The founder of peace and conflict studies, Dr. Johan Galtung, discusses his predictions of the US Empire collapsing and becoming a dictatorship, before eventually rebuilding its democracy.
About Johan Galtung
Johan Galtung, dr, dr hc mult, a professor of peace studies, was born in 1930 in Oslo, Norway. He is a mathematician, sociologist, political scientist and the founder of the discipline of peace studies. He founded the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (1959), the world’s first academic research center focused on peace studies, as well as the influential Journal of Peace Research (1964). He has helped found dozens of other peace centers around the world. He is currently the president of the Galtung-Institut for Peace Theory & Peace Practice.
He has served as a professor for peace studies at universities all over the world, including Columbia (New York), Oslo, Berlin, Belgrade, Paris, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Sichuan, Ritsumeikan (Japan), Princeton, Hawai’i, Tromsoe, Bern, Alicante (Spain) and dozens of others on all continents. He has taught thousands of individuals and motivated them to dedicate their lives to the promotion of peace and the satisfaction of basic human needs.
He has mediated in over 150 conflicts between states, nations, religions, civilizations, communities, and persons since 1957. His contributions to peace theory and practice include conceptualization of peace-building, conflict mediation, reconciliation, nonviolence, theory of structural violence, theorizing about negative vs. positive peace, peace education and peace journalism. Prof. Galtung’s unique imprint on the study of conflict and peace stems from a combination of systematic scientific inquiry and a Gandhian ethics of peaceful means and harmony. [spoiler]
Johan Galtung has conducted a great deal of research in many fields and made original contributions not only to peace studies but also, among others, human rights, basic needs, development strategies, a world economy that sustains life, macro-history, theory of civilizations, federalism, globalization, theory of discourse, social pathologies, deep culture, peace and religions, social science methodology, sociology, ecology, future studies.
He is author or co-author of more than 1600 articles and over 160 books on peace and related issues, including Peace By Peaceful Means (1996), Macrohistory and Macrohistorians (with Sohail Inayatullah, 1997), Conflict Transformation By Peaceful Means (1998), Johan uten land (autobiography, 2000), Transcend & Transform: An Introduction to Conflict Work (2004, in 25 languages), 50 Years – 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives (2008), Democracy – Peace – Development (with Paul Scott, 2008), 50 Years – 25 Intellectual Landscapes Explored (2008), Globalizing God (with Graeme MacQueen, 2008), The Fall of the US Empire – And Then What (2009), Peace Business (with Jack Santa Barbara and Fred Dubee, 2009), A Theory of Conflict (2010), A Theory of Development (2010), Reporting Conflict: New Directions in Peace Journalism (with Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick, 2010), Korea: The Twisting Roads to Unification (with Jae-Bong Lee, 2011), Reconciliation (with Joanna Santa Barbara and Diane Perlman, 2012), Peace Mathematics (with Dietrich Fischer, 2012), Peace Economics (2012), A Theory of Civilization (forthcoming 2013), and A Theory of Peace (forthcoming 2013). In 2008, he founded the TRANSCEND University Press. 36 of his books have been translated into 33 languages, for a total of 134 book translations.
He is the weekly editorialist for TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS, which features solutions-oriented peace journalism.
He is founder (in 2000) and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University, the world’s first online Peace Studies University. He is also the founder and director of TRANSCEND International, a global non‑profit network for Peace, Development and the Environment, founded in 1993, with over 500 members in more than 70 countries around the world. As a testimony to his legacy, peace studies are now taught and researched at over 500 universities across the globe and some are contributing to peacemaking efforts in conflicts around the world wihtout buying into the securitization sell out.
He was jailed in Norway for six months at age 24 as a Conscientious Objector to serving in the military, after having done 12 months of civilian service, the same time as those doing military service. He agreed to serve an extra 6 months if he could work for peace, but that was refused. In jail he wrote his first book, Gandhi’s Political Ethics, together with his mentor, Arne Naess.
As a recipient of over a dozen honorary doctorates and professorships and many other distinctions, including a Right Livelihood Award (also known as Alternative Nobel Peace Prize), Johan Galtung remains committed to the study and promotion of peace. [/spoiler]
We are speaking with the renowned founder of Peace and Conflict Studies, Dr. Johan Galtung, author of countless publications, conflict mediator, founder of Transcend International, and the Galtung Institute, consultant to governments, the UN, and so much more.
