CONCEPT OF TRUSTEESHIP: GLOBAL SECURITY

by

Major General K. S. Pendse (Retd.)




INTRODUCTION

Our earth is home to myriad species. Out of these only man has demonstrated an inventive ability that has given him power to destroy his own habitat. In his pursuit of ever greater security for an ever dwindling minority, he may bring about a situation where man may not live to enjoy it. In a world populated by nearly six billion humans, just 23 percent of the people living in the rich North, command 85 percent of the world income. Their `culture of contentment' has insulated them psychologically from the human misery in most of the developing countries of the poor South. There appears to be very little chance of this psychology of isolation being punctured by anything less than a cataclysm of global proportion. In fact Alvin Toffler's thesis of three different civilizations -agricultural, industrial and informational-existing simultaneously today , has an unstated corollary. It is that the agricultural civilization that has a place at the very bottom of the heap and it is destined to stay there.

It is overlooked in the above analysis that the majority of the world population depends, directly or indirectly, on agriculture as its means of livelihood, and is likely to continue to do so. But thanks to the information revolution, the expectations of these deprived peoplehave been heightened by exposure to the Western prosperity through Western media. Consequently they are now questioning the monopoly of affluence and life style enjoyed by them. This level of affluence remains out of the reach of the poor in the present global dispensation. In any case the earth's finite resources cannot sustain such a life style for all. This is specially so in view of the exploding population in the poor countries of the world. As the population growth continues to gallop in poor South, no amount of technological progress in the North can help their affluent societies to `quarantine out ' human misery. A flood of fortune seeking immigrants, both legal and illegal continues from South to North. The world is headed for many wars of redistribution of people and resources. Given the information revolution and spread of dual purpose technology in the civil and military field, an eventual horizontal proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will make such wars even more devastating. Many of these may be launched by non state actors who would provide no identifiable target. Even if the rich North retreats into a ghetto bristling with weapons of mass destruction , it would find it difficult to deter such an unseen opponent by means of conventional or nuclear weapons.

Should the nations of rich North adopt such an inhuman stance, a nuclear winter is waiting in the wings. Release of just 500 megatons of nuclear weapons over the Northern hemisphere , out of a global stockpile of nearly 11000 megatons,is enough to bring in the catastrophe. Yet , out of a sense of insecurity felt by the big give nuclear powers, this arsenal is being continuously improved using latest technological advances. It is this psychology of feat that has made Pentagon invent fresh enemies in shape of `Rogue Regimes' in post cold war era and justify vertical proliferation. Having permitted the nuclear genie to escape from the bottle, these nuclear weapon monopolists do not seem to know how to put it back in to the bottle and steer international relations away from the `Final Solution' of exterminating most species from the surface of the earth.

There is, therefore an urgent need to evolve a global security doctrine that would take a holistic view of the problem of human existence well into the future. This is necessary even if it means a complete departure from the current West dominated approach to strategic and security studies. This approach has heavy ethnocentric overtones and implies that what is good of the West is for the good of the world.

THE DILEMMA OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

It is an unexceptionable fact that nuclear weapons cannot be `univented'. Like in the case of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, nation-states may, at some future date, agree for a ban on nuclear weapons as well. But these are all attempts at treating symptoms without curing the basic malady which is gnawing at the vitals of human existence. Ideologies and isms, like religions, have divided mankind , in their attempt to solve human problems. In turn , all these noble thoughts and philosophies are tethered to self interest and are bound by ambition, envy, greed and fear. This nexus influences security perceptions at individual, national and international level. All this has led to coming into being of belief systems that are actively harmful and separate man from man and breed deep seated animosities.

The `Realist' school in security studies interprets national security management as safeguarding national interests. When it is done to the exclusion of all other considerations in an interdependent world of today, it is elevating this mutual animosity to the status of a doctrine. To illustrate, the current resistance of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to shedding their Veto rights stems from the self same quartet of impulses that governs individual self interest. In fact, in most cases it is the interest of the ruling elites that shapes policies and guides decisionmaking at the national and international level. It is the American ruling elites and US based security analysts who have adopted the `Realist' approach, placing a firm faith in the efficacy of their nuclear to maintain US primacy in the post Soviet Union world. There is a general beleaguer that in winning cold war, the nuclear weapons played a major role.

