Archive for October, 2013

Malala and Eartha Kitt: Words that matter

By Richard Falk

There are two ways of responding to an invitation from an American president. I recall that when Amory Lovins, the guru of market-oriented environmentalism, was asked about what was his main goal when invited to the White House to meet the president he responded self-assuredly: ‘To be invited back.” That is, be sure to say nothing that might so disturb the high and mighty to an extent that might jeopardize future invitations.

A positive reading of such an approach would point out that Lovins was just being realistic. If he hoped to have any influence at all in the future he needed to confine his present advice to an areas situated well within the president’s comfort zone. A less charitable interpretation would assume that what mattered to Lovins was the thrill of access to such an august portal of power.

Never receiving such an invitation, I had a lesser experience, but experienced similar temptations, being invited by a kind of institutional miscalculation to be the banquet speaker at West Point at the end of an international week at this elite military academy in which the cadets and representatives from a couple of hundred colleges had been fed the government line by top officials at the Pentagon and State Department.

The officer tasked with arranging the program decided that it might be more interesting to have for once a speaker who had a more critical outlook on the U.S. role in the world. I was invited, and accepted with mixed feelings of being both co-opted and challenged. It turns out that the seductive part of the occasion was to find myself housed in a suite normally reserved for the president or Secretary of Defense; it was luxurious and so spacious that it took me some time to locate the bedroom, although I did almost immediately find the fridge stocked with beer and food. First things first. Anyway, Read the rest of this entry »

Saudi Arabia withdraws from UN Security Council

By Jonathan Power

Diplomats at the UN were amazed last week when Saudi Arabia did the unthinkable and turned down the seat it had just won on the Security Council.

The ten rotating seats – that join those of the Permanent Five (the US, UK, France, Russia and China) – are regarded as the most prestigious spots in international diplomacy.

Saudi Arabia had badly wanted that seat. But the moment it got the votes that handed it to it, it stepped back. The BBC reported that this created “shock and confusion”. The Russian Foreign Ministry called it “bewildering”. No state has done this before.

Saudi Arabia accused the UN of “double standards”. It pointed to the Security Council’s failure “to find a solution to the Palestinian cause for 65 years”. It also criticised the UN for its “failure” to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, including Israel’s nuclear weapons. Strangely, in the light of a joint Russian-US accord on how to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons that won the endorsement of the Security Council, Saudi Arabia accused the UN of allowing the Syrian government “to kill its own people with chemical weapons….without confronting it or imposing any deterrent sanctions.”

But in the next two years there will be many other issues Read the rest of this entry »

The geopolitics of education for peace *

By Johan Galtung

60 years of peace theory and peace practice can be summarized in

PEACE = ________________________


Four theory foci, four policy tasks, and four education topics. Any true education should prepare for practice, guided by general theory.

Moving from denominator right to numerator left, this means:

* mediating acceptable and sustainable conflict solutions;

* conciliating parties locked in traumas from the past;

* empathizing with all parties divided by social/world faultlines;

* building cooperation for mutual and equal benefit.

Mediation is verbal, based on dialogues with the parties, but the four tasks are very concrete, practical. For doers not only talkers; for practical people like officers. Hence the Big Question: is peace theory-practice-education compatible with the military mind – however defined, and there are many military cultures in the world–or not? Read the rest of this entry »

The U.S. calamities: There are solutions

By Johan Galtung

Political terrorism failed. The House Republicans used voting in one US chamber to put millions of people inside and outside the US at livelihood risk for their own political goals. And made the mistake of most terrorists, non-state or state: when people suffer they will join us, against our enemy; to find out that people turn against the terrorists instead. And they were not a small group of Tea Party extremists but a clear majority of the House Republicans: 144 voted NO in the end, only 87 YES.

Obama has himself to thank for the general House Republican majority; having betrayed most groups voting for him in 2008 he was punished in the 2010 mid-term elections. Like the Republicans will be in 2014 for their political terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »

The Chomsky/Vltchek worldview

By Richard Falk

Recently I read On Western Terrorism: from Hiroshima to Drone Warfare, published in 2013 by Pluto Press here in London, and consisting of a series of conversations between Chomsky and the Czech filmmaker, journalist, and author, Andre Vltchek, who is now a naturalized American citizen.

