JPT Practice #2 Take Independent Initiatives to Reduce Threats
In situations of conflict, an arms buildup or any form of escalation can lead to or expand a war. But so can unilateral disarmaments or appeasements. What is needed is a series of surprising, independent initiatives that reduce threat levels and act as “confidence building measures” that often open up new possibilities of peacemaking. It is important that such actions are public, visible, happen at the times announced, and invite reciprocation.
This is the most misunderstood of Just Peacemaking practices, so I’ll say a little more. Although the practice is probably ancient, it was only named and studied beginning in 1962. See Charles Osgood, An Alternative to War or Surrender (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962).
Effective initiatives have the following characteristics:
- They are designed to decrease the threat perception and distrust by the other side. Example: Gorbachev’s removal of tanks and rivercrossing equipment from Central Europe so that NATO would be less fearful of a sudden Soviet invasion. That reduction in fear allowed for negotiation to remove the medium-range nuclear weapons which increased the probability of “war by accident” by giving Moscow only 6 minutes to check out false alarms before launching a counterattack.
- They are visible and verifiable actions, so that the other side can see that they are, in fact being taken. Words or invisible actions are not enough to break cycles of distrust.
- They are independent of the slow process of negotiation–although they often allow negotiations to become more productive.
- They are designed to decrease the threat to the other side WITHOUT being the kind of initiative which leaves the intiating side feeling weak or vulnerable itself.
- A series of small initiatives, on a regular timetable, does more to break cycles of distrust than a big one-time action that the other side can dismiss as a propaganda ploy.
- If the other side reciprocates with some independent initiatives of its own, confidence-building begins and real work toward stable peace can proceed.
- The timing of the initiative should be announced in advance and carried out promptly.
- The purpose of the intitiative should be clearly announced: to shift the context toward de-escalation and to invite reciprocation.
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