US National Defense Act and a Global Peace Agenda

EDITORIAL, 10 Sep 2012

#234 | Johan Galtung

From Charlotte, NC-USA – 5 September 2012[i]

The Democratic National Convention, DNC, floated into oblivion with no debate–Soviet style, hallelujah, amen–,with no mention of overt wars with 5-6 Muslim countries; of covert wars by drones and SEALs-US Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Teams with many others; and the war on terror.  Like the Republican National Convention, RNC, squeezing out Ron Paul, who argued for no bases, no wars, no support to Israel.

Nor was the National Defense Authorization Act, NDAA, visible.

It took centuries for the Western civilization to hammer out those crucial pillars: no punishment without sentence, no sentence without law (not retroactive!) and proof, no detention without hearing. Habeas Corpus. And it took the stroke of an Obama pen on a New Year’s Eve to destroy all of that, with the NDAA in the USA.  Down went any moral authority the USA might have had when preaching to selected countries selected human rights, with a loud voice.  The whisper all over: USA, watch yourself.

Why whispering?  Because they are afraid.  The negation of the rule of law domestically comes with extrajudicial execution globally; in any country, and also in countries allied with the US.  The US can strike, with drones, or SEALs, and more, killing their chosen enemies; not by old-fashioned wars–fading out–between states, but within, down to individuals.  Osama bin Laden was the most famous one to be executed without proof. Like the wars on Afghanistan, Iraq and, possibly, Iran.

To take human life is the privilege of God and Kings, Gratia Dei, now handed over to the State.  So the “God-given potential of Americans” came back to the Democratic Party’s platform through dubious Soviet style voting. Maybe some others would like also to realize that potential, executing a little?

Violence is not the way.  If a clock irritates, showing the wrong time, one way is to fetch a hammer and give it a killing blow.  How to approach it more wisely?  Find out why, try a reset.  So also for countries that are irritating, uppity: find out what they want, what you yourself want, reset the relation.

Here are some “ticking clocks”:

How to approach Syria?  A multi-nation country run by a minority Alawite Shia dictatorship that is supported by Russia, China, Iran; threatened by a majority Sunni dictatorship supported by USA-Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and many Syrians.  How about a federation, with autonomy for each nation including the Kurds, and democracy in each autonomy? A federal board for foreign-security-finance policy, with all nations on board?

How to approach the Kurdish issue, a nation of more than 25 million split between Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria? How about human rights recognizing Kurdish identity in all four, autonomy in parts with Kurdish majorities, and a confederation of those autonomies; a Kurdistan, without moving any border?  With parliament and executive power for Kurdish issues as such, agreed upon with the four?

How to approach Iran?  A country badly wounded by the 1953 CIA-MI6 deposing an elected prime minister? How about USA-UK publicly wishing that undone, opening for cooperation on green energy vs oil export and import, exploring a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East?

How to approach Afghanistan?  How about a coalition government with Taliban; Afghanistan as a federation like Switzerland with much power to local communities; a Central Asian Community of Afghanistan with Muslim neighbors lifting the 1893 Durand line; a basic needs oriented policy benefiting all nations and both genders equally; a neutral Afghanistan with no foreign bases but with peacekeeping forces from Muslim countries, also preventing attacks on other countries?

How to approach Israel?  Difficult, not knowing what Israel wants.  With God on the Democratic Party’s platform came Jerusalem; that spells Christian Zionism bent on speeding up the Second coming of Christ. An Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates will speed up Armageddon. How about a Middle East Community along 1967 borders, with the five Arab neighbors?  USA and Israel came into being claiming a divine mandate to occupy somebody else’s land. Maybe they will also fade out with that idea?

Not necessarily.  The US used to have one enemy in the Middle East and one in Latin America; today they have hardly one friend.  The United States of Latin America and the Caribbean is coming quickly demanding a solution to Malvinas/Falklands. How about with Argentinian flag and garrison, the rest as before, like Hong Kong? Normalizing relations with Cuba, legalizing some drugs, and an end to the flow of arms and interventions by the USA?

A wise US policy would welcome emancipation in the same way that the Founding Fathers did to London in 1776-1787, but doing better than George III.

Use the Organization of American States-OAS as a dialogue forum between the two Americas. One example would be public health, verifying why poor Cuba does better than rich USA in Washington-DC. Another example: MexUSCan, a wonderful North American region, bridging the North-South gap; like a Middle East Community for Israel as a landing platform.

