New thinking needs new direction

Linked with Mary Kaldor – England.

Published on openDemocracy, by Mary Kaldor, Sept. 25, 2008.

Is it possible to suppose that the United States might finally experience its own perestroika after the end of the Cold War? I am not referring to the movement around Barack Obama’s call for change, although that could potentially be a critical factor in reinforcing and sustaining the new phenomenon of perestroika. Nor am I referring to the financial crisis although that too could provide an impulse for transformation. Rather I am talking about the far reaching debate and indeed restructuring currently going on inside the Pentagon as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan …

… And a third question, which follows from the first two, is whether the new approach can be used for global peace operations in the future or whether it is a more efficient form of American imperialism? Most `new thinkers’ still insist that the US needs both a stability capacity and a war-fighting capacity. Indeed, some proponents of `new thinking’ are suggesting that a capacity for both decisive military actions and stabilisation could enable the US to invade countries like Iran and Syria and simultaneously clean up the aftermath. At present, of course, US forces are much too over stretched but what if the US leaves Iraq and Gates succeeds in overall restructuring?

This is why what happens in the forthcoming US elections is so important. The changes within the Pentagon need political direction. Are population security or stability operations viewed as a means to an end – defeating terrorists that might attack the United States, winning the War on Terror? Or is the goal population security globally, which might require the use of military force against those nihilistic terrorists or genocidaires who are not amenable to negotiation and who cannot be arrested? In other words, is the goal to protect the United States unilaterally or can there be a new understanding that American security depends on global security? In the first case, the `new thinking’ continues to be viewed as a secondary or marginal activity for US forces. But if the aim is global security, the primary requirement is for a stabilisation capacity to end wars rather than fight them.

The incoming President needs to articulate a new narrative for US security policy based on the notion that population security (or I would say human security) is a world-wide goal rather than the War on Terror and that the US will strengthen multilateral institutions in order to develop the capacity to prevent conflicts as well as reducing violence and contributing to stability and reconstruction. That way, the new President will able to harness the current perestroika to a new post-Cold War political paradigm. (full text).

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