Saving Lives, Saving Souls

We all like to think of ourselves in the best possible light. We like to occupy the moral high ground and rarely see others as being quite as high up there as us. On the contrary, “they” are always bad guys, never us; they are the ones motivated by greed or hatred or jealousy, but we ourselves are always doing things for the purest of motives. We can easily see the speck on our neighbor’s eye, but never the plank in our own eye. This basic human trait applies to groups of human beings as well as to individuals. Families, clans, tribes, nations, religions, and every conceivable sub-category of these are benign if we belong to them and suspect if we do not. We ascribe all sorts of malevolent intentions to those “other” groups while assuming our own group operates only with the best of intentions.

There are degrees to which individuals and groups cling to this basic orientation, and by no means do all people think this way. It is, however, one of the most noticeable and enduring features of human conflict that both sides become entrenched with enemy images of each other that are almost identical apart from the names and the groups being reversed. Indeed it is one of the basic principles of military training through the ages that before people can be trained to kill an enemy, they must first see them as the enemy—as evil, hateful, and sub-human beings who are incapable of good.

Finding solutions to intractable conflicts and building sustainable peace depends very much on breaking down those enemy images and getting people to see each other as human beings with similar hopes and fears and dreams and aspirations. When it comes to reducing violence and protecting civilians from the rampages of armed groups, however, it is the positive self-image rather than the negative enemy-image that we need to focus on.

The positive self-image that we all have of ourselves and of the groups to which we belong, to some extent or other, represents a glimmer of hope in situations that are often drowning in despair. Believing that they are essentially good and well-meaning and deserving to occupy the moral high ground provides an opportunity for all but the most depraved psychopaths to actually be good and well-meaning and to take up their rightful position on the moral high ground where they may have thought they already stood.

At its most basic, what this means is that parties to a conflict tend to be exceedingly careful not to get caught doing things that could put them—or their group or their cause—in a bad light. This could mean doing everything they can to prevent anyone from seeing or getting anywhere near what they are doing. It could also mean killing the people who do see things that could be damaging to their public image so that words or photos do not get out. But in most cases, it means being on their best behavior when others are looking, trying to do their more nefarious activities out of public view and then to deny that they had anything to do with it.

This pattern is repeated in conflict after conflict around the globe. When the Nicaraguan contra forces knew that American civilians were in Nicaraguan border villages, they would not attack those villages. When Israeli Defense Force soldiers see that European activists are at a Palestinian checkpoint, they harass Palestinians less and allow more of them to cross than when European activists are not there. When OSCE monitors rolled up to a village in Kosovo prior to the 1999 war there, Serb forces would pull back and Albanian refugees would return home. When ceasefire monitors from Nonviolent Peaceforce entered an area in Mindanao, Philippines, Filipino troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas would both be on their best behavior.

This is, of course, also the case when the outside party looking in happens to be a military peacekeeping unit from the United Nations (UN). In most cases, the conflict parties do not want to be caught, whether it is UN troops or unarmed civilians who are watching. That can only be good for the civilians caught up in these conflicts and it can only be good for the long-term prospects for peace, for so long as this principle holds in most cases, having people around and visibly watching is in and of itself an effective deterrent to indiscriminate violence and all kinds of abuses against the civilian population.

It should be equally obvious that having people around, whether UN troops or unarmed civilians, is sadly not sufficient to stop all violence and abuse. It can help to lower the levels of violence and abuse. It can push the violence and abuse elsewhere, which protects some at the expense of others. It can also lead to attacks on the outsider observers themselves to get them out of view and to keep them away. When the violence and abuse continues, despite outside observers being present, the reaction by most UN and nongovernmental organization (NGO) agencies working to protect civilians in those situations has been to ratchet up the pressure on those responsible, usually through denunciations in the media and by the diplomatic community. The hope is that such denunciations could lead to international sanctions of various kinds, including possible indictments at the International Criminal Court. Such approaches have been effective in some cases, especially where it is a national government who is being pressured and that government is quite vulnerable at that moment in terms of trade arrangements, International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans, or other forms of pressure that Western countries can turn on and off at will.

These kinds of pressures, however, work less well on guerrilla movements and on countries that are not so susceptible to Western economic pressures. And they also work less well on the overall psychology of the conflict, because they undermine the perception of a particular party as still being a “good guy” and once that is lost, they have nothing to lose by continuing to be perceived as the “bad guy.” This can then ironically embolden them to do “whatever it takes” to beat their opponents. In the case of Sri Lanka, for instance, it could be argued that by forcing the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa into pariah status over its handling of the war from 2007 onward, the international community lost whatever leverage it might have had over that government and enabled them to get away with atrocities that might never have happened had Rajapaksa remained more overtly accountable to the international community for his actions.

The same argument could be made about Israel. The more Israel is isolated and pushed into a corner, the less hesitation its government has in defying the norms of the international community to achieve its objectives, since it has nothing to lose in terms of its image at this point. That is not to say that preserving the self-image of a pariah state is the most important item on the agenda and should override other considerations. If, however, our primary objective was the protection of civilians and the reduction of overall violence, it must be said that the international strategy of denouncing and isolating Israel and other pariah states is not working, although it could be argued that the strategy may have been more successful in the case of South Africa.

What else, then, might work to lessen violence and abuse of civilians when mere presence of outside observers is not enough? If we return to our original observation that most people want to be seen in a positive light, it must be obvious that there is more to this than simply observing someone’s behavior and hoping thereby to deter them from doing something terrible. Why not actually engage with these people and help them turn their positive self- image into reality? In a surprisingly large number of cases, from Colombia to Kenya to Sri Lanka to the Philippines, governments and guerrilla movements known for their ruthlessness and atrocities have nonetheless been willing to compromise and change their behavior to protect civilian populations.

In track one and track two mediation, the aim is to get government and guerrilla leaders to compromise and yield on some of the most fundamental values and beliefs that they hold in order to find a peaceful solution to a protracted and violent conflict. In the case of negotiating with these same actors to reduce violence and protect civilians, the only things on the table are their strategies and tactics for waging the conflict, not the ultimate aims and objectives of the conflict itself. What is on offer for them is an enhanced public image in return for a change in their strategies or tactics, and few would not jump at that opportunity. It is a far easier ask than trying to resolve the whole conflict through mediation.

There is more at stake here than an enhanced public image and a claim to the high moral ground, which almost all governments and guerrilla movements desperately want. What is at stake, also, are their own souls. We not only think of ourselves in the best possible light. Most of us want to be good as well as look good, and that goes for guerrilla fighters, revolutionaries, terrorists, and gang leaders as well as for soldiers, generals, politicians, and arms dealers. Those of us who come from a peace or a human rights background can fall into the trap just as well as everyone else of thinking that these are categories of “bad people,” “abusers,” men with evil or malevolent intent, men who kill innocent civilians for the hell of it, men with blood on their hands, and so on.

It is a surprising discovery for most people who go into this kind of work to find out that army generals and guerrilla leaders, not to mention their rank and file soldiers, are just human beings like the rest of us. Sure, some of them are psychopaths. There are probably a small proportion of psychopaths, sadists, and depraved people in any given group of people, whether in the army, the police, the clergy, or the peace movement! Fortunately they are normally outnumbered, even in the killing business.

Once we ourselves get beyond the idea that these people are evil and start treating them as human beings, we actually discover that they are human; they just happen to be living in terrifying circumstances with the lives of other human beings in their hands. Not all people in those circumstances want to do the right thing, but a very large number of them do, and we can help them do it. This is where the traditional model of UN peacekeeping falls down utterly and completely. UN peacekeeping troops come from national armed forces and are trained and equipped to fight battles. They are neither trained nor equipped to work with armed groups on how they can achieve their objectives with less violence and without their activities impacting on the civilian population. Sometimes UN peacekeepers are able to get that kind of message across to generals and guerrilla leaders, but in those cases it is more than likely in spite of, rather than because of, being military personnel assigned to the UN.

Unarmed civilians, properly trained and equipped, can much more effectively talk to generals and guerrilla leaders, engage with their troops and civilian counterparts, provide assistance and support in developing alternative strategies for achieving political objectives, and teach them about human rights, international laws of war, and their duties and responsibilities to the civilian population. By engaging with armed groups in this way, we are not just helping them to be seen in a better light, we are actually helping them to behave in a better way. Ironically, it is sometimes the most ruthless fighters who would actually prefer to achieve their objectives with less bloodshed if they knew how to do it.

The first step on this road to less violence is reducing the impact of war on civilians. Civilians are most often in the front lines of attack because they willingly or unwillingly hide and protect armed groups in their midst. Many models have been developed in different contexts to more clearly separate the combatants from the non-combatants, including the Peace Communities of Colombia and the Weapon-Free Zones of South Sudan. So long as both sides respect these areas equally, they can work quite effectively. Much more can be done to develop this idea further and in contexts where the separation of combatants is more problematic, but the key is getting a joint commitment from both sides to respect civilian areas and to stay away from them.

Another way to keep armed groups away from civilian populations is to consistently monitor and report to the leadership of those groups what is going on with their own troops. Often guerrilla leaders, and sometimes even commanders in national armed forces, are not aware of what their troops are doing on the ground. As with many of the efforts undertaken in the field of “security sector reform,” helping to strengthen the chain of command within poorly managed armed groups can actually be of great benefit to the civilian population, since much of the abuse that takes place outside of normal combat is through lack of discipline and misbehavior by rank and file soldiers who, once again, think they can get away with things if no one is paying attention to them.

One of the most effective ways of ensuring that civilians are not being abused or mistreated by soldiers on the ground is to have built relationships of mutual trust all the way up the chain of command, up to and including political leaders who may carry some weight and influence with the military leaders. When a problem arises at a checkpoint or with a patrol in the jungle or wherever, the first port of call is with the local commander. If the local commander is unable or unwilling to resolve the problem, sometimes just suggesting that we will be going to his superior is enough. If not, going to his superior is the next step, and so on up the chain of command until someone, somewhere along the way, realizes that this is a breach that could have an impact on their public image and therefore is willing to step in and resolve the issue.

Sometimes the military structure itself is unwilling to intervene or sees it as a strategic necessity to continue on the path they are on. At that point, it may take someone outside the military or guerrilla structure to have an influence on them. Rarely is it the case that there is no one at all who can see that it is in their own best interest to change course. The aim is to find someone who does understand the import of what is happening and is able to influence others. Sometimes it may take a very convoluted chain of influence to reach the right person with the right message, but it is almost always possible.

It goes without saying that a strategy of influence based on being able to talk to anyone up and down the chain of command as well as to people on the periphery of a military or guerrilla structure requires an extraordinary amount of relationship building and trust. This, at the end of the day, is the crux of this approach. Without building trust and close relationships with people inside both or all sides of a conflict, there is little chance of influencing them when it comes to protecting civilians and developing less violent ways of carrying on their conflict.

Building relationships with people engaged in violent conflict requires not only that we give up the idea that these are “bad guys” with blood on their hands and therefore unworthy of our trust and respect; it actually requires us to want to actively help these people and want to work with them to do the right thing, whatever that may be. This is not something that can be undertaken lightly. Your own life, not to mention the lives of other civilians you are trying to protect, is at stake if you are not sincere as well as competent in handling these delicate relationships. But the prize for success is the saving of souls as well as lives, because we are helping people move away from killing and bloodshed and toward a better way of being that benefits everybody.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Peace Review on 1 January 2015, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10402659.2015.1000189#abstract
Copyright ⃝C Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN 1040-2659 print; 1469-9982 online
Tim Wallis has a Ph.D. in Peace Studies from Bradford University, UK. He was International Secretary of PBI (1991–1994), Editor of Peace News (1994–1997), Director of the National Peace Council (1997–2000), Director of Peaceworkers UK (2000–2006), Training Director of International Alert (2006–2008), Programme Director of Nonviolent Peaceforce (2008–2009), and Executive Director of Nonviolent Peaceforce (2010–2012).

Remembrance Day Thank You From a Pacifist

poppies

 

Today is Armistice Day, or “Remembrance Day” in the UK: the day forever remembered as the day in 1918 when World War One came to an end, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. As far as WWI is concerned, I am grateful for only one thing: that the last of the veterans who fought in that war are no longer with us.

Soldiers, of course, cannot be blamed for the wars they fight in. We should grieve for every soldier who was killed or wounded in WWI, along with every widow and every orphan and every soldier who fought and survived and indeed every civilian who lived through and suffered from that war. Wars are terrible things and we do well to remember that and to keep alive the memory of that most terrible of wars.

But I am grateful that there are no more living veterans of World War One because that frees us all to speak the truth about that ‘Great War’; the ‘War to End All Wars’: it was fought for nothing. Millions upon millions of people dead, four years of unimaginable bloodshed and destruction, engulfing an entire continent…for nothing. Wars are very stupid things, and this war was the stupidest of them all: armies in holes and trenches, gunning each other down by the hundreds of thousands, day after day, in the vain attempt to gain a few feet of territory from each other. And after four years of carnage, everyone was more or less right back where they started.

Of course many, if not most, wars are just the same: a clash of egos or ideologies or national ‘pride’ that leaves a trail of death and destruction – and to what end? Normally the result is that the men of war finally sit down and negotiate some sort of agreement that ends the war – an agreement they could have just as easily sat down and negotiated without the war, were it not for the egos and ideologies and national pride that got in the way first…

That is why I am proud to call myself a ‘pacifist’. I believe war is a stupid and outmoded way of dealing with human affairs and the sooner we rid the world of the scourge of war the better. I am not an ‘absolute’ pacifist because I do not discount the possibility that wars are sometimes forced upon us and that I might find myself supporting, or even fighting, in such a war. But World War One was not a necessary evil, it was just plain evil. And the sooner we, collectively, acknowledge that fact and own up to the consequences of acknowledging that fact, the better.

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But what about World War Two? Personally, I believe WWII was a necessary evil, and I am sincerely and wholeheartedly grateful to all the soldiers who fought in that war to free the world from Fascism. And I am equally grateful to all the civilians who also suffered enormously and for all the sacrifices they also made on behalf of that particular war. Because while I still believe war is stupid, in fact WWII was a war again the ideology of war itself.

Fascism, and especially its Nazi branch, is an ideology of war: it glorifies war and can only survive by making war. It is an economy of war, a politics of war, an enculturation of war. For Hitler and his cronies, it was of course not just a war against the rest of Europe, it was a war against all Jews, against all Slavs, all gays, all disabled people and many other categories of their own people.

Let’s be quite clear, Hitler and Naziism could have been stopped without a world war. There were many occasions in the lead up to World War Two when the German people could have said no and they didn’t, and there is much to learn from that, not just for Germans but for all of us. But once the malignant tumour had taken control and its poison had begun to spread and blood was already being spilt: once the Nazi war machine was up and running, what else could have stopped it at that point, except war itself?

It is a foolish and unnecessary trap that ‘absolute’ pacifists fall into all the time when they are asked: “Well, what about Hitler then? What would you have done, just let him carry on killing the Jews and conquering the whole of Europe, if not the world?” The right answer to that question can only be “of course not!” but it does not fall easily off the tongue of an ‘absolute’ pacifist because in this case it is hard to imagine what the alternative to war would be.

Of course there were opposition and underground movements all over Europe and even in Germany, secretly rescuing Jews, undermining Nazi rule and fighting back nonviolently. There is also much to learn from these experiences and we now know that many a dictator and seemingly impervious regime has fallen purely through the nonviolent resistance of the people without a shot being fired. We know it can be done!

But in the case of Nazi Germany, let’s be honest with ourselves: by 1939 it was already far too late for any kind of nonviolent resistance to have stopped Hitler and his war machine. The ‘appeasement’ policy of Neville Chamberlain is to be rightly condemned as an inadequate response to an ideology of war. To rid the world of this hateful ideology, the world had to fight back and it had to use that necessary evil to do it: war.

That is why I am grateful today to all the service men and women who fought against Fascism in World War Two. I am grateful I do not live under a fascist dictatorship. I am grateful that millions more Jews and other non-acceptables have not been murdered by a state machinery of death that was halted in its tracks in 1945. I am grateful that the Fascist ideology and machinery of war were conclusively defeated by the forces of democracy, tolerance and global solidarity. The world is a far better place because of the sacrifices of those who fought and died in WWII, so thank you, thank you, thank you!

My final plea to all those who survived WWII and are with us today as we remember the fallen: in your gratitude for those who saved us from Fascism, please do not allow a new kind of Fascism to take root in the world: a Fascism that starts with the belief that war is the answer to everything and must always be supported, no matter what…

Tim Wallis, 11 November 2012

Civilian Peacekeeping

Civilian Peacekeeping [entry in the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Peace, ed. Nigel Young, Oxford University Press,Oxford, 2009, pp. 302-305].

 

In the literature of peace research, the concept of “peacekeeping” describes one of three complementary strategies for tackling violent conflict (Galtung, 1969). Peacekeeping is aimed at reducing the overt violence of the parties involved, while peacemaking is aimed at bringing the parties together to reach an agreement, and peacebuilding is the attempt to tackle the root causes of the conflict. Over the years these terms have come into common usage but with a variety of meanings attached to them. Because of its association with the large-scale peacekeeping operations of the United Nations, peacekeeping is generally understood as a form of military intervention involving troops sent into a conflict area by the UN or some other official body to stop the fighting and restore order. International police forces rather than military forces are increasingly being used to “keep the peace” in places like Bosnia and Kosovo, but nonuniformed civilians have also been playing a critical role in reducing violence and creating a safe environment for peacemaking and peacebuilding activities to take place in such situations. “Civilian peacekeeping” is a generic term used to describe those activities.

 

Neither military nor civilian peacekeepers can “stop wars” just by standing in the middle of the battlefield and separating the two parties, like a teacher breaking up a fight on the school playground. Effective peacekeeping involves a range of complementary activities that build relationships with all sides, increase the confidence of those caught in the middle to stand up to the violence, strengthen existing mechanisms and structures for handling the violence, and ultimately use certain forms of pressure and “force” to prevent or deter further violence when all else fails. Military peacekeepers have an array of armaments and military structures behind them to provide that pressure of last resort, and, in certain circumstances, those may be the only tools that will have an effect on the perpetrators of violence. However, civilian peacekeepers also have an array of tools available to them for applying pressure, and in some cases these can be even more effective than military might.

 

Strategies for Reducing Violence. The types of pressure that civilians can apply to prevent or deter violence include moral pressures, political pressures, legal pressures, economic pressures, and social pressures. Moral pressures are sometimes based on the authority of significant local or international religious leaders but also on common humanitarian values that may be shared by the perpetrators of violence. Political pressures may involve exclusion from certain international bodies, damage to one’s international status or status within one’s own community, or missing out on other significant developments, such as elections, negotiations, or plebiscites. Legal pressures include the possibility of being tried and convicted for war crimes at the Hague, as well as the threat of imprisonment in one’s own country. Economic pressures include the threat of UN sanctions, withdrawal of economic support from diasporas and supporters abroad, collapse of tourist revenue, denial of certain trade rights or budget support, or foreign investment or development aid. Social pressures include ostracism and collapse of support from family, friends, and communities or peer pressures—positive social reinforcements to engage in less violent activities, etc.

