Security

There is all this political talk about 'security' - national security; global security. In this context, the orthodox idea seems to be that 'security' is synonymous with 'military'. Security is achieved through military interventions and war.

What is security, really? On my definition, it is to feel safe; to feel free from harm...in a global context, to be without conflict. There is an idea called 'human security', which goes much further than the typical militarised version in explaining what security really is. On a 'human security' definition, we look at geopolitical, social, economic and environmental conditions that might endanger or negate the quality of human life. Immediately we see that for humans to be secure, we need to involve much more than the military. We need to fight poverty, injustice, discrimination, environmental degradation. We must stop conflict. But increased militarisation is not the way to do this.

Australia is involved in 'securing' places like Iraq and Afghanistan, but it doesn't seem like those places are very secure. In fact, the military intervention that defines security has resulted in a lot of civilian death, a lot of homelessness and a lot of poverty. Also a lot of environmental degradations - Iraq is really radioactive now, as a result of all the nuclear-powered artillery used there. Australian Defense Force public relations is quick to remind us about all the reconstruction work they conduct in Afghanistan. Yet after 7 years of Coalition forces in Afghanistan, the country remains in tatters. Average life expectancy is 44 years. Between 53% and 80% of Afghan people live below the poverty line. Adult literacy is 29%. The continued presence of war and violence is not helping things. The UN and Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has condemned indiscriminate killings by US-NATO forces of unarmed civilians, including wedding parties and many children. Military effort in Afghanistan, aimed at establishing a 'democratic' (or pro-US) government, is not making things very secure.

If US-NATO forces left Afghanistan, there would be no pro-US, puppet government. However, the region may actually be more secure. Some commentators suggest that the continued US presence actually revived and provoked the Taliban, by providing a clear opposition and fuel beyond their otherwise domestic concerns. A NATO withdrawal could facilitate a peace process. The solution lies in peaceful dialogue, not military violence.

The ridiculous, thoroughly ingrained paradox is that violence leads to peace. This is a myth. Violence never leads to peace. It might suppress conflict temporarily, but the conflict will rise again, like ants from a hole that has been sat on by something big. Certainly, violence does not contribute to security. Security is achieved when there is social, economic and environmental justice.

The 'violence to peace' myth permeates our society. It is seen as a legitimate form of conflict resolution - in the home, on the street, in the bars and clubs. Police shoot knife-wielding 15 year olds, rather than finding nonviolent alternatives. This is not security. This simply promotes more violence.