Current foreign policy is deployed to focus on military force and territorial domination. In the name of international security, global military spending has risen to 1.981 trillion dollars, 9.3% more than what was invested in 2011, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This is a list headed by the United States, China, Russia and the United Kingdom, four of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, according to the Centre Delàs. Despite this increase, conflict levels have continued to rise, and some 1.2 billion people live in affected areas. There are 34 active armed conflicts and nearly a hundred potential hotspots.
Militarism alone has never translated into positive conflict management: on the contrary, it has entrenched, displaced, or worsened them in the medium and long term. So, what kind of security are we talking about in these days of the offensive in Ukraine? From whom and for whom?
Feminist security studies have long called for an alternate and intersectional rethinking of international security from the viewpoint of the people most affected by violence. Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP) pursues a multidimensional political framework that aims to channel suffering from the destructive forces of imperialism and militarism and other structures of oppression such as patriarchy, colonisation, capitalism,hy, colonisation, capitalism and racism. The importance of attending to the personal dimension when we talk about war offers us clues about the possibility of a new security paradigm: the object cannot be the state, which protects itself from external or internal enemies, but people and their needs. And until we achieve this, Western countries should work towards de-escalation of the conflict through demilitarisation and diplomatic means.
This would be the strategic innovation we need, not based on an arms race. An enlightened security model that does not feed on action-reaction dynamics and is not rooted in deterrence through violence and arms shipments, but in negotiation through dialogue that addresses the roots and causes of the conflict. A security model that deals with economic and social policy is not developed by men dressed in military uniforms. Security can never be provided by the absolutist privilege that reiterates failed patterns in the name of progress. The security defended by pacifism has nothing to do with the proliferation of aggressive policies of attack and offensive self-defence, both approaches of death. This is not and never will be our security.
We all want order amidst the threat of chaos, but security cannot be reduced to the dichotomy between war and peace. Given the complexity of conflicts, the framework for analysis and action must be much broader and must not be based on the manipulation of fear.
For all these reasons, crying “no to war” is never naïve or abstract; it is a historical cry full of truths and hard-won lessons. War is the last tool of politics and, as such, can never be successful because it is a failure from the start.
The “no to war” warns that one of them will never come suddenly because none of the current ones can be explained without the escalation in investment and military spending of recent years and the latest nuclear threat. It should be noted that the list of significant arms suppliers is headed by the US, with 37% of the world total, followed by Russia, with 20%. Not far behind, in seventh place, is Spain, with 3.2%. In addition, the five countries of the United Nations Security Council and Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea possess a total of 13,080 nuclear weapons. About half of these weapons come from the US, while the other half are from Russia.
War is the lack of a future. Pacifism can attest to this: violence always begets more violence, and this mutual reinforcement is the backbone of every arms race. It is a destructive spiral where all sides lose in the short, medium and long term because the most fundamental factor – life – is not tended to.
“No to war” appeals to the power structures, not to the civilian population, which suffers the consequences and defends itself with whatever it can. The slogan “Their wars, our deaths” refers to the exploitation of people in any war, who are often forced to fight without sharing the reasons for it. The inhabitants of a conflict zone have ever declared war. While some of them may defend it, war always breaks out. It is waged on behalf of economic and geopolitical interests that are transferred to the scene of the conflict and have nothing to do with the sustainability of life and the provision of everyday security.
“No to war” means that we must seek (and find) other mechanisms of solidarity and shared security instead of arming the civilian population to fight against major military powers. When conflicts have already erupted with the worst of their manifestations – i.e., indiscriminate violence – other dissuasive options must be explored that are not based on militaristic logic that, in turn, reinforces irrationality. It must be confronted forcefully but creatively because political rashness is innately destructive and invariably at odds with human welfare.
“No to war” also relies on human agency, on individual and collective capabilities for social transformation. It helps channel the helplessness and frustration that comes from witnessing the brutality of violence. Security is also built from resistance and the streets, and when unrest is politicized, it brings us closer to change. For all these reasons, pacifism does not defend submission because peace is subversive per se. It is about human rights and global justice: peace is not neutral nor equidistant. It takes an active stand and demands responsibilities to protect and provide solutions based on the common welfare. It demands commitments from leaders, national governments and international organizations. But it is a journey, and, as such, it also requires complex and deliberate reflection and a long-term view. Although it is not about going slowly, it does require taking one step at a time.
Sandra Martínez, head of ICIP’s “Alternatives of Security” area.