USA Right Now, Worse Than Ever, But-?

EDITORIAL, 20 Jun 2016

#433 | Johan Galtung

Take the candidate debate about nomination and election, focused on Trump’s buffoonery and Sanders’ ineligibility. Hillary?–on using a private account.  Few words wasted on her foreign policy of massive belligerence, warfare. In the tradition, Zoltan Grossman[i] documents: 151 military interventions from Wounded Knee in 1890; and in spite of the war fatigue expressed by Trump, Cruz, Sanders–even by Obama.

And US reality?  John Pilger[ii]: “Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president”.  The Wall Street Journal (30 May 2016) had a full page on the new Navy railgun projectiles with ultra-speed that can penetrate any armor.

No peacefare; no sign of conciling trauma, of solving conflicts.

Take foreign policy.  C. W. Freeman Jr.: “The End of the American Empire”; Noam Chomsky: “How Imperial Violence Backfires–Lessons from the Middle East”, Zalmay Khalilzad: “De-Ba’athification was a recipe for disaster” (, 13 Apr, 19 May, 19 May 2016). Anatol Lieven, “What Chance for Afghanistan?” (NYRB 21 Apr 2016): none.  A foreign policy in shambles, generally; Middle East, Afghanistan.

Cuba? In the balance, can be undone by a Republican Congress.

Saudi Arabia? May “wreck the U.S. economy”; USA gives in, as does UN.

Take terrorism.  Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security expert, in “Why do terrorists commit terrorism” (INYT, 16 Jun 2016) focuses only on individual motivation.  He rejects “mental problems”–only one in ten, below US population in general–and “career criminals”–only 12% had served in prison as against 11% of the US male population.  He finds, of course, “militant islamist ideology, dislike of US foreign policy in the Muslim world”.  But not a single word on how their motives may reflect a reality that the USA can change, and solve the problem.

Take the mass murders in the USA, for whatever reason; a growing expression of a culture of violence, not of conflict solution.

Take race relations: “the police wage a murderous war against black Americans”-Pilger-5 times more Blacks than Whites in prison[iii].

Take the incarceration rate: the highest in the world, privatized for business making income from forced labor; on the stock exchange.

Take “US suicide rate soars to a 30-year high” (INYT 27 Apr 2016): “When the economy got worse suicides went up–when good–down”.

Take the economy of the USA, focused on “economic growth”, not on distribution, on transactions regardless of content, like speculation.  And on number of jobs even if insufficient to support a family, and on the disappearance of the old “position” that did exactly that.  Even meager jobs are dwindling as the finance economy, handled by very few buying and selling financial assets, prevails.  Even “less business competition with less anti-monopoly effort” (Krugman INYT 19 Apr 2016).

Take the infrastructure: bad and deteriorating[iv]–maybe except for access to and inside the “security communities” for the opulent.  We are talking about development in reverse, about de-development.

Take human rights: when will the USA ratify the Second Human Rights Convention on socio-economic-cultural rights?  And accept the UN position that the global Bill of Rights treaty imposes obligations on US operations abroad, not only to individuals within its territory and jurisdiction (“U.S. rebuffs the U.N. on treaty, INYT 15/16 Mar 2014).

Take climate: will the USA do anything serious when “80 percent of Americans now find themselves living in countries where the weather is more pleasant than it was four decades ago”? (INYT, 26 Apr 2016).

Take the nomination-election process, democracy correcting for all of the above, with two parties.  Two? Four with the Greens and the Libertarians, but only on “Russia Today”, moderated by Larry King.  What a shame!  There is a double revolt against RNC and DNC (Debbie Schultz)–but even so, USA is a delegatocracy for, by and of delegates; controlled by banks after the Supreme Court Citizens United decision.

What to do? Surprisingly simple, unsurprisingly unlikely; but?

The wars: use war fatigue to cut them out and terrorism abates.  But with “threats to US security” they will return; with mini-nukes, ultra-speed projectiles.  Hence, concile traumas (Truth Commissions!) created in Iran 1953, Somalia from 1992, Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 2003; solve conflicts in EU-Kiev-Donetsk-Russia, in Libya, Yemen, Saudi. Federations; Central Asian Community; defensive defense against IS.

Face the fact: USA started wars with Islam in Iraq, Afghanistan and into Africa.  Stop individualizing and psychiatrizing individual Muslim fighters, that will not make these wars disappear; wars as unnecessary as unwinnable.  US military hegemony will not return.

The USA needs a foreign policy not of domination but of trying to heal and solve conflicts; Trump’s 10 contradictions[v] open for that, but verbal wars against Muslims, Mexicans, non-Whites, women close.

US domestic violence–in the family, as mass violence-massacres– is partly a gun-NRA problem, but mainly a violence culture problem. A  TV change from the drama of violence to the drama of solving conflicts could help; an example is CBS Dr Phil, but it is mainly psychological.

