Tag: <span>Contras</span>

Gaza Conflict Appeals

Preventing the Expansion of the Gaza Conflict: Are Peace…

Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, has been again in the Middle East working to prevent the violence of the Gaza Strip of spreading to much of the area.  The Gaza Strip conflict has already spread to the West Bank with increased violence between Jewish settlers and Palestinian inhabitants.  There is increased violence along the frontier of Lebanon with the activities of the armed faction Hezbollah and the displacement of Israeli villages.  Negotiations in good faith seem far off, and political speeches grow more conflictual.  Could there be a role for unarmed, non-governmental peace brigades to monitor frontiers and lessen tensions?

    One possibility, inspired by the efforts of Shanti Sena (Peace Army) developed by followers of Mahatma Gandhi in India to deal with Hindu-Muslim violence is to place some nongovernmental teams on the frontier between antagonists in order to provide an opportunity for all parties to “cool off” and negotiate.

Antony J. Blinken, 71st U.S. Secretary of State. By U.S. Department of State, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

    Friends of Humanity.

One such effort in which I was directly involved was an effort to place a peace team on the Nicaraguan-Honduras frontier in 1981. At the time, it was thought that the 400 strong U.S. troops stationed in Honduras might cross the frontier to attack the Saddinista-leftest government in Nicaragua or to help actively the anti-Sandinista “Contras” to do so.  A group of persons associated with the Santa Cruz Resouce Center for Nonviolence in California and affiliated to the organization Peace Brigades International were able to put a team together and move to the Nicaragua-Honduras frontier on short notice.  The group called itself “The Jalapa Brigade” after the small Nicaraguan city near the Honduran frontier where it was posted.

    When the Jalapa Brigade was being put into place, the Ambassador of Nicaragua to the United Nations in Geneva was a former student of mine, and his brother, also a former student of mine, was the legal advisor to the President of Nicaragua.  In fact, when the team arrived, Daniel Ortega, the President, introduced the team as “Friends of Humanity.”

The Gulf Peace Team.

    Through the Ambassador, I was able to inform all the Central American Missions to the U.N. as to the aims and role of the Peace Brigade.  In the end, the U.S. military did not cross the frontier.  Perhaps it never intended to do so. It may also have been that the interposition of U.S. citizens with good organizational contacts helped to weigh in the U.S. military decision-making process.  When the team left, the leader of the Protestant “Evangelical Committee for Development Aid” said:

“The proof of your triumph lies in the fact that no attacks were made while you were in the Jalapa area.”

    There have been other such interposition efforts.  One was the Gulf Peace Team created at the time of the 1990 Iraqi annexation of Kuwait.  The aim of the 73-member Peace Team was to be an “international multicultural team working for peace and opposing any form of armed aggression by setting up one or more international peace camps between the opposing armed forces.  Our object will be to withstand nonviolently any armed aggression by any party to the present Gulf dispute.”  However, on 27 January 1991, the peace camp was closed by Iraq because the authorities had:

“decided that the continued presence of the camp was a security risk.”

Peace Team a Possibility?.   

Likewise a January 2022 proposal of the Association of World CitizensUkraine-Donbas-Russian Frontier: Is a Nongovernmental Interposition Peace Team a Possibility?” was followed three weeks later by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    Thus the creation of interposition peace teams in the Israel-Palestine conflict would not be easy to create for political and logistic reasons.  There are economic and logistic resources required and, more importantly, there is the need to raise enough volunteers who are mature, culturally sensitive, and analystically-minded to achieve a critical mass that would make a difference in the decision-making of the conflicting parties.  There is also the need to keep the unity of purpose within the teams if they have not worked together before.

However, the current situation is very dangerous.  The dangers are widely recognized.  Therefore all forms of conflict reduction need to be explored.

Image: The famous Independence Square in Kiev on a sunny day. Photo by Euan Cameron on Unsplash.

Ukraine-Donbas-Russia: Can the Normandy Format Be Reactivated? 

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Book Reviews

That Cooler Heads May Prevail.

Photo by Devanath in Pixabay 

Vijay Mehta.

When the drums of war start beating;  can cooler heads prevail and negotiations in good faith start?.  Vijay Mehta has written a useful overview of efforts to create a Department of Peace;  within governments so that there would be an institutionalized official voice proposing other avenues than war. (1)

Alexander Wiley

Alexander Wiley: US Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Such proposals are not new. In 1943;  Alexander Wiley;  a liberal Republican senator had proposed to President Franklin Roosevelt that he establish a cabinet-level post of Secretary of Peace as there was already a Secretary of War. The Secretary of War has now been renamed Secretary of Defense;  but the function has not radically changed.

Franklin_D._Roosevelt

President Franklin Roosevelt: Vincenzo Laviosa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Second World War.

A Secretary of Peace in Wiley’s vision would be charged with preempting conflicts;  before they exploded into violence and proposing peaceful resolutions. In the U.S.A. after the end of the Second World War;  in a“never again” atmosphere;  other members of Congress suggested the creation of such a Department of Peace. However;  such a vision was never transformed into a reality.

The Cold War.

As the Cold War took up ever more energy and funds;  a compromise was reached in 1984 at the time that Ronald Reagan was President. The U.S. Institute of Peace was created and has produced some useful publications and does some conflict resolution training for diplomats and mediators. However;  the leadership of the Institute of Peace has not played a visible role in foreign policy formation. One must look elsewhere for cooler voices to cover the beat of the war drums.

Cards Are On The Table.

There is currently a test in real time as the situation in Venezuela grows more complex. There are real possibilities of armed violence;  ranging from armed violence within the country to the creation of armed militias operating from Colombia and Brazil as the Contras had in the Nicaragua case;  to an old-fashioned intervention by U.S. troops. All these “cards are on the table”. There is no Secretary of Peace officially in the U.S. government (nor in that Venezuela either). The influence of national security advisors to the U.S. President has grown;  and they have the advantage of frequent personal contact.

Zone Of Influence.

Latin America has often been considered as a U.S. “zone of influence”. Unlike current situations in the Middle East;  which are of direct concern to European States, Latin America has never been a priority of European countries with the exception of Soviet-Cuban relations. Spain has a cultural and economic interest in Latin America;  but does not try to influence U.S. policy toward individual States. The current U.S. administration seems largely indifferent to the views of the United Nations. On the Venezuela crisis the U.N. Secretary-General has called for calm and restraint;  but has made no specific proposals.

In the U.S. there are a good number of “Think Tanks” devoted to policy making as well as university departments and programs with a geographic – area studies – orientation. As I am not a specialist on Latin America (most of my academic focus has been Africa and the Middle East).  I do not know which have strong policy impact. I have seen relatively few public statements coming from academic Latin American specialists;  though there is probably outreach to representatives in Congress.
Thus;  we must watch the policy-making process closely. Obviously my hope is that the cooler minds will win out and compromises made;  such as holding new elections with international election monitors. This is a test in real time of  Vijay Mahta’s aim How Not to Go to War.

Note:

(1) Vijay Mehta. How Not to Go to War: Establishing Departments for Peace and Peace Centres Worldwide (Oxford: New Internationalist Publications, 2019).

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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