By Jason Sibert
Contemporary world affairs are defined by disorder on many levels. For those who believe in security through diplomacy, international law and arms control, our world is not a pretty sight. President Biden said he would reinvigorate the United States’ diplomacy and alliances when running in 2020. However, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists advanced its clock to 100 minutes to midnight, closer to zero that ever before. The organization said the international security situation is more dangerous than at any time since the Cold War. There are religious and ethnic tensions in Israel/Palestine and India/Kashmir, both involving nuclear armed nations. U.S. Admiral Charles Richard warned that China is challenging international norms in ways not seen since the end of the Cold War.
In addition, there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than any time in the last 3.6 million years, and this accelerates the greenhouse effect – global warming. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called climate change an “existential threat” which is making the world unsafe. Let us not fall into the trap of purchasing more weapons and projecting hard power throughout the world, as argued by writer Jonathan Granoff in his piece “Why Military Response Won’t Defuse the Israel Crises or Other Multiplying Threats.” (The Hill, May 14)
What is the stance of the Biden administration? It just pushed through a $753 billion dollar budget, a $12 billion dollar increase than the previous year. Granoff gives us an idea of what this means in terms of our security: “that (Biden) increase is more than the entire 2021 budget for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cost of the nuclear weapons complex over the next 30 years is projected to be around $2 trillion — about as much as the cost of overhauling infrastructure across the U.S.”
The geopolitical tensions between the US,. China and Russia are driving increased levels of defense spending. The rest of the world, nuclear armed states such as Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and India, spent nearly $2 trillion in military outlays last year, as stated by Granoff. The United Nations, a troubled institution, received just $50 billion in 2020. Security means concentrating on how we live our lives, and it includes climate, health, food, education, jobs, strong communities, human rights, the rule of law and the freedom of worship.
Assembling in Rome, Nobel Peace Prize winners declared: “the promotion of global cooperation is distorted by the possession of nuclear weapons by some; we must ensure the elimination of nuclear weapons before they eliminate us.” They also cited the issues of the environment and poverty. Granoff supports the idea of international cooperation as a solution to our problems. This will be a tough task considering the ineffectiveness of the UN and the tensions between various power blocks in the world.
However, for a true version of security to emerge, the world must look past political differences and set the ground rules for law and order. Social democrats of various stripes, and in various countries, should be the ones to do this. Our philosophy is inclusive of pragmatism and problem-solving, something that separates us from Communists and others on the far Left, to say nothing of the extreme Right. Social democrats have a view of security well-suited for contemporary problems. Few in our movements would advocate doing away with militaries or the nation-state per se. At the same time, we should be at the forefront of internationalist solutions to order and redirect dollars where security is needed. The problem is figuring out how social democratic forces can return to power in the nation-states of wealthy industrial democracies.
Jason Sibert is the executive director of the Peace Economy Project.