I’d like to cover two central themes today. First, the fall of the US empire and its consequences, either a blossoming republic or a catastrophe as you say, and second, what global issues you consider the most pressing today and what suggestions you have to resolve these conflicts.
In 1980, you successfully predicted the fall of the Soviet Union, which you said would happen in 1990. You used six indicators to do this, and then in recent years, you doubled those indicators to twelve and applied them in analyzing the fall of the other superpower, the USA. You brought up the subject in an article recently on Transcend Media, citing an essay by Nafeez Ahmed and a new Pentagon study which seemed to further confirm your findings that Empire America is approaching its final death throes. Even renowned researcher Alfred McCoy has published a book that will be out soon on the same theme. He has set 2030 as the Empire’s time marker for passing. You recently revised your prediction for the collapse, from 2025 to 2020. Is this the most important event of our time, and can you unpack the key points and implications of the empires and for us and help us understand what is about to happen? [spoiler]
Well, let us first be very clear about the terms here. You see, the other person you quoted, I think he gets it wrong. An “empire” means that you have a client state that does the job for you, and when I predicted the decline and fall of the US empire, I did not predict the decline and fall of US violence. I did not predict the decline and fall of the United States of America. I predicted that we would do the killing for the United States, because the empire would collapse.
Now, the situation is the following. You may have noticed that in Bratislava, November 6th last year, they had a big discussion about this in the European Union countries. What they said, again and again and again, was, “We are no longer going to fight the wars of the United States.” That was a very clear statement, and that is the kind of thing I’m looking for.
However, there are some countries that are still, and still have been fighting wars of the United States, more particularly three countries. United Kingdom, Denmark, and Norway. Denmark and Norway were rewarded by the United States for fighting in Libya by being appointed Secretary General of NATO one after the other. The present one is a former Norwegian Prime Minister.
Why United Kingdom, Denmark and Norway? Well you see here you have to look into history. I could say immediately, because they’re Evangelical Protestant countries like the United States, but I’m not saying that these are religious wars. I’m just saying that being Evangelical Protestants, the United States, England, with the famous Anglican Church from which very many people came to United States, Norway and Denmark, being that they have something in common, some kind of loyalty, solidarity, and the countries that refuse to fight US wars, the Catholic countries, and Orthodox countries. You see, we are not saying that this is religious. I’m only saying that old ties of solidarity play an enormous role.
If I then predicted a decline and fall of the United States Empire by 2020, one might say, “We are today 2017 and we are into the month of September, so Johan Galtung, about your prediction. You said before 2020.” Yes, I stand by that one, but I think the three countries I mentioned, United Kingdom, Denmark, and Norway, will distance themselves from United States killing, and that it’s already happening, and of course it’s particularly easy to distance oneself when the president of the United States is a clinically insane person, Donald Trump.
Clinically insane, suffering from throughout his autism, living in his own little bubble and deriding this so-called foreign policy from his bubble. In other words, I stand by my prediction, but it’s a little bit more complicated than the person you quoted. I think he got almost everything wrong, and I prefer to forget about it.
In your research, you say you were inspired by analyzing the fall of the Roman Empire. Could we say that Trump is not a cause, but a symptom of the end, a degenerating face of the empirical cycle?
He’s a part of it. He’s a part of it, but what is collapsing now is more than the United States empire. What is collapsing right now is the United States of America itself. But that was not my prediction. I did not predict that they would elect a clinically unsane person as president. There’s an American term for it. They call it “unleveled,” one whose mind is unleveled. Well, it’s a very polite term for it. I say “clinically insane,” autism, suffering from advanced autism, that means lack of reciprocity. Living in your own bubble and not being sensitive to what happens around you.
Of course he is sensitive. He is paranoid, so he is sensitive to negative noises, and he lashes out against them. At the same time, he is very clearly narcissistic, with much too high thoughts about himself. Narcissism plus paranoia is the precise nature of the psychosis, but he’s a part of the package, and as you very well put it, he’s not a cause. He’s a symptom.
Where do you see the US going in the next few years? Could you give us some indicators of how things might unfold or what might occur with the economy or the society?
Well you see, history is a good guide. In 1898, the Spanish Empire collapsed, and the United States moved into the gaps left by the Spanish Empires. Now the US empire is collapsing and moving into the gaps left by the United States influence, particularly China, India, economically speaking. Chindia, they are often called, and there are other countries too. Islamic countries play an increasing role in very many regards.
