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Human Needs, Humanitarian Intervention, Human Security and the War in Iraq



Johan Galtung

Director and Founder, TRANSCEND

TFF associate

February 25, 2004

Keynote, Sophia University/ICU, Tokyo, 14/12/2003; and Regional Studies Association, Tokyo, 10/01/2004


1. Human needs and the life expectancy of concepts and words

Concepts come and go; they do not stay around forever. "Human security" is in, "humanitarian intervention" is on its way out. This applies to science, to politics in general, and to world politics and the UN community in particular. The total human condition has many facets and they all have a justified claim on our attention. A human condition, like the plight of misery, stays on, but "poverty elimination" may retire from the front stage like "community development", "self-reliance", "new economic world order" did, and even "women in development" will do. Cruel, but such is the life cycle of concepts. Why?

In science there is Thomas Kuhn's[1] epistemological answer: because the paradigm underlying the concept has been exhausted. The paradigm has been squeezed for whatever it is worth, all permutations of sub-concepts have been explored, What is left are permutations, Kuhn's "puzzles", little new comes up. Time for a "scientific revolution", new concepts, new paradigms.

To this a sociological/political answer can be added: the old paradigm has probably become the entry card to power in the scientific establishment, with apprenticeship, assistantship, and patient work in some corner of the paradigm as stations on the way. And a younger generation may have wanted more rapid access to the top, identifying a quick bypass superior to the time tested techniques of challenging the person on the top through superior mastery of his own paradigm.[2] And that bypass was, and is, of course, a new paradigm, unknown to the top; a fresh paradigm with not only new answers, but new problems.[3]

Thus, there is a Kuhnian epistemology of cognitive fatigue leading to paradigm shifts. But there is also a Khaldunian[4] politics of new generations--or groups in general, like gender, classes, nations--crushing the gates, evicting the exhausted managers of exhausted paradigms, installing themselves, basking in the glory of the new insights and practices till their lights also gets dim and their claim to power is reduced to flawless repetition of their favorite deductions from old axioms, with old answers to old problems, incapable of new answers, let alone new problems. Outside the gates the rumblings of new concepts are already audible to those not deafened by dementia praecox.[5]

Thus, in the 1970s a highly successful paradigm under the heading of basic human needs (BHN) made its round through the members of the UN family. It came with basic human rights; not only the Universal Declaration of 10 December 1948 but also the Social, Economic and Cultural Covenant of 16 December 1966, yet to be ratified by the USA and closer to such basic needs as for food, clothing, housing, health and education. This author, as consultant to about a dozen members of the UN family was, and still is, dedicated to that paradigm and its efforts to establish the sine qua non, the non-negotiable conditions not only for a being, for life, but for a human being.

Intellectually the paradigm challenged the researcher to develop a theory of human needs,and a method to identify them. The present author's answer was to ask people of all kinds around the world, in a dialogue, what they cannot live without, giving survival, wellness, freedom and identity as answers.[6]

And politically the paradigm challenged politicians (in democracies we all are) to implement basic needs for all.

The basic needs paradigm has not been exhausted, neither intellectually, nor politically. Politically it placed the human being in the center of the State-Capital-Civil Society triangle of modernity. The State was often seen as a guarantor of survival, "security" in the narrow sense, and freedom; Capital as the supplier of goods, for wellness, for those who could afford the price demanded; and the Civil Society network of human associations and organizations, and local authorities, for all four, including the informal economy of non-monetized exchange and production for own consumption. The division of labor of these three pillars of modern society became, and still are, basic paradigm problems to explore, or hard nuts to crack.

According to this model the state, and also capital, had a strong competitor in civil society, the NGOs/NPOs, and the local authorities, LAs, municipalities. If people knew their basic needs and could have them satisfied locally, and/or through networks spun by themselves in an ever expanding and deepening global civil society, also leaning on traditional or even more ancient wisdom, then what happens to State and Capital?

Whether the state should be an actor in markets, let alone have the ultimate power over economic transactions, was a major 20th century controversy. The pendulum was ultimately swinging toward private capitalist monopoly, and away from public state-capitalist/socialist monopoly. But extremes are no good resting points. The middle, in media res, offers better pendular rest. But the basic needs/civil society orientation was not much interested in that ideology pendulum. Increasingly the demands on State and Capital became less Do-this/Do-that, and much more Don't-do-this/Don't do that. Do not stand in the way. Get out.

They did not like it. Capital hit back with globalization: borderless markets first for financial, then for the productive economies, destroying local markets and informal economies, even patenting old wisdom; monetizing the goods and services also for basic needs in a world with billions unable to pay the price.

And the State hit back with humanitarian intervention and human security, making the governments and the military the indispensable sine qua non for the sine qua non of security.

They had a very good argument, insufficiently explored by the human needs paradigm: state, government violence against its own citizens, protected by the doctrines of state sovereignty, and of state security. There was no need to use cases from the past. The 1990s witnessed state violence, even of a genocidal nature, in East Timor, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq. The solution was formulated in terms of counter-violence from the outside, in other words intervention, for humanitarian ends, in other words humanitarian intervention. And the problem was how to make "humanitarian" and "intervention" compatible.

Human needs, including the need to survive, are felt inside human beings, hence people-oriented. But human security is also state-oriented as only states can deliver that counter-violence. That state ultimate violence monopoly, the ultima ratio regis has been protected by consensus. Controversies have raged over how much, and which, means of violence should be available to the state, from the realist maximum to the pacifist minimum positions; and over how much control civil society must exercise over that state exercise of violence, from the fascist 0% to the democratic 100% positions. These two dimensions may well come to define much of the political spectrum of the 21st century.