 

These pressures can be far more significant than is readily apparent in a society dominated by the use of military force and punitive sanctions to solve intractable problems. There is ample evidence that such pressures can affect the behavior of individual armed actors as well as the decisions and strategies taken by commanders and political leaders in war situations. The effectiveness of civilian peacekeeping to actually reduce levels of violence, however, may lie less in the forms of pressure that can be directly applied to the situation than in the implied combination of threats represented simply by the presence of international civilians in a potentially violent situation. Perpetrators of violence, atrocities, or human rights abuses generally do not want to be seen or caught in the act or identified, for any or all of the reasons listed above. This concept of a “physical presence which can deter violence and change behavior” underlies military peacekeeping as well and explains why the impact of UN troops has little to do with the quality of their firepower and much more to do with the fact that they fly UN flags and wear blue helmets and are seen as outsiders representing the international community.

 

For example, during the Contra war in Nicaragua in the 1980s, attacks on border villages would cease whenever a delegation of citizens from the United States was in the area. At Israeli checkpoints on the West Bank, treatment of Palestinians has been markedly more civilized when journalists or foreign peace activists have been present. Such responses cannot, of course, be guaranteed, but these examples illustrate the power civilians may have in such situations just by “being there” and representing the outside world.

 

Protective accompaniment is a more specific peacekeeping tool developed by Peace Brigades International in the 1980s and now used by a number of other organizations working in Latin America and other parts of the world. This involves being with individuals (human rights activists, for example) or groups who are under threat of violent attack for up to twenty-four hours a day. It relies upon the various forms of pressure described above to dissuade the attackers from carrying out their threat. This has proved highly effective in those countries where it has been tried, although it can also be dangerous to assume it will work in situations where the perpetrators of violence are not so susceptible to such pressures or may even find the internationals a more attractive target than the locals they are accompanying.

 

Official Civilian Peacekeeping. The UN employs growing numbers of civilians (including UN volunteers) on its “multidimensional” peacekeeping operations, and they are sometimes described as civilian peacekeepers, although they include support staff, translators, drivers, and logistics people as well as protection officers, human rights officers, ceasefire monitors, and others working in a more peacekeeping-related capacity. The UN remains firmly wedded to the military component of its peace operations, however, despite the mounting costs and debatable effectiveness of deploying uniformed troops in certain situations.

 

Smaller-scale observer missions and ceasefire monitoring teams have always been largely unarmed and have included not just retired military officers but other civilians coming from a more diplomatic background. Since international observer missions have no military forces to back them up, the deterrent value of such missions (as well as of the more classical peacekeeping operations that did not have a mandate to use force) comes very simply from the fact that they are internationals and have some authority through their association with the UN (or some other authority), rather than from the fact that they are military per se or have military muscle behind them to force the parties to comply when persuasion fails. In such situations it is clear that (nonuniformed) civilians can play just as valuable a role as do serving military officers or police.

 

Although the European Union (EU) has also deployed military peacekeepers in support of UN and African Union (AU) missions, its own peace operations to date have been predominantly civilian ones. These have been composed largely of police but have also included civilian observers, border monitors, and other civilian personnel with expertise in areas such as rule of law, human rights, disarmament, democratization, and security sector reform. “Civilian crisis management” is the overarching term being increasingly used in EU parlance to describe these activities, but a case can be made to include them within the concept of civilian peacekeeping since they involve efforts to reduce violence, reestablish the rule of law and create (or re-create) mechanisms for managing ongoing conflict less violently.

 

The same rationale can be applied to activities described as “postconflict stabilization” by the U.S. State Department and increasingly by governments in Canada, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. These involve the recruitment, training, and deployment of civilian personnel to “backstop” ongoing military operations such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. While those military operations can be described as “peacekeeping” only in the broadest sense of the term, the civilian components of those missions, including, for instance, the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan, are more directly engaged in violence prevention and reduction than in fighting the ongoing “war on terror,” even if the rationale for their deployment is to provide an “exit strategy” for eventual withdrawal of military forces.

 

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) currently has more than 1,000 international field staff and 2,000 local staff on eighteen purely civilian missions (including police) throughout Eastern Europe and central Asia. These are engaged in monitoring and promotion of human rights, elections, democratization and rule of law as well as basic monitoring of violence, borders and military activity. The largest civilian peacekeeping operation to date was the OSCE’s Kosovo Verification Mission, which was responsible for monitoring the withdrawal of Serbian troops and the return of Kosovan refugees to their homes in 1998–99. More than 1,200 civilian verifiers from across Europe and North America were involved in that mission before it was aborted by the NATO bombing campaign.

 

Other civilian missions have been established on an ad hoc basis: for instance, the Bougainville Peace Monitoring Group, the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission; the International Monitoring Team in Mindanao, and the Aceh Monitoring Mission—all official civilian missions, although not directly under the auspices of the United Nations.

 

Civilian Peacekeeping by Civil Society. There has been a proliferation of civil society organizations engaged in peacekeeping activities since the launch of Peace Brigades International (PBI) in 1981. Growing out of earlier projects, it was the pioneering work of PBI in Guatemala during the early 1980s that demonstrated how effective this work could be and set the scene for other organizations to follow. During the 1980s and 1990s, Witness for Peace, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Balkan Peace Team, Cry for Justice (in Haiti) and the International Service for Peace in Chiapas (SIPAZ) brought larger and larger numbers of Europeans and North Americans face to face with the realities of conflict and began to have a significant impact on the ability of local groups to function and organize in those regions. In 1994, the Ecumenical Monitoring Programme for South Africa (EMPSA) brought more than 400 people to South Africa to help monitor and prevent violence before and during the first postapartheid elections in that country.

 

Since the second Palestinian intifada began in 2001, many hundreds of people have gone to be part of the international presence there through organizations such as the International Solidarity Movement, Grassroots Initiative for the Protection of the Palestinians (GIPP), United Civilians for Peace, the Women’s International Peace Service for Palestine, and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

 

The most comprehensive attempt to evaluate best practice and lessons learned in civilian peacekeeping to date was commissioned by Peaceworkers (USA) in 1999. This two-year research project looked at mandates, strategies, infrastructure, field relationships, personnel issues, training, recruitment, funding, and political support behind the civilian peacekeeping efforts of fifty-seven civil society initiatives between 1914 and 2001. It also looked at a number of larger-scale civilian or predominantly civilian missions of the UN, OSCE, and other official bodies.

 

Out of this research effort grew a global initiative of over ninety organizations from forty-seven countries to build the capacity for larger-scale civilian peacekeeping interventions by civil society. The Nonviolent Peaceforce was officially launched in India in 2002 and is now running field projects in Sri Lanka and the Philippines, with further developments on the way.

The field of civilian peacekeeping is still young, and the many governmental and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in this work do not yet see themselves as part of a common field with a common identity and vocabulary. Some NGOs describe their work as “unarmed bodyguards” or “human shields,” while others talk about “witnessing,” being “monitors,” or providing a “presence.” Still others talk about “civilian protection,” “accompaniment,” or “confidence building.” Since they are all engaged in attempts to stop or deter violence, however, we may be justified in using the generic “civilian peacekeeping” term to describe them.

 

Bibliography

Galtung, Johan. “Conflict as a Way of Life” in Hugo Freeman (ed) Progress in Mental Health. London: Churchill, 1969.

Mahony, Liam. Proactive Presence: Field Strategies for Civilian Protection. Geneva: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, 2006.

Mahony, Liam, and Luis Enrique Eguren. Unarmed Bodyguards: International Accompaniment for the Protection of Human Rights. West Hartford, Conn.: Kumarian Press, 1997.

Schirch, Lisa. Civilian Peacekeeping: Preventing Violence and Making Space for Democracy. Uppsala, Sweden: Life & Peace Institute, 2006.

Schweitzer, Christine, Donna Howard, Mareike Junge, Corey Levine, Carl Stieren and Tim Wallis, Nonviolent Peaceforce Feasibility Study. St. Paul, Minn.: Nonviolent Peaceforce, 2001.

Wallis, Tim, and Claudia Samayoa. “Civilian Peacekeepers: Creating a Safe Environment for Peacebuilding.” In People Building Peace II. Utrecht: European Centre for Conflict Prevention, 2004.

Weber, Thomas, and Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan. Nonviolent Intervention Across Borders: A Recurrent Vision. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 2000.

 

Dr Timmon Wallis, independent scholar

Send in the Blue Shirts

Send in the Blue Shirts!

 

UN ‘blue helmets’ have been deployed since the 1950s to ‘keep the peace’ in places like Cyprus, Lebanon, Liberia, Guatemala… How successful they have been at keeping the peace is disputable. What is beyond dispute is that the use of military forces for ‘peacekeeping’, ‘peace’ operations and supposedly ‘humanitarian’ purposes in general has become the main or even sole justification in modern society for maintaining such forces and for deploying them to other countries, even in a war-fighting capacity. Of course wars are fought for all kinds of political and economic reasons and rarely for a truly ‘humanitarian’ purpose. Nevertheless governments must be able to justify the use of public money and the loss of human lives in terms that are acceptable to the general public. Tony Blair could not have sent UK troops to Kosovo or even to Sierra Leone without justifying these interventions as ‘humanitarian’ ones. Although the war in Afghanistan was generally accepted as a punitive response to 9/11, even this was justified at the time in terms of the need to ‘rescue’ the Afghani people from the evils of the Taliban – just as the Iraq War was needed to ‘rescue’ the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein, as well as to rescue us from those famous weapons of mass destruction.

 

If we were to give the British people the benefit of the doubt and assume they are not so stupid or gullible as to swallow wholesale every piece of propaganda they get from the government, then we would be obliged to accept that so long as there does not appear to be any better way of dealing with natural and man-made disasters than to send in the army from time to time, they will continue to support and pay for standing military forces in order to be able to do just that. That indeed is the fundamental paradox facing UK and European pacifists in the 21st century – armies are increasingly justified as an essential tool for building and maintaining peace in the world! And you are in favour of world peace, aren’t you??!

 

Few pacifists may be willing to admit that in some cases, UK and other military forces have been a force for peace. They do on occasion stop other people from shooting each other and therefore occasionally save lives rather than destroy them. But of course in places like Afghanistan and Iraq the pretence of ‘peacekeeping’ has been largely abandoned and the armed forces are just doing what they do best, which is to fight wars and kill people – and in the process create more enemies for the future and put all our lives in more danger than they were before. Even when military forces are deployed with a strict peacekeeping mandate, as in the case of Somalia in the early 90s, their presence can still exacerbate the violence rather than reduce it, since military forces by their very nature are protagonists in a war environment, with military assets that other protagonists would like to have or at least to neutralise. They are also, by their very nature, set apart from civilian populations and unable to fully integrate with them except by taking off their weapons and uniforms and becoming civilians themselves.

 

For these and many other reasons (including above all, cost), even the most militaristic of governments is looking for alternatives to the deployment of military forces to each and every conflict zone in the word today. The sending of police forces rather than military forces is becoming more popular with the EU, for instance. These police forces still on the whole carry weapons, but there is a recognition that having police patrol the streets of Kosovo, for instance, is much more likely to lead to a return to normal life and to the establishment of democratic institutions than having troops still patrolling the streets a full nine years after the war has ended.

 

Getting blue (police) uniforms onto the streets of post-conflict countries like Kosovo is surely a step forward from sending in the tanks and blue helmets. But not only are these police still armed, they also have little or no training or background in how to handle real conflict situations. They are trained to deal with criminal behaviour and crowds. Police crowd control techniques may be useful in some cases for avoiding violence, but in other cases it can clearly fuel it, as was the case a few years ago when violence erupted in northern Kosovo largely through a mishandling of the situation by the international police. In fact, police forces have so far proved less effective than military forces in these situations, largely because their ability to prevent and deter violent behaviour depends ultimately on the use of force and unlike the military they don’t actually have any.

 

A true alternative to military peacekeeping must therefore rely on forms of pressure and influence other than the use of force. Foreign journalists and diplomats have known for years that it’s not just the stories they send back home that can have an impact. Just by being there, being visible and being foreign, they can have a very direct impact on the behaviour of soldiers and politicians in wartime situations and this impact can reduce violence and save lives. Col. Bob Stewart describes a time when he was commanding NATO troops in Bosnia and a column of Nato tanks was being held up at a Serbian checkpoint and not let through. He could have opened fire on the checkpoint, killed all the Serb soldiers and forced his way through the checkpoint, but the repercussions of that could have resulted in even more civilian casualties, with reprisals against the local population, round-ups, burning of houses, maybe even massacres. Instead he brought out the most powerful weapon he had at his disposal – the BBC! He sent them to the front of the tanks to start filming and interviewing the Serb soldiers. Within minutes, the tanks were through the checkpoint without a shot being fired.

 

In 1983, at the height of the US-sponsored Contra War in Nicaragua, small groups of Americans were going down to Nicaragua to see for themselves what was going on so they could go home and tell their fellow church-goers how their tax dollars were being spent. But time and again, they would go to a village that was being attacked by the Contras only to find that when they got there the attacks would stop. This led to the realisation that if a constant stream of Americans were pouring into these villages on a regular basis there would be no more Contra War! Over the next several years more than 20,000 people did just that and the ability of the Reagan administration to covertly overthrow the Sandinistas through the Contras was demonstrably curtailed.

 

No organisation has invested as much into this very simple concept as Peace Brigades International. Beginning also in the early 1980s, PBI volunteers discovered in Guatemala that by being present, being visible and being foreign they could actually stop death threats from being carried out against peace and human rights activists there. In El Salvador, where industrial disputes routinely resulted in the assassination or disappearance of trade union leaders, PBI volunteers were suddenly witnessing strikes, pickets and demonstrations that would end successfully without a single casualty. In over 25 years of providing this kind of protection in some of the most violent countries on the planet, not a single PBI volunteer has been killed – and even more strikingly, nor has a single person they have been accompanying.

 

There is, of course, much more to this than meets the eye. International presence and protective accompaniment does not always save lives or reduce violence. Other factors must also be in place and a lot of work must go on behind the scenes to back up the physical presence on the ground. Nevertheless, the fact that this presence can have any effect at all is remarkable and ground-breaking. Since the early days of PBI and Witness for Peace in Central America, the technique has been tried out by many other organisations in many other parts of the world, nowhere more so than in the Middle East, where dozens of organisations are deploying internationals to protect Palestinian civilians from Israeli settlers and the Israeli Defence Forces. These organisations range from the World Council of Churches, with its Ecumenical Accompaniment Project for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), with its olive-picking brigades and other efforts to get internationals to physically obstruct Israeli activities on the West Bank. The Women’s International Peace Service for Palestine gets women from other parts of the world to live and work in Palestinian homes and communities as a means of providing protection. Grassroots Protection of the Palestinian People organises summer camps and other events to get as many internationals into the West Bank as possible on a regular and ongoing basis.

 

In Palestine – and in Iraq – people have been killed doing this kind of work. And it clearly has not stopped the violence in these places. Yet these experiences are also demonstrating what is possible and we are all learning from them – from the successes as well as from the mistakes. The deployment of unarmed civilians from around the world into situations of violent conflict can protect people, save lives and reduce the incidence of violence. We are still at the very beginning of understanding what this discovery really means and how to use it. Perhaps it could transform the way people think about violent conflicts and how to handle them in the future. Perhaps instead of sending in the blue helmets or the blue uniforms next time violence erupts in Kosovo or Georgia or some other place, there will be a clamour for sending in the ‘blue shirts’ instead!

 

If pacifists really want to abolish the military and all that goes with it, we must first abolish the last remaining justification for it in the eyes of the general public. We must make unarmed civilian peacekeeping a viable option and one which can genuinely respond to humanitarian emergencies, war, genocide and ethnic cleansing. We still have a long way to go but the seeds of that possibility are there. The Nonviolent Peaceforce is the latest attempt to turn that possibility into a full-scale reality. It was launched in 2002 as an initiative of 75 peace organisations from over 30 countries to try to move the concept of unarmed civilian peacekeeping onto a new level, through advocacy at the UN level and a pooling of resources so as to deploy larger-scale international missions than any of the existing organisations have so far been able to deploy. Its first project in Sri Lanka currently has over 60 people deployed, both nationals as well as internationals from the UK, US, Germany, Egypt, Brazil, Japan, Ghana, Kenya, Pakistan, Nepal, Canada, Colombia, India, Philippines, Nigeria. Its impact is still quite small but the potential is there. It needs your support!

 

The Road to Reykjavik

T Wallis, “The Road to Reykjavik: The Impact of European and American Peace Movements on the Decision to Remove Land-Based Missiles from Europe,” a paper for Peace Movements in the Cold War and Beyond, international conference, LSE, London, Jan 2008.

 

Abstract

European peace movements brought millions onto the streets and caused major disruption to the building of bases to house nuclear cruise missiles in the 1980s, but were unable to mobilise sufficient pressure on their own governments to cancel the NATO decision to deploy these missiles on European soil. Yet these same movements had a major impact on public opinion in the US and it was political, and especially economic, pressures from inside the US which eventually led to an about-face on the part of President Reagan to negotiate with the ‘evil empire’ and remove the missiles when he finally met with President Gorbachev in Reykjavik in 1986.

 

Introduction

The NATO decision of December 1979 to deploy a new generation of American nuclear missiles in Europe was deeply unpopular from the outset. Even within NATO itself, the consensus was shaky. Denmark refused to take any Cruise. Belgium and Holland refused to take any without further deliberations in their own parliaments. West Germany refused to be the only non-nuclear power to take them, so it was Italy that saved the day for NATO by agreeing to take significantly more than its share and thus guaranteeing deployment would go ahead[1]. Even then the NATO consensus was conditional on the US ratifying the SALT II arms treaty, initiating a SALT III process and negotiating with the Soviets to try to make the deployments unnecessary by removing the equivalent Soviet missiles instead – the so-called ‘twin-track’ approach.

When it became clear after Reagan’s election in November 1980 that the US would not be ratifying SALT II, that SALT III was a very remote possibility and that no INF negotiations with the Soviets were imminent, the ‘twin-track’ decision started to fall apart. The Danish government rescinded its agreement even to help pay a share of the NATO construction costs for the Cruise bases. Belgium and Holland continued to postpone any decision about actual deployment on their soil. The Norwegian parliament agreed by only one vote to pay its share of the Cruise costs. And the new socialist governments in Greece and Spain backed out of the NATO decision altogether.

Public opposition across Europe was swift and overwhelming. In 1979, CND’s national membership stood at just over 4,000. During 1980 CND membership more than doubled to 9,000. By 1981, membership had risen dramatically to 20,000 and by 1984 it was well over 100,000. The size of CND’s national demonstrations rose even more dramatically from 3,000 in 1980 to 30,000 in 1981 to over 100,000 in October 1981, 200,000 in June 1982[2] and to somewhere between 300,000 and half a million in October 1983[3].