The events of 1991 can also be interpreted as the failure of Soviet Union to create a parallel world and parallel economy based on principles of communism. While Communism has failed, capitalism has not won, as many in US strategic community seem to proportion to the world. The American capitalist dream of an un ending pursuit of consumption has given rise to social problems at home like the drug abuse, aids and armed violence that have the potential to make the melting pot of the US implode without any outside interference. Further the insensitivity of this `culture of contentment' was glaringly evident at the Rio earth summit in 1992. The US representative attending that conference flatly refused to pay for the pollution created by the highly industrialist US as according to him Americans were neither willing to raise their taxes nor prepared to lower their life style that cased the pollution. It is this demonstrated intransigence and insensitivity of the `haves' that makes their commitment to total nuclear disarmament suspect in the eyes of the `have nots' of the world.

India therefore cannot be faulted for wanting to keep its options open in a world of nuclear asymmetry. As mentioned earlier, it has been already pushed into a corner by the general acceptances of the NPT and CTBT. There is a possibility that it may once again be isolated on the issue of fissile material control. This is the price India may pay if her elites remain impervious to the subtleties of nuclear game and remain stuck in the dilemma of its own making. While India pleads the cause of multitude of developing countries for whom nuclear power remains an economical route to power generation for their budding industries. But its voice may not be heard if it tries to oppose international inspections and safeguards on nuclear reactors. The by-product from the power reactors would have to be accounted for properly in order to ensure that no weapon programme is being conducted in a clandestine manner. Its well meaning friends in non aligned movement may toe the Western line one more time.

If India wishes to contribute meaningfully to the cause of global nuclear disarmament , it has to offer a workable solution to the problems of safe custody of nuclear weapons their ultimate disposal as well as universal compliance of these measures. Globally accepted mechanism of verification including intrusive inspections and condign punishment of errant nations , are integral parts of this problem. The Western strategic community in general and US one in particular, have been shying away from this global character of nuclear dilemma. The doctrinal base for the nuclear disarmament has continued to be based on the dictates of `realism'. Thus it is apparent that while posing to serve the mainland at large , the US has in reality been pushing its narrow national interest.

EVOLVING A NEW DOCTRINE

Stephen M. Walt, in a representative review of the contributions made by the US strategic thinkers since the second world war, maintains that security studies must concentrate on the study of threat , use and control of military force; as these can be treated "comfortably within the familiar realist paradigm". "Any broadening of this concept to include topics such as poverty, AIDS, environmental hazards, drug abuse and such like as suggested by Barry Buzan ,runs the risk of expanding the field excessively and destroys its intellectual coherence and makes it more difficult to devise solutions".

Of necessity, the ambit of security studies during the cold war had to focus on control of military force. It had to concentrate on the real fear of threat of use of nuclear weapons. The credit of preventing an open war between industrialist nations, in popular mind, has been ascribed to nuclear weapons and the balance of terror they created between the US and the Soviet Union. This is understandable and has some truth. But they did not bring about the collapse of Soviet Union. General Butler, former Commander in Chief of the US strategic command says," I want very much to believe that it was the nuclear force that led to the collapse of Soviet Union. But in truth, I do not and can not know that it was so". He deplored the dominant paradigm of regarding deregulator as an infallible panacea. This is inspite of the fact that he recognize the need for the US to deter by virtue of its unchallenged conventional and informational superiority.

