Archive for the ‘New books’ Category

Is it immigration versus the working class?

By Jonathan Power

Every developed country is importing cheap labour, although much less so during this time of the Great Recession, yet all too rarely are the pro and con arguments discussed with real profundity.

A new, incisive, book “The British Dream” by David Goodhart, the founder of the magazine, “Prospect”, dares to deal with the shibboleths. There are many commonalities in Britain that apply to countries as varied as France, the US, Thailand and Qatar.

Goodhart’s conclusion about immigration is that what we might generalize and call the “working class” point of view is essentially correct: “We have had too much of it, too quickly, and much of it, especially for the least well off, has not produced self-evident economic benefit.”

This viewpoint is anathema to the liberal intelligentsia, businesses and many governments. In Britain, after years of gate-closing under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, a well trodden liberal, opened the gates wide. Businesses could smooth the wheels of the economic motor with workers prepared to work for lower wages, work night shifts, do the unpleasant jobs and thus grease the wheels of the economy. Liberals focused on the argument about giving a helping hand to some of the world’s poor and led to a welcome broadening of the culture with new foods, restaurants and music. Read the rest of this entry »

Nationalism is a dangerous thing

By Jonathan Power

Former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, would never have agreed with her French counterpart, the late President Francois Mitterand, who said “Nationalism is war”. To her nationalism was necessary and good and she felt much as Mitterand’s predecessor, Charles de Gaulle, who said of the French nation,“it comprises a past, a present and a future that are indissoluble.”

But the nationalism that Thatcher fought for was a largely negative force. It antagonized the other members of the European Union. She did not believe her country could learn from them how to carry out economic reform without severe social disruption. She went to war with Argentina without trying to enlist the US as a mediator because it lent towards Argentina’s side.

One can date European nationalism from the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing in the dark

By Richard Falk

Seeing in the Dark with Victoria Brittain

As with the best of journalists, Victoria Brittain has spent a lifetime enabling us to see in the dark! Or more accurately, she has shined a bright light on those whose suffering has been hidden by being deliberately situated in one or another shadow land of governmental and societal abuse, whether local, national, or geopolitical in its animus.

These patterns of abuse are hidden because whenever their visibility cannot be avoided, the liberal mythologizing of the decency of the modern democratic state suffers a staggering blow. In recent years this unwanted visibility has permanently tarnished the human rights credentials of the United States due to the spectacular exposés of the horrifying pictures of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq or various reports of grotesque treatment of Guantanomo detainees.

As with Bradley Manning and Wikileaks, the U.S. Government should be embarrassed by its response: a preoccupation with these unwelcome leaks of its dirty secrets, while manifesting indifference to the substantive disclosures of its endorsement of torture and other crimes against humanity. But it is not, and that has become and remains a deep challenge to all of us who wish to live in a society of laws, not sadistic men, a society based on ethics and human rights, not cruelty and dehumanization.

Once such secrets have been revealed, all of us are challenged not to avert our gaze, being reminded that upholding the rights and dignity of every person is the duty of government and the responsibility of all citizens, and when flagrant and intentional failures along these lines remain unchallenged, the credentials of decency are forever compromised.

This is but a prelude to commenting briefly upon Victoria Brittain’s extraordinary recent book of humane disclosure, Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror (London: Pluto, 2013; distributed in the United States by Palgrave Macmillan). Brittain is a journalist who not only sees in the dark, but what is even rarer among the restless practitioners of this profession, she stays around long enough to listen. Read the rest of this entry »

An indispensable book on Palestine/Israel

By Richard Falk

Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland
By Pamela Olson (Berkeley, CA: Seal Press)

I realize that without knowing it, I have long waited for this book, although I could not have imagined its lyric magic in advance of reading. It is a triumph of what I would call ‘intelligent innocence,’ the great benefits of a clear mind, an open and warm heart, and a trustworthy moral compass that draws sharp lines between good and evil while remaining ever sensitive to the contradictory vagaries of lives and geographic destinies.

Pamela Olson exhibits an endearing combination of humility and overall emotional composure that makes her engaged witnessing of the Palestinian ordeal so valuable for me as I believe and hope it will be for others.

Early on, she acknowledges her lack of background with refreshing honesty: “Green and wide-eyed, I wandered into the Holy Land, an empty vessel.” But don’t be fooled. Olson, who had recently graduated from Stanford, almost immediately dives deeply into the daily experience of Palestine and Palestinians, with luminous insight and a sensibility honed on an anvil of tenderness, truthfulness, and a readiness for adventure and romance. Read the rest of this entry »

Sover du gott efter detta, Bildt?

Av Sören Sommelius

De svenska stridsflygplan som sattes in i Libyen borde användas till att också angripa mål på marken i offensiv krigföring. Det tyckte Folkpartiets militante ledare Jan Björklund, när den svenska insatsen i Libyen diskuterades i mars 2011.

Så blev det dessbättre inte. Men Sverige deltog, med brett parlamentariskt stöd, i ett krig som efteråt alltför lite har ifrågasatts. Sverige svarade för en fjärdedel av flygspaningen för att lokalisera bombmål.

Kriget kallades ”humanitär intervention” och genomfördes av Nato med stöd av FN-resolution nummer 1 973.

