Archive for February, 2017

Is Nato obsolete?

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 »

Nonviolent economy

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 »

If you want peace, don’t focus on the violence and the evil guy

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 »

School in an Aleppo factory

The occupiers denied children education. Now they get it

School in an Aleppo factory by Jan Oberg on Exposure

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.

The Trump Presidency: The first week

By Johan Galtung

Attacking the Affordable Care Act; the “global gag rule” against abortion; the federal regulation and hiring freeze; canceling the TPP; restarting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline; limiting entry with the Mexican Wall; the 90-day travel ban on seven countries; more undocumented people prioritized for deportation; no federal funding for cities refusing to cooperate; communications blackout from federal agencies; Guantánamo torture continued:

What does it add up to?

A very strong white state centered on a president with absolute power and control over life (birth) and death (care) of the citizens. Not regulating police racism. So far, no order on the military.

Fascism? Too early to say; but in that direction. It opens for questions about the inner workings of Donald J. Trump. Who is he?

A Johns Hopkins psychologist sees Trump suffering from “malignant narcissism“. A Norwegian historian, Öystein Morten, in a detailed analysis of Norwegian king crusader Sigurd Jorsalafare (1103-1130) – clearly crazy – has a Norwegian psychiatrist diagnose him as suffering from “bipolar depression”, manic-depressive. Is Trump only manic?

This column early on saw Trump as suffering from “autism”, living in his own bubble, speaking his babble with no sense of reciprocity, the reaction of the other side. The column stands by that.

However, this column drew a line between his words and deeds; denouncing his rhetoric as grossly insulting and prejudicial, but pinning some hope on his deeds. Wrong, and sorry about that. After one week, Trump clearly means every word he says, and enacts them from Day 1; even what he once retracted in a New York Times interview. Read the rest of this entry »

EU’s tragic and self-defeating policy on refugees – the Malta Summit 2017

Comment by Jan Oberg

The Malta EU meeting is expressive of militarism, colonialism and racism in one. Is it time perhaps to call the EU the Evil Union? People outside, in the rest of the world sees this and will draw their conclusions.
And an – admittedly unconventional – proposal on what to do with the politicians who are responsible for the destruction of Libya.

The more I wonder about Aleppo…

By Jan Oberg

I shot this simple video out of the window on December 13, 2016. I wonder about Aleppo and say #keepfocusonaleppo

© Jan Oberg 2016

Here in the Sheikh Najjar Industrial City outside Aleppo lived and worked 40,000 people. It had 50% of Syria’s industrial capacity.

Today – after the occupation by Western-backed militants and terrorist groups, this is what is left.

I wonder why the Syrian government did not destroy this industrial city between 2000 and 2012. We are told that all this destruction is caused only by that side and the dictator kills his own.

I wonder where the terrorists used the weapons and spent the money they got from NATO countries – Turkey in particular – Saudi and Qatar since they did not do any of this here – according to Western media and the White Helmet reporters and a series of humanitarian organisations.

I also wonder where the Western left is? Solidarity with the workers who lived here?

No, many among them defend this and want to arm this or that group even more.

The more I study, the more I wonder.

And something doesn’t seem right.

Will Ukraine hold referendum on NATO membership?

By Jan Oberg

Here is the background to an interview in which I question the validity of the opinion poll that President Poroshenko refers to as an argument for holding a referendum on NATO membership for Ukraine.

There are strong indications that it is a commissioned research, financed by neo-cons at the International Republican Institute, IRI, in the US of which Kiev mayor and Poroshenko ally, Vitali Klitschko is member of the international advisory board. IRI is funded by, among others, USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which is believed to be close to CIA.

The video interview, details and links here.

Trump’s backing for torture is a yes and then a no

February 1st 2017

In a press conference last week President Donald Trump said he believed in the worth of torture but then added most surprisingly that using it wasn’t going to be his decision. It would be decided by the Secretary of Defence, General James Mattis, who, as Trump said, is against torture.

Three years ago the US Senate Intelligence Committee published a summary of a thorough report on the recent American use of torture. Its chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, said the 6,000 page report is “one of the most significant oversight efforts in the history of the US.”

The report showed that the CIA did not provide accurate information on torture to Congress and also provided misleading information. The report also concluded that the CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making. While the report was being prepared the CIA penetrated the Senate Committee’s computers, arousing the fury of its members.

Bush and and his vice-president Dick Cheney were deeply involved in initiating the torture program. The Administration claimed that the waterboarding 183 times (the dipping of the head in water so that the prisoner feels he is drowning) of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, led to the foiling of a terror plot against Los Angeles’s Library Tower. But the Senate report concludes that the information could have been learnt without using torture.

The report’s primary focus is on discerning whether the use of torture gained valuable intelligence. It concluded that it did not.

When President Barack Obama was elected he swiftly moved to ban waterboarding and other torture techniques. However, he refused to authorize a full, in depth, Justice Department investigation which, if it had taken place, would doubtless have pointed a finger at Bush and Cheney.

In the UK it is alleged that Prime Minister Tony Blair Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 402: Trump’s Pre-Fascism and Progressive Populist Opportunities

The Dismal Cartography of the Pre-Fascist State

January 25, 2017

Points of Departure

Listening to Donald Trump’s inaugural speech on January 20th led me to muse about what it might mean to live in a pre-fascist state. After reflecting on key passages and conversations with friends, I came to the view that all the elements were in place, although set before us with the imprecision of a demagogue.

Yet I do not doubt that there are many ideologues waiting in the wings, perhaps now comfortably situated in the West Wing, ready to cover the conceptual rough spots, and supply an ideological overlay, and add the semblance of coherence.

Considering the daily outrages emanating from the White House since the inaugural jolt, the coming years will be rough riding for all of us, with many cruelties being readied for those most vulnerable.

Of course, the Woman’s March on January 21st was temporarily redemptive, and if such energy can be sustained potentially transformative. It is odd to contemplate, but there just may be tacit and effective cooperation between the national security deep state and a progressive populism converging around their divergent reasons for being deeply opposed to the shock and awe of the Trump presidency. Trump may invent ‘alternative facts’ to restore his narcissistic self-esteem, but when it comes to program he has sadly so far been true to his word! This alone should encourage a unified, energetic, and determined opposition. If the Tea Party could do it, why can’t we?

The Pre-Fascist Moment

First, it is necessary to set forth the case for viewing Trump’s Inaugural Address as a pre-fascist plea:

1) Locating power and legitimacy in the people, but only those whose support was instrumental in the election of the new president; the popular majority that were opposed are presumed irrelevant, or worse;

2) Denigrating the political class of both political parties as corrupt and responsible for the decline of the country and the hardships inflicted on his followers;

3) Presuming mass and unconditional trust in the great leader who promises a rupture with the past, Read the rest of this entry »


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