Peace-prevention: Western conflict management as the continuation of power politics by other means

The Violent Dissolution and Its Underlying Conflicts

By Jan Oberg
June 2004

The breakdown of former Yugoslavia has been explained in dozens of books the last five years with reference to ethnic war, aggression, traumas, nationalism, the dissolution of Communist ideology and the Soviet Union, the impossibility of non-alignment when the blocs disappeared, by expansionist national myths (Greater Serbia) etc. In short, black and white images, reduction to two parties — one good and one bad — in conflict and a need for ”third” parties to intervene to judge and set things right.

My first observation is that there may well be an element of truth in each but that they are surface appearances or instrumental features of the war through which deeper lying, essentially political-economic root causes of the conflict were played out.

My second, perhaps to some provocative, argument is that the international so-called community (1) is fundamentally incapable of perceiving and diagnosing conflicts as conflicts but see events such as Croatia, Bosnia, Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq in the perspective of foreign policy, security, alliance-building, world domination, national interests, or in the light of the division of labour among international organisations. [Read more…]

Advertisements

Preventing Peace – New TFF report

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 82 – December 16, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“We are seeing it for the umteenth time in international conflict-management: when intellectual analysis and politics fall apart, cover it up with military potency and give it all a human face!

One would like to believe that the West’s moral, legal and political conflict ‘management’ disaster in the Balkans and in Kosovo 1989-1999 would be debated throughout the West – democracies with freedom of speech.

The silence about that failure, however, is roaring. It’s just the locals who won’t understand how well-meaning we were and are!

But something else is happening: the disaster is turning into a recipe! Read the statements from leading ministers, top generals, EU, and NATO during the last six months. They invariably state ‘that we have learnt in Kosovo’ that we need more military capacity, more force. NATO’s Secretary- General, Lord Robertson, tells the world that “the time for a peace dividend is over because there is no permanent peace – in Europe, or elsewhere. If NATO is to do its job of protecting future generations, we can no longer expect to have security on the cheap.” Well, Lord Robertson is of course constitutionally prevented from pondering what world leaders have done so miserably the last ten years since the century ends under such dark clouds. [Read more…]

The world needs reconciliation centres

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 76 – August 20, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Crotian version here.

 

“Do you remember Kim, the 9-year old Vietnamese girl, running as she was hit by napalm from U.S. warplanes in 1972? That picture haunted John Plummer for 24 years; he’d been a helicopter pilot and helped organise the napalm raid.

His marriage crashed, he isolated himself and took to drinking; he eventually became a Methodist pastor in Virginia. In 1996, Kim and John met and he says: ‘Kim saw my grief, my pain, my sorrow…She held out her arms to me and embraced me. All I could say was ‘I’m sorry; I’m sorry – over and over again. And at the same time she was saying, ‘It’s all right, I forgive you.’ They are now good friends, and call each other regularly.*

This may be a unique story, but how can we talk about restoring peace after wars’ hurt and harm without paying attention to the human aspects of conflicts in general and that of forgiveness and reconciliation in particular?” asks TFF director Jan Oberg. “I think we need to make forgiveness and reconciliation a central objective: in research and studies, in training and education and, above all, we should empower every civilian and military – and every international organisation engaged in war-torn societies – to work for it with the locals.

“Take a look at Bosnia and Croatia since 1995, look at Kosovo now, or Somalia, or…Have people really held out their arms or said ‘I forgive you’? Come together in trust? Have they learnt how to deal with the past, not in order to forget it or to blame each other, but to acknowledge what happened and find ways to avoid it ever happening again? Can that even be said about South Africa?

It is easy to repair houses and infrastructure, it’s easy to throw money around and talk about human rights? But what if people deep down keep on hating each other and won’t even dream about doing what Kim and John did? Will they themselves ever be happy and at peace with themselves? Will their children? What kind of society will it be if we cannot also, so to speak, repair souls and help create tolerance, co-existence, even cooperation and love?”

Jan Oberg continues, “One of the most moving experiences in my life was when, together with TFF team members, we helped a few Croats and Serbs in Eastern Slavonia, Croatia, come together: young boys and girls as well as the parent generation who were permitted for the first time to talk face-to-face about what had happened – but to stick to facts only and ‘I language’ and avoid blaming. Many cried, successively many laughed together – some now are friends and some do projects together – and, yes, some have left or lost hope again. TFF keeps working there today.

It made me understand how neglected the whole issue of ‘soul reconstruction’ is – and how vain everything else will be without it. You can pour any amount of dollars into Kosovo – it will not create peace unless we also, in deep respect and cooperation with the locals on all side, do something that can not be measured in money terms. [Read more…]

Rambouillet: Imperialism in disguise

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 55 – February 16, 1999

Originally published here.

“What happens now in Rambouillet has little to do with creating peace for the suffering citizens in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo/a. Disguised as “negotiations” about a “peace” plan, the international so-called community promotes less noble values and long-term goals in the region and use the Serbs and Albanians as supernumeraries in its drama. It’s time we ask what the self-proclaimed “conflict managers” are actually up to. If peace in Kosovo or the wider Balkans had been the real aim, we would have witnessed a completely different approach leading up to Rambouillet. We come closer to the truth about Rambouillet if we use words such as globalisation, strategic expansion, Caspian oil, Greater NATO, containment policy and imperialism disguised as conflict-management and peace-making,” says Dr. Jan Oberg upon returning from the 34th TFF mission to the region since 1992, this time to Skopje, Belgrade and Kosovo.

“If peace was their profession, the governments of the international community would – around 1992 – have put enough diplomatic and other civilian pressure on the parties to begin a dialogue, not negotiations. It would have provided 5-10 different secluded meeting places for Albanians, Serbs and other peoples – NGOs, teachers, intellectuals, journalists, doctors etc. – to explore their problems and possible solutions. In short, an international brainstorm to produce creative ideas for later elaboration at a complex negotiation process that would take at least a year.

Today, instead, we are left with only one – legalistic and formal – plan developed by U.S. ambassador Christopher Hill. It is not the result of neutral mediation, contains no creative ideas and is so unattractive to the parties that it has to be imposed as a fait accompli by bombing threats and by arrogant talking down to the delegations (“they must be brought to understand their own best..”) [Read more…]