2. Humanitarian Intervention = Humanitarianism + Intervention

There is a tradition of humanitarianism, expressed in an article by Jon M. Ebersole who played a key role in the "Mohonk Criteria for humanitarian assistance in complex emergencies"[7]. The five criteria, adapted by a broadly based conference[8], are

[1] Humanity: Human suffering should be addressed wherever it is found. The dignity and rights of all victims must be respected.

[2] Impartiality. Humanitarian assistance should be provided without discriminating as to ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political opinions, race or religion. Relief of the suffering of individuals must be guided solely by their needs, and priority must be given to the most urgent cases of distress.

[3] Neutrality. Humanitarian assistance should be provided without engaging in hostilities or taking sides in controversies of a political, religious or ideological nature.

[4] Independence. The independence of action by humanitarian agencies should not be infringed on or unduly influenced by political, military or other interests.

[5] Empowerment. Humanitarian assistance should strive to revitalize local institutions, enabling them to provide for the needs of the affected community. Humanitarian assistance should provide a solid first step on the continuum of emergency relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development.

This is the tradition of humanitarianism associated with NGOs such as the Red Cross,[9] but also with states, big and small, in nature-made and in man-made disasters. The Mohonk criteria mark a new phase, as did DMTP, the Disaster Management Training Programme of the United Nations Development Programme.

But we sense a gendering of the issue: the Mohonk criteria address suffering "wherever it is found". The trigger for action is a basic human need insulted, the need for physical well-being. According to Carol Gilligan[10] this compassion is more frequently found among women. Men tend to be steered by other and more abstract principles, more removed from basic needs.

An example: "one prominent American expert questioned some of the basic, time-honored principles which form the basis of humanitarian action", formulating a very male view:[11] "Impartiality and neutrality, when applied in cases such as Bosnia, can be counterproductive. For example, while giving Serbs humanitarian aid under the principle of neutrality, the United Nations has essentially legitimized the Serbs' claim that they, not the Bosnians, are victims. Furthermore, by providing the humanitarian assistance, they have freed the Serbs' resources, such as fuel and food, to supply their troops in forward areas. In many cases there are clear examples of right and wrong in international conflicts and in those the questions of impartiality and neutrality need to be examined much harder."

The abstract principles in this text are well known. "Serbs" enter as a general category, lumped together with no distinction between perpetrators and innocent victims-civilians-bystanders. From this position there is but a small step to a distinction between worthy and unworthy victims, internally displaced person (IDPs), refugees. General human compassion is absent.

Then, the tradition of interventionism. It has a bad name, reminiscent of the punitive expeditions by colonial powers in general, and the UK in particular, to punish the colonized and protect the settlers, and of numerous US military interventions (Iraq is No. 69 after the Second world war) to exercise control. Control=stopping violence=ending suffering="humanitarian"? But:

If intervention causes more suffering than it eliminates?

If intervention=war it is against UN charter 2(4), and must be mandated by the UN Security Council to meet internatinal law.

And, from the premise of "intervention to protect people from the violence of its own government" it does not follow that intervention has to be violent/military in general, and by the USA in particular. A very important variable in that connection is the military culture.[12] Consider this:

"In essence, US forces are imbued with the spirit of the offensive, characterized by an indomitable will to win and an aggressive determination to carry the battle to the enemy. The aim is to inflict on the enemy an early and decisive defeat. This spirit, while likely to produce battlefield success, is often at odds with instincts of political leaders, who may prefer a more graduated force application with diplomatic and other pressures."

"Peace monitoring, peacekeeping, disaster relief--nation assistance, counterdrug support, antiterrorism and noncombatant evacuation operations--while perhaps politically essential or morally desirable-often degrade combatant force readiness to perform their prime mission-warfighting, preparing for war."[13]

The contrast is clear[14]:

The European Approach: "[Peace Operations] are operations amongst the people.. If you're in your shirtsleeve and your weapon is down the side of your leg and you're no looking aggressive, then you have a calming effect...The more you seek to isolate yourself from the people, be it in your helmet and flak jacket, be it in your large four man vehicle patrol, the less you will be able to find the person or people who matter to you, among those people. (General Rupert Smith)

The U.S. Approach: "It's pretty simple. When you're under arms, you wear your combat kit. We insist on helmets in HUMVEES and trucks because it saves lives when there's an accident. The U.S. Army's philosophy on this is, 'Look, if you want us to go to the field and do peace enforcement, under arms, you get an organization with military discipline that's ready to respond to any kind of lethal threat. If you don't like that, send for the U.N'. (General Montgomery Meigs).[15]

This opens for the question of "what kind of military intervention". But that does not exhaust the intervention dimension. The TRANSCEND perspective, for instance, identifies a number of other components in an intervention:[16]

--operations could be improved by calling on expertise not only in the means of violence and the military mentality, but also in police skills, nonviolence skills and mediation skills.

Since women would tend to relate more to people than to hardware they could perhaps constitute 50% of the units. Moreover, the numbers should be vastly increased.

In short, a blue carpet of peace-keepers, not only blue helmets, so dense that there is little space left for fighting. And peacekeeping would then also include the 3 Rs: reconstruction, reconciliation and resolution; not waiting till the violence is "over".

If we eliminate military and police skills we come to the nonviolent pole of the dimension, with the US military ethos located at the other extreme. In spite of the many successes of nonviolence from the 1940s onwards[17] these are not skills governments are likely to use for intervention. They have no monopoly on them, and such skills can also be used against any abusive government engaged in direct or structural violence.

