The Future of Warfare: Small Arms are the Big Challenge
Dr. Walter Dorn
Lecture presented at the Symposium on “International Humanitarian Law in the New Millennium,”
sponsored by the Canadian Red Cross Society and the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa,
Ottawa, 9 February 2000.
In 1859, an idealistic, young Swiss businessman traveled to Italy to meet with the French Emperor (Napoleon III) only to find himself at the scene of a great battle between the Austrian and French armies. Three-hundred-thousand men confronted each other along a ten-mile front. In the 15-hour battle, forty thousand were killed or wounded on the battlefield. He described the site he saw the next morning:
“Le soleil du 25 éclaira l’un des spectacles les plus affreux qui se puissent présenter à l’imagination. Le champ de bataille est partout couvert de cadavres d’hommes et de chevaux; les routes, les fossés, les ravins, les buissons, les prés sont parsemés de corps morts, et les abords de Solférino en sont littéralement criblés.
“Qu’étaient devenus, comme dans les premiers combats, ou lors de ces entrées triomphales dans les grandes cités de la Lombardie, cet amour de la gloire et cet entraînement si communicatif, augmentés mille fois par les accents mélodieux et fiers des musiques guerrières et par les sons belliqueux des fanfares retentissantes, et ardemment aiguillonnés par le sifflement des balles, le frémissement des bombes et les mugissements métalliques des fusées et des obus qui éclatent et qui se brisent, dans ces heures où l’enthousiasme, la séduction du péril et une excitation violente et inconsciente font perdre de vue la pensée du trépas?
“…. Le sentiment qu’on éprouve de sa grande insuffisance dans des circonstances si extraordinaires et si solennelles, est une indicible souffrance.
“When the sun same up on the 25th, it revealed the most dreadful sight imaginable. Bodies of men and horses covered the battlefield; corpses were strewn over roads, ditches, ravines, thickets and fields; the approach to Solférino were literally choked with dead.
“Where now is the love of glory, where the martial ardour, which was a thousand times heightened by the proud and melodious accent of military bands and the warlike tones of resounding trumpets—which were but sharpened by the whistling of bullets, the thunder of bombs, and the metallic roaring of rockets and shells bursting and exploding, in those hours when enthusiasm, when the attraction of danger and fierce, thoughtless excitement, put out of men’s minds all thoughts of their latter end?
“…. The feeling one has of one’s own utter inadequacy in such extraordinary and solemn circumstances is inexpressible. It is, indeed, excessively distressing to realize that you can never do more than help those who are just before you — that you must keep waiting men who are calling out and begging you to come.”
This was Henry Dunant, writing in “Un Souvenir de Solférino” about the experience that motivated him to form the Red Cross.
He eloquently expressed the mixed feelings on the subject of war that still persist in our world today. He speaks of the apparent glory of armies, the excitement of battle, the reality and horror of what man can do to man, and the desperate need to alleviate the suffering.
As a consequence of his book, and his description of the unimaginable suffering after the battle, he helped humanity realize that war is at best a necessary evil and, at worst, it is hell on earth. He also helped point the way of the future.
War is something that should first be prevented, and if not prevented, then controlled and mitigated. Eventually this cruel, barbaric institution should be abolished entirely. We can only hope that someday it will follow in the footsteps of other abhorrent human practices that were more or less successfully banned, like slavery, duelling, public executions, and torture. But for the moment, to minimize war, it must be studied: its development analysed, its methods and tools understood, and its future threat assessed.
What, then, is the future of war in our new century? How will it be waged? Who will be waging it? How can it be better controlled, even banned, and who will do it? At the turn of the century, following the most bloody century in world history, we have a right and a responsibility to examine future war and to seek ways to deal with it.
I will humbly offer some thoughts on the task, overwhelming as it is. Though my “crystal ball” is cloudy, I do want to share evidence that shows that progress is being made, that the future is not bleak–though it is still bloody–and that there are some key areas to focus on. You will see that I feel that we are gradually gaining ground on war. We are, if you like, slowly winning the war on war.