Elsewhere in Europe the situation was similar. The demonstration against Cruise and Pershing deployments in October 1981 that brought over 100,000 onto the streets in London was repeated in every capital city across Europe, with an estimated 2 million on the streets in total. By 1983, demonstrations in Rome, Amsterdam and Bonn were also attracting as many as half a million people each.

The first UK opinion polls to ask people specifically about Cruise Missiles were conducted by Marplan in September 1980 and found 47% opposed to the NATO twin-track decision. A similar poll conducted only 2 months later found 56% of all adult voters in the UK opposed to Cruise. Dozens more polls were conducted over the following five years and although slightly different questions were asked and slightly different methods used, at no time did the polls show opposition to Cruise going significantly outside of this range[4]. In fact, compared to other key indicators of public opinion, such as fear of nuclear war – which rose and then fell sharply during this period[5] – public opposition in the UK to Cruise Missiles remained remarkably stable at around 50%, give or take a few percentage points.

By 1983, the main opposition parties in every NATO country involved – including the United States – were pledged to cancel the Cruise deployment decision. And yet in election after election throughout the 1980s, the Conservative and Christian Democratic parties across Europe continued to be re-elected and the Cruise issue failed to register as a decisive influence on voting patterns[6]. The ruling coalitions in both Belgium and the Netherlands came perilously close to falling over the Cruise issue, but they managed to stay in power firstly by prevaricating over the issue and refusing to make a final decision over deployment on the territory of either state, and when that was no longer possible, by presenting the deployments as a fait accompli which could not be overturned at the national level.

 

The Lure of Direct Action

Already by the end of 1981 this high level of public opposition coupled with an inability to translate that into political results left many activists in the European peace movement considering direct action as the only recourse open to them if they wanted to stop the deployments. There were some rather half-hearted attempts to boycott or blacklist firms involved in the Cruise programme, including a European-wide boycott of Mann-VW, which was given the contract to produce the Cruise launchers that were meant to ‘melt into the countryside’ to prevent detection prior to launch. But this came to nothing and even as construction got underway at the various military bases there were only sporadic attempts to picket the contractors involved[7].

When a group of women chained themselves to the main gate of Greenham Common at the end of a peace march from Wales in September 1981, they spawned the peace camp movement and sparked a whole new approach to demonstrating against the missiles deployments. In December 1982, 30,000 women surrounded the Greenham base in a hugely symbolic action, “Embrace the Base”, that captured imaginations around the world. By this time there were over 20 peace camps up and down the country, including a mixed peace camp of men and women at the other UK site for Cruise missiles at Molesworth in Cambridgeshire (and one at the Faslane nuclear submarine base in Scotland, which continues to this day). Peace camps spread to the Italian cruise missile site on Sicily and to the cruise sites in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

By 1983 various forms of nonviolent direct action on or outside nuclear bases across Europe were becoming commonplace, including human blockades of traffic going in and out of these bases, climbing over fences to get onto the missile sites themselves, despite the threat of being shot as a spy or terrorist and, and with greater and greater frequency, cutting of fences and causing other physical damage to military facilities.

In April 1983 CND organised its own human chain between Greenham and Upper Heyford, another nuclear base, and in October 1984 the annual CND demonstration took place at Barrow-in-Furness, where the new Trident nuclear missile submarines were being built, rather than in London as in previous years. In April 1985 CND brought over 20,000 to demonstrate at the Molesworth missile site and in February 1986 CND organised its largest ever illegal sit-down, also at Molesworth, involving over 5,000 people blockading the gates of the base for 12 hours.

Many more peace movement activities took place during this period all across Europe and also in the US. Not all of this was directed explicitly at the deployment of Cruise Missiles, but that was undoubtedly the catalyst for much of it. The question to be addressed is whether any of this frenzy of social movement activity, involving millions of people marching in the streets and tens of thousands being arrested to stop this deployment, actually had any direct bearing on the eventual decision to scrap the missiles as part of the INF Treaty agreed by Reagan and Gorbachev in Reykjavik and eventually signed in December 1987?

 


The Impact of Action at the Bases

As I have already indicated, the effect of the peace movement on public opinion, at least in the UK, was negligible. Before CND held even its first demonstration against Cruise Missiles, opposition to these missiles was already running at about 50% and it remained more or less at that level throughout the entire period, rising at times to 60% and at no point falling below 40%. In the UK, as in other European countries, opposition parties opposed the deployments were not able to win a single election during this period and parliamentary majorities prevented any serious challenge to the deployments despite the precariousness of the situation I have described in, particularly, Holland and Belgium.

The total financial and political costs of protecting Cruise missiles from peace protesters are impossible to calculate, but they were undoubtedly high. The original agreement was for Britain to provide a total of 220 security personnel for Greenham Common[8], mainly to guard the Cruise convoys when they travelled off base. In fact Greenham ended up with 417 permanently stationed MOD police, over 1,000 British soldiers from three Army battalions and units of an RAF regiment[9] and up to 800 US Air Force personnel assigned to security and general back-up. That means that inside the fence there were approximately 2,200 people whose primary role was to guard the base and its contents from the peace movement!

Outside the fence there was a daily presence of up to 300 civil police from the Thames Valley force plus reinforcements to cover major demonstrations. A peak of 1,163 officers from 11 counties were deployed for the women’s Reclaim the Base demonstration on December 1, 1983[10]. Once regular off-base exercises began in 1984, as many as 600 civil police were needed to ‘protect’ the Cruise convoys from the peace movement during the five days each month they ventured out of the base.

Aiding the security forces during much of 1983 were two helicopters on 24-hour patrol, floodlights, watch towers, electronic alarms, two layers of chain-link fence with three to five coils of barbed wire and razor-wire in between, police dogs, and automatic M-16 rifles carried by American soldiers authorised to use ‘deadly force’. The cost of repairing the perimeter fence had by 1984 exceeded half a million pounds, but a replacement with ‘protest-proof’ fencing as recommended by the Commons Defence Committee would have cost between £3.5 and £4 million.[11] Policing costs recorded by Thames Valley police for the period December 1982 to November 1983 totalled over £3 million and estimates for the entire period September 1981 to September 1984 range from £5 – £7 million[12]. Costs incurred by Newbury District Council for evictions and extra court proceedings are miniscule by comparison – £90,000 for the whole period – and yet they represent a substantial strain on the council’s available resources.[13]

Adding up all the known and estimated security costs over the three year period from 1981 to 1984, one can get a rough idea of what the Greenham women were costing the British government – over £10 million in total. Considering that is only slightly less than the £11.4 million it cost to build the cruise missile silos inside, the price of protest was considerable. On the other hand, in comparison to other costs the Thatcher government proved willing to incur to carry out its policies in face of opposition, Greenham was a cheap victory. The miner’s strike cost the government £71 million a week[14] and the Falklands War cost well over £4,000 million by the time all the lost equipment was replaced and the ‘fortress’ secured.

The number of arrests at Greenham also put tremendous strain on Newbury Magistrates Court. The 40 lay magistrates had to cope with nearly 200 extra court hours in 1983 to hear cases from Greenham. Two stipendiary magistrates had to be appointed by the government to handle the backlog of cases and at one point 78 cases were heard in a single day[15]. Total arrests from September 1981 to August 1984 have been estimated at 1,866[16] and between 1 April 1983 and 22 November 1983 alone, police recorded 745 arrests at Greenham for failure to pay fines accruing from previous arrests[17]!

The decision by a large number of those arrested to go to a prison rather than pay the court-imposed fine added to an already serious problem of prison over-crowding. The peak prison population for England and Wales in 1982 was already 6,000 over the limit of ‘certified normal accommodation’. Additional strains on top of this required temporary prisons to be opened. Because women’s prisons account for only 1,456 out of 38,653 places, the impact of the Greenham women on the penal system was greatly multiplied[18]. Over 6,000 peace protesters and an equal number of miners had been arrested throughout the country by the end of 1984.

The nature of the security problem at Greenham was not confined to the base itself. The whole ‘operational concept’ of Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles was that they must be deployed “some distance away from the bases where they are normally stored.[19]” The convoys which continued to leave Greenham every month on exercise were all successfully tracked to their ‘secret’ launch sites by peace movement activists and several were blockaded and stopped for many hours at a time. Because the first flight of Cruise at Greenham were supposedly on ‘Quick Reaction Alert’ and were not meant to leave the base, the exercises that took place during 1984 cannot have been proper ‘operational’ exercises:

“New technical information reveals that far from being a success in outwitting the Greenham Common women, the exercises have not tested the missiles. Rather they appear to have been public relations manoeuvres aimed at denting the morale of CND and peace campaigners, by getting vehicles past the peace camp’s cordon.”[20]

The Peace Threat at Molesworth

By the time of CND National Conference in November 1984, it must have been clear to the authorities that Molesworth was rapidly moving to the top of the peace movement’s agenda, despite the fact that, unlike at Greenham, there were as yet no signs of any construction, no perimeter fence nor even any military personnel stationed there. Nevertheless CND’s ‘Molesworth Pledge’ posed the threat that large numbers of mainstream CND members from around the country would come to obstruct construction work even at the risk of arrest. With over 100,000 members nation-wide and a record of pulling upwards of half a million to demonstrations in London, this was potentially a far greater threat than that posed by the considerable but increasingly marginalised presence of the women at Greenham.

The threat posed by the Molesworth Pledge itself was increased by the existence of over one hundred people[21] already camping on the base, building semi-permanent structures and looking to be settling in for the long haul. The possibility of hundreds or even thousands of protesters camping out on the actual base and backed up by hundreds of thousands of supporters around the country could not have failed to represent a significant threat to the building of the base, as Heseltine himself admitted:

“We had to move millions of pounds worth of equipment onto a site in Cambridgeshire without those who were stationed on the site and watching every move even knowing we were doing it…because we were very frightened and we knew exactly what would happen if a whisper of what we were doing got out. The protest groups would have called all their people out to block the road and to lie down to cause absolute mayhem. We’d never have got the fence up and then when we’d tried to build it they would have caused terrible chaos and inconvenience.”[22]

Policing the Base

The midnight operation to fence off Molesworth in February 1985 was set into motion by the defence Secretary Michael Heseltine himself, who arrived by helicopter later that morning to inspect the success of ten weeks’ careful planning. He toured the site donning a military flakjacket and then returned to the Houses of Parliament to be accused of

“heavy-handed…jack- boot methods…(in an)Eastern European-type of operation… (involving) more British troops…than were used against the Argentines at Goose Green.”

A total of 1,500 Royal Engineers from seven squadrons worked through the night to put up a razor-wire fence along the entire seven and a half mile perimeter of the base. About 250 armed soldiers from the Regular Infantry stood by in case of trouble. Over six hundred MOD police officers (out of a total force of 4000) were drafted from virtually every Ministry of Defence establishment in England, Scotland and Wales for the operation – 300 were on hand for the eviction of the peace camp and another 300 took over on the morning shift. 900 civilian police from several forces, including the Metropolitan Police from London, were involved in the operation. The policing costs for Cambridgeshire Constabulary alone came to £360,000 for the period 5-10 February 1985[23]. The whole midnight operation cost over £1 million.

The authorities were well prepared for an onslaught of protestors, who indeed began arriving in the early hours of the morning from as far away as Wales. Road blocks remained in force for the next two weeks, forcing all demonstrators to walk up to a mile from designated car parks to the base. Approximately 350 MOD police with dogs were guarding the seven and a half miles of fresh barbed wire. At least one helicopter was in service at all times to track groups of protestors around the perimeter.

By the end of February, Cambridgeshire County Council were told that there had been a total of 211 arrests at Molesworth.[24] By April 1985, local MP John Major reported to the local newspaper that there had been a total of 356 arrests at Molesworth since the start of surveying in November: 185 for criminal damage, 39 for obstructing a police officer, 51 for obstructing the highway, 11 for assaulting a police officer, 20 for going equipped to commit criminal damage, 10 for theft, 23 for breach of the peace, 5 for breach of bail, 11 for trespass, and 1 for assault occasioning actual bodily harm. “So much for peaceful protest,” quipped Major[25].

The total costs of policing the base throughout this period came to over £1.6 million[26]. This included £809,000 for policing the Easter demonstration with over 2,000 police officers, or roughly double the number deployed at the largest demonstration at Greenham. According to Chief Constable Ian Kane, the policing of the Easter demonstration meant that the rest of Cambridgeshire was “50 per cent under policed for 24 hours. That is the price,” he said, “of policing demonstrations.[27]

That price, it seems, was well within the capabilities of the County Council and the government (which agreed to pay 90 per cent of policing costs up to a certain figure) to pay. In total, the civil policing costs at Molesworth came to only a fraction of the £5 – £7 million estimated for Greenham. In fact the pattern of policing at Molesworth throughout this period suggests that the police had prepared for a much higher level of protest than they actually found.

This does not mean that the total costs of security at Molesworth were insignificant. Most of those costs were incurred by the Ministry of Defence and remained largely hidden from the account books. Nevertheless we know that the cost of the midnight fencing operation came to around £1 million. Erecting the 12-foot security fence around the base cost another £3 million. A second inner fence of the same type was later erected to separate the MOD’s terrain from the American inner sanctum. This came to another £3 million. Construction of a special MOD access road to the base, which was necessitated at least in part by the desire to avoid the cordon of protesters which greeted every departure of the Cruise convoy at Greenham, cost another £1.5 million. Although the full costs of paying and maintaining a MOD police force of up to 700 per day during the winter of 1985 have not been revealed, we can estimate on the basis of known figures that this must have cost the MOD in the region of £8 million. Thus we may estimate that security for Molesworth cost the government approximately £16.5 million on top of the £80 million it cost to build the base itself.[28]

Cracks in the European Timetable

Any slow-up in the deployment timetable was consistently denied, but evidence for such continued to mount. The original NATO decision called for the deployment to take place over a five-year period, to be completed by December 1988. This relatively slow pace was required for at least four reasons. Firstly, the manufacturer could not produce the missiles any faster. Secondly, the 4000 missile technicians required were to be trained at a single school at the rate of 800 per year[29]. Thirdly, the schedule was meant to allow plenty of time for arms negotiations to take place before full deployment[30]. Finally, it was no doubt hoped that public opposition would gradually die down if the programme was drawn out long enough.

By the middle of 1984, the timetable had run into serious delays, public pressures were increasing, and, as is the very nature of the arms race, the missiles that had so far been deployed had already become obsolete and would soon need replacing[31].

The first Cruise missile flights were deployed on schedule at Greenham and at Comiso in Italy (in November 1983). The second flight at Greenham was however not made operational until November 1984, already 1 year behind schedule[32]. At the Comiso base, the missiles had to be stored in temporary make-shift buildings because the first missile silos were not complete until Autumn 1985. (And there was no housing for over 1,000 USAF personnel already stationed there until mid-1986!)

Design plans for the Florennes base in Belgium were started in January 1982, and a ‘memorandum of understanding’ was signed later that year to allow preliminary work to begin at the site even though deployment had not yet been agreed to. Some 225 US personnel were stationed there in May 1984, and the first flight of 16 missiles along with 200 more technicians were due by the end of that year[33]. In fact the first missiles arrived in March 1985, just days after the Belgian prime minister finally agreed to take them. Work on Cruise facilities at the base did not however begin until after the first missiles had arrived!

There was no problem in West Germany about a signed agreement because none was required[34]. Twenty-seven Pershing II missiles had already been deployed there by 1984 at existing Pershing 1A bases, but no construction work had yet begun for Cruise, and the location itself remained classified until August 1985. Only $600,000 was approved for the German GLCM programme in the fiscal year 1985, hardly enough to do more than design studies. But by the end of 1985, the first Cruise missiles were rushed into place at the US base of Wueschheim.

Woensdrecht in Holland was due for its first flight of GLCM in early 1986, but the issue nearly brought down the ruling coalition government more than once. The United States was by 1984 putting considerable pressure on the Dutch to deploy Cruise on schedule, but the latest postponement decision in May 1984 had meant another delay of eighteen months. As it was commonly pointed out in the Netherlands at the time:

“It is a very important political fact – as NATO is aware – that this postponement policy can go on for ever and that one can safely assume that the Dutch share of 48 Cruise missiles will never enter Holland[35].”

In fact, the Dutch finally made a decision in November 1985 to go ahead with Cruise deployment, after more than five years of deferring the issue. The agreement was reached by conceding to the opposition the removal of almost all other nuclear-weapons related installations and military ‘assignments’ from the Dutch armed forces – a considerable blow to NATO despite the overriding concern to get agreement on Cruise.

In August 1984, it was reported that funds for construction to start at Molesworth had been frozen by a Congressional sub-committee pending assurances that the base could be made secure. It appears that the original plan was for construction to be restricted to a small 46-acre site within the Molesworth base, corresponding to a small area in the centre of the base already occupied by the US Army Disposal Office. The remaining 700 acres of the base, belonging to the British government, had been due to be sold off. But the presence of over 100 people camping on the site, and the continuing activities of the peace movement there posed a problem for military planners. No local farmer or other potential buyer would be prepared to take on the responsibility for land surrounding a controversial Cruise missile base.

The US and British governments were still haggling throughout the first half of 1984 over how to secure Molesworth from the sort of activities that plagued them at Greenham and who would pay for the ‘solution’. This confusion provided the window of opportunity which became evident at Molesworth during this period, as even the MOD police did not know how they were supposed to handle the situation developing there. By October an agreement had been reached, which would require a massive operation on the part of the British government to fence in and guard the whole 740 acre base for a full year before any construction could begin.

Despite widespread opposition to the Cruise programme across Europe and the huge costs of going ahead with it, all six Cruise missile bases were eventually built and the missiles deployed.

The Gorbachev Factor

How, then, can we ‘explain’ the INF treaty, which for the first time in history resulted in the actual material destruction of some of the most modern weapons available to the countries involved? Certainly a great deal of credit must go to the personality of Michail Gorbachev, who made far more concessions to the Americans than any of his predecessors were willing to make in order to secure an agreement. For the Soviets agreed to remove more than double the number of American missiles to be removed (1,752 vs. 859) and these included all the SS-20s based in the Far East of the Soviet Union which the Soviets had claimed all along had nothing to do with a European treaty.[36]

Reagan, the most right-wing President in modern US history up to that point, came to power with a one and a half trillion dollar programme to build up American military might against the ‘clear and present danger’ from the ‘evil empire’ of the East. The concessions made by Gorbachev are on their own an insufficient explanation for how this man came to agree to such a treaty.

The Reagan turn-around, from being a life-long campaigner against Communism to the ‘man of peace’ can only be explained by reference to pressures in America itself. For although Gorbachev did make significant concessions on INF, he was not speaking a new language from the Soviet point of view nor deviating in any significant way from Soviet disarmament policy as laid down at the start of the nuclear age. The Soviets had consistently favoured the total elimination of all nuclear weapons. This is hardly surprising, since they maintain large conventional forces and had always been ‘behind’ in the nuclear arms race[37]. When Gorbachev spoke at the Reykjavik summit of eliminating all nuclear weapons by the year 2000, he was merely reiterating a long-standing Soviet policy objective. What had changed was not the Soviet position, but the reception of that position among American voters and members of the US Congress.

