by Camilla Schippa and Steve Killelea
In the time it takes to make a cup of tea, a nuclear missile can be launched from one country and detonated in another country. In the case of the U.S. President, he/she is given a 30-second briefing in the face of a possible nuclear escalation and maybe two minutes to make a decision to make the call. As for the decision-making processes in China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Israel or North Korea ― other states known or believed to have nuclear strike capabilities (as well as France and the U.K.) ― few know what the checks and balances are, if any.Mistakes have already been made and the world has, more than once, been a lucky call away from a disaster none of us has ever seen. Asia, the only region in the world to have experienced the full impact of a wartime nuclear attack has seen the horrendous results when the luck runs out. The current tension on the Korean Peninsula only underlines the dangers. There are some 23,000 known nuclear warheads in the world today. Many are pointed at, or are in, Asia. In fact, we don't even really know where they all are. These weapons are in the hands of those who don't protect their technology and stockpiles, and whose decision-making processes are on a hair-trigger of personal whim or emerge from corruption, maladministration and/or error.But, let's not forget that nukes are simply the pointy end of a massive ice-berg of human-made violence. Asians have suffered disproportionally the impacts of small munitions and cluster bombs, chemical weapons, tech-weapons and nano-weapons. The means of escalating violence between humans has never been more widespread or as easily accessible. Nuclear weapons, rather than acting as a kind of moral threshold halting further weapons advancement are in fact acting as an inspiration for some.The skewed logic of nuclear weapons proliferation was highlighted by U.S. General Omar Bradley in 1948, when he declared, ``We live in a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants, in a world that has achieved brilliance without wisdom and power without conscience." Bradley's stern words hone in not just on the spread of nuclear madness, but on the inability of the international community to find alternatives. The coda to this career soldier's assessment of international geopolitics is this: ``We know more about war than we know about peace." In this quote is the essence of our problem, as a species, in adhering to solutions sought through conflict, of which nuclear weaponry is just the biggest and deadliest. Yet, the study of peace is a much-maligned discipline in global affairs. Most multi-subject campuses include security or defense related studies, but few by comparison have peace units. Conflict drives much mainstream media output. Producers, editors and journalists seek out the most dramatic and visual stories, which invariably finds them hooking into war zones to file amid the rubble and heartbreak of another senseless war. As a result peace is little understood as a political, economic and social force. War and violence remain a standard response to breakdowns in relationships, between individuals and between states. Eventual peace is almost always the justification for such violent intrusions. Yet, such means ensure that the end, invariably, remains out of reach. Our research has identified the main drivers of peace and many touch upon the afore-mentioned areas. We have found that peaceful societies have well-functioning and uncorrupted governments, regional stability, high enrolment in primary education, freedom of the press and respect for human rights. These societies are largely non-parochial; encourage free speech and assembly and; seek to place functional limits on military action. To reach these conditions, six broad undertakings are required.One: Governments and NGOs must incorporate peace building in all assistance programs.Two: Governments, private investors and universities should increase funding for peace studies.Three: The multi-national private sector should develop better relationships with governments they are working with to improve peacefulness in key markets. Four: Governments must, at a minimum, meet the agreed levels of overseas development assistance, currently set at 0.75 percent of GDP.Five: Rich nations with agricultural subsidies should reduce or abolish them, to allow free and fair trade opportunities for the world's poorer economies. Six: Governments should improve their national accounting practices so they can quantify the effects and economic impacts of peace.As the massive costs, both monetary and otherwise, of nuclear weapons will be decreased with the demise of the nuclear stockpile, a parallel investment in peace also will return a substantial and quantifiable dividend. Our research suggests that the absence of peace costs our world around $7 trillion annually. Imagine what this money, combined with the trillions spent directly on nuclear weapons, could do. The good news is that imagination, this time, can lead to reality. Indeed, the possibilities of peace are everywhere. As many Asians, and others, look with alarm at stockpiles of the world's nuclear weapons, we need also develop a peace consciousness that defines a new era for humanity.
Steve Killelea is founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace which produces the Global Peace Index.
Camilla Schippa is Director of the Institute for Economics and Peace.