I will first make a few observations about progress in the implements of war, the technologies that are part of modern armies. Too often the war-mongers have made technology their slave, while the vast potential for peacekeeping has been overlooked. As a scientist, I particularly like to point out that technology can serve not only as tool for war but as an instrument for peace.
II. High Technology in Warfare
Dunant, in his “Souvenir de Solférino”, also provides insights into the tools and technologies of war:
“… since new and more terrible methods of destruction are invented daily, with perseverance worthy of a better object, and since the inventors of these instruments of destruction are applauded and encouraged in most of the great European States, which are engaged in an arms race … future battles will only become more and more murderous.”
For an article written in 1862, it was remarkably prescient. Soon the machine gun was introduced as a much more effective killing machine than the black-powder cannon and the infanteers’ bayonet. WWI heralded the eerie arrival of chemical weapons, the tank, and aerial warfare. At the end of that war, called the Great War, US President Woodrow Wilson predicted another world war within 20 years, saying that the weapons the Germans had used in the Great war would be like “toys” compared to those used in the next. Hitler’s V-2 rockets, Panzer tanks and Stuka dive-bombers all showed that to be true.
In the Cold War after World War II, there was steady and immense improvement in the tools possessed by modern armies. We witnessed more than one “revolution in military affairs” or RMA, to use the buzzwords which are currently very popular in military circles to describe what happens when a powerful new technology is integrated into a deadly new strategy. Examples include nuclear deterrence under the strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction (appropriately called MAD) using Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), precision bombing with guided missiles, etc.. In order to accomplish these RMAs, scientists and engineers became an integral part of the “military-industrial” complex.
The US alone, which led virtually all the RMAs in the past half century, spent about $30 billion dollars annually (in 1998 dollars) during the Cold War on science and technology for military purposes. It even spends more than that now! This, I would like to point out, is more than half of all federal funds devoted to science and technology research, including health research. This is also more than half of what the world as a whole spends on official development assistance to the developing world. The direct relevance of this comparison will become even more clear later in this presentation. It was none other than President Eisenhower who said: “This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” And “every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
The results of this scientific work have been an incredible increase in destructiveness, precision and war-fighting capability for the advanced militaries. These technologies have their severe drawbacks, as we will note, but they have resulted in a significant changes in the “modern” military thinking and capability, especially in the West.
1) Destructiveness. This capacity is most dramatically illustrated with nuclear weapons. In 1945, the two nuclear bombs detonated at 10-20 kilo-tonnes of TNT. Within twenty years, there was a one-thousand fold increase in explosive yield. The Soviet Union, under Khrushchev, detonated a nuclear device of 50 mega-tonnes in the Arctic in the early 1960s. By comparison, the cumulative explosive yield of all bombs in World War II was less than 5 mega-tonnes. The explosive power of non-nuclear arms also increased. In the 1991 Gulf War, the Americans hammered into Iraq more explosive power in one hundred days than it used during all of World War II. This means the militaries have gained “more bang for the buck” or, in the humorous Russian equivalent, “more rubble for the ruble.”
2) The second RMA in advanced modern militaries, especially the US, is precision targeting: the ability to detect a target from long distances, including from outer space, and then deliver the munition with virtually pinpoint accuracy. The Chief of Staff of the US Air Force in 1997 even predicted that: “In the first quarter of the 21st century you will be able to find, fix or track and target “in near real-time” anything of consequence that moves upon or is located on the surface of the earth.” [Source: Air Force in 1997; see statement of General Ronald R. Fogleman, Chief of Staff, US Air Force before House National Security Committee, May 22, 1997]. This may be an overstatement but it does indicate the direction in which technology is moving.
3) Behind the increase in precision, lies an even broader phenomenon: an information revolution. “Smart” weapons are tied into vast information systems with vast databases, interconnected using global military/civilian telecommunications systems. Firing systems of missiles operate far from their intended targets thus ensuring greater safety to the user. The “fire and forget” missiles can be heat seeking, object identifying or precision guided, and some can hug terrain to avoid radars.