 

The American Freeze Movement

In November 1980, as Ronald Reagan was winning his landslide victory at the American polls, three local districts in the state of Massachusetts were voting on a referendum which called on the US government to ‘freeze’ the nuclear arms race. That referendum won 59% of the vote (to 41% against) in those three districts. In June 1981, the state legislatures in Massachusetts and Oregon also voted for a nuclear freeze. A ‘Freeze Movement’ was underway in America. This movement was very different to the peace movements in Europe, both in terms of its scope and its methods. Although it too had its moment of being a mass movement when over 1 million marched in New York in June 1982, the Freeze movement was overwhelming focused on building a consensus across all parties and all persuasions in America to put a halt to the arms race as a first step to re-thinking where the US is going with all this weaponry and military expenditure.

By January 1982, there were 20,000 activists campaigning nation-wide on the Freeze, which had by this time been endorsed by 50 national peace organisations and voted on in five state legislatures and eight city councils around the country. In March 1982, 157 ‘town meetings’ in Vermont voted in favour of the Freeze. This was immediately followed by votes for the Freeze in 162 more towns thoughout the New England states[38].

Although New England is traditionally the most ‘liberal’ region in the country, it was becoming apparent from the scale of the Freeze movement that it was coming not from any ‘radical fringe’ but from a very broad cross-section of the American people – including the very people who had voted Reagan into office[39].

By June 1982, over 2 million signatures in favour of the Freeze had been collected across the country to present to the UN Special Session on Disarmament in New York. Still the momentum of the Freeze continued. In August 1982, the US House of Representatives voted on the Freeze. The resolution lost by just two votes (204 – 202). By September, the Freeze had been endorsed by 276 city councils, 446 town meetings, and 11 state legislatures across the country. On November 2nd 1982, the nation returned to the polls for the first time since Reagan’s landslide to elect Congressional and State officials. In what was claimed to have been the ‘largest public referendum in US history’[40], over one third of the American electorate had the opportunity to vote directly on the question of the Nuclear Freeze, as referendums appeared in nine states and 38 cities and counties. Only one state (Arizona), one city (Fairbanks, Alaska) and one county (Stone County, Arkansas) rejected the Freeze. All the others passed it by wide margins. In Massachusetts and New Jersey, the Freeze won over 75% of the vote. Overall across the country, it passed by 60% to 40%. 11,767,000 Americans had voted in favour.

In May 1983, the US House of Representatives again voted on the Freeze resolution they had defeated a year earlier. This time it won by a vote of 278 to 149. But to have the effect of law, it required the vote of the Senate as well (and the signature of the President!). On October 31st 1983, the US Senate defeated the Freeze by 18 votes. National opinion polls were showing 70% to 80% of the American public favouring the Freeze by this point[41].

At the start of 1984, the Freeze movement had reached about as far as it could go into the American system without a change of government. The focus then turned to the national elections due in November of that year. The movement managed to raise $6 million towards the election costs of trying to ‘unseat’ Congressional opponents of the Freeze. 25,000 Freeze volunteers offered their services to the electoral campaigns of pro-Freeze Senators and Representatives, as well as to the Democratic Presidential candidate, Walter Mondale, who had come out in favour of the Freeze in his campaign manifesto[42]. Mondale was resoundingly defeated and only five new pro-Freeze Senators were elected – not enough to secure victory in the Senate.

By the summer of 1984, however, as momentum was gathering for the general elections, an opinion poll taken of delegates to the Republican party convention showed 62% in favour of the Freeze[43]. That means 62% of Republican party activists – the very people about to campaign across the country for the re-election of Ronald Reagan! Less than one month later Reagan was making the first speech of his presidency (at the opening of the UN) which showed signs of a new reconciliatory mood toward the Soviet Union. He was playing the ‘peace card’ for his re-election campaign – undeniable evidence that this is what the American people wanted to hear!

 

The Nuclear-Free Zone Movement in America Begins to Bite

As the Freeze movement was receding, different yet related movement was taking shape in towns and cities across the United States. The nuclear-free zone movement began in Japan in 1958, and took off in the UK, and then in the US, at the beginning of the 1980s.

Around the time that the US Congress was voting on the Nuclear Freeze in the spring of 1983, the US peace movement was turning toward a more grassroots approach to the problem of the arms race – tackling it at the local and state level, where the weapons researchers and producers were working. Eight American towns had declared themselves nuclear-free zones by March 1983. Then in April, twelve towns in Wisconsin joined the nuclear-free zone ‘club’. In May, seven more joined from Massachusetts. The first major American city (and one of the most radical) – Madison, Wisconsin – joined the ranks of the growing movement in November 1983. By the end of 1983 there were 37 nuclear-free zones in the US, covering a total population of just over half a million Americans[44].

By election day 1984, there were 67 nuclear-free zones in the US with one and a half million people under their jurisdiction. Fifteen more towns and cities – including New York City, the second largest city in the country (population: 8 million) – joined the movement through referendums on the ballot papers which brought Reagan his second landslide victory. By the end of the following year, there were over a hundred nuclear-free cities and towns in the United States, and the movement continued to grow, despite the Reagan victory and the end of the Freeze movement. In March 1986, Chicago, the nation’s third largest city, became a nuclear-free zone, bringing the total population effected to nearly 14 million. Twenty-seven more areas joined during 1986, and by now it was spreading into the more wealthy suburbs of California, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. It was also spreading into the mainstream of ‘middle America’ – Iowa City, Iowa; Louisville, Kentucky; Las Vegas, Nevada; Durham, North Carolina; Springdale, Utah.

The significance of the American nuclear-free zone movement does not lie simply in the fact that we are talking about America, though that is surprising enough in itself.[45] The American political system provides the individual states and municipalities a large degree of autonomy to enact legally-binding and enforceable legislation. Each of the 150 nuclear-free zones in the US had their own definition and interpretation of the meaning of that status. Nonetheless, half of them, including Chicago (but not New York) included legally-binding statutes effecting the transportation of nuclear materials within their boundaries, divestment from corporations involved in nuclear production, or other clauses which could have direct and damaging effects on nuclear weapons contractors. The City of Takoma Park, Maryland (population: 16,231) adopted a city ordinance in December 1983, declaring by law that (among other things):

“No person, corporation, university, laboratory, institution or other entity in the City of Takoma Park knowingly and intentionally engaged in the production of nuclear weapons shall commence any such work within the city after adoption of this chapter.[46]

Anyone found in violation of this ordinance would be liable to fines of $100 for each day of the violation.

The most ambitious piece of nuclear-free zone legislation to date involved a plan to phase out all nuclear weapons contracting throughout the state of Oregon by providing tax credits to industries in the state proportional to their conversion from military to civilian production. That was linked to two other proposals presented to Oregon voters in November 1986. One would have immediately shut down the only existing nuclear power station in Oregon, and the other would have forced a major uranium mining company to remove their mill tailings and low-level ‘sludge’ from the state. These were all defeated 59% to 41%.

In March 1986, the nuclear-free zone movement, emboldened by continuing gains, announced a nation-wide consumer boycott of Morton Thiokol Corporation – one of the top 50 nuclear weapons contractors and the largest producer of table salt in the world.[47] Twelve months later, Morton claimed the boycott was having no effect on their business and they remained ‘proud to be part of the defence industry’.[48] The Morton boycott was followed by a boycott of the telecommunications giant, AT&T. This seemd to hit at a raw nerve in the company, at a time of intense competition resulting from the ‘de-regulation’ of the long-distance telephone services. The chairman of the board himself went on a public relations offensive to win back public support, claiming that AT&T played ‘but a small part’ in the nuclear industry.

Most industries affected by the nuclear-free zone movement made a desperate bid to dissociate themselves from the nuclear arms race. Ford Motor Company filed a lawsuit against Marin County, California in March 1988 over the county’s nuclear-free divestment policy. Ford claimed they had nothing to do with nuclear weapons production, but when evidence of Pentagon contracts were presented at a public hearing, Ford withdrew and dropped the suit. IBM and Hewlett Packard were threatening to sue on the same grounds.[49]

There is no direct evidence of the impact which these policies had on the nuclear industry. Nevertheless, the nuclear-free zone movement was affecting an increasing number of ordinary Americans with the ‘institutionalisation’ of the disarmament message and it was providing not only an embarrassment to the Reagan administration but a direct threat to American business interests. These were the pressures likely to lead to results – not the results everyone in the American movement wanted, which was an end to the arms race – but results that would defuse and destabilise the movement.

Cruise and Pershing, however much ‘loved’ in certain military and political quarters, were, in comparison to the growing threat to the whole American nuclear establishment, expendable systems and a small price to pay for a return to stability and the status quo ante. The INF Treaty was signed by President Reagan because to fail to do so would have further fuelled this movement in his own backyard which was affecting the interests of the people who supported him – the nuclear industry itself.

 

Who Wanted Cruise?

In order to understand how and why the Cruise programme was stopped, we need to understand the reasons for Cruise in the first place. Who wanted them, and why?

The deployment of Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCM) in Europe was being considered by the Pentagon as early as 1975. The GLCM programme was only a very small part of a massive military build-up underway in the United States at the end of the 1970s. This build-up involved the spending of $1,500,000,000,000 (1.5 trillion dollars) over a five-year period to upgrade every aspect of American conventional and nuclear forces. The 464 GLCM and 108 Pershings due for deployment in Europe must be seen in the context of 16,600 new nuclear missile warheads which were being added to the US arsenal during this period.

Pentagon planners had long been obsessed with the idea of the nuclear ‘triad’ – ensuring the Army, Navy and Air Forces all had their fair share of the weapons. When the modern cruise missile was being developed in the early 1970s it was thus inevitable that there would have to be air-launched, ground-launched and sea-launched versions. The ground-launched cruise was militarily the least significant of the three, but became important as a political football between the US and its European allies.

For the previous two decades, the ‘balance’ of intermediate-range nuclear forces in Europe (INF) consisted of about 380 Soviet SS-4 and SS-5 missiles versus about 400 NATO nuclear bombers (plus 80 Polaris missiles assigned to NATO out of the US strategic submarine fleet). In 1977, the Soviet Union began replacing the SS-4 and SS-5 with an equivalent number of SS-20, each of which however, had three warheads. NATO had already replaced the Polaris with multiple-warhead Poseidon missiles and sent over additional F-111 bombers by this point, so by 1983 the INF ‘balance’ consisted of 1000 or so SS-20 warheads versus 480 NATO bombers and 640 Poseidon warheads.[50]

The tripling of nuclear stockpiles on both sides in Europe had thus been completed before ever the first Cruise or Pershing missile arrived. The NATO ‘modernisation’ decision of December 1979 was not, as it was commonly presented, a ‘response’ to the Soviet SS-20 deployments but rather a programme to replace aging F-111 and F-104 nuclear bombers with the latest Cruise Missile technology.

Bombers were considered too vulnerable to attack and no longer able to penetrate Soviet air defences. GLCM was designed to evade Soviet radar and be deployed from the back of a lorry where it could not be targeted in advance. Full-scale development of GLCM was thus given the go-ahead in January 1977, and the plans for deployment in Europe were begun a year later[51]. By the time NATO defence ministers were discussing the matter in December 1979, the first GCLM had already been flight-tested and contracts to produce 696 missiles had already gone out[52].

To the military then, Cruise was a foregone conclusion. To European politicians it was not so simple. Plans to deploy the ‘neutron bomb’ had already caused an uproar across Europe forcing President Carter to withdraw the idea. NATO did not want to follow that with another embarrassment over Cruise, and so it was decided to adopt a ‘twin-track’ policy – deploying the missiles only if negotiations failed. This would pin the blame for deployment on the Soviet Union.

Nevertheless it was clear that NATO had every intention of deploying some, though not all, of the 572 Cruise and Pershing missiles announced in the twin-track decision. According to the memoirs of Z. Brzesinski, President Carter’s National Security Advisor, the NATO decision was to deploy anywhere from 200 to 600 missiles[53]. Since Cruise came in multiples of 16 missiles (a Cruise ‘flight’ of four launch vehicles each with four missiles), and the number of Pershing II was set at 108 (to replace 108 Pershing I), the minimum deployment would have been 96 Cruise plus 108 Pershing (totalling 204 missiles)[54].

With 108 Pershings due to be deployed in Germany, it is reasonable to assume that a minimum of 48 Cruise missiles each were due to be deployed at Greenham and at Comiso in Sicily, to ensure the minimum deployment of 96 Cruise. Above that bottom line of deployment, the rest was negotiable. Deployments were to be spread out over a five-year period, allowing ample time for an arms control agreement to be reached. Belgium and Holland were not due to receive their share of 48 missiles each until well into that five year timetable, and thus we may further surmise that behind the scenes there was at least an implicit assurance to the governments of Belgium and Holland that if they went along with the twin-track decision, they could reasonably expect that negotiations would save them from the potentially high political costs of proceeding with deployment against very strong opposition at home. If these assumptions are correct, then the twin-track decision was not just a commitment to deploy. It was a definite commitment to negotiate at least some of the missiles away before they ever were deployed.

If the missiles were never intended to be deployed in Belgium or Holland, they were never intended to be deployed at Molesworth either. Molesworth was due to become fully operational in December 1988, at the very end of the timetable for deployment, even after Belgium and Holland (and Germany’s share of Cruise as opposed to Pershing). Since Britain had agreed to take the largest share of Cruise[55] it seems likely that Britain would have been the first to make reductions should these be forthcoming as a result of the negotiations.

The idea that the missiles were never intended for Belgium, Holland or Molesworth fits surprisingly well with Reagan’s negotiating position at the INF talks from November 1983 onwards, after the first Cruise were deployed at Greenham and the Zero Option seemed therefore to be off the agenda. Reagan proposed a ceiling of 420 missiles each, which was roughly the number of Cruise and Pershing planned for Greenham, Germany and Italy, minus those for Belgium, Holland and Molesworth.

The suggestion that Molesworth was never seriously intended to take its allocation of 64 Cruise missiles also fits the situation ‘on the ground’ throughout this period. That is to say, there was absolutely nothing going on at Molesworth between June 1980 and November 1984 which could in any way be construed as preparations for Cruise deployment.[56]

 

Conclusions

The pressures which the peace movements of Western Europe were able to put on their governments were indeed enormous. I have described some of the financial and political costs which accrued to those governments as a result of the Cruise issue. Yet in election after election not a single European government fell as a result of this pressure. The issue put severe strains on the ruling coalitions in Belgium and the Netherlands in particular, but they nonetheless proved able to weather out the storm. The intense conflict which developed over Cruise may itself have been sufficient to polarise opinion where it stood in 1981 – that is, just short of altering the political balance of forces in Europe.

In the United States, the situation was quite different. For although Reagan was easily re-elected as President in 1984 (and Bush in 1988), the political balance of forces had shifted decidedly against support for the nuclear arms build-up – that is, within the US Congress, and state and local legislatures throughout the country. The Nuclear Freeze movement was located where the votes were, not for president, but for all other public offices at these various levels of the American political system.

It was political pressure from below which pushed Reagan into his first meeting with Gorbachev in 1985, but it was social and economic pressure that by 1987 had forced him into signing the INF treaty. The American peace movement was by then putting muscle behind its demands by enacting local, state and Congressional legislation that affected American business interests and began to ‘tie the hands’ of the Reagan administration over its foreign policy. The initiative coming from nuclear-free zones threatened the profit margins of some of America’s largest corporations. Rather than give in to the demands that were being made – for an abrupt end to the nuclear arms race full stop – Reagan bargained away the only thing that might have an effect on the peace movement without having an appreciable effect on the nuclear industry itself: Cruise.

It was the European peace movement who made Cruise an attractive card for Reagan to play in order to appease his own peace movement back home. The European peace movement also played a key role in opening the political space for the innovations of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union[57]. But the demands of the European peace movement could not be met by the governments of the Western European governments to whom they were directed. If a single government had fallen as a result of the Cruise issue, the situation might have been radically different. But despite the pressures I have already described, these caused no more than a ‘scare’ among European politicians. Why?

Firstly, the militant activities of those movements prevented further inroads into the minds of the constituencies most ‘needed’ by those governments – ie. the conservative voters, who in America were converted in large numbers by the Freeze movement. Secondly, the militant activities were directed almost exclusively at the military bases where the deployments were due, thus pitting the ‘might’ of the peace movement against the only forces in society against which a social movement can have no hope of ‘beating’ – the police and the military. Certainly there were some pressures also coming from trade unions and nuclear-free zone councils which affected companies contracted to build the bases, but the ‘force’ of the movement as a whole was not directed towards targets against which it could have an effect, either in political or economic terms. Finally, the paradox of the Cruise issue was that while it was the European governments who appeared most eager to have Cruise, it was not those governments nor their economies who were the direct beneficiaries of the Cruise programme.

Effective political or economic pressure can only ever be brought to bear against those parties which stand to lose something as a result of that pressure. But politically speaking, Cruise was never a sufficiently salient issue to have an impact on elections dominated almost entirely by major economic issues in those countries under consideration. Nor was Cruise of any major economic importance in those countries. Whereas the Cruise programme injected several billion dollars into the US nuclear industry, and was but the tip of an iceberg involving the capital flow of over one and a half trillion dollars to the American ‘military-industrial complex’, the economic benefits to European industry were paltry in comparison. Construction of Cruise missile silos cost NATO governments around £11 million at each of five sites. The total cost of building a Cruise base from scratch at Molesworth came to around £80 million. These are large sums of money, to be sure, but not in terms of modern industrial economies or even in terms of the individual contracting companies involved. Simultaneous to the start of construction at Molesworth, for instance, the same contractors were competing for £500 million worth of contracts to develop the submarine port at Faslane to house Trident. £1.5 billion worth of contracts were given out by the Ministry of Defence in just two years (1986-87).

Ultimately, the explanation for US willingness to agree to the INF Treaty by 1987 must be found within the economics of the Cruise Missile programme itself. The total US government outlay for the Ground-Launched Cruise Missile programme was more than $1 billion. This money had all been spent by the end of 1987. All the missiles had been built and sent to Europe, and the industry was already in production of other weapons systems. It was these new systems that Reagan was trying to protect from the peace movement ‘threat’. That threat was challenging not simply Cruise but the whole logic of the nuclear arms race itself. In that context, Cruise was an easy sacrifice to make on the altar of Reagan’s $1.5 trillion military build-up.

 

References

[1] Chadwick (1984), pg.39-43

[2] This was to greet an official visit to London by Ronald Reagan.

[3] All figures relating to crowd numbers are contested. Police estimates were regularly less than half the estimates coming from the organisers. Some attempts were made to literally count heads from aerial photographs taken during the 1983 mass demonstration in London, but even these were no more than gross estimates because by the time the end of the march had arrived in Hyde Park on that occasion the speeches had long finished and most people had already dispersed from the park.

[4] Figures from Marplan, Gallup and MORI polls, 1980-1985, taken from CND archives.

[5] Belief in the probability of nuclear war rose from 10% during the 1970s to 40% in 1980 and then was back down to 10% again by 1984. (Rochon, 1988, p47).

