True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice. Martin Luther King, Jr. Do what is right. Rosa Parks Whenever you are in doubt, recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man. Gandhi Henceforth, our country should be the universe. Flora Tristan *

The Role of Armies, Disarmament, and Conversion

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The Role of Armies, Disarmament, and Conversion


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Bringing the Violence of War under Control in a Globalized World
Problems, Limitations, and Perspectives of Using Weapons to Build a Better World

Jean-René Bachelet ¤ 30 September 2009
Related themes: Conflict resolution ¤ Human security ¤ Legitimacy ¤ Peace building ¤ United Nations ¤ Values and principles
Translations: français (original) . Español .

The most serious of all the dangers facing humanity at the outset of the 21st
century is undoubtedly that which threatens its very survival. Since the
end of the 20th century, we have entered into a transitional phase, with
one crisis succeeding and overlapping the next: the financial crisis and accompanying
economic crisis, affecting entire swathes of the banking and industrial systems
and once again raising the specter of mass unemployment for those economies
most tied into global markets; a crisis in the relationship between humanity and
the biosphere, which is exacerbating ecological problems and in the space of one
generation — ours — seeing the emergence of unprecedented levels of famine,
poverty and water and air shortages; an ethical crisis centered on the values and
principles our societies are built on and that is rocking the foundations we depend
on for managing conflicts.

The people running countries as well as banks, businesses and international institutions,
when they are not the direct cause of the problems, are proving incapable
of resolving them. Which means it will take us even longer to extricate ourselves
from these crises.

The most fundamental of all these crises is the one affecting the relationship between
human beings themselves. In the (little) time we still have left to
find new solutions to the current crisis collectively, if we cannot curb and prevent the
open and hidden wars that are rocking strategic areas of the planet, we run the risk
of being caught up in a spiral of violence even bloodier than that which ended in
the mass exterminations of last century’s world wars and genocides.

Without being unduly optimistic, we can posit that organized citizens, far-sighted
political leaders and fair-minded spiritual leaders could between them succeed in
neutralizing the damaging effects of the current crises and find new solutions. But it
is not certain that they will. Countries, regions, continents, even the entire planet,
living as we do under the constant threat of a nuclear holocaust, could perish if we
do not protect ourselves from all forms of belligerent nationalism, fanaticism and
fundamentalism. We can also assert that a new world governance without control
over the violence of war would not be achievable — or would be under constant
threat.

We were given the chance to meet General Jean-René Bachelet and discuss these
fundamental questions with him. He is the instigator as well as one of the main
driving forces of the French army’s new thinking on the ethics of the army profession.
As a general officer, he commanded the Sarajevo sector as a brigadier as part
of the UNPROFOR in 1995. Since 1996, he has been leading in-depth discussions
on laying the foundation stones for a code of ethics and behavior for the military
profession, a process that has provided the French army with a reference framework
on these issues. The discussions have taken concrete form with a number of documents.
The main documents are Fondements et principes de l’exercice du métier des
armes dans l’armée de terre
(Foundations and Principles of Exercising the Profession
of Soldier in the Army) and the Code du soldat (Soldier’s Code). He ended his career
as Inspector General of the Armed Forces. His current roles include president
of the Association des Glières. Pour la mémoire de la Résistance.

In addition to his commitment to the process of deliberation within the armed
forces, Jean-René Bachelet is fully aware of the urgent need to construct a fruitful
dialog between the military and civilians, a vital step in building a responsible,
plural and solidarity-based world community. His analysis and reflections reach far
beyond the French, or even European, context. Jean-René Bachelet has a particularly
lucid understanding of the impact of his background on his thinking. However,
this does not prevent him developing a radical and innovative conception of
controlling violence in this Proposal Paper, where he invites us to take an in-depth
look at the human condition. He also gives us an understanding of the ethical and
political issues involved in the professional soldier’s job of controlling violence in
the modern world. In the spirit of this series of Proposal Papers for a new world governance,
he also ventures to suggest several avenues for controlling the violence of
war and for implementing wholly realistic solutions relating to current and future
tensions and armed conflicts.

See also (in French only) :
* Speech by J.-R. Bachelet at the South Cone Citizens’ Assembly



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