De­con­struct­ing de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion ar­gu­ment

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Dr Ra­maele Moshoeshoe

IN re­sponse to “De­mil­i­tari­sa­tion: A vi­able re­form op­tion” (Le­sotho Times, 26 May 2016), by Tlo­hang Let­sie, the au­thor’s the­sis is that the only vi­able op­tion to at­tain last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity in Le­sotho is to de­mil­i­tarise.

In order to ap­pre­ci­ate my re­ac­tion to Mr Let­sie’s ar­ti­cle, it is fit­ting to start with a brief sum­mary of its main tenets. To help ad­vance his ar­gu­ment, the au­thor first lays down the frame­work for his anal­y­sis, un­der which he ex­plains the op­er­at­ing con­cepts of peace, se­cu­rity sec­tor and de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion. Peace is un­der­stood to mean ab­sence of vi­o­lence in all its forms, be it di­rect, struc­tural or cul­tural. Se­cu­rity sec­tor is con­fined to the Le­sotho mil­i­tary, while the op­er­at­ing def­i­ni­tion of de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion is that of Bar­bey, de­scrib­ing it as “a process of dis­man­tling mil­i­tary forces and dis­pos­ing of weapons that leads ... to a state of non-mil­i­tari­sa­tion”.

Se­condly, the au­thor de­tails the roles of mil­i­taries, cat­e­gorised as tra­di­tional and sec­ondary roles. The tra­di­tional role, based on which the main con­clu­sions of the ar­ti­cle are drawn, is de­fined as the ter­ri­to­rial de­fence against at­tack or de­ter­rence of threats from for­eign forces.

Thirdly, un­der the head­ing “An in­ter­na­tional over­view”, the au­thor men­tions the num­ber (about 26) and some names of coun­tries with­out armies. Ac­cord­ing to Chisto­pher Bar­bey, whom Mr Let­sie seems to have re­ferred, these in­clude Costa Rica, Monaco, Mau­ri­tius and the Vat­i­can etc.

Un­der this head­ing, the ar­ti­cle mainly fo­cuses on Costa Rica (claimed to be the shin­ing star of non-mil­i­tarised states) and Mau­ri­tius (claimed to be the only African state in the “non-mil­i­tarised” club). The rel­a­tively high stan­dards of liv­ing and long pe­ri­ods of peace and sta­bil­ity in Costa Rica and Mau­ri­tius lead the au­thor to con­clude that “these are, to a greater ex­tent, the ben­e­fits of the coun­try’s [Mau­ri­tius] bold de­ci­sion to never es­tab­lish an army”. Fi­nally, af­ter a brief his­tory of Le­sotho’s mil­i­tary and its stated func­tions, Mr Let­sie claims that “an his­tor­i­cal over­view of the Le­sotho’s pol­i­tics shows that the coun­try’s army has been more in­volved in the po­lit­i­cal con­flict that has char­ac­terised Le­sotho in the past three decades than per­form­ing any of the above-stated roles”. Briefly, those stated func­tions in­clude, among oth­ers, pro­tect­ing the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and sovereignty of Le­sotho, and up­hold­ing law and order in sup­port of the po­lice.

The main ar­gu­ments of the ar­ti­cle for de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion in Le­sotho are that, first, due to her be­ing sur­rounded by South Africa, Le­sotho has no ex­ter­nal en­e­mies other than, po­ten­tially, South Africa, against which she can­not not en­gage in war due to South Africa’s mil­i­tary might.

Sec­ond, Le­sotho’s mil­i­tary has proven un­able to pro­vide ter­ri­to­rial de­fence against for­eign in­cur­sions as ev­i­denced by its fail­ure to stop apartheid South African mil­i­tary at­tacks in the Mr Let­sie warns, a “factcharged de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion, not emo­tional one, can in the long-term prove to be a very good peace in­vest­ment for Le­sotho”. It is in this spirit that I write to chal­lenge his ar­gu­ments.

My aim in this ar­ti­cle is not to prof­fer an al­ter­na­tive view as to whether or not Le­sotho should de­mil­i­tarise, but rather to show that Mr Let­sie’s ad­vanced ar­gu­ments fall far short of sup­port­ing de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion in Le­sotho.

First of all, I would like to clear these two, seem­ingly triv­ial, is­sues with the ar­ti­cle be­fore I en­gage with its ar­gu­ments. The first is­sue is that I found the ti­tle of the ar­ti­cle to be a bit dis­con­nected to the main body.

In­stead of the ar­ti­cle dis­cussing whether or not de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion is a vi­able or fea­si­ble re­form op­tion, it seems to fo­cus much on the at­tempt to show that Le­sotho does not need a mil­i­tary. The ti­tle leads one to think that the ar­ti­cle dis­cusses the vi­a­bil­ity or fea­si­bil­ity of the de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion re­form, hav­ing pit­ted it against other po­ten­tial re­form op­tions.

