|ISSUE 52 Autumn 2006
|from the duel to the fluid
armaments, disarmament and international security
THERE are a number of reasons to turn to the SIPRI Yearbooks on armaments. One is to confirm the impression that not much is going on in the disarmament field. I always have a suspicion that there might be secret disarmament treaties arrived at secretly. But the Wilsonian hope of open diplomacy openly arrived at has taken hold. There was a ‘New Yorker’ drawing that showed a man and a woman reading newspapers and the woman is saying ‘There is always something going on in Geneva, but I can never figure out what it is.’
Although Geneva is still the home of the UN Conference on Disarmament and part of the UN Disarmament secretariat, there has been no visible action. The days of the Soviet-American SALT negotiations in Geneva are now memories. As an NGO representative to the UN, I used to be invited to briefings at the Soviet and US missions to hear their position on nuclear weapons. I would go thinking that I would deserve glasses of good wine in exchange, but, alas, the best wines must have been kept for the negotiators.
Another reason for close reading of the Yearbook is to see that the ‘usual suspects’ are still selling the great bulk of arms: USA, Russia, France, Germany and the Netherlands in that order. The only thing that I did not know, pointed out in the chapter ‘International Arms Transfers’ is that some Israeli arms as components are sold through West European countries since ‘Made in Israel’ may not be what Islamic armies want to be seen on the arms they buy. Not surprising, but worth knowing as the ‘merchants of death’ often have more ingenuous techniques than peace groups.
This year, the SIPRI Director Alyson J.K. Bailes, a former UK diplomat, looking back to 1969 when the first SIPRI Yearbook was published offers a useful overview of trends since the 1990 end of the Cold War. In the same spirit Stanley Hoffmann, that civilized voice in which scepticism and hope are admirably balanced, wrote of his fellow international relations scholars for whom the Cold War was the focus of analysis for two generations ‘We have concentrated for fifty years on one particular kind of nightmare, the nightmare of a bipolar nuclear conflict between two superpowers – the traditional duel of Athens and Sparta – and it concentrated the mind because the risks were so obvious. I fear that the mind is much more difficult to concentrate on the kind of chaos we face now.’
During the Cold War, the superpowers, driven by fear of nuclear war, devised by trial and error, a network of rules and restraints aimed at avoiding direct military collision. The United States and the Soviet Union set out ‘rules of the game’ through negotiations between themselves. These ‘rules of the game’ were a combination of international treaties which could gain wide consensus among other states and a balance of power with mutual respect for spheres of local preponderance.’
Hoffmann in his book ‘World Disorders: Troubled Peace in the Post- Cold War Era’ stresses that today ‘We are dealing with an extraordinary complex system in which we still find all the traditional goals that states used to pursue: prestige, influence, might; even territory is still often important insofar as it is (for instance, in the Arab-Israeli conflict) a component of national identity. And yet next to traditional goals we also have new ones, particularly in the world economy, where one of the main stakes is really control of market shares. Finally, we confront the problem of the failed state, formidable both because of its human consequences – chaos, civil wars, refugees – and because of the risk of external meddling.’
In the chapter ‘Major armed conflict’ Caroline Holmqvist contrasts the dual aspect of the Cold War – the potential shootout at O.K. Corral –with the ‘fluidity’ or ‘liquidity’ of the present situation. In some ways this fluidity is to be expected, but in ‘Peace Matters’ trends are not usually analysed in terms of astrological-historical cycles. Yet the former President and long-time member of the Peace Pledge Union, Sir Michael Tippett, entitled his 1974 collection of essays ‘Moving into Aquarius’. For those who have not read the difficult but key book of Carl Gustav Jung ‘Aion’, Aquarius refers to the sign of the period into which we are moving. Humanity is at the transition of a 2000-year cycle, leaving the Piscean period which is marked by the birth of Jesus and is symbolized by the two fishes of early Christian symbolism – the Piscean Period. We have moved in the year 2000 into the Aquarian Age symbolized by the fluid pouring of water .
The last 25 years of a cycle is the foundation for the cycle to come. Thus in 1975, the Helsinki accords created what is now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Although at the time the accords seemed as a Piscean event – the signature of a status quo agreement between the two duelists – the OSCE , in fact, is the foundation of the Aquarian fluidity which marks the end of the Cold War, the break up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and the passing of much African leadership which had come to power in 1960.
The passage to the Age of Aquarius is conditioned by the way in which the previous cycle – the Piscean Period – is released: whether gently or violently, with compassion or animosity, with courage or fear. As Sri Aurobindo has said ‘The end of a stage of evolution is usually marked by a powerful recrudescence of all that has to go out of evolution.’
Geographically, the Piscean heartland, again marked by the birth of Jesus and the early Christian period, is the area of Iran (from which came the three Magi) through Israel-Palestine, Lebanon-Syria, Egypt and northern Sudan which was part of the Egyptian Empire 2000 years ago. The summer of 2006 with the conflicts in Israel-Palestine, and Lebanon, the tensions over Iran, the growing violence in Iraq, and the continuing conflict in Darfur, Sudan are there as a key example of the narrowness and hates which have ‘to go out of evolution’. The conflicts of the Piscean heartland need to be resolved before we can move smoothly into Aquarius. The mindsets of the area – religious, sectarian, tribal, gendered, nationalistic – are the mindsets and values which had usefulness in the Piscean Period but which are now dated and hindering advance into the New Age.
The transition of astrological-historical ages gives us the framework in which we need to work. For those who do not believe in such cycles, the conflicts highlighted this summer in the Middle East may be reason enough for a focus on the area and enhanced conflict resolution efforts. The SIPRI Yearbook gives us some of the information we need for informed action.