Tag Archives: Jan Oberg

Readings in Nonviolence: Humanity needs a completely different peace and security system in the future


The world looks like it is going to hell in a handcart whether you look at conflict, ecology, migration and responses to migration, inequality and world justice, whatever. Potential sources of extremely violent hot conflict, such as between the USA and China, are waiting in the wings. Learning lessons does not seem to be on the curriculum as evidenced by NATO’s goading of Russia in advancing membership towards Russia’s borders.

Peace activists are often accused of being unrealistic, a totally unsustainable jibe given that research shows nonviolent struggle to be more likely to achieve its ends than violent, and with better outcomes. But it is the followers of militarism and confrontational approaches who are unrealistic, always taking the same approach ending in disaster and then blaming the other for the resultant mess and carnage.

The following piece by Jan Oberg offers short, practical advice on a global scale for dealing with conflict. You might say it is too simple but the crux of the matter is that, in Tommy Sands’ words, the answer is not blowing in the wind, the answer stares you in the face.

By Jan Oberg

The world’s taxpayers give US$ 2,240 billion annually to their national military defenses. That is the highest ever, more than 600 times the regular budget of the United Nations, and three times the total trade between China and the US. Such are the perverse priorities of our governments; the five largest spenders are the US 39% of the total, China 13%, Russia 3,9%, India 3,6% and Saudi Arabia 3,1%.

Worldwide, governments maintain that they need that much to secure their people’s survival, national defense, security and stability – and that global peace will come.

With the exception of the elites of the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complexes (MIMAC), we all know this is a huge fallacy. Today’s world is at a higher risk of war–including nuclear–, more unstable and militaristic than at any time since 1945.

At the end of the West’s Cold War a good 30 years ago, peace became a manifest possibility, NATO could have been dismantled since its raison d’être, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, fell apart. A new transatlantic common security and peace system could have replaced NATO.

Tragically, ’defensive’ NATO did everything not only to cheat Russia with its promise to not expand ‘one inch,’ but also to expand up to the border of Russia, “not one inch off limit for the alliance,” to quote Marie Sarotte’s brilliant 550-page book, Not One Inch.

The NATO world now postulates that both Russia and China are threats to be met with even higher, de facto limitless, military expenditures.

But wait! How would you think and act if you witnessed a team of doctors do one surgery after the other on a patient who, for each, came closer to death?

You’d probably say that they are quack doctors. Their diagnosis and treatment lead to a devastating prognosis. Instead of health, they produce more of the problem they claim to solve!

Given that the highest investment on peace and security in history has caused the highest risk to humanity’s survival, why don’t we have a vibrant global debate? What is fundamentally wrong with the entire paradigm of security through arms? Where are the critical analyses of the world’s most enigmatic and dangerous logical short circuit?

The dominant security paradigm builds on factors like these:

  • deterrence – we shall harm them if they do something we won’t accept or don’t do as we say;

  • offensiveness – our defense is directed at them even thousands of kilometers away, not on our own territory;

  • military means are all-dominant;

  • civil means – like minimizing society’s vulnerability; civil defense, nonviolent people’s defense, cooperation refusal, boycott – are hardly discussed;

  • our intentions are noble and peaceful, but theirs are not;

  • our defense is not a threat to them, but they threaten us with theirs;

  • ignoring the underlying conflicts that cause violence and war, the keys to conflict-resolution, and prepare instead for war to achieve peace.

This is, by and large, how everybody ’thinks’ and then they blame others for the fact that this type of thinking can not produce disarmament or peace.

Even worse, when that peace doesn’t come, everybody concludes that they need more and better weapons. In reality, this system is the perpetual mobile of the world’s tragic militarism and squandering of resources desperately needed to solve humanity’s problems.

There must be better ways to think. But there is far too little research and debate and the MIMAC elites thrive on war. Thus, decision-makers lack political will.

What would be the criteria for good peace and security?

Conflicts are to be addressed and solved intelligently by mediation, international law, and creative visions that address the parties’ fears and wishes. Violent means should be absolutely the last resort as is stated by the UN. Peace is about reducing all kinds of violence (there are many kinds) and creating security for all at the lowest military level, like the doctor who shall never incur more pain than necessary to heal a patient.