[6] Everts (1986). The Cruise issue was not sufficiently salient to British voters who were concerned primarily with the question of which party would leave them and their families better off economically.

[7] Peterborough City Council, for instance, voted to blacklist any local construction firms involved in construction at RAF Molesworth, but there is no evidence of any contracts actually being lost as a result.

[8] House of Commons Defence Committee (1984), pg.207

[9] Mather and Davenport (1983), pg. 9

[10] House of Commons Defence Committee (1984), pg.212

[11] House of Commons (1984), pg.125. This was the fence that was put up at Molesworth instead.

[12] House of Commons (1984), p.125.

[13] Daily Telegraph, 4 April, 1983.

[14] New Statesman, 11 September 1984

[15] New Statesman, 2 March 1984, pg. 11)

[16] see Janey Hulme, “Peace Protesters Roll Call” in New Statesman, 1983-85 (in occasional issues).

[17] House of Commons (1984), pg. 270

[18] Home Office (1982), pg. 11

[19] House of Commons (1984) pg. xvi

[20] New Statesman, 27 July 1984, pg. 5.

[21] A motley collection of New Age travellers, peace activists and environmentalists living in buses, caravans, teepees and tents.

[22] Michael Heseltine to BBC reporter (‘not for quotation’), 8/1/86.

[23] Hansard, “Written Answers to Questions,” 18 March 1985, p.355.

[24] these included 48 arrests by Cambridgeshire police, 30 arrests by MOD police, and 133 arrests involving subsequent release without charge. (Hunts Post, 7 March 1985, p.1)

[25] Hunts Post, 16 May 1985.

[26] These are only the costs incurred by Cambridgeshire Constabulary. MOD policing costs have not been disclosed.

[27] Hunts Post, 6 August 1985, p.1

[28] Most of this cost was met by the Americans.

[29] Bulban (1983), pg. 62.

[30] NATO (1983), pg.41.

[31] Chadwick (1984), pg.6.

[32] A second flight was also made operational at Comiso, and there were by this time 45 Pershing II missiles deployed in West Germany.

[33] Subcommittee of the Committee of Appropriations (1985), pg.112.

[34] Subcommittee (1984), pg. 105.

[35] IKV (1981), pg.1.

[36] Chadwick (1984), pg 93, gives this as one of the main reasons for the continued failure of the INF talks in Geneva from 1982 onwards.

[37] See annual SIPRI Yearbooks and IISS Strategic Balance for detailed breakdowns of both nuclear and non-nuclear weaponry of East and West during the Cold War. At no time during that period did the Soviet Union have a numerical advantage, let alone a qualitative advantage, over the US and its allies in nuclear weaponry.

[38] In the New England states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, each town or village holds an annual public meeting which all adult citizens may attend to propose and vote on legislation affecting the town. State and national legislation may over-rule these local laws, but the towns still retain a degree of autonomy unknown in the British system.

[39] 30 of the 33 towns in Western Massachusetts that voted for Reagan in 1980 also voted in favour of the nuclear freeze.

[40] Waller (1987), pg.163

[41]Waller (1987), pg.291

[42] Waller (1987), pg.284

[43] Waller (1987), pg.298

[44] These figures and those below are from Bennett (1987), pp 6-10.

[45] By the end of October 1987, there were 3,923 nuclear-free zones in 24 countries, including 184 in Britain, and over 1,000 in Japan, where it all started. (New Abolitionist magazine, October 1987)

[46] Bennett (1987), pg.259

[47] The campaign tried to make a symbolic link with Gandhi’s salt campaign of 1930-31.

[48] Quoted in New Abolitionist, February 1987, pg 12.

[49] Nuclear Free America, Memorandum, 21 March 1988.

[50] Chadwick (1984), pg.25.

[51] Greene (1983), pg. 46.

[52] LaRoque (1982), pg.4.

[53] Brzesinski (1982), pg.308

[54] The first breakthrough in the INF negotiations, the so-called ‘walk in the woods’ agreement of June 1982, involved a ceiling of 225 missiles on both sides (see NATO (1983), p 17.

[55] Numbers of Cruise to be deployed in each country:
UK   – 160
Italy – 112
Germ- 96
Belg. – 48
Neth. – 48
total – 464

[56] There was not even a perimeter fence surrounding this disused World War II airfield, let alone any sign of military activity.

[57] See Randle (1991)

 

 

 

Bibliography

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Barnet, R.(1983) “Annals of Diplomacy,” in New Yorker, October 17,1983, New York:

Bennett, G.(1987),New Abolitionist: The Story of Nuclear Free Zones, Elgin, Ill.: Brethren Press

Brzesinski, Z.(1983) Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Advisor 1977-1981, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Bulban, E.(1983) “USAF Trains Tomahawk Crews for NATO,” in Aviation Week and Space Technology, July 25,1983

Chadwick, L.(1984) Cruise Missiles and the INF Negotiations (Peace Research Reports no.4), Bradford: University of Bradford

Chatfield, C (1992) The American Peace Movement: Ideals and Action, New York: Twayns

Coward, L.(1987) “Attitudes to Nuclear Defence: an Investigation of Processes of Change in Elite and Non-elite Belief Systems,” PhD, Bradford: Bradford University

Evert, P. (1986) “The Impact of the Peace Movement on Public Opinion and Policy-Making” 11th General Conference of IPRA, U. Essex, April 1986.

Futrell, Robert and Barbara Brents (2003), “Protest as Terrorism? The Potential for Violent Anti-Nuclear Activism” in American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 46 No. 6, February 2003, pp.745-765.

Gamson, W.(1990) Strategy of Social Protest, 2nd edition, Belmont: Wadsworth

Garthoff, R.(1983) “NATO Decision on Theatre Nuclear Forces,” in Political Science Quarterly, pp. 197-214

Greene, O.(1983) Europe’s Folly: Facts and Arguments About Cruise, London: CND

Home Office(1982) Prison Statistics, England and Wales, London: HMSO

House of Commons Defence Committee (1984): Physical Security of Military Installations in the UK, 2nd Report, 1983-84 session, London: HMSO

IKV(1981) “Help Rid the World of Nuclear Weapons: Let it Begin in the Netherlands” Amsterdam: IKV

Kitschelt, H.(1985)     “New Social Movements in West Germany and the United States,” in Political Power and Social Theory, vol.5, Connecticut: JAI Press, 273-324

Kleidman, R. (1993), Organising for Peace: Neutrality, the Test Ban and the Freeze, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press

Lofland, J. (1993) Polite Protesters: American Peace Movement of the 1980s, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

Lynchcombe(1984) At Least Cruise is Clean, London: Niccolo Press

Mather, I. and Davenport, H. (1983) “Greenham Countdown At the Wire,” in Observer, 6 November 1983

NATO Special Consultative Group (1983): Progress Report on Intermediate Nuclear Forces, 8 December 1983, Brussels: NATO

Randle, M et al (1991), People Power; The Building of a New European Home, Stroud: Hawthorne Press

Rochon, T. (1988) Mobilising for Peace: The Antinuclear Movements in Western Europe, London: Adamantine.

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Smelser, N.(1962) Theory of Collective Behaviour, New York: Free Press

Subcommittee of the Committee of Appropriations (1985), Hearings, 98th Congress, 2nd Session, Washington, DC: GPO

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Thompson, E.P. and Smith, D.(1980) Protest and Survive, London: Penguin

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Price of Resistance

THE PRICE OF RESISTANCE: Measuring the Cost of Peace Protest
at RAF Molesworth

Timmon Wallis

 

Introduction

“The treaty to scrap land-based intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) is an historic turning point, a vindication of seven years of nonviolent campaigning by the nuclear disarmament movement. Without us, Cruise and Pershing would never have been a political issue; without us an agreement would never have been reached…” (Peace News, 11 Dec, 1987, pg.2)

On September 9th 1988, reporters and television crews from all over the world assembled outside the main gates of RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire, England, to watch an unmarked flat-bed truck carrying two wooden crates drive off the base. In the crates were two Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles on their way to a scrap-heap in Texas. After almost nine years of intensive campaigning by one of the largest social movements in European history, the first missiles were now leaving.

No doubt Molesworth could be remembered in the mythology of the peace movement as another success story for nonviolent resistance. The people fought and the people won. The impact of the international peace movement on the eventual signing of the INF treaty is a more complex issue that is not addressed here. Here we are concerned only to ask what impact did the campaigns at Molesworth itself have on Molesworth itself. Was effective pressure brought to bear on the government, the military, the construction workers or the police as a direct result of nonviolent direct action at Molesworth? Was anyone coerced by the power wielded by the peace movement?

We can not really know the full answers to these questions until confidential government papers are eventually released under the thirty years rule. Even confidential discussions with senior police officers, MOD officials and US congressmen have yielded very little hard information in this regard. What follows therefore is inevitably partial and tentative, though hopefully the pieces fit together to make a convincing argument.

 

Molesworth and the NATO Twin-Track Decision

On December 12, 1979, NATO ministers announced to the world their intention to deploy 572 new nuclear missiles in five European countries. This became known as the ‘Twin-Track Decision’ because in the same breath, NATO ministers announced their intention to negotiate an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union that would hopefully eliminate these very weapons, along with the ‘equivalent’ Soviet weapons, mainly the SS-20. President Reagan’s initial negotiating position – the so-called ‘zero option’ – called for the complete elimination of these missiles on both sides. Although this is essentially what was finally agreed in the INF treaty, there are a number of reasons to believe that NATO had every intention of deploying some, though not all, of the 572 Cruise and Pershing missiles announced in the twin-track decision.

There is indeed reasonable evidence to suggest that the US never intended the ‘zero option’ as a serious bargaining position at all (Chadwick, 1984, pg.93). According to Lawrence Eagleburger, the US under-secretary of state at the time, US policy was clear:

“I cannot stress too strongly that arms control is not an alternative to modernising our nuclear forces. Rather, maintaining adequate nuclear forces on the one hand – and this includes replacing older, obsolete technologies – and achieving sound arms control agreement on the other, are mutually dependent and mutually reinforcing policies.” (Eagleburger, 1984, pg.1)

According to the memoirs of Z. Brzesinski, President Carter’s National Security Advisor, the NATO decision was to deploy anywhere from 200 to 600 missiles (Brzesinski, 1982, pg.308). More than 600 would seem too ‘provocative’ while less than 200 would leave NATO too ‘weak’.[1] The GLCM came in multiples of 16 missiles (a Cruise ‘flight’ of four launch vehicles each with four missiles), and the number of Pershing II was set at 108 (to replace 108 Pershing I). Thus the range was effectively set at a minimum deployment of 96 Cruise plus 108 Pershing (totalling 204 missiles) and a maximum of 480 Cruise plus 108 Pershing (totally 588 missiles). The announcement to deploy 464 Cruise (plus Pershing) gave ample negotiating room for reductions before reaching the bottom line of 96 Cruise (plus Pershing). (Garthoff, 1983, pg.206)

Cruise was announced by European governments as a ‘bargaining chip’, and that is exactly how we must view the 384 missiles that were scheduled for deployment over and above the 96 considered to be necessary as a minimum.[2]

“Since 1979, the Alliance has consistently reaffirmed that deployments must proceed on schedule while emphasising its readiness to re-examine the scale of such deployments in the light of concrete results at the negotiations…” (NATO, 1983, pg.7)

The twin-track decision was in fact a compromise between those countries favouring nuclear modernisation and those favouring negotiations to reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons already in Europe. Although Helmut Schmidt of West Germany is normally credited with the initial ‘request’ to bring Cruise to Europe in the first place, he refused to let West Germany be seen as the only non-nuclear power in Europe to take them. Britain, as a nuclear power in its own right, was not considered to be changing its status much by accepting Cruise. Since Denmark refused to take any Cruise at all, and Belgium and Holland were prevaricating, reserving the right to decide not to accept any, it was Italy that saved the day for NATO by agreeing to take significantly more than its share and thus guaranteeing deployment would go ahead (Greene, 1983, pg.54).

With 108 Pershings due to be deployed in Germany, it is reasonable to assume that a minimum of 48 Cruise missiles each were due to be deployed at Greenham and at Comiso in Sicily, to ensure the minimum deployment of 96 Cruise. Above that bottom line of deployment, the rest was negotiable. Deployments were to be spread out over a five-year period, allowing ample time for an arms control agreement to be reached. Belgium and Holland were not due to receive their share of 48 missiles each until well into that five year timetable, and thus we may further surmise that behind the scenes there was at least an implicit assurance to the governments of Belgium and Holland that if they went along with the twin-track decision, they could reasonably expect that negotiations would save them from the potentially high political costs of proceeding with deployment against very strong opposition at home.   If these assumptions are correct, then the twin-track decision was not just a commitment to deploy. It was a definite commitment to negotiate at least some of the missiles away before they ever were deployed.

If the missiles were never intended to be deployed in Belgium or Holland, they must never have been intended to be deployed at Molesworth either. Molesworth was due to become fully operational in December 1988, at the very end of the timetable for deployment, even after Belgium and Holland (and Germany’s share of Cruise as opposed to Pershing). Since Britain had agreed to take the largest share of Cruise[3] it seems likely that Britain would have been the first to make reductions should these be forthcoming as a result of the negotiations.

The idea that the missiles were never intended for Belgium, Holland or Molesworth fits surprisingly well with Reagan’s negotiating position at the INF talks from November 1983 onwards, after the first Cruise were deployed at Greenham and the Zero Option seemed therefore to be off the agenda. Reagan proposed a ceiling of 420 missiles each, which was roughly the number of Cruise and Pershing planned for Greenham, Germany and Italy, minus those for Belgium, Holland and Molesworth (which actually comes to 572-160=412).

The suggestion that Molesworth was never seriously intended to take its allocation of 64 Cruise missiles also fits the situation ‘on the ground’ throughout this period. That is to say, there was absolutely nothing going on at Molesworth between June 1980 and November 1984 which could in any way be construed as preparations for Cruise deployment.[4]

Following the announcement of the two British cruise sites in June 1980, design studies began almost immediately at Greenham Common and contracts for construction had gone out by mid-1981. Preliminary drainage work began there in January 1982 and full-scale construction on the missile silos was in full swing by August of that year. This was all at an existing American base that was already fully operational before the Cruise announcement was made.

At Molesworth there was nothing but a few second world war hangars, no personnel stationed there nor even the most basic of facilities. Yet the most preliminary survey work required to prepare for the building of a modern missile base from scratch was not begun until December 1984.

From a purely practical and financial point of view, it made good sense to time the deployments in such a way as to save the cost of building any bases that would not in the end be needed. This is implied in Congressional testimony which related to the building of housing to accommodate US servicemen’s families at the Cruise bases:

“Congressman Fazio: “We start out on the expenditure trail which we all know is certainly warranted in terms of quality of life for these individuals [ie. bringing over their families] but that does make a commitment that is going to be money that we have to chalk up as a loss if we determine we are not going through with complete deployment.”

General Bader: “You are referring to?”

Congressman Fazio: “Decision. That was one of the original purposes this committee held back the funding. Not because we had any question about the need to provide for quality of life or not simply because we had a dispute with the Europeans over who was going to pay but because we felt that it would be predetermining some expenditures that might not need to be made if we could make some progress on arms talks. It is still on the list of hopes that this Administration or any administration would have.”

The Greenham Factor

When the decision was finally made to go ahead with construction at Molesworth, the authorities already had over three years experience in dealing with the women at Greenham Common. Thousands of women ended up living for various periods of time at the Women’s Peace Camp there which in turn brought tens of thousands of women from all over the UK – and indeed the world – to the very gates of Greenham to protest and demonstrate their strength in opposing all that Greenham represented to them (male domination, patriarchy, militarism, waste, destructiveness, a callousness toward human beings and a lack of concern for future generations…). The demonstrations and activities of the Greenham women were an inspiration to peace movements throughout the world. Yet they were insufficient to stop the construction of the base and deployment of the first Cruise missiles in 1983.

The total financial and political costs of protecting Cruise missiles from the Greenham women are impossible to calculate, but they were undoubtedly very high. The original agreement was for Britain to provide a total of 220 security personnel for Greenham (House of Commons Defence Committee, 1984, pg.207) presumably consisting of MOD police, whose main function would be to guard the Cruise convoys when they travelled off base. In fact Greenham ended up with 417 permanently stationed MOD police (out of a total force of just under 4,000 who are meant to cover 140 other military installations nation-wide).

Up to 1,000 soldiers from three Army battalions and units of an RAF regiment were also assigned to Greenham, after new security arrangements were agreed with the US (Mather and Davenport, 1983, pg. 9) Of the 1,653 USAF personnel assigned to Greenham, about half were trained Cruise missile specialists and half security and general back-up. That means that ‘inside the fence’ there were approximately 2,200 people whose primary role was to guard the base and its contents from the peace movement!

Outside the fence there was a daily presence of up to 300 civil police from the Thames Valley force plus reinforcements to cover major demonstrations. A peak of 1,163 officers from 11 counties were deployed for Reclaim the Base on December 1, 1983 (House of Commons Defence Committee, 1984, pg.212). Once regular off-base exercises began in 1984, as many as 600 civil police were needed to ‘protect’ the Cruise convoys from the peace movement during the five days each month they ventured out of the base.

Aiding the security forces during much of 1983 were two helicopters on 24-hour patrol, floodlights, watch towers, electronic alarms, two layers of chain-link fence with three to five coils of barbed wire and razor-wire in between, police dogs, and automatic M-16 rifles carried by American soldiers authorised to use ‘deadly force’. The US provided an extra £8 million to ‘offset’ certain UK costs associated with Greenham, and Britain in turn agreed to spend over £1 million for ‘utilities, access roads and facilities to support their security force’. (US Congress, 1984, pg. 120) Temporary accommodation for the RAF regiment had already cost £150,000 by January 1984, and MOD police over-time came to £3 million for the financial year 1983-84 (House of Commons, 1984, pg.113)

The cost of repairing the perimeter fence had by 1984 exceeded half a million pounds, but a replacement with ‘protest-proof’ fencing as recommended by the Commons Defence Committee would have cost between £3 and a half million and £4 million (House of Commons, 1984, pg.125).[5] Policing costs recorded by Thames Valley police for the period December 1982 to November 1983 totalled £3,064,300 and estimates for the entire period September 1981 to September 1984 range from £5 – £7 million (House of Commons, 1984, p.125). Costs incurred by Newbury District Council for evictions and extra court proceedings are miniscule by comparison – £90,000 for the whole period – and yet they represent a substantial strain on the council’s available resources.[6]

Adding up all the known and estimated security costs over the three year period from 1981 to 1984, one can get a rough idea of what the Greenham women were costing the British government – over £10 million. Considering that is only slightly less than the £11.4 million it cost to build the cruise missile silos inside, the price of protest was considerable. On the other hand, in comparison to other costs the Thatcher government proved willing to incur to carry out its policies in face of opposition, Greenham was a cheap victory. The miner’s strike cost the government £71 million a week according to the New Statesman (11 September 1984) and the Falklands War cost well over £4,000 million by the time all the lost equipment was replaced and the ‘fortress’ secured.

