Resolving the Syrian chemical weapons crisis: Sunlight and shadows

By Richard Falk

The Putin Moment

Not only did Vladimir Putin exhibit a new constructive role for Russia in 21st statecraft, spare Syria and the Middle East from another cycle of escalating violence, but he articulated this Kremlin initiative in the form of a direct appeal to the American people. There were reasons to be particularly surprised by this display of Russian diplomacy: not since Nikita Khrushchev helped save the world from experiencing the catastrophe of nuclear war in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 by backing down and agreeing to a face-saving formula for both superpowers, had Moscow distinguished itself in any positive way with respect to the conduct of international relations.

For Putin to be so forthcoming, without being belligerent, was particularly impressive in view of Obama’s rather ill-considered cancellation only a few weeks ago of a bilateral meeting with the Russian leader because of Washington’s supposed anger at the refusal of the Russian government to turn the NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, over to the United States for criminal prosecution under American espionage laws; and finally, considering that Putin has much blood on his hands given past policies pursued in relation to Chechnya and in the autocratic treatment of domestic political opposition, it was hard to expect anything benevolent during his watch.

And so Putin is emerging as a virtual ‘geopolitical black swan,’ making unanticipated moves of such a major characterRead More »

Nukes are nuts !

By David Krieger
Krieger is one of the three TFF Associates nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize

When asked by a reporter why nuclear weapons are useless, Colin Powell, former US secretary of state and four-star general said: “Because they’re such horrible weapons. And so no sane leader would ever want to cross that line to using nuclear weapons. And, if you are not going to cross that line, then these things are basically useless.” In other words, one could say, nukes are nuts.

There are innumerable global security issues that need to be addressed, some of which are poverty, terrorism, the climate crisis, pollution of the oceans, loss of biodiversity and forest depletion. Not one of these issues can be addressed with nuclear weapons. In fact, nuclear weapons draw much-needed resources away from solving these global problems. Nukes are nuts.

Nuclear weapons are justified by their possessors for nuclear deterrence, but nuclear deterrence is only a hypothesis about human behavior. Read More »

Syrien – hvad kunne være gjort og hvad kan stadig gøres?

– Eller: Sådan har vi svigtet Syrien

Publiceret 13 september 2013 på Ræson online

Af Jan Øberg, docent

Hvis det er fred, verden vil have, er det et ynkeligt spil vi har set, mener fredsforskeren Jan Øberg, medstifter og direktør for den Transnationale Stiftelse for Freds- og Fremtidsforskning i Lund –

Gad vide hvor mange mislykkede krige vi endnu skal igennem før især politikere og medier opdager det indlysende faktum at der findes et temmeligt bredt spektrum af handlingsmuligheder mellem at gøre ingenting og at smadre et land når konflikter dukker op?

Det spektrum hedder konflikthåndtering og tilhører et fagområde der undervises i rundt om på verdens universiteter. Det kræver at FNs medlemsstater etablerer ”styrker” af uddannede konfliktanalytikere, facilitatorer, mæglere, områdeeksperter, forhandlere og forsoningsterapeuter, der kan rykke ud endnu hurtigere end de kan sende krydsermissiler og F-16 fly.

For at dette spektrum kan blive inddraget forudsættes endvidere at regeringer ikke direkte ønsker krig under foregivende af at have gode og ofte humanitære motiver hvor de i virkeligheden har rå interesser.

Med andre ord, man kan gøre noget ved den manifeste konfliktanalfabetisme, der først søger militære løsninger og – som en række danske politikere – hurtigt tilsidesætter folkeretten og FNs fornemste normRead More »

TFF nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

TFF PressInfo, September 12, 2013


The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF), founded on September 12, 1985 – today 28 years ago – is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2013 and so are three TFF Associates:

Richard Falk, professor in international law at Santa Barbara and Princeton, the UN S-G’s envoy for the Occupied Territories;
David Krieger, founder (1982) and president of The Nuclear Age Foundation devoted to nuclear abolition;
Jan Oberg, co-founder and director of TFF.


