Archive for August, 2016

The sky above Turkey has much blue in it

By Richard Falk

August 10, 2016

Prefatory Note
An earlier version was published by Middle East Eye on August 10, 2016. It seems so important at this time for the sake of the future of Turkey that the West look at the country and its political circumstances in a far more balanced way than how the situation has been portrayed since the coup. How to explain this imbalance is another matterthat should be explored at some point, but for now is largely put aside.

Much uncertainty remains in Turkey, but there is enough evidence of positive tendencies to raise a tentative banner of hope. Being a witness to the political atmosphere in Turkey that has emerged after the failed coup of July 15th puts me at odds with the secular consensus in the West, which looks up at the sky and sees only dark, ominous clouds of human rights abuse and autocratic leadership.

What I have experienced and observed so far is quite different, a sky with much blue in it.

There are two opposed, although overlapping, tendencies present that seemed to be responsive to the political priorities that top the post-coup government agenda: sustaining the anti-coup unity by shifting political gears within the AKP leadership circles in the direction of “inclusive democracy” and pragmatism, and with it, a retreat from the polarizing claims of “majoritarian democracy” that greatly intensified after the 2011 national elections and were particularly evident in the clumsy, unacceptable way the Turkish government handled the Gezi Park demonstrations two years later.

The most important concrete embodiment of this post-15 July move toward inclusiveness has been a series of initatives intended to create a common front between the three leading political parties in the country, including the CHP (secular mainstream) and MHP (nationalist rightest) opposition parties.

This has been reinforced by several other developments, Read the rest of this entry »

The global power imbalance

By Johan Galtung

Dear Reader: This editorial 444 – the number calls for attention – is dedicated to a global overview, the world “right now”, so unstable with imbalances everywhere that what we are living is fluxes and jumps.

Let us start with two major relations: Nature-human, the US-the Rest.

Look at the human-nature relations.

We are used to being on top, killing and taming animals, protected against many of nature’s hazards including micro-organisms. But nature comes up with ever smaller viri, and larger, or more, tsunamis and earthquakes, and an erratic climate.

We oscillate between blaming ourselves, including military scheming, and the anthropomorphic “Mother Nature is angry” (Evo Morales).

If nature is angry, she has good reasons for a good riddance of us. And we are slow at a deeper human-nature relations respecting and enhancing both.

Nature is on top and our natural sciences are simply not good enough, taken by surprise all the time. Meteorology is good at covering the whole Beaufort wind range from 0-12; others not.

Maybe we have desouled nature and besouled ourselves too much to establish our own Herrschaft (rule, dominance), at the expense of Partnerschaft (partnership).

Unless this changes, imbalance with nature on top, and surprises, will continue.

Maybe the opposite holds for the US-Rest imbalance; that US exceptionalism serves USA as badly as humans above nature serves us? Read the rest of this entry »

Peace without war in Colombia

By Jonathan Power

August 30th 2016

After 52 years of fighting between the Colombian government and Farc, the left wing, drug-dealing, Marxist, guerrilla grouping, there is a peace agreement.

I’ve always wondered why the US and Nato never intervened militarily. They should have if they were to be consistent. Colombia has long been exhibit A for those who say, “Look what happens when the outside world doesn’t intervene- the local fires just burn brighter and fiercer”. (And it has been said likewise for Sri Lanka during its civil war.)

The facts say the opposite: fires burn brighter and fiercer when there are invasions by the US and Nato. In Kosovo Nato jets, at President Bill Clinton’s command, tore into Serbia to bring “peace” to an unthreatening backwater of Europe and left behind a mafia that de facto had unseated and replaced the government.

Similarly, they blasted into Afghanistan even though the original purpose was not a war across a whole country but merely an attempt to kill off Al Qaeda. Likewise, into Iraq and Libya. As in Afghanistan, all these interventions made the fires burn fiercer.

So why not Colombia? I don’t know the reason that made Clinton decide not to intervene but although this peace agreement has taken a heck of a long time to negotiate is it not better than stoking up from outside a terrible war with hundreds of thousands of casualties?

Clinton said in 1999 that Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 385 – How did Western Europe cope with a much stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?