So we have a right-left spectrum of four modes of intervention: hard military (like USA), soft military (like Europe above), soft nonviolence (like TRANSCEND above), hard nonviolence (like Gandhi).[18] The best would be people's hard nonviolence from the inside. Doing nothing is not an option.

But there is a different approach embedded in the paradigm shift from security studies to peace studies. Security studies tend to solve problems of violence with counter-violence or the threat thereof. Nonviolence comes close in solving problems of illegitimate power with nonviolent counter-power. But peace studies tend to see violence as the consequence of untransformed conflict and dehumanization, and solutions in terms of conflict transformation and depolarization before violence gets started:

- by linking peace to conflict and its solution, like in "peace and conflict studies", not only to the absence of violence;

- by insisting on nonviolent and creative approaches to conflict solution, like in "peace by peaceful means";

- by applying this to conflicts at all levels, micro (within and between persons), meso (within societies), macro (between states and nations), and mega (between regions and civilizations); and

- by being an applied diagnosis/prognosis/therapy=peace practice science, using all relevant knowledge from all disciplines.

Peace studies would examine the goals of the parties in terms of their legitimacy, in the sense of compatibility with basic needs/rights for all, and try to bridge legitimate goals. With no priority to goals of the state paying the studies.[19]

Chamberlain's "peace in our time" is often invoked against peace movements etc. But Chamberlain in München used Nazi-Germany against the worse danger from a Tory point of view: the communist Soviet Union. "Russia, Russia" was the cry heard in Parliament in defense of his policy. Peace studies would have explored the goals of all parties, bridging the legitimate goals, resisting nonviolently the illegitimate. A not easy challenge.

3. Human Security = Human + Security

Thesis: Rwanda 1994 gave the option of doing nothing a bad name. The (very) soft military approach in Bosnia (Srebrenica) 1995 gave UN-led peace-keeping a bad name. The hard military US-led NATO war 1999 against Serbia to protect the Kosovars gave humanitarian assistance a bad name. But the succesful hard nonviolent approach against Milosevic fall 1999[20]--seen as illegitimate regardless of the truth about those elections--did not give nonviolence a good name, the approach being too extra-paradigmatic in a US-led world seeking military legitimacy.[21]

In short, time for a new concept. The UN Commission On Human Security (CHS), launched in June 2001, was co-chaired by the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata and Amartya Sen, holder of the Nobel prize in economic science[22]. The final report was presented to the UN Secretary-General on May 1 2003.[23] Some highlights from the important Report:

- The international community urgently needs a new paradigm of security--(the state) often fails to fulfill its security obligations-and at times has even become a source of threats to its own people--attention must now shift from the security of the state to the security of the people--to human security.

- (the Report is) a response to the threats of development reversed, to the threats of violence inflicted--that response cannot be effective if it comes fragmented-from those dealing with rights, those with security, those with humanitarian concerns and those with development;

- Human security complements state security, enhances human rights and strengthens human development.

- The CHS definition: to protect the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment.

- Human security complements "state security" in four respects:

o Its concern is individual and community rather than the state

o Menaces include /more than/ threats to state security

o The range of actors is expanded beyond the state alone

o Achieving human security includes--empowering people

- Human security helps identify gaps in the infrastructure of protection as well as ways to strengthen or improve it.

The operational part translates such ideas into ten points:

- Protecting people in violent conflict

- Protecting people from the proliferation of arms

- Supporting the human security of people on the move

- Establishing human security transition funds for post-conflict

- Encouraging fair trade and markets to benefit the poor

- Providing minimum living standards everywhere

- According high priority to universal access to basic health care

- Develop an efficient and equitable global system for patent rights

- Empowering all people with universal basic education

- Clarifying the need for a global human identity while respecting the freedom of individuals to have diverse identities and affiliations

Very much of what has been mentioned is in the basic human needs tradition, like the four needs-classes presented in section [1] above:

There is a focus on survival in terms of protection and security.

There is a focus on wellness in terms of basic health care, basic education and minimum living standards. Trade, market and patent rights are qualified by "fair", to "benefit the poor" and "equitable".

There is a focus on diverse identity, including global identity.

Freedom is missing from these points, but is all over the report, very much based on one of the leading intellectuals of our times, co-chair Amartya Sen, and his seminal book Development as Freedom.[24]

And most importantly: "the range of actors is expanded beyond the state alone", above all bringing in empowered individuals all over.

No doubt "human security" is a formula giving "human" to the basic needs approach, developing that approach further. Does it also give "security" to the state, as indicated in [1] above? And how?

The report legitimizes the word "security" by giving it the connotation "human". What then happens is beyond the pages of the report. We would expect the state system with its monopoly on the violent means of security to use this legitimation, justifying intervention inside other states in the name of "human security". And we would also expect some of them to use "security" in the broad sense as a cover for other goals, in the national interest tradition.

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4. The War In Iraq

Let us assume, however, that the only motive behind the US/UK war on Iraq that started March 20 2003 (Baghdad time) was human security, the protection of the Iraqi people against the Hussein-Ba'ath-Sunni regime. By May 1 the secular, state-capitalist, Ba'ath regime had been demolished and the power was in the hands of the USA/CPA-Coalition Provisional Authority. Nine months after the war started Saddam Hussein was a POW. Freedom? A success story?

Within the simplistic logic of Hussein-in-power vs Hussein-not-in-power, yes. But that logic hides two important questions[25]:

A: What were the total cost-benefits of the regime change? and,
B: Were there less costly alternative methods of regime change?