Here some alternative ideas and thinking to promote discussion:
instead of deterrence, seek cooperation and common security; the latter means that we feel secure when they do;

  • go for being invincible in defense but unable to attack anybody else; have weapons with limited destruction capacity and range;

  • make control/occupation impossible by our country’s non-cooperation with any occupier;

  • balance defensive military and civilian means;

  • prevent violence but not conflicts;

  • never do tit-for-tat escalation; do something creative to de-escalate;

  • show that your intentions are non-threatening and take small steps to invite Graduated Reduction in Tension (GRIT) without risking your own security;

  • handle conflicts early; build peace first and then secure it;

  • address underlying conflicts, traumas, fears and interests;

  • educate and use professionals in civilian conflict-resolution and mediation, not only military expertise;

  • develop and nurture a peace culture through education at all levels, ministries for peace, emphasis on conflict transformation instead of confrontation and rearmament;

  • replace outdated neighborhood ethics with a global ethics of care.
    The possibilities are limitless. Conflict and peace illiteracy have brought us to where we are today. It is not whether human beings are evil, good, or both. It is a
    systemic paradigmatic malfunctioning that must change in name of civilization.

We can learn to peace.

Masters of war are hated worldwide. Countries that take concrete leadership in developing new principles and policies for true global peace and human security will save humanity and will be loved forever.

Let a thousand peace ideas bloom!

Prof. Jan Oberg, Ph.D., is director of the independent Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research-TFF in Sweden.

This piece, edited by the author himself, was originally written for ‘China Investment’ and is taken here from Transcend Media Service https://www.transcend.org/tms/2023/08/humanity-needs-a-completely-different-peace-and-security-system-in-the-future/ which has an introduction about it origin.

Jan Oberg spoke at an online seminar organised by StoP (Swords to Ploughshares Ireland) in 2022 on ‘EU militarisation, Irish neutrality and the war in Ukraine; The case for peace’. The video of this seminar can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqniPJg70xU

Readings in Nonviolence: Truth, Accuracy in Media

Readings in Nonviolence’ features extracts from our favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence and related areas, or reviews of important works in the field (suggestions and contributions welcome)What and where is truth in the media? In relation to Afghanistan, or indeed anywhere else, we have to sift through a morass of self-interested opinions and ‘facts’ which may be anything but the unvarnished truth, insofar as that can be accessed. What follows is a slightly edited editorial from Transcend Media Service of 23/8/21 which has loads of links (these have been removed here); you can access the original, and links, at https://www.transcend.org/tms/2021/08/afghanistan-and-the-mainstream-media-manipulation-methods/

This is of specific relevance to peace because the reality of situations can be twisted and distorted to justify a stand – or, indeed, in the case of Afghanistan, excuse massive failures by those who supported armed intervention.

In printing this article we are certainly not saying we should take everything in it as true and accurate either but rather it should be taken as an alternative view which can help us provide a reality check on our usual media sources. There are wider issues in relation to ‘peace journalism’ which are not covered here.

Truth, Accuracy in Media:

An Analysis

by Jan Oberg, Ph.D. for TRANSCEND Media Service [23/8/21]

When it comes to Western mainstream media’s coverage of international affairs, I would today dare the hypothesis that 10-20% is truthful, 20-30% is fake and narratives and 50-70% is omitted (see definition in point 2 below).

This is not a scientific statement or hypothesis that I have tested empirically; rather, it is my judgement based on two things: a) witnessing over some forty years the decay of the mainstream media’s international affairs coverage and b) my experiences from conflict zones such as e.g. all parts of former Yugoslavia, Georgia, Iraq before it was occupied, Iran, Syria and China and comparing them with the media images conveyed by the mainstream Western press.

