Toward a 21st Century Peace Movement: The UT Connection

This is an essay by Jay Reed which examines the University of Texas at Austin's connections to the military, weapons research, and the contribution of Universities to war.

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Introduction - September 12, 2001:

In light of yesterday's tragic events, it is necessary to speak out, for fear of future tragedies. This essay, first written to inspire campus activists to take action against the U.S. government's preparations for war is now all the more urgent. War is imminent. Fear is in the air.

Politicians and pundits have already begun to use the horror and sadness felt by most of us to justify developing the capacity to cause untold suffering for other human beings in faraway places. Human beings who, like us, experience pain and pleasure, sadness and joy. Many of the people who will be affected by the response to September 11 our government is sure to bring have even less control over the affairs of their governments than we do.

What's more, if the violence was perpetrated by a non-government entity, then that is an even more compelling reason for the United States government to respond with caution. We must insist that a spirit of reconciliation, not retaliation, guide our policy in both the short and long term.

21st Century Military

As the world rushes headlong into the 21st century the United States military is no exception. In preparation for future battles the military is moving away from traditional methods of waging war that were relied upon in the 20th century. Namely, conventional warfare, as developed in World War II, as well as the reliance on nuclear weapons are being de-emphasized in military planning. The new focus (in part a response to successful peace movements' ability to galvanize opposition to mass casualties in Vietnam and the movement against nuclear weapons in the 1980's) is on high tech devices that supposedly allow for "surgical strikes" with "pinpoint precision and accuracy." A greater degree of accuracy ("higher kill-ratios" in military-speak) is seen as necessary to sustain the armed forces' ability to respond to the multifarious threats of the post-Cold War world.

In short, the military desires to be able to carry out frequent, finite interventions in arctic, desert and even urban terrains. Theoretically, new technologies will create this capacity without the obstacles that arose in Vietnam (fighting in the jungle, an ambiguously defined enemy, protracted conflict, and strong domestic opposition.)

Research and Development is more important than ever before, with funding levels much higher than those during the Vietnam War. The funding for defense related projects comes from various Department of Defense agencies, but also is spread out through a number of government departments (like the Departments of Energy and Transportation) making it difficult to detect the intended end use. The "dual use" aspect of technologies, which is technology with both civilian and military application, is often emphasized to justify projects which would otherwise draw fire from opponents of defense related work. University research is at the forefront of this approach and academic institutions are used as technology incubators while defense contractors (Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, TRW, and others) take over in the late stages of development to ready the technology for military use.

There are two main areas of weaponry the military is developing to meet these objectives: space-based armaments and so-called Future Combat Systems.

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