But, you can then ask the question, “What happened to Spain?” Well Spain became fascist. The fall was in 1898, [inaudible] immediately, as a dictatorship, and it lasted 70 years. Franco was the last one. He died in November ’75, and there was a short interlude of so-called Second Republic, which [inaudible] in Spanish history, so if I now should say, “Maybe this is going to happen to United States too,” in other words, we will get a dictatorship, to establish “law and order” as dictators always say, and many will argue it is already there. But it is not [inaudible] course. It is the dictator.
It is more run by a combination of Pentagon and Wall Street. In other words, by top generals and top billionaires. Top actors in the Wall Street conglomerate, and how they are organized among themselves, I think would be interesting to know. I don’t know. I think very few people know it, [inaudible].
Looking at say Afghanistan, you said earlier that the US obviously should and perhaps would withdraw from Afghanistan. It seems they are reinforcing their commitment to stay, and attempting a classical imperial military overstretch. What can you say of the recent Afghan policy statements?
Overstretch. That’s not a good analysis. How about simply understanding what Afghanistan is about? You see, in my profession as a mediator, I take direct contact with the parties concerned. I sit with generals, two-star generals from Pentagon. I sit with people high up in State Department. I sit with people in a place in Afghanistan, and in front of me are three leading Taliban. What does a mediator say? What is my question?
I have a very simple question. It’s the same question all the time. What does the Afghanistan look like that you would like to live in? What does the Middle East look like? What does a marriage look like that you would like to be a party to? And so on. In other words, I just ask them to spell out their wishes, their goals, their possible future. Now it would be interesting, if anybody is listening to this in Washington are able to guess what the Taliban said.
The Taliban said the following. “Eliminate the Durand Line.” Durand, D-U-R-A-N-D.
“Eliminate it immediately.”
Now since I’m into history, and since this is my profession, I of course knew what that was. It was the line drawn by a British imperialist in 1893 to make a border between what was then the British Empire, today it’s called Pakistan, but part of it, and Afghanistan. That guy decided to draw a line 4,000 kilometers, 2,500 miles long, and he drew it according to some principle he was very proud of. The line cut the biggest nation in the world without a state, the Pashtun, in two parts.
Now today there are 50 million, and they live, many of them I Afghanistan, many of them in Pakistan, and to them Pakistan, and to them that line is a complete crime. It cuts them in two. That line was drawn in 1893, and it is quite obvious that when I asked them “What does the Afghanistan look like that you would like to live in,” they said immediately, “Eliminate the Durand Line. Open border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Let us move back and forth in what was our old “stan” or old where we used to live. It’s not a question for also seeking refuge in Pakistan. Pakistan, we live partly there, we live partly in Afghanistan. Let us continue with that.”
And out of today’s Pakistan and Afghanistan, you might make some kind of, shall we say communicate, and if I should spin more on that, I would say “Yes. A Central Asian community, and maybe not only Pakistan and Afghanistan, maybe you would like to add Iran too, and maybe you would like to add the five other stans, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and so on. Maybe you would like to add all of that. Suddenly you have a Central Asian community of about 12 million … Excuse me. Let me be careful. 12 million people and enormous area. Excuse me, 12,000 square kilometers and I think 20 million people.
Now, this is a big one, and interesting. I’m not quite sure that India or China that are neighbors would be very happy about it, but that’s their right to establish a community and to do away with the borders that were drawn by others. Many of these borders, [inaudible], are drawn by the former Soviet Union. The 1893 Durand one is what we have to eliminate. Instead of that, the United States is now building palisades high, high up in the sky and deep, deep down to prevent tunnels from being digged, and will make the situation even worse.
Another term perhaps for what you just described could be the new Silk Road, and on the news we keep hearing about this new Cold War with the US targeting Russia and China, do you think there’s a chance for real escalation towards thermonuclear war? Is the Pentagon preparing a genuine offensive on the Eurasian heartland and the maritime rimlands of China? Do you see this escalating?
Personally, I don’t think we will get that far. I don’t think it … It’s too risky for all the parties. They are in a certain sense deterring each other.
The North Korean has, it seems, been able to dig 19,000 caves insides their mountains. That’s where they are hiding all their weaponry. Very many of these caves and also others, although not necessarily in the mountains, will serve as a refuge for the people. It’s not that they are not aware that they are in a dangerous position, mind you, when other states have been bombing Pyongyang to pieces before. They did that and they could do it again. It’s only that this time, North Korea is much, much better prepared.
