The security versus the peace approach

By Johan Galtung

Written presumably 2006

Yugoslavia caught international attention through acts of violence late June 1990 when Slovenian border guards close to Gorizia shot at their Serbian counterparts.  And Yugoslavia retained its grip on international attention ever since, according to the rule of bad journalism: violence up, attention up; violence down, attention down.  The “Balkans”, that southeastern corner of Europe on which the West, the “international community”, projects its own somber shadow of centuries of ethnic cleansing and other cruelties, meets the bill.  Everybody sufficiently violent, from the smallest fringe to that very “international community”, can get their instant prime time/front page media fame. Years of patient NGO and UN work for peace will certainly not rival them.

For in the beginning was not the word, but two ways of thinking, competing for our attention: the security discourse and the peace discourse.  [Read more…]

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War for war’s sake? U.S. military interventions after the Cold War

By Håkan Wiberg

Written 2000????

In the debate on a war on Iraq, many interpretations are proposed as to what it is “really” about: Disarming Iraq of possible weapons of mass destruction to satisfy UN resolutions? Toppling the Iraqi government by invasion and/or subversion? Introducing democracy by occupation? Getting US control over the Iraqi oil by occupation? Getting US geopolitical control over the whole oil region with bases, etc.? Fighting terrorism? Deflecting domestic criticism of various scandals – or international criticism on, e.g. Palestine? Feeding the military-industrial complex? Testing new weapons, tactics and strategies on the ground?

Rather few of these really contradict each other, unless presented as the one and only motive – which is in our complex world a very unlikely situation. It will obviously take many years to get a balanced and well-documented picture of the true motives of the US administration and its various factions, so no attempt at such a premature assessment will be made here.

The point of the present article is merely to locate one apparent lacuna in the debate, which only seems to get visible when we collate several cases to see what they have in common. Few seem to have pointed at “war for war’s sake”. By this I do not refer to any grotesque pre-WWI (and later fascist) ideologies about war as being healthy in itself, but rather to the advantage the initiator expects to have from a war, whatever its outcome. The main thesis is that having a war now and then is a way for US administrations to try to counteract the global long term changes in the distribution of economic power (where it has gone down) and military power, where it is stronger than ever. More specifically, the thesis is that the relative weight of these kinds of power has been shifting in favour of economic power for a long time, which gives the USA an interest in greater relative weight being given to military power. [Read more…]

The information war about Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 62 – April 15, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“Most people around the world probably think that war and media are separate. When there is a war, the media tell us about it as objectively as they can under the often difficult circumstances. But in today’s information society, every war is two wars: that on the ground and that in the media. Weapons communicate and communication is a weapon. We must ask what interests determine what we are told and what we are not told?

The history of warfare makes one thing abundantly clear,” says TFF director Jan Oberg, “namely that we can safely assume that we are not told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In NATO’s war with Yugoslavia, there is reason to paraphrase Hamlet – ‘there is something rotten in the state of the media.’

This is what you can read about the use by the United States of information in times of war:

“Psychological operations (PSYOP) are operations planned to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behaviour of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. PSYOP are a vital part of the broad range of US political, military, economic, and informational activities. When properly employed, PSYOP can lower the morale and reduce the efficiency of enemy forces and could create dissidence and disaffection within their ranks. There are four categories of military PSYOP; strategic, operational, tactical, and consolidation. PSYOP, which are used to establish and reinforce foreign perceptions of US military, political, and economic power and resolve.”

Other countries work with PSYOP, too. Let’s remember that when we watch television. And let’s ask some questions when we do:

 

• IS THERE A LARGER STORY BEHIND WHAT WE SEE ON THE SCREEN?

Balkan conflicts not only have a Balkan but also a world order dimension. For instance, did you ever hear about the National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 133 entitled “United States Policy towards Yugoslavia” labelled “SECRET SENSITIVE”? A censored version was declassified in 1990 and largely confirmed NSDD 54 from 1982 the objective of which included “expanded efforts to promote ‘quiet revolution’ to overthrow Communist governments and parties” while integrating the countries of Eastern Europe into a market economy.

 

• WAR REPORTING – BUT NO CONFLICT JOURNALISM

Media tend to focus on today’s ‘story.’ But there is a larger frame [Read more…]

Interview With Jan Oberg in Kosovo-Albanian “ZËRI” in Pristina by Blerim Shala

By Jan Oberg
December 22, 1998

1. DR. OBERG, HOW DO YOU EVALUATE THE PRESENT SITUATION IN KOSOVA, ESPECIALLY REGARDING THE OSCE OBSERVER MISSION WHICH IS SUPPOSED TO BE ESTABLISHED IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS?

