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Monday, March 01, 2004

Human Security Update

I'm about to go to a conference on Human Security in the New Millennium at the University of Missouri. Note: I've been working hard to finish my paper, which partially explains the light blogging over the past few days (plus it was a beautiful weekend and I rode my new bike a couple of times).

My paper focuses on the apparent US antipathy towards human security -- and the potential implications for the "western security community." Does it matter that long-time friends and allies disagree so fundamentally about threats and solutions to those threats? How does it affect the international normative structure?

Finding: Do a google search for "human security" on the White House webpage. I got ZERO hits. For "national security," I got more than 20,000! Canada, by contrast, has all kinds of human security material on their DFAIT webpage.

A major topic at the conference is likely to be the global movement against land mines. Canada and other states interested in human security point to the Mine Ban Treaty as one of their major successes. Ken Rutherford, a genuine expert on that topic, will be there talking about the movement to ban mines.

While researching for updates on the Mine Ban treaty, I found a recent Washington Post story on the latest Bush administration policy on mines. That link is gone, but the Boston Globe had the same story. The US has now moved ever further away from the world, in some ways, but is trying to frame its position consistent with their concerns:
The new policy, to be announced today, represents a departure from the previous US goal of banning all land mines designed to kill troops. That plan, established by President Bill Clinton, set a target of 2006 for giving up antipersonnel mines, depending on the success of Pentagon efforts to develop alternatives.

Bush, however, has decided to impose no limits on the use of "smart" land mines, which have timing devices to automatically defuse the explosives within hours or days, officials said.
The US plans to use dumb bombs only in South Korea and hasn't used any in war since the first Persian Gulf war in 1991.
A senior State Department official, who disclosed Bush's decision on condition he not be named, said the new policy aims at striking a balance between the Pentagon's desire to retain effective weapons and humanitarian concerns about civilian casualties caused by unexploded bombs, which can remain hidden long after combat ends and battlefields return to peaceful use.

The safety problem stems from dumb bombs, which kill as many as 10,000 civilians a year, the official said. Smart bombs, he added, "are not contributors to this humanitarian crisis."
NGOs, who are also hot on this idea, are not happy about the Bush move:
Bush's decision drew expressions of outrage and surprise from representatives of humanitarian organizations that have pressed for a more comprehensive US ban on land mines. They say the danger to civilians and allied soldiers during and after a war outweighs the benefits of such weapons. They also dispute the contention that unexploded smart mines are safe, saying there isn't enough evidence.

"We expected we wouldn't be pleased by the president's decision, but we hadn't expected a complete rejection of what has been US policy for the past 10 years," said Steve Goose, who heads the arms division of Human Rights Watch.

"It looks like a victory for those in the Pentagon who want to cling to outmoded weapons, and a failure of political leadership on the part of the White House. And it is stunningly at odds with what's happening in the rest of the world, where governments and armies are giving up these weapons."
The US funds more de-mining activing than any other state and the Bush budget calls for a 50% increase in support for it.

Bottom line: the US explicitly rejects the international normative standard (the Mine Ban Treaty), arguing that it needs mines to protect South Korea. But, it embraces the humanitarian claim and funds lots of de-mining.

There are similar human security-related disputes over the ICC, the CTBT, even Kyoto. That's what I'm exploring in my paper.

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