I. International Security

In this Chapter:

For thousands of years, nations have invaded and fought each other with ever more powerful weapons. But in the last century, both international and grassroots organizations have worked to minimize conflict and hinder warfare in an effort to make us all safer.

Study Questions

  1. The United States now has the most powerful military in the history of the world. Has this military might made the U.S. safer or provided other useful benefits?
  2. Have international treaties, the United Nations, or citizen diplomacy been effective in preventing war or limiting the damage to civilians?
  3. Under what circumstances do nonviolent efforts appear to be effective in overcoming military might?
  4. Do the benefits of a warrior culture outweigh the disadvantages?

Overview Article I

11 pages total

“Doomsday Clock Overview,” Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 5 p.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction — the figurative midnight — and monitors the means humankind could use to obliterate itself.

“Doomsday Clock Timeline,” Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 6 p.

Reading Set I1: Military Spending and the Military-Industrial Complex

59 pages total

“World Military Spending,” by Anup Shah, GlobalIssues.org, March 1, 2008, 12 p.

Global military expenditure and arms trade form the largest spending in the world at over one trillion dollars in annual expenditure and has been rising in recent years.

“Return of the Iron Triangle: The New Military Buildup,” by James M. Cypher, Dollars & Sense, January-February 2002, 12 p.

The proposed redesign of the military to ensure continued U.S. dominance and to satisfy the interests of the Iron Triangle, means military spending will have to rise dramatically.

“U.S. Military Spending and the Cost of the Wars,” by Chris Sturr, Dollars & Sense, July/August 2006, 3 p.

For the past several years, the annual inflation-adjusted budget of the Department of Defense has been higher than the Cold War average. Add in the special appropriations Congress has made to cover the costs of war-fighting since 9/11, and the current military buildup is even more dramatic.

“Imperial Reach,” by Michael T. Klare, The Nation, April 8, 2005 (April 25, 2005 issue), 12 p.

During the cold war, when “containment” was the overarching strategic principle, the United States surrounded the Soviet bloc with major military bases. Now, terrorism, the pursuit of foreign oil, and the rise of China are largely driving the realignment of U.S. bases and forces.

“Space Cowboy: Bush’s War on Heaven,” opinion column by Bruce K. Gagnon, CounterPunch, October 25, 2006, 3 p.

The U.S. military says space technology is crucial to its ability to create “full spectrum dominance.”

“Small Arms—they cause 90% of civilian casualties,” by Anup Shah, GlobalIssues.org, January 21, 2006, 17 p.

The growing availability of small arms has been a major factor in the increase in the number of conflicts, and in hindering smoother rebuilding and development after a conflict has ended.

Reading Set I2: U.S. Military Intervention in Other Countries

47 pages total

“Introduction,” an excerpt from Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer, 2006, 9 p. OR listen to: An interview by Terri Gross of Stephen Kinzer, author of All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror,” Fresh Air, National Public Radio, April 5, 2006, 37 min.

Iraq was the culmination of a 110-year period during which Americans overthrew fourteen governments that displeased them for various ideological, political, and economic reasons.

“It’s What We Do,” by Ivan Eland, American Prospect, January 5, 2006, 18 p.


A libertarian perspective: The administration says the terrorists hate us for who we are. But that isn’t what the terrorists say — or what the record shows.

“US Military and Clandestine Operations in Foreign Countries — 1798–Present,” Global Policy Forum, December 2005, 8 p.

A list of 193 U.S. military interventions in other countries since 1798 with short descriptions of each one.

“US Military Bases and Empire,” by the Editors, Monthly Review, March 2002, Volume 53, Number 10, 16 p.

The United States has built a chain of military bases and staging areas around the globe, as a means of deploying air and naval forces to be used on a moment’s notice — all in the interest of maintaining its political and economic hegemony.

Reading Set I3: Militarism and Its Effects

56 pages total

“The Normalization of War,” by Andrew J. Bacevich, Tomdispatch.com, April 21, 2005, 17 p.

Americans have become enthralled by — and found themselves in thrall to — military power and the idea of global military supremacy.

“War is a Force that Gives us Meaning,” by Chris Hedges, Amnesty International NOW, Winter 2002, 7 p.

War is a drug peddled by myth makers — historians, war correspondents, filmmakers novelists, and the state — all of whom endow it with qualities it often does possess: excitement, exoticism, power, chances to rise above our small stations in life, and a bizarre and fantastic universe that has a grotesque and dark beauty.

