Peace for Life: Geopolitics I
International Conference on Peace for Life in North East Asia
Korea Christian Faculty Fellowship
15. – 19. May 2005 at Roman Catholic Retreat Center, Uiwang, Korea
Geopolitics of Empire and Peace
Geopolitics today is mainly the geopolitics of war, substantially conditioned and shaped by the Empire, which is the United States. This has serious implications for peace.
The use of the word “empire” in relation to American power was once controversial, often restricted to left-wing critique of U.S. hegemony. But now in the mainstream media and in political discourse the concepts of empire and even the term “Pax Americana” are men-tioned frequently and prominently. “The military victory in Iraq seems to have confirmed a new world order” Joseph Nye, Dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, wrote in 2003 in The Washington Post “Not since Rome has one nation loomed so large above the others. Indeed the word ‘empire’ has come out of the closet”.
Today the term “American Empire” is a term of approval and optimism for some and dis-paragement and danger for others. Neo-conservatives celebrate the imperial exercise of US power, which, is a modern version of Rudyard Kipling’s “white man’s burden”. For them it is a liberal force that undercuts tyranny, terrorism, military aggression and weapons prolif-eration. Critics who identify an emerging American empire, meanwhile worry about its cor-rosive effect on democracy, its implications for the rest of the world, especially the weaker nations, and the threat it poses to international institutions many of which were initiated by the US. Richard Falk says that the empire is already showing fascist tendencies.
In this new worldview, third world countries must submit to a new period of colonization or semi-sovereignty. Europe would have to make to with a subordinate role in the imperial system. Far from being an autonomous power Europe is seen as a dependent zone, lacking the willpower and resources to defend itself, and subservient to U.S. decisions to wage war. It would have to find its place in an imperial division of labor in which, “America does the bombing and fighting, the French, the British and the Germans serve as police in the bor-der zone, and the Dutch, the Swiss and the Scandinavians provide humanitarian aid.” (Robert Kagan Policy Review Washington, June-July 2002)
The claim of American supremacy in the world did not begin with the presidency of George W. Bush. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there have been strong neo-conservative voices arguing that the end of the Cold War presented the US government with an extraordinary opportunity to fill the vacuum created by the collapse of the Soviet Union with American power for the benefit of the world. For them, there was no choice but to make use of American power, as enhanced by an expanded global military capability. This was forcefully presented in the report of the New American Century Pro-ject entitled Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century, pub-lished in September 2000. It said, “The US is the world’s only superpower, combining pre-eminent military power, global technological leadership and the world’s largest econ-omy…America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible”. “The processing of accomplishing this transforma-tion was likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event –like a new Pearl Harbor”. What was to become official policy within a few months received little at-tention at the time of publication of the report.
The September 11 attacks occurred against such a background and almost immediately moved the global security agenda back into the centre stage of world politics. They served as “ a new Pearl Harbor”. What became clear almost from the first response of the U.S. government was a decision to frame its response to mega-terrorism in terms that incorpo-rated the radical neo-conservative conception of a future world order. September 11 pro-vided the “catastrophic and catalyzing event” the Project for a New American Century was waiting for.
The Bush administration’s war on terrorism, invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, expanded military budget, new military doctrines and the 2002 National Security Strategy have thrust American military power into the light of the day as that of an empire – and in doing so deeply unsettled much of the world.
At the beginning of the war against Afghanistan, Scott Peterson wrote that the “borders of a new
American empire appear to be forming”. With the occupation of Iraq the borders are expanding. There are many elements of classical empire building seen today too: mili-tary occupation, regime change and direct control of economic resources.
Doctrines and Ideology
It is important to note that the fashioning and formulation of military strategies and doc-trines for building the empire was already in process before September 11. They were all in place before the attack on Iraq.
