May 162022

The expression “international relations” can be the name of a field of study or research. It can also refer – unsurprisingly – to “international relations”.

I see that experts of “international relations” tend to be qualified as either “realist” or “liberal”. You will have to do your own research, but I have done mine and have reached the conclusion that the “liberal” school is at best pitifully naive. “At best,” I insist, and I mean “at best”.

Most nation states will prefer diplomacy (polite coercion) and cooperation to armed conflict, if for no other reason because the latter is costly. Just as most people don’t take each other to court, even if they have “a good case”, because no matter how sure they are of the legal basis for their claims, they can never be sure that “justice will prevail”.

Some “nation states” call the shots more than others in international organisations. Take even the Security Council with its “permanent members”, who have veto powers: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; three Western countries against two non-western. Almost like the sharply bipartisan US Supreme Court. Except that the veto power means that the Security Council is pretty well paralysed. Were it not for the veto, the West would have its way in every case. You might think that would be a good thing, but if you are not a reasonably wealthy person in a reasonably wealthy state, you might not.

We are human, after all. Our species has many lovely traits, but also some that are less loveable. Take for instance our tendency to abominate those who are different (colour, religion, outlook, sex, whatever.) When I went to upper secondary school, the school’s very best student was kicked out because he refused to cut his hair. “Quite a few years ago”, you may say, and you may think we have changed since then. Changed, yes, but at all times, and in every place, there will always be abomination. India, a country I learned to revere as the home of Ghandi, as the cradle, as it were, of non-violence, has turned into an extremely violent place. Even Sri Lanka …

When people are desperately hungry, they don’t always act nobly. When people are desperate, period, goodness knows what they will do.

I’m sure you are familiar with “group dynamics”, in workplaces, for instance. Maybe you are a student. Maybe you have a child at school. Whoever you are, I’m sure that you know, in your heart of hearts, of people who were not included, not invited, not welcome. Maybe you yourself were excluded, treated overbearingly or even hectored. Or maybe you yourself were a bully. In the US, they are so ahead of us that they even have school shootings, more often than not perpetrated by people who have not been included, invited or welcomed.

That’s us, you see. Homo sapiens. We can be very kind. We can also be anything but.
“But,” you say, “cooperating nation states will not stoop to the level of vile individuals!”

  • What did the West do with its Covid vaccines? Did we or did we not share them with, say Africa?
  • There is a terrible famine in Africa now. Far worse than ever before. And it’s due to climate change! What are we doing about that? Huh?

And by the way, a resolution to combat “glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” was adopted by the UN in 2021 against two votes. Guess whose votes they were. See for yourself, finding the N preceding the names of only two countries.

Now all this was just an introduction. My real agenda is to suggest a lecture held in 2015 by John Mearsheimer. John Mearsheimer is currently a favourite hate object for the press. He was and is still however, a prominent expert on international relations, a so-called “realist”. I think that we should have paid more attention to what he said back then.

Seven years after he held that lecture, we have a war on our hands and it’s too late to prevent it and probably also too late to stop it (because wars follow their own perverse dynamic. Remember, we’re humans, i.e. not entirely rational.)

  • A lot of people on both sides have died and will continue to die. Died! Like lost their lives (sometimes slowly and painfully) – leaving broken hearts, widows and orphans…
  • Innumerable homes and livelihoods in Ukraine will be gone.
  • Innumerable people in the US and Europe will sink into poverty or deeper poverty.
  • A handful of people will grow fantastically much richer, and I bet that you and I won’t be among them.
  • We are told that the war will lead to food shortages over the entire planet.
  • Meanwhile, the entire planet is facing a monumental existential challenge: Climate change.

Mind you, this war is not going to end any time soon. Will it have been worth it? If so, why?

  • Because we hate Putin?
  • Because we believe in “freedom”?

What is freedom? For whom? From whom? How and at what cost?
Now that I think about it, though, ultimate freedom is death, so I guess, yes, this war is a step in the direction of ultimate freedom for all.

Apr 302022

I’m standing by a window on the top floor of a hospital in a village just outside the capital. In my hand, a cup of steaming, near-undrinkable hospital coffee, but in my ears, ear-buds. I’m taking a five-minute break from work, shutting out all but the sight of softly rolling fields – green at last – trimmed with darker green coniferous forest, and the sound of indigo – Mood Indigo. Spring has come and I just simply love the chromatic twists of Duke Ellington’s piece.

