Archive for the ‘Democracy – local & global’ Category
By Jan Oberg
Three perspectives on the Syrian conflict formation
The Syrian conflict formation is hugely more complicated than we’ve been told by Western politicians (all mainstream in spite of democratic features) and mainstream/dependent media.
To some there are only internal aspects and it’s called a civil war only. That’s a necessary but not sufficient aspect.
The same goes for the only regional perspective focusing on e.g. the Israel-Palestine conflict, Iran’s, Saudi-Arabia’s, Turkey’s roles and policies.
To others, everything can be explained from the point of view of Western interventionism/imperialism. That’s also a necessary but not sufficient aspect.
To understand anything of the Syrian conflict formation – and there are very many layers, dimensions and participants over the last 100 years – we need all three basic approaches.
But given that Westerners are likely to have been informed by Western media and politicians they are likely to grossly underestimate the third, the Western-global dimension.
And that narrative is likely to be politically correct, to underestimate the nasty sides of the West the last good 100 years in the region and present the West as basically good guys interested in peace, democracy and freedom.
This bias has been reinforced by what is probably the most massive marketing/public relation effort in any modern war – in the style of the fake news story about Saddam’s soldiers throwing out babies from their incubators in Kuwait City. In order words, pure invention/lies/planted stories/rumours and PSYOPs – psychological operations selling unverifiable stories to influence our hearts and mind in a single policy-promoting direction.
The US/CIA involvement in Syria over the last 68 years is well-documented and easy to access – but never pointed out by the intellectually lazy who think it is enough to just point out that everything is the fault of the “dictator” and his “regime”.
The US worked on deliberately de-stabilising Syria years before 2011 (as documented by WikiLeaks and others) when the peaceful demonstrations took place. The Western military support to RIOTs (Rebels, Insurgents, Opposition and Terrorists – most of the latter) was stepped up and while many point out that the US under Obama didn’t “do anything”, it can be argued that NATO countries acted in a variety of ways, too many and wrong-headed ways – none of them serving a politically negotiated solution, peace or democracy in Syria.
The agenda was foreign interference, promoted military foreign presence (aggression) in international law terms and regime change. One more regimes change, that is, after the earlier completely failed ones in Iraq and Libya.
A series of Western NGOs – no longer Non but NEAR-Governmental Organisations – were part and parcel of the policy, increasingly involved and funded by the Western/NATO/Turkish-Saudi-Gulf-Israeli strategy of de-stabilization – such as US-based Avaaz and French foreign ministry manufactured media outfits such as the Syrian Media Incubator Aleppo Media Centre, the SMART News Agency, the media work of the White Helmets which did humanitarian work only among RIOT fighters and relatives (and stole the name of Syrian Civilian Defence from Syria’s own organisation with that name from 1953).
They came in on the civilian media narrative-creating side. And there are others. Since the days of Yugoslavia, think tanks, human rights and humanitarian organisations have been drawn in – and accepted – to serve specific political interventionist agendas in spite of calling themselves independent, not-for-profit etc. This co-optations spells, potentially, the end of civil society as well as of the open and critical debate about governments’ policies.
All of this continued and was stepped up also after it had become clear that the legitimate, peaceful, democratic, anti-govenment opposition in Syria had been completely sidelined and/or overtaken by Syrian militants and foreigners with guns in their hands.
The West did not get cold feet, it stepped up it regime-change policies in all kinds of ways, regrettably also by massive NGO-investments in proxi- and other pro-war campaigns.
No one thought of the consequences for the huge majority of the innocent Syrian people who had never touched a gun, or thought of doing so.
And two more perspectives: Don’t focus on the violence and the evil guy only – it’s war-promoting
No one seems to even have asked the question Read the rest of this entry »
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 Johan Galtung
This New Year announces itself with bangs all over, not whimpers.
Pope Francis made a tour d’horizon on all continents, strongly denouncing the violence in favor of his alternative: negotiation.
Much violence is copycat or copyrat; violence being a la mode. Copying–aka learning–is not wrong. But it depends on what is copied.
Here my 10-11 wishes:
Wish no. 1: copying peace rather than violence, for instance from ASEAN and the Nordic Community, making peace self-reinforcing.
Wish no. 2: reporting violence less prominently, more toward the end of newspapers-TV-radio news, and reporting peace upfront.
Wish no. 3: understanding war better, not only how many killed but how many bereaved; understanding peace better as model for others.
Wish no. 4: introducing Yin/Yang in Western thought: no totally good or bad humans or states around; they are all improvable mixtures.
Wish no. 5: linking the good in ourselves to the good in others for peaceful cooperation, yet keeping the bad in mind, for security.
