East Asia: Four formulas for peace

By Johan Galtung

Kyoto, Japan

An East Asia of 6 states, 5 from the 6-Party Talks + Taiwan. The 6 in East Asia divide into South Korea-Taiwan-Japan in the US-led alliance AMPO+ (USA-Japan Security Treaty+); North Korea; China-Russia with others in SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). AMPO+ with US “nuclear umbrella”, the other two may acquire nukes; North Korea with nukes; and SCO with two nuclear powers. Put it all together: A nuclear arms race.

Arms races may deter, but often end with wars. Wars mean trauma for losers and glory for winners. PTSD – post trauma stress disorder – may lead to thirst for revenge, and PGED – post glory exuberance disorder – to thirst for more glory. War, war, war. Worse than ever since WWII.

East Asia badly needs another approach.

As a minimum, the four tasks in the TRANSCEND peace formula: the negative peace of conciling traumas and solving conflicts; the positive peace of cooperation for mutual and equal benefit-equity-and harmony based on empathy.

Unconciled traumas and unsolved conflicts:

Japan/USA over FDR provoking Japan into war, Pearl Harbor, fire-bombing/nuclear genocide (Obama fell far short of Willy Brandt genuflexing in Warsaw for the genocide on Jews); Japan/Russia over Russian expansionism and the war; Japan/Taiwan-Korea-parts of China for uninvited, not colonialism, but japanization; Japan/SK – a carbon copy of Japan – with hysterically anti-Japanese policies (not in Pyonyang) demanding ever more apology and money. But Japan-SK “comfort women”, like Japan-China Nanjing, are complex; international commissions may sort facts from fiction.

Japan/China slave labor seems solved (Japan Times 2 Jun 2016).

NK/USA-SK: normalization-nuclear free Korea vs NK collapse.

Then Japan vs Russia, Chinas, Koreas over the contested islands.

Then USA polarizing East Asia, more tension, micro-managing.

Most problematic: Japan, USA; least: Russia. Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 375 Close calls: We were closer to nuclear destruction than we knew (2)

By Gunnar Westberg

The proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used – accidentally or by decision – defies credibility”.

Other serious close calls

In November 1979, a recorded scenario describing a Russian nuclear attack had been entered into the US warning system NORAD. The scenario was perceived as a real full-scale Soviet attack. Nuclear missiles and bombers were readied. After six minutes the mistake became obvious. After this incident new security routines were introduced.

Despite these changed routines, less that one year later the mistake was repeated – this time more persistent and dangerous. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the US national security adviser, was called at three o’clock in the morning by a general on duty. He was informed that 220 Soviet missiles were on their way towards the USA. A moment later a new call came, saying that 2,200 missiles had been launched.

Brzezinski was about to call President Jimmy Carter when the general called for a third time reporting that the alarm had been cancelled.

The mistake was caused by a malfunctioning computer chip. Several similar false alarms have been reported, although they did not reach the national command.

We have no reports from the Soviet Union similar to these computer malfunctions. Maybe the Russians have less trust in their computers, just as Colonel Petrov showed? However, there are many reports on serious accidents in the manufacture and handling of nuclear weapons.

I have received reliable information from senior military officers in the Soviet Union regarding heavy use of alcohol and drugs among the personnel that monitor the warning and control systems, just as in the USA.

The story of the “Norwegian weather rocket” in 1995 is often presented as a particularly dangerous incident. Russians satellites warned of a missile on its way from Norway towards Russia. President Yeltsin was called in the middle of the night; the “nuclear war laptop” was opened; and the president discussed the situation with his staff. The “missile” turned out not to be directed towards Russia.

I see this incident as an indication that when the relations between the nuclear powers are good, then the risk of a misunderstanding is very small. The Russians were not likely to expect an attack at that time.

Indian soldiers fire artillery in northernmost part of Kargil region

Close calls have occurred not only between the two superpowers. India and Pakistan are in a chronic but active conflict regarding Kashmir. At least twice this engagement has threatened to expand into a nuclear war, namely at the Kargil conflict in 1999 and after an attack on the Indian Parliament by Pakistani terrorists in 2001.

Both times, Pakistan readied nuclear weapons for delivery. Pakistan has a doctrine of first use: If Indian military forces transgress over the border to Pakistan, that country intends to use nuclear weapons.

Pakistan does not have a system with a “permissive link”, where a code must be transmitted from the highest authority in order to make a launch of nuclear weapons possible. Military commanders in Pakistan have the technical ability to use nuclear weapons without the approval of the political leaders in the country. India, with much stronger conventional forces, uses the permissive link and has declared a “no first use” principle.