On September 20, 2001, nine days after the terrorist attacks, the Bush administration re-leased the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review. Obviously this was prepared much before that fateful day. While generally following the earlier review, the document did signal a critical shift in US defense strategy and policy with clear potential for empire building. As Carl Cornetta explains:
The critical difference is that the new QDR puts a distinctive emphasis on war fighting and war-fighting capabilities bringing maximum war objectives to the fore. Beyond seeking de-cisive victory, it aims for the decisive defeat of adversaries. This it defines ambitiously in terms of ‘changing the regime of an adversary state’ and ‘occupying foreign territory until US strategic objectives are met’.
The ultimatum given by President Bush to the Iraqi army was “Surrender or we will de-stroy you”.
War aims are radically changed. “Changing the regime of an adversary state and occupying foreign territory until US strategic objectives are met” are important parts of the Bush doc-trine for building and expanding the empire.
The classified Nuclear Posture Review of the US, details of which appeared in the media in the second week of March 2002, revealing Pentagon’s ambitious nuclear battle plans, redefines the role of nuclear weapons as fundamental to US defense policy, places new emphasis on the utility of nuclear weapons in US military doctrine and strategy and changes the very concept of deterrence. For the first time, the US is sending strong signals that it is consid-ering new uses of nuclear weapons. ‘First use’ and ‘first strike’ are writ large on the nuclear agenda of the US.
In an editorial “America as Nuclear Rogue”, the New York Times wrote on March 12, 2002:If another country were planning to develop new nuclear weapons and contemplating pre-emptive strikes against a list of non-nuclear powers, Washington would rightly label that nation a dangerous rogue, for such is the course recommended to President Bush by a new Pentagon paper
Admittedly what may be described as the Charter of the US empire is the National Security Strategy of the USA (NSS 2002) presented to the Congress by President Bush on 20th Sep-tember 2002. The document insists “The President has no intention of allowing any for-eign power to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago”. The document argues that while the US will seek allies in the battle against terrorism, “We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary to exer-cise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively”.
The doctrine of preemptive strikes and unilateral action and the scorn for the United Na-tions and its Charter represented a fundamental threat to the very global order that the US did so much to bring about in 1946.
Many of those who had previously argued for an imperial role for the US came to promi-nent positions in the administration when Bush came to power. The most conspicuous and salient feature of their approach to international affairs is its universalistic and monopolistic claim. If America is the instrument of universal right, the cause of all humanity, it is only proper that it should be diligent and insistent in imposing its will.
They typically use “democracy” as an umbrella term for the kind of political regime, that they would like to see installed all over the world. Bringing democracy to countries that do not yet have it ought to be the defining purpose of US foreign policy. One may call this the ideology of “democratization”. It has been espoused by many academics, James David Barber prominent among them. “The US should stand up and head the world democracy movement” he wrote in 1990, “We have made democracy work here, now we ought to make it work everywhere we can with whatever tough and extensive action that takes”. That is why democracy is sent to Iraq in fighter jets and thousands and thousands of its citizens are killed.
In many respects, the character of the document is in keeping with what might be de-scribed as America’s image of exceptionalism; that the US always uses power for good, that it has selfless purposes. It also reflects the belief that global security and liberal order are based on the US – that ‘indispensable nation’ – wielding power.
The National Defense Strategy of the United States, March 2005 is a reaffirmation of Pentagon’s ‘Globocop’ role. This is specially important as it is a post-Iraq war strategy.
While the first of the four “strategic objectives” listed in the report is securing the U.S. from direct attack, the second is to “secure strategic access and retain global freedom of ac-tion”
In dramatic contrast to the National Security Strategy of the USA, September 2002, the latest strategy does not even mention the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) by name, except obliquely by the phrase “traditional allies” or “partners” suggesting a strong prefer-ence for ad hoc “coalitions of the willing”, rather than permanent collective measures. The United Nations and its Security Council also go unmentioned in the document.
