COMMENT 26 February 2018 – Eastern Ghouta despair
Against great odds, less than a day ago the UN Security Council voted unanimously for a cease fire in Syria. Within hours the cease fire has been flouted, bombs have rained down on the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta and more children have been killed and injured. Despite all its supposed authority, the Security Council appears powerless.
World politics and human behaviour seem unlikely to change any time soon, but we can change the technology. A scenario hard to imagine, but if Assad’s bombs and the rebel bullets had somehow not been lethal, the children might be terrified, but they would still be alive.
COMMENT 3 February 2018 – US Nuclear Posture
The USA has just released its nuclear posture. As expected, it is disturbing. As reported by the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN):
“The Trump administration wants to increase its nuclear arsenal, develop more ‘usable’ weapons, and expand the situations they can be used in, even for non-nuclear retaliation.”
Non-lethal policies are needed more than ever.
COMMENT 31 January 2018 – Australian plan to ramp up arms exports
The Australian Government has just released a proposal to promote the export of armaments. It plans a $3.8 billion loan scheme to help Australian arms companies to market their products.
Defence against a serious enemy is legitimate but making money from the export of armaments is often questionable. Governments assert that they only export to ‘friends’. But frequently there is little control down the line. Australia already tries to market arms to countries with dubious human rights records.
It might be different if the ‘armaments’ comprised effective non-lethal technologies designed to provide security without death or injury. An export industry producing nonlethal security devices could be worth supporting
COMMENT 21 November 2017
Robot weapons are now being developed which can wage war independently of any human control. So far, lethal drones have been piloted by human operators who make the final decision on whether and when to attack. Lethal autonomous weapons systems can operate without human authorisation.
Many artificial intelligence researchers believe that this development is highly dangerous and are campaigning against it. Following recent talks in Geneva a United Nations panel has now agreed to consider controls on such weapons.
This is welcome news, but ideally we should be campaigning against all lethal drones – autonomous or piloted.
COMMENT 15 November 2017
Remembrance Day took place as usual on 11th November. It marks the end of hostilities in the First World War which occurred on 11th November 1918 (next year will of course be the Centenary of this event).
Nowadays, the day is often marked by military parades and probably regarded by some of the military as an opportunity for recruitment rather than as a day of mourning.
Some 18 million – combatants and civilians – were killed in World War One. In World War 2 the toll rose to over 60 million – with a much higher proportion being civilians.
We should not celebrate war on Remembrance Day. Rather we should remember all those killed by the fearsome lethal tools of war and resolve to maintain peace and justice on the planet employing only nonlethal technology where necessary.
COMMENT 14 October 2017
The recognition of ICAN – the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons – by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee prompts the thought that the NLSPC represents the beginning of an international campaign to abolish all lethal weapons (leaving aside sporting guns).
Such a campaign could be named ICAL. Not surprisingly ‘ICAL’ is already in use for ‘International Customs and Logistics’ and ‘Imaging and Chemical Analysis Laboratory’ (and no doubt there are more) so perhaps we’d need to think again.
Acronyms aside, the long-term aim of the NLSPC is indeed to abolish lethal weapons around the world.
COMMENT 5 October 2017
Australia’s gun laws have up to now been highly regarded, but a report commissioned by Gun Control Australia has found that the laws,which were introduced in 1996 after the Port Arthur massacre, have been progressively watered down by state governments under pressure from lobbyists.
By an unhappy but important coincidence, the study was released in the immediate aftermath of the Las Vegas shootings.
The report Firearm Legislation in Australia 21 Years After the National Firearms Agreement shows that a variety of controls have been relaxed in different States across the country.
The community has allowed special interest groups to erode its protection from the effects of this lethal technology.
COMMENT 3 October 2017
The shooting in Las Vegas – 58 dead and 500 hundred injured at the time of writing – is yet another stupid stupid tragedy. With current US gun laws unfortunately it won’t be the last.
The main focus of the NLS for Peace Campaign is on lethal weapons in the international arena but nonlethal security between nations would undoubtedly influence domestic gun laws – perhaps even in the USA.
On the international front we are currently facing threats by North Korea to launch nuclear missiles. The potential damage from a nuclear weapon is immeasurably greater than that from an automatic rifle (or even the machine gun which may have been used by gunman Stephen Paddock *) – but the purpose of the technology – to kill people – is the same.
- (since this comment was posted it’s emerged that the gunman used a ‘bump st0ck’ to convert his semi-automatic weapons to automatic firing.)
COMMENT 25 January 2017
Donald Trump has now taken up his role as President of the United States. There means that there is now great uncertainty about international security. If we had a world which was not awash with lethal weapons and security was maintained non-lethally, there would still be uncertainty but we’d all feel a lot safer.
