TFF PressInfo 281:
Instead of bombing IS (Part A)
6th, 2014 | Author:
By Jan Oberg
PressInfo 281 – Part
This two-part article offers a pro-peace perspective on
the present war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
First some principles to stimulate another discourse,
another way of thinking that is not militarist – and then some concrete
proposals – 27 in all for your deliberation, discussion with friends
and perhaps to share through your social and other media.
Neither war nor doing nothing
The principle of ”An eye for an eye will one day make
the whole world blind” – said Mohandas K. Gandhi who was born on
October 2 145 years ago. Since then, human civilisation has not
advanced much when it comes to handling conflict.
Let’s recognise that it is a difficult situation – the
Middle East is in a mess and the West is deeply co-responsible if you
look at the last roughly 100 years – Sykes-Picot, Balfour, coup
d’etats, occupations, bombings, bases, oil greed etc.
So, there are no easy solutions.
However, three simple principles will help us all:
A) Be aware of the West’s co-responsibility,
B) Don’t make everything even worse – and
C) Remember that violence begets hate, wish for revenge and more
violence – blowbacks.
Unfortunately, A to C is totally ignored by the bombing
nations – the US, France, Britain, Belgium and my native Denmark
together with some small Arab states which paradoxically have financed
ISIS – Al-Qaeda in Iraq – for years.
It is easy to be for war. The intellectually lazy are in the sense that before
they arrive at war as a solution, they have seldom contemplated or
tried civilian means. It
is also fairly easy to cry ‘Down with all wars and weapons! - but good peace hearts alone also won’t solve the
problems we are facing.
What the pro- and anti-war people have in common is a
focus on war as such. We need to move that focus and ask: What are the alternatives to war and militarist
Most people don’t seem to know what the UN Charter
states in its preamble – that humanity shall ”save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” –
i.e. abolish war entirely.
That is the vision: What are the alternatives to war?
And how can humans
learn to deal in civilised ways with the – unavoidable – conflicts any and every human system will always display?
That is what peace researchers grapple with who take their profession and academic responsibility
serious. TFF is one of them – pro-peace and not just anti-violence.
It speaks volumes about the (Western) world that war-related research is the largest single research
field with billions of dollars at its disposal, that there are military academies everywhere and
countless books, films, entertainment etc. about war.
yourself and your country: How much research, how many academies and how many
books, films and teaching programs are there for non-violence, forgiveness,
reconciliation etc., i.e. for the UN norm of peace by peaceful means?
The proposals that follow are not prioritised – each has some importance and some can be combined –
linear thinking won’t work anyhow.
Toward a new way of thinking and a less militarised
Learn something from earlier wars. They have not been that successful and most of the
assumptions they were based on turned out to be wrong.
We are back in Iraq because of the invasion, occupation and mis-management of the
entire country by woefully ignorant foreigners.
Recognise that terrorism cannot be eradicated by killing terrorists –
as little as you can rid the world of criminality by killing criminals.
Try to understand
the underlying driving forces and why people become terrorists.
Make a comprehensive
conflict analysis or diagnosis and look at the problem(s) to be solved more than on
some particular actors.
Shape you own policy creatively and draw upon values
that characterise your own democratic society.
If it is wrong to kill your neighbour why is it OK to
kill thousands for some ‘national interest’?
Secondly, the foreign policy of a small state cannot
consist in setting up a telephone answering machine only responding to
calls from Washington or Brussels with the message: We’ll be there when
you want us to! (Denmark’s
foreign policy in a nutshell).
Think in accordance with the UN Charter (read it if you
haven’t). It states with abundant clarity that all civilian means shall have been tried and found to have yielded no result before military
means are introduced.
Don’t act in panic – take a longer time perspective and define the participants to a conflict broadly
(there are no conflict with only two parties). In that longer
include the role of the West, colonial legacy, arms trade as a problem, etc.
Use empathy – ask yourself how your opponent is likely to perceive
your actions; don’t be fooled by your wishful thinking: If we do this
to them, they will probably obey and do what we tell them to do! Think
through several moves and counter-moves, not just one round.
