Monday January 22, 2018
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Beyond security of sovereign nations

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By Rajesh Ghosh

Article 2(4) of the UN charter is a seemingly robust bulwark that was erected to prevent another deluge of destruction and mayhem that mid 20th century weaponry had become capable of. This accompanied with the institutionalised ‘collective security’ provisions was prophesied to engender and maintain international peace. In the security was the hitherto elusive peace.

These high ideals, however, were benumbed by politics, mutual distrust and suspicion among the great powers during the Cold War. As a result, the Cold War in Europe spilled over as a seething cauldron of violence in other distant parts of the world like Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan et al.

Fast forward 70 years and the failures of the UN to ensure peace in various volatile regions – most notably West Asia, where sovereigns (government) have been significantly debilitated by a continuous struggle for power by various warring factions – is conspicuous.

One such case in point is Syria.

A four-year-old civil war has materially and psychologically left an indelible mark on the Syrian people. The unending war has claimed the lives of over 200,000 and has rendered millions homeless, compelling them to live borrowed lives in neighbouring countries under utter destitution. Today, they make dangerous voyages on rickety, infirm and squalid wooden boats across the choppy Mediterranean to reach safer zones of Europe.

As this wave of humanity seeks refuge in Europe from constant persecution in their homelands, their desperation is popularly labelled as a ‘European crises’, conveniently overlooking the intended and unforeseen security crisis of the non-Kalashnikov wielding masses engendered, partly, by the collective effort of the US and its European allies.

The UN continues to be guided by the Cold War era definition of security, where the security of countries’ territorial boundaries from foreign aggression attains pre-eminence. The UN ought to significantly alter its definition of security and provide eminence to human security over that of state security as conventional wars to expand territorial boundaries has significantly receded.

Today, the world is accosted by an ideological battle one that has culminated into severe civil wars in many pockets around the world. The UN’s foundational doctrine of bringing about ‘by peaceful means’ a settlement of international conflicts has been severely dented as a result of continuous failure to inhibit violence.

Security in its true essence can only be attained if the international community starts to recognise the primacy of smaller units like individuals, minorities within states (religious and gendered), national markets and others. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm originating as a result of the 1990’s Rwandan genocide crisis is a welcome step but for the existent mechanisms to be applied fairly, without the brazen and undue invocation of the norm for military action, a stringent system of verification and protocol ought to be established.

International Security can only be measured with the barometer of individual safety without which the post-war objective of avoiding mass murders will continue to remain beyond the grasp of the international community and its representative body – the United Nations.

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Is the US Getting Back to Bomb Shelters? North Korea threats revive Nuclear Bomb fear

North Korea threatens America

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Bomb shelter manufacturer engineers Vincent Carubia, left, and Eward Klein study specifications for a fiber glass dome shelter being installed on an estate in Locust Valley, N.Y
Bomb shelter manufacturer engineers Vincent Carubia, left, and Eward Klein study specifications for a fiber glass dome shelter being installed on an estate in Locust Valley, N.Y. VOA
  • He wondered how much good ducking under a desk could do if a bomb powerful enough to destroy a city fell nearby
  • Then there were backyard bomb shelters, which briefly became the rage during the missile crisis of 1962

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the era of nuclear bomb nightmares -of the atomic arms race, of backyard bomb shelters, of schoolchildren diving under desks to practice their survival skills in the event of an attack -seemed to finally, thankfully, fade into history. Until now.

For some baby boomers, North Korea’s nuclear advances and President Donald Trump’s bellicose response have prompted flashbacks to a time when they were young, and when they prayed each night that they might awaken the next morning. For their children, the North Korean crisis was a taste of what the Cold War was like.

“I’m not concerned to where I can’t sleep at night. But it certainly raises alarms for Guam or even Hawaii, where it might be a real threat,” said 24-year-old banker Christian Zwicky of San Bernardino, California.

People of his parents’ generation were taught to duck and cover when the bombs came.

“Maybe those types of drills should come back,” Zwicky said.

He isn’t old enough to remember the popular 1950s public service announcement in which a cartoon character named Bert the Turtle teaches kids how to dive under their desks for safety. But Zwicky did see it often enough in high school history classes that he can hum the catchy tune that plays at the beginning. That’s when Bert avoids disaster by ducking into his shell, then goes onto explain to schoolchildren what they should do.

“I do remember that,” says 65-year-old retiree Scott Paul of Los Angeles. “And also the drop drills that we had in elementary school, which was a pretty regular thing then.”

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Even as a 10-year-old, Paul said, he wondered how much good ducking under a desk could do if a bomb powerful enough to destroy a city fell nearby. No good at all, his teacher acknowledged.

Then there were backyard bomb shelters, which briefly became the rage during the missile crisis of 1962 when it was learned the Soviets had slipped nuclear-tipped missiles into Cuba and pointed them at the USA.

After a tense, two-week standoff between President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that some believe brought the world the closest, it’s ever come to nuclear war, the missiles were removed and the shelters faded from public interest.

Now they, too, seem to be having a revival.

“When Trump took office it doubled our sales, and then when he started making crazy statements we got a lot more orders,” says Walton McCarthy of Norad Shelter Systems LLC of Garland, Texas. “Between now and a year ago, we’ve quadrupled our sales.”

His competitor, California-based Atlas Survival Shelters, says it sold 30 shelters in three days last week. During its first year in business in 2011, it sold only 10.

Bill Miller, a 74-year-old retired film director living in Sherborn, Massachusetts, thinks these days are more nerve-wracking than the standoff in October 1962.

“I think it’s much, much crazier, scarier times,” he said. “I think the people who were in charge in the Kennedy administration had much more of a handle on it.”

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Nathan Guerrero, a 22-year-old political science major from Fullerton, California, agrees, saying he learned in history class that the “shining example” of a way to resolve such a conflict was how Kennedy’s brother and attorney general, Robert Kennedy, brokered the tense negotiations.

“But knowing the way the current administration has sort of been carrying itself, it doesn’t look like they are keen to solving things diplomatically,” he said.

“As a young person, honestly, it’s pretty unsettling,” he continued.

Had he given any thought to building backyard bomb shelters?

“I’d be lying if I said such crazy things haven’t crossed my mind,” he said, laughing nervously. “But in reality, it doesn’t strike me as I’d be ready to go shopping for bunkers yet.” Instead, he studies for law school and tries “not to think too much about it.”

Other Americans are more sanguine about the possibility of nuclear war. Rob Stapleton has lived in Anchorage, Alaska, since 1975, and he is aware that Alaska has been considered a possible target because it is within reach of North Korean missiles.

“There’s been some discussion about it around the beer barrel and I’m sure the United States is taking it seriously, but we’re not too concerned around here,” he said.

Alaska is so vast and spread out, said Stapleton, that he and his friends can’t imagine why North Korea would waste its time attacking The Last Frontier. “I mean sure you’d be making a statement, but you’d not really be doing any damage,” he said. (VOA)