The Western Peace Prize
EDITORIAL, 11 October 2010
#133 | Johan Galtung, 11 Oct 2010 - TRANSCEND Media Service
One more abuse of the Nobel Peace Prize to promote Western, read US, foreign policy. Last year a speech prize with no follow-up except scrapping some old-fashioned nuclear monsters paving the way for major US nuclear rearmament of warheads and the weapons carrier tripod, protesting possible UK cuts of the Trident. But, verbally the prize touched the reduction of standing armies in Nobel’s testament–whose money they are handling. This year they give a human rights prize for domestic matters in what USA sees as its major competitor, China, far removed from any reduction of armies or Nobel’s concern for understanding among nations.
But does not promotion of civil and political human rights in general and democracy in particular promote peace among nations and states? Western political science has produced this thesis about “democratic peace” in an old Western tradition. Whatever the West thinks, what it has is peace productive, like Christianity, trade, Western institutions, sports, languages, like English. Combine it all, and we get “colonialism for peace”; today, Western individualist human rights and democracy. The Eastern bloc in the West added that no socialist countries go to war with each other.
They all make the same logical mistake: they confuse levels of analysis. Peace, like violence, like conflict, is a relation and cannot be reduced to attributes of the parties. They matter, but are neither necessary nor sufficient. Thus, the four most belligerent countries in the last centuries, measured by participation in wars divided by number of years of existence, are the United States of America, Israel, the Ottoman Empire and the United Kingdom (England). Their democracies and human rights have not impeded enormous aggression, including, indeed, in the void left behind after the Ottomans.
Democracy in the sense of dialogue, of mutual exploration with no assumption that any party has a monopoly on being right or wrong, aiming at a rich, creative consensus rather than a majority opinion, is an excellent formula for nonviolence. The road to peace in the sense of reduction of direct violence passes through solution of conflict by dialogue, but across the conflict borders, not inside each party only. World democracy in the sense of a UN People’s Assembly in a UN without veto and with a Peace Council is a formula, but strongly resisted by the USA and the West.
How about the economic and social human rights of the 1966 convention, not ratified by the USA, do they not lead to peace in the sense of less suffering due to structural violence inside states? Yes, but there is no evidence that rich states are more and poor states less aggressive internationally.
China has made giant steps forward in this regard, lifting 1991-2004 400 million from misery into lower middle class living. They follow the East Asian development theory and practice of Japan, Taiwan, South Korea: first distribution and infrastructure under authoritarian conditions, then economic growth and “opening up”. That is where civil and political human rights enter. China has long been in that phase as evidenced by 30 million traveling abroad annually, and returning. And annually, say, 80 000 open revolts about deficits of many kinds in an incredibly dynamic country. The prize to Liu Xiaobo comes twenty years too late, and even so has nothing or very little to do with international peace.
The same prize to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons for fighting occupation of their lands would have been meaningful. A prize to the mayors of Hiroshima for their peace conferences, point 3 by Nobel, would have been meaningful. But against US and hence Norwegian foreign policy, the criteria for a “peace prize”.
I do not know what case the Chinese government has against Liu Xiaobo when they refer to him as a criminal. But I know the major court scandal in Norwegian history–arresting Arne Treholt accused of spying for the Soviet Union in 1984, sentenced in 1985 to 20 years of which he did 8 1/2–having been the first whistle-blower: “He might have spied for peace”. Indeed he did: as undersecretary for ocean affairs under the world renowned Jens Evensen, negotiating the Arctic waters during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, improving the relations between two states also beyond ocean affairs (that 35 years later, this year, resulted in a good compromise for the contentious line of division).
A short time ago there came the explosion: a Norwegian secret state police officer confessed that the evidence was faked. With no evidence whatsoever of any confidential material handed to the Soviets they had fabricated “evidence” of Treholt having received cash by buying dollars, stuffing them into a suitcase, and taking a photo in the police office in Oslo. There is plenty of witness and technical evidence. The cooperation with CIA was clear. On the Norwegian side not only police officers but today’s Supreme Court Justice, as judge, and the general attorneys for Norway and for Oslo either knew about it, or were impermissibly gullible.
Let us now hope that any evidence against Liu Xiaobo is not fabricated, that attorneys and judges are not part of any plot. Let us hope that China is not laboring under Norwegian conditions, but is closer to the rule of law. And let us hope that Jagland, a former prime minister and now head of the Nobel Prize committee, clearly fond of issuing certificates for bad behavior to others, now dedicates himself fully to cleaning up his own party and country. And that the giant work by Evensen and Treholt for breaking the Cold War polarization psychosis is duly appreciated.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 11 October 2010.
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