Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

PEACEKEEPING: IS THIS WHAT CANADA SHOULD BE DOING?

Posted by strattof on April 1, 2018

Many Canadians consider peacekeeping part of Canadian identity. This association of Canada with peacekeeping began in the 1950s when Lester B. Pearson, who later became Prime Minister, suggested to the UN that it establish a peacekeeping force. In 1957, Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for proposing the idea.

Over the next 40 years, Canada participated in more UN peace-keeping missions than any other country. In the early 2000s, however, Canada began to direct its participation to US- and NATO-led missions, as, for example, in Afghanistan and Libya.

Now, the Trudeau government wants to renew Canada’s commitment to peacekeeping.

  • Last week it announced that Canada will be sending troops and military helicopters to the West African country of Mali, to take part in the UN peacekeeping mission there.
  • The government also confirmed plans to send military transport aircraft to Entebbe, Uganda, to support UN operations in the region.

Given this reengagement with peacekeeping, now might be a good time to consider questions such as the following:

  • What exactly is “UN peacekeeping”?
  • How is it related to peacemaking?
  • What is its relationship to war-making?

PEACEKEEPING = WAR-MAKING

The concept of peacekeeping, even going back to the 1950s, when Lester Pearson first proposed the idea, has been problematic. It seems to be a clear instance of Orwellian doublethink: “War is peace.”

  • UN peacekeeping is carried out by military personnel—that is soldiers who have been trained to kill.
  • These soldiers have at their disposal all kinds of military hardware, including machine guns and armoured vehicles.
  • The UN peacekeeping principle of “Non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate” leaves plenty of room for the use of force.

In Orwell’s 1984, doublethink—the act of “holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them” as correct—is a tool used by the ruling elite to control the minds of citizens. Even though Oceania is endlessly at war, citizens believe their country is working for peace.

ENDLESS WAR

Canada has been endlessly at war since 2001: Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria. While the Trudeau government sounds less belligerent than its predecessor, it is, sadly, making as much, if not more war. For example:

  • The Trudeau government has twice extended Canada’s military mission in Iraq and Syria, most recently until March 31, 2019.
  • It has also sent troops to Latvia as part of a NATO force to deter “Russian aggression.”
  • It approved a $15 billion deal to sell combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
  • In 2017, it increased Canada’s military spending by 70% over the next decade.
  • It voted against a UN plan to ban nuclear weapons.

ENDLESS WAR: WHO BENEFITS?

  • War is big business. It is very profitable for Canadian arms manufacturers, making them between $2 and 3 billion a year in military exports.
  • Who loses? Ordinary citizens everywhere.

PEACEMAKING

Peacemaking means working to prevent or to stop war through non-violent means. It also means working to make war obsolete. It requires what the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace calls “a transformation of values…from violence and warfighting to nonviolence and peace.”

What would a peacemaking Canada look like? A peacemaking Canada would:

  • Make the diplomatic resolution of conflicts its top international priority—rather than rushing off to war under US- or NATO-led missions or in UN military interventions, otherwise known as “peacekeeping missions.”
  • Stop supporting the manufacture and export of weapons—such as the combat vehicles sold to Saudi Arabia.
  • Get out of NATO—a US-led, aggressive military alliance, that perpetuates violence across the globe.
  • Work for the elimination of nuclear weapons—weapons whose existence make nuclear war all too likely.
  • Replace the Ministry of Defence with a Ministry of Peace—a ministry that would specialize in preventative diplomacy, non-violent conflict resolution, and peace research.

TAKE ACTION FOR PEACE 

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