Since Thomas Jefferson America has had 245 military or political interventions — this is not a US foreign policy talent, in spite of the fact that there are so many wonderful Americans in this fantastic country.
A noted pioneer in the field of Peace Studies, Johan Galtung makes the case for incorporating human rights as key to successful peace building around the world. Series: “Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Distinguished Lecture Series”
Breaking the Cycle of Violent Conflict with Johan Galtung
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Galtung has made several predictions of when the USA will no longer be a functioning superpower, a stance that has attracted some controversy. After the beginning of the Iraq War, he revised his prediction of the “downfall of the US-Empire”, seeing it as more imminent. He claims the U.S. will go through a phase as a fascist dictatorship on its path down, and that the Patriot Act is a symptom of this. He claims the election of George W. Bush cost the U.S. empire five years – although he admits that this estimate was set a bit arbitrarily. He now sets the date for the end of the American Empire at 2020, but not the American Republic. Like Great Britain, Russia and France, he says the American Republic will be better off without the Empire.
Image Credit: bumerang.it
Read Johan Galtung’s latest interview: “Well, you see, that’s how empires die. They die with a whimper, and usually not with a bang, as T.S. Eliot said.”
Now let’s look at it from a Washington point of view: pursuing a victory which will never happen. I’ll say why: 1.56 billion Muslims are dedicated to the idea of defending Islam when trampled upon. Some of them are traveling to Afghanistan. Some of them are doing it somewhere else in other ways. Those ways can become quite disagreeable, as you know.
Point two, there is no capitulation in Islam to infidels. It doesn’t exist. To fight against Christians and Jews — you take the mini-empire of Israel, the regional empire — is not an invitation to a violent confrontation that will end with a capitulation. In other words, the time perspective of the Muslim community is unlimited. I don’t think the time perspective of Washington is unlimited. So you can say, of course, who has the longer time perspective will win. There may be some local capitulation, a white flag somewhere, but by and large the usual scenario of a tent, maybe, with a camping table, somebody diligently typing a couple of copies of a capitulation document and “please sign on the dotted line,” forget about it. Forget about it. That’s not the way it happens these days.
So, having said that, victory is out. Of course, the US will not be available for defeat, as, in a sense, it was in Vietnam in April 1975. So withdrawal is the likeliest thing, hoping desperately that the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police will take over the job, which they will, with my knowledge of the situation, not do. They will be aligning themselves with the next stage in Afghan history.
But having mentioned this, there is of course a fourth possibility: United States participating in conflict resolution. So what we have been discussing here, Amy, in Washington in these sessions, have been the details of these five points and other points. And here I would like to enter with a basic point about mediation, we who mediate. I’m an NGO mediator. I’ve done this more than 120 times around the world, sometimes with some success, sometimes not, or to put it more optimistically, not yet success. OK, what we are trying to find out are the goals of the parties. What do they want? I mentioned the Taliban are dead against secularization. I find that legitimate. The US goal of a base, I find it illegitimate. The US goal of an oil pipeline and controlling it, I find it illegitimate, by means of war. But the US goal that no attack should come from Afghanistan, I find completely legitimate.
I don’t think that’s what happened 9/11. I don’t think the attack came from Afghanistan, nor do I think Osama bin Laden’s role was very much important. I think it was essentially Saudi Arabian. It was a revenge for the oil treaty of March 1945, because it was totally against Wahhab perspectives on reality, that a good life is the life as lived at the time of the Prophet and, as the Prophet said when he expired in 632, “In this country there shall be no two religions.” I’m, of course, in no way saying that all Saudi Arabians are of this opinion, but many are, even the royal house are divided down the middle. And if you then add to this, from 1990 onwards, staging US wars in the region, be it against the Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait, or be it against the Saddam Hussein — that was in 1991, February — the Saddam Hussein of 2003, 20 March, by Iraqi reckoning, staging it from Saudi Arabia, from the sacred land of the chosen people. Now, the US should know something about sacred land and chosen people, the metaphor that I took from Judaism, because at the time in 1620, at the time of the Mayflower, there was not much Zion on the eastern end of the Mediterranean.
So, having said that, conflict resolution is the way. But that can only happen if you understand what the people want, legitimate goals in Afghanistan, and taking into consideration what, to my mind, is an absolutely legitimate goal from Washington — no attack shall emerge from Afghanistan. Even if it didn’t do so, and to best of my knowledge, in 2001, it could do it today, because the US has produced quite a lot of people who have reasons for hating the country. Now, having said that, I am not sure that the US is going to do this. And the reason for it is a limited US ability to see a conflict from the outside or from above, to take your intellectual helicopter and getting up above the conflict, see your own legitimacy and illegitimacy and the other side’s legitimacy and illegitimacy, starting thinking that maybe he has a point and then trying to see if there’s some reality that could accommodate all of it. Well, 243 military or political interventions since Thomas Jefferson — we are now perhaps at 245 — this is not a US foreign policy talent, in spite of the fact that there are so many wonderful Americans in this fantastic country, where I have lived much of my life, that have a fabulous ability to handle conflicts well.
So, having said that, we come to alternative five for the US: to become irrelevant. Neither victory nor defeat, nor withdrawal, nor conflict resolution — becoming irrelevant. And that, of course, leads us to the question, who then is relevant? Countries in the region, Turkey. Turkey is led today by three people — the President, the Foreign Minister, and of course the Prime Minister — Davuto?lu, Erdogan, Gül — of an exceptional quality, I will call a team more in tune with what happens in the world than the people leading the United States of America at present. I’m not talking badly about Obama and Hillary Clinton; I’m just saying that those three, it’s very hard to come up to that level. Now, they are not becoming a regional power. They are now very high up on world diplomacy. They are not, as Washington Post is saying, turning against the West; they’re turning against the United States and Israel, turning against the US empire and the Israeli mini-empire after 1967, forty-three years ago, after the occupation, after the June War. You see, all over the region you find people saying that we can tolerate, we can live with — I mean, I talk with Hamas people, and I ask them, “Is there an Israel you can acknowledge, you can recognize?” And they say, by and large, 4 June, 1967, with some revisions. Well, Turkey is on that side, and they are making contacts now with Iran, with Afghanistan, Iran with Afghanistan, Iran with Turkey. So there you have a quite interesting triad coming up. Add to that Russia and China, not India. India is outside this game; it’s an unimportant country for the time being, in spite of its size, also now involved in a very deadly war and unable to find good solutions for the Naxalites — should learn from Nepal, although Nepal is also in difficulty of another kind. You can look at this, and then you can draw the conclusion: increasing US irrelevance. Well, you see, that’s how empires die. They die with a whimper, and usually not with a bang, as T.S. Eliot said.
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