Wish no. 6: identifying unsolved conflicts and unconciled traumas that may lead to violence; solving the conflicts, healing the traumas. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
The National Society of High School Scholars, Claes Nobel World Betterment Award
The Carter Center
3 Dec 2016
I am very grateful for the 2016 Claes Nobel World Betterment Award – Claes being the great grandnephew of Alfred – and to the NSHSS-National Society for High School Scholars, here at the Carter Center in Atlanta.
Let me start by praising you for your dedication to Education, focusing on the high school–in the middle, after K and grade school, before college and graduate school–on teachers and students, learning and doing research, treating them with respect, bestowing dignity.
Society has institutions, like Family, Work and Economy. Sports get too much attention, Education too little.
Politics is about leading and being led, Military is about killing not to be killed.
These two get you into trouble. I have heard this afternoon much about leading, leaders, led. Führer and Duce are German and Italian for leader, “duce” also from educare, educate. Hitler and Mussolini.
Be careful. This is vertical and hierarchical even without nazism and fascism. Today we want horizontal social landscapes, with people relating equitably and harmoniously, through shared memberships and networks, both horizontal and inclusive. For mutual inspiration.
As to killing: the USA killed more than 20 million in 37 countries only after 1945 WWII; and has intervened 248 times militarily in other countries since Thomas Jefferson started in Libya in 1801. 20 million killed means 200 million bereaved–family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. They do not take easily to this type of US leadership.
And less than a century earlier two groups of Americans practiced those very same skills and leadership on each other. The Civil War.
Such was history. How about solving the underlying conflicts?
Instead of the 1850 compromise of shame, “keep slavery but give up the confederacy”, how about “keep much autonomy, but give up slavery”; for a Community of American States, not U.S.A but C.A.S? And in 1924, how about dropping the Versailles Treaty, removing Hitler’s best card? Read the rest of this entry »
By Richard Falk
I am republishing my review essay that appeared in International Dialogue: A Multilateral Journal of World Affairs 6:2016.
It discusses two excellent studies of humanitarian intervention, a post-colonial trope allowing the United States and West Europeans to feel morally satisfied while projecting military power to distant lands, often with devastating consequences for the people being protected, and sometimes, even being rescued from tyranny and brutal repression.
In some respects, what progressive critics call ‘regime-change’ the champions of such policy like the terminology of ‘humanitarian intervention,’ or even better, ‘Responsibility to Protect’ or R2P.
Donald Trump interestingly portrayed Hillary Clinton accurately as a regime-change advocate, and pledged not to make such mistakes if elected. We will wait, see, and hope that at least this time, he means what he says.
The Middle East has been the testing ground for this ‘new geopolitics’ but its antecedents can be traced back several centuries as the Klose edited collection of essay clearly demonstrates.
Both studies are notable for highlighting the non-humanitarian motivations that accompany such undertakings, which are often hidden from public view, and need to be highlighted to comprehend this latest twist in the conduct of international relations.]
Fabian Klose (ed).
The Emergence of Humanitarian Intervention: Ideas and Practice from the Nineteenth Century to the Present
Cambridge University Press, 2016. 364pp.
The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention
Oxford University Press, 2016. 235pp
By Jonathan Power
November 8th 2016.
An interesting question is what would happen to American foreign policy if President Barack Obama were allowed to have another four year term in office?
It would be a less interventionist presidency than what is about to become. This is not to say that I think the way Obama has handled the war in Afghanistan has been successful. Nor do I believe the attack on Libya was a sensible idea. Nor do I think the way he dealt with Russia and Ukraine in the last four years has been anything but counterproductive.
But I do believe the world would be an even messier place if he had not been president. Syria would have been invaded with ground troops. Iraq would have been replicated.
I think confrontation with China over the ownership of the contested islands in the South China and East China seas would have been more serious than it has been.
There would have been no bringing back Cuba in from the cold. (Cuba was the home of the missile crisis of 1962 when the world came terrifyingly near to a nuclear war.)
Most important, there would have been no nuclear deal with Iran. Iran’s research which could have led to the making of a nuclear bomb (not that I think it had any intention of going that far) would have continued.
At some point Israel would have bombed Iran’s reactors Read the rest of this entry »
Freiburg, 1 October 2016
1. The global sky is full of dark clouds. There is reason, there must be reason, for concern. Humanity has to take time out to reflect. To-day is a good occasion to do so, especially since we have among us Haifa al Mansour and Solmaz Panahi who, together with her mother, has joined us on behalf of Jafar Panahi, her father.
The Kant Foundation is honouring two artists from the Middle East, one from Saudi Arabia, the other from Iran. They have taken Immanuel Kant’s demand of yesteryear seriously and have shown the courage to use their minds with all the consequences that this has entailed. They have been swimming against the currents, they have built bridges and they have climbed mountains that try to separate people.
