Blix is very much a big picture man (a global man) and he’s a lawyer and diplomat. So I think his talk of globalisation decreasing the extent of warfare was in the context of a) big power tensions b) end of the Cold War and c) impact of the UN. I don’t think he’d deny that ‘lttle’ wars continue on an unacceptable scale. (Well, all war is unnaceptable.)

    re comment 2: “Eliminating nuclear weapons isn’t an achievable goal.” It’s a desirable goal. That has to be the starting point for thinking about nuclear weapons, in my opinion.

  28. suzeoz says:

    I’ve added a link to the post to an extract from his speech.

  29. silkworm says:

    I heard Stephen Braun on the Jon Stewart show several months ago saying that most deaths in modern warfare are from assault rifles, and that there is one person most responsible for the sale of these weapons to the bulk of the world’s troublespots, including 15 African countries – a Russian by the name of Viktor Bout. Nicolas Cage’s character in the film Lord of War is said to be partially based on him. Bout has sold weapons to the Taliban, and possibly even to Al Qaeda. He is currently living in Moscow. Interpol has a warrant out for his arrest, but he remains protected by the Russian Constitution which does not allow extradition of its citizens to foreign nations. Stephen Braun and Douglas Farah published a book this year about Bout entitled Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible. He may still be involved in dealing arms to Africa.

  30. Mick Strummer says:

    It is all very well to say that it is the weapons themselves are all that makes modern war such an awful affair, especially for those populations of civilians and non-combatants that get caught up in some conflict or another. But let us not forget that, regardless of the weapons and technology used, it is the mindset of those people that are using them that is real cause of the problems of war. There was a genocide in Rawanda recently where they killed hundreds of thousands with little more than machetes. The answer lies in having an international environment with both the authority and and capacity to coerce nation states – not matter how large – into eschewing armed conflict as a way of settling disputes. This is precisely why we will no end to war anytime soon, and why we will not see any quick end to WMDs like nuclear weapons. What country would ever give away the right to unilaterally determine for itself what it will and won’t do, particularly in a world of ever shrinking resources.
    Cheers

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