Donald Trump Inaugurated as President

EDITORIAL, 23 Jan 2017

#464 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

And the first question to the 45th US president: Will you kill, abroad?  Predecessor Obama was in the US tradition that killed more than 20 million in 37 countries since WWII, bombing and droning.  His Special Forces seem to have killed in 138 countries.  And a shocking majority voted for Hillary Clinton with her warfare record of even privatized warfare. Will you make America “Great” the same way?

Or make America Greater by breaking this morbid tradition?

The 22nd US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has summarized his experience in some statements (in Wall Street Journal 7 Jan 2017, from Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. Knopf):

  • War is nothing other than tragic, inefficient and uncertain.
  • On the left we hear about the “responsibility to protect”.
  • On the right about failure to strike as abdication of leadership.
  • The rest of the world sees the U.S. as a militaristic country.
  • Wars are a lot easier to get into than out of.
  • Presidents–have too often been too quick to reach for a gun.
  • Most of Congress is uncivil, incompetent, egotistical, thin-skinned. Members postured and acted judge, jury and executioner.

Strong words, based on his experience and spoken with frankness.  What is missing is, of course, the alternative; in one word, diplomacy. Your word is “negotiation”.  The US political market is now yours, a monopoly on U.S. power, by verbal means.  For some of them you have to apologize in one way or the other.

But the world political market is not yours; but for give and take. The world is watching with apprehension. There was much aggression in your speech.  Will it be followed by aggressive action?

Another new world leader, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “highlighted in his first address to the Security Council the need to rebalance the approach to world peace and security, avoiding conflict beforehand instead of responding to conflict. Security Council members pointed out that conflicts in South Sudan, Syria and Yemen proved to be difficult to resolve” (The Weekly Mirror, 13 Jan 2017).

Exactly. “Avoiding beforehand” means “resolve”, that is the word. And “difficult” means exactly that; in other words, “not impossible”.

The Russian leader Putin organizes resolution conferences without USA.  Time has indeed come for USA to focus on conflict prevention by resolution, not conflict response by war or threats of war. Your turn!

But you still seem to want a wall between the USA and your neighbor Mexico–from which your predecessor James K. Polk stole 53% of the territory in the 1846-48 war.  Imagine you go ahead, that you are not only telling Mexico, improve your border control, or else–a wall!

That means a wall between Anglo and Latin America, between two civilizations in a world crying for dialogue to understand and for mutual learning and enrichment. How do you think Mexico will react?

By turning inward, developing its own country the hard way, doing it yourself also learning from China, becoming more of a competitor.  Including growing its own apples instead of harvesting yours–at the risk of being expelled before they are paid.

And by turning southward and westward, cooperating, integrating, solidifying the budding community of Latin American-Caribbean States; opening all those borders ever more to compensate for your closed one.

They will now probably do both, given your insulting rhetoric.

Of course you have the right to control illegal immigrants, and to expel criminal immigrants that have already arrived–with care. However, if you want to close the border with a wall do it on your side and pay it yourself. They will not do it.

A much better policy would be to make legitimate expulsion credible as a warning to others; and to give those jobs, better paid, to your own people badly in need of them.  The USA has a right to develop, so does Mexico.  But the de-developing embrace we witness is not a good policy.

As strong or stronger than your rhetoric against Mexico is the one in favor of Israel, including its choking hold on  US autonomy, AIPAC.

Again, it could be your way of saying “we will not betray you”, “we recognize fully the right of Israel to exist, but not Netanyahu’s wildest dreams.”  You know perfectly well the solid world majority against the illegal Israeli settlement policy, even privatizing it to escape responsibility. You really want to challenge the world?

True, you may improve your US media support by such means, but at the expense of turning most of the rest of the world against you.  Putin has another policy, friend with all sides, except IS.  And Putin has a strong ally, China, whom you have challenged by relating to Taiwan. That is certainly your right; one thing is to talk with a president, another is full recognition, UN membership, etc.

But maybe a better policy is simply to withdraw that aircraft carrier off China’s coast and encourage China-ASEAN cooperation in the South China Sea, including finding formula for Taiwan’s presence, eg., together with other parts of China?

Your opening to Russia, cutting through the present US paranoia, harking back to the 19th century with US-Russian amicable cooperation, is brilliant.  But maybe you underestimate the solidity of China-Russia, SCO, friendship-alliance, as a reaction to the policies of some of your predecessors?  China and Russia are closer to each other than to USA.  Mildly speaking, alienating Russia in the Middle East, and China in East Asia, is a risky game, precisely because that game has been played before, and may freeze all parties into the past.

You have inherited from your predecessor a USA on high alert under the formula “war on terrorism”. You are surrounded by triggers. Do not satisfy their lust to be pulled. Insist on multi-party choice in Cuba, but accept their insistence on basic needs for all; they will benefit from the former, you from the latter.  Insist on non-nuclear Iran, but accept their insistence on a nuclear-free Middle East.

Give and take on both sides. Is that not what business is about?


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. Prof. Galtung has published 1670 articles and book chapters, over 450 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and 167 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 23 Jan 2017.

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11 Responses to “Donald Trump Inaugurated as President”

  1. Per-Stian says:

    I would hope that the “left” understood that by clamouring for “responsibility to protect” (often called R2P), they are weakening current international law on the subject. It would open the doors for easier going to war, under the guise of protecting civilians. More Afghanistans, Iraqs, Libyas.