The argument is not against regime change, nor against regime change from the outside = intervention. The basic assumption of humanitarian intervention for human security logic is accepted. States are not sovereign. Humans are. Not only states need security. Humans do.

There is a rider, however, that one day may become significant. One day human security against violence by one's own government might also be interpreted to include the economic violence of shifting acquisitive power so much upwards in society that the bottom X% of the population is left with insufficient means to cover basic needs, even to the point of excessive morbidity and premature mortality.

This usually comes as structural violence due to unintended action, sustained by acts of omission. But it could also come as acts of commission, as direct violence, as war on the poor rather than as war on poverty, but by economic, not by military/secret police means. One day, later than some hope but earlier than some fear, economic violence may be included in the definition of genocide and become a reason to intervene to bring about regime change for human security.

The term "security" is often used in connection with the war in Iraq, early 2004, still in its second guerrilla phase. If "security" is defined, more traditionally, as low/zero probability of becoming a victim of violence, then Iraq certainly is a "security problem". A violent attack tends to trigger violent resistance, and battlefields, regardless of type of violence or who attacked, tend to be a security problem for all concerned, "them or us", military or civilian.

Of the 28 countries that had sent troops to Iraq as of December 8 2003, according to the Foreign Ministry of Japan,[26] 10 were listed as engaged in "security", under "main activities". The countries are United States, Britain, Albania, Bulgaria, El Salvador, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Ukraine. Since the security discourse tends to see the solution to violence in terms of counter-violence, "security" is essentially a euphemism for "combat". The outcome is uncertain, given Iraqi deep culture with a very long time perspective and courage, dignity and honor as or more important than winning.[27]

To assess the "cost-benefits in Iraqi human terms", since the humanitarian intervention was for their human security, we shall use basic human needs, BHN, as a benchmark. The possible justification of the intervention would depend on the outcome of comparing

Benefits: BHN level with intervention-BHN level without intervention

Costs: BHN costs of the intervention.

This comparison could then be carried out on an annual basis after March 20 2003 as some BHN benefits might be long term. However, in that case one might also have to adjust upwards the benefits without intervention, with the costs of deep UN inspection certifying the absence of weapons of mass destruction, a human rights regime, and the benefits of sanctions lifted. Most regime atrocities were in the past.[28]

The following is only indicative of ways of thinking, using the four BHN classews above. Data are very limited indeed.

[1] Survival. With security in the narrow sense of "risk of getting killed" reduced by the intervention, it stands to reason that Pentagon refuses to publish data about Iraqi, military or civilian, casualties, killed or wounded. There is talk about 10-15,000[29] so far, high for an intervention even in our era. The US casualties have passed 500, and are also made invisible because media are not given access to the body return if not in bags, in coffins; nor to burials. The ratio is indicative of the strategy of terrorism, state or privatized: keep the ratio of victims/perpetrators high by making the perpetrators unavailable for retaliation. Ratios in the 20-30 range are low relative to 3,000-3,100:19=158-163[30] for the 9/11 terrorist act, however.

If we expand the definition of the "war in Iraq" to cover the US/UK air raids in the periods after the First Iraq war in 1991 the number of victims, but not of the perpetrators, would increasemaking for higher ratios. And the war continues.

[2] Well-being. Destruction of housing and infrastructure brought about by battle, of orchards and farmland as reprisals against farmers suspected of cooperation with the resistance, unemployment rates cited as 70% in some regions and overcrowded hospitals are indicative of serious declines in the supply of such basic needs satisfiers as food, clothes, shelter, health care and education. That decline, relative to the high level of basic needs satisfaction in the oil-rich Ba'ath welfare state, had a pre-history in the war with Iran 1980-88, the First Iraq war and the economic sanctions and air raids thereafter. There are some benefits from the lifting of sanctions, however.

[3] Freedom. Consider this:[31]

On September 19 2003, Bremer enacted the now infamous Order 39. It announced that 200 Iraqi state companies would be privatized; decreed that foreign firms can retain 100% ownership of Iraqi banks, mines and factories; and allowed these firms to move 100% of their profits out of Iraq. The Economist declared the new rules a "capitalist dream".

The removal of a public sector, however inefficient, may have on the well-being, may benefit the top 30% but not the bottom 70%. Contravening the Geneva conventions, this is the kind of decision that can only be taken by the Iraqis themselves, not be imposed. This is well-prepared autocracy[32], not freedom. And the same tendency is witnessed in the postponement of direct elections, using the model (like the loya jirga in Afghanistan) of handpicked delegates to an assembly., not direct elections.

[4] Identity. Muslim Iraq was attacked by two Protestant permanent Security Council members opposed by the other three, one secular/Catholic, one secular/Orthodox and one Confucian. The attack started on one of the holiest sites of shia Islam, Karbala, even on the day, spring solstice 2003, when Hussein ibn Ali, Mohammed's grandson, was decapitated in the Sunni-Shia battle and became shia Islam's martyr.[33] The US command even referred to their attack as "decapitation", based on a hint as to where Saddam Husein, the head of Iraq, might be hiding.

In the wake of the US military came Christian fundamentalist missionaries[34] to convert, and political missionaries to impose a separation between church and state, the sacred and the secular, contrary to the Islamic faith that they are inseparable. There may be a road to democracy via the mosque and the ulema, but that was not the road traveled by the USA. Nor by Saddam Hussein.

No identity benefit, only heavy identity costs imposed by the intervention. General conclusion: neither security, nor human.


