By Johan Galtung*
The world is getting worse. Violence used to cluster around the global power of USA and the regional power of Israel. Now two more:
- The unstoppable growing power of China” (NYT editorial 28 Feb 2018)
- Erdögan’s Neo-Ottomanism at a Dangerous Turning Point” Pier Zaccone (Other-news.info/2018/02, 28 Feb 2018). One global, with “Military buildup on the reefs” in South China Sea (NYT), one regional.
There are similarities. Xi and Erdögan have a religious base, Buddhism and Islam. And great successes, Xi in “lifting the bottom up”, Erdögan in ridding his country of secular military dictatorship.
One may speculate that the successes have gone to their heads so they see themselves as indispensable for their countries, and invincible. Being male and strong they have Trump’s approval, a fragile benefit.
Both have taken serious steps to make their reign long lasting–uninterrupted by elections–also known as dictatorships. And, whereas democracies are different, dictatorships tend to be boringly similar.
One similarity: decline, fall and violent death of the dictator. There is something suicidal about dictators. They may be praised for problems they solve but have to know when their time is over. If not coalitions will arise with one shared goal: to get rid of them. The rumblings of coalitions shaping up may now be heard in both countries.
We take note with sadness, mindful of their achievements. Gandhi did no such thing nor did Mandela, applying nonviolence to themselves. Xi-Erdögan were not inspired by nonviolence, nor is it a requisite. The self-interest in being remembered for the achievements is enough.
The world needs peaceful co-existence, not more belligerence; and arms races, China with USA, Turkey with Iran. Russia makes arms and the people less vulnerable, but “U.S. chases Russia into a new nuclear arms race” (NYT 6 Feb 2018). Much more dangerous is “The Army of the EU” with no national democratic controls (CounterPunch 16 Feb 2018).
What else? “The economy, stupid”, Bill Clinton said, and most economic stupidity is found in his country. “‘America First’ policy leaves country isolated while others make deals” (NYT 26 Jan 2018) with 35 bilateral and regional trade pacts (USA only with EU, and “that negotiation has gone dormant”. Hence “Poverty American Style” (Kenneth Shurin, CounterPunch 9 Feb 2018), brilliantly explored by UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Australian Professor Philip Alston. The USA does worse than other developed countries on “life expectancy, infant mortality, pregnant mother mortality, obesity, incarceration, homicide, educational attainment, income disparity, childhood poverty, nutrition, homelessness, etc.”
The recent life expectancy decline was “fueled by a 21 percent rise in the death rate from drug overdoses”.
Early February Dow plunged 4.6 percent, erasing January gains. That will happen again, and we are waiting for bigger crashes. The clever strategy is obvious: make economic distance to the USA.
Look at the Spanish version. The price of housing increased 3,1 percent in 2017, not much. But 3,6 percent January 2018 alone is much, even if we only multiply by 12 for 2018 (Spaniaposten March 2018). People less able to service debts may still buy housing, and banks shall collapse as did Banco Popular in 2017, losing 13,5 billion euro in failed housing investment. Bought by Banco Santander for 1 euro.
German trade expands. From 1986 to 2016 Germany added to the biggest-second biggest trade partners Finland, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, most of former Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria (Le Monde Diplomatique Feb 2018). Germany has moved east before. Trade creates dependence, more lasting than conquest as it craves for more. The US approach, dependence on military support, is at best ambiguous.
All is set to make the USA the biggest loser. But there will be many losers as “an era of easy money draws to end” (NYT 8 Feb 2018).
How about Afghanistan? “In an unwinnable war, what is the least bad loss?” (Max Fisher, NYT 3-4 Feb 2018). Six points: Nation-building of sorts, Starting over, The Somalia federal model, A peace that satisfies no one, A post-American civil war, Perpetual stalemate. Not a word about 25,000 independent villages or about the 1893 Durand line cutting the Pashtun = Taliban nation in two; now even with palisades. And, “least bad” for whom? For the USA. of course. How about Afghans?
An article as badly informed as Pentagon-State Department?
Billy Graham passed away February 21st at the age of 99, and the article by Cecil Bothwell in CounterPunch 23 Feb 2018 is recommended. Graham had incredible power over US presidents, making them believe that the way to God’s support of their wars went through him. A country listening to him and his likes is not worth listening to.
We note “In Britain, privatizing gone wrong” (NYT 24 Jan 2018). The giant Carillion went into liquidation after gaping over far too many tasks that cannot be run for profits and serve all citizens. The state is needed, but not the state alone, we hasten to add. Both-And.
“Challenging the cult of youth” (NYT 12 Feb 2018): interesting for the people advanced in age, so is “Aging Pride”. But exhibiting “Nudes of old people, men and women alike” focuses only on the body, not on mind and spirit. No. Like Xi and Erdögan, do better next time.
“The secret to a happy marriage is knowing how to fight” (NYT 19 Jan 2018, by Daphne de Marneffe) makes good points. But, is “fight” the word? How to solve conflict, concile trauma is our answer. How about “how to have a conversation”, “how to talk”, not how to fight?
Tore Linné-Eriksen revisits (KK 25 Jan 2018) four 1968 aspects: periphery against center (Oslo), lower against higher classes, revolt within the state church, international solidarity. Add informality. First names, no Sie-vous, but du-tu. Inter-human, not only -district, -class, -state. An enormous, and irreversible, gain. Thanks, 1968.
*Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of TRANSCEND International and rector of TRANSCEND Peace University. Prof. Galtung has published more than 1500 articles and book chapters, over 500 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and more than 170 books on peace and related issues, of which more than 40 have been translated to other languages, including 50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives published by TRANSCEND University Press.