Meanwhile, Around the World

EDITORIAL, 22 Aug 2016

#443 | Johan Galtung

Auschwitz, 29 July:  Pope Francis praying, asking God for the ‘grace to cry’ (INYT, 30-31 July) was very, very touching.  And very, very different from the show Obama tried to put on in Hiroshima.

Turkey, any day, “the failed coup”–“but history shows it won’t be long before another one succeeds” (Robert Fisk, ‘Turkey’s coup may have failed – but history shows it won’t be long before another one succeeds’16 July 2016); “Turks agree on this: U.S. had hand in failed coup” (INYT, 3 Aug 2016).  To Washington, Islam and democracy go badly together; Muslims elect Muslims Morsi in Egypt and Erdögan in Turkey. Al-Sisi’s coup succeeded, credits coming. But was this a failed coup? Or, could it have been some military giving Erdögan the pretext he wanted to “cleanse” Turkey?  They could have shot down Erdögan’s plane but did not.  Well, in that case we would expect generals and admirals who did the job to be pardoned.  Time will show, and fairly soon.

Haltiatunturi, a 1,365-meter mountain, but the border between flat Finland and mountainous Norway passes short of the peak.  Geophysicist Björn Geirr Harsson suggested that Norway gives Finland 0.01 km2 to include the peak, to “mark the country’s 100th birthday–Finland’s declaration of independence from Bolshevik Russia on Dec. 6 1917” (INYT 30-31 July 2016).  Enthusiasm in both countries, Norwegian Prime Minister is positive, but “has not yet made her decision”.  A first?

Russia-China: “Russia’s acres, bereft of local farmers, beckon Chinese farmers” (INYT 2 Aug 2016). Huge numbers of acres, potentially huge numbers of Chinese farmers.  The land is the “Jewish Autonomous Region” across the Amur River from China with only two Jewish families as the others left for Israel-USA.  The land was used for collective, inefficient kolkhoz farming, and Russians seem not to like farming. “The vast majority of China’s 300 million peasants have barely two acres”; in this land “empty of people” they may get 80 acres.  But   this Putin Chinese quota policy is wildly protested in Western Russia.

African Farmers Can Feed the World: Baher Kamal,  8 Aug 2016. Africa has 2/3 “of the world’s uncultivated arable land, 10% of renewable freshwater resources, and has registered a 160% increase in agricultural output the last 30 years.” However, the messy state structure stands in the way: only 13 /of 55 states/ “offer visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry to all Africans”.

Carlos Lopes, head of the UN Economic Commission for Africa:  “Economics is key to African Transformation.  China is in a position to help with the structural change that is needed, but continent’s leaders must be smart about it” (China Daily 6-12 Mar 2016).

US Elections: the candidates have huge problems. Hillary accused of perjury, the serious crime of lying under oath in the US Congress Hearing on her private computer account use as Secretary of State; Trump offending one group after another, shooting himself in the foot, sounding cranky.  His lack of attention to the context and the effects of his many words smack of autism, with babble from his own bubble.  A psychiatric case?  In the choice between a criminal and a crank, the US delegates system may produce two new candidates.  But the system may also decide that “no reasonable committee would launch a case”, or bury it under some formalism.  And work ever more desperately taming Trump. It may end 60-40 for Hillary.  Whichever way, the choice does not look good for US democracy.  Calling for a “temporary take-over”?

The Hague: “The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has determined that the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was not part of a “criminal enterprise” to victimize Bosnians and Croats during the 1992-95 Bosnian war” (Andy Wilcoxson, The Exoneration of Milosevic: the ICTY’s Surprise Ruling 1 Aug 2016).  Millosevic was demonized  by the West like Putin is today, to justify intervention.  So, finally ICTY may have understood that there were Titoist Partisans and royalist Chetnik Serbs.  The conflict was trilateral, not bilateral.

Washington, DC: The Rand Corporation has been “Thinking through the Unthinkable”–War with China–because “a mishandled crisis could trigger hostilities”. Key finding: “As Chinese anti-access and area-denial capabilities improve, the United States can no longer be–certain /of/–decisive victory”. Better take the war now than later? Or agree to fight counter-force–arms==, not counter-value–cities?

Michael Klare “Blundering into War” (The Nation, 21 Mar 2016) is warning about the situation in the USA-Russia-China triangle, but like Rand Corporation offers no solution for underlying conflicts. And the Democratic Platform is more progressive, and more hawkish, than ever.

 United Nations:  Stephen Zunes testifying before the “Conference on Decolonization” about the Moroccan occupation of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara:  “To accept the Moroccan autonomy plan would be endorsing the expansion of a country’s territory by military force and deny a recognized non-self-governing territory its right of self-determination–establishing a very dangerous, destabilizing precedent”.  Morocco is supported by the veto powers of France and USA, and Zunes recommends that the civil society puts nonviolent pressure on both.

United Nations: Kevin Rudd “My 10 principles to reform the United Nations, before it is too late” (The Guardian 11 Aug 2016): “–a 20th century institutional structure and culture.  And the common concern for those who care about the institution’s future is that if it fails to adapt, the UN is likely to slowly slide into the shadow lands”.

Timbuktu, Mali:  There is a “Timbuktu Crisis Committee”, mediating between the civilian population and the jihadists during the Islamic takeover, protecting treasures.  Maybe better than bombing?

Geneva (in Der Spiegel 16/2016): The famous cartoonist Patrick Chapatte says that he enjoys “bad news. They are simply easier to draw than the good ones”.  Well, why not create something new?–we need it.

Meanwhile this mix of the good and the bad.  Like in the real world.


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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