Don’t get carried away by the military power/superiority
you may possess –
at the end of the day wars are only won and conflicts solved
exclusively by the intellect and by moral superiority. Hubris is a very very dangerous partner in all international –
and human – relations.
Try to understand what ISIS is, where its hate and brutality comes from – don’t see
them as just mad men who must be killed. To understand is not the same
as defending someone. The West has a certain responsibility for ISIS’s
existence – while the Caliphate and the brutality with which it is
established may be repulsive, it has historical roots both in Islam and
in the West’s high-handed treatment of the region.
To go to war is the single most important decision any
government can make. Ensure
that you have superb expertise – many and diverse – giving their advise
in proportion to that importance.
Be sure also that you have parliamentarians who are knowledgeable about international affairs in a
broad sense and don’t just follow someone else’s opinion or orders.
TFF PressInfo 282:
Instead of bombing ISIS – Concrete proposals (Part B)
7th, 2014 | Author:
By Jan Oberg, TFF
Lund, Sweden October 7, 2014
Part A – Some
principles (yesterday) here see above
This two-part PressInfo offers a pro-peace perspective
on the present war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
First some principles to stimulate
another discourse, another way of thinking that is not militarist – and
then the concrete proposals below – 27 in all for your deliberation,
discussion with friends and perhaps to share through your social and
The proposals are not numbered – there is no linearity,
some of it can be done simultaneously.
How to make the bombing and wars irrelevant
Stop the financing of ISIS – sadly it is non-democratic allies of the West –
Saudi-Arabia, Qatar, UAE etc – that seem to pay its bills. Joe Biden apologised
– for being truthful.
Allegedly, ISIS has an income of US$ 3 million per day
from oil resources they now control. Oil fields should have been protected at an early stage. Fire your intelligence service leaders if they did not
see this coming.
Instead of starting out with war, declare yourself willing to talk with some
representatives of ISIS and other conflict parties. Some of them have been trained by the U.S. so they are
obviously possible to talk with. And if not, you take it from there.
Recognise – even apologise – for wrong deeds and
mistakes and brutalities you have yourself committed. In the case of Iraq this is particularly relevant
because the invasion, occupation and 13 years of world history’s most
brutal sanctions have killed about 1 million innocent Iraqis and made 4
millions to flee their homes.
Danish poet and philosopher Piet Hein has said it beautifully: ”The nobel art of losing face
may one day save the human race and turn into eternal merit what weaker
minds would call a disgrace.” Don’t be that weaker mind – because, if so, you will
over time become a mirror image of those terrorists you are fighting –
Deploy a robust, impartial, globally composed UN-led
force not to fight
ISIS offensively but to defensively protect people, camps, town and villages, oil fields,
infrastructure, etc – something
like the safe zones in Bosnia-Hercegovina but with the difference that that force is big enough
and get the funds that would be needed to make it work.
Safe zones would also enable – at least somewhat – the humanitarian aid that must come in. Humanitarian aid is important but also because it gives us a more positive image than bombs.
Co-operate with Iran and Russia – without them no political solution can be found at
all. So, stop
and develop a mature relationship with both instead of the
counterproductive sanctions, confrontational tone and bombing threats.
Learn that we must stop all arms trade to conflict
these conflicts would never have become this protracted and nasty had
you not pumped in weapons to both governments and murky forces for
billions and billions of dollars over the years.
Profiteering arms traders must be seen as war criminals - whether merchants and government leaders – and must be
held accountable as much as war criminals who use these weapons.
Stop talking about moderate terrorists. It’s a contradiction in terms. Terrorism means killing or harming people who are not party to a
conflict in order to achieve a political goal, i.e. civilians. States
too are terrorists when they do and so are small groups like Al Qaeda
and ISIS, Al-Nusra and all the rest. Nothing to build upon!
Learn from the woefully wrongheaded conflict
”management” of Syria. The clandestine arming of SFA, the Syrian Free Army, and
the fake ”Friends of Syria” was utterly counterproductive quackery
So was the use of only sticks and no carrots vis-a-vis
the Bashar al-Assad government in a situation that was also caused by structural
issues and multi-year environmental factors.