There is a virtual rejection of international law and multilateral mechanisms. Under “vul-nerabilities”, for example, the Strategy states, “Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judi-cial processes and terrorism.” Here international fora, judicial processes and terrorism are equated. Proponents of international law are equated with terrorists. According to the au-thors of the document both attack the United States.
The document also makes clear that Washington intends to ignore or demand changes in international law if they constrain Washington’s freedom of action anywhere in the world.
The document reiterates Bush’s strategic doctrine of “pre-emption” and calls for “preven-tive” military action by the U.S. and its partners under certain circumstances.
The Strategy suggests that Washington will not be reluctant to send its forces into other states that, in its opinion, “do not exercise their sovereignty responsibly” or that “use the principle of sovereignty as a shield behind which they claim to be free to engage in activi-ties that pose enormous threats to their citizens, neighbours, or the rest of the internatioal community.” No wonder some US commentators call this document fascist.
A key concept of the Bush doctrine is the notion of international impunity. Military strate-gists know full well that imperial conquest and occupation invariably involve crimes against civilians. Washington’s total rejection of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over the soldiers of its imperial armies is in essence a licence for crimes against humanity. The National Security Strategy document says: “The US will never subject its citizens to the newly created International Criminal Court –whose jurisdiction does not extend to the Americans.”. This is reiterated in the National Defense Strategy.
The Economics of the Empire
A close reading of the Bush administration plans in the document for world economic dominance reveals an audacious agenda. Its opening remarks, in the words of the Presi-dent, boldly proclaim that “the United States will ‘use this moment of opportunity’ (i.e. the war on terrorism) to bring democracy, development, free market and free trade to every corner of the globe”.
The document proceeds from the general to the specific. Section 4 amusingly entitled “Work with others to defuse regional conflicts” outlines selective economic exploitation plans for particular geographic areas. The economic agenda that will follow the flag, in the quest of what is called a better world, is clearly spelt out.
“The concept of ‘free trade’ arose as a moral principle even before it became a pillar of economics” the document claims. “The twenty first century will be an era of great promise. Globalization –the process of accelerating economic, technological, cultural and political integration - is bringing citizens from all continents together. A growing number of na-tions around the world have embraced American core values of democratic governance, free market economics and respect for fundamental human rights”. The implication is clear. There is an integral relationship between American-style free market economics and American security in the world. Globalization and imperial security go together. Global capitalism, enforced militarily if needed, is integral to empire building.
Having achieved a “preeminence not enjoyed by even the greatest empires of the past’, the US is focused on using the power globally, through both military and market intervention. America’s war on terror or war for freedom is at one with the expansionary goals for the market: open invasion is some places, open markets everywhere. Successive US administra-tions have used the rhetoric of economic freedom and opportunity to describe this policy: free trade, liberalization, deregulation and globalization
The emerging Pentagon doctrine, founded mainly on the work of Am. Arthur Cebrowski, chief of the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation, and Thomas Barnett of the Naval War College, argues that the dangers against which U.S, forces must be arrayed derive precisely from countries and regions that are ‘disconnected’ from the prevailing trends of globalization.(emphasis added) Barnett’s term for the areas which present the greatest threat is the “Gap” areas, where “globalization is thinning or just plain absent.” As he wrote in Esquire magazine early in 2003, “If we map out U.S. military responses since the end of the cold war, we find an overwhelming concentration of activity in the regions of the world that are excluded from globalization’s growing Core.”
Globalization and war are two sides of the same coin. Throughout many parts of the world, including Central America, there has been little “hidden” about the links between corporate interests, globalization and militarization.