In TFF’s recent analysis ”Behind The Smokescreen. An Analysis of the West’s Destructive China Cold War Agenda And Why It Must Stop”, we make use of the following nine Mainstream Media Manipulation Methods, MMMM:

  1. Fake – lies, deception, inventions or whatever else that cannot be judged/verified as empirically valid; presentation of institutes and scholars as ‘independent’ and defining publications as based on scholarly research when they are not – are typical examples.

  2. Omission – leaving out essential perspectives, facts, analyses, experts/expertise, literature, counter views, possible alternative hypothesis and explanations of found results. When taken together, the omission is often much more distortive than fake (and less easy for the public to detect).

  3. Censorship – meaning a government tells the media (by law or less open and verifiable methods) what the limits are. When a few of the countless millions of possible stories that could be told from around the world are selected for the front-pages, it is also the result of censorship, not only omission.

  4. Self-censorship – news bureaus, editors, reports and journalists know the standard operating procedures and stick to them because it is convenient and typically secures that they keep their job. It’s built on a kind of group think. Censorship and self-censorship define the discourse and its framework and what thetruth is, commonly understood/accepted as part of that local culture and perceived as ‘natural’ – that is, also politically correct.

  5. Framing – is a somewhat difficult concept because it can mean many different things. It can mean setting the frames of “what are we talking about here?” It can also be framing as orientation and interpretation – “In social theory, framing is a kind of interpretation, perhaps a set of anecdotes, historical events and stereotypes that individuals rely on to understand and respond to events.” Media framing builds on these dimensions but adds something specific – “the parameters of the discussion itself – the words, symbols, overall content, and tone used to frame the topic. When compared to agenda setting, framing includes a broader range of cognitive processes – such as moral evaluations, causal reasoning, appeals to principles, and recommendations for treatment of problems.” Simply put, it’s about how a story is packaged.

  6. Constructed narratives – stories that more or less substitute for reality and makes reality- and source checks superfluous or even dangerous (for the maintenance of the fake/omission report). Narratives are often gross simplifications of a complex reality and use everyday ways of thinking that everybody can relate to without much knowledge of the substantive issues. Boiling down a complex conflict to a struggle between bad guys and good guys is an example.

  7. Propaganda and other distortions – let us quote the Cambridge Dictionary: “information, ideas, opinions, or images, often only giving one part of an argument, that are broadcast, published or in some other way spread with the intention of influencing people’s opinions” – one example being political/wartime propaganda.

  8. Psychological warfare or psychological operations (PsyOps) – close, of course, to propaganda but often defined as influencing other people, not our own. However, that is not the case today. Undoubtedly, governments also do PsyOps on their own citizens – such as constantly instilling in them a sense of being threatened by foreign countries, weapons, terrorists – or by Some has called this fearology – governance by instigating fear. People who fear are much more willing to accept controls and limitations and to obey than those who do not fear – as we have seen when it comes to accepting all kinds of measures to combat terrorism and pandemics. PsyOps are broader and aim to influence a target audience’s value system, belief system, emotions, motives, reasoning, or behaviour. It can be used to induce confessions or reinforce attitudes and behaviours favourable to the originator’s objectives and are sometimes combined with black operations or false flag  tactics.

  9. Cancel culture – a more recent term – is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrown out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those subject to this ostracism have been “cancelled” mostly because of their views or behaviours. The expression “cancel culture” has predominantly negative connotations and is commonly used in free speech and censorship debates. From another perspective, it is a demand/punishment having to do with someone who is politically (non)correct and/or challenges the framework of the “Zeitgeist.”

These methods are an integral part of today’s Western mainstream media and, thus, political reality. While each has its distinct character, they also overlap and are used in clusters that fit the chosen political agenda.

In the above-mentioned report we apply them to the Western mainstream media’s treatment of everything China but it is part and parcel of all mainstream global media coverage. In what follows, I shall try to apply some of them to the war on Afghanistan in general and the August 15, 2021, Western military withdrawal from Afghanistan in particular – aware that it can only be hints without lots of documentary links. (The numbers below do not indicate priorities).

We are/were told…

1… that all this started on October 7, 2001.

It didn’t. The ”it” that started was not the violence but the conflict and that was all about the first Cold War between the US/NATO and Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact. Concerning Afghanistan, it began with Operation Cyclone in July 1979, four months before the Soviet invasion. It is one of the longest CIA operation having cost more than US$ 20 billion.

