Humanity Needs a Completely Different Peace and Security System in the Future

EDITORIAL, 7 Aug 2023

#808 | Jan Oberg, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

A major peace publishing event across cultures. The cover story of the influential China Investment Magazine’s July 2023 edition.

Can you imagine a leading economics, finance and investment magazine in the Western world publishing a 30 A4-page (10 000 words) article about the future peace and security world order – a think-piece consisting merely of concepts, theories, visions and philosophical aspects of the theme?

I can’t. They would not see it as meaningful to include perspectives on peace, nonviolence, security and related matters. But they’d probably gladly publish articles about military corporations, profits and the like.

But in China, they see the value of such holistic thinking between interrelated dimensions of society – and of the world – as it really is. Economics is not only about economic things; it takes place in a framework that influences it – past, present and future.

In contrast, the main problem in Western economic thinking is that it’s mostly about market aspects, corporate/private actors and maximizing utilities and profits as if economics could be isolated from society and culture. Furthermore, in the academic field called ‘national economics,’ Western economy students spend years learning about something that has not existed for decades in the real world.

I’m honored to have been asked by China Investment to write about the theme indicated in the headline. And I am grateful for the opportunity to express my thinking based on four decades of scholarly work, quite some thinking and on-the-ground experiences. See the original edition here.

Before you read my future-oriented analysis, let me quote this from its homepage so you get an impression of the status of this magazine:

China Investment, founded in 1985, is a monthly under the supervision of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s macro-economic management agency, It’s jointly operated by Investment Research Institute under NDRC, China International Engineering Consulting Corporation. Enjoying an exclusive position under the central government, China Investment is the core journal which started the earliest among similar magazines to focus on the investment trend. Over the past 30-plus years, China Investment has been in line with the global market as its fundamental coordinate with a strategic focus on specific countries and regional markets and those major international propensities. China Investment is a key dialogue platform for officials from different countries, investment agencies, experts and scholars, business people and journalists.”

And now, my article below. It has been changed and re-edited in a few places and I have added some thoughts on non-military defense.

On August 1, 2023, the very important Global Times published my summary, requested by them, of the longer analysis below.


30 Jul 2023 – The world’s taxpayers give US$ 2,240 billion annually to their national military defenses. That is the highest ever, more than 600 times the regular budget of the United Nations, and three times the total trade between China and the US. Such are the perverse priorities of our governments; the five largest spenders are the US 39% of the total, China 13%, Russia 3,9%, India 3,6% and Saudi Arabia 3,1%.

Worldwide, governments maintain that they need that much to secure their people’s survival, national defense, security and stability – and that global peace will come.

With the exception of the elites of the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complexes (MIMAC), we all know this is a huge fallacy. Today’s world is at a higher risk of war–including nuclear–, more unstable and militaristic than at any time since 1945.

At the end of the West’s Cold War a good 30 years ago, peace became a manifest possibility, NATO could have been dismantled since its raison d’être, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, fell apart. A new transatlantic common security and peace system could have replaced NATO.

Tragically, ’defensive’ NATO did everything not only to cheat Russia with its promise to not expand ‘one inch,’ but also to expand up to the border of Russia, “not one inch off limit for the alliance,” to quote Marie Sarotte’s brilliant 550-page book, Not One Inch.

The NATO world now postulates that both Russia and China are threats to be met with even higher, de facto limitless, military expenditures.

But wait! How would you think and act if you witnessed a team of doctors do one surgery after the other on a patient who, for each, came closer to death?

You’d probably say that they are quack doctors. Their diagnosis and treatment lead to a devastating prognosis. Instead of health, they produce more of the problem they claim to solve!

Given that the highest investment on peace and security in history has caused the highest risk to humanity’s survival, why don’t we have a vibrant global debate? What is fundamentally wrong with the entire paradigm of security through arms? Where are the critical analyses of the world’s most enigmatic and dangerous logical short circuit?

The dominant security paradigm builds on factors like these:

  • deterrence – we shall harm them if they do something we won’t accept or don’t do as we say;
  • offensiveness – our defense is directed at them even thousands of kilometers away, not on our own territory;
  • military means are all-dominant;
  • civil means – like minimizing society’s vulnerability; civil defense, nonviolent people’s defense, cooperation refusal, boycott – are hardly discussed;
  • our intentions are noble and peaceful, but theirs are not;
  • our defense is not a threat to them, but they threaten us with theirs;
  • ignoring the underlying conflicts that cause violence and war, the keys to conflict-resolution, and prepare instead for war to achieve peace.

This is, by and large, how everybody ’thinks’ and then they blame others for the fact that this type of thinking can not produce disarmament or peace.

Even worse, when that peace doesn’t come, everybody concludes that they need more and better weapons. In reality, this system is the perpetual mobile of the world’s tragic militarism and squandering of resources desperately needed to solve humanity’s problems.