In spite of the immense technical progress and “Gee Wiz” value of these technologies and “revolutions”, they are not all that they are cracked up to be. Each technology has limitations that reduce their effectiveness while increasing the danger to the world.
1. Destruction. Stated simply, nuclear weapons, which represent the apex of destructive power, cannot be used by any nation with ethical principles. As they would kill civilians, perhaps millions of them, indiscriminately their use would be contrary to international humanitarian law (IHL) as well as to all codes of morality. Thus, they are not practical. Some see their validity as a deterrent but I reject this. Since no sane person would authorize a nuclear attack, nuclear weapons are at best a bluff that one hopes no one ever calls. The use of nuclear weapons would be suicidal whether against another nuclear power or a non-nuclear one, given that the precedent would be so dangerous for the future of the world, not to mention the problem of radioactive fallout! Similar destruction on grand scale, with or without nuclear weapons, though technically possible, is not politically, legally or morally justifiable.
While the advent of precision targeting reduces the need for more powerful explosive yields, these systems which rely on modern information databases can go terribly wrong, as we witnessed in the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Serbia, the erroneous shooting down of an Iranian airbus (killing 290 civilians) by the US warship Vincennes whose Aegis high tech missile system misidentified the commercial aircraft, or the friendly (at the time) fire by an Iraqi aircraft on the USS Stark, whose defensive systems failed to stop the oncoming missile. All of these examples show that missiles can reach their targets but the information used to determine the targets may be incorrect. Detecting and tracking a target may be easy on open land, the ocean or in the air but it is much more difficult in dense areas, such as cities or jungles. In guerrilla warfare, it becomes almost useless. Witness the need for virtual “carpet bombing” of Grozny in the current Chechnia war. Earlier, in the US operation in Mogadishu, Somalia, only 2 of 60 mortars fired upon in Mogadishu were successfully destroyed. Also, less than half of Iraq’s SCUD missiles were destroyed during the Gulf War, which was the most high-tech international war yet fought (one-sided as it was).
There are also some benefits for peace of technological innovation in these areas, namely the positive applications in peacekeeping (which I, as a scientist, have in recent years been examining): (1). Non-lethal Weapons: A spectrum of non-lethal weapons (e.g., sound, stun, slick’n or stick’ms, blunt munitions) are becoming available which will give peacekeepers a wider range of options to apply force. (2). Precision monitoring: Here the goal is not to target for hostile purposes but for verification and confidence-building. Sensors include passive infra-red with illuminators, permanent (invisible) markers (similar to those used by the UN in East Timor to blot a finger) to mark a thief or transgressor for ease of later identification and apprehension. Tamper-evident seals and trackable tags using GPS can be useful for disarmament and the movement of goods, as in aid convoys. (3) In the third category, the information revolution, there are a range of benefits for early warning and conflict management. The “CNN effect” was pioneered by my co-panelist, General Lewis Mackinzie, to great effect in Bosnia. I saw its reach in East Timor.
III. War in the 21st Century: A Survey
Having reviewed some major RMAs in advanced armies, we have to ask ourselves, will this new technology really matter? As it turns out, to answer the question of future warfare, we have to look more at politics and less at technology. To assess the future of warfare, it is most important to determine WHO will be fighting.
Certainly those who met in the battleground in Solférino (the Austrians and French) won’t be fighting. A Europe moving towards unification has removed any threat of armed conflict. Conflict will be handled politically and legally, not militarily (as seen by the recent European Union reaction to the inclusion of Dr. Haider in the Austrian government). In fact, Germany and France (mortal enemies for so long) no longer even guard their mutual borders, and travellers have a hard time even telling where these borders are as they cross them. Now they have created a virtually borderless market, they are utilizing a common currency, the Euro, and even sending soldiers to a common force, the Eurocorps. From this European experience we can support some generalizations about future war.
