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The purpose of this blog is to allow me to record my journey, the formation of the No New Wars organisation (whatever form that may take), the Eleven Eleven Twenty-Eighteen campaign and the supporting resources and networks of people and organisations.

This idea crystallised for me in 2012 when I decided it was not enough to be angry about wars being started in my name (that is, by my government) that I could not prevent.  Instead I would do something.  Not march with a banner, or send a letter to my MP, or write to the embassy of the enemy state, but instead stop the war in the first place.

I realised that I could not stop foreign countries starting wars.  But I can do something to influence my own government.  I could start a movement that makes it clear to our politicians that we do not want war, and that we will make them pay if they start one.

In a democracy we have only one tool available: our vote.  If enough of us pledge to remove our vote from any politician promoting an unjust, illegal or unnecessary war and to instead give that vote to an opponent, then we can make the politicians and major political parties too frightened to want to start a war.

It does not even need many of us to sign up to this.  In many constituencies it would only take about half of the MP’s majority to take the pledge to make the MP realise their next election might be their last.  And if people who do not vote – which is most of us – sign this pledge saying we will turn up and make a protest vote, it will make the political parties sit up and think about the consequences of the actions of a few war mongers.

I haven’t done the sums in detail, but if this campaign had been in place by 2003 when the 2nd Gulf War started, and if just 1% of the electorate had signed this pledge, then 170,00 non-voters voting against Labour plus 1% of Labour voters voting for either of the other major parties, would have resulted in Labour losing the 2005 General Election.

Between 750,000 (Police figures) and 2,000,000 (organisers’ figures) people marched in London alone to protest against the 2nd Gulf War.  Just 400,000 registered voters making a pledge would have more effect.

We actually can stop wars from starting by targeting the real cause: politicians who want to start a war.  By telling them we as voters will end their political career and wreck their party’s future prospects of power at the same time.

Would you consider war prevention a big enough cause to change your vote, or to make you go out and vote?

Bullet Points or Peace Points

In a discussion in my current Open University module, A327 Europe 1914-1989: war, peace, modernity, someone mentioned the Imperial War Museum Exhibition People Power: Fighting for Peace.  Cutting a long discussion short:

Me:

There’s something about the words “exploring how peace movements have influenced perceptions of war and conflict” that troubles me.  I think it is the implication they have achieved nothing other than change perception.  As if it is the output from a War Studies course, rather than Peace Studies.  Certainly that web page has not been written by someone immersed in the peace sector as they would not have used the title “Fighting for Peace” as it is not considered proper to use that expression any more (“working for peace” instead), just as it is not considered appropriate to wear camouflage as a civilian (camo baby’s bootees – why?) or use bullet points in presentations (use “peace points”).

Alternatively, is it merely focused purely on that aspect (influencing perceptions) of the peace movements?

Damn this module!  Now I am more interested in who constructed this exhibition, why, who for, who paid for it and what is their agenda than I am in the exhibition!

A contributor (paraphrased):

The effectiveness of such peace efforts are open to debate, for sure, but surely history has shown that perceptions matter greatly, particularly public perceptions.  I have to ask though:

use bullet points in presentations (use “peace points”)‘.

As for bullet points being ‘inappropriate’, since when?  Is that a joke?  If so, it went right over my head.  surprise

My response:

I find some of the hard liners in the peace movement difficult to relate to, but once one has been given an awareness of the militarisation of everyday language, clothes, euphemisms, education and so on, it starts to become glaringly obvious.  In the case of words, the fear is that routine adoption of military language into everyday life normalises violence as a default response to anything requiring action.

One becomes entrenched (I’ve never dug a trench), attacks a problem (I’ve never beaten up an equation), uses bullet-proof arguments (I actually use normal paper), takes flak from objectors (I can’t even fly), works on the front line (i.e. answers the ‘phone) and so on.

To eliminate sexism, it was necessary to remove certain words from our everyday language so that they could not be used to denigrate women when referring to them.  It’s not about how they feel about those words, it is about the effect they had on us men and, therefore, how society functioned.