2… that the purpose of the war and occupation was to fight terrorism which had manifested itself in New York and Washington on ”9/11.

That was the pretext; however not one Afghan had participated in the terrible terror attack (which wasn’t a war by any definition) and should never have been misused to start the thousandfold more killing Global War On Terror (GWOT) still going on with exclusively counter-productive results (see later). George W. Bush refused to deliver documentation for the US assertion that 9/11 was masterminded by Osama bin Laden and, therefore, the Taliban refused to deliver him in exchange for such documentation.

3… that the installed government and the Afghan military forces cowardly ran away and there was no purpose in trying to fight for Afghanistan when its own government and military didn’t do it.

The simple fact is that the US spent US $ 86 billion on giving Afghanistan the wrong kind of military with which no one would have been able to win in what is fundamentally a rather low-tech guerilla war in a mountaineous environment. (Nothing learned since Vietnam).

4… that it wasn’t about nation-building but about eradicating the forces that hit the US on 9/11 and develop a national defence force to guarantee that Afghanistan would no longer serve as a base for terrorism that could reach the West.

On the contrary. It was, at the very least, about some nation-building and imposition of Western values. The US has promoted and increased militarism and terrorism worldwide instead of defeating it. In 2000, US State Department had about 400 people dying in global terrorism annually; according to the latest Global Terror Index, the figure today is 16.000, or 40 times higher. GWOT must simply be the most stupid war ever fought.

5… that improving the lot of Afghan women through e.g. education was a major – noble – motivation for the invasion and occupation.

Undoubtedly, over these 20 years of Western presence, millions of Afghan women have been educated and now see more opportunities. However, it is naive beyond the acceptable to believe that such a human rights motivation was central to US/NATO policies. Additionally, if you improve education – what’s the use if you do not do a lot of other things – which could have been done as US economist Jeffrey Sacs has eloquently stated.

Had the US done anything wise and good for the Afghan people, the Taliban would not have had a chance to come back. So, it can be argued, the US has fought the Taliban for 20 years only to make its return unavoidable. Had the US/West’s mission been predominantly civilian, respectful of Afghan culture and really about human rights – the military would have gone home at least 15 years ago and the rest been one huge foreign-assisted development project.

And a final observation on this: Western mainstream media’s only reference to George W. Bush – perhaps the largest contemporary non-convicted war criminal – is that the withdrawal was bad because he fears for the future of Afghanistan’s girls and women – one of the more shameful interviews brought by Deutsche Welle.

We were/are not told…

1… that 9/11 was a pretext rather than a cause. Neither what the real story of 9/11 was. Too much in the official account doesn’t make sense.

2… that Afghanistan’s geo-political position and its incredible reservoir of minerals was a much stronger motivator for the operation.

3… that the US fundamentally saw Afghanistan as a piece in a very large puzzle of the game at the time against the Soviet Union – and, more recently, against China. Remember Kissinger and Brzezinski? And the writings of Ahmed Rashid? And the role of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence ISI – there isn’t much it has not been involved in…

4… that the US has created (the preconditions for) and supported terrorist movements where and whenever it saw it fit be it the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS and, and the Muslim Uyghurs from Xinjiang – 5000 of them operating in Syria fighting with Western-supported terror groups mostly trained, equipped and financed by leading NATO members, Turkey in particular. They organisation, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, ETIM, has its exile government in – yes, of course – Washington. Former Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, already in 2017 told VOA that ISIS is a tool of the US..

5… that NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan, as in – say – Yugoslavia, is one huge violation of the letters and spirit of its North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 (and the UN Charter, Article 1 in particular) and that 9/11 was not a war and, therefore, the Treaty’s paragraph 5 should never have been activated and NATO should never have been in Afghanistan.

6… that there were alternatives to war on Afghanistan and that it would not take much intelligence to have shaped some kind of presence in and influence on the Afghan society in ways totally different from the militarist approach that would likely have yielded much better results today.