Under the guise of the war on drugs, the war on terror, Plan Colombia and lesser-known programmes like the “humanitarian” New Horizons, U.S. military forces are backing U.S. corporate and geopolitical interests from Iraq to Colombia, from Honduras to the Philip-pines. We can see it in the war on Iraq and how USAID awarded “reconstruction” con-tracts to corporate backers of the Bush administration. We see it in plans for a U.S. free trade agreement with the Middle East by 2013, based on a network of bilateral FTAs with individual Middle Eastern governments. We can also see it in the Mexican government’s continued war against Indigenous Peoples in resource-rich areas like the Lacandon Jungle, home to the Zapastita Army of National Liberation and their supporters. We can see it in the renewed military presence in Southeast Asia, especially in their joint exercises with the Philippine military. Their mission is to make the world safe for capitalism and the U.S. em-pire and to crush communities and economies organized around different values and prin-ciples.
An Empire of Bases.
The Empire is built on increasing and expanding military relationships of various kinds with a very large number of countries as well as the stationing of hundreds of thousands of U.S., troops around the world.
Even in the 21st century with jets and space travel, the world is a large place. The division of the world into military fiefdoms or what U.S. military planners call the Unified Com-mand Plan, requires something very old-fashioned – overseas military bases.
Chalmers Johnson writes about “America’s Empire of Bases”.
This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually consti-tutes a new form of empire – an empire of bases with its own geography. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld , one can’t begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial ambitions or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order. (Common Dreams News Center, January 15, 2004).
The United States has military bases or military rights in some 40 countries of the world – giving it the same global muscle it would enjoy if it ruled these countries directly. These military bases numbering into hundreds across the world are today’s version of the imperial colonies of old. Washington may call them “forward deployment” but colonies are what they are. On this definition there is no place outside America’s military reach. Pentagon figures show that there is a US military presence, big or small in 132 of 190 member states of the United Nations.
To quote Johnson again,
Of the insensitive, if graphic, metaphors we have allowed into our vocabulary , none quite equals “footprint” to describe the military impact of our vocabulary. Establishing a more impressive footprint has now become part of the new justification for a major enlargement of our empire – and announced repositioning of our bases and forces abroad – in the wake of the conquest of Iraq. …They (the planners) have identified something they call the “arc of instability” which is said to run from the Andean region of South America (read Colom-bia) through North Africa and then sweeps across the Middle East to the Philippines and Indonesia. This is of course, more or less identical with what used to be called the Third World – and perhaps no less crucially it covers the world’s key oil reserves.
The U.S. Department has not yet selected officially all of the future locations for the new constellation of overseas military facilities. But experts have identified the following:
Eastern Europe: According to the Congressional Budget Office the Pentagon is interested in the establishment of three or more forward operating locations in Eastern Europe. In Poland it is looking into the use of several facilities once occupied by Soviet forces. The other facilities being considered are in Romania and Hungary.
Central Asia and the Caucuses: The Pentagon currently maintains two forward operating stations in this region at Khanabad in southern Uzbekistan and at Bishlek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. These bases are being used to support combat operations in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon has indicated that it plain to retain them for some time to come. In addition the United States is refurbishing the former Soviet airbase at Atyrau, on Kazakhstan’s Cas-pian Sea coast. The Defence De[artment is also considering the acquisition of a similar fa-cility in Azerbaijan, which is now receiving US funds for the creation of its own Caspian Sea navy.
The Gulf: America’s elaborate basing infrastructure in the Gulf area will be expanded with the acquisition of permanent facilities in Iraq. More than a year ago, the Chicago Tribune re-vealed that US military engineers are busy constructing fourteen “enduring bases” for American forces in Iraq. These facilities are said to include an assortment of former Iraqi army bases; the airports at Baghdad and Mosul will also be expanded to house US military aircraft. Elsewhere in the region, the Pentagon will retain its facilities in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The large airbase at Al-Udeid in Qatar is being ex-panded to house the US personnel once stationed in Saudi Arabia.
Africa: The Pentagon has already established two forward operating locations in North Af-rica: at Tamanrassat airport in southern Algeria and at Lemomer, a former French Foreign Legion post in Djibouti. It is also looking at possible sites for “bare bones” facilities in several countries south of the Sahara, including Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda, as well as the Tome and Principe in the Gulf of Guinea.