In examining potential wars, we can exclude one broad category of war: those fought between democracies. I am a strong believer in the “democratic peace”, the notion that democracies do not fight wars against each other. History has yet to show exceptions to this theory, and the “democratic peace” theory is the closest equivalent that political scientists have to a “physical law.”
For me, the basis of the Democratic Peace, is two-fold: First, democracies tend to respect each other (even when they quarrel) because they respect more the freedom of action of other democracies and their right to choose their leaders and policies, certainly enough not to impose militarily on them. This is analogous to the feelings expressed more sublimely by Gandhi: “I love my liberty so much that I would not want to do anything to limit yours” (paraphrase). Secondly, the democratic nations are becoming increasingly interdependent, with information refusing to be bound by the traditional notions of sovereignty. The world is shrinking in terms the ability of information, people and goods to travel to other lands. Communication with the far reaches of the globe is becoming cheaper, faster and easier. Also new moral and legal norms and standards, including the Geneva Conventions, are being widely known and adopted.
The consequence of the “democratic peace” is fantastic. Freedom House reports that, at the turn of the century, 120 of some 190 nations are democratic, the largest percentage ever. [See: Democracy Momentum Sustain As “Freedom Century” Ends: Freedom House Reports Rands 120 Countries as Democratic, Largest Number Ever”, 21 December 1999, press release available at ]. Three-fifths of the world`s people live under democratically elected governments. However, democracy means more than just elections. A closer look reveals that of these 120 nations, 85 are called free and 59 partially free. Forty-eight are said to be “not free”. The “worst of the worst” tend, not surprisingly, to be countries with internal armed conflict, like Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.
Wilson proclaimed that US entry into the First World War was “to make the world safe for democracy.” It now appears that democracy itself is making the world safe.
We can now consider each of the other categories of war, having excluded wars between democracies. We start with the most catastrophic of all wars, the World Wars.
1. The World Wars
World war, which occurred twice in the twentieth century, is unlikely in the twenty-first century. World war would require the development of two or more powerful geopolitical alliances, with at least one of them being composed of undemocratic states willing and ready to go to war against democratic states. With the death of grand ideologies and grand alliances at the end of the Cold War, I do not foresee the possibility of such a scenario. (However, in making this prediction I want to humbly “knock on wood”, preferably a huge Redwood, because this is not the type of prediction that you would want to be wrong on.) The Marxist-Leninist concept of a “global Communist revolution” has gone the way of the Hitlerian “Liebensraum” and Japanese Imperialist “Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere.” As Colin Powell, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in 1991: “We have seen our implacable enemy of 40 years vaporize before our eyes” [Testimony Before Senate Armed Services Committee, 27 Sept. 1991, as reported in R. J. Smith, Washington Post, 28 Sept. 1991]. He could not point out any significant enemies: Cuba and North Korea are hardly (forbidding?) threats, as much as some try to make them out to be.
I do see the possibility of the re-emergence of global power politics, though I do not think it will be one of military alliances threatening to attack and invade. Rather, there is a good possibility of a revival of political tensions, with military overtones, with both Russia and China. These two have already sought to forge closer military ties, with most of the external military assistance to China now coming from Russia. As far back as April 1996, Russian President Yeltsin and Chinese leader Jiang Zemin signed a declaration in Beijing to form “a long-term strategic partnership” aimed at counterbalancing US world power. But the odds of a military confrontation leading to armed war are small, though trade wars are likely. The future looks good, however. Russia will slowly become more democratic and China does not display any signs of expansion, desiring to avoid any threats to its impressive economic growth.
The Cold War was a mammoth and artificial struggle that, thankfully, ended in peace and not Armageddon. It’s unlikely to be repeated. Now a much more “natural” series of “hot wars” has replaced it.
2. Major wars between industrialized states
Given that South and Central America have become more democratic with no signs of major reversals, recent events in Venezuela notwithstanding, I do not foresee major war between states in the Americas.
