“No matter what political reasons are given for war, the underlying reason is always economic.” A. J. P. Taylor
Economic competitiveness could very simply be turned into a ‘weapon’ for peace.
5.1 Military security can’t be bought
Global military spending in 2008 is estimated at $1464 billion (SIPRI, 2009), an increase of 45 per cent since 1999. Yet the acquisition of military security primarily by military spending is an unobtainable illusion. “One only need consider the enormous expenditures the United States has made to counter the threat posed by improvised explosive devices (IED). The United States has spent literally billions to counter these crude, inexpensive, and extraordinarily effective devices. If one were to multiply this ratio against a global enemy, it becomes unexecutable.” (US Joint Forces Command, 2008). Military personnel and nations can be protected not with expanded budgets for more weapons but with an expanded vision.
5.2 Security means global security
A 2007 speech by the NATO Secretary General (de Hoop Scheffer, 2007) set out a new preventive strategy for global security, “…our prevailing security paradigm has shifted. And the new paradigm can be summed up in just one word: engagement. We need to address the issues where they emerge, before they end up on your and my doorstep… NATO must be prepared to address security challenges at their source, whenever and wherever they arise.” The old paradigm of high dependence on armed engagement with problems that were previously not prevented is a strategy for bankruptcy in a world of unwinnable conflicts. Effective engagement with the sources of conflict requires a new set of policies that works beyond traditional ‘us vs them’ security analysis. It requires unprecedented investment of intellect, compassion and money in every facet of security for all people. The new security paradigm must be global security.
5.3 Escaping cycles of conflict
If circular economics (see policy switch 3) is implemented before planet crunch issues become irreversible then many of the current threats to international security would fade. However investment in a secure future would still be starved by the massive global spending on weapons. Rising weapons spending feeds a cycle of ever-stronger cultural dependence upon force and ever more suspicion between communities. Funds spent on threat and counter-threat are lost to the new security paradigm. The level of weapons spending reveals the degree of dependence on the old security paradigm and the use of weapons reveals the extent of failure to engage preventively with today’s problems. All the campaigns on arms control, and all the diplomatic attention to the proliferation of conflicts have been unable to break the global cycle of conflict. However a simple macro-economic correction is available to directly switch security paradigms and to implement a replacement cycle of self-reinforcing peace and security.
5.4 Should growth invite growing conflict?
The national income statistics used to measure economic growth include a perverse incentive in favour of greater economic and military dependence on weapons. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) currently includes weapons-related transactions so nations with high dependence on weapons gain higher GDP and higher political status despite accumulating armaments indicating poorer prospects. Politicians aspiring to boost economic growth cannot ask the wider economy to earn more but they
can choose to spend more on weapons and indulge in military adventures. Spending on weapons feeds a cycle of conflict as other nations feel obliged to respond to defend themselves. Individual security efforts add up to a collective absence of security. The vast investments in preparing for the worst are unavailable for global security, thus ensuring worst-case outcomes.
5.5 Growth as a ‘weapon’ for peace and security
A replacement cycle of global disarmament and global security can be invited by switching from Gross Domestic Product to ‘Gross Peaceful Product’ (Greyson, 2008) that simply omits weapons-related transactions. Nations can implement GPP as a diplomatic statement of intent to build a more secure world, and as a badge of peace. GPP provides a replacement benchmark for the economic growth of all nations in which higher GPP and higher growth more accurately indicates improved
future prospects. Nations adopting Gross Peaceful Product would be rewarded for lower reliance on weapons with comparatively higher economic growth. The new security paradigm of global security would become real by being funded. A self-reinforcing cycle of less weapons spending, less armed threat and more co-operation would be instituted internationally.
5.6 GPP by international agreement
GPP is the simplest of all proposals for GDP adjustment and requires no estimates or predictions of the costs of damage, yet it provides decision-makers with a powerful incentive. GPP can be presented on the world stage by any nation or any international body desiring peaceful international relations. It provides the means to implement the long-awaited commitment in Chapter 26 of the United Nations Charter (UN, 1945) where member nations agreed “to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources”. In a time of recession, the savings from a shrinking global dependence upon weapons spending would release scarce public funds to boost growth by lowering the tax burden and stimulating spending on productive approaches to security.
5.7 Spreading a culture of non-combative problem-solving
GPP does not inhibit any nation’s military defence choices; in fact it makes national security more achievable and affordable by actively spreading a non-combative problem-solving culture worldwide. Problems that are prevented or resolved co-operatively never reach the stage of requiring armed threat and bloodshed. Nations would see other nations switching investments from the old security paradigm to the new. Those who have felt abandoned and alienated would gain hope from tangible opportunities for collaborative engagement. Agitated young men in every country, prone to carrying knives or worse, would see governments practising what they preach about non-violence and collaborative values. Terrorist recruiters and street gangs would progressively lose their recruiting power. Peace would be given a chance.
- Greyson, J. 2008. Systemic Economic Instruments for Energy, Climate, and Global Security, in F. Barbir and S. Ulgiati (eds.), NATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security, pp 139-158. (Publisher’s link, slides, published paper)
- Heap, B 2009. Don’t Forget the Science Bit. NATO Review, March 2009. http://www.nato.int/docu/review/2009/0902/SCIENCE/EN/
- De Hoop Scheffer J 2007. Managing Global Security and Risk. Speech at The International Institute for Strategic Studies Annual Conference, 7 Sept 2007. http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/opinions_8489.htm
- Stålenheim P, Kelly N, Perdomo C, Perlo-Freeman S and Sköns E. SIPRI Yearbook 2009: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security. Oxford University Press. http://www.sipri.org/yearbook/2009/05
- Sustainable Energy Production and Consumption. NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme, Springer, pp 139-158.
- United Nations Charter, Chapter 5. San Francisco, 1945. http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter5.shtml
- US Joint Forces Command 2008. The Joint Operating Environment 2008.. Center for Joint Futures.. pp 50. http://transnet.act.nato.int/WISE/JointOpera/
This text is part 5 of 8 of my Advanced Research Workshop paper, Seven Policy Switches for Global Security, for the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme. Please see the abstract, full list of parts and downloads here. Comments welcome below. Some previous comments are on wiser.org.