By Jan Oberg

TFF Series ”The New Cold War” # 6

How did Western Europe survive the much stronger Soviet Union & Warsaw Pact 30-40 years ago? A pact that had about 70% of NATO’s military expenditures where today’s Russia has 8%? How did we get on after the Soviet invasion of Hungary and Czechoslovakia – and a Union with much more global military and political influence?

Europe did so through a well-maintained military capacity, or superiority, technical superiority and, of fundamental importance to security – confidence-building measures (CBM).

And through a political leadership by personalities who knew what the 2nd World War had implied and why it must never happen again. One towering figure of course being Willy Brandt, the German chancellor who had himself been a refugee in Norway during the war.

CBMs were meant to both uphold a high level of war-fighting capacity while also seeking military early information/warning, attending each other’s military exercises, etc. They resulted in the establishment of the very important OSCE – Organisation for Security and Co-operation (then C for Conference) in Europe with the Helsinki Final Act of 1 August1975. It contained politico-military, economic, environmental and human rights dimensions – ’baskets’ that were seen as related to each other and which served as dialogue points between the two blocs.

The visionary President Urho Kekkonen of Finland was credited as the main architect of the CSCE – and his Finland was neutral but upheld a co-operation agreement with the Soviet Union.

Finland was also the only country in the European space that could show opinions polls according to which the people felt equidistant to both blocs.

The simple but brilliant idea was this: We need dialogue to feel secure. It was also called Detente. And it implied a disarmament dimension – negotiations about how to mutually scrap weapons in a measured and verifiable manner that both sides had decided they no longer needed.

These negotiations included not only conventional weapons but also the arsenals of nuclear weapons.

In the domain of nuclear weapons, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT, was signed in 1970 and carried four very important provisions:

1) the world shall move towards general and complete disarmament and the nuclear weapons shall be abolished;
2) those who have nuclear weapons shall negotiated them down, in principle to zero and
3) as a quid pro quo for that all non-nuclear weapons shall abstain from obtaining nuclear weapons – and
4) countries who want nuclear energy shall be assisted to introduce this civilian energy technology.

All this happened in the era of Detente and CBM. How had that become possible? Read the rest of this entry »

Over-hyping ISIS

By Jonathan Power

Politicians have it in their DNA to hype our supposed present dangers. So do journalists. So does the military-industrial complex. So do certain think tanks and university professors who depend on sounding the alarm about this and that to gain grants from foundations.

When Leon Panetta was defence secretary under President Barack Obama he was not atypical when he said that any defence cuts would undermine the military’s “ability to protect the nation” and reductions would “invite aggression”.

Yet today’s wars tend to be low-intensity conflicts that on average kill 90% fewer people than the wars of the 1950s. The first decade of this century had fewer war deaths than any decade of the last century.

As for terrorism nothing is more over-hyped.

Of the 13,186 people killed in terrorist attacks in 2010 only 15 were American citizens. Unless you live in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia or Syria the chance of dying from a terrorist attack today has fallen to just above zero. Even the latest spate of bomb attacks in France and Belgium barely affect this world percentage.

The US is almost Islamic terrorist-free. What terrorism there is comes from right wing white men. Read the rest of this entry »

Perhaps economic stagnation is a good thing?

By Jonathan Power

August 16th 2006

The announcement was made yesterday – August 15 – by Japan’s Finance Ministry: In the last quarter of the year the Japanese economy grew at an annualised rate of 0.2%. “One wonders if the economy will remain at a standstill for the rest of the year”, the Financial Times asks.

But then Japan’s economy has been becalmed for 30 years. Even though the government has poured billions of dollars into the economy it has had only a small effect in boosting demand.

One wonders when the government will give up and what happens then – another decade of minimal growth? If that is what happens how much does it matter? To the Japanese themselves it seems not that much. By and large they are contented with their lot.

The rest of the word may be worried as a powerful country is importing less and less. It does not contribute to world economic growth as it did before when its fast growing economy progressed at Chinese rates from a much higher base.