COMMENT 27 March 2016
ACTION ON GLOBAL MILITARY SPENDING
4 – 18 April will be a time of Action on Global Military Spending. Annual military spending now apparently exceeds $1.75 trillion. That’s $US 1,750,000,000,000. Much of this money focuses on machines and methods which kill and injure people.
Obviously we need resources to protect nations from unwarranted aggression and maintain international law but they should be directed at technology which does not cause death and injury. There’s no shortage of money. It’s just being spent in the wrong way.
COMMENT 15 February 2016
A few days ago, scientists proved without doubt that gravitational waves do exist. They were predicted by Einstein over one hundred years ago as an outcome of the theory of relativity. The discovery will open up vast new areas of cosmology.
The instruments used to detect the gravitational waves are quite breathtaking in their ingenuity and precision. Theoretically they could measure the movement in space of the sun by the breadth of a single human hair.
We humans have this amazing technical skill and yet we still equip our police officers with handguns, not to mention the bombs and bullets employed by armies around the world. That’s also breathtaking when you think about.
COMMENT 9 February 2016
The city of Aleppo in Syria is coming under increasingly heavy attack by pro Assad regime forces. More hospitals have been reported as destroyed by aerial bombardment. Increased Russian airstrikes are said to be a factor. But for a moment, let’s not try to say who’s to blame. Extremist groups, the great powers and the Assad government are all involved. The UN is working hard but so far seems unable to halt the conflict. The reality is that in 2016, hospitals are being destroyed and thousands of people killed or mutilated in a conflict that is ultimately how about who will govern a nation – manage its taxes, its schools, its trade – indeed even about who, if anyone, collects the garbage. These are all important matters but in the year 2016 disagreements about them should not result in the death and injury of hundreds of thousands of citizens. Do we really have to drop explosives on hospitals to resolve such issues?
Sure, we need to physically restrain aggressors – be they ‘terrorists’ or ‘regimes’ until the matters are resolved, but the current technology we employ of bomb and bullet is barbarous and outdated. We can do better.
COMMENT 13 January 2016
Last week North Korea appeared to have detonated its fourth nuclear test. The rogue nation seems unlikely to have a large nuclear arsenal but we are reminded that just a single nuclear bomb – let alone a full scale nuclear war – would cause immense radiation damage. The threat of nuclear war has by no means gone away,
The adoption of nonlethal security across the world would ‘lower the temperature’ of potential conflict and ease the path to total nuclear disarmament. We should not delay in a world where even one nation still conducts nuclear tests.
COMMENT 16 December 2015
Nations of the world appear to have recently agreed – in the ‘Paris Agreement’ – that carbon emissions must be substantially reduced. This is good news although we need to be cautious. This is just the talk – we have yet to see the walk. We can also regret the delay. An agreement ten years ago would have made the task very much easier. Relentless lobbying by the fossil fuel industry has put short term profit (to some big corporations) ahead of community benefit.
We can see the same behaviour by the gun lobby and by the private health lobby in the United States. Internationally, the arms industry exerts similar pressure. Massive peaceful community action around the world defeated the fossil fuel lobbyists to achieve the Paris Agreement. Perhaps we can look forward to peaceful community action to defeat the lethal arms lobby and move us to a world where we can ensure international security without killing people.
COMMENT 27 November 2015
The terrorist attacks in Paris are still fresh in our memories. This is a tragic and worrying event, but predictably the response from many quarters has been that we must ‘step up the war on ISIS’. This is exactly the reaction that the terrorists would have wished for.
Obviously the world needs to express great sorrow at the death and injury – just as one would mourn the deaths from an earthquake. At the same time, the perpetrators should not be treated as ‘warriors’, but as deluded criminals.
How do such events relate to nonlethal security?
Hypothetically of course, if the conflicts in the Middle East had been confronted without killing, then the motivation for lethal terorism would have been much less. The fact that the Paris terrorists could point to the many deaths of ISIS fighters and of civilians in Syria and Iraq in no way excuses their actions but it does make them more understandable.
Effective nonlethal technology could help resolve such conflicts as we are witnessing in Syria. Terrorism might not be eliminated but it might certainly be reduced.
COMMENT 4 October 2015
Another mass shooting in the USA – a 15 year old appeared to have randomly shot a police civilian employee and was then shot dead by armed police in Sydney, Australia – US forces appear to have bombed a hospital in Kunduz in Afghanistan – Russian forces have been launching air strikes in Syria.
What do these incidents have in common? The stupid, unnecessary and tragic use of lethal technology. It was exploding chemicals – in bullet cartridges, bombs and strike missiles – which generated the lethal energy that killed young students, a civilian police employee, medics and patients in Afghanistan and various people in Syria.
