Notes/Weekly Review Essays:
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Pragmatic Peace: Redefining Peace within the United Nations
Pragmatic Application of Utopianism to International Relations
Utopian writings are different ways of organizing social reality – they combine political elements we recognize in our world with alternative details of a non-existent society. They are a decisive way in which the analysis of the current human condition can ensue. After the constant stream of science fiction utopian books read throughout the semester, there appears to be a consistent international relations theme. This arises through the detailed descriptive utopia highlighted in a particular book and a traveler who comes from a different world that instigates some sort of conflict. Similarly, conflict within the current international system persists when the interaction of clashing cultures and practices occur. Utopianism is a method by which we can create solutions on a more creative level that can open the floor to potential ground breaking pragmatic solutions to international relations issues. The future “is not determined separate from us, but intricately connected with us” (McKenna 83)—meaning we have direct influence over our future. Therefore, we must create the “instrumentalities” to our future’s reality since it is directly our actions that can lead to either the preservation or destruction of our future international home (Dewey 48). Strategically choosing our actions/solutions is aided by the fact that utopian readings allow the reader to become more aware “of [their] mental and ideological imprisonment” within current society (Fitting 127). This awareness leads to more informed, pragmatic, and creative solutions to our current historical situations.
Utopia and peace are synonymous terms – the study of one creates a better understanding of the other. A positive utopia or eutopia is usually intended for a contemporaneous reader to view said world as a considerably better place than the society that the reader lives currently (Fitting 126). In order to achieve a “better” society, some sort of peace must exist. Yet, this idea of creating a peaceful and better society is acknowledged by many as idealistic and part of the realm of theories. However, “pragmatism can keep utopia alive…utopia can become an ongoing task rather than resting in place” (McKenna 3). By adhering to the process model of utopia, we can better critically examine our aims because we understand that what we choose now will affect what we will be able to do with our prospects. McKenna even states on page four that “a utopian vision informed by pragmatism, results in a process model of utopia.” Since we previously stated that peace and utopia are synonymous, we can now easily apply the same concepts from the process model of utopia to create a process model of peace.
The Missing Link between War and Peace
In simplest terms, peace is the absence of war. However it can also be defined as pacifism and achieved through peace movements. War and conflict must be defined separately as they function quite differently. Conflict is a social condition that arises when two or more actors pursue mutually exclusive or incompatible goals. It is part of human nature and is needed for the mixing of cultures, languages, and traditions to occur that can lead to a stronger and improved world. War is traditionally defined as an armed direct conflict between two nations. However, in this modern age, with the increase of innovation and technology this simple definition should be broadened to include less obvious “warlike” conditions that occur on a daily basis around the world. War can have a softer less noticeable side from which men, women, and children are dying of everyday. War is not just territorial. War is struggle for cultural diversity/freedom. War is the struggle of a more transcendental freedom—one from which international citizens are discriminated and battle for an equal say is constant. We must be willing to acknowledge the terms of war beyond an exchange of weapons, but terms that directly stunt the growth of human progress and development.
After applying the principles of utopia to international relations and then applying the process model of utopia to peace, it is obvious that peace is a continuous process that cannot be seen as an end. Therefore, the concept of war as a means for an end of peace is inherently flawed. Rather than pragmatically seeking an end to conflict through war, our pragmatism must be dedicated to the process of peace and finding other ways to ease the merge of conflicting ideas and traditions. Within The Task of Utopia, Mckenna describes the process model of utopia as not something that seeks perfection but something that can help create and sustain people “willing to take on responsibility and participate in directing their present toward a better, more desirable future” (Mckenna 3). In a similar sense, the process model of peace must be able to sustain people who are willing to fight and create pragmatic participatory steps to a desired future. Although, current global entities such as the UN try to create such sustained interest –they will not succeed until we change the way we look at peace to something that accepts war as a potential means to an end. This means that conflict may be a tool in the process of peace but in no way is its intentional instigation through war directly contribute to long-term peace. Therefore, the United Nations would function differently if peace was as intensely studied as the art of war; this means that to get from a war based society to a peace based society, a total reconstruction of the UN must occur that focuses on pragmatic peace.