There must be better ways to think. But there is far too little research and debate and the MIMAC elites thrive on war. Thus, decision-makers lack political will.

What would be the criteria for good peace and security?

Conflicts are to be addressed and solved intelligently by mediation, international law, and creative visions that address the parties’ fears and wishes. Violent means should be absolutely the last resort as is stated by the UN. Peace is about reducing all kinds of violence (there are many kinds) and creating security for all at the lowest military level, like the doctor who shall never incur more pain than necessary to heal a patient.

Here some alternative ideas and thinking to promote discussion:
instead of deterrence, seek cooperation and common security; the latter means that we feel secure when they do;

  • go for being invincible in defense but unable to attack anybody else; have weapons with limited destruction capacity and range;
  • make control/occupation impossible by our country’s non-cooperation with any occupier;
  • balance defensive military and civilian means;
  • prevent violence but not conflicts;
  • never do tit-for-tat escalation; do something creative to de-escalate;
  • show that your intentions are non-threatening and take small steps to invite Graduated Reduction in Tension (GRIT) without risking your own security;
  • handle conflicts early; build peace first and then secure it;
  • address underlying conflicts, traumas, fears and interests;
  • educate and use professionals in civilian conflict-resolution and mediation, not only military expertise;
  • develop and nurture a peace culture through education at all levels, ministries for peace, emphasis on conflict transformation instead of confrontation and rearmament;
  • replace outdated neighborhood ethics with a global ethics of care.
    The possibilities are limitless. Conflict and peace illiteracy have brought us to where we are today. It is not whether human beings are evil, good, or both. It is a systemic paradigmatic malfunctioning that must change in name of civilization.

We can learn to peace.

Masters of war are hated worldwide. Countries that take concrete leadership in developing new principles and policies for true global peace and human security will save humanity and will be loved forever.

Let a thousand peace ideas bloom!


Prof. Jan Oberg, Ph.D. is director of the independent Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research-TFF in Sweden and a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. CV:

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 7 Aug 2023.

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6 Responses to “Humanity Needs a Completely Different Peace and Security System in the Future”

  1. Dear Ian,

    I enjoy reading you but I really don’t understand what you propose.
    How can weapons have ‘limited’ destruction capacity and range? do you want bullets that enter the heart of the victim without killing? a rocket that destroys a 2-storey building but not a skyscraper? a tank that launches bombs from 50 metres distance3 but not from 1/2 a kilometer away?

    What’s the point in making and selling invading vehicles and weapons, if not for occupying and controlling other territories.
    How can you “balance defensive military and civilian means” without first ensuring a prospective enemy or attacker?
    what the point in making and selling machine guns, landmines, grenades, bombs, rockets, torpedoes, if the aim is to prevent violence?

    How can you “de-escalate” if you go on manufacturing killing toys and need to sell them in order to pay your employees? what steps to Graduated Reduction in Tension (GRIT) do you recommend? attacking with 10 tanks instead of 50? 3 air-fighters instead of 10?
    How can we sell the weapons we produce without selling the idea a country must not risking its own security?

    Politicians always handle conflicts early; otherwise they could organise all the wars they offer us. The military don’t improvise. They need years of training.

    Peace cannot be built, for Peace is already there. Wars are built, otherwise the War industry would collapse.
    How can you ‘secure’ Peace when you train people in the Art of Fighting and Killing?

    What solutions can professionals in civilian conflict-resolution and mediation bring without causing the collapse of the war industry? do you have a proposal for the millions of employees in the war industry and the Armed Forces who will become unemployed if politicians don’t organise wars?

    Do you know that no matter how much military expertise we have, the military don’t make wars? wars are exclusively concocted, planned, negotiated by politicians. The military don’t have the right to fire a single shot unless ordered by their governments?

    How can you develop and nurture a peace culture when Education includes Patriotism with the aim of developing in citizens the desire to ‘defend’ their country? what’s the point in having Ministries for Peace, when the Ministries for Trade have the obligation to promote the import/export of military toys?

    How can you emphasise conflict transformation when Governments emphasise confrontation and rearmament?
    The global ethics of care you mention already exist. This is why we have wars. This is why the War Industry is called “Defense”. Soldiers don’t kill because they like killing or have anything against their victims. They only kill because they don’t want to die. Rocket interceptors are used because you care about your family, friends, communities, etc and wish to protect them. For the same reason we use rocket launchers, to bring down air-fighters before they shower us with bombs.

    You say “The possibilities are limitless.”, but in my experience they are not. What brought us to where we are today is the Economy of war by which the world is run. As you say, It is not whether human beings are evil, good, or both. It is merely the fact that war instruments are for making war, as music instruments are for making music.

