Archive for January, 2016

Hope for peace in Afghanistan?

By Jonathan Power

Yesterday in Kabul the so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group – comprising representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US – met to hold discussions on a roadmap to peace in Afghanistan.

A former Taliban senior official said that “military confrontation is not the solution” and that a “political solution” was needed to end the war in Afghanistan. “The motivation for peace talks was very weak in the past,” Mohammad Hassan Haqyar said. “But now the situation has changed and the parties seem to have a readiness for dialogue.”

Speaking before the meeting, Sartaj Aziz, the shrewd foreign affairs adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif, said that “the primary objective of the reconciliation process is to create conditions to bring the Taliban groups to the negotiation table and offer them incentives that can persuade them to move away from using violence as a tool for pursuing political goals”.

Some have compared these negotiations to those between the Vietcong and the Americans Read the rest of this entry »

Improving democracy

By Johan Galtung

Democracy is rule–decision-making–by the consent of the people, the demos. There is a very good argument: the people will suffer the consequences. Hence rule of, by, and for the people.

But the problem is: which level dominates the decision-making?

Level [4] national (government-parliament-courts); [3] regional (provinces-departments), [2] local (LAs, municipalities), level [1] individuals?

In theory [1] is primary, basic, sovereign; in practice level [4]. Through elected representatives, packaged in electoral districts; representing individual preferences, packaged in party programs.

Comment, from Germany: “The sovereignty comes from the people – and never comes back” (“vom Volke raus, und kommt niemals zurück“).

The representatives kindly open a window every 4 years or so, 8-12 hours, 1-2 days, for the people to confirm or disconfirm the government. so the degree of democracy looks like 1-2 days out 4 x 365 = 1460 (+1): around 1 per mille. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 353: “Transnational Affairs” – TFF launches new online “flip” magazine

Lund, Sweden, January 18, 2016

Today, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, TFF launches its new online “flip” magazine, “Transnational Affairs”.

Social media posts may soon be forgotten, too far down your feed to find.

We now curate them – 10-15 a day – at “Transnational Affairs” and include other important debate articles, blog posts, analyses and videos you’ll only find here.

That’s why you should click “follow” on this magazine – and Like it too – a treasure trove of quality materials for the concerned citizen, media person, student and researcher.

We curate “Transnational Affairs” to help you understand – easily flipping – what happens in our troubled world and what could be done to make it much better.

“Transnational Affairs” reflects the diversity of TFF’s work and themes – such as peace by peaceful means, nuclear issues, Iran, Syria, Burundi, the Balkans, non-violence, UN matters, world order change, the weakening of the U.S. Empire, refugee and why and how war can be replaced by more intelligent methods.

“Transnational Affairs” is based on our 30 years in business and our commitment to truly independent research and public education.

Furthermore, it’s a completely new and exciting way of browsing on your tablet or phone – you “flip” the magazine’s content.

Learn, be inspired, act – begin here. There are already 560 articles…

Obama’s success in foreign policy

By Jonathan Power

Make no mistake Barack Obama is going to go down in history as one of the great American presidents.

At home he has confronted poverty, ill-health, racism, gun laws, unemployment, immigration and the criminal justice system – with amazing tenacity, sometimes to great effect, even though the Republicans have fought him tooth and nail over every attempt at reform.

The economy is striding along, shaming Europe. Abroad he has had to struggle on multiple fronts – more than any other recent president. There are problems, especially in the Middle East, that would – and will – defeat any president. But there is a clear narrative running through Obama’s foreign policy, one that makes a lot of sense.

What is most clear is the honouring of the commitment he made in his Nobel Peace Prize speech at the onset of his presidency to lowering America’s propensity to use its military might.

His presidency began with his attempt to get relations with Russia back on an even keel. A good deal was made with President Vladimir Putin on further mutual reductions in nuclear arms.

He concluded the withdrawal of the majority of American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq (170,000 down to 1,000 in Iraq and 100,000 down to 10,000 in Afghanistan).

Later came his frustrating – and frustrated – effort to Read the rest of this entry »

Syria – Minding the minds (II)

By Johan Galtung

Baher Kamal, in – And All of a Sudden Syria! writes:

“The “big five” /the UN veto powers/ have just agreed /Res 2254 of 18-12-2015/– time to end the Syrian five – year long human tragedy – they waited until 300,000 innocent civilians were killed–4,5 million humans lost as refugees and homeless at home, hundreds of field testing of state-of-the-art drones made, and daily US, British, French and Russian bombing carried out”.

But no Chinese bombing.

One term in the resolution, road map, already spells failure. There is another reason: missing issues. But something can be done.

Roads twist, turn and may be far from straight. Traveling a road is a linear, one step or mile-stone after another, process, by the map. The West loves linearity; as causal chains (“falling dominoes”) from a root cause; as deductive chains from axioms; as ranks from high to low.

However, is that not how the world is, moving in time, causes-effects, axioms-consequences, rank, power, over others? Are roads not rather useful? They are. Is there an alternative to a road map? There is.

One step after the other in time is diachronic. An alternative would be synchronic; at the same time. Let us call it a cake map. Read the rest of this entry »

Can cyber warfare prevent wars?

By Gunnar Westberg

Can cyber warfare prevent wars?

This is a call for information. An appeal to people who know more abou cyber warfare!

As long as there are armies the threat of war remains.

As long as there are nuclear weapons the threat of extermination of mankind from nuclear war remains.