No doubt a few extremist jihadis were killed in Syria, but almost certainly innocent civilians died too. It’s doubtful if the airstrikes have done anything to curb Islamic State and may well have made matters worse.
If we really wanted to, we humans could control this rogue technology. So far we haven’t made the commitment to do so.
COMMENT 6 September 2015
It’s been over two months since the last comment. (This writer has been occupied with other matters during this period). Armed conflict has however continued in various places round the world, although there have been no dramatic developments.
The moral of this is that it’s all too easy to forget about warfare if it’s not on your doorstep. But in the last week or so we have seen floods of Syrian refugees passing through Hungary. (This is a reminder of the last ‘Comment’ which mentioned Refugee Week.) Syrian government forces have continued to bomb Syrian cities, while ISIS and similar groups have continued killing civilians in other areas of the country. It’s no surprise that the exodus of refugees continues.
The United States is now considering extending its airstrikes in Iraq over the border into Syria. Australia may take part.
Lethal warfare of this kind has shown no signs of deterring ISIS. It just seems to make matters worse. More civilians will be killed or maimed to no good purpose. Further grief and anger will result.
The solution? A political and diplomatic approach is necessary. If we had a strong international peace force (protected by and employing nonlethal technologies) this could intervene in the meantime and stop the bombing and shooting. All combatants would be constrained until a negotiated solution was achieved. An impossible dream?
Not at all. Humans have all the skills and the resources needed to achieve nonlethal resolution of international conflict. We just need the will.
COMMENT 20 June 2015
Refugee week and another mass shooting in the USA
Refugee week brings to our attention once again the plight of refugees across the world. There are now some 60 million refugees. That’s an increase of 8 million in the last 12 months – the largest annual increase on record. Refugees are mostly displaced by armed conflict, or by the persecution associated with it. It is a blight on our species that in this day and age, where we have unprecedented access to information and to amazingly clever and beneficial technology, we allow our international security to be governed by primitive and damaging technology – by bullets and explosives.
This same week, in Charleston USA, nine people were killed by another disturbed civilian. The vast majority of American citizens wish for better controls on guns, but for whatever reason allow their politicians to be faced down by a relatively small but highly resourced gun lobby.
We have the knowledge. We don’t yet seem able to apply it.
COMMENT 13 June 2015
As this is being written, there are no special dramas in the news. Of course, all around the world people are still being killed in warfare, it’s just that there’s not been enough change to make it news. Meanwhile, almost no military forces around the world seem to be looking seriously at nonlethal approaches. Plans for ‘warfighting in the future’ still centre on killing ‘the enemy’.
COMMENT 2 May 2015 – ANZAC Day & the Bali Two
ANZAC Day has come and gone. For non-Antipodeans: ANZAC Day – held every year on 25th April – marks the landing of Australian and New Zealand (and many British) troops at Gallipoli in 1915. The exercise was badly managed and there were many casualties firstly at the landing and then during the futile campaign. Many Turkish troops were also killed. Eventually the invading forces were withdrawn. The Gallipoli campaign was seen as a coming-of-age for Australia as a nation, despite the fact that it was a defeat (or possiblybecause it was).
On ANZAC Day this year (which was the 100th anniversary of the actual landing in the Dardanelles) the Indonesian government announce that an execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers would go ahead within 72 hours. The execution by firing squad duly took place.
What significance for nonlethal security is there in these sad and sordid coincidental events?
First we pay our respects to those who died – and to all those who have died in war. They were doing their duty – and it was the only way people knew how to fight wars.
Now to the question: Gallipoli was one of the early manifestations of industrial warfare. Killing in war has always been brutal by stone-axe heads or cannon balls. The repeating rifle and the machine gun introduced extra horror. Personal skill and bravery means almost nothing against a hailstorm of bullets.
Capital punishment, the deliberate killing of fellow humans, is particularly obscene when conducted by firing squad. Military weapons are supposedly designed for protecting nations, not for slaughtering prisoners.
When we achieve a culture of nonlethal security, capital punishment – like lethal warfare – may also come to be seen as horrific, primitive and unworthy of our species.
COMMENT 12th April 2015
Our last comment was in February. There have been few major changes in world armed conflict reported since then, except for the conflict in Yemen. The central dispute appears to be between the Sunni supporters of President Hadi and the Zaidi Shia rebels – the Houthis. As usual, hundreds have been killed and airstrikes ordered on the rebels. Surely there’s a less damaging way of resolving issues of religion and government.
