The Clouds Are Getting Dark

EDITORIAL, 7 Dec 2015

#405 | Johan Galtung - TRANSCEND Media Service

The process has now gone full circle, from Sykes-Picot Agreement negotiated from 1915 to 16 May 1916, about control of the Ottoman Empire, when beaten, to England now joining France in bombing Syria. “Violence In and By Paris” two weeks ago was wrong about England wanting to stay out: the House of Commons on 02 Dec 2015 voted 397 to 223 for bombing; 56 Labor MPs for, only 7 Conservative MPs against. Russia played a minor role in Sykes-Picot as now also in bombing maybe mainly the opposition to Assad.

As Robert Savio points out, “They all fight to the last Syrian.”

The likelihood of an atrocious Paris 13 November type violence in London went up many points. And Russia had a civilian plane bombed.

The USA is as addicted to bombing as a hammer to a nail, not only to use allies and train locals. James A. Lucas, “The United States has killed more than 20 million people in 37 nations since WWII”, in 1945 ( seems not to be enough; they just go on and on. More than a million Muslims killed in West Asia mainly by the USA since 1991. In San Bernardino, somebody may have killed 14 in revenge.

The new name for what they fight, after jihadism, is the Islamic State, calling it sometimes IS, ISIS, ISIL. What is it, this Daesh?

There seem to be heavy elements of Saddam’s army, the Baath secular party (also Assad’s), and the Tikrit clan from the recent past–now adding maybe ten fighters for each killed by the West. Daesh seems to stand for “retribution with moderation” particularly for the atrocities in Iraq; “liberation” of two of the four Sykes-Picot colonies, Iraq and Syria; a resurrected Sunni caliphate, not run from Istanbul but also in Saudi Arabia; and for being custodian of the Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina. Far beyond Iraq-Syria.

They seem to expand by adding provinces, “governorates”, maybe in 16 countries: Russia-Turkey-Syria-Iraq-Algeria-Tunis-Libya-Egypt-Chad-Nigeria-Saudi Arabia-Yemen-Somalia-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Bangladesh.

In other words, giving administrative structure to the ummah, with provinces, but with only one state, replacing mainly old Western colonies. Like the old Western dream of one Christian state, the EU.

Quite a lot for even a united West to take on, to “eliminate”.

Moreover, the West is not united. Turkey is the major supporter of Daesh buying oil–via EXXON-BP and Israel?–and fighting the Kurds, the only ground troops fighting Daesh. Turkey shot down a Russian plane for violating Turkish space 17 seconds; Turkey being against, Russia in favor of Assad. Maybe also hoping for a Russia-NATO war.

Muslim Turkey is more tied to its Empire-Caliphate past than to the Atatürk secular dictatorship that brought Turkey into NATO. It wants to be in on the Daesh-Caliphate and perhaps shape it their way. The EU rejection of Turkish EU membership also plays a role.

Nor is Islam united: the Sunni/Shia and Arab/non-Arab (Turkey!) rifts. The more war against the Islamic State, by whatever means, the more smart politics can use the war to bridge those rifts. The more ambitious Daesh, the more conflict with the West, the more Islam is at stake: the harder to beat Daesh. Already hard, and getting harder. There are other Big States than IS in the world–China, India, USA, Indonesia, Russia–and another religious network cast over the world–the Vatican. It is hard to argue against them as such. Words are of little avail, and we sense no search for solution-conciliation.

Therefore, we argue defensive use of military, conciliation, negotiation.

Yet, how did the West get into this mess, apart from Sykes-Picot?

By a US intellectual error: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”; he may have other points on his agenda. USA supported fundamentalist mujahedeen against communism in Afghanistan, giving rise to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in particular, supported him when fighting Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and ended by executing him extra-judicially.   They were all against any secularism, also US, not only communism.

To this can be added a closely related intellectual error No. 2: US 2-ness, trying to arrive at a world clearly divided into “us vs. them” by rallying allies and willing into one camp, and all the evil ones clearly demarcated as “terrorist” into the other. No neutrals. A very orderly recipe for disaster: if it goes wrong, then very wrong.

Rather the mess we have with smaller wars than the Big Bang.

Add US ignorance of history-structure-culture, favoring military capability-intention, for how US intellectuals are betraying humanity. And add US allies, including intelligentsia, trodding in US footsteps.

          The clouds are dark, and getting darker.

With violence comes escalation–more and worse violence–and polarization–more states enrolled. What is now lined up is already sufficient for a world disaster. Weapons to defend civilizations, nuclear arms, may be invoked. Any glimmer of hope, some rays of sunshine?

A negative one: it could have been worse. Imagine SCO-Shanghai Cooperation Organization and all of OIC-Organsation of Islamic Cooperation lined up with the Islamic State. But Russia is somewhere else and China has a neutral stance refusing to be involved and involve SCO. Xi Jinping is just back from Africa, no doubt also trying to keep them outside. India is dead against any caliphate involving Muslims in India, but the Ottoman Caliphate never came that far (another may).

A positive one: Western democracy at its best, demonstrations in all major Western countries against expanding the war. However, No-peace rather than Yes-peace; no alternatives, no creative solutions.

The US presidential campaigns avoid foreign policy; Germany joins allies and EU-members in a supportive, non-combat role forfeiting a major chance to be a peacemaker. From NATO and EU: nothing positive.

Only hope among the Big Powers: Russia. Bombing and reacting with moderation, it could get Shia Assad-Iraq-Iran-Bahrain to arrive at a cease-fire, opening for negotiations. Putin has done it before.

Nevertheless, the West may prefer war to have Putin solve problems for them.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 7 Dec 2015.

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