In Western Europe, we have also excluded the possibility, as one would for all countries in the European Union (including Greece and Turkey). In the Balkans, there’s plenty of reason to believe that the centuries-long cycle of war has not ended. It is said that “the Balkans locally produce more global history than they consume locally.” The events in Sarajevo, which attracted the world’s attention in 1914 and still eighty years later, demonstrate the point. The recent bombing of Serbia has created a country, already seeing itself as a persecuted nation, with a desire and need to exact some form of revenge, which it will no doubt do. Sad but true!
In the Middle East, I would like to predict a coming century which will be much better than the last. Israel and its Arab neighbours have fought three major wars. I cannot see this pattern repeating itself, even with the continuing attitude of hostility. Certainly border skirmishes will arise which may result in some small-scale armed clashes, but all out war with Israel is unlikely. Though I mistrust some Middle Eastern leaders, such as Syrian President Assad, I do not think they have the foolhardiness to unilaterally take on Israel head-to-head. There is too much to gain in peace (including the lost territories for Syria and a new Palestinian state to be recognized internationally). So I would like to think that it will see much progress, even with many ups and downs. Iraq is a different story. The Iraqis have a sense of victimization, there is much hatred towards its huge neighbour Iran and there are many resource issues in the region (like water and poverty, debts, etc.). The US bombing of Iraq helped further sow the seeds for future wars.
In Africa, the outlook is the worst of all the continents for international (as well as internal) war. Even now, more than one third of the nations in Africa are involved in wars, either directly with soldiers fighting or indirectly through provision of supplies. The war in the Congo is by no means finished. The war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, fought in the World War I style of trench warfare, is a sad case that need never have begun. Now that the flames of war have engulfed these two nations, it will take much international effort (including a large international peacekeeping force) to let the passions settle. Africa needs the help of the West more than ever. Now is not the time to hide behind the attitude of “African solutions to African problems”, which in reality means “leaving Africa alone to cope with her problems.” It`s time now, after centuries of neglect, to provide Africa with the resources and means to gradually lift itself from poverty and strife. There are many encouraging signs: democracy taking seed and spreading in Southern Africa, with a peaceful transition in South Africa and growing democracy in Botswana, Mozambique, and hopefully Zimbabwe (Namibia may be slipping, though.).
In Asia, there are several realistic scenarios for international war. The Taiwan-China question has yet to be settled. While I doubt China will attack the island, naval confrontations leading to declared but controlled wars are possible. The conflict over the disputed Spratly Islands, which are claimed by several nations could prove dangerous, particularly if significantly larger oil deposits are discovered. There are ongoing border disputes between Thailand and its neighbours (especially Cambodia). Vietnam possesses a significant army, with a history of aggression. War between India and Pakistan is perhaps the most probable and the most dangerous, given that both nations possess nuclear weapons. In a moment of hot-headedness, these nations could even resort to these ultimate weapons. Recently, Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee said “if anyone uses [nuclear weapons] against us, we will not wait for our annihilation.” It would be wise for the international community to devote considerable attention to building peace between these two “sisterly” states, born as twins of a common mother, British India.
It would be impossible in a paper of this scope to list all the possible sources of tension and potential flashpoints in Asia or any other region. Rather, the summary shows that international wars should be on the wane, with only a few to be predicted. As compared to some 200 international wars in this century, I believe that major wars between industrialized states will be relatively infrequent in the twenty-first century. Rather there are bound to be plenty of border skirmishes and the on-going threat of internal and civil wars. Instead of a third World War, I see internal wars in the third world.
3. Internal and Civil Wars
Much has been written about the movement from international to internal wars. There are also a variety of means and indicators to predict future wars, including “minorities at risk”, societal disequilibrium, unsettled grievances, widespread arms, etc. Rather than review this conventional wisdom that internal wars have replaced international wars, I will simply accept it!
