By Johan Galtung
February 13, 2017
What is the essence of democracy?
“Rule with the consent of the ruled” implies two classes of people, Rulers and Ruled; concretely State and People, Statism. “Free and Fair Elections” implies voting for a Parliament; Parliamentarism. Together, a three-tier power structure State-Parliament-People; with People controlling Parliament, and Parliament controlling State.
In 2016 some voting differed from what State-Parliament expected; leading to talk about elitist vs populist democracy – from statism and parliamentarism to peopleism. A crisis. And talk about post-democracy.
Another answer about democratic essence is “one-tier self-ruling units”; no rulers vs ruled, and decisions are made by general assemblies for all. This is often referred to as Anarchism, “no structure”. A misnomer: there is no State and no Parliament, but many assemblies. A concrete interpretation would be Localism, the units being local authorities – LAs, municipalities; the assemblies being their municipal councils.
A key dimension then becomes the level of state control of LAs. In Spain, with an anarchist ideological tradition, the LAs are strong.
A different, not institutional – more philosophical, intellectual in general – answer would pick up words like transparency and dialogue.
Democracy is a context with everything in the open, no closed doors, available to everlasting people dialogue: by way of the word, logos. Fine for people who are good with words.
How about those who are not, Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
February 13, 2017
Reporting on President Donald Trump’s new energy policy which plans for a big increase in domestically produced oil and gas, the Financial Times reported yesterday: “Exports of gas have begun, with the first shipments of Liquefied Natural Gas leaving the Sabine Pass facility on the border between Texas and Louisiana a year ago. Since then trade has grown and the US now supplies a dozen different gas markets around the world”.
The US is all set to speed this up.
Trump is stepping on the accelerator of what had begun a year ago, and not just with gas but with oil too. He is driving not only to raise gas and oil exports but to achieve US energy self-sufficiency. Increased shale and coal production, support of the huge Keystone XL pipeline from Canada and the removal of restrictions on venting gas production from developments on federal land, are all part of his mix.
There are two lessons from this. Oil prices are unlikely to return to their extraordinary high levels of a couple of years ago and it raises the important question, why is the US spending 75 billion US dollars a year on its military presence in the Gulf?
There would be some risks in a strategy of reducing the US’s military presence in the Middle East but they are hypothetical risks, as Professors Charles Glaser and Rosemary Kelanic point out in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.
Since oil is fungible Middle East suppliers could possibly disturb the world price with irresponsible behaviour, meant to rock the boat – which even the US would have to work hard to protect itself from. But this depends on some unlikely scenarios.
The first is that a Gulf country could conquer some of its oil and gas producing neighbours. In reality there is no such regional hegemon on the horizon. Iraq is down and out. Iran is fixated on internal threats. Saudi Arabia is not interested in territorial conquest.
A second hypothesis is that Iran might Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
Jan Oberg’s comment on Chancellor Merkel’s speech at the Munich security conference where she mentioned the duty Europe has to receive refugees and also reiterated that Germany will do its best to increase its military budget to 2% of its GDP.
Apart from this one can only get very sad and pessimistic when reading the comments underneath this sequence: Boundless hate against Merkel herself, racism, anti-Islam, anti-Semitism – and not one (of the first 70+ comments) on the issue of NATO, the risk of war or on what I brought up about the need for new, less militarist policies, less interventionism and better ways of handling the refugees.
Anger and hatred just under the surface, brought out mostly anonymously. No reasoning, just smear.
We still have a long long way to go in terms of public education…
By Gareth Porter
For all its grandstanding, Trump’s administration is just following an American tradition of coercing Iran and its ‘malign influence’
The first public pronouncements by President Donald Trump’s administration on Iran have created the widespread impression that the US will adopt a much more aggressive posture towards the Islamic Republic than under Barack Obama’s presidency.
But despite the rather crude warnings to Tehran by now ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and by Trump himself, the Iran policy that has begun to take shape in the administration’s first weeks looks quite similar to Obama’s.
The reason is that the Obama administration’s policy on Iran reflected the views of a national security team that adhered to an equally hardline stance as those of the Trump administration.