But, alas, it veered from this goal. Nonethe­less, what mat­ters most for my re­ac­tion is the body of the ar­ti­cle.

My sec­ond is­sue is that the ar­ti­cle has no dis­cus­sion on how Le­sotho’s army ex­erts vi­o­lence, in all its forms, on the pop­u­lace, nor does it deal with how de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion would then help re­duce such vi­o­lence. It leaves much of this for the reader to guess. Be that as it may, be­low I at­tempt to ad­dress some of the au­thor’s claims, and will briefly touch on the cor­re­la­tion be­tween mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­ture and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Mr Let­sie states that “there are 26 coun­tries world­wide that do not have armies”. It seems to me the aim of this point is to show that there are many sov­er­eign states out there that have al­ready de­mil­i­tarised, hence the call for Le­sotho to do the same is not a crazy idea af­ter all. As I men­tioned above, such states in­clude Costa Rica, Monaco, Mau­ri­tius, Nauru, Saint Kitts and Ne­vis, San Marino, Solomon Is­lands, Tu­valu, the Vat­i­can City Re­pub­lic, etc. I have a num­ber of prob­lems with this im­plicit ar­gu­ment. First, many of the said states are so tiny that they would hardly qual­ify to be a town in Le­sotho. For ex­am­ple, the Vat­i­can City Re­pub­lic has an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of about 783 (as per the 2005 cen­sus), Tu­valu has about 10 441 in­hab­i­tants (2005 es­ti­mate), and Nauru has about 13 005 in­hab­i­tants (2005 es­ti­mate). San Marino, with an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of 32 500 in­hab­i­tants, and the Vat­i­can City re­publics are ac­tu­ally states within Italy.

Given this and their rel­a­tively tiny sizes com­pared to Le­sotho, it is rea­son­able to be­lieve that these had no choice but not to have any army. There­fore, in my view, the num­ber of “de­mil­i­tarised” coun­tries to which Le­sotho may be com­pared is far less than 26.

Sec­ond, Costa Rica and Mau­ri­tius, men­tioned as good ex­am­ples of de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion, are not ac­tu­ally de­mil­i­tarised. Writ­ing for the “War is Bor­ing” blog, Robert Beck­husen states that “Costa Rica does have a small mil­i­tary force in all but name”. He fur­ther states that, in July of 2014, Costa Ri­can com­man­dos par­tic­i­pated in a bi­en­nial war game, in which com­mando units from 16 other coun­tries par­tic­i­pated, spon­sored by the U.S. mil­i­tary’s South­ern Com­mand. In those games, snipers and com­bat teams from the Costa Ri­can Spe­cial In­ter­ven­tion Unit, the unofficial mil­i­tary force, came in tenth place. This shows that in spite of it be­ing a tiny force of just 70 sol­diers, it is a po­tent force. It is not a po­lice force!

Fur­ther­more, ac­cord­ing to the CIA World Fact­book of 2016, Mau­ri­tius has no reg­u­lar mil­i­tary forces. This im­plies that it has mil­i­tary forces but not reg­u­lar ones as in the case of Le­sotho. How else does one ex­plain the fact that it al­lo­cated about 0.19 per­cent of its Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct (GDP) to mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­ture in 2012? If it re­ally didn’t have an army, it wouldn’t have such an al­lo­ca­tion in its na­tional bud­get.

Next, I deal with the claim that de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion leads to bet­ter liv­ing stan­dards (or eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment). By quot­ing the for­mer Costa Ri­can pres­i­dent claim­ing that “the ex­tra­or­di­nary ad­vances of my coun­try in the fields of ed­u­ca­tion, health, hous­ing and so­cial wel­fare are ba­si­cally due to the fact we do not ded­i­cate our re­sources to the pur­chase of arms”, Mr Let­sie im­plic­itly in­fers that de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion causes an in­crease in the liv­ing stan­dards.

He in fact ex­plic­itly states that “apart from its thriv­ing econ­omy, Mau­ri­tius is rated the most peace­ful coun­try in Africa” due to its de­ci­sion not to “es­tab­lish an army”. First of all, the claim that these coun­tries do not have armies and/ or al­lo­cate re­sources to buy arms is in­ac­cu­rate as high­lighted above.

Sec­ond, the claim that hav­ing no army leads to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is too strong for one to take. That there is some cor­re­la­tion be­tween the two, I agree. But that there is a causal re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two is too much of leap.

I am not aware of any hard ev­i­dence in sup­port of the causal link be­tween de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. There are a plethora of coun­tries with armies and high stan­dards of liv­ing and rel­a­tive peace and sta­bil­ity.