In Kenya just five armed militants killed 142 students plus 6 police/soldiers at Garissa University College. Kenya has had a fairly good record in controlling firearms over the years and civil violence has been correspondingly less lethal than in many other countries. The event at Garissa demonstrate how much damage can be done by just a few people with guns.
Comment at 11th February 2015
Lethal warfare in the Middle East is not in the news at this moment, although it still continues day and night.
On the domestic front Australians are waiting anxiously to see if two convicted Australian drug smugglers will be executed by Indonesian authorities. A disturbed young woman brandishing a kitchen knife has been shot dead by Sydney police.
Deliberate killing in capital punishment is barbarous and illogical. It’s certainly no deterrent to crime and may even increase murder rates. Police firearms, except in special circumstances, appear to be a danger to the public as well as to the police. A police officer with a gun is more confronting than an officer with nonlethal protection and this may increase the risk of violence.
In summary, we need to promote nonlethal security in the civil arena as well as in the military.
Comment at 18 December 2014
In Sydney, Australia, we have very recently witnessed a siege in the city centre where a man armed with a shotgun held a number of people hostage in a café for many hours. The man identified with Islamist terrorists but it seems that he was somewhat deranged and had no links with any terrorist organisation. Sadly two of the hostages died from gunshot wounds at the end of the siege, as well as the kidnapper.
Fortunately, due to strong gun control laws in Australia, the kidnapper was only able to arm himself with a shot gun rather than an assault weapon.
Questions can be asked as to whether a nonlethal security culture would reduce this type of event.
Comment at 6 December 2014
Note this finding from the recent Global Terrorism Index Report (http://www.visionofhumanity.org/#/page/news/1109):
“the common western reactions that focus on military intervention are likely doing nothing but increasing violence. The Huffington Post relayed that since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, terrorism has dramatically increased, and noted that the Founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace Steve Killelea suggested foreign powers should ‘think twice’ before engaging in an armed intervention…”
Armed conflict which kills people causes grief and anger. We might guess that if intervention is absolutely necessary, a nonlethal approach is likely to be more successful in producing long-term resolution.
Comment at 16 November 2014
Humans have been using lethal technology in warfare for many thousands of years. Can we hope to change to nonlethal technology?
We can. See why William Ury believes that we can change our habit of war: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krHjswcgCZw&feature=youtube
Comment at 24 October 2014 UNITED NATIONS DAY
Today – 24th October – is United Nations Day. For lasting peace on the planet we need cooperation around the world. The UN (or an organisation very similar to it) will be our hope for the future. We need to remember all that the UN has done for peace and equity since its founding. We can also work to strengthen the UN so that it can properly protect nations and peoples from unwarranted war and aggression. It’s been suggested that the UN should have a standing force of peace-keepers, ready to intervene and halt conflict. It seems like an excellent idea, but is yet to happen on any scale.
Such an ‘International Police Force’ would wherever possible employ nonlethal security technology rather than lethal weapons.
Comment at 14 October 2014
A World Parliament is the best long-term solution to world peace. (Of course to get there more easily – and after we’ve arrived – we’ll need to employ nonlethal security.) See Chris Hamer’s excellent recent summary of why we need a world parliament – TO END ALL WARS.
Comment at 12 October 2014
Air strikes are continuing in Syria and Iraq. Islamic State (IS) has been slowed down but not halted. There seems to be general agreement that IS can only be ‘defeated’ with more ‘boots-on-the-ground’ troops. We continue to try to resolve out this messy and complex conflict with explosive gases and sharp pieces of metal.
Meanwhile in West Africa Ebola continues to spread. Ironically troops are also being sent in here by western nations to try to save lives – but so far not nearly enough. If Ebola gets out of control, it will be a far greater threat to western nations (let alone to the Middle East) than IS.
Comment at 29 September 2014
As expected the United States and its allies are launching air strikes on Islamic State forces wherever they can find them. IS has apparently already changed its behaviour, reducing or avoiding convoys in open country and moving into cities. The problem is that airstrikes are not very discriminating – they often kill innocent civilians.
More than that, brutal as the jihadis may be, is killing them the best way to ensure a peaceful future? It may only inflame further hatred. A nonlethal approach, if it were possible, would be a better solution all round.
Comment at 23 August 2014
Civil disturbances continue in Ferguson, USA, following the shooting of an unarmed 18 year old black youth by police on 9th August. There was another shooting near to Ferguson by police just a few days ago. If police in the USA could operate without handguns, as do UK and New Zealand police, we would not see such tragedies. US police are not likely to give up their lethal weapons just yet but if the world moves to a culture of nonlethal security it might not be out of the question in the future.