The available extensive reports from both these incidents show that the communication between the political and the military leaders was highly inadequate. Misunderstandings on very important matters occurred to an alarming degree. During both conflicts between India and Pakistan, intervention by US leaders was important in preventing escalation and a nuclear war.Read More »

China’s Silk geopolitics

By Johan Galtung

China is changing world geography, or at least trying to do so.

Not in the sense of land and water like the Netherlands, but in the sense of weaving new infrastructures on land, on water, in the air, and on the web. It is not surprising that a country with some Marxist orientation would focus politics on infrastructure–but as means of transportation-communication, not as means of production.

Nor is it surprising that a country with a Daoist worldview focuses politics on totalities, on holons and dialectics, forces and counter-forces, trying to tilt balances in China’s favor. How this will work depends on the background, and its implications.

Two recent books, Valerie Hansen, Silk Road: A New History (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (Knopf, 2015) see them as arteries connecting the world, globalization, before that term became a la mode. Not that loads of goods moved all the way in both directions, parts of the way, maybe further. Europe had much less to offer in return; however:

“Viking traders from–Norway–coarse, suspicious men, by Arab account–were moving down the great rivers of Russia–trading honey, amber and slaves–as early as the ninth century–returning home to be buried with the silks of Byzantium and China beside them”. (Frankopan)

The Silk Roads – so named by the German geographer von Richthofen in 1877 – connected China and Europe (Istanbul) over land from -1200; more precisely from Xi’an to Samarkand by a northern and southern road (Hansen for maps). And the Silk Lanes connected East China and East Africa (Somalia) from +500 till +1500 when Portuguese-Spanish and English naval expansion started a Western takeover by colonization.

The modern Silk Road East-West, Yiwu/China to Madrid/Spain. Although the transit time for goods or people to transit the route is 21 days, this is 30 days faster than a ship and is 1/10 the cost of shipping freight. See www.bulwarkreview.com

For long periods run by Buddhists in the East and Muslims in the West; Islam using them to expand, from Casablanca to the Philippines. Frankopan sees the high points in the Han dynasty (-207-220, capital Xi’an for West Han), the Tang dynasty (618-902, capital mainly Xi’an) and under Mongolian, Yuan rule–for goods, ideas, faiths, inventions.

Xi’an, 3,000 years old, served as a starting point, both for Silk Roads and for the Silk Lanes, traveling the Yangzi River, or over land, to the East China Sea coast. Till the military uprising against the Tang emperor in 755 (Hansen, Ch. 5, “The Cosmopolitan Terminus on the Silk Road”); but Xi’an is destined always to play major roles.

China is now reviving the past, adding Silk Railroads from East China to Madrid via Kazakhstan-Russia-Belarus-Poland-Germany-France, to Thailand, from East to West Africa–from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic–from North to South Africa. Silk Flights. And Silk Web.

A silky cocoon is being woven, by worms in China. Too much?

Two features stand out in this approach to geopolitics.Read More »

How ought we treat each other?

By Johan Galtung

Upon receiving the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Community Builder Prize

Atlanta, 31 Mar 2016

Dear President, dear Dean of Morehouse College, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am deeply honored by the prize from a college in Georgia, in the US South, that has been and is a beacon in the struggle from dominion to dignity in race relations. The civil rights movement is an American Revolution, like the feminist movement it inspired–aiming at parity and dignity for all. To refuse sharing the spoils of exploiting Reds and Blacks and poor Whites with London was far from a revolution.

This college shaped Dr Martin Luther King Jr. I had the honor of meeting him twice here in Atlanta in 1960–working on desegregation without violence in Charlottesville, VA–and in 1964 in Oslo when he received the Nobel Peace Prize. This College made him use Gandhi’s clinging to truth through nonviolent struggle, satyagraha, lifting 20 million Blacks into dignity. There is a backlash: Blacks are again shot at, and used as slave labor in prisons. The struggle continues.

Building communities. There are at least two of them, the community of people, and the community of states. I will deal with both and share with you in this speech the basic ideas of TRANSCEND mediation – an NGO of more than 500 invited members, comfortable with our mantra, “Peace by Peaceful Means”. Transcend means going beyond.

Let us approach answering the question through some words on how we ought not treat each other.

It is all in our thought habits, the deep culture of our thinking. In the West we think in simple dichotomies, like positive/negative, good/bad, even evil. Either one or the other, not in-between, neither-nor, both-and. And we very easily fall into the trap of seeing ourselves as only good, and someone else as only bad, steered by God or Satan. The road to narcissism, self-love and paranoia, seeing threats everywhere, is short. Victory! not solution.

AND Narcissism + Paranoia = Psychosis, the psychiatric diagnosis.