With all this highly credible, it so-calls the artillery aimed at Seoul. That artillery is also inside the mountains, and it seems that it can, if really launched, kill eight million people very quickly.
Seoul knows that this is not going to happen. But Seoul is also at the same time, South Korea, really worried about United States provocations, and those provocations are partly the weapons shield that they are building to catch possible Chinese missiles, and partly the so-called Twin Spirit exercises, right off North Korea’s coast, practicing invasion of North Korea. Just right outside.
That has been going on every year. It’s going on right now. And it’s an enormous provocation to North Korea. Russia and China have asked them to dampen it, to abolish it, to postpone it. But US doesn’t listen to anything. US is a unilateralist country, and the horrible thing about it is that they don’t want negotiation, because negotiation has something to do with equals, and it indicates that you respect the other or third party, so they’re taken seriously. United States is unilateralist. Exception. United States tells others what to do, and if you don’t do it you will suffer the consequences.
And now they’re up against China doesn’t obey that. Russia doesn’t do it. And what must be even more vexing for them, a small country called North Korea doesn’t do it. We’re dealing with you could say 19 million inhabitants with a small country, and that country is now at the level of United States when it comes to the verbal escalation and de facto escalation, with different types of weaponry and so on.
All that story we know, it’s out in the open. But I don’t think we will get a war. Sooner or later, one of them has to make some kind of move, and I don’t think it will be United States. If you want my prediction, it will be South Korea. It may also be South Korea and Japan. It may be Japan’s prime minister is ambivalent about it. On the other hand there is an alliance shoulder to shoulder as I call it with the United States of America fighting. On the other hand we know it perfectly well, where in the world Japan is located? It’s in East Asia. It is not off California.
Ultimately, after all is said and done, would you say the way things will go is that these new Silk Road countries that you mentioned, that in a few decades that will be the center of global economy and culture and politics which may include South Korea and Japan?
China will be important, but also be aware of China’s weaknesses. It’s an aging population. That’s one problem they have. Another problem is that they have a very complicated way of doing those things. I call it the both-and approach. You know, they do so many both-ands. They are both doing growth and distribution, where you will see that the West is trying to focus on both, which now it does badly, and very bad at distribution, with rising inequality. We have rising inequality in China, but you also have lifting the bottom up. Both inequality and lifting the bottom up. Now I have a long list of these both-ands for China, and may be too complicated even for the Chinese.
It may also be that they’re incurring debt, because they’re focusing less on export problems and more on internal changes, very much on lifting lagging villages up. The president, Xi Jinping is very much insisting on that, and at the same time turning into a Buddhist religious position. It has escaped the rest to a large extent, but Xi is a very believing Buddhist, and that’s also escaped Western attention, by putting, however much they see him as a politician they don’t approach, is at the same time are deeply believers in Orthodox Christianity. So we have this interesting thing. Or a kind of secular pagan leadership, very much by money and by arms in Washington, where you sense nothing religious, no kind of Christian “Love your neighbor alike yourself,” and things of that kind. Nothing of that. You have nothing to waste. That works as it’s own failure often as spiritual and Christian, and at the same time you have two deeply religious leaders in the most competitive countries, China and Russia. It’s a new world, [inaudible]. A very different one.
You see, when I say the US empire is going down, I have emphasized, I’m not saying that they’re stopping killing, but they have to do the killing themselves. The first who started doing that, who understood that “I had to do the killing myself,” was Obama. But Obama didn’t talk about it. He killed, and the way he killed was little bit by drones, and the Western media focused on that.
Much more important was snipers. Sending shooters who could kill a person at a range of one kilometer, wearing long, long rifles, and they travel by ordinary airplanes, and the rifles are of course called “for hunting.” Well, they were hunting people that the local CIA had designated as anti-American. And they killed a lot, a lot, a lot. “We travel a lot these days,” the lieutenant general in charge of it said in a famous interview.
Obama did all of that, but he didn’t talk much about it. If I then should say about Trump, he talks an enormous amount, but he hasn’t done much killing. He has done some, and we sense it in Yemen and Somalia. In the Sudan, we sense it. And there could be more, but not so much as Iran. Obama is reputed to have done the type of killing that I mentioned in 134 countries without asking any permission from the governments concerned, just sending the snipers who had long “hunting” rifles.
