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Force Without Firepower - Conflict, Buffer Action

". . . the presence of a body of regular world guards or peace guards, intervening with no weapons whatsoever between two forces combatting or about to combat, might have considerable effect. ... As an example, if a few thousand of such world guards had been parachuted into Budapest during the five or six days Hungary was free, the outcome of that struggle might have been quite different. "

-Salvador de Madariaga and Jayaprakash Narayan, "Blueprint for a World Commonwealth " {see bibliography).

Definition: The deployment of unarmed military force between belligerents before, during, or after active hostilities.

If we can conjure up an unarmed military service of some tens of thousands of otherwise well-equipped regulars who could truly fulfill the Strategic Air Command slogan, "Peace Is Our Profession," then their foremost function might be Buffer Action. This would seem the midst natural, the most inherent mission of all for a nonviolent military instrument whose purpose is to prevent or extinguish warlike hostilities, wherever they may arise. The concept is so obvious that it has indeed cropped up a number of times since 1931, but only in the most offhand or rudimentary manner. Not even pacifists have done more than peck at the periphery of the idea.

Precedents: The principle of buffer action has been illustrated ad hoc in a number of different situations;

1    In Cyprus and Kashmir UN observers have driven their jeeps right into the line of firefights to quench them, though superiors regarded such actions as overzealous.

2    In September 1962, the l)odily interposition — between armed combatants — of some thousands of unarmed civihans acting spontaneously helped to cut short a five-day civil war among Algerian revolutionaries. Two forces had squared off for a pitched battle at the town of Boghari, south of Algiers. However, thousands of civilians filled the streets, forcing the commanders to order a ceasefire, and prevailing upon both sides to fraternize. Elsewhere, women lay at various points along Highway 14 to halt advancing armored columns, and 20,000 union members demonstrated in Algiers denouncing both sides and threatening a general strike in case of civil war. A political settlement was hastily arranged in the wake of these pressures.

3    William Hinton's Hundred Day War (see bibliography), is a detailed case history of one of themost noteworthy applications of mass nonviolent action since Gandhi's heyday. In July 1968, in Maoist China at the height of the Cultural Revolution, a few hundred fanatical Red Guards in two hostile factions were barricaded at Tsinghua University and battling each other with spears, grenades, and machine guns. Due to the prevailing chaos, the central authorities could not attack their own ultra-Maoist Red Guard heroes, no matter how misguided. So, led by army officers, 30,000 unarmed workers were organized to intervene between the combatants, and "use reason, not violence" no matter what. There ensued a 24-hour muddy, bloody ordeal in which over 700 workers were seriously injured and five killed — but with no retaliation against the Red Guard crazies, who were finally talked into a truce.

Ideas: The classic proposal for an unarmed buffer action force was advanced by Salvador de Madariaga and Jayaprakash Narayan in 1960, originally in the form of a letter to UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold. Though published in several obscure sources, it has lain remarkably unnoticed since that time. The text began with an analysis of the political difficulties hampering UN use of armed force, and continued:

It follows that an international police should be unarmed. The presence of a body of regular World Guards or Peace Guards, intervening with no weapons whatsoever between two forces combatting or about to combat, might have considerable effect. They would not be there as a fanciful improvisation, but as the positive and practical application of a previously negotiated and ratified Additional Charter binding all United Nations members. This Charter should ensure:

(1)    Inviolability of the World Guards;

(2)    Their right to go anywhere at any time from the day they are given an assignment by the United Nations;

(3)    Their right to go and intervene in any conflict of any nature when asked by only one of the parties thereto or by third parties or the Secretary General.
The World Guards would be parachutists. They should be able to stop advancing armies by refusing to move from roads, railways, or airfields. They would be empowered to act in any capacity their chiefs might think adequate for the situation, though they would never use force. They should be endowed with a complete system for recording and transmitting facts, utilizing such equipment as television cameras and broadcasting material. Their uniform should be simple, clear, and appealing.
The setting up of this institution would no doubt be delicate; the Additional Charter would be difficult to negotiate. Who would launch the action of the Guards? The Secretary General should have permanent power to do so on his own initiative. It seems, at any rate, that in the negotiations the chief difficulty - fear and mistrust of power - would have been eliminated and the nations that would oppose the scheme would lose much face.

This kind of proposal deserves careful restudy and elaboration. (It is interesting to note how Lieutenant Colonel Channon's vision of video troops has hit upon one of the points raised by Madariaga/Narayan.)