The Defence Select Committee of the House of Commons has said that war is not just about winning but should lead to a “better peace”. In a report today (18 March), they recommended better preparation for post-war reconstruction when UK troops are committed to armed conflict.
However, the Committee is facing criticism for not exploring deeper questions about conflict or for asking whether war ever has much chance of leading to a just peace.
The Committee includes 14 MPs drawn from the three largest parties.
The report, entitled Comprehensive Approach: the point of war is not just to win but to make a better peace, states that “when troops are committed to operations in future there must be robust plans to co-ordinate military and reconstruction efforts from the earliest stages”.
The recommendation comes in response to ongoing criticism of the failure of US and UK governments to prepare for post-war Iraq.
The Committee wants “to preserve all the lessons learned in the complex operations of Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them having been painfully re-learned from Bosnia, Kosovo and even Malaya”.
They also insist that the “comprehensive approach” should involve both military and civilian agencies, as well as “close work with local nationals”, which must “include women at all levels”.
They add that “the government needs to find better ways to draw on the expertise of NGOs”.
The Committee’s chair, James Arbuthnot MP, said, “We would want to see leadership, clear objectives, a defined end state, strategy, tactics and details of the nature of civilian and military personnel required”.
The report’s emphasis on the need for a “better peace” is expected to be welcomed by NGOs and commentators who call for more effective approaches to conflict.
However, they are likely to criticise the Committee for failing to explore ways of achieving a “better peace” without using armed force. The report’s language assumes that future governments will continue to send troops into armed conflict as a matter of course.
NGOs including the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi and Quaker Peace and Social Witness have all expressed disappointment over the narrow range of political and media debates over “defence” issues.
Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi, recently said that “For decades the discussion on peace and security has been dominated by proponents of the ‘might is right’ model”.
She added, “The time has come to turn away from this false and short-sighted model in favour of a model of sustainable human security that puts people – and especially the poor - at its centre”.