The harmonies are a wee bit lewd, I muse, taking an unwilling sip of the horrid coffee, as something breaks up a house on the outskirts of the village, and black smoke rises. I tear out my ear-buds and hear a blast as another house is blown to bits, flames and black smoke, and another and another, closer and closer to the hospital where I am staring petrified from a window on the top floor.

Relax! It was just a dream, a horrible dream.

But my dream refused to end! Hour after hour, it seemed, it hounded me into the bleak grey hours preceding daybreak. That was when I finally woke up and walked through the nightmare, pretending to be my own psychoanalyst: There was, for instance, the scene where we were in the over-crowded bomb shelters under the hospital. Even the patients’ beds were jam-packed. Black, foul-smelling smoke was pouring in through the great iron door that muscular men were trying to shut against the pressure from innumerable beds and patients and nurses on the other side – the outside! – where they were being enveloped in poisonous smoke.

Mind you, the thick iron doors are real enough. They date back to the Cuba crisis. Over the years, hospital employees hurrying through the long subterranean corridors will absent-mindedly have wondered why they are there. Now, once again, they make sense.

My psychoanalyst, i.e. me, tells me that I am terrified they will once again be needed, and that now, bomb shelters from the fifties cannot possibly accommodate the current population.

Once again, we are witnessing a stand-off between powers. Back then, in 1962, somebody – possibly on both sides – had a bit of sense, and WWIII was averted. Will it be averted this time?

Some politicians – again on both sides – have very big egos and are keening to demonstrate their mettle. In the West, they are often referred to as “hawks” or “hardliners” or “neocons”, men more often than not, obsessed with the idea of being noticed, yea, adulated. In the US, having preened themselves they make sure to gain the attention of TV cameras in front of which they strut like turkeys.

What, I wonder, are they called in the East?

In the West, we don’t see Russian turkeys, unless we consider Putin one. He has after all been depicted in the press with a bare torso. (You would never see Biden with a bare torso! On the other hand, you would never hear Putin speaking like a neocon). Maybe would-be Russian turkeys are being suppressed. There is, of course, also the possibility that Russians don’t admire human turkeys as much as we do in the West. Maybe they admire subtlety and irony. In fact, I happen to know that Russians are masters of irony.

How about honesty? Putin is a liar, no doubt about it. He said he would not invade Ukraine, and see what happened!

Mr Putin, henceforward nobody will ever, ever, ever believe a word you say. That card, that of your word, is one that you will never again be able to play. Not that politicians in the West don’t lie. “I never had sex with…” And what about the famous “weapons of mass destruction” for which an entire country had to be destroyed. But those liars got voted out of power. They went. They all go, one after the other; all the western strongmen (and they all lie) go, but you, Mr Putin, you are staying, having imprisoned your opponents. Now, however, you have played a card you could not afford to play. You lied demonstrably to an entire world that will not forget, far less forgive. Mendacity is not generally tolerated, Mr Putin.

Now “the Russians” are destroying a whole country. Much good it will do them, with Finland and Sweden joining NATO and a cold war – more like an ice age – freezing all of Europe. Oh, I’m pretty sure Russia will survive. Less sure that Europe will, not to mention Ukraine.

If it comes to being bad, every trick in the book will be used by both Western turkeys and Eastern masters of mendacity.

So who is good? Who is bad? It seems so obvious now, but who produces what evidence in what court? Above all: Who is the judge?

Meanwhile people are being killed absurdly on both sides. “Poof! You’re out!”

For years, I’ve been following the Catalan issue. Catalonians and Spaniards have diametrically opposed understandings of Catalan history, just as the Ukrainians and Russians have different understandings of Ukrainian history. In 2017, Catalonia seceded, and the Spanish central authorities demonstrated that Franco’s spirit is still alive and well. (The Franco regime’s crimes against humanity have never been prosecuted in Spain.) A civil war seemed more than possible. Fortunately, a change of government in Spain enabled genuine and constructive dialogue. The issue is not solved, not least since “patriotic” Spanish voters tend to be furiously opposed to compromise, but I put it to you that genuine constructive dialogue is better than civil war.