5. An alternative: Solving the conflicts in and around Iraq

Let us then look at Iraq from the angle of conflict, seen as shocks between goals, not necessarily between parties. The latter, violence, may follow when the conflict is not transformed so that the parties can handle it without violence. Confusing conflict with violence opens for a limited and limiting security discourse. From that point on there are four steps, as indicated above:

- identify the parties in the conflict

- identify their goals

- divide goals into legitimate and illegitimate, with BHN as guide

- try to bridge the legitimate goals.

Here is an eleven parties model of the conflict in and around Iraq, with three parties inside and eight outside, with the understanding that parties can be subdivided, and more be added.


Kurds, wanting

- independence, or at least very high level autonomy

- and Turkmen, wanting security, maybe autonomy from the Kurds

Sunni, wanting

- to rule Iraq from Baghdad

- with secular, socialist, welfare state features (ba'athism)

Shia, wanting

- an Islamic Republic, for Iraq, at least for themselves


USA, wanting direct/indirect control of Iraq from Baghdad for:

- geopolitical control of Gulf region also for Eurasia control[35]

- corporate economic control of oil, also for geopolitics[36]

- Judeo-Christian fundamentalism, also to protect Israel[37]

UK, wanting

- to settle old imperial accounts with Iraq

- special relation, to be chosen by the country chosen by God

Japan, wanting

- to "normalize Japan" by legitimizing Japanese military (SDF)

- special relation, to be chosen by the world's No. 1.

Australia, Spain etc., wanting

- US anti-terrorist assistance in return for participation

France, Germany, wanting

- EU as independent of the USA in foreign and security affairs

Turkey, wanting

- no Kurdish autonomy as a precedent for Kurds in Turkey

- protection for the Turkmen

Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, wanting

- not to be attacked by the USA

- good relations with the next Iraq

Saudi Arabia, wanting

- to survive, squeezed between Wahhabism and the USA[38]

11 parties, 19 goals is a simplification, but better than "the world against Saddam Hussein". "Eliminating WMD threat" and "Eliminating Al Qaeda bases" are pretexts intelligence services must have known were trumped up.[39] Saddam Hussein's autocracy was not trumped up, but was brought in too be credible as a genuine goal. Nonetheless, there is something genuine about democravy zand human rights, but not as a goal given the cooperation with Hussein. US strategy in Iraq is compatible with the three goals stated, their problem being that the control eludes them.[40]

The next problem is that of legitimacy: of the 18 goals, how many are legitimate using basic needs and basic rights as guides?

The Kurdish and Turkmen legitimacies flow from the right of self-determination, making the first Turkish goal illegitimate.

Any Sunni claim to rule all of Iraq, in which they form 21%, is illegitimate continuation of colonial rule. The political goals might possibly obtain democratic legitimacy in that part, however.

The Shia goal would also also require democratic legitimacy and could not be imposed, by majority rule, against human rights.

The US goals are illegitimate, unmandated by people in Iraq, the Gulf and Eurasia; a US mandate of course being insufficient.[41]

The UK goals reflect identity problems to be solved in UK.

The Japan identity problems can also only be solved in Japan.

The goals of Australia, Spain etc., like for UK and Japan, cannot be met in Iraq at the expense of the BHN of Iraqi people.

The French/German goals are legitimate if backed by the people. The goals of the countries bordering on Iraq are legitimate.

The Saudi goal reflects a social problem to be solved in Saudi.

Behind this reasoning about legitimacy there is a general moral injunction against satisfying own goals at the expense of others.

We are left with the legitimate goals of Kurds, Turkmen and the Shia, the French/German aspirations for the EU, of all border countries to escape unmolested. UK, Japan, Australia etc, and Saudi-Arabia have deep-rooted problems, but not solvable at the expense of invading and/or occupying Iraq. How do we bridge that?

By the European Union in general, and the leading powers France and Germany in particular, taking the initiative for a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Middle East, CSCME, modeled on the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, CSCE, 1972-75. One point on the agenda would be Iraq, another the Kurds.

Before the war this could have been added to the French/German proposal for continued UN inspection and human rights in Iraq, presented in the UN Security Council March 2003 as an alternative to Anglo-American belligerence.

After the war the idea of a CSCME is as relevant as ever. But economic boycott by individuals, and the international civil society in general, may have to be used to put pressure on the invading-occupying countries. The obvious target would be companies that "win Iraq contract" and share the "spoils of war" in this classical, colonialist war. As Arundhati Roy expresses it[42]:

"I suggest we choose by some means two of the major corporations that are benefiting from the destruction of Iraq. We could then list every project they are involved in. We could locate their office in every city and every country across the world. We could go after them. We could shut them down."

Byt why only "two of the major", meaning also why only USA?

To take Australia as an example this incclude Patrick Corp. (Baghdad Airport), SAGRIC (agriculture), Snowy Mountains Electricity Corp (electricity), GRM International (regulatory systems), Australian Wheat Board (oil for food) and the ANZ Bank (Iraq Trade Bank Consortium.[43]t For Spain it would mean Soluziona,[44] etc.

The solution for Iraq might be neither a unitary state as imposed by colonialism, based on the Mosul, Baghdad and the Basra parts of the Ottoman Empire, nor fragmentation in 18 provinces[45], nor--indeed--a division into three states.[46] The solution might be a federation with high autonomy for the Kurdish, Sunni and Shia parts, with a federal capital not in Baghdad. Kuwait, the 19th province before it was detached in 1899 as a protectorate under the British Empire, might like to be an independent, associated member, with a status similar to Liechtenstein relative to Switzerland. In such a federation a 61% Shia majority dictatorship is impossible.

The solution for the Kurds might be to stimulate similar autonomies in Syria, Turkey and Iran, and create a Kurdistan out of the four autonomies, without changing borders, and with a passport with the name Kurdistan, and then one of the four countries on it.