Vltchek in an illuminating Preface describes his long and close friendship with Chomsky, and explains that these fascinating conversations took place over the course of two days, and was filmed with the intention of producing a documentary. The book is engaging throughout, with my only big complaint being about the misdirection of the title—there is virtually nothing said about either Hiroshima or drone warfare, but almost everything else politically imaginable!

Vltchek, previously unknown to me, consistently and calmly held his own during the conversations, speaking with comparable authority and knowledge about an extraordinary assortment of topics that embraced the entire global scene, something few of us would have the nerve to attempt, much less manage with such verve, insight, and empathy. After finishing the book my immediate reaction was that ‘Chomsky knows everything’ and ‘Vltchek has been everywhere and done everything.’

Omniscience and omnipresence are not often encountered, being primary attributes commonly attributed by theologians to a monotheistic god! Leaving aside this hyperbole, one is stunned throughout by the quality of the deep knowledge and compassion exhibited by these two public intellectuals, and even more by their deeply felt sympathy for all those being victimized as a result of the way in which the world is organized and Western hard power has been and is being deployed.

The book left me with a sense of how much that even those of us who try to be progressive and informed leave untouched, huge happenings taking place in domains beyond the borders of our consciousness. It suggests that almost all of us are ignoring massive injustices because they receive such scant attention from mainstream media and our access to alternative sources is too restricted. And, maybe also, the capacity for the intake of severe injustice is limited for most of us.

The book is well worth reading just to grasp this gap between what we care about and what is actually worth caring about. Read the rest of this entry »

A tale of two speeches: Rouhani and Netanyahu at UN General Assembly

By Farhang Jahanpour*

With the progress of the talks in Geneva between Iran and the six world powers (the so-called P5+1) on 15 and 16 October, there is growing optimism about a lasting solution to Iran’s nuclear program and to the resumption of relations between Iran and the United States after 34 years of estrangement. After an hour-long power-point presentation by the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, which he called “closing unnecessary crisis, and opening new horizons”, Michael Mann, the spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton who is leading the talks for the P5+1 group, described the Iranian proposal as “very useful” and said: “For the first time, very detailed technical discussions took place.” (1)

The exact choice of words was also repeated by a senior US official taking part in the talks. After the formal talks between the two sides, there was another US-Iran bilateral meeting between the chief US representative in the talks, Ms. Wendy Sherman, and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi who led the Iranian delegation after the Iranian foreign minister’s original presentation. This was the second time after the meeting of Iranian and US foreign ministers in New York that senior officials from the two sides had had a bilateral meeting. Read the rest of this entry »

BRICS: The real “Global South” today

By Johan Galtung

Keynote European Center for Peace and Development, Beograd, 12 Oct 2013

Two basic facts stand out in the world economic development, leaving aside military, political, cultural and social development:

* The BRICS – an acronym becoming a social fact–are emerging;

* The USA-EU are declining; not only as markets, also as producers.

Another way of saying this is that the West has been outcompeted, not by the Rest but by – so far – a select part. The world market is not constant but increasing sum, but much demand may be met by domestic production, not by import-export. As part of the story.

The West got the definition of development wrong, still clinging to economic development = economic growth (measured by annual GNP/capita increase). The BRICS understood development differently, adding economic distribution (measured by the ratio in acquisitive power between the top and bottom 20%, and between the CEO and average worker salary; at the macro and micro levels). No growth spells recession-depression, no distribution spells worse: death. For economic, like for geographic, positioning, at least two dimensions are needed. A professor in latitudes, or growth, only, is simply not good enough.

Development becomes increasing growth and increasing equality. Growth alone may lead to flagrant inequality at the expense of those at the bottom and nature–a system we know only too well–distribution alone may lead to the shared misery of some human past. We need both.

