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degrees of militarization

Development. For many economists, development has been synonymous with economic

growth, seen as the secular expansion in the level of aggregate economic income or output,

typically measured by GNP or GDP. But I think it is important to distinguish between this kind of growth, which says nothing in particular about whether the material wellbeing of the broad

mass of the population is increasing, and development, with its connotations of improvement in

the quality of life.

Peace. The narrowest definition of peace is that it is simply the absence of war. But real peace

is more than that. A person who is not able to go about the ordinary business of life without

the constant threat of murderous violence, whether from uniformed soldiers, ragged rebel

forces, terrorists, or ordinary criminals cannot be said to be living in a state of peace.

Johan Galtung referred to the absence of war as “negative peace.” But Galtung argued that

there was a richer, more complex meaning of peace, “positive peace.” For it is not bullets and

bombs alone that kill and maim people. There is also such a thing as “structural violence”,

violence that is built into the structure of political, social and economic systems. People who

die of malnutrition in a world with more than enough food; who are blinded, crippled or killed

by preventable diseases; who are subject to torture and abuse; who become the targets of

vicious crimes committed by desperate, marginalized people — these are not the victims of war.

They are the victims of structural violence. Yet they are just as damaged, just as dead as those

we count as war casualties. Positive peace is more than just the absence of war. It is the

presence of decency.

Militarization. Militarization is a process by which military values are exalted and military

institutions become dominant in a society. Military values emphasize obedience to authority,

loyalty, forceful and aggressive behavior, and the threat and use of violence as a means of

settling disputes and achieving objectives. Military institutions can become dominant by

directly seizing and wielding political power. Even the credible threat of taking such action is

sometimes enough to keep civilian authorities under de-facto military control.

Of course, there are many degrees of militarization. But it is important to emphasize that the

mere possession of a military, even a large and well-funded military, does not by itself establish

that a society is militarized. The degree of militarization of a society is positively related to the

degree to which military values are emphasized in the culture, and negatively related to the

extent to which civilian political authorities are not only formally, but also actively and

effectively in control of military commanders and forces.

War. Finally, war is not just a rhetorical term for a determined struggle against something, as in

Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty”, George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism”, or the infamous

and ongoing “war on drugs.” War is a brutal and deadly manifestation of mass organized

violence.

 

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