Peace and conflict illiteracy: The Russian-Turkish deal about Syria

Peace and conflict illiteracy: The Russian-Turkish deal about Syria

October 29, 2019

Interviewed by RT International

Among other things, I argue that the international so-called ‘community’ – there definitely is no such thing – is still regrettably simple, or primitive, when it comes to making peace.

Here two leaders meet and discuss affairs pertaining fundamentally to what shall happen on the territory of a third sovereign state which is not present. Their focus is on the means of violence – which have already been used and created the situation whereas there is no awareness, it seems, of how important it would have been to address the underlying conflicts.

Conflicts are the basic unit if you want to create peace – the violence mostly a symptom of conflicts – problems – un-resolved.

International law is violated in several ways – and has been the last 10-15 years when it comes to Syria. It started with the US deciding to go for regime change several years before the vioence broke out in Daraa – that everybody seems to believe was “when it all began”.

The entire mainstream media world reports about Syria without even mentioning that Turkey and all the terrorist groups it and its Western NATO allies plus Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have supported have no legal right to be there. Or that the US has no right to build bases there, deploy troops – or steal Syria’s oil. Or that there is no basis in international law for just-like-that establishing your own statelet/autonomous unit (Rojava) on a sovereign state’s territory.

Except for the last-mentioned violation, such policies used to be called aggression or illegal intervention.

The UN has been marginalised by NATO countries and the US in particular, since the days of the Balkan wars. The EU seems to never be able to get its acts together on anything important, or got scared by President Erdogan’s threat that if the EU criticised loudly his cross-border military intervention, he’d send a couple of million refugees its way. And the Arab League also don’t perform as a mediator – how could it with it ill-considered expulsion of Syria at an early stage?

International “community”? No, because if so at least these three would have done something for that community’s common good.

So the world is left with two – male – heads of state who have probably never read a book about conflict-analysis, conflict-resolution, mediation, nonviolence and that sort of thing – in these dark times, seemingly considered totally irrelevant.

Does any of them have a peace-making adviser? A national peace council? A ministry of peace with some expertise? Does their country have fully-fledged institutions that research peace issues and teach students with MAs and PhD programs in peace? If – tell me!

They pursue their traditional, geo-political national interests and the main tool in their toolbox is weapons. And, so, they make a deal – about the future of millions of people who are also not consulted but will have to bear the burdens of their deal.

The rest of the world, to the extent that it bothers, buys this whole procedure as a legal, productive way of making peace… Well, we’ve got a long way to go still.

I allow myself to predict that when we look at this ‘deal’ in ten years from now, we will – if we remember it at all – likely see it as futile, counterproductive and – why not? – as a demoralizing step backwards for the region and the world.

None of the underlying problems and conflicts in Turkey, in Syria and in their relations – nor these countries’ relation to the rest of the world – has been addressed.

Symptom treatment, in order words. It usually produces more violence – if not physical, then psychological. Some feel hurt, ignored and abandoned – and they will look for rational trauma-based revenge or become terrorists who can then – again, again, again – be fought with more “anti-terrorism”-terrorism producing means.

The perfect perpetuum mobile of violence and counter-violence.

If there were an international community and some basic knowledge – and the professional and financial resources and organisational set-up – peace would be made in completely different – professional – ways.

Peace-making illiteracy flourishes – which is bad enough in itself. The more of the militarist way of thinking, the less of the peace way of thinking.

Worse, however, since there are no professionals in peace-making with any influence on such processes, that sort of deal-making appears acceptable and natural in most people’s eyes, passes as peace-making and statesmanship. Well, perhaps not by those on the ground who pay the price.

The peace emperors of this world have no clothes.

And there are no small boys in the media – hardly anymore in the academic community – who can or dare, say it aloud.

You may say now that this is old hat. It is. International politics/relations, foreign policy and security policies were never about making the world a better, more peaceful place for all. It was always and first and foremost about national interests, geopolitics and satisfying the insatiable demands (no, not needs) of the MIMAC – Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex in virtually all countries.

October 22, 2019

7 Responses to "Peace and conflict illiteracy: The Russian-Turkish deal about Syria"

  1. Manuel Herranz Martín   October 30, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Dear Jan, I would like to share a thought with you and our colleges. If you want to use the law system to implement or as basis for peace you will be only late. One thing is that implementation will correspond only to the stronger, this is already unfair and should be unlawful. But worse, you will only cause double evil since you will punish a previous evil. Your problem is that you are avoiding seeing bad will, this is intention to harm others; your law only see innocent until proved otherwise, while our eyes are seeing everybody conspiring, offending, building up weapons systems with clear targets and fully occupied with strategies…It means that we put a band on our eyes, we are deceived, we keep silence, we mystify people, we lie we deceit, etc.
    However, if we, humans, unite, we will not work against ourselves and there will not be deception because we all be in charge.