To eliminate racism, other words that were used without thought are now verboten – we would never dream of using them in writing.  Again, this is not because of the reaction but on society: if derogatory, generalising or belittling words are used to define groups then one assumes those groups are deserving of being treated that way.  (Why did I use ‘verboten’?  Because it has a cultural association with a violent and potentially fatal reaction as a punishment; being associated with Nazi militarism it is a far stronger word than merely ‘forbidden’.  Doing so also reinforces our traditional view of the Germans.)

Likewise disability or other forms of difference from “the accepted norm”.  You need words to create boxes to put people in so they can be managed as a group in a certain way.  Once the language as been created and established for that group, it can be re-used on another, and another, and another.

It comes out of the likes of linguistics philosopher Wittgenstein (“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”), military writer von Clausewitz (education, culture and the media are foundations for war) and social psychologists.  For example, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: our world view can only be constructed from the words we have to describe it.  It is a well-known and well-established concern: extremists of all sorts have wanted particular books burned because of the political or religious ideas they convey – if people cannot read the books, they won’t get the ideas.  Words are dangerous; words convey emotions and reactions.

If we rely on military words for dealing with civilian problems, then military solutions become the default solution because that is how we think.  If we can change the language to use positive verbs and adjectives rather than violent ones, it would change the mindset of the public toward how they should be resolved.  Hence a drive in the peace movement to not use military terminology in a civilian context.

Hence ‘peace points’ not ‘bullet points’.

Optimistic about water wars

I have often heard it suggested or assumed that the next wars will be over water.  The International Water Management Institute is not so pessimistic.  Their article ‘Promoting cooperation through management of transboundary water resources‘ says:

Research is challenging the conventional wisdom that conflict over water leads to war.  The water wars hypothesis has its roots in earlier research carried out on a small number of transboundary rivers such as the Indus, Jordan and the Nile…because they had experienced water-related disputes.  Specific events cited as evidence include Israel’s bombing of Syria’s attempts to divert the Jordan’s headwater and military threats by Egypt against any country building dams in the upstream water of the Nile.  However, while some links made between conflict and water were valid, they did not necessarily represent the norm.

and

while it is true that there has been conflict related to water in a handful of international basins, in the rest of the world’s approximately 300 shared basins the record has been largely positive.

War is not inevitable.

This paper is an example of research into alternatives to international conflict over a specific resource resulting in evidence-based cases of violent conflict not being required to resole international problems regarding resource issues.  So if someone says to you “The next wars will be about water” you can now say “No, they won’t.  Water may be involved but we now know it is more likely to result in international co-operation.

A template for university essay introductions

An article in the Guardian entitled How to write better essays: ‘nobody does introductions properly’ has, toward the end, a template for any essay that produces an ideal introduction in under 100 words.  I was not convinced.  He says:

Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.

I was going to strongly disagree and came up with an example to prove it, but failed.  I took his template:

Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.

and tried turning it into a very simple (and silly) introduction to prove it cannot be done in 100 words:

I am going to argue that in visual perception black is actually white.  I am going to substantiate this with the claims that black is black, white is white and in between are shades of grey.  I am going to refer to Tom, Dick and Harry who say black is dark, white is light and there is a sliding scale between them.  I will conclude with some thoughts on how reading 50 Shades of Grey will pass some time but it will not clarify our understanding of optical perception in humans.

But that’s only 91 words.  He might actually be right.  His template might be a good one.

Oops, I forgot the “Never use the first person” rule that applies in some subjects.  Second attempt:

This essay argues that rodents in the visual media don’t always like aged pressed milk curds.  This will substantiated with examples from old cartoons, feature films and modern digital cinematography, drawing on productions by Fred Quimby, Walt Disney and Pixar.  Their works demonstrate titbit-laden mousetraps, no dairy products and toy rodents who don’t eat at all.  The essay will conclude that it depends on context but that there is an age to cheesiness correlation, and it might be worth watching some Dreamworks videos for further research.

How’s that for a comprehensive media studies TMA introduction in 86 words?

