Culture of Peace as the Alternative to Terrorism
Explaining the contradictions Page 13

Title/Summary page

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United States government
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European Union
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Islamic states
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Terrorist statements
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State terrorism
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Aerial bombardment
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Commercial mass media
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The contradictions
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Culture of war
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Explaining the contradictions
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Culture of Peace and Conclusion
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The contradictions of terrorism can best be understood through a culture of war analysis.

1. Enemy images: Each side demonizes the other, mobilizing its own people by appealing to fight against the other side. No attempt is made to understand the other. Bush says, "Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature" and Ben Laden calls Bush "the head of the world's infidels." In addition to the contradictions between East and West, there are also contradictions within the East, since, as noted, the Al Qaida forces have targeted moderate Arab states for overthrow.

2. Economic growth based on military supremacy and structural violence. Throughout recorded history the culture of peace has produced economic growth, at least in the short term analysis. As every historian tells us, the empires of Greece and Rome were built on war and slavery, and this has continued in recent history through colonialism and neo-colonialism. The fundamentalist Islamic terrorists associated with Ben Laden do not have the structures in place to sustain economic growth, and, in fact, they denounce the materialism of the West, but this could change if their forces succeed in their goal to take over some of the wealthy Middle Eastern states.

But there is a contradiction in the economic usefulness of militarism. In the long run, it can be a source of weakness rather than strength. For example, it can be shown that the collapse of the Soviet empire was the result of their over-reliance on military production. By the end of the empire, they could not provide such elementary goods as good boots to their citizens (all the boots were used for the military), let along consumer goods such as televisions and tape recorders (electronics priorities were for the military). They tried to match Western military production on the base of an economy only half as big. The balance of payments got worse year after year and eventually the economy collapsed. The political collapse was secondary to the economic collapse. There are signs of similar contradictions in today's American empire.

There is an even more fundamental contradiction in capitalist exploitation, as emphasized by Marx and his followers. The greater the exploitation, the greater the impoverishment of the workers, to the point that they can no longer serve as effective consumers. This is contradictory because capitalism cannot be maintained without consumption of its products. In this regards one of the most striking economic trends of our time is the increasing gap between rich and poor both within and between nations. The consequences for consumption are masked by massive debt, but debt also becomes a contradiction in the long run if it continues to increase.

3. Governance based on authoritarian structures of power. Europe and the United States criticize the authoritarian nature of their terrorist opponents, and they claim to be democratic, but there are problems in the nature of their democracy. Within the state, a monopoly of force is maintained in standing armies, national guards and national police forces which can always be called out in an emergency. I have called this the "internal culture of war," a topic that is frequently manifested but rarely discussed. For example, in 1995, I published in the Journal of Peace Research the figures for the United States where there were an average of 18 internal interventions involving 12,000 troops over the previous 120 years. Between the states, there is little pretence of democratic relations. For example, the European Union eliminated the following paragraph in the original draft Declaration on a Culture of Peace (A/53/370) apparently because it called for democratic principles in internationa relations: "Recognizing that the end of the cold war has opened new perspectives for international peace and security, and for furthering respect for human rights and democratic principles both in international relations and within nations."

The problem of authoritarian power can be masked for some time by economic growth, but as the experience of the Soviet Union shows, once the growth stops, popular support for the authoritarian regime also stops.

4. Inequality between men and women. The West correctly criticizes Al Qaida and other fundamentalist Islamic groups for their male domination, but the West is often hypocritical in this regard. The internal culture of war, mentioned above, which represents the ultimate power in most countries, including both the European Union and the United States, is characterized by male domination.

5. Secrecy and manipulation of information. Both sides are secretive, and both sides employ misinformation to attack the other. When secrecy masks errors and weaknesses (which is often its function), it undermines the capacity of a country (both government and people) to make the needed corrections. This contradiction was especially critical in the collapse of the Soviet empire.

6. Soldiers and weapons. Each side tries to overcome the other through the use of soldiers and weapons, including weapons of mass destruction. As described above, the emphasis by the Great Powers on denying nuclear weapons to countries of the South, while defending their own nuclear weapons and those of Israel is an especially strong contradiction, since this nuclear weapons constitutes the greatest terrorism of all. And ironically, as pointed out, nuclear weapons cannot even serve as a deterrent against non-state terrorists.

7. Elevation of the rights of the group above the rights of others as each side claims that God is on its side and against the others. In the last few years the contradiction in human rights has become evident in the United States with its use of torture, secret prisons and attacks on the civil rights of its own citizens in the name of fighting terrorism. In this regard, differences have also emerged between the United States and its allies in Europe.

8. Education which teaches that power is based on force and fear. The Islamic terrorists use the educational systems of the mosques to propagate its enemy image of the other side. The Christian and Jewish leaders of the West use the commercial mass media, as well as educational systems, churches and synagogues, to achieve the same result.

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