We just have a minute or two left, and can you leave us with any final thoughts or any other prognostication or prediction you might have for the future world order, and any other final thought?
You see, out of all of this, and you may be surprised to hear me say it, I think the world as a whole is actually moving in a quite good direction. We have, practically speaking, no wars between states. That’s already something. Wars between states were outlawed in 1928. They came up with their own treaty, but that is not maybe the major reason.
I think the major reason that the states are afraid of each other, and the military don’t like to fight in other states when they can do something else. They can kill civilians. They can sit up in a plane at 14,000 feet, or as they say 4,000 meters, and they can just push a button. And they can send a rain of bombs on innocent civilians where there may be a couple of militias among them. They can do what we read about all the time, killing wedding parties.
You know in the old days, if you go back in history, the condition for taking somebody’s life in a war was that you put yourself at risk. You put your own life at risk. In other words, you risk. You had courage. You entered warfare with courage, putting your own life at risk. These people sitting up at 14,000 feet are cowards. Just simply cowards. They’re killing people without the slightest chance of retaliating. They don’t have anti-aircraft missiles. They don’t have anything of that, and they’re just killing killing killing, these cowards. And they should be known as such. They shouldn’t be called even military, they should just be called cowards. Should be the technical term for it. I have contempt, disgust, for these people.
How can I then nevertheless say that things are moving where it’s one country, the United States of America, and I think it’s coming to an end? I think Trump is making a caricature of the United States of America that the US itself will reject, but I don’t think the future inside the US is good.
I predict a fascist dictatorship, but I don’t think we will be killing. Like the fascist dictatorship that came out of the Spanish fallen empire, we can kill anybody that we want. We can just, well, we can say there was the element of Guernica, but that was [inaudible] Spain, but by and large it was a civil war that took place by its civilians, which is a staunch oppression, and internal war.
So it’s that kind of future I see for the US, and I see gradually, slowly, US democratizing again. Coming back to democracy and coming back to finding a reasonable place in the world as a part of Anglo-America in the northern part of the Americas, in dialogue with Latin America. Anglo-America versus Latin America, and Latin America reasonably united. First of all rejecting US imperialism was done by Fidel Castro when he started [inaudible]. Secondly, coming together. And that was done by Hugo Chavez, also when they started [inaudible].
US has done their very best, or worst, to try to negate what Castro and Chavez were doing. They won’t succeed, and it will be in Anglo-America’s interest simply to sit down somewhere and have a balanced, nice dialogue about the best relations between Anglo-America and Latin America. Latin America will cross into the Caribbean, which is a very complex part of the world, but it is possible, and I think one should remember that Latin America/Caribbean has 35 countries all together, 35 states. There is only one of them that can be said to be very much tied to Anglo-America, and not to US but to Canada, and that is Trinidad, Tobago. Between Trinidad and Canada there is a very close relationship. But otherwise, the relationship could be improved, and it would improve greatly if Anglo-America is willing to face Latin America together. ELAC as they call it, Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribe.
Well, we are not yet quite there, but that is an optimistic vision of the future, and the United States finds its place as one state among others, a big one, an important one, a fantastically innovative one, and it plays one of its best cards, and the best card from the United States is not military, not economic, not political. It’s cultural.
The United States is THE cultural power shaping the world more than any other culture. Not even the British Council has been able to spread English with an English accent. United States America does that by its pop culture, its popular culture, it’s basic English, the English of a 10 to 12 years old, according to the British English, but it has become the world dominant culture. The world dominant culture is US.
And US has reason to be proud of it and say, “If you are dominating the world culture, isn’t that already quite a lot? And it might be that you yourself would benefit from trying to understand the Hindu message, the Buddhist message, the Japanese message, the Chinese messages,” and so on and so forth.
Well, I think we are heading for the multipolar world, and I think we are doing it to a large extent, but United States has to be tamed or tame itself. And Israel has to be tamed or tame itself, and it looks like that is what’s happening right now, to be [inaudible].
Dr. Galtung, we thank you so much for your time, and we wish you the best in your continued work and your efforts at Transcend Media and at your Galtung Institute.
Thank you so much indeed for the interview, and be sure, I’ll continue. Thank you. [/spoiler]
*Podcast intro music is from the song “The Queens Jig” by “Musicke & Mirth” from their album “Music for Two Lyra Viols”: https://musicke-mirth.de/en/recordings.html (available on iTunes or Amazon)