As early as 1961, the British strategic analyst, General JFC Fuller (one of the few who foresaw the blitzcreig strategy of the Germans) had made a significant observation regarding nuclear weapons that retains it validity even today. He remarked " There is always a relationship between force and (war) aim. The first must be sufficient to attain the secondary but not so excessive that it cancels it out. This is the crux of nuclear warfare." He furthermost concluded that from the point of view of any sane political aim, all out nuclear war is nonsense. Once the Soviet Union matched the American overkill, super power stalemate could not be resolved in a total war, but like the first world war, due to economic collapse of one side. This showed the appropriateness of George Kennan's advocacy of containment that would lead to USSR's defeat through economic breakdown.The US strategic community , in a continuous dialogue with itself since the end of cold war, is justice the utility of US nuclear stockpile and its protection through an anti-ballistic missile defence through Star War technologies. Fred Kaplan, author of ~The Wizards of Armageddon', deserves the last word on the subject. He says that the nuclear strategists had come to impose order, but , in the end chaos prevailed.

Fortunately there have also been saner voices like that of Professor Edward J. Kolodziej and Helga Hefterdorn (University of Berlin). They have suggested the broadening and interdisciplinary scope of the issue of security rather than risk its capture by `a clique of like-minded cronies'. Koloziej urges a truly universal and integrated concept of security that would explore the ability of the states and non state actors to project force anywhere on the globe and almost simultaneous scrutiny and challenge by media. All particularistic policies, be it national, communal or ideological would come under this gaze. This is necessary as there is a mutual dependency of states and peoples within the global ecological cum economic system. It is the emergence of truly global politics that justifies the need for evolution of a new doctrine in the field of security.

Helga Hafterdorn holds the view that there can be no single definition of security. Each definition has to be seen in its own unique cultural context. There would be natural differences between what is understood by this term in a highly industrialized country like the US and others. Russians look at security as freedom from fear while most developing countries emphasize economic , social as well as domestic dimension of security. The Americans define it as absence of threat to `our way of life', indeed an all embracing term. In absence of a unanimity over a single concept of security, terms such as national security , international security or global security means different things to different people based on their own cultural and historical context. Global security at present suffers from the lack of common definition , shared sets of values, rules and principles. National security is too narrow in its outlook as it ignores security of other states. The concept of international security may therefore appear relevant. But the world is fast moving towards becoming a global village and therefore in the direction of global security paradigm. Institution building continues in this direction as shared values and norms of behaviour emerge as also the capability of world fora to enforce it.

Undoubtedly the League of Nations experiment that was based on the concept of collective security (the UN despite lip service to the contrary is based on more pragmatic balance of power) failed in face of challenge thrown by Nazi and Fascist dictatorships who had no respect for the rule of law or reconciliation and restraint. UN is founded on same principles in addition to the concept of renunciation of force and respect for human rights, in theory at least. However its limited success thus far can be directly attributed to the preoccupation of the member states with their own interests rather than concept of collective security. A strategy of national security cannot be applied globally because of its dependence on nuclear deterrence, its ethnocentricism, obsession with American values and perceptions and its inability to concern itself with wars in the third world. Additionally , the fact that the perceptions of the First World have changed from concerns with economic and ecological crisis rather than a military attack , makes it all the more necessary to evolve a new doctrinal framework.

A CONCEPT OF GLOBAL SECURITY

The Palme Commission in 1982, in its report titled `Common Security: a Blueprint for Survival', had argued for replacement of strategy of mutual deterrence with one of common security. This was to be based on commitment to joint survival, arms control and disarmament. It called for a transformation of the international system to make it capable of peaceful and orderly change, free trade and travel, inter cultural exchange of ideas and experiences. A global security system thus presupposes a universal concept of security with a shared set of norms, principles and practices which would lead to common patterns of international behaviour.

It is true that the international state system does display some features of anarchy , the fear of nuclear war has eroded the legitimacy of war as an instrument of policy. The nations of the world have been thus forced to manage their rivalries without recourse to war. What is missing in this otherwise valid argument is awareness of the shared destiny. Rapidly depleting resources and ecological degradation could bring about the eventual demise of the homo sapiens. The Western model of consumerism is unsustainable and ignores the finite nature of resources. Psychologically , it makes reliance on nuclear weapons necessary as the rich North feels insecure in the sea of have nots. Only concept of global security can rescue the mankind from nuclear disaster or ecological suicide.