2. The community of nations has created an impressive body of law which is as densely woven as the most magnificent carpets one can find in the Middle East. Life in all its facets is well protected by such law – or so it seems! The UN Charter remains the supreme road map for human life with peace. It echoes what many thinkers and humanists throughout centuries have proclaimed. Can there be any disagreement that the usefulness of a map lies in its use?
3. Emotions? Feelings? – important as they are, must be in harmony with reason! The irrational rejection of Europe by Britain would not have happened if feelings and reason had been in balance! How much more evidence do we need to accept that humanity knows no borders?
4. Let me pause here for a moment and interject… Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
Added at the bottom on November 23, 2016:
The – bizarre – White Helmet Mannequin Challenge video;
The Swedish Institute of International Affairs’s event with the White Helmets on November 24;
The Right Livelihood Award Foundation’s Award Ceremony to take place on November 25
While thousands of humanitarian organisations around the world are struggling fiercely with diminishing support from governments and the public, one has achieved a surprising amount of support from Western governments in a surprisingly short period of time and gained a surprising attention from mainstream media and ditto political elites: The Syrian Civil Defence or White Helmets.
Their name of course makes you think of the UN’s Blue Helmets and white is the colour of those who should be protected in harm’s way – and the colour of innocence. However, for many years there has been an Argentinian relief organisation with the same name.
The SCD or White Helmets counts nearly 3.000 rescue workers who operate in very dangerous areas in rebel-held territories in Syria and claims that it has, in three years, rescued about 70.000 lives according to its Twitter account (or 65 per day).
Contrary to what you might think, it isn’t a Syrian organisation because Syria has its own organisation, incidentally also called Syria Civil Defence, which was established in 1953 and is registered with ICDO, the International Civil Defence Organisation, since 1972.
The White Helmets seems to have an annual budget of US$ 30 million and has raised a total support of well over US$ 100 million. And it seems that they operate exclusively in war zones in which the fighting against the Syrian government and the Syrian Arab Army takes place, i.e. in ‘liberated’ areas where hundreds of groups and some 80 countries, mainly NATO members, Gulf states and Saudi-Arabia, operate.
On the White Helmets’ briefing page it is stated that “funding for their humanitarian relief work is received from the aid budgets of Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Here is how the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen explains the roughly US$ 9 million to the White helmets from Denmark, a country that bombs in both Iraq and Syria.
Other civil society and humanitarian organisations inside Syria have not been so fortunate. You’ve probably not heard that much about the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and its work? How much/little support have they received from Western humanitarian-concerned governments? And in general, civil society organisations in Syria – women, peace, human rights, culture, etc. – have received nothing like US$ 100 million in a few years and no one has such a flashy media appearance as the White Helmets.
The White Helmets was started in 2013 by James Le Mesurier who seems to have tried a little of everything everywhere, including the grey zones of special forces and intelligence in virtually all NATO wars, Yugoslavia in particular. He later set up a foundation in Holland to gather the funds. Here is a recent account by Scott Ritter, former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and weapons inspector in Iraq with tremendous knowledge of things Middle East:
“The organizational underpinnings of the White Helmets can be sourced to a March 2013 meeting in Istanbul between a retired British military officer, James Le Mesurier—who had experience in the murky world of private security companies and the shadowy confluence between national security and intelligence operations and international organizations—and representatives of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Qatari Red Crescent Society. Earlier that month, the SNC was given Syria’s seat in the Arab League at a meeting of the league held in Qatar.
At that meeting, the SNC assumed Syria’s seat, and the Arab League authorized member states to actively provide support, including arms and ammunition, to the Syrian rebels. The Qataris, working through the SNC, helped assemble for Le Mesurier $300,000 in seed money from Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom for a seven-day course designed to train and equip a 25-person rescue team, recruited by the SNC, for duty in so-called “liberated areas” of Syria. The SNC made available a pair of Syrian activists—Raed Saleh and Farouq Habib—to assist Le Mesurier in this work.
The group is – as will be seen below – treated as uncontroversial in virtually all Western mainstream media. However, there is enough material with documentation to merit caution. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
Lund, October 26, 2016
Over the last four month, ten articles about the new Cold War have been published on the TFF Associates blog. And on our social media you’ll find hundreds of brilliant, informative posts written by others.
While this new Cold War is certainly different from the first Cold war that ended in 1989, we are not in doubt that there is a new such tragic war and that the risk of military confrontation between Russia and NATO countries in Europe has increased.
We also happen to think it could have been avoided.
This Cold War has to do with, among many other things, NATO’s counterproductive expansion since 1994, the way Yugoslavia broke down and was broken up, with Ukraine and now Syria as well as – perhaps surprisingly to some – the rapidly diminishing political power and legitimacy of the West in the emerging world order.
