Monday, March 06, 2006

The New World Disorder: What Kills You Is Peace

In the dying light of a cool afternoon, at a shallow bend of the broad and sweeping Amur River, in the Russian Far East, a man pulled at the oars of a fishing boat and hauled up at a sandy beach just below Sikachi Alyan, an old village of the Nanai tribe. On this day, 53-year-old Misha came back empty-handed. But when he was a boy, the 4,400-kilometre Amur was teeming with fish. There were giant taimen and kaluga sturgeon – the largest freshwater fish in the world. There were salmon and skygazers, pikes and grass carps, river-horses, ciscos, and catfish.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia was plundered. Salmon bound for Russia’s Pacific rivers were scooped up by Japanese and Korean fishing boats. Poaching became a multi-million-dollar criminal business. By the late 1990s, almost half of Russia’s economy was controlled by gangsters. Life expectancy among Russian males fell by seven years, to 57, roughly the same as Sudan. The Amur was looted of its fish.

It was anarchy, and it was how Misha found his life entwined with two billion other people around the world – the third of humanity now living in the new world disorder that the Washington, D.C.-based Fund For Peace describes in its “Failed State Index.”

At the dawn of the 21st century, by conventional measurements, peace was breaking out all over. Iraq and Afghanistan are anomalies. Since the end of the Cold War, wars have declined by 40 per cent. They have become far fewer in number, and less deadly. War isn’t the problem. It’s the peace that will kill you: nine out of ten armed conflicts underway around the world are not between nation states. They are battles within states over food, water, arable land, and mineral wealth, especially oil.

By the fall of 2005, the Institute for Environment and Human Security reckoned that there were already 20 million “environmental refugees” in the world – far more than war refugees or people fleeing state repression. Today’s refugees are fleeing ecological collapse, desertification, deforestation, drought, and crop failure. They’re running from lawlessness, warlordism, and organized crime. Within five years, the Institute predicts, there will be 50 million such refugees.

The above is from an essay of mine that appears in the March/April issue of Adbusters
, now on the shelves. The essay sets out just some of the reasons why I believe much of the contemporary “anti-war” movement is fighting yesterday’s battles.

Countries like Canada – we’re the ninth largest economy in the world – have a duty to intervene on behalf of civilians in failed states. We’re going to have to learn a lot, very soon, about how to do that sort of thing effectively. And more importantly, we should be doing all we can to ensure that nation states don’t collapse in the first place.

To the “anti-state” left, this is apostasy.

Oh well.

The Fund for Peace is
here. The Institute for Environment and Human Security findings are here.

UPDATE: The Adbusters essay is online now, here. My mugshot there is scary. I look positively scrofulous.


Blogger Annamarie said...

Admittedly, this is something I did not really think about. Terry, you've given me much food for thought. (Am I an anachronism, advocating for peace and against war? Am I like Don Quixote waving my sword at windmills?)

And yes, "we should be doing all we can to ensure that nation states don’t collapse in the first place." Only, can we do this peaceably? Is there really no viable, possible way to help nation states without resorting to sending in the heavy artillery?

10:12 PM  
Blogger Lept said...

As in regime change?
A minor problem is who defines 'failed'.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Annamarie said...

Terry, when you have time, please go to this site and read: "Humanitarian Intervention: Evolution of a Dangerous Doctrine"

12:40 PM  
Blogger Annamarie said...

It is not up to us to change another nation's regime. That is up to the inhabitants of that nation. Period. Regime change actually means replacing 'failed state' leaders with puppets. I find this unjustifiable and objectionable. If a nation is in gross violation of human rights, there are numerous bona fide human rights agencies (Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Red Cross, et al) who keep watch and their reports are credible, wheras those of the proposed intervening nations are not - they are motivated by greed, geopolitical strategic jockeying. Intervention (as in troops, bombs) is totally unnecessary, and creates far greater problems than those caused by the 'violators'.

And yes, indeed who 'defines failed'? The U.S.? That is a joke.

1:15 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

Dear Annamarie:

Please think carefully about what you're saying. Re-read what you wrote - carefully - and as you do, utter this name to yourself: Rwanda.

I'm afraid you're fatally wrong if you really believe that having Human Rights Watch and the Red Cross tell the world embarassing stories about genocidaires will somehow suffice.

I have read Bello's piece before. It is pathetic.

Who decides? The United Nations, thanks in no small part to Canada's recent contributions, is developing the capacity to decide when and where intervention is necessary and possible through what is known as the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine.

I am certainly not an "expert" in these things. I don't pretend that these matters are ever straightforward, perhaps especially when the Americans are involved. But I would also ask you not to pretend that there is anything progressive, humanitarian, or even vaguely civilized about watching civilians get slaughtered, but doing nothing about it, merely because we might find the act of making common cause with the Yanks to be "objectionable."

One of the most sensible journalists writing about these kinds of things from a "left" perspective is David Aaronovitch, a Brit, who I greatly admire. I will leave him with the last word on the subject. He was addressing the question of whether to unseat the blood-drenched regime of Saddam Hussein:

“In 1972, a neo-genocide by Pakistan in what is now Bangladesh was stopped by the unilateral intervention of India. Pol Pot was ousted by the Vietnamese in 1979, though the UN continued to recognise the Khmer Rouge leadership. Idi Amin's rule in Uganda was brought to an end by Tanzanian intervention. None of these appalling situations was resolved by the UN or the international legal system. . . The Iraqi people, however, can't shift their tyrant on their own. Again, it would be preferable if an invasion could be undertaken, not by the Americans, but by, say, the Nelson Mandela International Peace Force, spearheaded by the Rowan Williams British Brigade. That's not on offer. It has to be the Yanks.”

7:49 PM  
Blogger Lept said...

OKAY, so I vaguely understand what the "ANTI-STATE LEFT" is - a few aging ideologues of the left kind - who've forgotten all the passion and respond only with over-used synaptic pathways...

so okay, put aside the snidely condescending crap and lets look at what's being touted here (in defence of the British participation of Irag if nothinbg else):
the idea is that through grouping the 'nice guys' together at the UN we can reach a 'nice' consensus and decide who needs to be blasted into the middle ages to show them that we care.
What happens when the nice Americans join with the nice 'Islamicists', the nice Italians and the nice vatican (or whatever weird coalition could emerge)to decide that the bad abortionist, adulterous sodomists need to be defined as a 'not nice'state?
And, yes, the Rwanda thing is potent and complex and as Dallaire showed: the UN can work but with all the wonderful intentions of the few, it is impossible to overcome the economic self interest (etc.) of the many (and that is a particularly weighty etc.)

6:29 PM  
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3:19 PM  

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