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War turns structural violence

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War turns structural violence

Bulloch 8 Millennium - Journal of International Studies May 2008 vol. 36 no. 3 575-595

Douglas Bulloch, IR Department, London School of Economics and Political Science.

He is currently completing his PhD in International Relations at the London School of Economics, during which time he spent a year editing Millennium: Journal of International Studies
But the idea that poverty and peace are directly related presupposes that wealth inequalities are – in and of themselves – unjust, and that the solution to the problem of war is to alleviate the injustice that inspires conflict, namely poverty. However, it also suggests that poverty is a legitimate inspiration for violence, otherwise there would be no reason to alleviate it in the interests of peace. It has become such a commonplace to suggest that poverty and conflict are linked that it rarely suffers any examination. To suggest that war causes poverty is to utter an obvious truth, but to suggest the opposite is – on reflection – quite hard to believe. War is an expensive business in the twenty-first century, even asymmetrically. And just to examine Bangladesh for a moment is enough at least to raise the question concerning the actual connection between peace and poverty. The government of Bangladesh is a threat only to itself, and despite 30 years of the Grameen Bank, Bangladesh remains in a state of incipient civil strife. So although Muhammad Yunus should be applauded for his work in demonstrating the efficacy of micro-credit strategies in a context of development, it is not at all clear that this has anything to do with resolving the social and political crisis in Bangladesh, nor is it clear that this has anything to do with resolving the problem of peace and war in our times. It does speak to the Western liberal mindset – as Geir Lundestad acknowledges – but then perhaps this exposes the extent to which the Peace Prize itself has simply become an award that reflects a degree of Western liberal wish-fulfilment. It is perhaps comforting to believe that poverty causes violence, as it serves to endorse a particular kind of concern for the developing world that in turn regards all problems as fundamentally economic rather than deeply – and potentially radically – political.

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