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What Can We Learn from Current Conflicts?

ALFAZ, Spain, Jul 4 2012 (IPS) - Conflict is a relation of incompatibility between parties and not an attribute of one party. Therefore the solution is a new relation. While conflict gives rise to the danger of violence, it also provides an opportunity to create new realities.

Four conflicts ­among many others­ are shaping our present reality.

First case: The United States vs Latin America-Caribbean. At the meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Cartagena, every one of the 32 member countries except the U.S. wanted Cuba readmitted to the body and called for the decriminalisation of marijuana. U.S. President Barack Obama vetoed both; the relation is a scandal, since overshadowed by a sex scandal involving members of Obama’s Secret Service.

Solution: The U.S. yields to democracy, accepts both initiatives with a review clause after five years, and welcomes CELAC ­the organisation of Latin American and Caribbean states without the U.S. and Canada ­with OAS as a meeting ground for equitable and amicable South-North relations. Washington would be embraced by CELAC and the whole world. And the world could continue its fight against the far more lethal tobacco.

Obstacles? A falling empire clinging to the past, its fear of looking weak, upcoming elections, and huge problems like a crisis economy and social disintegration described in Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” and Timothy Noah’s “The Great Divergence”. Backyard treatment of the U.S. backyard.

Second case: Israel vs Palestine. Since 1971 I have argued for a Middle East Community of Israel with its five Arab neighbours, with Palestine recognised and restoration of 1967 borders with certain exchanges: Israeli cantons on the West Bank and Palestinian cantons in northwest Israel. I have also advocated an Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in West Asia modelled on the European Economic Community (EEC) as of Jan. 1, 1958 and the OSCE since 1990. The result would be open borders, a council of ministers, and commissions for water, border patrols, and the economy; capitals in the two Jerusalems; and the right of return, with numbers to be discussed, as Arafat emphasised.

Problems: Some Israelis argue: “Surrounded by hostile Arabs we cannot let them in that close; they overpower us numerically and would push us into the sea”. Some Arabs complain: “The Jews penetrate us economically and run our economies”.

Answers: Decisions by consensus. The process should start slowly with a free flow of goods, persons, services and ideas; settlement and investment would come later. Build confidence. Change a relation that was badly broken by the naqba into a peaceful, evolving relation.

Third case: the risk of widespread American anti-Semitism that would use scapegoating to explain the decline of the U.S. and Israel. The two countries have failed to grasp solutions before their eyes, both lost in the past, one in glory, one in trauma.

Imagine the U.S. losing even more: the support its allies, the magic of being exceptional-invincible-indispensable, and the toppling of the dollar as world reserve currency as the country is torn between misery at the bottom and incredible riches at the top. This scenario could lead to blaming Wall Street, the Israel lobby, and American Jews in general. Minorities with formidable cultural and economic power but little political and military power have often been at risk.

To avoid this, constructive action is required, not simply issuing anti-Semitism certificates and making U.S. congressmen scared of questioning Israel, which jeopardises American democracy itself. The U.S. mainstream media must become more pluralistic, open to a range of discourses and solutions. Criticism of Israel and Wall Street is not enough; constructive solutions are needed.

Unfortunately, in U.S. mainstream media, constructive discussions are few. Hundreds of points can be made, like when Europe was emerging from the ruins of World War II. Instead of degrading and humiliating Germany, two brilliant Frenchmen invited it into the family. Let a thousand good ideas blossom! There is too much about the Cartagena sex scandal and too little about new ways of lifting the poorest in the U.S. to dignity and reducing the ever-increasing inequality devastating the U.S. economy.

Obstacles? Clinging to the past, vested interests, the war industry, and a blaming culture rather than a solution culture. But vast majorities should be able to prevail.

Fourth, related, case: debt bondage. China-Japan-European Union (EU) vs U.S.; and Germany vs Greece-Italy-Portugal-Spain-Ireland (GIPSI); the World Bank vs the Third World, as described in gruesome detail in John Perkins’ ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’.

I have mentioned that fabrication by the Russian secret police, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion ­a conspiracy revealed long ago. But condemnation is not enough, one must know what one talks about. The Protocols read like a textbook on how to get others into debt bondage, starting by making workers believe they could be better paid and how these “entitlements” can push a country into bondage. The first reaction to credit is a sigh of relief; the second is not knowing how to cut expenses or earn enough income to service the debt. The third is hatred mobilising old traumas ­ look at Greece and Germany.

Solution: debt forgiveness, the contracting of fewer debts, and the mobilisation of all internal resources to lift those at the bottom such that they have some buying power, rejuvenating the country with agricultural cooperatives and trade among GIPSI countries. The threat to the EU today is not only a single currency with no treasury ­much better would have been the euro as a common currency­ but a debt bondage gradient in what should be a more egalitarian community. This is the material out of which aggression is made. Both forgiveness and stimulus would be in Germany’s interest with regard to the EU periphery; the same holds for China relative to the U.S. (their arms budgets should also be significantly reduced), and to the World Bank in general.

Obstacles? Neoliberal market ideology and a failure to search for good ideas everywhere, for alternative economies.

Conclusion: Humanity has vast positive and negative experiences. We should all join and build on them, wherever they can be found. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

* Johan Galtung, a professor of Peace Studies, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University. He is author of many books on peace and related issues, including “50 Years – 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives”.

 
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