4. International enforcement (police) actions
Another threat to the peace, much less discussed, is actually the misuse of the means designed to keep the peace, i.e., enforcement actions. There is a tendency in our superpower neighbour who is leading the charge in enforcement operations and has, for better or worse, become the world`s lead policeman, to resort to the early use of force, like the sheriff in the wild west. There is, unfortunately, no court to penalize the “police brutality” on the world stage. The aggressive instinct is more subtle today than in the past, but it is nevertheless still present. Whether it be the evil Red Russians of 20 years ago, the “Redskins” of 200 years ago, or the pseudo Reds (like Milosevich), there is a tendency for the US to use force in the form of weapons and threats against those elevated to the status of enemy. According to some conservatives, Red China is the next enemy to hate and, even more unfortunate, to threaten.
In my opinion, the US is not exercising “imperial power” but its unilateralism borders on pseudo-imperialism. Under the guise of international enforcement action, aggression and other atrocities have been committed, most recently in the former Yugoslavia. The difference between true enforcement and aggression is not only who you target and what authorization you get, but in the degree of damage inflicted. While war necessitates surrender no matter what the cost to the victim, law calls for proportionality of force. This is the dilemma which the international community faces time and again as the US uses “all necessary means” to accomplish its military aim.
Another danger is the use of the concept of peacekeeping as a cover for intervention. Thirty thousand Russian soldiers are stationed in Georgia, Moldova and Tadjikistan since 1990 under the guise of peacekeeping. This is a dangerous practice, which has spread to other regions of the world, as we see with the Nigerians in West Africa.
It is my belief that a major obstacle to world peace is the undemocratic and unequal status given to the major powers in the Security Council, especially in the form of the unrestricted veto. With the creation of the UN after the second World War, the world witnessed the use of the Russian veto over 120 times before the first US veto was cast. It was common to talk about the paralysis of the UN by the veto and the US was looking sincerely for a means to avoid or change the practice that was so often used by the Soviets. It is in times of peace, such as today, that we should modify the rules for using the veto, before it is again subjected to continuous abuse.
Since wars have become and will remain mostly internal, we can expect that they will not be waged between battle groups or armoured divisions, but with one side at least being guerrilla forces using small arms. The guerrillas will fight from mountain or jungle bases, staging “hit and run” attacks before seeking cover. Ethnic warfare may also be fought in cities “block by block” as was the case in Grosny and Mogadishu. The worst part of this picture is that these types of wars take a long time to end, and usually they do not end cleanly. In addition, the parties will use crime as a means of revenue. In Africa especially, crime and war will be mutually reinforcing. Thus, the major threat to human beings in the twenty-first century will not be ICBMs rocketing through the outer atmosphere across oceans, but streams of AK-47 bullets in gang war fought across streets within states.
IV. Small Arms are the Big Threat
Thus, I am led to the conclusion that at the beginning of a new century, small arms pose the greatest man-made threat in practice to human security in our world. Nuclear weapons may have the capacity to annihilate populations (and are therefore called the ultimate evil), but they are not used daily to take hundreds of lives in communities in virtually every country, as is the case with small arms. The fact remains that most killings in our world are carried out with small arms, those weapons that can be carried and used by a single person.
Small arms are the preferred tools of violence in most internal wars, coups, militia and gang violence, government oppression and human rights abuses, as well as for domestic and transnational crime. Even in international wars they play a major role, and in some cases a predominant one. Though not categorised as weapons of mass destruction, today they are truly the premier instruments of mass murder.
Even long after an armed conflict is over, these weapons continue to exact their toll on vulnerable populations. The ICRC estimates even a year and a half after the formal end of conflict, the weapons-related casualties remain at 60-80 percent of the rate during the conflict [Herby in Boutwell, p.199]. Unless strong disarmament measures are instituted as part of a peace agreement, the weapons remain available to promote criminal, communal and family violence.
In cultures of violence and gun-ownership, often created initially by armed conflicts but remaining ingrained long afterwards, these instruments become a symbol of power and pride (and even the subject of affection!). In times of tension, such an unnatural status promotes an increase in boasting, intimidation, threats of violence and the inevitable demonstrations of force. Finally, the result is all too often widening lethality as the spiral of retribution and revenge is reinforced and fuelled, leading to social disintegration.