The number of arrests at Greenham continued to rise in spite of a deliberate policy to avoid this. Between 1 April 1983 and 22 November 1983, police recorded 745 arrests at Greenham for failure to pay fines accruing from previous arrests! (House of Commons, 1984, pg. 270) Total arrests from September 1981 to August 1984 have been estimated at 1,866.[7] This put tremendous strain on Newbury Magistrates Court. The 40 lay magistrates had to cope with nearly 200 extra court hours in 1983 to hear cases from Greenham.   Two stipendiary magistrates had to be appointed by the government to handle the backlog of cases and at one point 78 cases were heard in a single day. (New Statesman, 2 March 1984, pg. 11)

The decision by a large number of those arrested to go to a prison rather than pay the court-imposed fine has added to an already serious problem of prison over-crowding. The peak prison population for England and Wales in 1982 was already 6,000 over the limit of ‘certified normal accommodation’. Additional strains on top of this required temporary prisons to be opened. Because women’s prisons account for only 1,456 out of 38,653 places, the impact of the Greenham women on the penal system was greatly multiplied (Home Office, 1982, pg. 11). Over 6,000 peace protesters and an equal number of miners had been arrested throughout the country by the end of 1984.

The fact that the House of Commons in 1984 produced a two-volume report on security at military installations is evidence itself of the scale of the nuisance. Although the report refers more to the threat of terrorists than to the threat of Greenham women, it admits at the outset that:

“Protest groups currently account for the great majority of unauthorised incursions into military establishments.”[8]

Greenham Common had by far the largest number of ‘incursions’ registered in 1983 – a total of 38, followed by Upper Heyford with 12 and Lakenheath with 8.

The nature of the security problem at Greenham was not confined to the base itself. The whole ‘operational concept’ of Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles was that they must be deployed “some distance away from the bases where they are normally stored.” (House of Commons, 1984 pg. xvi) Each convoy of 22 vehicles was meant to be accompanied by 69 personnel, 44 of which are for security – 14 USAF and 30 RAF.

The convoys which continued to leave Greenham every month on exercise (even after the INF treaty) each required hundreds of additional civil police. All were successfully tracked to their ‘secret’ launch sites by peace movement activists and several were blockaded and stopped for many hours at a time. Because the first flight of Cruise at Greenham were supposedly on ‘Quick Reaction Alert’ and were not meant to leave the base, the exercises that took place during 1984 cannot have been proper ‘operational’ exercises:

“New technical information reveals that far from being a success in outwitting the Greenham Common women, the exercises have not tested the missiles. Rather they appear to have been public relations manoeuvres aimed at denting the morale of CND and peace campaigners, by getting vehicles past the peace camp’s cordon.”[9]

In 1984, Greenham officials acknowledged a 25% reduction in dispersal exercises because of the costs of police ‘protection’ against demonstrators every time Cruise left the base to ‘melt into the countryside’.

 

The Peace Threat at Molesworth

By the time of CND National Conference in November 1984, it must have been clear to the authorities that Molesworth was rapidly moving to the top of the peace movement’s agenda. Although the Molesworth Pledge[10] failed to materialise to any significant degree, the threat it posed must have been considerable. That was the threat that large numbers of mainstream CND members from around the country would come to Molesworth to obstruct construction work even at the risk of arrest. With over 100,000 members nation-wide and a record of pulling upwards of half a million to demonstrations in London, this was potentially a far greater threat than that posed by the considerable but increasingly marginalised presence of the women at Greenham.

The threat posed by the Molesworth Pledge itself was increased by the existence of over one hundred people already camping on the base, building semi-permanent structures and looking to be settling in for the long haul. Even bargaining on increased hostilities between Rainbow Village[11] and the rest of the peace movement, the authorities could not be sure they would not be joined by hundreds or even thousands as the whole peace movement turned its attention to Molesworth. The possibility of hundreds or even thousands of protesters camping out on the actual base and backed up by hundreds of thousands of supporters around the country could not have failed to represent a significant threat to the building of the base, as Heseltine himself admitted:

“We had to move millions of pounds worth of equipment onto a site in Cambridgeshire without those who were stationed on the site and watching every move even knowing we were doing it…because we were very frightened and we knew exactly what would happen if a whisper of what we were doing got out. The protest groups would have called all their people out to block the road and to lie down to cause absolute mayhem. We’d never have got the fence up and then when we’d tried to build it they would have caused terrible chaos and inconvenience.”[12]

There can be little doubt that it was the threat of nonviolent direct action on a large scale at Molesworth – the threat that ‘every fence-post would be contested’, which forced Heseltine to invade as he did, on the night of February 5th 1985. Furthermore, it is likely that the timing of the Molesworth invasion was dictated more by the timetable of the peace movement than by the timetable of the construction work, for it was a full year after the invasion before any construction work actually began on the base. Hundreds of MOD police were deployed around the seven-mile perimeter of Molesworth for ten months before even the first surveyor’s stakes began to mark out the area for a Cruise base to be built.

 

Policing the Base

The midnight operation to fence off Molesworth involved four separate military convoys of thirty to forty vehicles each which poured onto the base from the North, with a fifth convoy worked its way up from the South to enter the base via a different entrance. A civilian convoy, carrying more than 500 MOD and civilian police converged at the site of Rainbow Village at the same time. By 11.30pm, Molesworth was ablaze with headlights, portable searchlights, flares and beacons. The sound of electric generators, policemen giving orders and soldiers hammering metal fence-posts into the ground echoed through the stillness.

“Operation Yelstead” was set into motion on November 21st 1984, under the personal supervision of the defence Secretary Michael Heseltine himself. Heseltine arrived by helicopter at 11am on February 6th 1985, to inspect the success of ten weeks’ careful planning. He toured the site donning a military flakjacket and then returned to the Houses of Parliament to be accused of

“heavy-handed…jack- boot methods…(in an)Eastern European-type of operation…(involving) more British troops…than were used against the Argentines at Goose Green.”

A total of 1,500 Royal Engineers from seven squadrons worked through the night to put up a razor-wire fence along the entire seven and a half mile perimeter of the base. Mammoth bull-dozers levelled the area, ripping up hedges and trees all around the base. About 250 armed soldiers from the Regular Infantry stood by in case of trouble. Over six hundred MOD police officers (out of a total force of 4000) were drafted from virtually every Ministry of Defence establishment in England, Scotland and Wales for the operation – 300 were on hand for the eviction of Rainbow Village and another 300 took over on the morning shift. 900 civilian police from several forces, including the Metropolitan Police from London, were involved in the operation – 200 were at Peace Corner to escort Rainbow Village out of the county. Another couple of hundred riot police were on stand-by in case of trouble.

The entire area was sealed off by police roadblocks and there were large numbers of police escorting first the huge military convoys, then the individual break-down contractors that arrived to tow any remaining buses, caravans, etc. to the police pound. All through the following day there were convoys of contractors, portakabins and other equipment to be escorted to and from Molesworth. Hundreds of civilian police remained at Peace Corner to seal off the site. (The press were barred from entering the ‘sterile area’ before daybreak.) The policing costs for Cambridgeshire Constabulary alone came to £360,000 for the period 5-10 February 1985[13]. The whole midnight operation cost over £1 million.

The authorities were well prepared for an onslaught of protestors, who indeed began arriving in the early hours of the morning of February 6th 1985 from as far away as Wales. Road blocks remained in force for the next two weeks, forcing all demonstrators to walk up to a mile from designated car parks to the base. Approximately 350 MOD police with dogs were guarding the seven and a half miles of fresh barbed wire. At least one helicopter was in service at all times to track groups of protestors around the perimeter.

A city of 130 portakabins was instantly erected inside the base, providing offices for the security forces, interrogation and processing rooms, photographic and finger printing rooms, and temporary cells for men and women. (There were only two functioning ‘portaloos’ for the entire base). As the royal Engineers departed on the second day, they left behind total chaos inside the wire fence they had erected. The chaos was exacerbated by the heavy snowstorms which fell on February 7th and 8th, completely blocking the only access road on to the base, leaving lorries, portakabins and policemen stranded in snowdrifts.

The number of arrests at Molesworth rapidly went into the hundreds in the days that followed the invasion. By the end of February, Cambridgeshire County Council were told that there had been a total of 211 arrests at Molesworth.[14] By April 1985, local MP John Major reported to the local newspaper that there had been a total of 356 arrests at Molesworth since the start of surveying in November: 185 for criminal damage, 39 for obstructing a police officer, 51 for obstructing the highway, 11 for assaulting a police officer, 20 for going equipped to commit criminal damage, 10 for theft, 23 for breach of the peace, 5 for breach of bail, 11 for trespass, and 1 for assault occasioning actual bodily harm. “So much for peaceful protest,” quipped Major (Hunts Post, 16 May 1985).

The total costs of policing the base throughout this period came to over £1.6 million[15]. This included £809,000 for policing the Easter demonstration with over 2,000 police officers, or roughly double the number deployed at the largest demonstration at Greenham (see above). According to Chief Constable Ian Kane, the policing of the Easter demonstration meant that the rest of Cambridgeshire was “50 per cent under policed for 24 hours. That is the price,” he said, “of policing demonstrations.” (Hunts Post, 6 August 1985, p.1)

That price, it seems, was well within the capabilities of the County Council and the government (which agreed to pay 90 per cent of policing costs up to a certain figure) to pay. In total, the civil policing costs at Molesworth came to only a fraction of the £5 – £7 million estimated for Greenham. In fact the pattern of policing at Molesworth throughout this period suggests that the police had prepared for a much higher level of protest than they actually found.

This does not mean that the total costs of security at Molesworth were insignificant. Most of those costs were incurred by the Ministry of Defence and remained largely hidden from the account books. Nevertheless we know that the cost of the midnight fencing operation came to around £1 million. Erecting the 12-foot security fence around the base cost another £3 million. A second inner fence of the same type was later erected to separate the MOD’s terrain from the American inner sanctum. This came to another £3 million. Construction of a special MOD access road to the base, which was necessitated at least in part by the desire to avoid the cordon of protesters which greeted every departure of the Cruise convoy at Greenham, cost another £1.5 million. Although the full costs of paying and maintaining a MOD police force of up to 700 per day during the winter of 1985 have not been revealed, we can estimate on the basis of known figures that this must have cost the MOD in the region of £8 million. Thus we may estimate that security for Molesworth cost the government approximately £16.5 million on top of the £80 million it cost to build the base itself.[16]

Keeping to The Construction Timetable

In August 1984, it was reported that funds for construction to start at Molesworth had been frozen by a Congressional sub-committee pending assurances that the base could be made secure. It appears that the original plan was for construction to be restricted to a small 46-acre site within the Molesworth base, corresponding presumably to the area already occupied by the US Army Disposal Office. The remaining 700 acres of the base, belonging to the British government, had been due to be sold off. But the presence of Rainbow Village, with 150 people camping on the site, and the continuing activities of the peace movement there posed a problem for military planners. No local farmer or other potential buyer would be prepared to take on the responsibility for land surrounding a controversial Cruise missile base.

It is safe to assume that the US and British governments were haggling throughout the first half of 1984 over how to secure Molesworth from the sort of activities that plagued them at Greenham and who would pay for the ‘solution’. This confusion meant that even the MOD police did not know how they were supposed to handle the situation developing on the ground. By October an agreement had apparently been reached, which would require a massive operation on the part of the British government to fence in and guard the whole 740 acre base for a full year before any construction could begin.

Construction was originally due to start on building a Cruise missile base at Molesworth in February 1985. In fact the first construction contracts went out in December 1985 and work did not get underway until February 1986. The Heseltine invasion and building of the perimeter fence, which it was always assumed would have to precede construction of the base itself, gave the impression of intense construction activity at Molesworth in spite of the fact that for one year the fence was guarding nothing but an empty field with grazing sheep.

Quite possibly the invasion of Molesworth was intended to convey just that sense of activity, not to the British peace movement as such, but to the rest of the world, and especially to the governments of Belgium and Holland, who at that point had not yet made a decision about deploying Cruise in their respective countries.

The Molesworth invasion gave the unmistakable impression that at least in Britain, there was no letting up in the deployment schedule for Cruise. As little as one month previous to the invasion, the Belgian prime minister was in Washington for urgent talks with President Reagan over how to patch up a deal on Cruise that would not bring down his government. A month after the Molesworth invasion, he announced the decision to go ahead with deployment, and there was by then no question of losing the confidence of the Belgian parliament.

Apart from the initial unexplained delay of one year on the start of construction at Molesworth, there is little evidence of delays or disruptions hampering the construction timetable. Initial threats by the East Anglia construction unions to refuse at Molesworth went unnoticed. Peterborough City Council voted to blacklist local construction firms who did work at Molesworth. This caused an uproar among those firms, but there is no evidence of any work actually lost as a result of the decision.

Efforts on the part of the peace movement to boycott or blacklist the major contractors at Molesworth had little result. Leeds City Council threatened to boycott the firm of Norwest Holst Ltd. who were based in Leeds and believed to hold the main contract for the base. To the embarrassment of all sides, Norwest Holst bid for, but did not receive, any of the work at Molesworth.

When contracts did go out for the Molesworth work, in December 1985, some in the construction industry feared they were on a ‘collision course with anti-nuclear demonstrators’ (Construction News, 5 December 1985, p.9) who planned to blockade the base just as work was to begin (on the first anniversary of the Heseltine invasion). In fact, however, work on any real scale had not begun by February 6th 1986, so that the 12-hour blockade by 6,000 CND members which very effectively shut down the base for a day did not impinge on the construction work itself.

Conclusions

What little evidence we are able to muster for the coercive impact of nonviolent direct action at Molesworth suggests that that impact was minimal. If it could be said that the peace movement forced the British government to do anything, it was to force them to build a Cruise base at Molesworth rather than the reverse. Heseltine was forced to fence off the base a full year before the start of construction in order to avoid a further build-up of peace movement activity there. He was forced to fence off the full 740 acres of the base when the Americans only wanted to use 46 acres, and he was forced to pay the costs of securing seven and a half miles of fence for that whole year.

Some in the peace movement are convinced that Heseltine’s arrival at Molesworth in a flak-jacket to oversee his troops was the beginning of his fall from power.[17] That is contestable. What is not contestable is the fact that the British government pressed on with the deployment of Cruise Missiles undeterred by the relatively minor expense and irritation of keeping a few protesters at bay at Molesworth.

The more sinister conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence presented above is that the peace movement may have forced the British government, or rather NATO, to build a base at Molesworth when in fact they never had any intention of doing so. It was only when peace movement activities continued to draw attention to the base, and threatened to escalate enormously if the government did not do something at Molesworth, that NATO felt it necessary to go ahead with construction at a base they hoped all along to negotiate away.

This does not in itself negate the value of all that went on at Molesworth during this period of intense campaigning in the 1980s. It does, however, raise the question of what people believe they are achieving by their campaigning activities and whether there is any basis in fact for their beliefs. Nonviolent direct action can bring down governments and overthrow even the most ruthless dictators, but only when a truly significant proportion of the general public is on the move and taking part in such activities. When a movement represents only a minority position within society and is pitting itself against the most powerful forces of the state, the chances of success are limited.

The case of Molesworth indicates just how powerful the peace movement of the 1980s could be – powerful enough to force NATO and the British government to make decisions they did not want to make. Unfortunately these were not the decisions the peace movement wanted them to make, so it behoves peace activists of the future to learn some lessons from this experience.

 

[1] It is interesting to note that the first breakthrough in the INF negotiations, the so-called ‘walk in the woods’ agreement of June 1982, involved a ceiling of 225 missiles on both sides (see NATO, 1983, pg.17).

[2] According to a NATO document published in the Washington Post on 28 November 1983, the 96 cruise missiles to be based a Greenham, the first of which had just arrived there, could “potentially place at risk approximately 87 percent of the high-priority targets [in the Soviet Union], including Moscow itself.” (quoted in Chadwick, 1984, pg.78)

[3] Numbers of Cruise to be deployed in each country:
UK   – 160
Italy – 112
FRG   – 96
Belg. – 48
Neth. – 48
total – 464

[4] There was not even a perimeter fence surrounding this disused World War II airfield, let alone any sign of military activity.

[5] This was the fence that was put up at Molesworth instead.

[6] Daily Telegraph, 4 April, 1983.

[7] see Janey Hulme, “Peace Protesters Roll Call” in New Statesman, 1983-85 (in occasional issues).

[8] House of Commons (1984) pg.iii and see pg. 11-13.

[9] New Statesman, 27 July 1984, pg. 5.

[10] This involved thousands of people up and down the country ‘pledging’ to come to Molesworth and disrupt construction work as soon as it started.

[11] A motley collection of New Age travellers, peace activists and environmentalists living in buses, caravans, teepees and tents.

[12] Michael Heseltine to BBC reporter (‘not for quotation’), 8/1/86.

[13] Hansard, “Written Answers to Questions,” 18 March 1985, p.355.

[14] these included 48 arrests by Cambridgeshire police, 30 arrests by MOD police, and 133 arrests involving subsequent release without charge. (Hunts Post, 7 March 1985, p.1)

[15] These are only the costs incurred by Cambridgeshire Constabulary. MOD policing costs have not been disclosed.

[16] Most of this cost was met by the Americans.

[17] For instance, interviews with Green Party activists Richard Oldfield and Brigg Oubridge.

Biblical Basis of the Quaker Peace Testimony

Biblical Basis of the Peace Testimony

In an age of great religious turmoil and theological excitement, Quakerism emerged as a form of Christianity which was to be lived and not merely to be “professed”. The early Friends claimed to live in that life and power which freed them from all sin and unrighteousness. They took the gospel of Jesus to heart and tried to live it as the early Church had lived it, with Jesus himself as their only teacher and guide. The peace testimony, like all the other Quaker testimonies, grew out of that central Quaker Testimony which was a witness to what it means to be a true Christian – to live as a disciple of Jesus.

Quaker Attitudes to the Bible

The early Friends, while deeply imbued in the Biblical tradition of the time, nevertheless had a distinctive approach to the Bible which we would do well to emulate today. George Fox recounts in his Journal how he heard a preacher in Nottingham telling his congregation that it was the scriptures by which they were to try all doctrines, religions and opinion, to know if it be the truth. Fox burst out from the pews, “NO! It is not the scriptures, but the Holy Spirit, by which the holy men of God gave forth the Scriptures, whereby opinions, religions and judgments were to be tried.” (Journal,p.24)

Robert Barclay, in his Apology, further expounded a Quaker approach to the Bible:

“Because they are only a declaration of the fountain and not the fountain itself, therefore they are not to be esteemed the principal ground of all truth and knowledge, nor yet the adequate, primary rule of faith and manners…They are and may be esteemed a secondary rule, subordinate to the Spirit, from which they have all their excellency and certainty…”

For early Friends, the Bible was a “precious” resource for their spiritual edification, but the primary resource was the direct experience of the living Spirit by which we are to be guided into all Truth. Quakerism is based on the claim that we may know God directly, without recourse to any intermediary, whether it be priest or Bible. What guidance we may find inwardly can only be tested against the corporate faith and practice of the Meeting for Worship. Guidance from the Bible may be found helpful in testing our own promptings of the spirit, but it is never the sole source of authority.