The map of the world was also wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

Balkan integration process in a global framework

By Johan Galtung

Keynote, European Center for Peace and Development, Beograd, 11 Oct 2013

The Balkan integration process within, and the global framework without, are both parts of the story of empires that come, leave deep and bloody faultlines within and without, and then decline and fall.

Thus, the Balkans were doubly divided in the 11th century by the schism between the Catholics and the Orthodox in 1054, following the 395 split between the Western and Eastern Roman empires, Rome vs Constantinople; and the declaration of war on Islam by Pope Urban II on 27 Nov 1095.

The two dividing lines intersect in Sarajevo, the Bosnia and Herzegovina-BiH Ground Zero for Euro-quakes. The Hapsburgs from Northwest annexed BiH in 1908, and a shot followed in 1914. The Ottomans from Southeast defeated the Serbs in 1397 and were defeated in the 1912 Balkan war, leaving Slavic and Albanian Muslims. A little later, 1918, the Hapsburgs also went the way of Roman and Ottoman empires: Decline and Fall; over and out.

The Soviets came, and went the same way in 1991; the US Empire is following – by 30 years? – meeting their fates, not in the Balkans but in Afghanistan where empires are said to come to die. Today the Balkans are run from Brussels; by the deeply troubled European Union with “high” representatives, and by NATO, led by a bankrupt country, right now ridden by government shutdown and the threat of default.

A four factor formula for positive peace indicates four tasks: Read the rest of this entry »

Post-intervention Libya: A militia state

By Richard Falk

Two apparently related and revealing incidents have turned public attention briefly back to Libya just after the second anniversary of the NATO intervention that helped anti-Qaddafi rebel forces overthrow his regime. The first incident involved the infringement of Libyan sovereignty by an American special forces operation that seized the alleged al Qaeda operative, Abu Anas al-Libi (also known as Nizah Abdul Hamed al-Ruqai), on October 5, supposedly with the knowledge and consent of the Libyan government.

The second incident, evidently a response to the first seizure, was the kidnapping a few days later of the country’s prime minister, Ali Zeidan, while he lay asleep in his hotel lodgings in the center of Tripoli. He was easily captured by a squadron of 20 militia gunmen who arrived at the hotel around 2:00 am and proceeded without resistance from security guards to carry off the head of the Libyan state. Such a bold assault on the state’s essential character as the sole purveyor of legitimate violence (according to the famous conception of Max Weber) is a telltale sign of a political system of shadow governance, that is, without security.

The capture of Ali Zeidan was reportedly prompted both by anger at the government’s impotence in the face of such an overt violation of Libyan sovereignty by the United States, as well as serving to warn the political leadership of the country that any further effort to disarm militias would be resisted. Read the rest of this entry »

Israel’s politics of fragmentation

By Richard Falk


If the politics of deflection exhibit the outward reach of Israel’s grand strategy of territorial expansionism and regional hegemony, the politics of fragmentation serves Israel’s inward moves designed to weaken Palestinian resistance, induce despair, and de facto surrender. In fundamental respects deflection is an unwitting enabler of fragmentation, but it is also its twin or complement.

The British were particularly adept in facilitating their colonial project all over the world by a variety of divide and rule tactics, which almost everywhere haunted anti-colonial movements, frequently producing lethal forms of post-colonial partition as in India, Cyprus, Ireland, Malaya, and of course, Palestine, and deadly ethnic strife elsewhere as in Nigeria, Kenya, Myanmar, Rwanda. Each of these national partitions and post-colonial traumas has produced severe tension and long lasting hostility and struggle, although each takes a distinctive form due to variations from country to country of power, vision, geography, resources, history, geopolitics, leadership.

An additional British colonial practice and legacy was embodied in a series of vicious settler colonial movements that succeeded in effectively eliminating or marginalizing resistance by indigenous populations as in Australia, Canada, the United States, and somewhat less so in New Zealand, and eventually failing politically in South Africa and Namibia, but only after decades of barbarous racism.

In Palestine the key move was the Balfour Declaration, Read the rest of this entry »


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