NATO never offered genuine constructive dialogue. After Russia’s very unfortunate reaction to NATO’s pigheadedness, the West has stomped into this issue with heavy military boots, pouring arms into Ukraine, inviting Ukrainians to exterminate themselves and their country, solely in order to debilitate Russia.

All I can say, by way of conclusion is this: Hey you guys on both sides, history will be your judge, so pull your fucking socks up!

Jan 212022

Let us take stock of NATOs fiefdoms in Europe. The map (right) shows the extent of NATO in Europe in 1990: (source: Wikipedia as at 20 Jan. 2022): Since the organisation’s foundation in 1949, only four states had joined: West Germany, Greece and Turkey (in 1952) and Spain (in 1982 after the end of the Fascist dictatorship).

The light blue patch denotes that Germany was being unified and that what had been East Germany would soon be included in NATO. East Germany’s inclusion was the source of negotiations between the Soviet Union and Western powers.

Since then — only 30 years ago — the outcome of these negotiations appears to have been “forgotten” by the Western powers. Agreements were reached in 1989 through 1991, that the Western powers subsequently failed to honour.

As a Norwegian, I am particularly pained and humiliated by the abject lies told by my former Prime Minister, the current dangerously silly secretary general of NATO. See for yourself in the National Security Archive that the Western powers pledged that NATO would not expand “one inch” eastwards.

Now this is the extent of NATO in 2020:
(source: Wikipedia as at 20 Jan. 1922):

See a difference?

All the former European Warsaw pact states have been joyously welcomed into NATO. Well, not all: Moldova is not a member, and Belarus is Dictator Putin’s plaything.)

And then there is, of course, Ukraine.

Now I am sure that most of us agree that Mr Putin is as much of a psychopath as President el-Sisi of Egypt and the handsome prince of Saudi Arabia and whoever is in charge in Israel at any given moment, currently Benny Ganz, all three of whom systematically and continuously commit crimes against humanity.

But NATO does not go to war on Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Israel, far from it! These three countries are NATO allies. So please let us agree on one point:

NATO is absolutely indifferent about human rights.
NATO cares only about “realpolitik” (as defined in Wikipedia as at 20 Jan. 1922):

… politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of given circumstances and factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral and ethical premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism. It is often simply referred to as “pragmatism” in politics, e.g. “pursuing pragmatic policies”. The term Realpolitik is sometimes used pejoratively to imply politics that are perceived as coercive, amoral, or Machiavellian.

So I ask you:
If you were Russian, living in Russia, and your president told you that “our country is surrounded by NATO and risks being attacked”, and you looked at the two above maps, what would you think of NATO? …. a NATO that is now literally hugging all your European borders except that of Sweden, Finland and Ukraine, a NATO that is now determined to include even Ukraine.
Would you consider NATO expansion “peaceful”?

And I ask you also:
If you were Russian, living in Russia, and you looked at the two above maps, would you oppose your president? … a president who, admittedly, uses all “necessary” means to suppress serious resistance to his regime, but who is determined to uphold Russia’s honour.
Or would you gladly defend your country against NATO?

Please remember that Russians love their country just as much as you love yours.

Now, I put to you that the current secretary general of NATO is not a smart player, is not even vaguely a statesman. He is merely a puppet of the Pentagon (i.e. US military industry) and is, probably unwittingly (poor man), acting as a warmonger.

Analogy: A kid is surrounded by bullies telling him to lie down on the ground, or else!
Now if that kid happens to have a switch-blade in his pocket, he might actually fight back, and maybe his friends (China, Iran and other outcasts) will come to his rescue and the outcome will be extremely bloody.

I don’t like kids with switch-blades anymore than you do. But I think we have to rethink foreign relations. Silliness should certainly not determine the fate of any country’s population.

In a recent substack post by Glenn Greenwald about the unholy alliance between “war hungry” neocons and the Democratic Party, I find a quote from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations:

In great empires the people who live in the capital, and in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them, scarce any inconveniency from the war; but enjoy, at their ease, the amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own fleets and armies. To them this amusement compensates the small difference between the taxes which they pay on account of the war, and those which they had been accustomed to pay in time of peace. They are commonly dissatisfied with the return of peace, which puts an end to their amusement, and to a thousand visionary hopes of conquest and national glory from a longer continuance of the war.

Now that’s silly for you.!

Reality is this:
(Copied from the New York Times, photo by Diego Ibarra Sanchez)