A reflection on how security politics and media contribute to the closing of the open society
The increasing symbiosis between the political and the leading mainstream media of the Western world implies that, grosso modo, Russia is blamed for having caused this new situation. While Russia is certainly not innocent and it usually does take two to conflict this blame is rather a sign of diminishing capacity (knowledge) and will (economic and intellectual independence and courage) to ask critical questions that now characterise the corporate media.
Defence and security political news coverage, journalistic processing, editing and commentaries have sunk to an intellectual level that is considerably lower than during the first Cold War. The entire field is given low priority by editors. Domestic issues, sports, entertainment, lifestyle etc. have made it to the top.
Out of sync with the globalising world, most media do with 1-2 pages about global affairs out of, say, 40-50 pages and they base this material on the same handful of Western news bureaus.
The double checking of a variety of sources, versatility and multi-perspective coverage are things of the past and we see more uniformity and more subjectivity in the news media coverage than ever.
Add to this that both Russia and NATO countries engage in media management, or propaganda (tax payers footing the bills) which squeezes out comprehensive knowledge and unbiased analyses as well as critical angles on one’s own policies and actions. Read the rest of this entry »
And why Russia doesn’t have to be a threat to the West
By Jan Oberg
TFF Series ”The New Cold War” # 7
If the Ukraine conflict is the centerpiece of the new 2nd Cold War, it is essential to ask: What really happened? What did NATO countries do to cause it? What did Russia do to cause it?
And – if you live in the West, in particular: Did we really have to end in this situation given Russia’s significant weakness over 25 years?
This article argues that the superior West could have played its cards differently and it’s time for self-critical soul-searching and just a little living yourself into the shoes of the other.
If peace rather than war is your true aim.
There was a beginning and a framework
The Ukraine conflict has a 25-years history. Instead of dissolving NATO, the alliance was expanded. Relieved from there being a Soviet Union and a Warsaw Pact, the alliance went as fast it could to do all it wanted. Remember, a series of WW III scenarios has been written in which that war would start with some uncontrollable event in Yugoslavia. Now it could be chopped up – freely and without risk. Serbia was bombed and Kosovo carved out without a UN mandate whatsoever (1999).
How did they think about that in the Kremlin at the time, one must wonder?
Clinton literally did not give a damn about all the promises made to Soviet leader Gorbachev by US leaders such as Bush, James Baker and German leaders including Hans-Dietrich Genscher. (Yes, they were not written down but confirmed by those involved and present).
He began the expansion of NATO in 1994 – in Georgia (see what I refer to elsewhere in this series). All around a Russia on its knees Americans were placed in the offices of prime ministers, defence and foreign ministers – I saw it myself in former Yugoslavia – and met CIA people in Croatia disguised as humanitarian workers. And had a long conversation with the representative of the US in Tblisi in 1994. Historical moment!
The bad Christians, the Orthodox, were the Serbs and Russians and Greeks – all should be antagonized and the good guys in Yugoslavia were those who had been on the fascist side in WWII – the leaderships in Croatia, Muslims in Bosnia and the Kosovo Albanians. The Serb minority that had lived 400 years as a minority in the Croatian republic were, in the common Western discourse, invaders masterminded by strongman Slobodan Milosevic – whom Clinton without hesitation called the new ’Hitler of Europe’.
Ukraine was – and remains – what its name says: the border areas (like Krajina in Croatia). This is where NATO can establish itself as little as Chruschev could get away with deploying nukes in Cuba – considerably further away from the US, but anyhow.
Imagine – with a little bit of empathy (not necessarily sympathy) how Washington would react if today Putin’s Russia was 12 times stronger militarily than the alliance-free US (NATO dissolved 25 years ago) and tried with his alliance of 27 other members to make Canada or Mexico the 29th member. Perhaps most people in the US and Europe would have some sympathy for the negative reaction of Washington. Rand remember, Trump wants to build a wall to Mexico…
The main reason, it is stated again and again, in the Western press, NATO and other political circles is: Ukraine and Crimea. The lie about Putin’s aggression on Ukraine is told so many times that it is becoming the truth. Just see these two recent articles by Newsweek as two of hundreds of articles.
Here’s the chosen story in politics and media alike
The narrative is simplified beyond recognition and goes like this:
Putin (there is always just one top guy in Western eyes and it is one leader at the top like Milosevic, Mohamed Farah Aideed, Saddam Hussein, Moammar Khaddafi, al-Assad) is a bad guy and you know that because out of the blue his suddenly annexed Crimea. By that he changes the borders of Europe and then he gets his disguised soldiers into Eastern Ukraine – a Ukraine that we, in contrast to Bush Senior, care very very much about today.
We care so much about it that Read the rest of this entry »