    • Jan Oberg says:

      Last time you poured negative energy all over the place, I made a few kind suggestions – but you continue here down your pathetic, lonely cul de sac. Everything that is written in this world that is not to your liking is ridiculed and deliberately misunderstood.
      You want a world without a single weapon and without wars. We agree on that wish. It’s time you tell me how you -YOU – will persuade 8 billion people to follow your (I assume, fundamentalist) path towards it.
      I am sure you agree that it is a violation of human rights to force people to do military service and punish them – even in some countries, imprison them – if they resist, right?
      So, would your alternative system put everybody in prison who does want to carry some kind of weapon if attacked? If you think this would also be wrong – tell us all what is your genius strategy towards a peace system is coming about rapidly and democratically.
      That said, you seem to – mistakenly – assume that your constantly and systematically negative comments deserve my response. They do if meaningful. I can’t make your intellectual life more happy or richer because you have closed down in your box.
      This is therefore – regrettably – my last response to you.

  2. Per-Stian says:

    About peace and security systems, it’s tempting to borrow Gandhi’s possibly invented phrase: “I think it would be a good idea”.

    But that may be a little unfair to non-Western regions of the world.

    But imagine if we took this mantra of “defense” to the micro-level of societies: all citizens armed to the teeth, rocket launchers on each house, maybe a tank in the drive-way, and so on. Okay, the US has sort of gone down that path with gun accessibility and ownership, but still. Imagine what a colossal waste of resources it would have been, and how much more violent societies would have become. Or perhaps let us borrow a different quote, from Hobbes: “Life is nasty, brutish, and short”. Yet, this is sort of what international relations are like. The schoolyard bully can do what he wants, and if somebody doesn’t like that — here’s a fist in your face.

    Well. Let’s hope humanity will stop being idiots before we wipe each other out.

    On the other hand, if we “succeed” with that, at least the main problem will be gone.

    Positive thoughts and all that :D

    • Jan Oberg says:

      Dear Per-Stian
      The main problem as I see it – apart from not getting a clue as to what you expect of me with your comment to my future-oriented, constructive thinking – is that a problem will never be solved by only criticising what is. Elise Boulding succinctly said many times that people will not fight FOR something that they cannot envision.
      There is today an enormous and growing imbalance between criticising, getting all the bad news, quarelling with each other, being anti this or that, on the one hand, and good ideas, visions, future workshops, alternative systems thinking etc. on the other.
      The militarist have sucked out virtually all creative energies of people who used to be devoted to what Gandhi called means-end strategies and building the new house before leaving the old – and MLK called the Beloved Community.
      Since the militarist and other destroyers have more (not better) emphasis on vision and strategy (and selling them), they are winning while the peace movement still stick to the easy thing: Criticising every new weapon and every new war. If that has not let to great results so far, perhaps they should try to BE an alternative and outcompete the militarists.
      I regret that you did not find/mention any useful ideas in my article. However, it so happens that I do :-) – in the tradition of those I learned so much from like Galtung, scores of military alternative thinkers, Fischer, Nolte, Roberts, Boserup, Mack, Bastian, etc. They were thinkers, bent on doing the difficult thing: To not only be negative and find faults but think new thoughts and seek dialogue.
      Best, Jan

  3. Poka Laenui says:

    I am in complete agreement with this article, which calls for a change of mind in terms of national security. In a separate writing in which I envision the complete decolonization of Hawaii, I elaborate on these ideas and reach the conclusion: Hawaii’s security should rest not on military armament operated by the United States, whose first and only objective is to assure the furtherance of the interest of the United States. Instead, Hawaii should convert to a four-part national security system that incorporates Defensive Defense (and a promise of non-aggression), Outer Usefulness in which Hawaii shows itself useful and worthy of the good graces of other nations, Inner Strength in the development of a civil society which will commit to the protection of our shores, with a strong economy, healthy environment, and a pride in self, and Non-alignment pacts to keep out of other countries wars.

    The benefits of this converted system of national security will reward Hawaii not only by a measure of its security but would enrich our natural environment, increase our economic value for all of our lands and oceans, uplift the cultural and educational treasures that still persist in Hawaii, and return a sense of self-control over our future of Hawaii.

    The first step toward this vision is to question our self-doubt about the need for the U.S. military in Hawaii and begin planning and structuring this four-part national security system that is far more representative of our character and more inclusive in all sectors of Hawaii. This is our Aloha national security plan for Hawai`i. (See full paper at

    Aloha `Aina
    Pōkā Laenui,

    • Jan Oberg says:

      Dear Pōkā Laenui
      Many many thanks for your words and sharing your own thoughts – brilliantly constructive for the case of Hawaii. Let’s Hawaiise the world – not like one size fits all but as INSPIRATION.
      I shall be pleased to publish your fine idea stimulating analysis and constructive proposal on and our Substack platform. They deserve the widest readership and TFF and I are glad to do that little – knowing hope uphill it is these days to bring out that sort of stuff while 98% of those in our field wallow in negative activities and energies.
      Thanks, my friend! And let’s keep in touch!!