Asia-Pacific and the New Basing Strategy
Asia and the Pacific: Under plans announced by President Bush last August, the Pentagon will re-deploy about 12,000 combat troops from South Korea for Iraq, and shift the re-maining US forces in South Korea from Seoul and its environs to less congested areas fur-ther South. The first step was taken to enhance security in Iraq’s beleaguered cities, and the second to reduce US forces’ vulnerability to North Korea’s large-range artillery and to af-ford greater maneuverability in the event of a war. Elsewhere in the region, the Pentagon is considering the establishment of bases in Australia and the eventual return of US forces to their former installations in the Philippines, from which they were expelled in 1991.
The USA’s official policy called “Transformation of the Military establishment” has several implications for Asia. In fact the Pentagon’s sweeping Global Posture Review is “less focused on specific troop deployments than on extending broad military capabilities”. “Instead we are focused on increasing the capabilities of our forces and those of our friends,” US offi-cials have said. Meanwhile the US will seek new bases in Asia and substantially boost the number of ships and warplanes in Asia. The goal is fast, flexible, efficient projection of force. US military presence in the region will be smaller but deadlier relying on rapid so-phisticated air and naval power and using the latest technological advances.
In the name of the War on Terror the United States has established or strengthened mili-tary relationship with every state in Asia except China and North Korea. To show its inti-mate ties with the key states and region in this chain, Washington has given them new non-NATO ally status. Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Singapore and Taiwan enjoy this treatment. India’s defense ties with the US are expanding. The USA has very recently offered assistance to India to become a “world power”. It is actually an offer of a permanent place in the US-led military coalition. Among these a remilitarized Japan is groomed to be the “Britain of the Far East” and the key player in the US policy to “con-tain” China.
To many observers Japanese assertiveness is only a piece of a broader American effort to encircle China. They point to the language used by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in a key policy address delivered at Tokyo’s Sophia University during her recent tour of Asia.
The US- Japan relationship, the US-South Korea relationship, the US-India relationship all are important in creating an environment in which Chins is more likely to play a positive role rather than a negative one.
She hastened to add, “These alliances are not against China. Despite such reassurances, many Chinese strategic thinkers believe that the United States still regard China as threat to be contained or countered not as a partner in Asia.
In fact the United States is already running a covert new-containment strategy to counter China’s rising power. The U.S. has augmented its network of military bases and alliances in Asia that surround China. The United States has transferred more naval assets into the al-ready powerful US Pacific Fleet and under the banner of fighting terrorism, opened seem-ingly permanent bases in Central Asia to the west of China. These developments substan-tially amplify the power of the many existing US military facilities throughout the region. In the new basing strategy, most significantly, overall, is the revised calculations of Amer-ica’s geopolitical interests. During the Cold War when “containment” was the overarching strategic principles, the United States surrounded the Soviet bloc with major forces. With the end of the Cold War, however, this template no longer made no sense, and many of these bases lost their strategic rationale. Meanwhile, other concerns – counter-terrorism, pursuit of foreign oil and the rise of China – have come to preoccupy American strategists. It is these concerns that are largely behind the realignment US bases and forces.
Michael Klare explains:
There is a remarkable degree of convergence among these concerns, both in the practical and geographical terms. Oil and terrorism are linked because many of the most potent ter-rorist groups, including Al Qaeda, arose in part as a reaction to the West’s oil-inspired em-brace of entrenched Arab governments, and because the terrorists often attack oil facilities in order to weaken the regimes they abhor. Similarly oil and China are linked because both Washington and Beijing seek influence in the major oil-producing regions. And the major terrorist groups, the most promising sites of new oil and the focal points of Sino-American energy competition are all located in the same general neighbourhoods: Central Asia and the Caspian region, the greater Gulf area and the far reaches of the Sahara. And the United States is establishing new basing facilites precisely in these areas.