World renown expert on the Nobel Peace Prize, Norwegian lawyer Fredrik Heffermehl*, says:

– Nobel dedicated his prize to “the “champions of peace” (not to “peace” in general). Not that many of those we know from open sources are nominated this year are qualified, but a select few are eligible, like the American Professor Richard Falk, Norwegian Ambassador Gunnar Garbo, American David Krieger of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the former Director General of UNESCO Federico Mayor, Spain, Swedish peace scientist and organizer Jan Oberg, as well as American Professor of peace education Betty Reardon.

– These clearly are the kind of “champions of peace” described in Nobel’s will, working for global disarmament based on global law.Read More »

Caucasus leaving the Cold War

By Johan Galtung
Writing from Tbilisi, Georgia

With Georgia (4.5 million) a client of the USA (314 million), fighting its war in Afghanistan; Armenia (3.3 million) leaning towards Russia (143 million); and Azerbaijan (9.2 million) in a bitter conflict over the Armenian enclave Karabagh on much of its territory (less so over the Azeri enclave Nakhichevan on Armenian soil), the stage is set. Add the Russian cultural enclaves in Georgia–Abkhazia and South Ossetia–recognized by few, but some, as states, and visits to Caucasus were a time machine trip back to the Cold War.

But that is not all where Georgia is concerned. There is also the Muslim Adjara enclave bordering on Turkey, and Azeris, Armenians and others, living in the very multinational Georgia, some with strong territorial attachments. People of at least 28 nations live among and around each other in the Caucasus. But modernity demanded clear state borders, also in what became in 1922 the Soviet Union. The state system did not fit the nation system, but states there must be, all over, subjecting dozens of minorities to dominant nations that create illusions by imprinting the three states with their names.

Same as in Europe. Read More »

The US has no credibility dealing with chemical weapons

By Stephen Zunes

This is an updated and expanded version of the article “The US and Chemical Weapons: No Leg to Stand On,” originally posted in Foreign Policy in Focus on May 2, 2013.

Had the United States pursued a policy stemming the proliferation of chemical and other nonconventional weapons through region-wide disarmament, when it was proposed in 2003 by Syria, it is likely there would be no apparent use of such ordnance and no present rush to war on that basis, says Zunes.

The Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilian areas on August 21 constitutes a breach of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, one of the world’s most important disarmament treaties, which banned the use of chemical weapons.

In 1993, the international community came together to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), a binding international treaty that would also prohibit the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, and transfer or use of chemical weapons. Syria is one of only eight of the world’s 193 countries not party to the convention.

However, US policy regarding chemical weapons has been so inconsistent and politicized that the United States is in no position to take leadership in any military response to any use of such weaponry by Syria. Continue reading at TruthOut

Mankind’s lifestyle in the year 2250

By Jonathan Power

In 1776 Adam Smith published his “Wealth of Nations” which has guided economists and political thinkers ever since. It marks the start of the Industrial Revolution that began in England and then spread throughout most of the world. That was 237 years ago.

It is not that long ago – only 4 life-spans or so, the time of your great, great, great, grandparents. Where will we be 237 years hence? Presumably just as today we listen to Mozart, born 257 years ago, and watch or read Shakespeare, born 439 years ago – they have survived all changing tastes and spread well outside their original orbit of European culture to countries as varied as Japan, China, Argentina, Tanzania and South Korea – we can be sure that generations to come will have much the same cultural interests.

In all likelihood in 2250 we will probably still enjoy tastes picked up from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries – perhaps the Beatles, Picasso, some of the outstanding Nigerian and Indian novelists writing today or the pristine recordings of the magnificent Chinese classical violinists and pianists now emerging. We won’t have better artists – who can ever rival Tchaikovsky, Leonardo da Vinci, Tolstoy or Shakespeare?- but a handful who are as good.

