Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Military Matters

When President Roosevelt looked back at the League of Nations’ failure to stop WWII, he was determined to create a new international organization that had the military power to prevent future world wars. He got his wish. The basic design of the Security Council was the first formulated part of what became the United Nations. For the past sixty years, the Security Council has played a significant role in mitigating conflicts and operating peacekeeping missions in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. More recently, the Peacebuilding Commission 1  has moved the UN more assertively into post-conflict reconstruction. But the pruning hooks have not yet been made from the weapons of war. 2  

This section of the Readers' Guide summarizes both the official and de facto peace and security institutions now in place. It then identifies the changes that GRI proposes that would introduce multi-stakeholder structures and voluntary commitments into the peace and security arena. It also identifies some of the military and peace issues which GRI chose to avoid.   

The current official system for controlling military and armed conflicts can be said to have six components:

  1. An intergovernmental body with the authority to approve the use of military force in the interest of  peace and stability and to sanction aggressive States, organizations and related individuals (i.e. the Security Council);
  2. Various regional intergovernmental bodies which assert they can approve the use and exercise of military force within their self-defined regions (e.g. NATO, African Union, Organization of American States);
  3. A de facto alliance between nuclear states (such as US, Russia, UK, Israel, Pakistan, India);
  4. Bilateral and regional treaties controlling the use of force, the circumstances which force can used, or the types of forces that are acceptable (such as nuclear arms treaties, Geneva Conventions, chemical biological warfare treaties, land mines treaty);
  5. Practices used by the UN Secretary-General to intervene in difficult areas (e.g. Special Representatives); and
  6. Bilateral agreements establishing mutual defense arrangements between the member countries.

In addition, the supplementary non-official system for controlling or influencing armed conflicts consists of:

  1. Overlapping commercial markets for weapons of war (such as small arms exporters, military transport equipment suppliers, naval vessels, combat airplanes);
  2. Private security firms  3  and firms providing military services to governments (such as AEGIS 4  and Blackwater Worldwide);
  3. Manufacturing, mining, and oil extraction firms which maintain local privately funded armies to ‘protect their assets’, particularly in developing countries;
  4. A network of private military related think tanks whose clients are both nation-states and multinational corporations (e.g Rand Corporation, Center for Security Policy).

There are crucial civil society institutions involved in global, regional, and local threat mitigation. These groups include:

  1. International coalitions for peace and for the limitation of specific forms of war (such as the land mines campaign, anti-nuclear groups);
  2. A collection of peace oriented, often university-based think tanks that have evolved alternatives to armed conflicts and peace and confidence building methodologies (e.g. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Chatham House);
  3. A growing number of unofficial peace ambassadors and institutes (e.g. former President Jimmy Carter, former Prime Minister Tony Benn, development organizations working in conflict zones). 


This section continues with Options for the Future.

Related Ideas: Dual-oversight agency; Nuclear terrorism; R2P; Plurilateral; Nuclear fuel

The Readers' Guide welcomes commentary – critical or otherwise – of the categorization and descriptions above as well as the identification of related issues, resources, and case studies.


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