So many resources, strategies, and research are invested into the analysis of war and each country worldwide dedicates a portion of its GDP on military antics. The games of war are taken seriously as well as imaginatively –seen as pragmatic by the international community. The greater society has authorized military—a sub-category of war— to function as the lethal force against any enemy of the state. Moreover, it has historically been utilized to further political agendas and changes the economic landscape of countries. Wars are extremely calculated and strategized. For example, the Israeli has one of the biggest armies worldwide and possess unlimited access to the world’s advanced technological weaponry.
There are innumerous writings dedicated to the in-depth technique, history, and inter-connectedness of war that writings on peace lack. Chronologically, The general conversation on civil-military relations originates with Carl Von Clausewitz’s On War and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War arguments that military organizations were first servants of the state. Clausewitz’s book, On War, tries to define the essence of war by dualities then moves forward to describing the essence of war. He then highlights the essence of war in politics, violence, and describes war as an art. The incredible amount of pragmatic analysis and time dedicated to the study of security studies and war interactions has led to continuous technological and structural advancements in the world that are not beneficial for a positive future.
Yet, peace is seen as an idealistic concept that exists within the realm of theories and historical analysis. Peace is not nearly approached with the same calculation and precision as wars have historically. To many, it is obvious that concepts of pragmatism and idealism are the opposite. However, the world of utopia has helped prove that they can work in unison since “ both pragmatists and feminist theory reject the notion of theory and practice as separate. They understand that theory as arising out of and guided by practice and practice as arising and guided by theory” (Mckenna 4).
In our current international arena, our time, effort, and intelligence are invested into the tactics of war. Our task should be to apply the intelligence used into the tactics of war into the tactics of peace and apply the process model of utopia through the implementation of “critical intelligence and imagination to our present situation and the possible the actual” (Mckenna 84). If world leaders approached the process of peace with the same realism, creativity, and seriousness in which they approach the preparation of war and viewed peace as the achievement of “political, social, environmental, and cultural factors that lead to stability, organic growth, and conflict resolution within a system of laws” rather than the secession of hostilities, we can completely redefine the possibility of peace (PeaceGame). If the process model of peace can be applied on a global scale and taken seriously within the realm of realpolitik, peace can be pragmatic. For example, a renewed focus on peace is currently starting to come out the shadows as the Russian foreign minister proposed to get rid Syria’s chemical weapons which can start the process of negotiated settlement as a priority on the agenda[i]. Also, it has been proven by scholars that peace can be functional through nonviolent movements –which are twice as likely to succeed as violent ones because non-violent movements “have proved more effective at undermining the pillars of strength on which oppressive regimes depend.”[ii] By utilizing a peaceful approach, we can increase success rates because it is less costly – not just monetarily but also on the human psychology that decreases efficiency in proper communication.
Re-Strategizing United Nations Peace Goals
To encourage world leaders to pragmatically approach peace rather than cease conflict, there needs to be an established international system placed that promotes these positive achievements. The United Nations is just the place to enact this process model of peace. However, its current format is not appropriate for effectively resolving conflicts. Just as the United States Constitution is amended constantly to meet the changing times and service the needs of the people, foreign policies must also be revisited and updated as the faces of the nations and their governments evolve in a more modern atmosphere. Moreover, many continue to argue that the UN is an idealist organization that has no place in the realities of international affairs. This is why the UN needs an increasingly pragmatic approach to peace that can make up for the lack of tactical analysis on peace.