To escape from this thought habit use ancient Chinese habits. Yin/Yang. They also think positive/negative, good/bad; but add more levels, like the positive and negative in the positive and negative, the good and bad in the good and bad. That opens for identifying the negative in Self and the positive in Other; for positive-peaceful, not negative-violent relations. Not either-or; but both-and, neither-nor.

The TRANSCEND formula: focus on the positive, good in everybody including yourself; but keep the negative, bad in the back of the mind to improve it and as possible danger, to Self and-or Other.

Then create projects linking good with good; first as vision, then reality.Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 369 – A Sunni-Salafist-Zionist Coalition Changing Middle East?

By Jan Oberg

Please try Google “Gulf states want nuclear weapons against Iran – Israel “ and only one Western mainstream media will appear, an excellent article by The Telegraph’s Raf Sanchez in Jerusalem.

The only other media carrying the story is Russia Today and Vigilant Citizen and MintPress News also carries the story and offers a wider background

What is this about?A new coalition?

So the usual Western media filter, meaning it must be interesting. And it is a quite sensational story: Saudi Arabia and Israel are up to a nuclear mischief against a country that has just been prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons by means of a huge legally binding document, UN Security Council endorsement and extremely tight monitoring mechanism. What’s it about?

It’s about Israel’s defence minister Moshe Ya’alon saying in public at the recent Munich conference that Arab states are “not willing to sit quietly with Iran on the brink of a nuclear bomb”.

He thinks that Iran was liable to break the agreement as their economic situation improves with the lifting of international sanctions. Ya’alon is quoted as saying that “I speak about the Gulf states and North African states too…For them, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood are the enemy. Iran is the bad guy for us and for the Sunni regimes. They are not shaking hands [with Israelis] in public, but we meet in closed rooms.”

So not only Jordan’s monarchy and Egypt’s dictatorship but also Gulf and North African states: A coalition lead by Saudi Arabia and Israel – Israel as the only nuclear weapons power in the region and Saudi Arabia as the most likely next nuclear weapons state.

For much too long the world’s attention has been on Iran’s imagined nuclear weapons, not on the dozens or hundreds real nukes that Israel possesses as a non-member of which is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

One can say that Israel and Saudi Arabia lost the political battle against the nuclear deal with Iran concluded with the five permanent UNSC members and Germany last year – and now will do their utmost to use Iran’s non-nuclear weapons status as a pretext for others going nuclear against, predominantly, Iran.

Propaganda hysteria dominates in an age where knowledge plays a diminishing role

The problem for them, however, is that Iran will be difficult to sell as a real threat – but we live of course in Read More »

China versus Russia versus USA: Xi versus Putin versus Obama

By Johan Galtung

From very high up three major countries-states stand out clearly: China, the most populous; Russia, the largest; USA, the most military. With three leaders, Xi, Putin, Obama, with much power on their hands.

And here is the key hypothesis, presumably more right than wrong: China-Xi: positive peace; Russia-Putin: negative peace; USA-Obama: war.

We have in mind China – also a region – building relations for reasonably mutual and equal benefit with China all over the world, spinning Asia-Europe-Africa together in a road-rail-ship-air Silk network available to all (with major mistakes in the South China Sea).

We have in mind Russia – itself also a region – calling to Russia leaders in violent conflict from all over the world, seeking cease-fires and accommodation (making itself a major mistake in Syria).

And we have in mind USA – more than a state, less than a region – since WWII ended killing more than 20 million people in 37 countries:

Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, East Timor, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Korea North-South, Laos, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Sudan, Vietnam, Yugoslavia Not included: daily USA mass shootings.

And weaving the world together with the incredible internet (making a major mistake, using it for spying, betraying us all).Read More »

The clouds are dark and getting darker

By Johan Galtung

The process has now gone full circle, from Sykes-Picot Agreement negotiated from 1915 to 16 May 1916, about control of the Ottoman Empire, when beaten, to England now joining France in bombing Syria. “Violence In and By Paris” two weeks ago was wrong about England wanting to stay out: the House of Commons on 02 Dec 2015 voted 397 to 223 for bombing; 56 Labor MPs for, only 7 Conservative MPs against.

Russia played a minor role in Sykes-Picot as now also in bombing maybe mainly the opposition to Assad.

As Robert Savio points out, “They all fight to the last Syrian.”

The likelihood of an atrocious Paris 13 November type violence in London went up many points. And Russia had a civilian plane bombed.

The USA is as addicted to bombing as a hammer to a nail, not only to use allies and train locals. James A. Lucas, “The United States has killed more than 20 million people in 37 nations since WWII”, in 1945 (jlucas511@woh.rr.com) seems not to be enough; they just go on and on. More than a million Muslims killed in West Asia mainly by the USA since 1991. In San Bernardino, somebody may have killed 14 in revenge.