I’m convinced.  What do you think of this method?

What is the learned journal for peace?

I started writing this in August 2015 and got stuck.

I’ve been wondering something for a week or two.  If I want to do research into alternatives to war, and there is such a thing as Peace Studies, then there must be a relevant learned journal.  The place where relevant articles are published for peer review.  I should have subscribed to it ages ago.  But what and where is it?

Courtesy of Google I see there is more than one. Searches I have tried:

  • “learned journal” “peace studies”
  • “peer-reviewed journal” “peace studies”

Searches I need to do: The OU library.

Results…



Title: Conflict Management and Peace Science
ISSN: Digital: 15499219 Print: 07388942
Publisher: Peace Science Society (International)
URL: http://cmp.sagepub.com/
Desc’n: A peer-reviewed journal. Contains scientific papers on topics such as: international conflict; arms races; the effect of international trade on political interactions; foreign policy decision making; international mediation; and game theoretic approaches to conflict and cooperation. Features original and review articles focused on news and events related to the scientific study of conflict and peace.
Began: 1973
Frequency: 5 times per year (supposedly)
Cost: One article: £18. Either one issue or one year: £69
Comment: About 5 articles per issue. Only abstracts available online. Looks more like war studies than peace studies.



Title: Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal
ISSN: Electronic: 1911-9933 Print: 1911-0359
Publisher: The International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS)
URL: scholarcommons.usf.edu/gsp
Desc’n: A much-needed forum for discussion. Fosters awareness of the atrocities linked to genocide while promoting the necessity of prevention. This peer-reviewed journal publishes articles on the latest developments in policy, research, and theory from various disciplines including history, political science, sociology, psychology, international law, criminal justice, women’s studies, religion, philosophy, literature, anthropology and art history.
Began: 2006
Frequency: 3 issues / year
Cost: Free
Comment: About 10 articles per issue.



Title: The International Journal for Peace Studies
ISSN: ?
Publisher: The International Peace Research Association (IPRA)
URL: www.gmu.edu/programs/icar/ijps
Desc’n: An educational research journal with articles on the causes and solutions to the social, cultural, and ethnic conflicts in the world.
Began: 1996
Frequency: 2 issues per year
Cost: Free
Comment: All articles are available online



Title: Journal of Conflict Resolution
ISSN: Digital: 15528766 Paper: 00220027
Publisher: Peace Science Society (International)
URL: jcr.sagepub.com
Desc’n: Peer-reviewed, provides scholars and researchers with the latest studies and theories on the causes of and solutions to the full range of human conflict. Focuses on conflict between and within states, but also explores a variety of inter-group and interpersonal conflicts that may help in understanding problems of war and peace.
Began: 1957
Frequency: 8 times / year, supposedly.
Cost: £17 for an article. £107 for, probably, a year.
Comment: About 8 articles per issue.



Title: Journal of Peace Research
ISSN: 00223433
Publisher: Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
URL: jpr.sagepub.com
Desc’n: An interdisciplinary and international peer reviewed bimonthly journal of scholarly work in peace research.  Strives for a global focus on conflict and peacemaking.  Encourages a wide conception of peace, but focuses on the causes of violence and conflict resolution.
Began: 1964
Frequency: Bi-monthly
Cost: £80 per something.  Probably a year.
Comment: Can download a few articles.  Can subscribe to the Table of Contents.



Title: Journal of Peace Studies
ISSN: ?
Publisher: International Centre for Peace Studies
URL: www.icpsnet.org/journal.php
Desc’n: An interdisciplinary approach and aims at promoting peace and understanding among societies of the world in general and South Asian societies in particular.
Began: 1993
Frequency: Quarterly
Cost: ?  I cannot see how to obtain it.
Comment: Produced by the International Center for Peace Studies



Title: Peace Research: The Canadian Journal of Peace and Conflict Studies
ISSN: 0008-4697
Publisher: Menno Simons College, Canadian Mennonite University
URL: www.peaceresearch.ca
Desc’n: Canada’s oldest and primary scholarly journal in its area.  Distributed internationally.  Publishes broadly on issues of conflict, violence, poverty, just peace and human well-being. Peace and conflict studies holds peace as a value, and peaceful methods as the most desirable form of conflict transformation.
Began: 1969
Frequency: Twice a year
Cost: $US 60 / year
Comment: Can download a few articles from 2007 to 2013 for free.