Take China for mutual learning.  How about a public dialogue on imbalances between finance and real economy, so devastating for the USA? Watching the DNC one is hard pressed to find any hint that 15.3% in the USA live in poverty–17.5% in North Carolina alone!–,that the bottom 90% have not benefitted from the growth since the 1970s; the top 10, 1, 0.1% have? China lifted up the bottom 400 million inhabitants by feeding the economy with domestic demands; in the USA the bottom is sinking, 14.9% of US households suffering hunger, and increasing.[ii] The deficit is 16.4 trillion, and counting. Not a word about derivatives, hedge funds, credit swaps, speculation, or how the financial industry has turned into a ‘criminogenic’ culture (USA Today, September 5 2012). Not a trace of the very dynamic Occupy Movement. Only a middle class focus as if those 15% at the bottom, and the poisonous greedy top, did not exist.  Money is being printed like mad.  And the new debt ceiling is nigh.

All these problems can be solved; not by smashing the clocks but by asking the parties concerned what their goals are. By identifying the legitimate goals using law, human rights and basic needs. By bridging the gaps. Americans are creative.  How about also in global affairs?

Hopefully in the coming two months two Soviet-style conventions will add up to vibrant transparency and to creative dialogue.  To democracy.


[i].  Speech delivered at one of the Democratic National Convention 2012 Policy Fora, organized  by the American Muslim Alliance Foundation.  The other speakers included Rev. Jesse Jackson, Hon. Gary Johnson, Presidential Candidate for the Libertarian Party, and Ms. Sabahat R. Sherwani, author and Delegate.

[ii].  See Household Food Security in the United States in 2011, Washington DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, September 2012.  Add to this 67 million adult Americans with high blood pressure (140/90 or higher); hypertension being “public health enemy No. 2”, after tobacco.  Drugs are insignificant in comparison.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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3 Responses to “US National Defense Act and a Global Peace Agenda”

  1. Erik Parsels says:

    Unfortunately, the operating assumption in the United States has always been to use identity as a convenient way to exclude enough interested parties from the debate to safeguard the rule of the exploitive elite. Real dialogue presupposes that the parties to the discussion are willing to acknowledge the legitimate interests of the others. Our country is busy expanding categories such as “unlawful combatant” and “terrorist” and then saying conveniently “we don’t negotiate with terrorists.” This is no recipe for solutions, but the US empire doesn’t want solutions. The political elite of this country finds it very advantageous to both promote the drug trade and sell arms to “combat” it, to both promote terrorism and to sell arms and invade countries to “combat” it, to push policies that promote food insecurity and then to enable corporate patent regimes on genes and the corporate land and water grabs, ostensibly to “fight” food insecurity. As the new evil empire, the US is making a career of calling itself the “indispensable nation” by creating crises, defining the only viable solutions as those chosen by the American politico-corporate elite, and then forcing those “solutions” on everyone else. Therefore, I must say that I have no expectation of the American leadership following any of Professor Galtung’s excellent and very reasonable suggestions, for the simple reason that they did not achieve their leadership position by being reasonable, and they are not about to abandon what has, for them, been an extremely successful strategy, regardless of the unmitigated disaster it has been for the rest of the planet.

  2. […] negli USA i bisognosi affondano, 14.9% delle famiglie soffrono la fame, e stanno aumentando.[ii] Il deficit è 16.4 trilioni di $, e conta. Manco una parola sui derivati finanziari, sui fondi […]

  3. satoshi says:

    Prof. Galtung’s suggestions, as mentioned in his editorial above, are excellent. Alas, however, the reality is that the US leaders do not listen to him, as Erik points out. Why? Because, it seems that they do not want or do not need “solutions”.

    The game the US is playing is a “de facto” one-sided game in which the US demands that other players obey the US foreign policy. Solutions can be found only when the relation between the game players is horizontal. In the game the US plays, however, the relation between the US and other players is actually vertical.

    That reminds me of the relation between Almighty God, Yahweh and his people, Israelites. They had a “free” choice; but if they did not obey Yahweh, they were punished by him. What kind of “free” choice was it? Do the US leaders consider themselves as the collective sense of Yahweh and other countries as Israelites? The USA leaders claim that other countries have a “free” choice. But it is highly likely that other countries will be punished by the US, if they will not obey the US. If so, what kind of “free” choice is it? If there is a conflict between the US and any country, the US leaders tend to consider it as a case of disobedience. Then, the US tends to punish or destroy that country. This is the so-called “solution” for the US, if you still would like to use the word “solution” in this context. But the “true” solution does not exist here. It is no wonder, therefore, that the US leaders do not listen to Prof. Galtung who suggests the “true” solutions.

    But history will prove what action to contribute to world peace. To listen to him or …?