Compared with one or five years ago, the present situation is worse for all parties. Innocent civilians – about 10% of the Kosovo-Albanians and 10% of the Kosovo-Serbs – have lost their home, belongings, human rights and safety. No politician ever asked them and I am sure they did not want this to achieve any political goal. Second, Serbia/FRY has lost important parts of its control and sovereignty and it has more international interference than ever – what all Serbia was directed out to vote against just a few months ago.

And the Albanians in Kosovo are worse off too – they no longer obtain the sympathy, solidarity and admiration for their nonviolent policies from the world community. Some may value that as irrelevant anyhow, I don’t. With blood on their hands, the political goals and the vision of a independent, peaceful and democratic Kosova is gone. You can’t obtain a good thing by bad means: killing, maiming and terrorising those who disagree with you, also on your own side. No election or referendum was ever held that, directly or indirectly, gave KLA/UCK a mandate to militarize the issue.

Some here will say: “But we had two!” I understand this psychological mechanism, given the politically unwise and untalented policy of repression by Belgrade. But here I want to point out what, in all humility, I consider the “Himalayan mistake” of some Kosovo-Albanians: they believed that the alternative to Dr. Rugova’s somewhat passive and practical policy of nonviolence was armed struggle, killing and all that. The real alternative would have been active and principled nonviolence and training the whole people in this different way of thinking and struggling.

In short: it would have been good if someone in power on either side had read and understood the deep messages of Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Dalai Lama – if someone among all your good intellectuals had learned from the nonviolent victories of the European peace movements and Soviet dissidents who, together with Mikhail Gorbachev, dismantled the whole Cold War structure; or had learnt from the Solidarnosc movement in Poland and the Velvet Revolution in Chechoslovakia, from the resistance movement against the Shah of Iran, from the Catholic nuns who lay down in from of Marcos’ tanks in the Philippines etc.

Modern history is full of conflicts at least as bad as that in Kosovo that have been overcome by nonviolence. But – all these issues were never studied, people never educated and trained in nonviolent politics, ethics and methods of struggle. Your alternative schools never trained pupils in thinking this way. So, the shortsighted militarists took the lead. That’s why pragmatic nonviolence of Rugova/LDK was never enough – and was tainted by wishig all the time that the US/NATO should come and do the dirty job for them. [Read more…]

Questions before bombing Serbia

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 47 – October 1, 1998

Originally published here

 

“What on earth would be the POLITICAL AIM of bombing Serbia now? Violence has been used by both parties for almost a year. Some 250.000 people may already be displaced, homes and towns torched and destroyed. KLA is defeated and Serbia’s government has declared that the war is over, provided KLA’s military struggle does not resume.

Before the UN Security Council, NATO or other actors in the international ‘community’ decides to carry out air strikes throughout Serbia, it would be wise to ponder a few questions, problems and risks and come up with some answers. I offer some of both in what follows,” says Jan Oberg who, with his TFF colleagues, has conducted analyses and served as a citizen diplomat in the region since 1992.

 

• IF WE BELIEVE NATO MILITARY INTERVENTIONS WOULD STOP THE KILLING, ETHNIC CLEANSING AND MASSACRES, WHY HAS IT NOT HAPPENED LONG AGO?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS: 
1) The international “community” is not a community when it comes to managing conflicts. There are too many solid national interests and the EU is divided internally with Germany and the UK being more interventionist than the rest. And they cannot act without the United States. 2) Bombings of Serb facilities will unavoidably be interpreted as a support to (violent) secessionism. Thus, Kurds, Palestinians, Turk Cypriots, people in the Basque province and in Chechenya, to mention some, may be encouraged – and the West doesn’t exactly want that. 3) It can’t be done without ignoring the Russians – but they are on their heels anyhow. 4) Perhaps no bombings is really contemplated; it’s all a game. But then there is a public relation problem vis-a-vis citizens: why do statesmen solemnly declare their moral outrage, threaten tough measures and thereby create expectations worldwide about resolute action – fully well knowing that they won’t do anything? 5) Powerful actors may see it fit to wait and “fail” with preventive diplomacy in order to present military options as “necessary.”

