Lessons and hopes for the future
Dr Philip Webber, SGR, looks at cases of positive transitions from the Cold War period and more recently, to help us tackle the security problems of today and tomorrow.
Presentation at the SGR conference 2017; online publication: 20 November 2017
Currently the world appears to be stuck in several old security dead ends – continuing wars in the Middle East, nuclear modernisation programmes, aggressive US and Russian leaders, and most recently another US-Korean crisis. There are no obvious signs of acknowledging past mistakes, let alone learning from them. But despite this I will argue that things could change for the better soon. I will draw upon a range of evidence – and some personal experience as an emergency planner – of how apparently fixed positions within the established security order can prove vulnerable to change from unexpected quarters. I will consider cases drawn from the later stages of the Cold War – when peaceful transition at first seemed impossible, but nevertheless was achieved in many situations. Other examples will be taken from the recent past, including the agreement of the new UN nuclear weapons ban treaty. Despite the undeniable difficulties, a new equality, peace and environment agenda could be forged, leading to major social and economic dividends.