Men i själva verket var det inget annat än ett traditionellt kolonialkrig, sammanfattar den norske fredsforskaren Ola Tunander i sin bok Libyenkrigets geopolitik, som är en svidande genomgång av krigets förutsättningar och konsekvenser. Det här är en bok som politiker som Björklund och Bildt borde läsa. Om de gör det tvivlar jag på att de kommer att sova gott efteråt. Read the rest of this entry »

The history of Peace: The Past and the Future?

By Johan Galtung

Review of The Glorious Art of Peace by John Gittings, NYC: Oxford University Press, 2012. Info about this book and a video with Gittings here.

Editor’s note
This is Galtung’s draft which has been submitted to International Affairs.

What a wonderful idea, the history of peace! Something most people want to learn about, the art of peace! Like the history of health, food and love, as opposed to the history of wars, illness and hunger, of generals, kings and empires. This is the history of something that can inspire people, statesmen-women among them, to do better. This is a more adequate textbook for schools than the usual list of kings (and queens, like “divorced-beheaded-died-divorced-beheaded-survived”).

Gittings’ historiography covers seven periods: “ancient peace” based on Greece and China; the “morality of peace” of the middle ages, from Jesus to the Crusades; the “humanist approach” of the early modern renaissance with a focus on Erasmus; then the “peace consciousness” of the enlightenment; the “alternatives to war” of the League of Nations, peaceful settlement of disputes, and nonviolence (Tolstoy, Gandhi); the “misappropriation of peace” from the UN to the Cold War; “giving peace a chance” from the Cold War to Iraq. The focus is on modernity with five of seven periods, and on the West, with laudable excursions into China and India-Russia for their impact on the West. Missing: the small non-West peace, like American Indian (Sioux confederation), Polynesian (ho’o pono pono), Zulu (ubuntu). Missing: the big non-West mega-peace between the biggest countries in the world, China and India. But Gittings covers a rich lot “from the Iliad to Iraq”.

Gittings’ methodology is empirical with events, countries and persons, and fascinating quotes and art photos; relating them causally and by similarities; always interestingly. Missing: theoretical explorations based on, say, conditioning by nature (geography, nutrition); by culture, like dualism for Greeks, yin/yang for Chinese; by structure, like caste/class verticality vs equity. But Gittings offers a lot of raw material for the theoretically minded.

The major impression from the book is the history of anti-war carried by persons and sometimes by groups; in other words, negative peace against violence. Of positive peace, like building equity and harmony, dissolving traumas and conflicts, there is close to nothing.

But Gittings is not to be faulted for this; rather, the civilizations he explored are. Read the rest of this entry »

Neither capitalism nor socialism: Eclecticism & Peace Economics!

By Johan Galtung

Thinking aloud: we need all good ideas to combat our double economic crisis: the increasing misery crisis at the bottom, now also in rich countries in the West, and the increasing system crisis, also striking those countries; but both are all over.

So the following are notes for an epilogue to a forthcoming book, Peace Economics, about how to overcome the flagrant structural violence in the misery crisis, and the threat of direct violence, not only terrorism and state terrorism, but a major world war to get the West out of the system – like the Second World War lifted them out of the Great Depression. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Al Qaeda on the up?

By Jonathan Power

The two bombs that went off last week in Damascus, Syria, killing 55 people suggest that Al Qaeda is out and about, not on the verge of defeat as appeared so after the death of Osama bin Laden. The movement that claimed to be responsible, the Al-Nusra Front, whilst independent, almost certainly has ties with Al-Qaeda. In an eight minute video released in February Dr Aymen Zawaheri, who took over from bin Laden, urged Muslims to help “brothers in Syria with all that they can”.

According to US intelligence Al Qaeda in Iraq responded by establishing terrorist cells in Syria. This is one reason why the US and Nato don’t want to get militarily involved in Syria. They have at last learnt that it would radicalise more people and push them towards Al Qaeda. (Besides, the situation is not as straightforward as it was in Libya with one all-powerful strongman, one dominant religious sect and a fairly united armed opposition.) Read the rest of this entry »

Rational conflict resolution: What stands in the way?*

By Johan Galtung

We are facing six conflicts, four current, one past and one future are shaping our present reality. Conflict is a relation of incompatibility between parties; not an attribute of one party. It spells danger of violence and opportunity to create new realities.

Thus, to understand the shoa the narratives of unspeakable German atrocity and infinite Jewish suffering are indispensable. But so are the narratives of German-Jewish relations, Germans to others, Jews to others. Failure to do so blocks rationality: if conflict is in the relation, then the solution is in a new relation. This is not blaming the victim. What matters most is changing the relation. Are we able? Read the rest of this entry »

The politics and benefits of equality

By Johan Galtung

US politics has for a long time, since the 1970s, been the politics of inequality. Not only have the indicators of inequality, like the ratio in average income between the top and the bottom 20%, or the salary ratio between a CEO and the average employee in a corporation, increased (from 50 to 1100). But the top 10 or 1 or 0.1 percent, has acquired wealth so far unheard of. And the bottom 90, or 99 or 99.1 percent see the average family income in real terms decreasing; for the lowest down below the poverty line, way down into misery like worrying about where the next meal comes from (from the soup kitchen for very many). Read the rest of this entry »


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