WRI's goal in campaigning against war profiteering is to end ALL forms of war profiteering. I have been reminded of this in the past weeks in the discussions around the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) and the Arms Trade Treaty.
Last year here in London at a strategy meeting of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), Milan Rai of Peace News, asked the question: Is CAAT trying to end the arms trade or reduce it? And, are actions that CAAT organise directed at ending or reducing UK arms trade? CAAT's response was that their mission was to end the arms trade, but that they were realistic that this could not happen just from one moment to another, that this was a process. I felt the question was a very good one, to make us reflect on whether our strategies are appropriate to reach our goals. But also the bigger question if our goal is to end the arms trade, military spending, war profiteering, you name it, is it realism that makes us lower our sights and believe that we can achieve no more than reducing and controlling it?
Working against war profiteering involves a lot of coalition work. Coalitions can be inspiring as you realise that there are many people and groups behind a same cause, but they can also be extremely frustrating because huge differences become visible between groups who all consider themselves part of the peace movement. This is especially the case in discussing the Arms Trade Treaty. We know that many people working on the Arms Trade Treaty really put a lot of work to get as good a treaty as possible, but as Wendela argues in her article, ultimately this treaty does little to reduce the arms trade and more than anything it even helps to legitimate it. Wouldn't it be better to put our energy and resources into actions that directly challenges the arms exports and directly targets the military industrial complex?
Being involved in GDAMS was a stimulating experience, as so many groups in so many countries joined together to say no to military spending. This day of action has secured its place in the calendar of peace organisations, and we truly celebrate this process. However, this work also brings many questions. Are we against all military spending? Who are mainly responsible of world military spending? What are the best strategies to tackle military spending?
At WRI we are very clear that we are against all militarism, therefore against all military spending. However, in the many discussion we had in preparations for the day of action, I heard of positions justifying military spending of countries, which were targets of the empire, by empire meaning of course no other than USA. Yes, the USA's military spending is far higher than that of any other state - but look at the actual trends, as reported by SIPRI, and who are second and third and whose spending continues to rise? China and Russia. And what export markets are they seeking to open for their military production? Well, naturally, the states who feel threatened by US imperialism.
This is too big a discussion for a short editorial, yet it highlights the kind of uneasiness you feel working in a coalition saying - no to military spending - where many groups want to ignore the activities of the second and third highest spenders. We in WRI strongly value the work in coalition that events like GDAMS bring, yet we insist on denouncing ALL forms of militarism and opposing all forms of war profiteering.