Archive for November, 2015
By Jan Oberg
Lund, Sweden, November 30, 2015
French president Hollande has declared war – war on terror, George W. Bush style. Like September 11, 2001 wasn’t a war, Paris November 13 wasn’t a war. It was a criminal act.
The war on terror has been an exceptionally stupid war.
In the years before 9/11 about 400 people died worldwide by terrorist attack. The Global Terror Index informs us that 32.600 died in 2014 – 80 times more!
And, still, the only answer everywhere is: More war on terror.
The only – intelligent – exception is Italy whose PM has announced that Italy is going to counter terrorism by investing billions of Euros in culture, art and creativity – showing the world what civilisation is.
Politicians and the mainstream media seemingly try to make us believe – as if we were uneducated – that we in the West are the main victims and innocent victims at that. We are neither. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
November 24, 2015
The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution strongly condemning the escalating violence in Burundi. It paves the way for the UN to send in thousands of blue-helmeted peacekeepers.
The resolution, which was passed unanimously, condemns the wave of killings, arrests and human rights violations. It requests that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reports within 15 days – i.e. on Friday the 27th – on options for increasing the UN presence in Burundi.
There are fears of a Rwandan-style genocide in Burundi, which like Rwanda has a long history of tribal distrust and, on occasion, hatred, although there are many intermarriages. At least 240 people have been killed there since protests began in April.
Since independence from Belgium in 1962 it has been plagued by tension between the dominant Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority.
The ethnic violence sparked off in 1994 made Burundi Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
The atrocity in Paris seems to trigger the word “terrorism” with a higher frequency than ever, in the media, from the politicians. Doing so, they sign their intellectual capitulation: trust me, I am not going to try to understand anything. Watching politicians on 56 US TV channels in Georgia there was not a single word analyzing why?; like underlying conflicts and traumas.
Nor conciliation and solution. Only a description of what? – the horrible violence. And what to do: more violence, war. With a question mark though: Will it work?
The whole Western world was living up to the old French saying – Cet animal est très méchant, quand on le bat, il se defend. (That animal is very vicious, when you beat it, it defends itself). Look at centuries of French/Arab-Muslim relations and find one-way beating, killing, conquest, colonialism, exploitation, France using them in wars against Turkey and against Germany promising freedom and breaking their promises, raw post-colonial colonialism, no respect for their wishes to be the masters in their own house, like now in Mali.
Using them for menial jobs in France, if they speak French. At the bottom of society, shocked when the French school system treats them equally and they climb upwards, like African-Americans when they gained access to the US school system. And eventually to US society, after a century of Jim Crow and the civil rights movement.
France is now in that phase. Do not assume that 350 million Arabs – 1,650 million Muslims – will take more beating hands down. Read the rest of this entry »
By Richard Falk
Prefatory Note: What follows is a modified version of the Morton-Kenney annual public lecture given at the University of Southern Illinois in Carbondale on November 18, 2015 under the joint sponsorship of the Department of Political Science and the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
The Failure of U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East
While focusing on the ‘failure’ of American foreign policy in the Middle East it is relevant to acknowledge that given the circumstances of the region failure to some degree was probably unavoidable. The argument put forward here is that the degree and form of failure reflected avoidable choices that could and should have been corrected, or at least mitigated over time, but by and large this has not happened and it is important to understand why.
This analysis concludes with a consideration of three correctible mistakes of policy.
It is also true that the Middle East is a region of great complexity reflecting overlapping contradictory features at all levels of political organization, especially the interplay of ethnic, tribal, and religious tensions internal to states as intensified by regional and geopolitical actors pursuing antagonistic policy agendas. Additionally, of particular importance recently is the emergence of non-state actors and movements that accord priority to the establishment and control of non-territorial political communities, giving primary legitimacy to Islamic affinities while withdrawing legitimacy from the modern state as it took shape in Western Europe. Comprehending this complexity requires attention to historical and cultural background, societal context, and shifting grand strategies of geopolitical actors.
From many points of view American foreign policy in the Middle East has been worse than a disappointment. It has been an outright failure, especially in the period following the 9/11 attacks of 2001. Even such an ardent supporter and collaborator of the U.S. government as Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has acknowledged as much in a recent set of comments where he basically says that the West has tried everything, and whatever the tactics were relied upon, the outcome was one of frustration and failure. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
The world wave of mediation has reached school systems all over; in some countries less, in others more. Like in Spain, as evidenced by this heavily oversubscribed seminar on school mediation. When asked to express what they want to see happen in schools, the most frequent answer was convivencia, living togetherness. In one word, not as a composite concept. Like in Japanese, the one word is kyosei.
What does it mean, concretely? I would interpret it as positive peace at school. Something behavioral: cooperation for mutual and equal benefit. Equity. Something attitudinal, emotional resonance, I enjoy your joy, I suffer your suffering: Empathy. Harmony.
But the school is a big, holistic place. Not only children, but also adults, teachers and staff. And parents. Positive togetherness within and between all these four groups? A huge order.
