A couple of messages to NATO’s Summit
By Jan Oberg, TFF co-founder
Lund, Sweden September 5, 2014.
Yugoslavia then and now
TFF’s first report from Yugoslavia from September 1991 carried the title, After Yugoslavia – What? It is now one of 127 reports and articles in the huge research and policy blog – Yugoslavia – What Should Have Been Done?
It contains the equivalent of 2000 book pages authored by Johan Galtung, Jan Oberg and Hakan Wiberg. All articles are published as they were written at the time. For anyone to see whose analyses stood the test of time.
We opened this blog two days ago – on the 23rd year of TFF’s first of some 70 peace missions into the war zones.
While it is important to analyse the world, it is more important to criticise it and most important to search – and re-search – alternatives to it. Thus the title. You are kindly invited to browse.
Such work is not only of historical interest. It carries a message for the future – as does all good research.
While inner factors were certainly dominant, the West – in its misguided attempt at playing peace maker – introduced humanitarian intervention, bombings without UN mandate, carving up an existing sovereign state, recognising separatists and making them NATO members.
It simplified the conflict beyond recognition to two parties – the bad Serbs and the Slovenes, Croats, Bosniaks, Macedonians, Albanians, Montenegrins as the good guys. With bad diagnosis, the patient may die.
All this was noticed in Moscow, then on its knees. Today the West doesn’t possess the moral capital to blame Putin for Crimea.
There are lessons to be learnt from all this when we look at the sorry state of the various parts of former Yugoslavia today.
Do we have the courage to ask what we did wrong and not only blame the people living in that immensely complex region?
After the U.S. Empire what?
With the exception of the military dimension, the U.S. is weaker relative to the rest of the world than at any point since 1945.
The society that carries the empire is torn by divisions, social and racial problems, grotesque income gaps, etc. The capacity to think new thoughts and implement them is decreasing. The U.S. has become the grumpy partner, a bully of others – but for how much longer?
Johan Galtung, TFF Associate and one of the fathers of academic peace research – a subject now taught at about 800 universitites around the world – has gone deeper into this proccess and looked into the future in 2009 in “The Fall of the US Empire – And Then What? Successors, Regionalisation or Globalization? US FAscism or US Blossoming?”
He writes about this perspective five years later here.
After NATO what?
Far from an unreasonable question. If you read the basic documents issued before the Wales Summit that ends today you may be able to see a 65-year old idea refusing to recognise that the world has changed.
One, like a grumpy old man it now sees the whole world as basically inimical – terrorist lurking everywhere, ISIS, Iraq, Syria, BRICS gaining strength, China a new big threat, a South America that has no US installed governments, Africa that is rising economically and dealing more and more with China.
And there is a terrible co-responsibility for Israel-Palestine – the former a new burden – as well as the long-term consequences of the CIA-coup against Dr. Mossadegh in Iran in 1953: No deal possible with non-nuclear Iran that we need more than Iran.
And now the terrible Russians have the guts to come back after we put them down for 25 years!
Two, a large portion of all this is self-created if you apply a bit of history (which the West doesn’t that much anymore); it’s policies boomeranging, blowback – in the case of Ukraine, a consequence also of NATO’s expansion from the Baltic states to Tblisi – under Clinton 1993 – where it should have been dissolved and of regime change policies in Kiev instigated by neo-conservative circles in Washington.
Now, Russia’s reactions to that are in and of themselves unacceptable but they were reactive to what Russia must see as grossly provocative, if not belligerent policies: the triumphalist NATO containment and other winner-takes-it-all policies since 1989.
Where empathy is most needed – in security and foreign policy – it simply doesn’t exist. To not see that Russia too has security interests along its borders is bizarre when NATO itself operates worldwide to protect its interests and survival.
The world according to NATO isn’t anymore.
The monotonous answer to all questions is “more weapons” like the drug addict. What about asking other questions? What about a little intellectual instead of military armament? What about realism and balanced, wise judgement instead of increasing political paranoia and autism?
No, let’s preserve NATO in a new key: Scrap all its weapons, use the infrastructure, communication, transport capacity, budgets and highly professional staff and convert it into the world’s most efficient humanitarian organisation bringing instantly what must be brought to those who are in need and in harms way. For the common good.
After violence what?
The malaise of the world is not conflicts but violence – and that people and media mix the two. Conflicts – that we want different things and see the world in different ways – is good, the stuff life and democracy is made of. Conflicts happen!
Violence is what must be abhorred, condemned and treated normatively as we do slavery, cannibalism, pedophilia. The idea that there is a good violence that should – and can – stop evil violence needs to be challenged.
True, Chapter 7 of the UN Charter permits violence – then let’s keep it there: as the last resort, not the first step. Virtually all states and governments in today’s world have their priorities wrong.
TFF Associate Jonathan Power – one of the world’s most experienced columnists who has worked for Martin Luther King Jr. expresses it this way in a column this week on TFF’s blog:
“Violence should have had its day. Look at its non-achievements. The US/British/French invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. The upheavals of the “Arab Spring”. And now Ukraine. Will we ever learn its limitations?”
We are in a vicious circle: Most of our leaders know nothing but military responses to problems that have no military solutions.
They say they know that this or that problem has only a political solution but then take military steps that preclude – virtually makes impossible – political, negotiated solutions.
Yes, after all this – then…
The world can become a better place. For all of us. But the dominant West must stop being exceptionalist and become a partner.
The West needs a perestroika (re-thinking, re-search and re-structuring), glasnost (openness, dialogue) and kulturnost (cultured behaviour, educatedness – including non-violence – and respect for other cultures and ways of thinking and living).
To learn lessons and not only teach them. Let’s hope the West still has the capacity to make dynamic changes with the world and not constantly against it.