Against a Third World War-Constructively!

EDITORIAL, 17 Dec 2012

#250 | Johan Galtung

From Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany

The probability of a devastating Third World War is not zero, but very far away from 100%.  Let us explore why.

The worst case scenario is a world war between the West–NATO, USA, EU with Japan-Taiwan-S. Korea–on the one hand, and the East—SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), Russia, China, Central Asia, with the observers India, Pakistan, Iran.  With 4 vs 4 nuclear powers, and West vs Islam as a major theme.

In the center is the explosive mix of a divided territory, and a divided capital, by a wall.

We have been there before: the Cold War, Atlantic and Pacific theaters; 3 vs 2 nuclear powers, and West vs Communism as major theme.

In the center was the explosive mix of a divided Germany, and a divided capital, by a wall; and a divided Korea, by a zone.

And yet no direct, hot war, except by proxies; Korea, Viét Nam.  Why?

No doubt nuclear deterrence was one factor. They went to the brink but turned around–like in the 1962 Cuba-Turkey missile crisis. And no doubt nuclear deterrence also plays a role today, limiting the attacks on Israel and US support for Israeli attacks on Arab-Muslim states, and Syria-Iran in particular, and any attack on Russia-China.

But nuclear deterrence is not the material out of which positive peace is made.  Some kind of de-escalation at the top of the “escale”; but not depolarization, and certainly not solution and conciliation.

The Cold War NATO-WTO (Warsaw Treaty Organization) system was polarized with secret police controlling contacts, speech and thoughts, looking for traitors. But the world was not polarized: there was the huge non-aligned movement. Europe was not polarized: there were the 10 NN, neutral-nonaligned, 5 of them–Finland and Sweden, Austria and Switzerland, Yugoslavia–had major roles.  And ultimately a strong movement against war emerged.

The NATO+-SCO+system is less polarized, but the world and Europe more.  So far no NAM, no NN.  And so far no strong peace movement.

The UN vote showed a 3/4 world united in YES for Palestine, NO to USA-Israel.  But neither in Europe nor in the world is that YES an organized group.  A UN General Assembly vote constructed around that other divisive issue, the “war on terror”–based on state terror–might make USA-Israel even more isolated.  Both are turning any moral high ground into moral deficit through continued expansion-occupation-siege and invasion-occupation-extrajudicial killing.  The world is not against USA-Israel defending true homeland borders or 1967 borders,   but against the force excesses they seem incapable of reversing.  Reverse those policies and they might get into the black morally.

But still no actors carrying concrete peace policies like the Helsinki accords.  The reason lies in the difference between the West-Islam and the West-communism conflicts.  Islam, OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation), covers more of the world territory and population than the West, but has few friends outside; unlike the West, emulated and admired by Russia-China-India, by Latin America and Africa.  In all but Israel Islam has a huge and growing diaspora by immigration-birth-conversion.  Not a superpower, not an alliance, only “Islamic cooperation”; but inside, all over.

The result is uncertainty and fear all over: what do they want?  A challenge to other world views, no doubt, guaranteed access by the freedoms of speech and religion.  Islam offers healing togetherness and sharing to a West suffering from materialist individualism and egoism.  Islam prepares West for the pluralism of a globalizing world on top of an additional social safety net.

But, Islam also threatens Western institutions with unwanted change. Western secular states had won the struggle against the church with a secularism also exported to the Muslim colonies as loyalty to the state and the empires behind them.  Today parts of the Islamic diaspora hits back, demanding loyalty to Alla’h and the ummah beyond loyalty to Western states.   Problematic, to say the least.

For immigration to be peace-building immigrants must respect laws and mores of the host country and be met with curiosity and respect in dialogues, for mutual learning benefiting all.  A reasonable contract. If broken by either or both: stop immigration and build ummah at home.

How about the other danger spots and zones in the world?

Afghanistan is coming to a close, not only with NATO withdrawal– except to guard what it was all about: a base for a possible war with China and an oil pipeline–but probably as a central Asian community.

There may be wars between India and Pakistan, but no other country feels strongly enough about Kashmir to participate.  The world is concerned with Israel not because of anti-Semitism, but because of an alliance that may involve so much of the rest of the world.

North Korea has both nuclear arms and missiles, and will neither attack nor be attacked.  The fight for peace treaty and normalization with the USA will probably bear fruits, in the interest of all.

Taiwan and China will slowly converge toward a Hong Kong-style solution of one country-two systems, a Taiwan, China as part of China yet highly autonomous.  Wisdom would urge the same for a limited Tibet.  In neither case do we have conflicts out of which a third world war is made.  For that to happen the ties have to be tight, like USA to other NATO countries (Art. 5), and to Israel.  Or, presumably, Russia and China to each other, but not to, or within, the OIC.

We are left with West-Islam.  The lack of cohesion on the Islamic side helps.  But ve are missing a non-aligned Hindu India, lined up with the West in any major confrontation.  Indonesia and Egypt are on the Islamic side, Yugoslavia no longer exists to a large extent over that conflict, Latin America is Christian-West, and Africa is divided.

We need moderates on both sides.  Tunisia-Turkey and the Bandoeng powers Egypt-Indonesia.  And the West–maybe Germany, experienced in inter-faith dialogue?  Come on Germany, play a major peace role!!

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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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