Most of the parties who met in the – predictably failed
Geneva talks –
should not have been there and the Syrian civil society with its
visions, grievances and peace-making capacities should.
The only actor worth supporting in all the non-violent
ways is civil society, i.e. 98% of the people
in any conflict area who have never touched a weapon.
Civil society is everybody else but the state and government – citizens
and e.g. associations of human rights, peace, women, educators,
cultural workers, teachers etc…
If you want a democratic peace, they should be in focus, be invited to consultations
and negotiations – not only the war lords, mass murderers and diplomats
who in 90% or more of the cases have caused the conflicts.
Military means may certainly be necessary under special
circumstances but only as the last resort. Coalitions of the Killing operating without UN mandate
has no place in conflict resolution, problem-solving and
peace-building. If the military is used it must be for defined purposes and with a clear exit strategy and as a means to secure the road toward a negotiated
The great mistake of the War on Terror is that its basic
idea is to liquidate terrorists and thereby rid the world of terrorism. This is intellectual nonsense resulting in more
terrorism/ists as well as a tragic responsibility for mass killings of
Open your country to the conflict parties and host
consultations, facilitate meetings, mediate and promote negotiations. The world is tragically ill-prepared for civilian
peace-making so educate
professionals to do such work – exactly as you train soldiers to perform their role.
See to it that you have truly independent research institutes that work with civilian conflict-resolution – institutes that can provide peace-making proposals
instead of today’s typical institute and think tanks which deliver
reports and arguments that legitimate the policies operated by
And take care that your mind and your experts are not seduced any
MIMAC – a
Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex that serves systematically
other interests but peace.
Make extensive use of hearings in say, your national parliament, in the EU parliament
and in the UN Assembly. Invite representatives of all conflicting
parties to tell the world about two things: What do they fear and what do they want in the future?
To listen carefully to these vices would make media images much less black-and-white and increase the likelihood that intelligent policies
were shaped in respect for all and for complexity. If truth is the
first casualty in war, as they say, complexity and problem
understanding is the second and third. All three would become less
listening to all the conflicting parties (and here embassies are seldom
Demand that your media balances the coverage of violence
with coverage of
and always provide space and time for critical questions. Make use of
the rich materials on war and peace on the Internet instead of using exclusively Western news
bureaus and mainstream
media which, regrettably, lacks filters to catch propaganda, deception,
false stories and psychological influence efforts which precede most
Think about the Middle East – or wherever the conflict
takes place – in innovative ways and be aware of the role of your own culture and
country in the history of the conflicts and wars.
Don’t think too much in terms of states – they are getting less and less important in a
globalising world – but think in creative structures such as federations, confederations, autonomies, protectorates,
shares territories, home rule, cantonisation.
When thinking of the future of the Middle East think of
such as the OSCE and EU – but more decentralised – in the region. Shape the co-operative structures and the positive visions out of which peace can be imagined – and think in processes rather than end results.
Think of all the positive things we can achieve with peace. Estimate the human and economic burdens generations
ahead will have to carry because of your direct, indirect, cultural,
economic, gender-based violence.
Violence closes doors to the future, nonviolence holds the potential to open doors to the
future and conflict-resolution is about seeing better futures – much
more so than trying to change the past. Catchword: Mutual benefits, trust-building and reconciliation embedded in new co-operative structures.
In the case of the Middle East: Work for what the UN has
decided long ago: that
the region shall be a zone free from weapons of mass destruction.
Work to establish a moratorium on violence and warfare (easier when the arms
trade has stopped)
and establish a structure
of negotiation for a 3-5 years period – with all relevant parties at government and civil
society level, led by the UN, the Arab League, BRICS and similar actors
– but not by the US or other NATO countries because they are not and
cannot be seen by the parties in the region as impartial which is
essential for a successful mediation.
With increasing globaliation and civilisation, war is no
longer an option.
Most wars and violence will disappear the day people begin to think
and educate themselves in using all the more intelligent, rational
and humane means.
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