Many simplify this to togetherness among children, and not positive, only less negative. Less bullying, to protect victims – parents demand that – and to use teacher time for teaching, not keeping discipline–the staff demands that. However, it all hangs together.
In addition, simplification runs against another big world wave of two values: diversity and equality, against homogeneity-verticality. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
November 17, 2015
The Barbarians are not at the gate. There is no need for a rush to war as the French president, Francois Hollande, suggests.
The Americans did this after 9/11 and raced into Afghanistan with the intention of eliminating Al-Qaeda. They failed and they are still in Afghanistan – America’s longest war ever. They have become bogged down in fighting Afghani movements including the Taliban. Some of the Taliban may have hosted Al Qaeda for a while, but accounts suggest they weren’t happy about it. They certainly don’t today.
In Harvard University’s magazine, “International Security”, Professors Alexander Downs and Jonathan Monten report they have studied over 1000 military interventions over many years. It is very rare that there has been success.
Bogged down, bogged down. These two words should resonate in every Western (and Russian) leaders’ head. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Libya. (Also Russia in Afghanistan and in Chechnya).
There is such a long list of failure. Give one good reason why it should be different this time.
Think of Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
November 10th 2015
President Xi Jinping of China has poked us in the eye again. What you see is what you get. In the case of his meeting last Saturday with Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s president and leader of the Kuomintang Party, it tells the world that if it plays its hand quietly, even gently, China, if it is shrewd, can in the end win re-unification.
The leaders of the two parties, the communists and the Kuomintang, the Republican claimants for power, hadn’t met since 1945 during aborted peace negotiations. A while later the Kuomintang, facing defeat from Mao Zedong’s communist army, fled the mainland to Taiwan.
Beijing has over a thousand rockets aimed at Taiwan. The US supplies arms aplenty to Taiwan – some of which, provocatively, need American cooperation and participation to be fired. Despite that China cis capable of overwhelming the island’s defences.
But in reality both sides need each other. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
Written before the violence in Paris.
Answer: Nowhere, because Europe does not exist. On the axis of five stages of positive peace, the process came to a standstill at stage 3. They made miracles out of stage 1– cooperation for mutual and equal benefit – and were good at stage 2 – empathy with each other, your problems are also mine, your solutions are also mine. And then the long march through the corridors of institutionalization, stage 3, solidifying; from French-German cooperation to the ever changing treaties for an ever deeper European Union.
And then it stopped.
Stage 4 – fusion of the member states into one Europe – is not there and will not come for some time. But stage 5 – transmission to others who learn region-building from EU achievements and mistakes – works.
What went wrong? In daoist terms, there were strong forces for a holon, a holistic Europe, but the counter-forces were even stronger.
And they were many. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
Lund, Sweden, November 9, 2015
The big – not great – powers of the world have embassies everywhere, plenty of intelligence services, special forces on the ground and satellites in space. They can even hit and kill individuals they don’t like.
They can intervene here and there and everywhere – particularly if they have economic or strategic interests or their own nationals are in danger.
These very weeks they can squander incredible sums of taxpayers’ money on new nukes and huge paranoia-based military exercises in a Europe – to which over a million refugees come because these big – not great – powers have contributed to the destruction of their houses, villages, life opportunities, whole countries and cultures.
So it’s amazing what the big ones can do. It would be impressive if it wasn’t so destructive and self-defeating. Again and again.
The only things they don’t seem capable of, however, is to:
a) fulfil their self-appointed mission called Responsibility to Protect and prevent violence where they have no interests and to
b) contribute to making life better for all and create genuine peace, justice and development.
There is a colonial history as well as a history of genocide, extreme poverty and corruption, ten years of economic and other mismanagement under the ever more authoritarian rule of Pierre Nkurunziza.*
Since April this year, there have been tons of indicators that something really bad could happen. The trained observer cannot fail to see the pattern, the incremental, systematic increase of repression of the people.
It’s all well summarised in this background article.
And what do the big powerful do over 6 months with this potential crisis, possibly civil war or genocide – knowing full well about it?
Absolutely nothing! Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
The US has done a daring and – some would say – dangerous thing. Towards the end of last month it sent a destroyer to sail within 12 nautical miles of two man-made islands claimed by China in the South China Sea. China was outraged. The Blogosphere went wild with nationalist denunciations of American attempts to encircle their country. The press wasn’t much quieter.
It’s all about control of the seas, not about who owns the islands, but it is laced with a good deal of bad behaviour on both sides. As with Taiwan China reaches into the past – as President Xi Jinping did recently – to justify a present day claim. In fact the past is a little murky. Besides, it has been overtaken by the UN Law of the Sea, of which China is a member. This makes clear that China has no right to forbid foreign warships’ passage within 12 miles of an artificial island. Nevertheless, China is right to point out that the Law of the Sea is neutral on claims that existed before it came into effect.
The Law of the Sea also makes clear that artificial islands – which some now are – do not give China control of the surrounding seas. Read the rest of this entry »