And the solution for the problem of Iraqi security might be for USA to withdraw like in Viêt Nam[47], stop threatening,[48] and for the Iraqis to invite an appropriate international protection force.

Realistic? Considerably more so than the current US exercise. With enormous basic needs costs, with the Mohonk criteria insulted, the USA is now giving "human security", the hard military option, and the fall-back doctrine of pre-emption a bad name. There was no clear and present danger of a mushroom cloud over Manhattan[49], no WMD, no Iraq-Al Qaeda link. But a dark cloud of responsibility is hovering over a the USA, allies, intelligence services and media quadrangle. The Hutton "inquiry" put the blame on the media/BBC.[50] The next inquiry focuses on CIA-FBI/MI6-MI5. But the project has already given the USA Empire itself, and those allies stupid enough to toe the US line, a bad, very bad name.

Alternatives? Basic needs+soft intervention+conflict resolution.



[1]. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd edition, Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

[2]. For a sociological theory of epistemology, invoking isomorphism between social structure and science (establishment) structure, and of both with theory structure, see Johan Galtung, "Social structure and science structure", in Methodology and Ideology, Copenhagen: Ejlers, 1977, Ch. 1, pp. 13-40.

[3]. There is also another approach for a younger generation on its way up: attack the dominant paradigm with no alternative paradigm in mind. And the vulgar version of this approach: attack the established holders of the old paradigm, with themselves in mind as alternatives. Where these approaches prevail academic life becomes as boring as negative politicking.

[4]. For one presentation of Ibn Khaldun's cyclical theory of macro-historical change, see Galtung, J and Inayatuallah, S eds., Macrohistory and Macrohistorians, New York: Praeger, 1997.

[5]. There is a broader interpretation of this. The West in general, white Anglo-saxons in particular and US elites even more in particular have now been repeating their twin mantras of electionism and neo-liberalism for the better part of two centuries. They are basking in the sun like the feudal lords in the high castles Ibn Khaldun has in mind. Who are knocking at the gates? The working class, told that whoever wants access to the club have to look like the members of the club, inside the Burg, the Bürger, the burghers, became bourgeois. The women are knocking, and are told those who will never look like men have to think, talk and act even more like them. Colored people are told the same. Even African Americans can rise to the very top as Secretary of State, as key advisor to the President in foreign affairs, as Supreme Court Justice, if they are only sufficiently conservative. The game has to be played according to the rules. Greens, environmentalists are more problematic: they reject the club paradigms.

Was 9/11 2001 a khaldunian knock on the gates of the US power elite? That depends on to what extent the "Bedouins at the gates" have an alternative paradigm. In general the new paradigm has to produce not only new questions and new answers, but also reproduce acceptable old and new answers to old questions. A hard task for young fundamentalist wahhabs to take on.

[6]. See the author's "Meeting Basic Needs: Peace and Development", The Royal Society Discussion Meeting on "The science of well-being - integrating neurobiology, psychology and social science", 19-20 November 2003, to be published in the proceedings.

Two approaches are indicated to identify needs:

- human physiology, particularly the openings of the body and what goes in and out, including impressions entering through eyes and ears, being processed, exiting as expressions through the mouth, body language, including writing (hence needs for impressions and expression); not only air, water, food entering through nose and mouth, then being digested and excreted (hence needs for air, water and food, and toilets; and for digestion (like the processing above).

- by asking people, in dialogues as the author did in about 50 countries what they cannot do without.

The four categories of needs summarize the findings.

[7]. Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 3 1995, pp. 14-24.

[8]. The meeting at Mohonk, NY, was the fourth in a series organized autumn 1993 by the Task Force on Ethical and Legal Issues in Humanitarian Assistance formed by the Programme on Humanitarian Assistance at the World Conference on Religion and Peace, an NGO. Broadly based in participation the criteria have often served as a point of reference, as is also done here.

[9]. That symbol, however, is ambiguous, associated with assistance to civilian victims, but also with military units assisting the perpetrators, the military themselves. To argue two different symbols in no way is to argue that military personnel should not also be relieved of their suffering.

[10]. Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development(Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1982)

[11]. Human Rights Quarterly, p. 15. Whether the view is predominantly male or predominantly American is a moot point; the two categories obviously do not exclude each other, but may reinforce each other.

[12]. I am indebted to Patrick Rechner of the Ministry of Defense in Ottawa for sensitizing me to this dimension.

[13]. Colonel Lloyd J. Matthews, "The Evolution of American Military Ideals", Military Review, January-February 1998, pp. 56-61.

[14]. From "A Force for Peace and Security: US and Allied Commanders' Views of the Military's Role in Peace Operations", Peace Through Law Education Fund, 2002.

[15]. This goes with the famous thesis of a Pentagon planner:

"The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe four our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing", quoted by Major Ralph Peters, Parameters, Summer 1997, pp. 4-14, US Army War College.

As George Bush says in Bob Woodward's Bush at War, "We will export death and violence to the four corners of the Earth in defense of our great nation".

[16]. See Conflict Transformation By Peaceful Means, Geneva: United Nations Development Programme, Disaster Management Training Programme, 1998.

[17]. For ten important cases, see Peace By Peaceful Means London: SAGE, 1996, Second printing 1998, chapter II.5 on nonviolence.

[18]. An alternative terminology:

hard military = peace enforcement

soft military = peacekeeping

soft noviolence = peace by peaceful means

hard noviolence = nonviolence

[19]. Governments have been generous in financing security studies, assuming that the conclusions will by and large be compatible with their own national interests. Peace studies were globalized before globalization came around as a concept, taking into account the world interest, the human interest (basic needs/rights), the nature interest - and national interests, in plural. Governmental funding has of course been stingy or absent, and more so the more the government wants military options, including intervention and war.

