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18 March, 2012

Suits, Part II

From Lisa Schirch, The Failed Fantasy of Firepower:

'The fantasy of firepower rests on a faulty assumption that "evil" resides in a group of people that need to be killed in order to restore peace. A realist understands the civil wars in Libya, Syria and Uganda are far more complex than killing some 'bad guys." Like pouring toxic chemicals into an oil spill, the solution of pouring weapons into a civil war just doubles the agony for civilians and prolongs instability. ...

'Military victory rarely leads to democracy or peace. Victory only ends a tiny percentage of wars. Far more wars end by peace agreements and power sharing, with military forces used only in peacekeeping roles. The history of successful transitions from brutal regimes to democratic governments illustrates that nonviolent civil society-based movements, like the one in Egypt today, have been far more successful. Peaceful protests worked even against brutal dictators like Chile's Pinochet who for decades systematically tortured and killed any citizen who uttered a word against his iron fist. Violent rebel movements like the one in Syria are less likely to bring about positive change and result in more civilian deaths compared with nonviolent civilian movements, regardless of the level of repression against them. ...

'Instead of calling for airstrikes, call for an end to the weapons trade. Instead of falling for simplistic analysis of "good guys versus bad guys", look for a political process to address the root causes fueling violence. Instead of hoping for a quick solution, look for long term sustainability. Instead of just pointing fingers at these regimes, look at how Western policies in these regions have too often perpetuated rather than lessened violence.'

Schirch is making a more detailed, grounded, informed version of the rant I gave in my earlier post, "Suits". If you'd like to see the world change, treating the symptoms -- individual wars, individual warlords -- will do little in the long run. We'll have to do the intricate, complex, strenuous work of addressing root causes of violence and exploitation (many of which originate in affluent countries where, for example, economic leverage such as demand for raw materials or cheap labor produces incentives for violence and exploitation elsewhere; whose money do you think makes this fighting worthwhile, and which countries build the guns they use?) To read her original article and follow through to the evidence by which she makes her arguments, see The Failed Fantasy of Firepower here.

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