Comment at 8 August 2014
World War One started just over 100 years ago on 4 August 1914. It demonstrated for the first time the horror of ‘industrial warfare’. (See article in New Matilda)
Comment at 3 August 2014
ARTILLERY SHELLS AND SCHOOLS
All lethal weapons are hideous. The current use of artillery on Gaza by Israel is especially disturbing. Shells are fired from tanks at houses, hospitals and schools. The reason, according to the Israeli government, is that this will help them stop Hamas rockets and allow the destruction of border tunnels. Of course Hamas should not be firing rockets but they cause very few Israeli casualties. In contrast, the artillery barrage on Gaza has already killed well over a thousand people, the vast majority it seems being civilians including many children. A significant number of Israelis are protesting but so far this has not halted Israel’s war fever.
Artillery is usually associated with 20th Century (and earlier) battlefields and has only recently re-emerged in Syria and now in Israel/Gaza. It is the quintessential brutal lethal weapon – blowing bodies apart and/or burying them under the rubble of their homes (and hospitals and schools).
That a supposedly advanced, well-educated and cultured democracy like Israel should be resorting to such cruel, primitive and ultimately stupid technology – when there are so many alternatives – is almost beyond comprehension.
Comment at 19 July 2014
AIRLINER DOWNED – GAZA INVASION
A brief comment: at the time of writing, it seems unlikely that the people who fired the ground-to-air missile in Ukraine knew that it would hit a passenger airliner. It does demonstrate how dangerous is this technology. (Anti-missile missiles are a somewhat different story and need not be incompatible with a nonlethal security approach.)
In Gaza, the Israelis are bombarding settlements with artillery and invading with tanks. More civilians have died (at the time of writing a total of nearly 300 since 8 July). Despite the huge pressures on Gaza Palestinians, they should not be firing rockets into Israel. Fortunately the missiles appear to do relatively little damage. There is no excuse whatever for the highly lethal and aggressive response by Israel. Here is a strong case for a nonlethal security approach – by both sides – until the politics are sorted out.
Comment at 10 July 2014
REDUCING THE DAMAGE
Lethal conflict continues in Syria. Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS) Jihadis are rampaging across Northern Iraq and the shootings and bombings are escalating once again.
A central aim of the nonlethal security approach is to reduce the damage. Conflict between tribe and tribe and between creed and creed seems set to continue. Healthy argument between Sunni and Shia (or between Catholic and Protestant or Theist and Atheist) is no bad thing in itself. It can help both parties find new truths. What’s not required is injury and death. Nonlethal security can reduce the damage of intertribal and interfaith conflict. The battle of ideas can continue.
Of course a good deal of so-called religious or inter-tribal conflict is just an excuse for criminals to exploit warfare for personal gain. Leaving them aside, genuine dialogue – without damage – leads to progress for everyone.
Comment at 16 June 2014
MORE CONFLICT IN IRAQ
As Sunni jihadists advance towards Bagdhad, once again questions are raised about ‘intervention’. Should outside nations intervene with armed forces (or use airstrikes) and risk causing more trouble – as well collateral killing and injury ? Or should they just ignore massacres and other atrocities?
However carefully directed, lethal weapons will nearly always cause harm and grief. If we had an international nonlethal intervention force, it could enter Iraq and immobilise the jihadis. After a cooling off period, negotiations would begin. Nobody could say that the conflict would be quickly resolved or human rights swiftly restored – but at least everyone would still be alive. We would avoid more trenches full of massacred Iraqi prisoners and innocent families blown up by foreign ‘intervention’ rockets.
Comment at 9 June 2014
D-DAY and THE RWANDAN GENOCIDE
70 years ago the Allied landing was proceeding on the beaches of Normandy. Some 20 years ago in 1994 the massacre of nearly a million Tutsis by Hutu extremists was taking place in Rwanda – and nearly completed. (In August 1994, I witnessed the further deaths from cholera of hundreds of Hutu people who had fled into Zaire.)
In 1944, rifle bullets and shells were the best tools we knew of to defeat the forces of Hitler. In 1994, more armed United Nations peacekeepers might have dissuaded the Hutus from wielding their jungle knives. In 2014, we can start to think of alternatives to lethal conflict. Over those 70 years there have been huge advances in technology. We can surely devise better technology than bullets, explosives and knives for protecting us from aggressors while avoiding the misery of lethal warfare.
Comment at 28 March 2014
POLIO and SHATTERED HERITAGE in SYRIA
As result of the civil war, poliomyelitis has re-emerged in Syria 14 years after its eradication. In addition to death and dreadful injury, Syrian children now face lifelong disability with various degrees of paralysis. Bombing and shelling in the cities of Syria have destroyed many heritage buildings – that’s in addition to all the schools and hospitals. Lethal warfare extends far beyond the battlefield. If hypothetically the Syrian conflict was taking place with nonlethal technology, you could not rule out damage to buildings and a catastrophic breakdown in health services – but it would seem less likely because almost everyone would still be alive.