Let us see what Trump manages with NRA/no guns for terrorists.

The economy: lift the bottom up, very racial, with cooperatives. Keynesianism serves white middle classes; but better than unnecessary, self-defeating, austerity. Make the bottom competitive for improving the infrastructure, healing much of the racism and the suicide rate.

Face the fact: USA, North-West in general, is at economic war with South and East and is losing. They have learnt the tricks. US economic hegemony will not return.  The Chinese policy of including USA works better than the US policy of excluding China–also for USA.

Human rights: join the world, ratify, transcend borders.

Climate: follow Paris or come up with better ideas, do something.

And the coming election?  Anything but Hillary.


[i]. May 20 2016; 16 in the USA, 56 in Latin America-Caribbean, 4 in Haiti, 5 in Cuba, 8 in China.

[ii].  Twitter @johnpilger. Obama lied in Praha 2009, “pledging- to ‘make the world free from nuclear weapons'”.  “A mini nuclear bomb is planned–B61 Model 12.–former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff–‘Going smaller–more thinkable'”.


[iv]. Elizabeth Dryer reviews five recent books as “A Country Breaking Down”, The New York Review of Books 25-02-16.

[v]. From The Guardian, [v]. See


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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17 Responses to “USA Right Now, Worse Than Ever, But-?”

  1. Deldano says:

    “But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace (ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant).” Calgacus’ Speech to his Troops (A.D. 85)

  2. Per-Stian says:

    Since I’m most concerned about US foreign policy, and less about the domestic, this is the key sentence in the article:

    “The USA needs a foreign policy not of domination but of trying to heal and solve conflicts”

    With all their resources, imagine how much good the USA could do if they put their minds to it, with the goal of easing and solving conflicts, instead of causing or worsening them.

    Maybe one day it will happen.

    • Deldano says:

      Mr. Per-Stain, let me ask you, do you hate the United States? What are your sentiments about the USA? Have you been there and if not, why not? Is that a no or a not yet? Would you like to go there? If yes what for, where and why? If not why not? Just wondering. I personally love the USA. for many reasons. And have sorrow with many aspects. Sadly. The same as Galtung here. The people including my own family can be just impeccably wonderful. The politics though are quite different.

      • Per-Stian says:

        I don’t think hate is the right word, and it also depends on what people mean when saying the “United States”. Is it the population, the culture, the ‘life’ there, or is it the government, or more accurately, its policies? When talking about the latter, people have to be pretty darn blind or indoctrinated to not be critical of current policies. I think it sits pretty deep in people that violence is wrong. So it follows that organised violence on such a scale is very wrong.

        It’s admittedly not a very big hope, but it is nevertheless a hope that things will change. In my lifetime I mean. It’s obviously a fact that at some point things will change, it’s just a matter of timescale. Romans probably hoped their empire would last forever, but now we can read about how it fell apart, and there are many similar stories about other empires. The US empire will fall too, it’s just a matter of time. I don’t think it will happen as fast as Galtung does, but I do think it’s fairly obvious they’re already in or close to a receding stage. In some sense that has been true for a very long time, but what is different now is that other countries and regions are becoming more competitive, and the US can no longer do exactly as they wish.

        The hope is that US will at some point join the world, be a normal country, that can have normal relations to the rest of the world without this fetish about violence and threats. The US is a mixed bag, but there are also pretty big groups of positive and more peaceful values.

        Turn time 100 years forward, and for all we know, the US could be a bit less “united” and consist of many states. Depends to an extent on how they react to no longer being the bully of the world, and whether the corrupt political system can become less so and more representative of the people they’re supposed to represent. In some places there are movements wanting seceding, and they are not necessarily insignificant. In a country with a populace armed to the teeth, such issues could become rather serious at some point.

        Of course, we all hope for a more peaceful US in the future. And some of this is just thinking out loud, speculating with possibilities, but whatever happens over the next decades, I hope we will at some point see the US stop waging war on country after country. It’s not useful, and only creates breeding ground for more conflict in the future.

        It’s fine, sort of, when you’re the big fucker in the school yard. Then some of the other kids get a growth spurt, and it may no longer be fine. Hopefully the other kids are less hung up on hitting people in the face. Maybe even the big brute will learn some manners.

    • Deldano says:

      wow: Thank you for the detailed and very distinguished points you shared.
      Say: “I don’t think hate is the right word, and it also depends on what people mean when saying the “United States”. Is it the population, the culture, the ‘life’ there, or is it the government, or more accurately, its policies? When talking about the latter, people have to be pretty darn blind or indoctrinated to not be critical of current policies. I think it sits pretty deep in people that violence is wrong. So it follows that organised violence on such a scale is very wrong.(…) The hope is that US will at some point join the world, be a normal country, that can have normal relations to the rest of the world without this fetish about violence and threats. The US is a mixed bag, but there are also pretty big groups of positive and more peaceful values.”

