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Force Without Firepower - Conflict, Police Action

"From the logistical point of view rapid disarmament would not be difficult. A thousand planes each carrying one hundred trained inspectors (or disarmersj could distribute 100,000 of these men at all major centers in Russia and the United States within 24 hours.  Using land and water transportation, almost any number of additional inspectors could reinforce these within a very short time. Helicopters and paratroopers could be used to reach remote areas. Properly trained and equipped with blow torches, thermite and other tools, the disarmers could quickly incapacitate the military power of both sides. ..."

-Earl D. Osborn, "Disarmament within Weeks?"; War/Peace Report; April 1962; p. 12

Definition: The use of unarmed military units for law enforcement, peace observation, and peacekeeping duties, in situations beyond the control of local authority.

As used here, Police Action is a term which may either combine, or distinguish among, peace observation, peacekeeping, or peacemaking. The first, "Model I" in UN parlance, already denotes small groups of unarmed officers for truce supervision and the like. The second, "Model 11" force-level operations, remains mired in Big Power politico-legal dispute, despite the sudden rebirth of the Middle East emergency UN troops. The third, peacemaking, or peace building as it is also called, implies the political and social initiatives that must accompany peacekeeping, lest the blue helmet become disparaged for attempting to freeze an unstable or unjust status quo.

The theory and practice of peacekeeping has already attracted a group of scholars and professionals; their usage now generally means host-country-consent type of operations, and not Korea. As William Frye pointed out in one of the earliest studies, "It would be well to keep this distinction between a fighting force and a peace force clearly before world opinion and before governments."20 I not only concur, but would go on to stress the distinction between an armed and an unarmed peace force. Except for "Model F' observer teams, eschewing arms is not yet a deliberate policy and strategy of UN peacekeeping. The weaponry of peacekeeping should at least be a matter of controversy, which it is not.

Although peacekeeping soldiers are lightly armed, they are under strong pressure to avoid the use of violence, and so they resort to forms of what one UN watcher called "limited nonviolence" instead. He said there is much unwritten experience in their restraint of violence, and even instances of UN soldiers being killed while refusing to shoot back. All this type of data should be collated and studied.

Precedents: Brigadier Michael Harbottle, a former chief of staff for the United Nations Force in Cyprus, tells of a small, unarmed 174-member multinational civilian police component of the UN Cyprus force, composed of Australians, Austrians, Danes, and Swedes:

On many occasions it was their efforts rather than those of the military that prevented minor incidents from escalation into something much more threatening and dangerous. They went about their duties unarmed, though in the case of most of them it was normal practice in their own countries to carry side-arms; the Cypriots noticed this and appreciated the adherence to the principle of peaceful intervention.

There is also a scattering of anecdotal material from various UN operations in which lack of weapons (or refusal to fire them) was decisive in dangerous situations:

. . . two unarmed Gurkha officers . . ., each driving a jeep, blocked both ends of an entire Katanga column that had started off on an unauthorized trip, briskly read off the mercenary officer in charge and ordered the whole column to dismount. Cowed by this show of courage, the column promptly did.

The London police have long been famous for their customary lack of firearms. And now, since 1979, into the savage cities and subways of America have come the Guardian Angels: unofficial, unarmed, staunchly nonviolent. Already one has been killed on duty. But founder Curtis SUwa says they must turn the other cheek. So far, there are Guardian Angels in 33 cities; there are 700 in New York City, 1400 nationwide. These volunteer youth patrol in teams of eight, wear red berets and special T-shirts, and train in the the martial arts and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Skeptics have worried about the danger of vigilantism, but to date, the Angels have earned widespread respect for their dedication and self-discipline. Interested readers may contact Alliance of Guardian Angels, Inc., c/o Fran White, 982 East 89 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11236.23   ,

Ideas: Note that I am also distinguishing Police Action from Buffer Action in the next section, which would also be a type of peacekeeping amidst incipient or severe hostilities. Thus I am underscoring the somewhat more restricted, discriminate, or person-to-person connotation of police and military/police action. But there is overlap, and the best, most explicit proposal for an unarmed UN peace force (by Narayan and de Madariaga) is cited below under Buffer Action, though it could be here as well.

One of the most unique ideas is that quoted earlier from Earl D. Osborn, the arms manufacturer and founder of the Institute for World Order. I would dub his proposal the I.D.I.D., for "Instant Disarmament Inspection-Demohtion Corps." Osborn raised the concept of "sudden disarmament" in contradistinction to the long precarious phasing-out envisaged by most plans for arms control or disarmament. If there were in fact a negotiated agreement for "sudden disarmament" — which might take some time to negotiate — ruining the strategic weapons could be done within days, wliile scrapping and salvaging could take place at leisure.  "A sledge hammer, a blow torch or a small grenade applied at the right spot would incapacitate nearly any military weapon."24 The I.D.I.D. would be airlifted to all the relevant sites simultaneously in all the major nations, fan out, and disable the ordnance; small detachments would remain permanently thereafter. This would be army-scale police action, unarmed except for the tools of its trade, which are not antipersonnel weapons.

Among many proposals over the years for some type of international police force (most of them armed), I will cite just Arthur Waskow's model for a triplex peace police, written up in 1963.25  This too is not entirely nonviolent except at lower levels; but the plan had a number of sophisticated design features. There would be three police bodies (for disarmament, borders, and special situations), each controlled by separate councils, in turn responsive to world court orders, while the court would be acting on data turned up by an inspectorate, a fourth police body, unarmed. The force level authorized for any of the three peace police would be according to a preset, time-limited, aye-vote ratio in their respective controlling councils. For instance, disarmament treaty violations would be blamed on low-level individuals (such as a factory manager); disarmament police would serve court orders on him to cease and desist, not his government. So far the action would be small and unarmed; but with greater council consensus in the face of a persistent violation, greater increments of police units and weaponry would be authorized. As before, I dissent at the weapons phase.

The armed British "peacekeeping" presence in Ulster is all too familiar a quagmire. Their violent or repressive operations have earned the enmity of the belligerents and war weariness in the British public. Yet in May 1971, a British soldier in Belfast, Sergeant Michael Willets, 27, father of two, died after throwing himself on aterrorist bomb, and saved four civilian bystanders. It is this type of bravery I would point toward in suggesting that his example, and many others, be built upon, so that the very strength and effectiveness of UN or other police action and peacekeeping is precisely due to its use of "naked" force.