Some American and European economists are worrying that the Japanese “disease” will spread before long among all the leading economies. Indeed it could be argued that with Europe in the doldrums – apart from Sweden and Poland – and the US economy not steaming ahead as it once did, this may be already happening.

The former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has said that the world faces looming “secular stagnation” – a persistent period of low growth, low inflation and low interest rates.

But is this such a bad thing if the cost of living also falls? Read the rest of this entry »

The new Cold War

By Jonathan Power

August 9th 2016

Nearly everyone I talk politics to says the world is in a mess. But I live in a student town – Lund in Sweden – and most of them have nothing to measure their opinions against. They know not much about the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, Watergate or the great famines in Africa and India.

In many ways most of us live in the best of times, on better incomes than our parents, with longevity increasing all over the world, not least in the poorer countries and helped by inventions that our parents never dreamt were possible.

As for war, as each year goes by less people are killed, UN peacekeeping is more advanced and sophisticated than before, Russia and the West, although at loggerheads over Ukraine, worked together to get Iran to give up its nuclear plans and are talking now about how to cooperate against ISIS.

However, it is true overall things don’t look good in Syria, Ukraine, Egypt, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Turkey and Southern Sudan but the rest of the world looks reasonably peaceful. Russia and the US are overloaded with nuclear weapons and appear to have put future agreements on big reductions on the shelf. Nevertheless, they have already reduced the total number of nuclear-tipped missiles from 70,000 to 16,300 and placed limits on large standing armies in Europe.

Arguably the biggest problem in the world today is that the political elite and much of the media in both Russia and the US (less so in Europe) are gearing up for a new Cold War. A dispassionate conversation between the two sides becomes ever more difficult. Read the rest of this entry »

Europe right now – EU, Russia

By Johan Galtung

It does not look good. The key problem is not Brexit, the unlikely victory of older English longing back to the Land of Hope and Glory–not made invisible by a cloak of EU–against nothing less than the City of London using the EU for their purposes.

The Leavers are deceiving themselves; they will be more “special relationed” to USA than ever now that USA has lost their “link to the continent”. And the Remainders will find their ways, more of them will be operating out of Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg and other key points in the EU.

The problem is, “Can Germany lead Europe alone?” (Anna Sauerbrey, INYT 5 Jul 2016). Her conclusion: “Germany may have to take command, after all… being at center stage, it might as well perform”.

But how?

The present EU structure has Germany on top, then the Nordic members weakened by Brexit, then the Latin countries with France and Ireland, then the Eastern European members of whom solidarity is demanded for the crimes of the others leading to mass migration, and at the bottom Greece tortured by EU. A Europe under German leadership was among the goals of both WW1 and 2.

On June 2 the German Parliament recognized the Armenian genocide; during WW1 when the German Empire was an ally of the Ottoman Empire. But no recognition of the German genocide of about 75,000 Herero-Nama in Namibia 1904-1908, by poisoning wells used by women and children.

A simple, crystal-clear case. The former is complex, with Turks also asking Kurds to get rid of Armenians by a death march for many through the desert to Lebanon in return for freedom for the Kurds. Which they did not get, but many live in Turkey where Armenians lived.

A Germany not coming to grips with its past cannot be trusted. And: “A sincere confrontation with the past makes a country stronger” (Colonialism Reparation-Newsletter Jul/16). As the Herero-Mama insist: “A lasting solution about us /cannot be negotiated/ without us.”

As to EU itself: the expansion in scope–membership–and domain–functions–did not work. Some contracting may work better. Brexit clears the ground for US-independent foreign military policy, for better and for worse. A two-speed EU may be on the horizon, tighter for some, looser for others. Better adjusted to realities.

But Europe is ridden by another age-old conflict looming large or larger: EU with Russia. Or, more basically, Catholic-Protestant Europe against Orthodox Europe, the borderline being inside Ukraine. Is there some way that out of several conflicts we may build peace? Read the rest of this entry »

The Unlikely AMEXIT: Pivoting away from the Middle East

By Richard Falk

The Case for Disengagement

A few years ago Barack Obama made much of an American pivot to East Asia, a recognition of China’s emergence and regional assertiveness, and the related claim that the American role in Asia-Pacific should be treated as a prime strategic interest that China needed to be made to respect.