The current state of international affairs is a web woven between the majority –if not all of the nations occupying space on the map. Just as individuals seek social interactions with one another, the nations they inhabit and shape carry on their affairs in a socially grouped manner. Alliances, trade partnerships, and cultural affiliations have been the ties that brought one country into the conflict of another’s throughout the course of history. It is imperative that those tackling hot-button foreign affairs understand the sensitive balance that must be maintained between many nations and their people and serve the interests of all involved in order to effectively resolve a conflict. The 2011 World Bank report on conflict, security, and economic development even stated, “Wars can wipe out an entire generation of economic progress”[iii]. The UN must be able to establish conflict resolution that does not simply set rules for ending disagreements but rather set standards of ways to enhance our future societies through advocating of peace research and rallying of non-violent resistance movements on an international scale.
The UN charter was initially created as a three-legged balance between the major powers. While the United States advocated for the idea of culture and ideological community, the Soviets had the idea of security above all else, and the British desired the idea for a deal of both military and economic stability for the postwar order.[iv] As history has evolved and the international arena has seen drastic changes in its layout, this balance has been difficult to preserve. The visible failures and successes that can be easily analyzed are of the second two parts because of its more imminent nature. The idea of a culture and ideological community has been pushed to the background to make way for more short-term analysis—it cannot and should not be pushed to the background any longer.
Examples of this obsessive focus on war rather than peace within academic writings even extend to analysis of the UN. In The Parliament of Man, author Paul Kennedy constructs a pedestal on which he places the United Nations at the center to historically highlight its structure and explain the functionality of its parts objectively, while subjectively inserting commentary on its productivity. In order to aid the readers in understanding the intricacy of the United Nations, he uses exaggerated hyperbole to get a point across—is the United Nations a potential threat as a world power or can it adhere to the role of peacemaker and advancer of progressive goals. Kennedy takes on a great feat of producing a factual account of the UN while implementing ideas of potential reforms. Yet, it seems that he struggles to find a fresh, conclusive answer to the current corruption and ineptitude the United Nations faces. Rather than a broad focus, Kennedy’s agenda for reform is strongest on improving the Security Council and peacekeeping operations. There is a conflict between the soft and hard faces of the UN system. There needs to be a shift towards improving the less warlike parts of the United Nations—the parts that really make the United Nations shine as a promoter of pragmatic peace through the recognition of political, economic, social, environmental, and cultural factors that directly lead to stability, organic growth, and conflict resolution (PeaceGame). Then, there will be less of a need for the “hard” face of the UN because rather than ceasing conflicts, the world is promoting a model of process peace.
The United Nations has a job of promoting social progress and bettering the standards of life in larger freedom[v]. Kennedy would agree that “in no way are those matters of secondary import to the future of humankind”[vi] and that the instability and aggressions are affected by “massive cultural, religious, and ethnic prejudices”. He rightfully recognizes that the effectiveness of the softer face—comprised of the UNs social, environmental, and cultural policies— is deterred by a long list of entities that distracts from looking at the phenomenon as a whole as well was wasteful overlaps between the smaller organizations[vii]. However, the softer side of the UN needs to be recognized as dealing with issues that are proportionately as urgent and crucial as those that the Security Council deals with. The micro scale, which is handled by the softer face of the UN, is conceivably less understood and implements “backstage” aid. The issue is no one has the patience to see the change through until the end. Part of being “committed to ways of solving problems through peaceful means and thus avoiding recourse of war” is by having the patience to accept long-term change rather than act feverishly and noting short-term achievements and failures[viii].
Yet, the social progress side of the UN cannot continue to progress with its current tactics. In this new world order, technology has moved us forward, yet the UN hasn’t made use of this technology shift that is changing the world dynamic around it. The physical means and modes of communications within the UN need to be updated which could more easily aid the growing number of organizations that are branching off of the UN.