 

• IS THIS COMPATIBLE WITH INTERNATIONAL LAW?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS: 
1) It is probably the first time NATO bombs a sovereign, recognised state in support of a movement whose stated aims are complete independence and integration with a neighbouring state. 2) Bombings would [Read more…]

Bosnia’s foreign elections – Unwise and dangerous

By Jan Oberg

September 10, 1997

TFF PressInfo 25 originally published here.
“Symbolic or shallow democracy will be the only outcome when foreigners impose elections under extremely adverse circumstances as is the case in Dayton-Bosnia. They could even be dangerous in their consequences because some local results are likely to be implemented by force. One increasingly wonders whether the international community is in Bosnia for the sake of the people living there or to uphold an illusory image of itself as effective post-Cold War conflict-“managers” – says TFF’s director, Jan Oberg who has followed the situation since February 1992 as head of the foundation’s conflict-mitigation team to all parts of former Yugoslavia.

– “The leading Croatian party, the Bosnian branch of President Tudjman’s HDZ in Zagreb, has suggested to its members and voters to boycott the elections. It argues that the conditions for fair and free elections are not in place and complain that international election officials favour Muslims over Croats in disputes about voter registration. And it accuses OSCE of “gerrymandering” in Mostar.

– This emphasises what international media’s non-attention hides but any serious observer knows, namely that the Federation between Muslims and Croats established in March 1994 still belongs to the world of fiction.

– The present situation in Republika Srpska, RS, fulfils all conditions for a coup, outbreak of serious violence or a civil war. I am pretty sure,” predicts Jan Oberg, “that it will fall apart. Indeed, that could well be part of an unwritten longterm “gentlemen’s agreement”. Be this as it may, the power-struggling Serbs offer once again international media and the international authorities in Bosnia a reason to blame Pale for the stalling, crisis-ridden Dayton process. And quite predictably, they now also boycott the elections. So, four days before the elections two of the three largest parties are out, free not to respect election results later.

– The present situation is also caused by the Western governments which did absolutely nothing to support civil society, dissidents, non-nationalists, NGOs and independent media anywhere in ex-Yugoslavia between 1990 and end of 1995. It dealt exclusively with the top political, military and economic echelons [Read more…]

Croatia: Free elections, but for whom? 

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 22 – April 24, 1997 – originally published here.

Important actors have considered the recent Croatian election free and fair in spite of the fact that some 250,000 Serb-Croat citizens could not vote in their home country.

These Serbs fled from Croatia during its military operations in 1995 – the largest single case of ethnic cleansing during the wars. They are refugees in Bosnia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, sometimes called “expellees,” but are legitimate citizens of Croatia.

The U.S., EU governments, OSCE, the Council of Europe and human rights organisations could have done politically in Croatia what they did in Bosnia, namely insist on refugees abroad being given an opportunity to influence the future of their homeland to which they want to return.

The quite young state of Croatia had hardly just brushed off such a good advise from president Clinton (or the very active, human rights-concerned U.S. ambassa-dor to Croatia, Peter Galbraith), from president Chirac, prime minister Major or chancellor Kohl and neither from, for instance, World Bank president Wolfensohn.

If the international community had required this of Croatia it could have been credited for having, for once, a constructive and principled policy.

If Croatia had provided such an opportunity – under pressure or, better, by its own initiative – it would have proved its commitment to a future of social peace, multi-ethnicity and democracy. Now both missed that major opportunity. One may also wonder how these voters could have changed the election result,” says TFF director Jan Øberg. [Read more…]

Security and Identity in former Yugoslavia

By Håkan Wiberg
Presumably written 1995 or 96

Introduction

The concatenation of conflicts in former Yugoslavia are of a complexity that makes them difficult to fathom for the great majority of external observers, in particular mass media and politicians. This complexity derives from the high number of actors in various phases, as well as from the varying characters of actors and from the fact that different dimensions of security have played – and continue to play salient roles.

When external actors have tried to relate to this set of conflict, the heritage of the Cold War has apparently played a great role. Its essence is not to be found in the specific propaganda themes in 1991, rather in a general pattern of perception. It can be summarized in three main axioms:

1. There can be no more than two actors in a conflict.
2. These actors are states.
3. Among these, one is good and one is bad.

In virtually every situation, however, the actors have never been less than three, and even then only after great simplification. Peoples have been just as much actors as states, and – with few exceptions – the actions of these actors are a matter of bad and worse, rather than good and bad, at least if judged by generalizable morality rather than political expediency.

In addition, it must not be forgotten that the former Yugoslavia had an appallingly bad prognosis in its last period of existence by a wide range of indicators. [Read more…]