2016 No. 2

Editorial: On the pursuit of power through violence, and those who confront this
10 October 2016 

Ray Acheson

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What is it about the current world order that is so compelling to some governments?

Is it the relentless, illegal, and immoral bombardment in towns and cities in Syria and Yemen and Iraq and many other countries?

Is the astronomically high numbers of forcibly displaced people (over 65 million) or of refugees (over 21 million)?

Is it the increasing tensions between the leaders of countries like the United States and Russia that like to think of themselves as “superpowers” and flex their machismo through large, theatrical military exercises and threats of nuclear war?

This question comes to mind because, despite all the evidence suggesting that the world is on fire, a number of governments appear committed to driving aggressively forward on the path to more violence, more conflict, more poverty, more inequality, more misery, more death, and perhaps, ultimately, armageddon.

We have the United Kingdom and United States selling billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia to bomb hospitals, schools, and homes in Yemen; Russia helping the Syrian government destroy Aleppo before the year’s end; the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) testing nuclear weapons saying it needs them for its security; the United States saying the DPRK is delusional whilst performing its own nuclear weapon tests and arguing that a nuclear weapons ban is polarising and not credible.

The United States was not the only country to shrilly denounce the efforts of the majority of states from trying to outlaw the most dangerous, ridiculously overwrought weapon of all time. Russia and France also condemned the initiative to prohibit nuclear weapons through a legally binding treaty, with Russia saying it risks “plunging the world into chaos” and France saying it is delusional to think that it “could have the slightest concrete impact”.

Contradictory opposition aside, the bottom line is that these states—and some of their nuclear-supportive allies—believe that nuclear weapons bring them security and that stigmatising and making illegal their possession or reliance upon these weapons of terror is an affront to their apparent “right” to dominance through massive nuclear violence.

The current economic and political profitability of war and violence and weapons is likely the core motivation for these countries’ positions in this forum and the world beyond. Fortunately, these states are vastly outnumbered and the majority has not been silent about their keenness to move forward across a number of disarmament agenda items. Many states seem to agree with Liberia “that the attainment of peace and the maintenance of security cannot become a reality unless the forces responsible for raising the levels especially of weapon-related anxiety are brought under some reasonable form of effective international control.”

The determination to take action in the interest of humanity can be seen in the statements of those countries seeking to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, reach universalisation of the instruments banning cluster munitions and antipersonnel landmines, effectively implement the Arms Trade Treaty, prevent the development of autonomous weapons, and establish new laws and regulations for drones, incendiary weapons, outer space, and the cyber sphere.

With the first week of general debate behind us, states only have a few weeks left to shape and agree upon the path forward for many of these critical issues. While a militarily-powerful minority clambers to maintain what they apparently see as an “advantage” through weapons and war, it’s up to the rest of the world to remind them that their own citizens—and thus their own states—suffer from their intransigence and belligerence. 

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