Our religions will persistRead More »

Why Congress should say “NO” on Syria

By Richard Falk

I am not sure this attempt at clarifying the present stage of the Syria debate adds much to my prior posts, yet I hope that it provides a kind of summary that is helpful in following the unfolding debate; all along I have felt that the Syrian impasse presented the UN and the world with a tragic predicament: trapped between doing something to stop the Assad regime from committing atrocities against its own people so as to retain power and the non-viability and illegality of military intervention, a predicament further complicated by the proxy war within the region along sectarian lines, by the strategic involvement of the U.S. and Russia on opposite sides, and the maneuverings behind the scenes by Israel; also, the overall regional turmoil, and past bad feeling in relation to the UN role in the overthrow of Qadaffi posed additional obstacles.

Efforts to shape the political outcome by military means, because of the proxy war dimensions (including an increasingly evident, although still surprising, tacit alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia) only escalated the violence on the ground in Syria; Turkey, Russia, and the United States have all along oscillated between principled and pragmatic responses favoring one side or the other, and exhibiting an ambivalent commitment to equi-distant diplomacy.

There are three positions that have considerable support in Washington circles, although rarely acknowledged and not popular with the public, partly because of recent foreign policy failures, and partly too removed from perceptions of genuine security interests:

– undertake an attack to uphold ‘red line’ credibility of the president and the United States Government;

– undertake an attack to avoid an insurgent defeat, but on a scale that will not produce an insurgent victory; goal: keep the civil war going;

– undertake an attack to convince Iran that Obama is ready to use force if diplomatic coercion doesn’t work.Read More »

Questioning Obamacare for Syria

By Richard Falk

There is something particularly distressing about the ongoing debate on authorizing an internationally illegal and immoral military attack on Syria: a show of political support on the right. Such a ‘coming together’ of some of the center and much of the right in the American Congress has been sadly absent during Obama presidency until now, whether the issue was health, taxes, social services, keeping the government running, and immigration.

And this support emerges on the rare occasion when a majority of American citizens, not known for their cosmopolitan sentiments or affection for the UN Charter, oppose attacking Syria, as was the British Parliament, and as is public opinion throughout Europe. In such a setting, it is not only international law and the UN are being repudiated in a war/peace situation, but the whole fabric of democratic accountability to law and the judgment of the people.

At least we can conclude that the reactionary tendency in American political life over the course of the last decade or so is consistent in its adherence to irresponsible means in the pursuit of irresponsible ends.Read More »

Obama overholder ikke principperne for “retfærdig krig”

Af Claus Kold

Claus Kold, TFF Associate

Reguleringerne af krigens vold finder man overordnet beskrevet i FN Pagten, Menneskerettighedserklæringerne og mere konkret i den Den Humanitære Folkeret, som består af fire konventioner og tre tillægsprotokoller.

Det er et område, hvor logik, politik og jura flyder sammen om at definere og forstå, hvad der sker på slagmarken. Retssubjektet i krig er ikke mennesker, men stater, der agerer politisk i et vilkårligt horisontalt forhold til andre stater. Stater fortolker omverden og handler på baggrund af forskellige kulturer, religioner, sprog, retstraditioner, økonomier og styreformer. Det kommer der mange misforståelser og konflikter ud af.
Problemet med disse reguleringer er – og det kommer næppe som nogen overraskelse – at de historisk sjældent overholdes. En del af krigens logik er, at hvis en stat er truet på livet, så kæmper den for sin overlevelse med de redskaber og våben, den har. Hvis den og dens ledere nedkæmpes og dør, er der jo alligevel ingen, der kan holde den ansvarlig for begåede grusomheder – ud over Gud, hvis denne da indgår i ligningen.

Der har, så længe krigen har eksisteret, både eksisteret forsøg på at legitimere og at begrænse krigens vold, for spørgsmålene hænger sammen.
Hvad angår legitimeringen af krig blev der især i forbindelse med ridderkorstogene opstillet regler, som skulle opfyldes for at en religiøs (kristen) krig kunne være retfærdig (jus ad bellum).

Just wars bestod af 5 principper, som skulle overholdes, hvis krig skulle være retfærdiggjort. Read More »