“The Arms Trade is Big Business,” by Anup Shah, GlobalIssues.org, November 9, 2007, 23 p.

The world spends some $1,000 billion annually on the military. How is this so?

“Psychological Effects of Combat,” by Dave Grossman and Bruce K. Siddle, Academic Press, 2000.

There is a a psychological cost borne by the survivors of combat, and a full understanding of this cost has been too long repressed by a legacy of self-deception and intentional misrepresentation.

Reading Set I4: International Law, the United Nations, and Citizen Diplomacy

53 pages total

“Sometimes A Great Nation,” by Eric Foner, Yes! Magazine, Spring 2007, 9 p.

The United States and human rights: A history of proud ideals and mixed results.

“This Is What Justice Looks Like,” by Carol Estes, Yes! Magazine, Spring 2003, 12 p.

For most of history, the law wasn’t strong enough to bring to justice those who killed, raped, or tortured thousands. By 1999, people worldwide were ready to change that and create the International Criminal Court. But first they would have to overcome the opposition of the world’s sole superpower.

“Healing Services: Introduction,” The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), 1 p.

Survivors of torture can recover from the traumas that they have suffered.

“Eight Lessons of Torture,” The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), 3 p.

Eight broad lessons CVT has learned from working with torture survivors.

“US No Longer Promoting Landmine Abolition,” by Haider Rizvi, OneWorld.net, December 28, 2005, 4 p.

In 1994, the United States was the first nation to call for the elimination of landmines that killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of innocent people around the world. But today, Washington not only stands in opposition to an international treaty that bans the use and production of antipersonnel landmines, but intends to make new ones too.

“People to People Diplomacy,” remarks by U.S. Ambassador Linda E. Watt, American Society Installation Dinner, Panama, June 12, 2003, 6 p.

With the growing influence of businesses, and civic, religious, and academic institutions, an ambassador is now but one of many figures and forces influencing relations between nations and peoples.

“Citizen Diplomacy: What it is, how it began, and where it’s going,” by Michael Shuman, Gale Warner, and Lila Forest, In Context, Winter 1987, 8 p.

A brief overview and history of citizen diplomacy.

“Track II (Citizen) Diplomacy,” by Diana Chigas, August 2003, BeyondIntractability.org, 20 p.

All about diplomacy outside of official channels.

Reading Set I5: Nonviolent Struggle and Intervention

63 pages total

“Breaking the Cycle of Vengeance” opinion column by Paul Rogat Loeb, CommonDreams.org, October 1, 2001, 8 p.

As citizens, we must help prevent horrors like the 9/11 terrorist attacks from continuing, generation after generation, in the United States or any other place on this earth.

“Non-Violent Action: The Other Side Of Politics,” by Sean Gonsalves, Cape Cod Times, March 28, 2000, 3 p.

Why doesn’t nonviolent political action count as doing something? I suspect it’s because (a) most of us don’t know how nonviolent social action works and (b) think such an approach, while it might be a nice ideal, is impractical.

Review by Carolyn McConnell of The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People by Jonathan Schell, Yes! Magazine, Fall 2003, 5 p.

Violence is losing its effectiveness in deciding human affairs and nonviolence is rising to take its place.

“Greater Than the Tread of Mighty Armies: Nonviolent Peacekeeping,” by Mel Duncan, Yes! Magazine, Spring 2006, 3 p.

Nonviolent peacekeeping has saved thousands of lives. It transforms violent conflicts with observers, mediators and “accompaniers” protecting human rights organizations and threatened leaders.

“The Time For Nonviolence Has Come,” by Michael N. Nagler, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2003, 7 p.

Describes the three historical waves of global nonviolent action.

“Dismantling the Fortresses of Fear,” by Jeff Halper, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2003, 5 p.

As a member of the International Solidarity Movement, Rachel Corrie was a member of the international civil society, as we all are. In her actions she affirmed her responsibility for upholding the inherent dignity and equal rights of all people.

Examples of effective nonviolent action, an excerpt from The Politics of Nonviolent Action by Gene Sharp, 16 p.

Five examples of nonviolent action used effectively against repressive governments.

“Recognizing the Power of Nonviolent Action,” by Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus, March 2005, 16 p.

In recent years, nonviolent action campaigns have not only led to significant political and social reforms advancing the cause of human rights but have even toppled repressive regimes from power and forced leaders to change the very nature of their governance.

Additional Resources


Next Reading Set Collection: J. Personal Safety