|Have We Forgotten the Path to Peace?
By JIMMY CARTER
After the cold war, many expected that the world would enter an era of
unprecedented peace and prosperity. Those who live in developed nations
might think this is the case today, with the possible exception of the
war in Kosovo. But at the Carter Center we monitor all serious conflicts
in the world, and the reality is that the number of such wars has
One reason is that the United Nations was designed to deal with
international conflicts, and almost all the current ones are civil wars
in developing countries. This creates a peacemaking vacuum that is most
often filled by powerful nations that concentrate their attention on
conflicts that affect them, like those in Iraq, Bosnia and Serbia. While
the war in Kosovo rages and dominates the world's headlines, even more
destructive conflicts in developing nations are systematically ignored
by the United States and other powerful nations.
One can traverse Africa, from the Red Sea in the northeast to the
southwestern Atlantic coast, and never step on peaceful territory. Fifty
thousand people have recently perished in the war between Eritrea and
Ethiopia, and almost two million have died during the 16-year conflict
in neighboring Sudan. That war has now spilled into northern Uganda,
whose troops have joined those from Rwanda to fight in the Democratic
Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). The other Congo (Brazzaville) is
also ravaged by civil war, and all attempts to bring peace to Angola
have failed. Although formidable commitments are being made in the
Balkans, where white Europeans are involved, no such concerted efforts
are being made by leaders outside of Africa to resolve the disputes.
This gives the strong impression of racism.
Because of its dominant role in the United Nations Security Council and
NATO, the United States tends to orchestrate global peacemaking.
Unfortunately, many of these efforts are seriously flawed. We have
become increasingly inclined to sidestep the time-tested premises of
negotiation, which in most cases prevent deterioration of a bad
situation and at least offer the prospect of a bloodless solution.
Abusive leaders can best be induced by the simultaneous threat of
consequences and the promise of reward -- at least legitimacy within the
The approach the United States has taken recently has been to devise a
solution that best suits its own purposes, recruit at least tacit
support in whichever forum it can best influence, provide the dominant
military force, present an ultimatum to recalcitrant parties and then
take punitive action against the entire nation to force compliance.
The often tragic result of this final decision is that already oppressed
citizens suffer, while the oppressor may feel free of further
consequences if he perpetrates even worse crimes. Through control of the
news media, he is often made to seem heroic by defending his homeland
against foreign aggression and shifting blame for economic or political
woes away from himself.
Our general purposes are admirable: to enhance peace, freedom,
democracy, human rights and economic progress. But this flawed approach
is now causing unwarranted suffering and strengthening unsavory regimes
in several countries, including Sudan, Cuba, Iraq and -- the most
troubling example -- Serbia.
There, the international community has admirable goals of protecting the
rights of Kosovars and ending the brutal policies of Slobodan Milosevic.
But the decision to attack the entire nation has been counterproductive,
and our destruction of civilian life has now become senseless and
excessively brutal. There is little indication of success after more
than 25,000 sorties and 14,000 missiles and bombs, 4,000 of which were
not precision guided.
The expected few days of aerial attacks have now lengthened into months,
while more than a million Kosovars have been forced from their homes,
many never to return even under the best of circumstances. As the
American-led force has expanded targets to inhabited areas and resorted
to the use of anti-personnel cluster bombs, the result has been damage
to hospitals, offices and residences of a half-dozen ambassadors, and
the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians and an untold number of
Instead of focusing on Serbian military forces, missiles and bombs are
now concentrating on the destruction of bridges, railways, roads,
electric power, and fuel and fresh water supplies. Serbian citizens
report that they are living like cavemen, and their torment increases
daily. Realizing that we must save face but cannot change what has
already been done, NATO leaders now have three basic choices: to
continue bombing ever more targets until Yugoslavia (including Kosovo
and Montenegro) is almost totally destroyed, to rely on Russia to
resolve our dilemma through indirect diplomacy, or to accept American
casualties by sending military forces into Kosovo.
So far, we are following the first, and worst, option -- and seem to be
moving toward including the third. Despite earlier denials by American
and other leaders, the recent decision to deploy a military force of
50,000 troops on the Kosovo border confirms that the use of ground
troops will be necessary to assure the return of expelled Albanians to
How did we end up in this quagmire? We have ignored some basic
principles that should be applied to the prevention or resolution of all
Short-circuiting the long-established principles of patient negotiation
leads to war, not peace.
Bypassing the Security Council weakens the United Nations and often
alienates permanent members who may be helpful in influencing warring
The exclusion of nongovernmental organizations from peacemaking
precludes vital "second track" opportunities for resolving disputes.
Ignoring serious conflicts in Africa and other underdeveloped regions
deprives these people of justice and equal rights.
Even the most severe military or economic punishment of oppressed
citizens is unlikely to force their oppressors to yield to American
The United States' insistence on the use of cluster bombs, designed to
kill or maim humans, is condemned almost universally and brings
discredit on our nation (as does our refusal to support a ban on land
Even for the world's only superpower, the ends don't always justify the
Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States, is chairman of
the nonprofit Carter Center, which seeks to advance peace and health
around the world.