Flynn declared on 1 February that the Obama administration had “failed to respond adequately to Tehran’s malign actions” and suggested that things would be different under Trump. But that rhetoric was misleading, both with regard to the Obama administration’s policy toward Iran and on the options available to Trump going beyond that policy.
The ‘malign influence’
The idea that Obama had somehow become …
By Jan Oberg
On the occasion of NATO’s defence minister meeting on February 15-16 discussing NATO, Ukraine, Crimea, Syria and the eternal threat images which are fake – with former Assistant Secretary of Defence of the United States, Mr. Lawrence J. Korb.
I’m afraid he got some stuff wrong such as the establishment of NATO and whether or not Kosovo is part of the Balkans.
He also believed that NATO’s 1999 bombing of Serbia-Kosovo had a UN Security Council mandate.
Enjoy those small moment and the rest where I am trying to present some more general thourght on why the whole NATO philosophy is outdated – the only point where I agree with President Trump…
Media experience and policy
What they don’t seem to have acknowledged is that tons of Westerners are being interviewed and do commenting (like myself for years) at these media. Here is Mr. Korb with me at Iran’s international TV channel.
What they also don’t know is something I am sorry to report: I’ve met attempts at manipulation and “editing” and censorship with a series of Western mainstream media, not the least in my native Denmark, but I have not experience any of that even once with Russia Today and PressTV. Very decent professionals!
So much for the free press and for the propaganda channels. My personal problems is, which is which?
By Jonathan Power
February 7th. 2017
So what does President Donald Trump think about Nato? Twice during his campaign he rubbished it publically, saying it was “obsolete”. Yet earlier this month when he met the UK’s prime minister, Therese May, it was all hunky dory. He told her he supported Nato 100%.
There are some – a few – influential people who have argued that Nato is indeed obsolete. One of these was William Pfaff, the late, much esteemed, columnist for the International Herald Tribune. Another is Paul Hockenos who set out his views in a seminal article in World Policy Journal. Their words fell on deaf ears.
President George H.W. Bush saw it differently and wanted to see the Soviet Union more involved in Nato’s day to day work. President Bill Clinton had another agenda – and one that turned out to be a dangerous one, triggering over time Russia’s present day hostility towards the West – to expand Nato, incorporating one by one Russia’s former east European allies.
His successors continued that approach with Barack Obama at one time raising a red rag to a bull by calling for the entry into Nato of Ukraine and Georgia. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
Two important words enriching each other. “Nonviolent” easily becomes bla-bla, and “economy” is too general. But, does “nonviolent” make a difference for the better to the economy? And vice versa, can “economy” make “nonviolent” more positive, beyond resistance to evil?
Let us start with “economy”, here conceived of as a cycle with three poles: Nature, Production, Consumption. And three processes: Extraction from Nature, Distribution from Production to Consumption, and Pollution from Production-Consumption back to Nature. The cycle flow is in that order: Nature → Production → Consumption → Nature.
A simple summary of the economy: humans extract resources from nature, produce-process for (end) consumption, and sends what they cannot consume back to nature (but economists, like book-keepers, left out the Nature part). And we want it all to be nonviolent!
“Do no harm!”, nonviolent, is insufficient. “Peace”, “peaceful” include positive peace–Peace Economics, A Theory of Development are my books (TRANSCEND University Press, 2012, 2010)–with “do good!”.
And: Nature can evolve better without us, not we without Nature. Read the rest of this entry »
A personal pledge provoked by the debates about Syria
About 95% of all debates about conflicts and war that we see in politics, mainstream media, the Internet and social media focus on the violence, who uses more or less of it and who is, therefore, the evil party.
This approach places direct violence – such as human rights violations, killings, bombings etc. – in the centre of the attention and that is unfortunate because violence is always only a symptom. I call this the simplifying or reductionist approach; invariably it has populist connotations too and usually ends up in mud-slinging.
I argue in this analysis that this reductionist approach is counterproductive and that – because of the defining characteristics of these debates – the underlying conflicts/problems that cause the violence are never in focus and that no international complex conflict can be explained even rudimentarily by asserting that one single individual’s personality or behaviour is the root cause, the problem or the conflict itself.
