Community Perspective

Arctic Security Studies Center needs a better home

Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan recently introduced a bill to create a new “Ted Stevens Arctic Security Studies Center” within the Department of Defense. Its primary goals “would be to find solutions for the greatest security challenges of the Circumpolar Arctic region while promoting greater engagement to addressing the challenges that lay ahead,” per Murkowski’s website.

I would like to suggest that such a Security Studies Center should instead be situated within either the University of Alaska system or the U.S. Institute of Peace, “a national, nonpartisan, independent institute, founded by Congress and dedicated to the proposition that a world without violent conflict is possible, practical and essential for U.S. and global security. In conflict zones abroad, the Institute works with local partners to prevent, mitigate and resolve violent conflict.”

The institute’s broader vision for solutions and alternative approaches to resolving conflict is better suited to an Arctic Security Studies Center than the Department of Defense.

The U.S. Institute of Peace:

• “Serves as a nonpartisan government partner and trusted intermediary among foreign governments, civil society and U.S. government officials.

• “Works in conflict zones at the community level and with national and regional governments, with a focus on connecting top-down and bottom-up initiatives.

• “Applies research through training, education, policy recommendations and application of best practices.

• “Partners with stakeholders around the world to research, support and advance strategies to prevent, mitigate and resolve violent conflict.

• “Draws on its exceptional convening power to bring together diverse audiences to exchange knowledge and ideas necessary for developing solutions to the most pressing peace and security challenges.”

Just one of many examples of how the institute advances peace and U.S. national security is in Iraq, where, according to its website, www.usip.org, the institute facilitates reconciliation dialogues to heal the deep divides left by ISIS’s occupation. These dialogues lead to tangible healing, including six accords that have permitted the return of more than 600,000 displaced Iraqis.

Here is what President Dwight D. Eisenhower had to say:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

The Department of Defense, on the other hand, “provides the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation’s security.” So it says on the department’s website.

This is a much more limited scope and includes various inherent problems. These problems include risking the lives and emotional well-being of its 1.3 million active-duty service members as well as seriously impacting their family members, communities and the foreign communities where many of them are stationed.

Whereas the Institute of Peace requested $38 million for 2019, the 2020 Senate Defense Appropriations bill provides $750 billion for failed-audit, untraceable military funding and does not include the hundreds of billions of military-related and non-Defense Department military spending. Giving more to the Defense Department’s outsized budget would likely be further fuel to the military-industrial complex that perpetuates ever-more-deadly arms and pollution instead of alternative, healthier resolutions to conflict.

As the adage says, “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

The U.S. Institute of Peace has more diverse tools in its toolbox and is able to analyze world events, societies, individuals and their interactions with a much wider range of vision than the limited paradigm through which the Department of Defense sees the world.

I urge Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan to change their bill to situate their proposed Ted Stevens Arctic Security Studies Center within the University of Alaska or the U.S. Institute of Peace, or both, and to provide full funding as a broad-based program not limited to military solutions.

Please let our senators know you agree. Call them via the Capitol switchboard at 1-202-224-3121. Or you can visit their local offices, fax or email them at the following:

Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Fairbanks: Courthouse Square, 250 Cushman St., Suite 2D; 456-0233; fax 877-857-0322; email via murkowski.senate.gov

Sen. Dan Sullivan in Fairbanks: Federal Building, 101 12th Ave., Suite 328; 456-0261; fax 451-7290; email via sullivan.senate.gov

Heather Koponen lives in Fairbanks.

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