Title: Peace Studies Journal
ISSN: 2151-0806
Publisher: Central New York Peace Studies Consortium
URL: peacestudiesjournal.org/about-psj
Desc’n: An international peer-reviewed scholarly open access journal in the field of peace, conflict and justice studies.
Began: 2007
Frequency: 4 issues / year
Cost: Free
Comment: About 5 articles per issue.



Title: x
ISSN: ?
Publisher: x
URL: x
Desc’n: x
Began: x
Frequency: x
Cost: x
Comment: x


Center for Peacemaking Practice, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University



Now in February 2017 it has just dawned on me to search the OU Library for journals with ‘peace’ in the name where they have the text available online and it is within the last 20 years and in English.  They hold ten items:

Title: Conflict management and peace science (Online)
Author: Peace Science Society (International)
Subjects: International relations — Research — Periodicals; Peace — Research – Periodicals
Publisher: Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage Publications
Identifier: ISSN:0738-8942
Publication date(s): 1980-1999
Opinion: looks good.

Title: Journal of peace education (Online)
Author: International Peace Research Association. Peace Education Commission.
Subjects: Peace — Study and teaching — Periodicals; Peace — Periodicals; Peace; Peace — Study and teaching
Publisher: Abingdon, Oxfordshire : Carfax Pub.
Identifier: ISSN:1740-0201
Publication date(s): 2004
Opinion: looks really interesting and relevant.

Title: Journal of international peace operations (Online)
Author: International Peace Operations Association.; International Stability Operations Association, issuing body.
Subjects: Peaceful change (International relations) — Periodicals; Political science — Foreign relations — Periodicals; Peaceful change (International relations)
Publisher: Washington, DC : International Peace Operations Association
Identifier: ISSN:1933-8198
Publication date(s): 2006
Opinion: stuck in the weird OU ‘loop11’ loop.

Title: Global change, peace & security.
Author: La Trobe University. Centre for Dialogue, issuing body.; La Trobe University. Institute for Human Security, issuing body.
Subjects: Security, International — Periodicals; Peaceful change (International relations) — Periodicals
Publisher: Abingdon, Oxfordshire : Routledge
Identifier: ISSN:1478-1158
Publication date(s): ©2003-
Opinion: has some really interesting looking articles.

Title: Journal of aggression, conflict and peace research Elektronische Ressource
Publisher: Bingley Emerald
Publication date(s): 2009-
Opinion: Primarily about interpersonal violence, does have a few articles on international violence.

Title: The journal of peace, prosperity & freedom.
Author: Liberty Australia (Organization)
Subjects: Libertarianism — Australia — Periodicals
Publisher: Brunswick, VIC : Liberty Australia
Identifier: ISSN:2200-3037
Publication date(s): 2012]-
Opinion: Three issues and nothing of interest.

Title: International journal of engineering, social justice and peace.
Subjects: Engineering ethics — Periodicals; Engineering — Social aspects — Periodicals
Publisher: Kingston, Ontario : Queen’s University
Identifier: ISSN:1927-9434
Publication date(s): 2012-
Opinion: Can’t get to it online (it has moved) and it doesn’t look relevant anyway.

Title: Peace and democracy in South Asia .
Author: Stockholms universitet. Politics of Development Group.; Asiawide Network.
Subjects: Peace — Periodicals; Democracy — South Asia — Periodicals; South Asia — Periodicals
Publisher: Malaysia : Asiawide Network
Publication date(s): c2004-
Opinion: three issues.  Cannot see anything immediately relevant.

Title: Performance and accountability report
Author: Peace Corps (U.S.)
Subjects: Peace Corps (U.S.) — Periodicals; Peace Corps (U.S.)
Publisher: Washington, DC : Peace Corps
Identifier: ISSN:1930-1251
Publication date(s): 2004-
Opinion: Useless, broken link.