Secondly, I explain what makes the reductionist approach so typical and ‘natural’ in the eyes of Westerners. We have to be aware of the deficits of this entire approach to conflict which, I argue, is also related to Western ways of thinking, including Christianity. (You may jump this section if you are more attracted to practical implications than to philosophy).
The third section deals with the conflict and peace approach as an alternative – arguing that only through that can we arrive at the necessary dimension: How can the violence stop and how can the conflicting parties change their perceptions, attitudes and the problem/conflict that stands between them so that peace can unfold. Like the science of medicine, it has a focus on the disease and we do a Diagnosis, Prognosis and Treatment by finding the root causes rather than just treating symptoms.
Finally I make the pledge to never again participate in discussions within the reductionist discourse of the violence and who-is-good-and-who-is-bad. I will spend my energy, instead, on the constructive conflict and peace approach that is also the only one that will benefit the innocent victims in conflict zone, the people who have never even thought of taking up arms.
In short, it is a refusal to let the violence and ‘evil’ individuals take centre stage in any discourse and instead look at problems and their resolution together with peace-building and thus – Gandhian style – let non-violence and peace-making by peaceful means take centre stage:
Since this author is a peace and future researcher, I shall no longer participate in any discussion or debate about a conflict or war in which the main focus is on the direct violence and one or more participants point out that they know who the bad guy is and seek to frame or place me on this or that or the other side.
Under “PS” you’ll find my four-part view on matter of justice which of course is part and parcel of peace-building.
• • •
I’ve experienced it repeatedly over the last good 20 years, since the bad old days of Yugoslavia’s dissolution wars and I see it now, only more viciously, in the discussions about Syria in the old media as well as the social media:
If you are not clearly supporting party A to a conflict you must be a supporter of B.
From that follows:
Since I am in favour of the good guy A, you are a bad guy because you side with B (or don’t side with A).
This approach can be categorised as simplistic and reductionist. It prevents an understanding of what a conflict is about and hinders peace thinking and proposals.
It also amounts to legitimating more war.
This approach is wrong and counterproductive because invariably it:
1) builds on the assumption that there are only two sides in a conflict; that is never the case in complex international conflict;
2) builds on the either/or fallacy that you must be pro-B since you are not pro-A, overlooking the simply fact that one could also sympathize with party C and/or M and/or V; alternatively that all participants behave in such a manner that you sympathise with no one;
3) focuses on parties, or actors, and not on the underlying problems that make the parties fight each other;
4) satisfies people’s more or less narcissistic need for being right and being confirmed as being morally superior – irrespective of whether or not they understand the issues;
5) builds implicitly upon the assumption that the two parties represent Good and Evil and that all of the good ones are on one side, all of the bad ones on the other;
6) creates endless, sterile debates Read the rest of this entry »
The occupiers denied children education. Now they get it
TFF’s first four photo series from Aleppo have been seen by 95,000 people so far and been featured in online magazines from Vietnam to California, among them a German site with a million visitors daily.
Above is the fifth story.
It’s about the terrible, systematic destruction of this UNESCO World Heritage site but also about an Aleppo businessman who turned his damaged factory into a school for 1500 children.
It had been damaged by the Free Syrian Army and al-Nushra who looted it and then used it as HQ.
It’s situated in the Sheikh Najjar Industrial City outside Aleppo that – before the militant/terrorist occupation – represented no less than 50% of Syria’s total industrial production.
During two years, these children received no education. Now they do. And hope is slowly coming back.
This photo story ends with some “civilisational questions” by Jan Oberg who also took the photos.
This is the kind of story Western mainstream media don’t bring for reasons one must assume are political.
But TFF does. Because it is a free research think tank.
We focus on the conflict and civil society where media are obsessed with violence and war criminals.
We look at peace opportunities where others spend their energy on blaming one or the other but have no ideas on how to solve underlying conflicts and make peace.
TFF doesn’t work for this or that violent party but for the UN Charter norm of peace by peaceful means. That is, for the innocent, suffering people in Syria – the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945:
Such as these wonderful, innocent children whose story deserves to be told.