What Kennedy fails to mention is a more integrated UN. Rather he offers solutions that separate the branches—this is perhaps a premature solution as it is obvious that the division and innumerable branches that exist aren’t working well together. Rather, what needs to occur is unification between similar branches and increasingly substantial ways of delivering information between groups. Although Kennedy does mention unifying the Security Council and General Assembly –in order to not exclude the GA from matters in which many member states, “take the deepest interest[ix]—he would implement it through more working groups which logically would create increasing hierarchy that is certainly not needed at the UN. Kennedy also does not mention the corruption, self-interest, and hypocrisy of some diplomats/officials within the organization. Although, this corruption plays a significant role on how the UN is respected, and how efficiently it can realistically run. Although the corruption is mentioned on a broader scale among the P5, it is less highlighted in the softer face of the UN. These long-term goals cannot successfully be seen through if those involved in aiding see themselves as an elite. Their needs to be a mentality change among officials who take expense trips to countries and analyze a countries situation from the comfort of luxury hotel rooms. NGOs can’t simply do the “dirty work” for the UN. Someone needs to step up to the plate. No fancy speeches. No more talking. Action must be taken. Let’s be proactive rather than reactive as global citizens.
Kennedy gracefully states, “it is difficult to imagine how much more riven and ruinous our world of six billion people would be if there had been no UN social, environmental, and cultural agendas–and no institutions to attempt to put them into practice on the ground.”[x] Although the UN is an outdated international system that requires refocused attention towards a new perspective on peace, its existence is the first step to solving grander rooted ideological and cultural issues that disrupt the creation of a harmonious international system. On their own IGOs and NGOs aren’t effective because they are limited by sovereignty, outdated design, and shortage of resources. However, when they all come together under the UN umbrella they have the potential to be a powerhouse of peace, positivity, and pragmatism for the international community.
In order for the UN to re-introduce peace as more than simply an idea –but a pragmatic strategy there needs to be an international educational outreach strategy. In order for the UN to approach this first step successfully, it must centralize its resources and have a more coherent database of information and its branches. Once centralized, it can then use its millions of affiliated IGOs and NGOS to educate populations on a very localized level through an reporting system. Once the populations are re-educated on this modern and more dedicated approach to the process model of peace, the next level of awareness is to promote non-violent resistance on an international level. Non-violent resistance is about the personal/individual level participation that creates opportunity for engagement and creates a place where every person can participate. In return, this allows for joint efforts between different social, economic, and cultural backgrounds that can deter conflict and increase mutual understanding. On the international scale, this can create support groups that expand beyond individual communities and state boundaries-- the UN should make use of these support groups as the basis of their process model for peace. These interpersonal connections will create a positive international community that decreases the value and legitimacy of the power struggle and breaks down the defensive mechanisms of war driven states. Moreover, non-violent resistance is a people movement rather than state action which leads to a focus on more community issues that otherwise would have been left out the picture.
Just as a house cannot stand when its foundation is ripped away, history stands to prove that nations and the cultures of the people residing within them cannot be completely wiped away. The unique identities of these nations must be taken into account and nurtured in the development of mutual understanding. The success of this blueprint can stand as a testament of positive change to the entire global population. The United Nations must continue to nurture this concept and remember to keep a delicate balance that doesn’t simply try to eradicate conflict—but rather promote a pragmatic peace agenda that is if not more comprehensive than analyses of war have been.
"The Alternative to War." Foreign Policy The Alternative to War Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.
Fitting, Peter. A Short History of Utopian Studies. 1st ed. Vol. 36. N.p.: SF-TH, n.d. N. pag. 121-131 Print.
Kennedy, Paul M. The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations. New York: Random House, 2006. Print.
McKenna, Erin. The Task of Utopia: A Pragmatist and Feminist Perspective. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001. Print.
"Peace Game 2014." PeaceGame 2014. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.
[iv] Kennedy, Paul M. The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations. New York: Random House, 2006. 32. Print.
[v] Ibd. 113
[vi] Ibd. 143
[viii] Ibd. 9
[ix] Ibd 265
[x] Ibd 176