“civil wars are always more brutal than other wars”

In a Facebook discussion:

it would have been interesting to see how the Balkan war late in the 20th C arose and why there was such genocide.

I can’t remember the ins and outs of it – but civil wars are always more brutal than other wars.

My response—off the top of my head—was:

  1. Civil wars are not covered so much by modern war legislation nor the ancient rules of war, so there are no limits to methods or violence.
  2. The opposing sides are not easily differentiated so anyone can be a target to anyone.
  3. In civil wars dividing lines shift as power struggles occur: you don’t know who you can trust.
  4. Civil wars often have a variable number of sides which keep changing as alliances shift.
  5. Civil wars have greater confusion as communication and hierarchies are far weaker than in conventional wars.
  6. External states always take advantage of them to weaken the warring state, usually by propping up the weaker side to keep it going.
  7. Civil wars are great opportunities for proxy wars which means external material and money to keep them going long beyond a natural end.
  8. Civil wars are a great opportunity to sell untested weapons to see how they perform, debug them and advertise them.
  9. Defeat in a conventional war is easier to identify as battle lines collapse so they stop sooner.
  10. A conventional war can end with one side giving up, a civil war often requires complete crushing of the loser.
  11. You cannot retreat to your own country in a civil war.
  12. The infrastructure is usually so badly affected that the injured cannot be sent somewhere to be cared for in a civil war.
  13. There is less likely to be a safe family at home to return to in a civil war.
  14. In a civil war there is a greater tendency for revenge and cruelty (exacerbated by armed militia and little legal constraint).
  15. In a civil war each side is usually more equally matched using the same techniques, language, cypher systems, weapons and training meaning they have to slog it out to round 12 to win on points rather than get a quick knockout in round 2 or 3.
  16. Civil wars make use of mercenaries and attract and welcome psychopaths, extremists, revolutionaries and criminals.
  17. Civil wars make use of untrained armed civilians who both die more messily and kill more messily than trained soldiers.
  18. Civil wars are invariably total wars meaning everyone and everything is a valid target.

That’ll do for now. Oh, please, lets have a 2000 word essay on civil wars!

Although, with hindsight, that is the makings of a book.  Or a thesis.  I left out child soldiers, PTSD in armed civilians, how much harder it is to catch the war criminals afterwards, how much harder it is to reconcile, the damage to the society, recovery of the post-war bankrupt economy, the long-term consequences of having had an armed civilian population and the opportunity cost.

What do we learn from history? That we are repeating it.

It’s funny where voluntary work can take you.

Yesterday I was helping someone put together words for inclusion in a United Nations report, responding to Human Rights Council resolution 20/2, proposing conscientious objection to military taxation be considered a form of military service thereby including it under article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1998/77 can then be used to advocate people be permitted to say they want the military part of their tax to be spent on peacebuilding.

Meanwhile Donald Trump is getting around human rights legislation and treaties by recreating the CIA’s secret overseas detention and interrogation centres for unrecorded and untried undesirables.  Their “black site” prisons where they humiliated, tortured, murdered and detained people without trial for years.

It must take an awful lot of volunteers to overcome the work of one powerful man’s pen.

It’s topical because I’ve been learning about the history of the SA, SD, SS, Gestapo, Gefepo and other Nazi tools of security and oppression.  They were granted authority above the law by order of the top executive.  Just like Donald Trump is about to do for the CIA.

Remember what they say about absolute power?  It corrupts absolutely.

The Woman-Power Debate, March 1941

In learning about the workforce requirements of total war, specifically the debate in the House of Commons about conscripting women to work on the land and in munitions factories in March 1941 Britain during World War Two, I saw a quote which gave me pause.

Agnes Hardie MP was arguing that “it has been a tradition for generations that war is a man’s job and women have the bearing and raising of children and should be exempt from war“.  I bet that comes up a lot in the gender studies modules of Peace Studies degrees.  (Hansard, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 376 (1941–1942), Parliamentary Debates November 12–December 19, 1941, Debate on Maximum National Effort 2/12 (1941), col. 1,079.)