      This really touched me.

  3. Jacob Rempel says:

    To Deldano: It’s not a matter of hate or love the USA. It’s a matter of the Government and the military forces of the USA doing the wrong things around the world. The bombed countries, their cities, lands and millions of refugee people did not attack the USA or any allies of the USA. Our side attacked them without provocation. (The perpetrators of 9 / 11 in New York were not agents of any of the countries which our side is attacking)

    • Deldano says:

      Dear Mr. Rosa, I believe your comment section needs a like button.

  4. Paul Reimer says:

    Not being American I think this essay is interesting and insigthful, yet also leaves me with some questions.

    First, while I much would have preferred Sanders as President, I’m puzzled that JG seem to perfer Trump to Clinton. Given Trump’s (frankly) unhinged madness and naked nationalism and xenofobia I cannot think he would be anything than a disaster for the US (and the World).

    Second, the “economic war” NWSE is not quite as simple as that. I agree that we can talk about “economic war” but the fault lines are much more complicated. At least here in Asia. Several countries will join (or “gang up with”) the US so these fault lines will cross intra-SE as well as intra-NW regions as well. And I’m not sure the prognosis that the US/NW will “lose” is correct.

    • Deldano says:

      Very interesting angles. Thank you indeed.
      When it comes to Killary vs. TrUmp. Isn’t the problem here that we know what she does and what she will do may be much of the same, when Trump has not done a thing thus far, which indicates that he is a mass murderer in chief as Killary (not: I did not coin this name – food for thought) promises to be.

      • Paul Reimer says:


        Valid points, but beside her bad sides, Clinton has also been supporting Obama’s opening towards Cuba and Iran and will (imho) be less likely to open a trade war with China than Trump. At least that is what he promises in his campaign. And I cannot see that ending up anyway than bad – actually much more likely to fulfill the “economic war” prophesy than a Clinton-administration.

    • Deldano says:

      I am afraid you are right Mr. Reimer. Trump has a zero sum attitude in business issues, as exemplified in his books since the 80ies, but he does come across as less chicken-hawkish than Hillary Clinton on the pentagon front. In economic affairs he may have something of a lunatic “winner takes all” attitude that pushes the adversary to the limit of that which is tolerable. If only it were possible to vote for Sanders nonetheless. What a choice this election: cholera and pest. Not even cholera or pest. Warren Buffet Susan Sonntag and Howard Zinn mixed with some Cornel West could help the US out of the current problem alas that person does not exist.

      • Paul Reimer says:


        I will agree with the “zero sum attitude”. Well put.

        What I find interesting – and somewhat scary – is that many here in Asia seem to view Trump as their favourite because he is perceived as more hawkish on trade issues. In other words trade issues towards China. In Hanoi I have very often heard him favourably mentioned as their choice, from the assumption that he will from a stronger bulwark against Beijing. Something Vietnam is pursuing very strongly now. Indonesia, Phillipines, Thailand and South Korea may follow similar sentiments, with Malaysia and Indochina outside Viet-Thai in the middle and Pakistan/Mongolia and the other -stans close with China.

        I agree that Clinton is more of a military hawk, but the coming crisis in Asia os going to be about money – not about soldiers – if I should give my best bet….

    • Deldano says:

      Regional dynamics of southeast asia are that contrarian. I have not looked into that region in a long while. I thought ASEAN was a good place for such regional conflicts to be solved. Then again, I remember reading soemthing about an age old Vietnam China antagonism. Historical fear of being invaded by china and exploited. I will look up on this and try to make sense of this.

      • Paul Reimer says:

        ASEAN has been good at addressing specific economic issues, but the more broad questions such as military and the economic push/pushback towards China has never been in focus. Mainly because ASEAN member cover the whole range from the most anti-Chinese to the most pro-Chinese in SEA.

        The Viet-Sino relationship/conflict is indeed complicated – and some of it goes back centuries. But the main characteristics are the Vietnamese’ fierce independency traits. Witness the Indochina wars against France and US, and later China.

        What we see now is s different – but equally important – development. China is out-competing the South Korean marine industry (witness the collapse of the ship building in Korea) and in Indonesia the manufacturing base is feeling much the same from Chinese competitors. Malaysia’s and Phillipines marine traditions are equally under pressure from China and in the end they may draw same conclusions.

        So this may drive a lot of different countries towards alliances with US and otehrs outside China but for very different reasons. This coupled with ASEAN’s reluctance to face China makes it an unlikely venue for much. Where this all ends we don’t know, but it will imho have “seismic” implications in SEA.

    • Paul Reimer says:

      I can hardly believe anybody in their right mind could find Trump fit for the presidency. Oh for a Sanders to crush him the elections… :-(