The statistics are alarming. Small arms have caused more than 3 million deaths in the past decade, with the vast majority of victims being civilians, 8 out of 10 being women and children, according to UNICEF. [“The UN takes aim at small arms”, UNICEF Press Release CF/DOC/PR/1999/26 of 20 July 1999.] It is estimated that there are 500 million arms in the world, an average of one for every 12 inhabitants [This statistic, estimated by Singh [Singh, Jasjit, “Introduction”, in Sigh, p. ix] is very rough and may be in error by one hundred million or more, a further indication on the lack of monitoring and control of these weapons].
Arms producers, brokers and dealers (sometimes called the “merchants of death”) continually look to new markets in search of increased profits, thereby helping to proliferate both arms and conflict. The result is that weapons end up where they are the least controlled and do the most damage.
Clearly there is a need to combat this menace to human security. The widespread distribution of small arms in the world leads to a horrendous global tragedy that every national and international authority has a responsibility to help mitigate. The human tragedy of small arms alone provides compelling reason to motivate the international community to participate in efforts to solve, or at least mitigate the global arms threat.
In some of the poorest countries of the world, there is easy access to inexpensive firearms. In Uganda, an AK-47 could be purchased for the cost of a chicken. [Belgian Administration for Development Cooperation, “Sustainable Disarmament for Sustainable Development,” 1999, 59.] Before the genocide in Rwanda, a grenade could be obtained for two beers.
The value of arms deliveries nearly doubled to Sub-Saharan Africa in 1998 though it remained steady in East Asia and Australasia [International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) as quoted in the Globe and Mail, October 27, 1999.]
A strong International Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers is needed, such as the one proposed by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates led by former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. Recipient countries must accept democracy (defined in terms of free and fair elections), the rule of law, civilian control over military forces, and abide by the accepted conventions on torture, civil rights and international aggression. Another provision requires that the military spending of recipient governments must not exceed the combined budget on health and education. In addition, states must report their arms purchases to the United Nations.
Henry Dunant, feeling his “own utter inadequacy” in the face of a screaming need to ameliorate the condition of the wounded in the field, was moved to suggest that new societies be organized in times of peace to prevent the reoccurring disaster of unattended wounded. His plea led directly to the formation of the Red Cross, the first Geneva Convention of 1864 and, indirectly, to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977 over a century after the battle of Solferino.
Today we face similar distress as Dunant felt in 1859, with “so much to do and so little means to do it” in our goal of continuing to reduce the barbarity of warfare and to eventually abolish the institution altogether, whether it be between or within nations. But we can take heart from the progressive and ongoing work of the Red Cross. The 1980 Excessively Injurious Weapons Convention, championed by the Red Cross, expanded on earlier agreements to ban so-called dum-dum bullets, as did the Protocol to ban laser blinding weapons. The 1987 Ottawa Convention on Antipersonnel Mines, which was urged and backed by the Red Cross movement and many other members of our global civil society, was another step along the road of sanity and morality. The next step, in my mind, is to develop new mechanisms to limit the proliferation and use of small arms.
With a world in which wars are increasingly internal, international humanitarian law (IHL) is now more difficult, but as important as ever. The two major challenges in my mind are (1) finding the means to “bind” non-state parties (i.e., to gain their acceptance and find the means to support their compliance) and (2) measures to reduce the presence of the most common killers – small arms. Fortunately, we have important organizations, such as the Red Cross to help in both areas.
The Red Cross has played a vital seminal role in the past not only in the development of new international humanitarian law (IHL) but also in its dissemination and implementation. With this in mind, it is a pleasure to participate in this Symposium on “IHL in the New Millennium.” It seems to me that the Red Cross is needed as much as ever in this new millennium, and the age-old motto is as applicable as ever: “Above all—humanity.”