While one side argued in the Woman-Power Debate that female war work was heroic and liberating, this was countered with concerns that increasing state management of women’s lives threatened to undermine both family life and femininity.  Agnes Hardie argued that mothers were “doing a far more important job for the future generations…than filling shells with which to kill some other mother’s son” (Hansard, vol. 370 (March–April 1941), Woman-Power Debate, cols 351–3).

As King Baudouin I of Belgium said: “It takes 20 years or more of peace to make a man; it takes only 20 seconds of war to destroy him”.

Note for later: I wonder if the Bill to conscript women permitted the the right to conscientious objection, like the Miltary Service Act 1916 did for men?  I think it may have been the National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939, but there’s also “In December 1941 Parliament passed a second National Service Act. It widened the scope of conscription still further by making all unmarried women and all childless widows between the ages of 20 and 30 liable to call-up.”  If so, I think it permitted them the right to object to military service, but does that include filling shells?  They did, however, get the choice whether to work in factories or on the land.

Military Spending Calculator error

The Conscience Online web site has a military spending calculator on its home page that shows how much has been spent so far this year globally on military expenditure. I noticed it displaying an 11-digit number despite it only being the 7th of January. “Oops” I thought, “I need to change it so it starts again from zero on 1st of January”.

I thought it did that automatically, but decided I must have been mistaken. There is no way we could have spent £22 billion on war-making in under a week.

So I went to see what was wrong and found the error: we spend too much on war-making. In the first six days and nine hours of 2017 the world has already invested £3 per person on killing or readiness to kill one another.

The global news was making a fuss yesterday about the cost of Donald Trump’s proposed wall between the USA and Mexico likely to be about half that with pessimistic estimates expressing concern it will be about the same. If the cost of the wall is a scandal, why isn’t spending 50 times that amount every year on delivering premature death and suffering also a scandal?

Less conventional postgraduate peace degrees

In a discussion about transferability of degree modules, it got me thinking about the history of universities and how 900 years ago one could switch between Bologna, Paris and Oxford universities willy-nilly because they offered the same curriculum.  Now it is really hard to get one university to give credits fro study in another even in the same country.  Division and protectionism, even in education.

Anyway, international peace degrees.

The University for Peace or UPEACE is (according to Wikipedia) “an intergovernmental organization with university status established in 1980 and based Costa Rica“.  I have looked at it before and eliminated it primarily on not having $US15,000 and partly because of lack of recognition for the qualification.  I also wasn’t too impressed with the course content.

The United Nations University or UNI is (according to Wikipedia) “the academic and research arm of the United Nations, established in 1973.  Based in Tokyo, Japan, has since 2010 been authorized to grant degrees. It provides a bridge between the UN and the international academic, policy-making and private sector communities.”  Most of its programmes seem to be about international development with the exception of the Institute for Sustainability and Peace Tokyo (Wikipedia) (their web site is down as I write this).  Even their Master’s Degrees are about the environment, sustainability and public policy rather than peace.  So, no conflict prevention type degrees.

Both are dead ends for me.

This is the sort of work I want: peace informatics

There is a group on LinkedIn called Peace Informatics describing itself:

This group brings together researchers, practitioners and other professionals who want to explore how Big Data can be applied in the field of peace and security. The group’s moderators provide regular updates with cutting edge information about related developments and aim to exchange views among network members about lessons learned, latest insights and potential collaboration.

Peace Informatics is initiated and run by the Peace Informatics Lab at Leiden University (Campus The Hague). The Peace Informatics Lab consists of a number of interconnected projects that explore new ways of Big Data methodologies in the field of peace & security.

I’m not convinced about the hype around ‘big data’ (my views come from decades of experience working with large databases, data analysis and business analysis rather than marketing bumf), but I am impressed with what I have seen of Leiden University, having done some of their MOOC courses.

But this could be a field where my IT experience would be very useful.  Now, how to get my foot in the door…?