GANDHIAN CONCEPT OF TRUSTEESHIP IN GLOBAL SECURITY

Given the hold that old ideas of security has on nations, a total transition to global security framework as envisaged in the Palme Commission, may take a while. But the horizontal proliferation of various technologies, not just nuclear, is already evident. The Sarin gas attack on Japanese commuters in a Tokyo subway by a fanatic sect , showed that these weapons could be produced in any backyard. The growth of nuclear weapon programme in an industrially and technologically backward country like Pakistan, shows how the nuclear threshold is lowered. Can India with its espousal of total nuclear disarmament suggest an interim measure that will address the nuclear dilemma in a constructive manner ? Will a diplomatic initiative taken in this regard strengthen India's stand at Geneva ?

The answer may lie in the adoption of Gandhian system of trusteeship applied to the international state system, non state groups, trans-national corporations and even terrorist groups outside the pale of international law. The techniques used by Gandhi in his fight for India's independence relied for success on the high moral position that he held. Gandhi elevated India's freedom struggle to a higher moral plane- a fight between right and wrong. Similar moral pressure needs to be brought on nations of the world stressing that the earth belongs as much to the poor South as the rich North. At least through this it should be possible to win over those in the North who are sensitive to the dangers that imperil man's survival on earth. India should propose constitution of a trust. This could either work thorough a revitalized UN or outside of it.Needless to say that India must practice this concept at home before preaching it abroad.

In the final analysis , the dilemma faced by world originates in the absence of sharing and caring attitude amongst the nations. In contrast Gandhi advocated the mental approach of a trustee who regards all possessions as held in trust for good of all. Ownership, in the eyes of a trustee is an attempt to create an illusion of security through permenacy of possession and succession. This selfish grasping not only `violates the deeper purpose of human odyssey on earth but breeds possessiveness, greed , exploitation and violence on an unprecedented scale'.

Gandhi approached the concept of trusteeship at four levels.First, trusteeship is the sole means of continuously redistributing wealth. It is not only a corollary of the principle of non violence but way of regeneration and intelligent use of wealth. Even if wealth could be coercively redistributed, it would lead to resentment and further greed amongst the dispossessed. All this would lead finally to violence, wars and alienation. Trusteeship encourages owners to see themselves as vigilant guardians of the accumulated wealthfor the larger community without threatening themselves. Secondly, Gandhi saw that fear losing possession would prevent other means of economic distribution succeeding in the long run. Collapse of communism has proved him right. A trustee on the other hand feels a sense of joy in fellowship. He feels a positive sense of solidarity with hapless human beings everywhere. Thirdly , Gandhi held the view that the idea of trusteeship could be put in practice non violently, because it could be introduced gradually. Finally , he believed that social and international conditions were ripe for an imaginative application of the principles of trusteeship. That time is now in the field of international relations. Replace wealth with power, and the Gandhian paradigm is applicable to international security relationships. Gandhi and A. J. Toynbee, both felt the inevitability of a form of world government coming into being. Trusteeship concept can well be a half way house to that illusive goal.

What does it actually mean for a nation to be a trustee in the present anarchical world system? Such a nation would selfconciously assume responsibilities for upholding , protecting and putting to good use its existing power because it is morally sensitive. Because such a nation sees its power and abilities as belonging to entire mankind and its future generations. Clarity in understanding this psychological dimension of non-possession will lead to elimination of arms race as opposed to the current craze and race for using technology to make ever more advanced weapons. Greater destruction is hardly better is hardly better when it can only lead to greater insecurity.

Once the concept of security trusteeship is accepted by the developed world, their exploitative policies will also have to change to those of co-operation wherein the concept of trusteeship is made applicable to the field of economics. The trustees should then train less privileged people to utilize the available resources for a healthier and better life. This two pronged approach to international relations will deal with cause as well as symptoms simultaneously.