Indeed let us admit that from a treasure trove of such rich diversity as is contained in the Bible, it is possible to find within it almost anything we might be looking for. Let us not pretend therefore, to treat equally every page of the Bible. What follows is by no means a comprehensive summation of all that the Bible has to say about war and peace. It is a selective attempt to demonstrate the biblical basis of our peace testimony – a testimony springing not from the Scriptures as such, but from “that Spirit which gave forth the Scriptures and to whom the Scriptures bear their witness”.

Put Away Your Sword

Jesus preached the Kingdom of God; of that there can be little doubt. And yet just what he meant by the Kingdom of God is still a matter of some controversy among Christians of all denominations. Much of the confusion stems from John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world”, by which so many Christians through the ages have taken him to mean that the Kingdom of God is not in this world but somewhere else – in a place we go to when we die, or in a place the whole world will get to at some final moment at the end of time.

And yet the whole meaning of the Peace Testimony can be summed up by this very passage: “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight…”(Jn.18:36) What is the distinguishing feature of the Kingdom of God? We cannot reach it by fighting. The kingdoms “of this world” were the kingdoms his hearers were familiar with, like the Roman Empire; kingdoms based the values that Jesus explicitly rejected. “Until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, as men of violence seek to take it by force.” (Mt.11:12) And “perceiving that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew…”(Jn.6:15)

To say his kingdom was “not of this world” was to reiterate what he had been saying all through his ministry: the Kingdom of God is not like any worldly kingdom we are familiar with; kingdoms which are gained and maintained by force and violence. No, the kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field…(Mt.13:31) It is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal… (Mt.13:33) It is like a treasure hidden in a field (Mt.13:44), a net which was thrown into the sea…(Mt.13:47).

“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed,” he said, “nor will they say,”Lo, here it is!” or “There!”, for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you; it is within you; it is among you; it is within your power”(Lk.17:21 various translations) “So put away your sword.”(Mt.26:52) What possible use have you with a sword if you want to inherit the Kingdom of God? You can’t fight to obtain it, it is already here in your midst!

 

The Peaceable Kingdom

The Kingdom of God is not “of” this world. But it is most assuredly “in” this world. To use the word “kingdom” was to give the Kingdom of God an unmistakably political and economic connotation. This is nothing “other-worldly” or ethereal, but something for the here and now: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus came to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…(Lk.4:18)

Lest anyone doubt the political implications of his choice of the word “Kingdom”, we need only turn to the Old Testament prophets, whose words were “scripture” to those who listened to Jesus:

For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and for evermore.   The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this. (Is.9:5-7)

Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. (Is.32:17-18)

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. (Dn.2:44)

And I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. (Hs.2:18)

And the Lord will become king over all the earth; on that day the Lord will be one and his name one. (Zr.14:9)

This was the good news that Jesus preached: the Kingdom of God is at hand! The mighty shall be cast down from their throne, and the lowly shall be exalted; the hungry shall be filled and the rich sent empty away! (Lk.1:52-53) But this heavenly kingdom, here on earth, shall not be got in battle by legions of men nor by legions of angels, but by following the way of unconditional love, which is at the same time the way of suffering: “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn.15:13)

 

The Way of the Cross

“If any would come after me, let them take up their cross and follow me” (Mt.16:24) What a hard and exacting way to follow! But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, he said. (Mt.7:13) The good news is not easy news. Be ye perfect, he said. (Mt.5:48) Turn the other cheek. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Go, sell what you possess and give to the poor. (Mt.19:21) For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mt.5:20)

And what will be the likely consequences of such a lifestyle? You will be hated and reviled by men, flogged in the synagogues, dragged before governors and kings, persecuted from one town to the next… ultimately, you can expect to be delivered up to tribulation and put to death. (Mt.24:9) So why is this “good news”? Because “they who endure to the end will be saved.” (Mt.24:13)

Now this was taken by the early Christians, and no doubt by at least some of the early Friends, to be a reference to the Glory in Heaven due anyone who died defending the faith. But might it not also describe a corporate witness? Jesus went to the cross because his teachings were (and still are) a dangerous threat to the status quo “kingdoms of this world”. Yet he refused to countenance violence as a means of resistance. By enduring to the end, Jesus showed that the way of the cross can save others. It is not we who are “saved” when we forfeit our life for our beliefs, but those who come after us, as the martyrdom of the Quaker, Mary Dyer, led the way to religious toleration in America, and as the self-sacrifice even unto death of so many saints throughout history have paved the way for the coming of God’s kingdom.

“Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace!” he said. (Lk.19:42) If you try to fight the kingdoms of this world with the weapons of this world, you will only increase the suffering and death around you. Violence and destruction lead inexorably to more violence and destruction. To break that cycle; to really have peace in the longer run, means to accept the violence but not to return it, to suffer and perhaps die in the short run, in the certain knowledge that evil can only be overcome by good; violence by nonviolence.

 

Faith in the Way of Love

Can we really believe that more suffering is the way to overcome existing suffering; that to gain the Kingdom we might have to lose even our life? “Give us Barabbas,” they shouted when they had the choice. And still it is easier to believe in armed resistance than to believe the meek will really inherit the earth.

Jesus made the mistake of suggesting to his disciples that they be prepared for travelling in dangerous country, and immediately they rushed to their military instincts: “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” “Enough! Enough!” he said (lest they produce more). (Lk.22:38)

“Oh ye of little faith” he kept saying. Why are you afraid? Do you believe that God’s shall be the final victory or not? Can we really believe that evil, whether it is the “lesser of two evils” or a “just” evil to get rid of an “unjust” evil, can ever be the right way, and still believe in God? The God who responded to the first murder in the Bible story by saying, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground?”(Gen.4:10) The God who gave as his commandment, “Thou shalt not Kill?” The God who promised,”For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? ” But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it?” (Dt.30:11)

“For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God.”(Rm.8:38-39)

 

Put on the Armour of God

“Therefore put on the armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph.6:13)

The early Friends believed they were called to the “Lamb’s War” – a war against evil fought with weapons of the Spirit. The Peace Testimony grew inevitably out of this calling. It was not merely an expression of the unwillingness to fight with outward weapons, either for the kingdoms of this world or for the Kingdom of Christ. It was a positive commitment to fight with “inward weapons” for the coming of God’s Kingdom here on earth – to strive unceasingly to overcome the evils of society – to eradicate social injustices and the oppression of one race or group over another, to follow in the service of reconciliation to which we have been enlisted (2 Cor.5:19) and to reap the harvest of true justice which is sown by those who make peace.(Js.3:18)

Civilian Peacekeepers: Creating a Safe Environment for Peacebuilding

Civilian Peacekeepers: Creating a Safe Environment for Peacebuilding

Tim Wallis and Claudia Samayoa

 [From Paul van Tongeren et al, eds, People Building Peace II: Successful Stories of Civil Society, Lynne Rienner, London 2005. pp 363 – 368]

 

Most people think of ‘peacekeeping’ as a military activity, involving troops sent into a conflict area by the UN or some other official body to stop the fighting and restore order. In its broader sense, however, peacekeeping can include any activity that seeks to reduce violence and create a safe environment for other peacebuilding activities to take place. Many peacekeeping activities can be carried out just as effectively by unarmed civilians. This chapter looks at some examples of civilian peacekeeping as well as some of the issues involved.

 

People cannot create or re-establish peaceful communities while they are being threatened, intimidated or attacked. A certain degree of personal security is needed in order to use any of the peacebuilding tools described in the other chapters of this book. The aim of civilian peacekeeping is to establish and maintain that minimum level of security that enables people to feel safe enough to move around, organize and take effective action to defend human rights and promote peace. Civilian peacekeeping cannot resolve a conflict or build peace, but it can enable other peacemaking and peacebuilding activities to take place.

 

Civilian peacekeeping involves a set of tools which have proven to be effective in deterring violent attacks and opening up the political space within which local people can engage in peacebuilding activities. The organizations which have developed and continue to use these tools do not necessarily see themselves as ‘peacekeepers’. Some describe themselves as ‘unarmed bodyguards’ or ‘human shields’. Others talk about ‘witnessing’, being ‘monitors’ or providing a ‘presence’. All the activities included in this chapter, however, involve attempts to stop or deter violence and therefore we feel justified in using the generic ‘peacekeeping’ term to describe them.

 

Deterring Violence, Changing Behaviour

All peacekeeping, whether civilian or military, has as its foundation the concept of a ‘presence which can deter violence and change behavior’. During the Contra war in Nicaragua, attacks on border villages would cease whenever a delegation from Witness for Peace was in the area. At Israeli checkpoints on the West Bank, treatment of Palestinians has been markedly more civilized when journalists or foreign peace activists have been present. Such responses cannot, of course, be guaranteed, but establishing a ‘presence’ has become an effective tool for averting violence in many parts of the world.

 

Monitoring of ceasefire agreements and of military or police activities is something that civilians have been doing alongside military peacekeepers for some time. In 1998-99, the entirely unarmed OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission was responsible for monitoring the withdrawal of Serbian troops and return of Kosovan refugees to their homes. Since 2000, civilian monitors with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have been monitoring the border between Georgia and Chechnya. Civil society organizations have tended to focus on more specialist monitoring activities such as monitoring of election violence and policing of peaceful demonstrations.

 

Protective accompaniment is a more specific peacekeeping tool developed by Peace Brigades International and now used by a number of other organizations working in Latin America and other parts of the world. This involves being with individuals (human rights activists, for example) or groups who are under threat of violent attack for up to 24 hours a day. It relies upon various forms of political pressure to dissuade the attackers from carrying out their threat. This has proved highly effective in certain situations, although it is dangerous to assume it will work in situations where the perpetrators of violence are not so susceptible to outside pressures.

 

Many people assume that peacekeeping is essentially about getting between opposing armies and preventing them from fighting. Unless the aim of a military intervention is to fight and defeat one or other party militarily, however, the only way a peacekeeping force can effectively ‘keep the peace’ is if all sides consent to their presence and have already agreed to a ceasefire. Civilians are even less able to stand between opposing armies and make them stop fighting, although there have been valiant attempts to do just this. On a smaller scale, however, civilians have certainly ‘interposed’ themselves between attacker and victim and in many individual cases this has prevented an attack from taking place.

 

A Brief Survey of Civilian Peacekeeping

Civilian peacekeeping techniques have evolved in part from their military equivalents. But many techniques also have their own history which can be traced back to Gandhi and other visionaries who proposed purely nonviolent methods of preventing or stopping violence. In 1922, Gandhi proposed the establishment of a Shanti Sena or ‘peace army’ made up of trained volunteers who would intervene nonviolently to prevent communal bloodshed throughout India. This Shanti Sena was later set up after his death and spread from India to other parts of Asia, where they continue to this day, although focused more on rural development than on peacekeeping as such.

 

The civilian component of official UN peacekeeping missions has risen dramatically, now accounting for over one quarter of all UN peacekeeping staff. Purely civilian missions, such as those of the OSCE and the European Union, have also grown in recent years. The OSCE alone currently has over 1,000 international field staff and 2,000 local staff on 18 missions throughout Eastern Europe and central Asia. These are engaged in monitoring and promotion of human rights, elections, democratization and rule of law as well as basic monitoring of violence and military activity. Other civilian missions have been established on an ad hoc basis, for instance the Bougainville Peace Monitoring Group, the Temporary International Presence in Hebron and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission – all official civilian missions although not directly under the auspices of the United Nations.

 

There has been a proliferation of civil society organizations engaged in peacekeeping activities since the launch of Peace Brigades International in 1981. Growing itself out of earlier projects, it was the pioneering work of PBI in Guatemala during the early 1980s that demonstrated how effective this work could be and set the scene for other organizations to follow. During the 1980s and 1990s, Witness for Peace, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Balkan Peace Team, Cry for Justice (in Haiti) and the International Service for Peace in Chiapas (SIPAZ) brought larger and larger numbers of Europeans and North Americans face to face with the realities of conflict and began to make a significant impact on the ability of local groups to function and organize in those regions.

 

In 1994, the Ecumenical Monitoring Project for South Africa (EMPSA) brought over 400 people to South Africa to help monitor and prevent violence before and during the first post-apartheid elections in that country.

 

Since the second Palestinian intifada began in 2001, many hundreds of people have gone to be part of the international presence there, through organizations such as the International Solidarity Movement, Grassroots Initiative for the Protection of the Palestinians (GIPP), United Civilians for Peace, the Women’s International Peace Service for Palestine and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine/ Israel (EAPPI).

The challenges of civilian peacekeeping

The changing nature of civilian peacekeeping is illustrated by the Bantay Ceasefire case, where an intervention in the South is done by groups also from the South (see Chapter 15.4). With the emergence of the South as an actor in this field and not only as a passive recipient of interventions from the North, other issues about the nature of civilian peacekeeping have arisen.

 

For Northerners, civilian peacekeeping has been largely seen as an activity for external third parties, but there are conflict situations where local groups can play the role of peacekeeping more effectively than outsiders. In Colombia, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines and elsewhere the tools and techniques are being used more and more by local actors to prevent violence in their own communities. In this context, the role of outsiders has become one of capacity building with local organizations as a way of recognizing and strengthening their own peacekeeping potential.

 

As new patterns of violence emerge in the South that involve not only state sponsored violence, but also organized crime and transnational corporations, new and more creative solutions to the problem of tackling violence and intimidation are required, but protection by respected outsiders in many cases is still the only resort there is to create space for local groups to operate.

 

There is a continuing tension between the voluntary nature of many organizations engaged in this work versus the need for professionalism and specialist skills. When PBI began working in Guatemala, for instance, young volunteers with no training or experience would join the teams for as little as two weeks. Other projects in the Balkans and elsewhere have relied on young conscientious objectors doing their alternative to military service. These experiences have led many organizations to set higher standards for the level of maturity and specific skills required for the very sensitive situations faced by civilian peacekeepers. For example, PBI now requires that volunteers are at least 25 years old, undertake an intensive period of training and long-distance learning, and commit to volunteering in the field for at least one year.

 

Another challenge facing civilian peacekeepers is their relation to governments and official (military) peacekeeping missions. Unarmed civilians may be able to influence the behavior of armed actors precisely because of their independence from governments. But they may also need political and financial support from governments in order to be there at all. Finding the right balance between these two positions can be very difficult, particularly on the ground where complete separation from official missions operating in the same area may be impossible.

 

Many of the organizations involved in this work have grown out of a strong religious or ideological commitment to nonviolence. This has affected both the ways in which this work has been described as well as the constituencies to whom it appeals. As the field becomes more professionalized, there is a growing tendency to describe it more pragmatically in language understood by more mainstream audiences. The tension between the ideological and pragmatic approaches to this work continues to manifest itself over issues such as nonpartisanship versus solidarity with local partner organizations.

 

Another tricky area facing civilian peacekeepers is their relationship to international media. Peacekeepers want to encourage media interest in the conflict and on the peace work that is being done locally. When these are not in themselves of mainstream interest, however, the media tend to focus on the personal stories of outside peacekeepers. This is sometimes helpful but can also be extremely counterproductive and therefore requires careful consideration by the organizations engages in this work.

 

Building global capacity for civilian peacekeeping

Some of the lessons learned over the last half century of civilian peacekeeping are that neither military nor civilian peacekeepers can ‘stop wars’ just by standing in the middle of the battlefield. There is a need for long-term commitment and for many different types of complementary activities to effectively stop wars or build a sustainable peace. The local conditions must be right for civilian peacekeeping to have any chance of success. And it has proved to be crucially important that outsiders work with and through local partners on the ground and that they are backed up with political and other pressures from outside. Civilian peacekeepers, like their military counterparts, need proper training and preparation. They need adequate backup support and an effective infrastructure to maintain the work over time.

 

The most comprehensive attempt to evaluate best practice and lessons learned in civilian peacekeeping to date was commissioned by Peaceworkers (USA) in 1999. This two-year research project looked at mandates, strategies, infrastructure, field relationships, personnel issues, training, recruitment, funding and political support behind the civilian peacekeeping efforts of 57 civil society initiatives between 1914 and 2001. It also looked at a number of larger-scale civilian or predominantly civilian missions of the UN, OSCE and other official bodies.

Out of this research effort has come a global initiative of over 90 organizations from 47 countries to build the capacity for larger-scale civilian peacekeeping interventions by civil society. The Nonviolent Peaceforce was officially launched in India in 2002 and is currently running its first pilot project in Sri Lanka.

Although the Sri Lanka project is still on a comparatively small scale, the Nonviolent Peaceforce is building a pool of people with appropriate skills and experience for much larger missions if and when these are needed. It is also collaborating with other civil society organizations engaged in this work to ensure that best practices and lessons learned are shared and used to strengthen and improve future efforts in civilian peacekeeping.

As the Nonviolent Peaceforce experiments with the possibilities of civilian peacekeeping on a larger scale, other organizations in this field are continuing to develop and refine the techniques required to meet the challenges of violence in the 21st century. Still a largely untapped resource, civilian peacekeeping is rapidly becoming an essential element of the peacebuilder’s toolbox.

 

List of organizations/websites

  1. Nonviolent Peaceforce: www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org
  2. Peace Brigades International: www.peacebrigades.org
  3. Witness for Peace: www.witnessforpeace.org
  4. Christian Peacemaker Teams: www.cpt.org
  5. Ecumenical Action for Peace in Palestine/Israel: www.eappi.org
  6. International Service for Peace (SIPAZ): www.sipaz.org

 

Selected Bibliography

  1. Christine Schweitzer et al, Nonviolent Peaceforce Feasibility Study, Nonviolent Peaceforce, St Paul, Minnesota, 2001.
  2. Liam Mahoney and Luis Enrique Eguren, Unarmed Bodyguards: International Accompaniment for the Protection of Human Rights, Kumarian Press, W. Hartford, Connecticut, 1997.
  3. Thomas Weber and Jeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, Nonviolent Intervention Across Borders: A Recurring Vision, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, 2000.
  4. Lisa Schirch, Keeping the Peace: Exploring Civilian Alternatives to Violence Prevention, Life & Peace Institute, Uppsala, Sweden, 1995.

 

Tim Wallis and Claudia Samayoa are co-chairs of the Nonviolent Peaceforce. Tim is a former International Secretary of PBI and currently Director of Peaceworkers UK in London. Claudia is a Guatemalan human rights defender and Acting Secretary to the Coalition of Human Rights Organizations that Struggle Against Clandestine Groups.

 

 

Developing Civilian Capacities for Handling Conflict

Civilian Peace Service Consultation, Ottawa, February 2005

Developing civilian capacities for handling conflict: the UK experience

Tim Wallis, Peaceworkers UK

I don’t think its fair to say that ‘people get the government they deserve’. Nevertheless it certainly is the case that people have to deal with the government they’ve got! And what may be possible in one country or in one set of political circumstances is simply out of the question in another. I hope at least some of our experience in the UK will resonate with what you are dealing with here in Canada. But only you can make the judgement about what may or may not ‘work’ here and what kind of language you will need to use to get what you want.