(The Imperial Reach- Pentagon’s New Basing Strategy, The Nation Magazine April 25, 2005)
The search for new bases is also being driven by the Pentagon’s new strategic outlook. During the cold war ear, most overseas troop deployments were defensive-intended to de-ter Soviet expansionism in Europe and Asis and to provide the means for effective resis-tance should deterrence fail. Instead, the Bush administration and its neo-con allies seek to fashion a more assertive, usable combat force. This new outlook is encapsulated in The Na-tional Defense Strategy of the Untied States of America: “Our role in the world depends on effec-tively projecting and sustaining our forces in distant \ environments where adversaries may seek to deny US access,” the document says.
The Theology of the Empire
Promoters of the imperial role of America had always claimed a special mission for the na-tion. Expressions like “indispensable nation” and “exceptional nation” are common in their political writings. While other countries have interests, the US, they maintain, addi-tionally unlike other great powers of the past embodies values of benefit to all, a claim re-peated as if a mantra by President Bush and his main advisers. These values are designated as “the non-negotiable demands of human dignity, the rule of law, limits on the absolute power of the state, free speech, freedom of worship, equal justice, respect for women, reli-gious and ethnic tolerance and respect for private property”. “The US national strategy will be based on a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of values and our national interests. The aim of this strategy is to help make the world not just safer but bet-ter”. (NSS 2000)
Bush’s war is different from past American wars because it was a war of choice, not neces-sity. German submarines were not sinking American ships, the Japanese had not attacked, world communism was not threatening. Iraq was not a fount of terrorism, it had no weap-ons of mass destruction. It was America’s first preemptive or rather preventive war, which by its very definition could not be a ‘just war’.
Jim Wallis explains in the article “Dangerous Religion – George W.Bush’s theology of em-pire” in Sojourners. (September-October 2003)
“To the aggressive extension of American power in the world, President George W. Bush adds religion and that changes the picture dramatically. It’s one thing for a nation to assert its new dominance in the world. It is another to suggest, as the President does, that the success of American and military policy is connected to a religiously inspired ‘mission’, and even that his presidency may be a divine appointment for a time such as this”.
The problem of “evil” is very prominent in Bush’s theology of empire. George Bush is convinced that “we are engaged in a moral battle between good and evil”, and that “those who are not with us” are on the wrong side in that divine confrontation.
In Christian theology, it is not nations that rid the world of evil. The confrontation with evil is a role reserved for God, and for the people of God when they faithfully exercise moral conscience. But God has not given the responsibility for overcoming evil to a nation state, much less to a superpower with enormous wealth and particular national interests. To confuse the role of God with that of the American nation, as George Bush seems to do, is a serious theological error that some might say borders on idolatry or blasphemy.
Empires need official religion. Empires always try to justify themselves by appeal to univer-sal beliefs and concepts. It is these beliefs, which create the social cohesivesness required for imperial success, and ultimately, these must be religious beliefs. Empires need gods.
Strong movements each presenting a kind of public theology, which together now seek to justify an American Empire, may be identified.
The first and most obvious, of course is the religious right. The religious right in its con-ventional theological form teaches that the United States is a Christian nation destined to lead the world.
But there are other quasi-religious forces also at work in contemporary culture. One is the idea of the market. The market has become a kind of god in the thinking and belief system of many intellectuals and politicians. It is this universal market god that is used to justify an American empire, particularly through world economic institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.
Redefining War and Peace
In his first major speech after the invasion of Iraq, standing by the side of the most ad-vanced strike fighters in US Navy’s arsenal (Boeing’s F/A 18 Super Hornet Jets) and ad-dressing Boeing workers, President Bush said, “By a combination of creative strategies and advanced technology we are redefining war on our own terms”. He added, “In this new era of precision warfare we can target a regime. Our aim is to strike the guilty.”