India must therefore appeal to the nations of the world, specially of the rich North, to express their support for common weal through actual deeds. Ideally, the US, Russia and Japan should act as the world trustees . They could in turn co-opt other nations in various regions to check the dangers due to ecological degradation and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Trustees should not shy away from intrusive inspections and punitive sanctions against errant states or non state actors. Use of force of appropriate magnitude and could be used, not as punishment but as a corrective.

In effect such an arrangement in the interim will bridge the wide gap between those who insist on total nuclear disarmament and NWS, who want to retain their arsenals and see not alternative to nuclear deterrence in regulating international relations. India must take initiative and open a dialogue with US, Russia and Japan, as without their co-operation not much headway could be made. The time to re-bottle nuclear genie is now, and the nuclear haves are aware of it. The US has a significant group with faith in its Wilsonian tradition of faith in collective security and open diplomacy. The US still has the intellectual and moral resources to rise to the occasion and act as a true world leader. Indian diplomacy should attempt to raise the debate on nuclear disarmament to moral level, where it ought to be conducted. There is nothing more immoral than the idea of using nuclear weapons. Applying the Gandhian ideas of trusteeship to global security , Indian intellectuals and policy makers can help the world to grasp this fleeting opportunity in world history when there are many factors in its favour. This must be our approach at Geneva.

CONCLUSION

Human survival on earth is in jeopardy. Arnold J. Toynbee summed it up eloquently when he wrote:

"The first steps in space exploration have taught us that the resources of our native planet is all that we will have at our command for the foreseeable future. The harnessing of forces of inanimate nature has now given man the power to use up his limited material patrimony. The reduction in death rate , thanks to the progress in medicine , has removed the former ruthless check on the increase in mankind's numbers. The anhilation of distance by mechanized technology has given man the power to use nuclear weapons for committing global genocide. These three facts in combination , seem to demand the establishment of an effective world wide government with a mandate for imposing peace, conserving resources and for inducing its subjects to limit the number of their children. ... If we wait , the choices open to us will be reduced to the alternatives of a world tyranny or the end of life itself. Our knowledge of past history must move us to forestall disaster by taking future into our own hands. If we sit back , we shall find ourselves overtaken by events that have passed beyond our control."

It is precisely this urgent need to take our future in our own hands that has led to this concept of applying the principle of trusteeship to global security doctrine. The underlying thought has been to appeal to an innate sense of identity that all human beings share , despite outward differences of race , language and creed. After all , our very survival depends on it.

NOTES

  1. Toffler Alvin and Heidi, WAR AND ANTI WAR, (Warner Books,US,1993.)
  2. Kennedy Paul M., PREPARING FOR THE TWENTYFIRST CENTURY, (Harper Collins, 1993)
  3. King Alexander and Bertrand Schneider ,THE FIRST GLOBAL REVOLUTION, (A Report By club of Rome, Orient Longmans, Hyderabad,1993)
  4. INTERNATIONAL STUDIES QUARTERLY, 1991, Walt Stephen M.,"The Rennaisance of Security Studies".
  5. THE TIMES OF INDIA, 25 MARCH 1997, Uday Bhaskar C.,"Squaring the Circle".
  6. Fuller JFC,THE CONDUCT OF WAR 1789-1961, ( Eyre & Spottiswoode, London , 1961)
  7. INTERNATIONAL STUDIES QUARTERLY , 1992, Kolodziej Edward A.," Renaissance in Security Studies ?"
  8. IBID, Hafterdorn Helga, "The Security Puzzle".
  9. Buzan Barry, PEOPLE , STATES AND FEAR, (Transasia Publishers, New Delhi, 1983)
  10. THE TIMES OF INDIA MARCH 26 , 1997, Correa Charles, " Why Mohandas Gandhi became Mahatma".
  11. Iyer Raghavan, GANDHIAN TRUSTEESHIP IN THEORY AND PRACTICE, (Maitreyavana Prakashan, Mysore, 1986)
  12. Toynbee A. J. , A STUDY OF HISTORY, revised edition, (Portland House, New York, 1988.)