Comment posted at 4 March 2014 – Updated 20 March 2014
BLOODY TUESDAY IN THE UKRAINE
(Update) Since this comment was first written there has been a referendum in the Crimea in which the Russian speaking majority has voted to rejoin the USSR. Moscow has said that it will go ahead and annex the Crimea despite strong international condemnation. The comment below still stands, but we must very much hope that there will not now be armed lethal conflict with loss of life. Such matters do not need to be resolved in this way.
(Original comment at 4 March) Events are moving very quickly in the Ukraine so this comment may become outdated very soon. It seems that the protests in Kiev had been steadily escalating for many weeks, with injury but no deaths. This situation changed on Tuesday 18 February when 26 people including 10 police officers were killed. On 20 February some 25 protestors and two police officers died. It appears that from 18 February police moved from nonlethal methods to shooting with live rounds. (The protestors appear also to have used guns). These episodes were a turning point. They are reminiscent of ’Bloody Sunday’ in Northern Ireland on 30th January 1972, when fourteen people died as a result of gunfire from British Troops. In Kiev pressure from the community greatly increased and President Viktor Yanukovych was removed. ‘Bloody Sunday’ saw the start of decades of lethal violence in Northern Ireland. In the Ukraine, we now have the prospect of possible armed conflict between Russian and Ukrainian troops. Let’s just hope that the move from a nonlethal to a lethal approach on Kiev’s ‘Bloody Tuesday’ will not lead to ongoing lethal violence in the Ukraine. Joining the European Union (or not), continuation of Russian naval bases in the Crimea and respect for Russian language and culture are matters for negotiation, not for ’settling’ by killing people.
Comment posted at 31 January 2014
THREE TECHNOLOGICAL CHALLENGES
As we move further into the 21st Century, we humans are facing three major technological challenges:
- The Environment – if we don’t stop pumping toxic chemicals into the air, the water and the soil and mistreating our forests, pastures and oceans, we will further damage the biodiversity of the planet and put future generations at risk of famine and disease. The community is mostly aware of this challenge and we’re beginning to make progress.
- Global Warming – if we do not soon drastically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we are releasing into the atmosphere, the temperature of the planet will continue to rise and the oceans will become more acidic. This will have catastrophic effects on the planet from rising ocean levels and possible major damage to marine life such as plankton and corals. The community is only just becoming aware of this challenge and progress so far is very limited.
- Lethal Warfare – the lethality of conventional weapons increases year by year. Current lethal warfare imposes huge damage on communities and consumes vast resources which could be directed to meeting other challenges (such as the environment and global warming). An even greater risk is that a culture of lethal warfare could always escalate into nuclear conflict, with untold damage from radioactivity – or even result in the extinction of the human race. The community has some awareness of the dangers of nuclear war. There is almost NO AWARENESS of the need to move from a lethal approach to conflict resolution to the use of nonlethal technology for protection from aggression and the maintenance of international security.
Comment posted at 10 January 2014
Conventional lethal warfare exacts a huge cost on society. The ‘Costs of War Project’ based at Brown University is studying the cost of the war in Iraq and neighbouring countries. The findings include:
- Over 330,000 people — including soldiers, militants, police, contractors, journalists, humanitarian workers and civilians —have died due to direct war violence, many more indirectly.
- 200,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting at the hands of all parties to the conflict and more will die in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan as the violence continues.
- Over 6,600 US soldiers have died in the wars.
- Over 750,000 disability claims have already been approved. Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been identified.
- 7.4 million people have been displaced indefinitely and are living in grossly inadequate conditions.
- The US federal price tag for the Iraq war – including an estimate for veterans’ medical and disability costs into the future – is about $2.2 trillion dollars. The cost for both Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan is going to be close to $4 trillion, not including future interest costs on borrowing for the wars.
(For details of a number of further costs see the Costs of War Project .)
Nonlethal resolution of a major conflict might cost a substantial amount, but surely much less than lethal warfare. The most significant and heart-rending costs of all – the grief and pain from death and injury – would be eliminated.
COMMENT posted at 1 January 2014
This year – 2014 – will see the 50th Anniversary of the Great War of 1914-18 – now known as World War 1. World War 2 saw the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Albert Einstein famously remarked ‘I know not with what weapons World War 3 will be fought, but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones.’
The most important reason for moving to a culture of nonlethal security is to remove the threat of a nuclear conflict. Let’s make 2014 a year in which nonlethal security for peace advances and the threat of nuclear war retreats.
