We Have Been Here Before

EDITORIAL, 29 Aug 2011

#179 | Johan Galtung

At the time of writing what BBC and NATO call the Final Chapter is being written in the Libya-Gaddafi tragedy. Like the final chapter for Yugoslavia-Milosevic, for Afghanistan-Omar, for Iraq-Saddam, for War on Terror-bin Laden; get The Bad One. There will come more final chapters in this neo-crusade. Like in the 1090s crusade, orthodox christians were also target of their “mission”.

We do not know how this “final chapter” will read, but, will use past experience as a guide to the chapters beyond. This is a trivial but quite useful approach. As somebody said, who does not learn from history will relive it, first time as a tragedy, then as a farce.

After destroying Gaddafi symbols there will be a ceremony celebrating NATO victory–all know who brought down Gaddafi. So vulgar as to fill an aircraft carrier with heads of government and state–a Sarkozy, a Cameron, a Stoltenberg, a Berlusconi, key bombardiers-in-chief–declaring Mission Accomplished, and lining up for oil contracts promised, like Bankrupt Big Brother, BBB? Hardly. There will be some European style to the ceremony. They may even drop that part and go straight to the routine conference, like Petersberg I for Afghanistan–drafting a constitution, setting dates for free elections and–if captured alive, the West’s International Criminal Court routine for Gaddafi.

Before that there will be massive burning of Libyan uniforms and “loyalists” dressing up in everyday garb preparing for the long haul. After a week, a month, a year, ten years–who knows–there will come the wayside bombs; the sabotage of pipelines, of refineries; the inability of the Benghazi clan with adherents to counter the Syrte clan with its adherents. The drift toward NATO occupation with ground forces, of course to train the new Libyan army. Ever more drones and Apache helicopters. In short, everything normal.

Let two basic points emerge from the fog of history; fog, that is, only for those with fog on their eyes.

Yugoslavia-Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya are artificial constructs of global architects obsessed with world maps coloring “nation-states” with one color. The “nation”, they believe, are the citizens of states with one color. Oh, when shall they ever learn, that those nations do not exist? That the blood of clans-tribes-ethnicities-races in highly heterogeneous we-cultures is stronger than the water of party ideology in homogeneous I-cultures? That one person-one vote free and fair elections work well in homogeneous I-cultures like Norway, Germany, Italy, Japan, but in heterogeneous we-cultures people will vote their clans, tribes, ethnic groups, races into power? The rest is statistics. You want to keep that artificial state in one piece? Then pay the price: heavy repression to contain centrifugal ruptures, by a local dictator or foreign occupation.

But wasn’t Yugoslavia broken up by centrifugal forces? Yes, but leaving the heterogeneity intact except for Slovenia, and the occupation still as a lid on the cauldrons in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Kosovo/a, waiting for the next explosions.

Take a second little point.

What is imposed by violence tends to lead to violence and violent rule, not democracy. But wasn’t democracy imposed on Germany-Italy-Japan after the Second World War and worked? No, all three were homogeneous, two even I-cultures (with very minor exceptions); all three had a tradition of electoral democracy and majority rule; all three had dictatorship-militarism for other reasons than to keep disparate ethnic groups forcefully together. The violence restored what was already there.

A lost case, then, this war against atrocious Gaddafi? If the goal is “stable secular democracy”, yes; that will mobilize islamists and clans and tribes and races, for violence and endless bickering.

But if the key goals are a private, not state, central bank–already done by the Benghazi clan–then no lost case. If the goal was to kill an African Investment Bank in Syrte, Libya; an African Monetary Fund in Nigeria; an African federation; and an African currency in gold dinars, there is cause for celebration. (The Obama administration has already confiscated Libya’s 30 billion dollars deposited in the USA for these purposes.) And–if the goal was to prevent that Libya should emerge as the African country able to meet the Millennium Development Goals–celebrate.

In the meantime, the Arab spring matures, and has spread to Israel with massive protests against inequality. Rockets and attacks from Gaza under de facto occupation are deplorable, but to be expected. The late summer harvest is there: a changed Egypt reacts, 30 years truce evaporating. There will be more.

But there will also be more empires succeeding USA-Israel. My book about “The European Community” from 1973 had the subtitle “A Superpower in the Making”; in my book “The Fall of the US Empire” from 2009[i], I see Europeans-NATO as the likely US successors. Even little Norway, not an EU member but with the highest surplus of all AAA countries (Der Spiegel, 15 Aug 2011 p. 65) is in it. Doing the job till the USA recovers and can be world sheriff again, capturing The Bad Ones, dead or alive? Or, reconquering Africa?

Probably none of the above. This fourth imperial scourge on the Middle East and North Africa after the Ottoman Empire, then the West (Italy-England-France), then USA-Israel, will probably be short. They now say “Libya is not Iraq” like they used to say “Iraq is not Vietnam”. Yes, there are differences, but also overwhelming similarities. They will wake up. Maybe a more decentralized Libya, and then playing up one Africa, playing down 54 states and playing up 500 sub-states is a much better solution–with rule by consensus for the many parts instead of the Western “winner take all”.


[i] Johan Galtung, The Fall of the US Empire – And Then What?, TRANSCEND University Press, 2009 http://www.transcend.org/tup/.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 29 Aug 2011.

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5 Responses to “We Have Been Here Before”

  1. Let’s hope Gaddafi does not end up in the Court in The Hague, otherwise he’ll be treated to a heart attack like Milosevic, before he can open his mouth.

    I’m not convinced with your comparison to the earlier Crusades. In those days it was open war between Islam an Christianity. Nowadays, it is a business and a sport. where Muslims and Christians are partners.


  2. Faysal Gotvassli says:

    I agree with you Alberto,some Muslims and some Christians are partners in this bloodbath business, Dr johan is right when he write crusades! because this large religious fundamentalism
    groups seek to those who got the power to accomplish there religious plans, like the southern states in the US, millions of them, think like DR.johan means, and many millions in Europe too,one Evil united with the other .
    but those who got the money they run the show, they are Christians,Muslims and Jews.


  3. I agree with Mr. galtung.

  4. […] costruzione); nel mio libro “The Fall of the US Empire” (La caduta dell’Impero USA) del 2009 [i], considero gli Europei e la NATO come probabili successori USA. Perfino la piccola Norvegia, non un […]

  5. Amund Lie says:

    The Gaddafi friend Johan Galtung and Arne Treholt .There is an alignment between Galtung’s analysis and criticism of capitalism in developing countries. This criticism legitimates the struggle against socially unjust systems (Guerrilla for Gaddafi etc.) Galtung have found Russia Today and Pravda a usefull tool in his propaganda war for his despot friends .