    • JO   October 30, 2019 at 10:04 pm

      Dear Manuel – thanks for writing. We are talking about serious – very serious – issues. I am, frankly speaking, not sure that I understand more than the gist of your argument. I do not disagree with you that the system of laws in most cases favour the already strong – or might makes right. I am just wondering what you want to see instead – or want TFF and me to argue instead of what I say in this article.
      You see, I am so old … (!) … that I believe that international law – and the norms it’s built on over about 100 years – is not something to throw out before we have something better. While I am critical of much of the UN, I am a staunch believer in the norms embedded in its Charter (as well as the goals for humanity formulated in it).
      Could I ask you to tell me whether you disagree with that and what your alternative is, as you see it? And, secondly, who is the “we” or “us” in contrast to me?
      Finally, it is a wonderful, complete mistake of yours to believe that I do not see bad will and intentions to do harm. I’ve spent 40 years of my life in academia and on the ground in conflict zones to deal with exactly that. Best, Jan

      • Manuel Herranz Martín   October 31, 2019 at 9:04 am

        Dear Jan, thank you for your attention and patience. I wanted to participate in the Transnational dialogue some times before without success, but this time I could do it just by not entering our association web site By any reason the system does not accept it.

        Now, I am very glad to be able to expose my point. Indeed, the law system is the best we had in the a past where violence was unavoidable. The reason why there was not alternative is because the world and the people in it were unknown. But the good news is we have an alternative now which is human unity or inclusive decision taking made possible by globalization and full world communication.

        By inclusive decision taking we achieve two things, first that all our decisions only concern human integration, development, welfare and all in al benefit since entrepreneurship for harming under unity is absurd or it would not be inclusive, and, second, our main problem now (once the world is fully opened) is that entrepreneurship for harming, or bad will must be hidden, because, as Kant put it in the last chapter of the Perpetual Peace, a public bad will is self-defeating since it would put the other to the defensive or take the right measures. But world unity bring about transparency on every purpose and so we can use common sense. (instead of power or violence) because we all understand and can check every aim.

        Therefore, is calling for a world congress next year on human unity where resources for harming are redirected to common purpose or benefit

        I do not know if I can make it clearer now, but I stay at your disposal for detailing or clearing any part of it. Regarding “us”, “we”, “me”, is a way of talking, no more. It is nothing personal, I really understand and appreciate your good work those many years.

  2. Bente Petersen   October 30, 2019 at 9:52 am

    I disagree with Ian Oberg. The deal made between Putin and Erdogan that tokk 6 hours to agree on… is a big step forwards to achieve peace – lasting peace – in Syria. And is achieved due to years of work by Putin and his team.

  3. Alfred vierling   October 29, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    I shall abide by your rules. I am involved in trying to avoid the recently staged Dutch Kangeroo Court in casu MH-17 downing resulting in a final verdict blaming Russia for it, presumably in march 2020. I am totally supportive of your institute ever since the illegal NATO bombings on Yougoslavia. I regret that you miss the seriousness of my argument once again being infuriated by it instead. I wld understand an academic preference and limitative selection of topics, but not a Hineininterpretierung of ‘ phobia’ by a peace maker obviously not versed in psychiatry nor in relideology. Time will tell whether the peace process in the M-E as well as its retombéés into Europe can so easily be understood and solved without taking into account the very topic which you prefer to occult. You can rely on my promise not to raise it again but on your initiative.
    with kind regards
    drs alfred vierlong

  4. Alfred vierling   October 29, 2019 at 4:49 pm

    I totally agree with Mr Jan Oberg about the lack of conflict analysis, conflict-resulation, mediation, reconciliation, non-violence but this goes for all war-like conflicts. Oberg implies his institute has the skills and abilities needed. May be so, but he is not aware of it’s lack of trustfulness and reliability in that respect, at the background of its total state of denial concerning the fierce and ferocious reli-civil war going on just some kilometers from its residence Lund, namely in Malmö and many other Scandinavian cities fkr that matter, under siege of intruding afro-mohammedan masses. For these verociously bloody attacks on Scandinavian and European cities he has not offered but mere ideologically blinded eyes and vilifications of the very denouncers of these ‘racial’ conflicts, because he presumably considers them part of asymmetrical warfare.

    • JO   October 29, 2019 at 8:13 pm

      Alfred Vierling – you have now repeatedly ignored my very kind warnings and do it again today: TFF and I will not accept that you turn every your comment here into a commentary growing out of your personal obsession with Muslims coming to conquer Europe and, secondly, that we at TFF have compromised ourselves because we do not publish opinions about whatever happens in Malmö and/or Sweden. This concrete article is about the fraud peace-making which will have huge consequences for millions of already deeply suffering people living their lives (or trying to) in Syria, half a million dead and 5-6 millions turned into refugees or IDPs. In spite of that, you have the guts – again and again – to (mis)use such analyses for your own purposes, you own hobbyhorse which I would characterize as Islamophobia. This homepage is not a billboard for your opinions about anything else.
      You have never bothered to see what TFF is actually about, what our program is and what it is not. The issues you refer to is not on our program. That’s it, as simple as that.
      In conclusion – if we receive one more mail of this type, it will be taken down immediately. I am the editor and make such decisions. If, however, you want to comment – comment on and to the issue of an article, you are welcome. In this mild manner, it is now you who decide whether you will be blocked from writing here, or not. Best – Jan Oberg


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