7… that the heroin element of it all has always been very important – among other reasons to finance CIA’s covert operations in and around Afghanistan.

8… that the US has operated in ways that could not but make Afghanistan one of the most corrupt places on earth and that the US gave up already in 2011 to do anything about it. And corruption here means both economic and in terms of the ”puppet” people (and CIA operatives) it appointed and relied upon, fleeing President Ashraf Ghani only being the latest.

9… that if you look at maps of oil and gas pipelines, a huge Great Game has been played for decades; one of the world’ leading analysts and commentators on this region, Pepe Escobar, has called Afghanistan “Pipelinestan” for a reason. .

10… that Afghanistan – and the withdrawal – may have a lot to do with the US’ China Cold War Agenda, CCWA ,and the Biden Administration’s Number 1 priority to destabilise, contain and demonise China and its Belt & Road Initiative, BRI.

11… that the US has learned nothing from its war fiascos since Vietnam and that, as Andy Mack stated it brilliantly as far back as 1975 that big countries lose small wars or wars in small countries mainly because over time the aggressor loses domestic cohesion and the war itself legitimacy. Afghanistan has always been ”the graveyard of empires” – it may well turn out to be the fate of the US Empire too, but Afghanistan won’t be in the future simply because after the demise of the US Empire, there will be nobody who is mad enough to impose its own system on the rest of the world or try once again a ”mission civilisatrice;”

12… that every and operation of this type fundamentally rests on racism or white ”cultural” superiority or as Norwegian philosopher, Harald Ofstad, has termed the same – our contempt for weakness quite similar to the values of Nazi-Germany. See his immensely important book, Our Conetmpt for Weakness (1989).

13… that the human and other costs of the war on Afghanistan and all the Global War On Terror, GWOT, are obscene and absurd and a major reason the United States is in decline and its empire will fall (which will lead to the breakdown of NATO); a very comprehensive  – and heart-breaking – documentation is found at the Costs of war Project at Brown University.

14… that, simply put, to fight terrorism by killing terrorists is as stupid and morally reprehensible as eradicating diseases by killing the patients; one must understand the much more comprehensive mechanisms by which a human being turns into a terrorist. But that is too sophisticated for an Empire which is/will be second-to-none only in military power and therefore has only one tool in its toolbox – a hammer.

In conclusion, with Afghanistan being yet another predictable fiasco, one must ask questions today such as:

  • How would it be possible to spend US$2,261 trillion, cause millions of deaths in the Middle East as well as 37- 50 million people’s displacement plus 7,000 US servicemen and 30,000 vetyeran suicides – the latter alone 10 times the number of people killed on September 11 – only to achieve nothing good and still be seen as a world leader? It won’t.

  • The Soviet Union wasted 7 years in the ”Graveyard of Empires,” and Gorbachev was smart enough to see that it was futile and morally wrong to be there. It took the US more than double that time and with a disastrous withdrawal chaos and suffering still going on at the time of writing. What fragmentation inside the US is this the consequence of? And how much stronger will that fragmentation become now inside the US – thanks to real issues and blame games in (Brain)washington and NATO? Is The US Empire survivable or will it be over in 4-5 years like the Soviet Union after Afghanistan? (Add this to the above 14 points of what is omitted from the media – and political debate and research).

  • Will the US try to be in Afghanistan in another way because the withdrawal also has to do with freeing resources for the new US China Cold War Agenda? And how will China, India, Pakistan, Iran and Russia handle this new situation?

  • Will Russia, Iran, India and, not the least, China the next 10-20 years handle Afghanistan in a fundamentally different way? (It would be easy to do better than the US). Will Afghanistan’s future as an important member of the BRI become something different from what it was and is at this moment?
    We are living in very interesting – and dangerous – times. And we will until the – new Evil – US Empire has sunk like Titanic and the US decides to pursue fundamental domestic structural changes, abolishes its Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex, MIMAC, and – thus – can again thrive as a normal and creative country that is a force for the global common good and not the common evil of the world.

It’s perfectly possible and those who can should lend the self-destructive US a helping hand before it is too late.