Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 11, 1999
NATO has little to learn about 'dirty wars'
Earlier this year Argentina let it be known that it wanted to join NATO. Aside from its out of the way location, the application is puzzling.
Readers might remember Argentina as the adversary in the Margaret Thatcher's war over the Falkland Islands. Others might remember the country as the location of one of this century's "dirtiest little wars."
Images of the "Mad Mothers" of the Plaza de Mayo holding up enlarged photographs of their disappeared children might spring to mind.
Perhaps the rulers of Argentina have had a change of mind and have sworn off "dirty wars" and want to get in on the "humanitarian" war action. "Human security" is a big item in the foreign policy agendas of the G7, some of whom are big players in NATO.
It could be that Argentina, with its vast experience in human insecurity, might lend a born again flavour to the 50-year-old exclusive club. But then, is there anything that NATO could learn that it doesn't already know from its own experience?
So, what's the deal? Should we entrust the Argentina military to monitor human rights in Sierra Leone, or Chechnya for that matter?
Do we trust the Indonesian army to keep the peace in East Timor? Is the Guatemalan army the right guardian of the basic rights of its own citizens?
To what degree is it true that armies are peacekeepers anywhere, one might wonder. To what extent does our western military represent the ideal of shalom?
Let us count the ways. An estimated 200,000 child soldiers under 15 serve in regular or irregular armed forces around the world today. The annual global cost to train a soldier is somewhere between 50 and 60 times greater than educating a child.
There are 275 million children in the world who have never gone to school or who have been forced to drop out in the first few years for lack of money.
The cost of achieving education for all in the next decade is $8 billion per year. That is about half of what Americans spend annually on Pokemon cards, Barbie dolls, Star Wars paraphernalia and other toys.
More to the point, it represents only four days of global military spending or nine minutes of international currency speculation.
Here are some other interesting figures: A handful of nations spent over US$5 trillion on the Cold War nuclear age. And this might come as a surprise: One and a half days of NATO's budget would cover the UN budget for one year.
The most important capital good produced in the West today is weaponry. The most important sector in international trade is not oil, automobiles or airplanes, but armaments. That's a rather telling revelation where our priorities lie.
This century has claimed over 200 million deaths because of war-related activities. Between 1986 and 1996 some 200,000 children died in war. From 1990 to 1995 a total of 70 states were involved in 93 wars, which killed 5.5 million people. Ninety per cent of those killed are civilians.
Millions more have been injured or permanently disabled. Entire populations have been displaced or dispossessed.
The annual international arms sales is worth about $900 billion. The American defence budget alone is over $300 billion a year or 33 per cent of gross domestic product.
The lion's share of arms sold in the world come from the western nations which promote human security in their foreign policies. For instance, more than half the capital goods exported by France are armaments.
There is nothing new we can learn from Argentina. Still, there is talk of expanding the G7 to G20 to make the world more secure, at least for investments.
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