COMMENT posted at 7 December 2013
A major new report just released by the Oxford Research Group shows 11,420 children killed in the Syrian conflict: 7 out of 10 by explosives, 1 in 4 by bullets.
What stupid cruel technology we adult humans still use in our various squabbles. We should be old enough to know better – at the least we should leave the kids out of it.
COMMENT posted at 14 November 2013
Rescue work is now underway in the Philippines following one of the severest typhoons yet recorded. After some delay military around the world are playing a major part in the relief effort.
In a ‘nonlethal security world’ such a delay would be minimised. Disaster relief would be recognised as one of the key roles of defence/security forces. Integrated world wide disaster action plans would an important feature of international treaties.
COMMENT posted at 25 October 2013
The number of refugees from Syria is now in the millions. These refugees are fleeing because of fear that they might be killed by lethal weapons. There might still be refugees if the war was conducted with nonlethal technology, but the numbers (and the accompanying distress) would surely be lower if there was no fear of death or major injury.
COMMENT posted at 10 September 2013
A strike by the USA and other powers on Syria is still being contemplated. Any strike which kills people has the potential to escalate. A UN initiated intervention employing nonlethal security where necessary would be far less dangerous. We need the technology and more importantly the will for such approaches. We can only hope for it to happen soon.
COMMENT posted at 20 August 2013
Police in Egypt continue to use lethal weapons against demonstrators. Inevitably guns now seem to have been taken up by the protestors in retaliation. Lethal force generates more lethal force. Lives continue to be tragically wasted – a thousand to date by some estimates.
Young Australian baseballer Chris Lane was shot dead a day or two ago while jogging in Oklahoma, allegedly by a teenager who was feeling bored. Another tragic waste of life due to innappropriate technology in the wrong hands – in more simple language – an irresponsible kid with a gun.
COMMENT at 9 July 2013
In our comment of 3 July we said of the Egyptian crisis:”Let’s hope that only non-lethal technology is employed to ensure safety if there are major riots.”
Unfortunately, there are now reports of more than 50 people killed by police gunfire. What happened to the non-lethal protection that police have available? Rubber bullets and tear gas are not pleasant but they usually don’t kill.
COMMENT (3 July 2013)
Unrest is building in Egypt as democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi is being challenged by widespread public protests and the army is threatening to intervene.
Let’s hope that only non-lethal technology is employed to ensure safety if there are major riots.
COMMENT (16 April 2013)
BOSTON MARATHON BOMBS
Today, two bombs were exploded at the Boston Marathon.
There have been several deaths so far and many injuries. These bombs appear to have been improvised devices – IEDs such as we have seen so often in recent years in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
This reminds us that lethal weapons don’t have to cost much or be at all sophisticated and yet still wreak huge damage.
Most IEDs are made by rational but extremely angry people. Though we cannot forgive the violence we should remind ourselves that the anger of most terrorists is a result of conflict with lethal weapons which had killed their families or their compatriots. In a non-lethal culture, we would still no doubt occasionally witness home-made bombs made by highly disturbed individuals. Such people may have been behind the Boston bombing, though the likelihood is that it was an exercise by terrorists. Almost certainly, sooner or later, we shall find out. If it was terrorists, we can link this tragic event in some degree to previous lethal conflict.
UPDATE 24 February 2013
February Newsletter now out
COMMENT (21st January 2013)
ALGERIAN HOSTAGES – US GUNS
Algerian special forces have just botched their attempts to free hostages on a desert oil field, with most of the hostages being killed. If they’d used non-lethal weapons the toll would surely have been less (but this whole incident is a just a bit murky, so you can’t be sure!)
As President Obama is re-inaugurated the gun lobby is ramping up its protests, even involving the Obama children in its campaign. The involvement of the gun manufacturers in funding the National Rifle Association is increasingly apparent. The long-term answer is to make non-lethal weapons manufacture more profitable than making guns that kill. Perhaps one day we’ll see an NNLRA – the National Non Lethal Rifle Association. I’d go with that one.
COMMENT (Posted 1st January 2013)
A NEW YEAR AND NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEACE
This is the first comment of 2013 and the first for several months (since 22 September 2012).
Looking back on 2012, we’ve seen ongoing sporadic killing with guns and explosives continue around the world – most notably in Central Africa and Afghanistan.
In Syria the senseless slaughter goes on. In this mostly civil war the toll has now surpassed 40,000. It’s breathtaking that in the year 2012 the rest of the world with all its accumulated skills and resources could not get together to halt this madness and just stands by. If Syria had large oil resources, it would have been a different story (but perhaps the violence would have been of a different kind!)
