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    Why the nation-state cannot create a culture of peace


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    Why the nation-state cannot create a culture of peace

    Post  mudra on Fri Jul 25, 2014 4:26 pm

    Why the nation-state cannot create a culture of peace

    Traditionally, it has been thought that world peace could be achieved through the nation-states and their organization on a global basis through the United Nations, or, earlier, the League of Nations. And in fact, that was my assumption in 1992 when going to work at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

    However, as mentioned in the beginning of this book, I have come to a different conclusion on the basis of my experience in the United Nations system, as well as my studies of the history of the culture of war as detailed in Adams (2008).

    The problem of the state is of central importance for all who are working for world peace. Most peace initiatives are directed at changing the policies of the nation-states and the United Nations in the belief that this is the "fulcrum" or "lever" where it will be possible to make the historical transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace. However, if the nation-state, by its very nature, cannot make peace, then there needs to be a radical change in the strategy and tactics of all who are working for peace. Because the question is so important, we need to take the time here to explore it in some detail.

    The entire cultural evolution and history of the culture of war since the invention of the state, as described in Adams (2008), can be summarized as the state's progressive monopolization and refinement of the culture of war. The popular film genre, the American Western movie, can be seen as an allegory of the state's monopolization of killing. In a typical movie, there is killing or threats of killing in the beginning of the film by outlaws, American Indians, or so-called citizen posses that take the law into their own hands. Then the sheriff arrives from the East, representing the state, and he takes command of the situation by imposing "the law," which means that he, and only he, in the name of the state, can decide who can administer "justice," i.e. who has the right to kill or threaten to kill.

    In recent history, the state has succeeded to such an extent in its monopolization of killing and violence that we take it for granted. The very definition of the state for sociologists like Max Weber is based on warfare and the monopoly of force. His definition of the state is the organization that has a "monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory" (Weber 1921). The definition of the "failed state" similarly depends on the monopoly of force, in this case, a failed state is one that has lost the monopoly of force.

    At the United Nations in 1999, there was a remarkable moment when the draft culture of peace resolution that we had prepared at UNESCO was considered during informal sessions. The original draft had mentioned a "human right to peace" (Roche 2003). According to the notes taken by the UNESCO observer (See Adams 2003), "the U.S. delegate said that peace should not be elevated to the category of human right, otherwise it will be very difficult to start a war." The observer was so astonished that she asked the U.S. delegate to repeat his remark. "Yes," he said, "peace should not be elevated to the category of human right, otherwise it will be very difficult to start a war."

    The countries of the European Union were similarly opposed to the human right to peace, although not as bluntly clearly stated as by the Americans, in the debate on this matter in the Fifth Commission of the UNESCO General Conference.. No official notes were taken at that Commission, but I took notes personally for the Director-General which may be found on my Internet website (see UNESCO 1999).

    The human right to peace would deny the fundamental right of the state which has always been and continues to be the right to make war. This includes the right of the state to make war internally as well as externally. The message of the Europeans and Americans at the UN in 1999 was that the state is not going to give up this "right".

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