[20]. The problem with the student Otpor nonviolence is, of course, to what extent it is a genuine, spontaneous reaction of a part of the population, and to what extent it could be a deliberate effort by outside powers, like the US Embassy, to use nonviolence when their military effort to dislodge the Milosevic regime had failed. The Soros foundation financed an invitation to Otpor activists to Tbilisi, "teaching more than 1,000 Georgian students how to stage a bloodless revolution" (Daily Georgian Times, January 8, 2004). Obviously Shevardnadze was a "goner" who could no longer be used by the USA, a liability like the Shah and Marcos, and Mikhail Saakashvili, a US-trained lawyer, was in reality the only candidate.

[21]. If legitimacy for hard military intervention, also for other than humanitarian reasons, was the basic motivation, then the competitors to that approach would have to be eliminated. The hypothesis that there was no intervention in Rwanda (in spite of the intelligence available) precisely to give non-intervention a bad name, and no harder intervention in Srebrenica (in spite of the intelligence available) to give UN peacekeeping a bad name may sound conspiratorial. But if a major structure, like the US (and UK, and increasingly NATO) offensive war machine, very "hard military", is fighting to survive such strategies wold be expected.

[22]. Actually the prize of the centenary fund of the Swedish national bank, wrongly termed "Nobel prize" as it was not among Alfred Nobel's prizes.

[23]. The day the US president declared that the combat in Iraq was essentially over.

[24]. Also see the interview with Amartya Sen in SGI Quarterly, July 2003, pp. 3-5. He draws the attention to the "inescapable downturns" and "unanticipated declines", in any development or political process, that "the old idea of growth with equity does not provide an adequate guarantee security". To this one may of course comment that any process sets forces into motion which in turn will trigger counter-forces that may be stronger, making some downturns perhaps more inescapable than unanticipated, and less inescapable had they been anticipated.

[25]. Not to mention the rather obvious: with Saddam Hussein gone we would expect much more resistance, not necessarily violent, from the Kurds and the Shia according to the "USA has done its job, USA can leave" logic, as William Pfaff (The Japan Times, December 19 2003) and Paul Krugman (IHT, December 20-21) agree.

[26]. Japan Times, 10 January 2004.

[27]. This is where "regional studies, focusing on Iraq, more particularly on Arab culture (as different from, for instance, Kurdish culture) and even more particularly Bedouin culture is important in comparing cultures an other aspects of the region. The world is no longer cut out only for comparative studies. The regions interact, indeed, the world is relational, not only relative. In this particular case we are talking about the relation between Iraq and the USA, bringing in also US deep culture. And with so much of the killing being from long distance (missiles) or high up (bombs) the courage is reduced, and so are dignity and honor. In addition the time perspective is limited to what it takes for a war machine to manage military victory, after that the impatience becomes palpable and any other form of resistance is defined away as "terrorism". Hypothesis: the party with the longer time perspective, accumulating honor in the process, will win.

For that type of conclusion a regional perspective focusing on Iraq/Arab world/Islam only is misleading. At least two regional perspectives would be needed, and a study of their relation.

[28]. There is, of course, ambiguity surrounding the major recent atrocities. To the extent the Halabja massacre in connection with the war against Iran--a war instigated by the USA--had many Iraqi Kurds predictably fighting Baghdad, and to the extent the massacres of Kurds and Shia in connection with the 1991 war was encouraged by the USA to revolt against the regime but not effectively supported, the responsibility has to be shared. In no way justifying the atrocities, the explanation includes, but also goes beyond the Saddam Hussein regime. The Guardian (29 January 2004) "Saddam's worst atrocities when he was backed by the West".

[29]. Other estimates are as high as 30-35,000.

[30]. The figures for the Twin Tower/Pentagon atrocity tend to vary between 3,000 and 3,100.

[31]. Naomi Klein, The Guardian, November 7 2003.

[32]. Thus, the idea frequently heard in the US election debate that the occupation forces were insufficiently prepared for the aftermath of the war rings false. This is well thought through, is a big operation, and was implemented quickly.

[33]. I am indebted to Professor Hamid Mowlana for this point.

[34]. To understand better what this disrespect for Islam might mean the theological profile of the USA in general is useful.

In polls conducted September 2003 on the beliefs of the US people, 42% said "the Bible as the actual word of God", 69% felt "religion plays too small a role in most people's lives today", 92% believe in God, 85% in Heaven, 82% in Miracles, 78% in Angels, 74% in Hell, 71% in The Devil, 34% in UFOs, 34% in Ghosts, 29% in Astrology, 25% in Reincarnation and 24% in Witches (Chicago Tribune in cooperation with The Yomiuri Shimbun, January 3 2004). The profile of a premodern country, not yet seriously touched by the Enlightenment?

[35]. The geopolitics behind this is Mackinder's theory (1904) about the strengths and weaknesses of regions of the world, concluding that the Russian core and areas to the east contained the potential to become a world power. In 1919 this was revised to include Eastern Europe, and became known as Mackinder's Heartland Theory: "Who rules East Europe commamnds the heartland, who rules the heartland commands the World Island (Eurasia and Africa); and who rules the World Island commands the World". This theory has then been picked up by Zbigniew Brzezinski in "a modernized Mackinder heartland vision of a grand U.S. led anti-Russian coalition of Europe, Turkey, Iran and China as well as Central Asia" (Andre Gunder Frank, in "The 'Great Game' for Caspian Sea Oil", CENTRAL ASIA Online #109, November 25-December 1, 2000).