    The idea behind it isn’t bad, I merely know that it wouldn’t be civilians states would go to war to protect, but their own (imperial) interests.

    This was a little tangent, and sorry for that, but it’s a topic that is very frustrating for me, so had to open my gob about it.

    On another topic of frustration, the so-called missile defence. Saturday I read a short article about it in the Norwegian media. 20 times (!) did the brief article claim it was defensive in nature, one way or another. 20 times. The media isn’t exactly subtle when it tries to bash their lies down our throats. Analysts know it is an offensive weapon. Not aimed at North Korea or Iran as they also lie about, but Russia and China. If you are a serious journalist writing about such matters, you know it too.

  2. rosemerry says:

    An outstanding contribution- I wish everyone in the Trump “Administration” would read and reflect on it.
    Just today, seeing Trump talking to CIA officials about “taking Iraq’s oil” made me shudder. So many contradictory policies, not thought through and certainly, as we are all used to from previous American attitudes,not negotiated or cooperative in any way. Diplomacy, understanding others’ points of view, considering consequences would seem normal behaviour to most of us, but “exceptional America” plays by different rules. Obama in his “coolness” managed to do terrible harm in following the same assumption as GWBush and all his predecessors that what the USA did was always good. Trump, let us hope, will follow through on his “not interfering” plans,not only with Russia but with China, Iran, now even Iraq!

    • More says:

      Dear Rosemerry, I disagree. Trump has a very clear line of operation: Just through with his book the art of the deal. His key plan is to make sure nobody understands his plan before he strikes. Similar to Putin. Just louder and more baroque.

  3. Gary Corseri says:

    An excellent article–as usual–by Johan Galtung, and fine comments by Per-Stian and Rosemerry, too.

    JG covers a lot of ground in his relatively short piece on the challenges facing the Trump Administration. At this point in history, the US is a very divided nation/Empire, and the way it perceives itself and its mission is also divided and divisive: it “hawks” itself as the “savior” or humankind, the global leader, “bastion of democracy,” and all that…, but, in reality, as JG notes, it has killed some 20 million people since the end of WWII (and the beginning of its global hegemony). Trump has been as contradictory–about war and peace, the “underclasses,” as the nation he leads has been contradictory since it divorced itself from its Mother Empire–Britain, which claimed a “civilizing mission” (Kipling’s “white man’s burden,” etc.)in its heyday.

    I thought the comments by former Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, were especially poignant here. They reminded me of “Defense” Secretary Robert McNamara, who was a potent advocate for war in Vietnam (to “contain” Communism!), but who abruptly changed his tune, saw the light, after his own son was killed in that horrendous and unnecessary (as most wars are!) bloodbath.

    Will the human race come to its senses (or re-configure its senses!) in time to avert its own extinction?

    • Per-Stian says:

      The good news is that most of the human race is fairly sensible when it comes to not being violent. The main problem is in a handful of countries, and mostly among people with political and military power in those countries.

      Okay, fair is fair, there are many “hanger ons” too, like my own country Norway. But change the tune from Washington and London, and Norway and various other hanger ons will quickly move away from waging war for their masters.

      The very frustrating part is that a lot of violent conflicts aren’t really *that* difficult to solve, there are solutions that could work. But then you have the above-mentioned “spoilers” that aren’t the least bit interested in promoting peaceful relations among nations, but release the dogs of war instead.

      Thanks to Galtung I’ve just had probably the most interesting weekend of my life. I just wish there were a million Johan Galtungs in the world, running around trying to solve conflicts and teach people how to do it.

  4. Ana says:

    “Can you hear that last, loud, slurping sound?”

    -Carry On

  5. Gary Corseri says:

    I hear it loud and clear, Ana; sadly–loud and clear….

    But, without some hope–even a little–it’s very hard, near-impossible, to “carry on.”

  6. Like many a psychopath, Trump is anxious to kill.

  7. Zeki Ergas says:

    Of course Robert Gates is right. And Galtung too. But there are things unsaid in this piece, which re important too. 1. Might is right and 2. Power relations. The U.S. is the supreme military power. But nuclear power cannot be used. There detterrence works fully. But the US has 11 aircraft carriers, China 1. Russia none, I believe. The modus operandi of Trump is testing the waters first: how much much can he get away with. Keystone and Dakota Pipelines, Yes, Mexican wall, yes. the TPP, yes. but what about the China Sea Islands? the Policy of co-opting Russia/Putin against China can backfire. Moving the Embassy to J’lem, annexing parts of the West Bank, leaving Bantustans to Palestinians, No. But, one thing is certai Trump’s era is a very dangerous one, The hope is that it may not last long: Impeachment, worse ? …

  8. Gary Corseri says:

    Agree with Zeki Ergas that the “Trump era is a very dangerous one,” but–What US era hasn’t been? From the US’s beginning in British colonial times we have been “dangerous” to others (“redskin”; “savages”–as Jefferson called the Original “Tribal” Peoples of North America) and to ourselves –with “Puritan,” “Chosen People” standards that allowed for the Salem witch trials, etc. If US citizens and other nations’ citizens begin to take greater interest, develop a greater awareness, of the true history of the US–as a result of the Trump era–that will be a positive outcome.