Another recent madness was the massacre of children and teachers in Sandy Hook school in the USA. From time to time all around the world disturbed individuals injure and kill people. Usually they’re disarmed before the damage goes too far. It’s only in the USA that such people have access to automatic assault weapons which allow them to keep killing. It’s also in the USA, awash with guns, that the murder rate is many times higher than any other developed nation.
Again it’s breathtaking – that a great nation like the USA can continue to leave its citizens in ongoing peril by tolerating uncontrolled access to such dangerous technology.
But let’s be optimistic about 2013. America is showing signs that it might start to bring in controls on the most dangerous guns.
There are also indications of progress on the International Arms Control Treaty and in nuclear disarmament.
For an excellent recent summary of these issues see Paul Rogers’ Special Briefing for the Oxford Reseach Group.
A Happy and More Peaceful 2013 to all!
COMMENT (Posted 22 September 2012)
News this week that the Arctic sea ice is melting even faster than predicted. The Arctic will be ice free in summer by 2015 – just three years from now (article by Ian Dunlop in today’s Sydney Morning Herald News Review).
Global warming will put huge stresses on the peoples of the world, with increased competition for water and food. At present, when they become extreme, we resolve these issues – or try to – through lethal warfare. Apart from the grief and pain, there is the danger that the conflict will escalate until one party (or both) res0rt to nuclear weapons. The damage from just a few nuclear explosions will make the discomforts from global warming seem like a spring picnic.
Climate/change global warming gives us a very immediate reason to move as soon as possible to non-lethal technology in resolving our international conflicts.
FROM www.controlarms.org :
“747,000 people are killed by armed violence every year”
“10 people are injured for every person killed by armed violence”
“2 bullets are produced each year for every person on the planet”
“1 in 10 people around the world possess small arms”
“2 out of 3 people killed by armed violence die in countries at peace”
COMMENT – posted 12 September 2012
What you might call plenty of asymetric slaughter:
- up to 100 people killed in Iraq at the weekend by series of bomb blasts
- the American Ambassador to Libya killed by bullet or rocket in the embassy compound.
There’s no special lesson about NLWs with this one, except that a culture of non-lethal conflict resolution might reduce this kind of seemingly senseless, savage and unpredictable violence.
COMMENT – posted 28 May 2012
Another massacre in Syria, with more than 90 people killed in Houla, including dozens of children. Most of the slaughter was the result of tank and artillery fire – a reminder of what these killing machines can do. The victims were not soldiers – just civilians. But let’s not forget that most soldiers in war are not there willingly. They too are human beings who can be killed and mutilated by shellfire. If the tanks and artillery in Houla had been non-lethal, so much sorrow would have been avoided. We do not need our primitive tanks and artillery to resolve disputes – not among civilians, not even on battlefields.
COMMENT – posted 10 May 2012
It’s budget time in Australia. In order to bring in a budget surplus, the Australian Government has cut defence spending, delaying the purchase of some new fighter aircraft and some ‘self-propelled artillery’. This is machinery for killing people (as well, of course, for disabling an ‘enemy’s’ killing machines). But if a foreign nation really wanted to invade Australia it’s questionable how much such weapons would dissuade them.
If the fighter planes had been going to carry non-lethal rockets and the artillery non-lethal projectiles (which could deliver technology to repulse or restrain an aggressor without death or injury) the savings could have been a loss to the nation.
Since the expenditure was almost certainly to have been on the same old destructive lethal devices, then it’s probably money well saved. It will also have the effect – just a little – of advancing peace in our region.
COMMENT posted late April 2012
ANZAC Day – 25th April – has just passed. This is the day on which Australians honour those who have lost their lives in war. We should most certainly continue to respect and honour this sacrifice. What we can hope for on ANZAC Days in the future is that future wars will have been settled non-lethally and that the number of those that we honour will not have been added to.
Posted 21 February 2012 on the NLW for Peace Campaign BLOG:
There is much death and pain in Syria at present. First of all the shelling of civilians. The Syrian army has been firing high explosive shells at the country’s own citizens. Men, women and children are being blown apart, hit by shrapnel or buried under rubble.
We are also seeing increasing evidence of torture. ‘Security’ forces are not hiding this. They have recorded scores of ‘trophy videos’ of themselves savagely beating their captives. Young children have been among the victims. See Syria Exposed the Channel 4 program broadcast on ABC TV Four Corners on 20 February 2012.
How would a non-lethal weapons approach reduce these activities?
First of all, lethal shells would not be used in civil conflicts.
Secondly, soldiers armed with non-lethal weapons might be less acculturated to violence and less prone to torturing their fellow citizens (and one might hope – other prisoners). (We can’t be certain of this, but it seems likely and would be an added benefit to a NLW approach to conflict.)