The redefinition of war involves a lot of things. The “creative strategies and advanced technology” are well reflected in the new doctrines of war already mentioned. What is more important that the redefinition is “on our own terms”, i.e. the terms of the Empire. It begins with the self-understanding of the Empire. The terms are laid down by the “in-dispensable” or “exceptional” nation. The Empire is the custodian of the universal values. It is destined to “promulgate and uphold America’s moral responsibility to dispense cosmic justice”. The Empire represents the “good” in the moral battle between “good” and “evil”. War is to punish the evil. The war will go on till all the guilty are punished. It ensures that war will be permanent, inevitable. War is good because it will bring peace. War is romanti-cized and glorified.
What is important is the change of war aims. It is no longer to defeat the enemy, but change the regime of the adversary and occupy it.
The old twentieth century esthetic of armed conflict as barbarism, brutality, ugliness, and sheer waste grew out of World War I, as depicted by writers like Ernest Hemingway, Eric Maria Remarque and Robert Graves. World War II, Korea and Vietnam reaffirmed that aesthetic, in the latter case with films like Apocalypse No, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. The intersection of art and war gave birth to two large truths. The first was that the modern war as an orgy of destruction that devoured the guilty and innocent alike. The second, stem-ming from the first, was that military institutions by their very nature were repressive and inhumane. After 1914, only fascists dared to challenge these truths.
But by the turn of the 21st century a new image of war had emerged if not fully displacing the old one competing and challenging it. A new lexicon of military terms appeared. War was becoming “surgical”, “precise”, “frictionless”, “postmodern”, even “abstract” or “vir-tual”. Killing of thousands of innocent civilians was “collateral damage”. By the end of the 20th century, Michael Igantieff concluded, war had become a “spectacle”. It had trans-formed itself into a kind of “spectator sport”, one offering “the added thrill that it is real for someone, but not happily for the spectator.” Now war is romanticized and glorified.
Weapons of war are called instruments of peace. Manufacturers of weapons are peacemak-ers. Bush gave the redefinition of war standing by the side the most advanced fighter jets of Boeing and said, “Their (Boeing’s) jets are a main reason why we are successful in making the world a more peaceful place”. Even before September 11, President Bush announced to the world: “The Department of Defense has become the most powerful force for free-dom the world has ever seen.”
While in earlier times history was viewed as “peaceful continuum interrupted by war”, now we have to search for peaceful interregnum in the apparent continuum of war. War be-comes the normal thing. Peace is abnormal. It is this normalization of war that has become the greatest threat to peace.
In the new lexicon of the Empire, also apparently used by the United Nations, other terms are preferred to peace. There is no UN peace-keeping force in Afghanistan where we are told that the conflict is over and peaceful elections have been held. What is there is ‘Inter-national Security Assistance Force’. The occupying forces in Iraq have been baptized by the UN as multinational forces legitimizing them and implying they represent the international community. The only explanation is that there cannot be a peace-keeping force where there is no peace to keep. The term peace building is also not in currency now. How can peace be built when it is argued that peace can be achieved only by war?
Meanwhile the meaning of security has shrunk. The notion of security had already left the universe of people. In the name of national security it had become the security of the re-gime. Now it is not the security of the state, and not even military security but the security of the military, for example, “securing” a bridge or a road for the military to pass through. Other terms used are “stabilization” and “pacification” both often involving violence. What does peace mean today to people in Iraq or Palestine?
We have to redefine peace on the terms of the people, the ordinary toiling masses of the world, the minjung. There is a lot of conceptual and theological work to be done beginning with challenging the new terms of war. Not only war doctrines and strategies but also war aims have been changed. Peace can be reclaimed and regained only by unmasking the Em-pire and its religion, systems and institutions that perpetuate war and injustice.
For doing this we have to seek the best available political and economic analysis as well as the most helpful theological insights. The old formulations of the churches on war and peace will be found inadequate if not irrelevant.
Ninan Koshy: Former CCIA Director, WCC