The shift also involved the recognition by Obama that the United States had become overly and unsuccessfully engaged in Middle Eastern politics creating incentives to adjust foreign policy priorities. The 2012 pivot was an overdue correction of the neocon approach to the region during the presidency of George W. Bush that reached its climax with the disastrous 2003 intervention in Iraq, which continues to cause negative reverberations throughout the region.

It was then that the idiocy of ‘democracy promotion’ gave an idealistic edge to America’s military intervention and the delusion prospect of the occupiers receiving a warm welcome from the Iraqi people hit a stone wall of unanticipated resistance.

In retrospect, it seems evident that despite the much publicized ‘pivot’ the United States has not disengaged from the Middle East. Its policies are tied as ever to Israel, and its fully engaged in the military campaigns taking place in Syria and against DAESH.

In a recent article in The National Interest, Mohammed Ayoob, proposes a gradual American disengagement from the region. He makes a highly intelligent and informed strategic interest argument based on Israel’s military superiority, the reduced Western dependence on Gulf oil, and the nuclear agreement with Iran.

In effect, Ayoob convincingly contends that Read the rest of this entry »

America Menaced: An Impending Police State

By Richard Falk

Prefatory Note
I am posting some reflections on Gerry Spence’s Police State, an ominous book, finely wrought, that we should all read. Besides being my close friend, Gerry is a lawyer par excellence, as well as being someone possessed of deeply artistic, humanistic, and ethical disposition. The book pertains to the situation here in America, but as recent events in Paris, San Bernidino, and Colorado Springs confirm, we are in danger of moving without realizing it toward some kind of ‘global police state,’ all in the name of security, trampling on the rights and self-esteem of billions of people and extinguishing the freedom of all. Such a devastating scenario cannot be separated from the predatory features of global capitalism in its present neoliberal phase.

Gerry Spence
Police State: How America’s Cops Get Away with Murder
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015
$27.99 hardcover
Amazon $19.43; Kindle $14.99.

In an America gripped by one story after another of culpable police violence, it is hard to imagine a more timely book than Police State. Not only is the topic of urgent relevance, the author is supremely qualified by a long life of experience and reflection to give us an authoritative bird’s eye view.

Gerry Spence, a trial lawyer par excellence, with the extraordinary credential of never having lost a criminal case, which is some achievement, considering that he has been practicing law for well over half a century. Here on the West Coast, splitting his residence between native Wyoming and California, Spence is as close to being a celebrity as a lawyer can get.

He was a nightly TV commentator of the notorious O. J. Simpson trial and has been the lead lawyer in a whole series of high profile criminal cases whose vivid style of oratory creates unforgettable impressions on the part of those lucky enough to have Spence on their side or those so unfortunate as to have him as their adversary.

Somehow, Spence also finds time to write novels, publish books of superb photographs, compose poems, and even paint pictures and photomontages that no art gallery would be ashamed to display. Additionally, he founded a Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming that has over the years trained hundreds of criminal defense lawyers to become more effective in judicial settings, not primarily by knowing the law better, but by learning how to win the battle of hearts and minds of juries and judges.

It is Spence’s strong conviction that gaining the psychological edge in judicial cases decides many more cases than what is learned in even the best law schools.

In short, Spence is a remarkable polymath who both defies the imperative of specialization that haunts our age and dispenses wisdom in a manner that only a modern folk hero from Wyoming can do. And this is not all. Spence’s personality (and ego) overflows any container, whether it be geographic borders or the walls of a courtroom.

Such a vivid and fascinating presence creates a temptation to talk endlessly about this exceptional man rather than the compelling story he is telling in Police State. While struggling to resist the temptation, I should disclose that Gerry Spence is a cherished friend, we share intimacies over lunch whenever we both happen to be in Santa Barbara at the same time, which unhappily for me is not often enough.

We agree on most core issues, and fight about how to interpret the trivial ones, which is I think which is what always allows deep friendship to flourish.

Now to the book Police State. And in this 6 min video Spence talks about the book. Read the rest of this entry »


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