It is sometimes said that nuclear weapons will be with us until we find something more effective.

Could cyber warfare be an alternative?

The U.S. together with Israel delayed the development of the uranium enrichment facilities in Iran through the use of a virus introduced into the centrifuges. Iran may have been behind a cyber attack on computers in Saudi Arabia that interfered with oil refineries and oil transport.

Can cyber warfare prevent a military attack? Here an attempt to illustrate the idea: Read the rest of this entry »

Wibisono, UN Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine, resigns

By Richard Falk

This post appeared on January 5th under a different title in the Electronic Intifada. It is published here in a slightly modified and extended form.

Makarim Wibisono announced his resignation as UN Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine, to take effect on March 31, 2016. This is position I held for six years, completing my second term in June 2014.

The prominent Indonesian diplomat says that he could not fulfill his mandate because Israel has adamantly refused to give him access to the Palestinian people living under its military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“Unfortunately, my efforts to help improve the lives of Palestinian victims of violations under the Israeli occupation have been frustrated every step of the way,” Wibisono explains.

His resignation reminds me in a strange way of Richard Goldstone’s retraction a few years ago of the main finding in the UN-commissioned Goldstone report, that Israel intentionally targeted civilians in the course of Operation Cast Lead, its massive attack on Gaza at the end of 2008.

At the time I responded to media inquiries by saying that I was shocked, but not surprised. Shocked because the evidence was overwhelming and the other three distinguished members of the UN fact-finding commission stuck by the finding. Yet I was not surprised because I knew Goldstone – a former judge of the South African constitutional court – to be a man of strong ambition and weak character, a terrible mix for public figures who wander into controversial territory.

In Wibisono’s case I am surprised, but not shocked. Surprised because Read the rest of this entry »

The West should get out of the Middle East

By Jonathan Power

The year’s first major atrocity – Saudi Arabia’s execution by beheading on Sunday of 47 people, including an important Shia ayotallah who led Shia protests against discrimination by the Sunni majority but never committed an act of violence.

Even the Islamic State doesn’t behead 47 in one day. Although beheading is swift it strikes most of us as being grotesque as well as medieval. The Saudis are aware of their image in the outside world but nevertheless persist, as if they want to tell the rest of the world: “Back off. Our Wahhabi (ultra puritanical) morality is our morality. We are a belief system unto ourselves.”

They exported the political convictions that have evolved out of Wahhabism to Afghanistan (with money for guns along with the theology), first to fight the Russians, then to arm the Taliban and later to allow them to “ignore” that the Taliban was giving refuge to Al-Qaeda.

Over the last three years rich Saudis, for lack of policing, have been allowed, in effect, to fund IS.

Saudi Arabia not only has a political and judicial system capable of repulsive acts it is also got a foreign policy that the West should have no part of. Along with Israel it Read the rest of this entry »

Twenty pious wishes for 2016: Mind the minds

By Johan Galtung

According to UNESCO, wars start in the minds of men. Well, something–like unsolved conflicts and unconciled traumas–passes minds on the way to war. But UNESCO got the unintended focus on male humans right.

Minds matter, above all pre-programmed minds. This New Year 2016 editorial minds minds and mind-sets, the set minds. For peace culture.

1. A case: New York Times editorial 30 Dec 2015, “The Importance of Retaking Ramadi”. Being the capital of a governorate–IS uses them as building blocks–this was a major military victory. However, the mind-set of the writer confuses retaking space with retaking minds. Sunni Arab minds. “Liberated” by a Shia army and infidel US bombs? They might even be against both. The military come and go. Minds often stay.

2. Can we map minds? Well, to standard world maps with 200 states at least add maps of 2000 nations, showing those who would like to be more together, like in federations and confederations, and less, more apart, like in states. Nations are more cultural. Closer to “mind”.

3. The military have maps of hardware capability; “hammers in search of nails”. An example of intention: Pentagon had in the early 1960s “Project Camelot” to map with public opinion data revolutionary ideas. At least add maps of capacity for doing good to others, not only harm. Read the rest of this entry »

ISIS and the Sykes-Picot backlash

By Richard Falk

Part 1

One of the seemingly permanent contributions of Europe to the manner of organizing international society was to create a strong consensus in support of the idea that only a territorially delimited sovereign state is entitled to the full privileges of membership. The United Nations, the institutional embodiment of international society recognizes this principle by limiting membership in the Organization to ‘states.’

Of course, there is an enormous variation in the size, population, military capabilities, resource endowments, and de facto autonomy among states. At one extreme are gigantic states such as China and India with populations of over 1 billion, while at the other are such tiny countries such as Liechtenstein or Vanuatu that mostly rely on diplomacy and police rather than gun powder and armies for security.

All four of these political entities have the same single vote when it comes to action in the General Assembly or as participants at global conferences such at the recently concluded Paris Summit on climate change, although the geopolitics is supreme in the Security Council and the corridors outside the meeting rooms.

From the point of view of international law and organizational theory we continue to live in a state-centric world order early in the 21st century. At the same time, the juridical notion of the equality of states that is the foundation of diplomatic protocol should not lead us astray.

The shaping of world order remains mainly the work of the heavyweight states that act on the basis of geopolitical calculations with respect for international law and morality displayed only as convenient. Yet the political monoculture of territorial states remains formally the exclusive foundation of world order, but its political reality is being challenged in various settings, and no where more so than in the Middle East.

This is somewhat surprising. It might have been Read the rest of this entry »


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