In­ter­est­ingly, Cuba has the mil­i­tary and, in spite of be­ing un­der an eco­nomic em­bargo for more than 50 years, has rel­a­tively higher ed­u­ca­tion and health stan­dards than the praised Costa Rica.

Cuba is also more peace­ful than most coun­tries. Fur­ther­more, Egypt is now the sec­ond largest African econ­omy de­spite of it be­ing ruled by, ef­fec­tively, mil­i­tary dic­ta­tors, three in suc­ces­sion.

By the way, I want to men­tion that I find any men­tion of El Sal­vador in the ar­ti­cle out of place. Given that Mr Let­sie’s the­sis re­lies much on Christo­pher Bar­bey’s def­i­ni­tion of de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion (which means non-mil­i­tari­sa­tion), and that El Sal­vador has only re­duced its army, it is strange that he uses it as an ar­gu­ment for de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion. Next I chal­lenge the main ar­gu­ments ad­vanced di­rectly against Le­sotho hav­ing an army.

‘Le­sotho doesn’t need an army’ Mr Let­sie ar­gues that Le­sotho does not need an army be­cause the “army can­not en­gage their

South African coun­ter­parts in war due to the lat­ter’s might” and can­not project its power abroad.

All in all, Mr Let­sie claims that Le­sotho’s army fails dis­mally in its tra­di­tional role, which is to de­fend against, and/or de­ter any at­tacks from for­eign forces.

The prob­lem with this ar­gu­ment is that it over­looks the fact that many coun­tries ef­fec­tively keep armies sim­ply as a de­ter­rence mech­a­nism.

Cuba’s mil­i­tary is far smaller and less so­phis­ti­cated than that of the US, and if the lat­ter were to launch an all-out at­tack, the for­mer would be ef­fec­tively de­feated.

But that it has an ac­tive army, how­ever small, is enough a de­ter­rent against such an at­tack be­cause any for­eign army would also worry about po­ten­tial losses it may in­cur.

There­fore, the ar­gu­ment that if your army is small war­rants de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion seems to lack merit. Lastly, the ar­gu­ment that Le­sotho’s army can­not en­gage the South African army in war is trou­bling.

This is be­cause en­gage­ment in war is dif­fer­ent from win­ning a war. While I con­cede that the South African army might over­run Le­sotho’s army, they cer­tainly will need to en­gage in war be­fore that can hap­pen.

The sec­ond rea­son for Le­sotho not to have an army, ac­cord­ing Mr Let­sie, is that the army has on sev­eral oc­ca­sions failed to de­fend Le­sotho against for­eign in­cur­sions by the apartheid South African army in the 1980s, and against the LLA (Le­sotho Lib­er­a­tion Army) hi­jack in 1988.

To me, the stated rea­sons for de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion here seem to be ac­tu­ally a sug­ges­tion that we should strengthen the army so it can ef­fec­tively de­fend Le­sotho next time. For in­stance, coun­tries such as Kenya, Nige­ria and Uganda, that have ex­pe­ri­enced sev­eral ter­ror­ists’ at­tacks, have not dealt away with their armies, but are in­stead fo­cus­ing on strength­en­ing them. More­over, Rwan­dan forces have, on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, been said to have car­ried out at­tacks against some Hutu rebels in the DRC.

We, how­ever, have not heard calls for DRC to de­mil­i­tarise based solely on the fact that it failed to stop and/or de­fend it­self against for­eign at­tacks. Why then should one buy this ar­gu­ment for de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion in Le­sotho?

Be­fore clos­ing, I would like to note how Mr Let­sie seems to con­tra­dict him­self in some in­stances. For ex­am­ple, he claims that Leso- tho’s army has not been per­form­ing any of its stated roles, in­clud­ing “up­hold­ing law and order in sup­port of the po­lice”, in the past three decades.

He then later on states that “the army only sig­nif­i­cantly en­gages in the up­hold­ing of law and order in sup­port of the po­lice”. Which is which? I take it that the lat­ter state­ment is what the au­thor ac­tu­ally meant, in which case, he proves that the army has some role to play in the se­cu­rity sec­tor.

In sum, Mr Let­sie’s ar­ti­cle has failed to con­vince me and pos­si­bly other scep­ti­cal read­ers that Le­sotho re­ally needs to de­mil­i­tarise.

Hope­fully, this re­ac­tion will pro­voke the au­thor to bet­ter ad­vance his ar­gu­ments and ul­ti­mately move me from this po­si­tion. As it stands, I don’t think the ar­ti­cle does enough to achieve its stated goal of show­ing that Le­sotho does not need an army. How­ever, I must ad­mit that I have learned a lot from read­ing Mr Let­sie’s ar­ti­cle. Keep up the good work.

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