[36]. See Geoffrey Heard, Melbourne, "It's not about oil or Iraq; it's about the US and Europe going head-to-head on world economic dominance", <>. As to the central control, "the Kurds got word from Paul Bremer 3rd, the U.S administrator in Iraq, that the United States wanted them to give up their powers over security, oil resources an other matters and accede to the authority of the new Iraqi state that is about to be born", IHT, 10-11 January 2004.

[37]. We have not listed Israel and Palestine as parties, but the Israeli goal of security, like Palestine's, is of course legitimate. Israel-Palestine would obviously be the third major point on a CSCME agenda. For a vision of a six-country Middle East Community modeled on the European Community of the Treaty of Rome 1958, see

The US goal in this connection, however, is not only neo-con geopolitics for the Gulf region as defined in the famous PNAC document. There is also the fundamentalist position, "to ensure that Muslims and Islam are defeated so that the Biblical prophecy of a triumphant Israel" will herald the "return of the Messiah". Of course, when that happens, according to the evangelists' erroneous reading of the Bible, the Jews will also be converted to Christianity. What this means is that there is messianic zeal that drives a section of Christian evangelism as it forges an opportunistic link with a segment of right-wing political Zionism", Chandra Muzaffar, "Demonising the enemy", JUST, vol. 3 no. 11, November 2003, p. 4.

[38]. Saudi Arabia is ambiguous. Wahhabism, a fundamentalism, ascetic and nationalist, would set them on a collision course with economism, consumerist and globalist. The treaty of 1945 between the USA and Saudi Arabia was with the Royal House and also stipulated the duty of the USA to assist the Royal House in conflicts with its own people.

However, the Royal House is now divided against itself, as pointed out by Michael Scott Doran, :"Saudi Arabia, America's ally and enemy" (IHT, December 23, 2003):

"On the one hand, some Westernizers in the ruling class look to Europe and the United States as models of political development; on the other, a Wahhabi religious establishment holds up its interpretation of Islam's golden age and considers giving any voice to non-Wahhabis as idolatry. Saudi Arabia's most powerful figures have taken opposite sides in this debate: Crown Prince Abduallah tilts toward the liberal reformers, whereas his half-brother Prince Nayef, the interior minister, sides with the clerics.

[39]. See, for instance, "British officers knew on eve of war that Iraq had no WMDs", The Scotsman, 4 February 2004; "Iraqi who gave MI6 45-minute claim says it was untrue", The Guardian, 27 January 2004 and the very thoughtful article Kenneth Pollack, "How did we get it so wrong", The Guardian, 04 February 2004. Had there been WMD they knew about they would of course not have launched a massive ground attack across the Kuwait-Iraq border. A much better hypothesis is that they relied on the UNSCOM job and the testimony August 1995 of Hussein Kamal, Saddam's son-in-laW and head of Iraq's WMD programs (see Pollack, op.cit).

[40]. As is to be expected in a region with centuries of experience in fighting the Ottoman empire, 40 years in fighting the British (1918-58), and a very long time perspective.

[41]. The whole idea of the President of the USA having a "mandate" from the US people in foreign policies when millions of people, and dozens of peoples, are affected but have no say in the matter, e.g. no right to vote in US presidential elections, is pathetic, and a good indicator of how much democracy education is still needed. With all its shortcomings the UN Security Council is an effort to correct for that. A UN Peoples' Assembly of elected representatives for all over the world would be even better.

The same applies to the pre-Enlightenment, pre-modern idea of a divine mandate. For an analysis of how far Bush is on that line see Joan Didion, "Mr. Bush & the Divine", Thre New York Review of Books, November 6, 2003, pp. 81-86.

[42]. "The New American Century" at the World Social Forum in Mumbai January 2004,

[43]. The Australian, March 19 2004, "Worley wins Iraq contract; Spoils of war".

[44]. Der Spiegel, 4/2004, p. 97.

[45]. The current US policy, it seems, based on geography rather than culture, see the New York Times editorial in IHT 10-11 January 2004.

[46]. As proposed by Leslie Gelb, see the editorial in New York Times, November 25, 2003.

[47]. For analyses of similarities and differences, see Robert G. Kaiser, "Iraq isn't Vietnam, but they rhyme", The Japan Times, January 1 2004 (from Washington Post), and William Pfaff, "Bush is ignoring the political lesson of Vietnam", IHT, January 3-4 2004. For a report on US in Vietnam, see "Ex-G.I.'s tell of Vietnam brutality", IHT, December 30 2003.

[48]. To the extent neo-conservative political thinking serves a guide to US foreign policy, there may ge more to come. In their book An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror by Richard Perle and David Frum, the geopolitics of the Project for a New American Century, PNAC, seems to have been updated: - Tough action against France, "we should force European governments to choose between Paris and Washington";

- Britain's independence from Europe should be preserved, perhaps with open access for British arms to American defense markets;

- "tell the truth about Saudi Arabia, they fund al-Qa'eda and back terror-tainted Islamic organizations;

- the authoritarian rule of Syria's leader, Bashar Assad, should be ended by shutting oil supplies from Iraq and raids into Syria to hunt terrorists.

[49]. Condoleeza Rice.

[50]. "If it was happening in, say, Uzbekistan or Malaysia, it would be clearly seen for what it is - a sinister abrogation of press freedom by an authoritarian government intent on suprressing an important story" - Jake M. Lynch in a private communication.

© TFF & the author 2004  



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