The first thing I have to say is that the inspiration and model for what we have been trying to do in the UK over that past 4 years came directly from Helga Tempel and her organisation in Germany and what they were able to achieve there. Unfortunately we were not able to reproduce these results in the UK and therefore our experience may be particularly relevant to you in the sense that you will almost certainly have to adapt this idea to your own particular circumstances, as we have had to do.

As Helga has already outlined to you, the overall objective of having a Civil Peace Service is to enable many more people to be recruited, trained and sent into situations of violent or potentially violent conflict where they can do some good. Qualified civilian personnel from outside can play a crucial role in the prevention, management and resolution of such conflicts – as international observers, human rights monitors, mediators, conflict resolution trainers, local capacity-builders, advisors and providers of all kinds of technical assistance. They can contribute to the peace efforts of local people and assist with the re-integration of refugees and ex-combatants, the resolving of disputes, the opening of communication channels, the building of democratic structures, the establishment of free and fair elections and the protection of human rights.

Finding the right people to do this work, training them for it and getting them to the appropriate place at the appropriate time – these are the challenges which ‘civilian peace services’ seek to address. The first such service was established in Austria in 1993, training and deploying around 10 Austrians each year to work on peacebuilding projects in the Balkans, funded by the state as an alternative to military service.

In Germany, the Civil Peace Service was established by the Red-Green coalition on coming to power in 1998. It has been training and deploying up to 70 German civilians per year for long-term peacebuilding projects, but these civilians are mid-career professionals rather than teenage conscripts as in Austria. Other schemes exist in at least six European countries, although not all go by the name of ‘civil peace services’. In Italy there are the White Helmets and the White Berets, who organise people to do more large-scale, emergency work in response to natural disasters like the earthquake in Turkey as well as to conflict situations like in the former Yugoslavia. In the Netherlands, France and Switzerland there are grassroots initiatives along these lines with varying degrees of government support for them.

I know one of the key issues to be addressed at this conference is about what kind of relationship you want to have, if any, between grassroots peace organisations promoting this idea and the government or particular parts of the government. That is certainly one of the areas where each country has its own solution. It is not just a question of what is politically possible in any one country, but also what is desirable in terms of the wider political landscape and where this fits onto it. We all have our own peculiar histories and political cultures which affect the way particular organisations view the government and vice versa – and of course how particular organisations view each other!

Peaceworkers UK was established in November 2000 with the aim of helping to raise public awareness about civilian contributions to the handling of conflict more generally, but also to increase both the quality and the quantity of those contributions from the UK. We decided at the outset that we could not achieve the second of these two aims without government backing and support. We simply do not have access to the level of funding required to create a UK Civilian Peace Service or any of its components without major help from the government. And neither could we envisage having a sufficient level of public support and backing for the idea without it being seen as a ‘national’ scheme explicitly backed in some shape or form by the UK government.

Now I have to tell you that this approach does not go down well with all peace organisations, even in the UK! In fact the window of opportunity for developing a good working partnership between the government and the peace movement in Britain starting shutting down after September 11th and then closed down more or less completely with the invasion of Iraq. We have continued to push for a UK Civilian Peace Service since that point, but with very little chance of success.

What we have done instead is to develop, as best we could in the circumstances we face, the building blocks and foster the conditions necessary for the eventual creation of a UK Civilian Peace Service. I’d like to briefly describe to you the steps we took initially to promote the idea of a UK Civilian Peace Service and then spend the rest of my time describing the building blocks we have been working on in the meantime. I you may be able to use here some of the tools we have developed for the UK, regardless of what form or mechanism you decide to adopt to push forward this idea in Canada.

I should say that we first of all spent an entire year researching the theory and practice of civilian peace services in the rest of Europe and investigating the feasibility of setting up something which might work in a UK context. We presented the results of our research to representatives of the military, the government, NGOs and academics at a conference in London in November 2001. Out of this conference came a Steering Group for a UK Civilian Peace Service and two Working Groups to explore in more depth the recruitment and training elements of such a service.

The recruitment group set as its aim a Peaceworkers Register that would contain details of civilian personnel in the UK qualified and potentially available for peace-related work, whether for the UN, OSCE, EU or any number of NGOs working in this field. The training group, meanwhile, began by identifying existing gaps in the training needs of people working in conflict prevention, crisis management and peacebuilding and a programme of training courses to fill that gap.

Both of these aspirations, along with some sort of ‘peace service’ that would bind them together, attracted a surprising degree of support from within the Foreign Office and the British military, as well as from 50 MPs who signed a motion asking for a debate on this issue in parliament. But one of the stumbling blocks we came up against in our research was the fear of many in government and in the more established NGOs that civilians who are not properly trained and qualified for working in situations of violent conflict could easily make things worse rather than better.

This was a concern particularly of schemes, such as the Austrian one, which deploy relatively inexperienced and younger people – generally young men of conscription age – 18 and 19-year olds. But even in the German case, which only accepts older professionals with a certain level of expertise and experience, there was a concern that quality controls are not rigorous enough and standards not set high enough to ensure these people would not be doing more harm than good in particularly dangerous, delicate and complex situations.

Peaceworkers UK set itself the target, therefore, of achieving the highest possible standards and the most rigorous quality controls in its attempt to provide qualified, competent, experienced and appropriate personnel. The projects to which these people would be sent must pass an equally uncompromising test of quality assurance in terms of aims, methods and project management. We are convinced that by holding to such high standards we can ensure that civilian contributions to conflict prevention, management and resolution ‘do no harm’ in the field. We will also thereby raise the stature of this work immeasurably and help convince politicians and the general public that this is the way forward in terms of dealing with conflicts and potential conflicts of the future.

We do not want our commitment to high standards to be at the expense of transparency and inclusiveness in this process, however. The people who currently meet these standards are comparatively few, and to really make a difference it is clear that many more must get into this field and be brought up to the required standard. We, as Peaceworkers UK, are just as committed to increasing the quantity of civilians working in this field as we are to increasing the quality of what those civilians contribute.

Our emphasis in the UK is therefore on establishing commonly agreed standards and effective tools for assessing a person’s qualities and competencies against those standards. This includes training programmes, but also assessment programmes which will test responses and behaviour in simulated environments similar to those faced in the field. We are also working on a programme of placements and apprenticeships which will enable people to gain skills and experience alongside more qualified colleagues, preferably in a safer environment within our own country.

The UK has, like many other countries, plenty of conflicts of its own! Not only do we have a major 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland which is still unresolved, we also have ethnic and racial conflicts in many of our big cities as well as potentially violent community and regional disputes over land, nationality, inequalities and the distribution of resources. These are all potential training grounds for the next generation of international conflict experts. The successful resolution of some of these conflicts will not only make the UK a more peaceful place. It will also make the UK contribution to other people’s conflicts more credible and more respected, since it hardly behoves a nation ridden with its own conflicts to send its best conflict professionals abroad!

Peaceworkers UK is working on all these fronts in close partnership with other UK-based NGOs such as International Alert, Saferworld, RedR (Engineers for Disaster Relief), Mediation UK, CODEP (the network for Conflict, Development and Peace) and ERIS (the Electoral Reform International Service).

On the training side we started out in 2003 working with over 20 university departments and independent training providers to design and deliver two pilot courses for civilian crisis management personnel to be seconded to the EU. In developing our initial Peaceworkers Register of UK civilians available for this work, we developed partnerships with NGOs like BESO (British Executive Service Overseas) and LGIB (Local Government International Bureau), as well as with RedR and ERIS.

At the European level, we are working with the other members of the European Network of Civil Peace Services. This is a rather loose network of related schemes across Europe, but is already exploring the possibility of a joint European project in Cyprus. Peaceworkers UK would like to see much closer cooperation at the European level, so that we are developing and working to common European standards and common European procedures for measuring people against those standards. If we can find a way of working together at that level we can perhaps begin to bridge the credibility gap that still exists among many of the politicians, funders, and potential supporters of the civilian approach.

Almost every year since it was first introduced in 1994, the European Parliament has voted unanimously to establish a European Civilian Peace Corps. But this cannot happen without funding from the European Commission and support from the Council of Ministers, and neither has been forthcoming. There are numerous reasons for this, not least the conflicts of interest and turf wars that exist between the different ‘pillars’ and institutions of the EU. But a more fundamental reason for the lack of progress with this initiative is the suspicion of many within the Council and the Commission that such a Corps would be amateurish, poorly controlled, and potentially dangerous.

We need to challenge those perceptions and work together to transform this initiative into a realisable goal for the EU. The EU remains committed – on paper at least – to conflict prevention and civilian crisis management. It cannot deliver on those commitments without better coordination and pooling of the civilian resources that exist within Europe. The proposal for a European Civilian Peace Corps needs to be re-drafted so as to address these core EU commitments as well as the issue of standards and quality control. It then needs to be re-submitted to the Commission and the Council within a framework of constructive dialogue about how best to maximise European capacities in this area.

What the UK government has created, at least in part a response to our lobbying efforts, is a new post-conflict reconstruction unit to manage the recruitment, training and deployment of civilian experts to post-conflict situations. This is a joint initiative of the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence. The new unit, which aims to have an initial operational capability by this summer and to be fully up and running by mid-2006, is so far highly receptive to input and suggestions from NGOs and they are particularly interested in our Peaceworkers Register and system of assessment. Nevertheless, most NGOs remain highly suspicious and we ourselves are not yet sure how the PCRU will position itself. Its mandate is so far extremely limited – to situations where UK military forces have been involved in combat and are in the process of pulling out – ie situations like Iraq and Afghanistan and not many others. Of course neither Peaceworkers UK nor any other NGO wants to be used to speed up the exit strategy of the British Army so they can more easily go and invade somewhere else. We want assurances that civilians recruited and trained for post-conflict work really are going to be involved in helping re-build communities and not just provide a figleaf for the government. We have not yet abandoned the possibility that the PCRU can be a step forward, however small, in developing standards, supporting more and better training and recruiting the people who can do this work. They have the money and political support from the very top which no other such initiative in the UK is likely to get in the short-term.

One of the ideas we have taken up in recent months to supplement our efforts to create a CPS is the creation of a Civilian Peace Reserve. This would not be a fully-fledged CPS as in Germany and elsewhere, but could be a step in that direction by having a national register of people potentially available for civilian peace missions in much the same way as the military keeps a ‘reserve’ of people potentially available for war missions if and when the regular forces need reinforcements. I don’t know what you have here in Canada, but the British Territorial Army not only provides for regular training and exercises to keep reservists constantly prepared for possible duty. It also provides those reservists with job security guaranteed by the government and other legal rights that require employers to release members of the TA for training as well as for active military duty if they are called up. This is similar to the sort of package available to civilians who are called up to do humanitarian service in places like Norway – and perhaps Canada? It also provides for certain social protection rights that the CPS provides in Germany through their Development Workers Law that Helga mentioned.

We think this a possible way forward for the UK and we already have a number of MPs in parliament who are quite interested in the idea. A logical extension of this is to have a ‘peace cadet’ corps for young people to learn about and get involved in training for future peace service. One of my personal ambitions for many years has been to be able to go into schools along with the army recruiters and talk to school children about career opportunities in the peace field. An opportunity to join the Peace Cadets would take this one step further and could help a lot of young people currently looking for ways to become active for peace.

The UK does have a campaign to create a Ministry for Peace, also inspired by Denis Kucinich in the US. This campaign has attracted quite a lot of peace movement interest but I have to say very little interest outside the peace movement and almost none at all among parliamentarians who would have to implement it.

The British government likes numbers and targets and indicators, so we have produced for them a proposal which spells out in some detail what we think we can offer them. They have their own governmental targets and commitments to meet in terms of EU ‘headline goals’ in civilian crisis management, UK conflict prevention targets and commitments to the UN, OSCE and other multilateral institutions. They must be able to provide civilian personnel to meet these targets. What we have offered is that for a mere £400,000 or so per year (roughly $1 million Canadian), we can recruit, train and assess 200 people, one fifth of whom would be available for deployment at any one time. In five years, we could deliver 1,000 such people, with 200 available for deployment across a range of 10 specialist categories in five levels of expertise.

We have not yet had a response to this offer, but its cheap at the price. Its less than a quarter of the annual budget of the new Post-conflict reconstruction unit and less than the cost of maintaining UK troops in Iraq for a single day.

I have tried to give you an idea of what we have tried to do in the UK and what we have learned from that experience. I hope at least some of it is relevant to your situation here in Canada and I come with best wishes from Peaceworkers UK and the offer of any help you may want from us. Probably you have a better chance of success here than we have had and you may not need our help. Certainly you have decide what you think you can achieve here and how best to do it. Best of luck to you!

Tim Wallis

Peaceworkers UK: www.peaceworkers.org.uk

Email: info@peaceworkers.org.uk

Let’s Make War History

Let’s Make War History Too!

Tim Wallis, Peaceworkers UK 28/1/05

At the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000, 147 world leaders committed themselves to the lofty ideal of eradicating world poverty. This in itself is hardly significant, since politicians put their names to lofty ideals all the time. But in this case, what the leaders of the world signed up to was in fact a set of specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound targets, spelling out exactly what they were committing themselves to achieving by the year 2015.

These 18 targets which constitute the ‘Millennium Development Goals’ (or ‘MDGs’) provide a means of measuring the progress of every country towards the achievement of those goals. Regardless of whether these goals are actually achieved within the agreed timeframe, the fact is that the existence of these goals and their translation into a set of very detailed and specific indicators has radically transformed the global development movement and moved global poverty to the top of the political agenda.

Never before have governments been so exposed to the scrutiny of promises made to their citizens and to the rest of the world, and never before has the eradication of world poverty seemed so achievable. Civil Society Organisations around the world have galvanised their members to hold the world’s leaders to these promises. ‘Make Poverty History’ is the new slogan of this movement as we approach the 5-year review of the Millennium Goals and this will be the focus of international meetings and events throughout 2005.

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What has attracted much less attention over the past 5 years is that at the very same Millennium Summit in 2000, world leaders also committed themselves to the lofty ideal of eradicating the scourge of war. Although they did define this commitment in terms of eleven achievable ‘goals’, these were not formulated in anything like the detail and specificity of the Millennium Development Goals. It is no wonder then, that no equivalent pressure has been put on world leaders to deliver on their peace promises.

But the eradication of war is no less important to the people of the world than the eradication of poverty. Indeed, without achieving peace in many of the poorest countries of Africa, achieving the millennium development goals is simply an impossibility. This is now widely recognised and the urgency of ending wars and preventing new ones is firmly on the agenda of the development movement. What is needed now is to bring this urgency to the forefront of the world’s political agenda and to tie it inextricably to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. What better way to achieve this than to urge world leaders to agree a set of Millennium Peace & Security Goals to complement and supplement their existing commitment to the Development Goals?

When world leaders gather in September 2005 to review the promises they made five years ago, we must demand of them, not only a re-affirmation of their commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, on time and within budget! We must further demand of them the setting of clear, achievable and measurable targets for the eradication of human misery, death and destruction caused by war. A new set of Millennium Peace & Security Goals should be agreed and quantified such that progress towards their achievement can be clearly monitored. These Security Goals should sit side by side with the Development Goals and be seen as mutually complementary.

Without a commitment to the Security Goals, world poverty cannot be eradicated. But likewise, without a commitment to the Development Goals, the scourge of war cannot be eradicated. We need to build a new partnership between those primarily concerned with development and those primarily concerned with peace and security, so that we can work together more effectively to achieve both.

There are many other issues demanding the world’s attention, not least the urgent problem of global warming. But the primary focus of 2005 will be on global poverty, and we must make the connection with peace and security that is already there for so many of those involved in development. Never before has there been such a broad consensus about the need to seriously tackle the problem of war. We must seize this opportunity to ‘make war history’ as we go about trying to ‘make poverty history’.

Operationalising a Set of ‘Millennium Peace & Security Goals’ (or ‘MPGs’)

What 147 heads of state agreed to in Sept 2000 were 11 lofty ambitions which continue to form the basis of international thinking on global peace and security, most recently in the UN High Level Panel report on ‘Threats, Challenges and Change’ which came out in December 2004:

  1. Strengthen the rule of law
  2. Make the UN more effective
  3. Strengthen regional cooperation
  4. Implement international treaties
  5. Take action against terrorism
  6. Counter the world drug problem
  7. Fight transnational crime
  8. Minimise adverse effects of sanctions
  9. Eliminate weapons of mass destruction
  10. End illicit traffic in small arms
  11. Prohibit anti-personnel mines

The great significance of the Millennium Development Goals is that there can be no ambiguity about whether they are being achieved or not. The goals themselves can be, and have been, broken down by year and by country to monitor exactly how progress is or is not being made on a case by case basis. Can the lofty objectives above be similarly translated into specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound targets, with corresponding indicators that will enable progress towards their achievement to be closely and accurately monitored? So long as we focus on the goals themselves, rather than on the various means proposed for achieving those goals, it should be possible to be as specific, measurable and achievable as the MDGs.

The ‘measurement’ of peace and security is not as difficult as it may sound, and we have a great many baseline statistics from which to build such measurements. Although there may be academic differences in the way these are defined, we can, for instance, count the number of wars taking place at any one time. We can count the numbers of people being killed in those wars. We can count the numbers of refugees and IDPs displaced by war. We can count the number of small arms and light weapons in circulation. We can count the number of landmines still unexploded in the ground and we can count the injuries caused by these.

We can also count the numbers of countries that flout international treaties and agreements and the numbers of times they do it. We can count the numbers of weapons – from the smallest guns to the most powerful nuclear missiles – that are being stockpiled, produced, bought and sold. We can count the number of terrorist incidents and the numbers arrested for, and affected by, drugs traffic and other transnational crimes. We can even count the numbers of crimes against humanity being committed, the numbers of these being put to trial, nationally or at the ICC, and the numbers of successful convictions.

We do not need to explain exactly how a reduction in any of these numbers would be achieved, although that may well be a useful contribution for civil society organisations to make. Our objective in the first instance must be to get governments to translate the 11 security goals in the Millennium Declaration into specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound targets. That alone would be a huge step forward in terms of holding those governments to account and measuring their progress against an agreed yardstick. It must then be up to governments to find ways of meeting the targets once they have agreed to them.

Will the world’s leaders be prepared to commit themselves to halving all the numbers above by 2015? Perhaps it is more ‘realistic’ to try to cut the number of wars and the number of people affected by war by, say, 20% over the next 10 years? What the precise numbers might be that would attract universal or near universal agreement among the world’s leaders is purely a matter of political positioning and bargaining that can begin once the principle of setting some numbers is agreed. Our first task is to get that agreement of principle and then to work on public opinion and the media to push world leaders to be as ambitious as possible on this. The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict provides an opportunity both to galvanise a global movement in support of MPGs and a forum in July to push for this to be on the agenda of the Summit of world leaders in September. In the meantime, there are numerous opportunities coming up that can be used to build support for this at UK and EU levels.