The new name for what they fight, after jihadism, is the Islamic State, calling it sometimes IS, ISIS, ISIL. What is it, this Daesh?

There seem to be heavy elements of Saddam’s army, the Baath secular party (also Assad’s), and the Tikrit clan from the recent past–now adding maybe ten fighters for each killed by the West. Daesh seems toRead More »

Good economic news amid the gloom

By Jonathan Power

Monday’s news was that China’s annual growth rate has dropped below the red line of 7%. It is 6.9% and probably falling.

These figures were published shortly after the IMF said that sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing “solid growth”. Last week the World Bank released its new average annual growth estimates for black Africa. It was 4.5% last year but this year it is going up to 4.6% and by 2017 it will be 5.1%. This is less than the 5.3% before the great recession (precipitated by American banks), but considering all its recent knocks, not least China buying less raw materials, Africa is holding up pretty well.

In fact what we used to call the “Third World” is a mixed bag of good and bad news. Which would you like to read about first?

More bad news? Here it is:

Emerging markets for the sixth consecutive year face falling growth rates. Currencies have hit 15-year lows. Stocks, once soaring ahead of developed countries, have been flat for the last 6 years. Private sector debt has been increasing fast. The outflow of funds has accelerated and in the last year was over one trillion US dollars. Stock market and currency turbulence have raised questions about where China is going. The late president of France, Charles de Gaulle, once quipped about Brazil, “Brazil has a great future, and always will”. Maybe he should have said that about China.

In Brazil a big corruption scandal, including allegations that the government has illegally manipulated its fiscal accounts, has helped stall the economy.

In India, despite many campaign promises, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not succeeded in opening the economic spigot. In fact the present day rise in growth owes itself largely to measures put in place by the previous government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In Indonesia, the economy Read More »

Power grows out of the barrel of a gun – but then…

By Jonathan Power

Why do major powers arise? At a time when we talk about the rise of China and India, the said weakening of the US and the European Union, and the thwarted ambitions of Russia, it is a good time to ponder this question.

Between 1492 and 1914 the Europeans conquered 84% of the globe. The puzzle is why did they rise to the top when for centuries the Chinese, Japanese, Ottomans and South Asians were far more advanced?

The short answer, as Mao Zedong once said, is that “Power grows out of the barrel of a gun”.

Europeans were at the forefront of gunpowder technology for 200+ years.

This may seem odd since firearms and gunpowder originated in China and the rocket in India. Yet by the late 17th century Chinese, Japanese and Ottoman military technology was lagging behind Europe’s.

War was what monarchs did in Europe. Read More »

Aesthetics as One Road to Peace?

By Johan Galtung

The eminent historian of Central and South India, William Dalrymple, had a remarkable article in The New York Review of Books (June 25, 2015): “The Renaissance of the Sultans”. Being a fan myself, this editorial column is very much based on that eye-opener.

The focus is on one Sultan, Ibrahim Adil Shah II, of the central Indian kingdom of Bijapur, between Mumbai and Goa; we are talking about early 17th century. The Sultan is described as “an erudite scholar, a lute player, poet, singer, calligrapher, chess master and aesthete”. How different from Western rulers with military-political skills; how similar to many Chinese rulers, emperors, mandarins with poetry, calligraphy and more as indelible part of their legitimacy.

However, the point of the story, as told by Dalrymple on the basis of the impressive works he reviews, goes far beyond describing what must have been a remarkable ruler. That ruler himself also goes beyond, even beyond this statement that “the two most beautiful things in the world are a lute and a beautiful woman”. He has a theory:

“Bringing together Hindu and Muslim traditions in an atmosphere of heterodox learning, and uniting Persians, Africans and Europeans in a cosmopolitan artistic meritocracy, Ibrahim presided over a free-thinking court in which art was a defining passion. For Ibrahim was literally obsessed with the power of art. In his poems he dwells on its ability to bring people together, and on the way that art, and particularly music, acted on the body and was capable of moving an individual to tears, or ecstasy, or a deep melancholic sadness”.

How true. We notice that he is not only bridging geographical gaps but also gaps in the body, seeking to reconcile “the old Greek medical ideas of the humors of the body” with Hindu ideas of reaching the human spirit through aesthetic appreciation.

Moreover, “through music and art he believed that his people could learn to look at each other with mutual understanding: They speak different languages, But they feel the same thing, The Turk and the Brahmin.”

Well, they hardly feel “the same thing”; but they feel, and good art engenders good feelings, visible to each other.

Nevertheless, art bringing people together Read More »