Sunday, April 30, 2006

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)

John Kenneth Galbraith, OC , Ph.D , LL.D (October 15, 1908 – April 29, 2006) was one of the most influential American economists of the twentieth-century. He was a Keynesian and an institutionalist, a leading proponent of political liberalism and progressive values with a gift for writing accessible, popular books on economic topics.
The Canadian-born author of four dozen books and over one thousand articles taught at Harvard University from 1934 to 1939, and then returned to the school in 1948[1]. His book, The Affluent Society (1958), which became a bestseller, outlines how post-World War II America was becoming wealthy in the private sector but remained poor in the public sector, lacking social and physical infrastructure, and perpetuating income disparities.
Galbraith served in the administrations of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson. In 1961, Kennedy appointed him ambassador to India, where he served until 1963.
He called war "the decisive human failure." He eventually broke with President Lyndon B. Johnson over the war in Vietnam, and he opposed the war in Iraq as indicated in the exerpts from his last major book below.

A cloud over civilisation
Corporate power is the driving force behind US foreign policy - and the slaughter in Iraq

JK Galbraith
Thursday July 15, 2004
The Guardian

At the end of the second world war, I was the director for overall effects of the United States strategic bombing survey - Usbus, as it was known. I led a large professional economic staff in assessment of the industrial and military effects of the bombing of Germany. The strategic bombing of German industry, transportation and cities, was gravely disappointing. Attacks on factories that made such seemingly crucial components as ball bearings, and even attacks on aircraft plants, were sadly useless. With plant and machinery relocation and more determined management, fighter aircraft production actually increased in early 1944 after major bombing. In the cities, the random cruelty and death inflicted from the sky had no appreciable effect on war production or the war.These findings were vigorously resisted by the Allied armed services - especially, needless to say, the air command, even though they were the work of the most capable scholars and were supported by German industry officials and impeccable German statistics, as well as by the director of German arms production, Albert Speer. All our conclusions were cast aside. The air command's public and academic allies united to arrest my appointment to a Harvard professorship and succeeded in doing so for a year. Nor is this all. The greatest military misadventure in American history until Iraq was the war in Vietnam. When I was sent there on a fact-finding mission in the early 60s, I had a full view of the military dominance of foreign policy, a dominance that has now extended to the replacement of the presumed civilian authority. In India, where I was ambassador, in Washington, where I had access to President Kennedy, and in Saigon, I developed a strongly negative view of the conflict. Later, I encouraged the anti-war campaign of Eugene McCarthy in 1968. His candidacy was first announced in our house in Cambridge.
At this time the military establishment in Washington was in support of the war. Indeed, it was taken for granted that both the armed services and the weapons industries should accept and endorse hostilities - Dwight Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex".
In 2003, close to half the total US government discretionary expenditure was used for military purposes. A large part was for weapons procurement or development. Nuclear-powered submarines run to billions of dollars, individual planes to tens of millions each.
Such expenditure is not the result of detached analysis. From the relevant industrial firms come proposed designs for new weapons, and to them are awarded production and profit. In an impressive flow of influence and command, the weapons industry accords valued employment, management pay and profit in its political constituency, and indirectly it is a treasured source of political funds. The gratitude and the promise of political help go to Washington and to the defence budget. And to foreign policy or, as in Vietnam and Iraq, to war. That the private sector moves to a dominant public-sector role is apparent.
None will doubt that the modern corporation is a dominant force in the present-day economy. Once in the US there were capitalists. Steel by Carnegie, oil by Rockefeller, tobacco by Duke, railroads variously and often incompetently controlled by the moneyed few. In its market position and political influence, modern corporate management, unlike the capitalist, has public acceptance. A dominant role in the military establishment, in public finance and the environment is assumed. Other public authority is also taken for granted. Adverse social flaws and their effect do, however, require attention.
One, as just observed, is the way the corporate power has shaped the public purpose to its own needs. It ordains that social success is more automobiles, more television sets, a greater volume of all other consumer goods - and more lethal weaponry. Negative social effects - pollution, destruction of the landscape, the unprotected health of the citizenry, the threat of military action and death - do not count as such.
The corporate appropriation of public initiative and authority is unpleasantly visible in its effect on the environment, and dangerous as regards military and foreign policy. Wars are a major threat to civilised existence, and a corporate commitment to weapons procurement and use nurtures this threat. It accords legitimacy, and even heroic virtue, to devastation and death.
Power in the modern great corporation belongs to the management. The board of directors is an amiable entity, meeting with self-approval but fully subordinate to the real power of the managers. The relationship resembles that of an honorary degree recipient to a member of a university faculty.
The myths of investor authority, the ritual meetings of directors and the annual stockholder meeting persist, but no mentally viable observer of the modern corporation can escape the reality. Corporate power lies with management - a bureaucracy in control of its task and its compensation. Rewards can verge on larceny. On frequent recent occasions, it has been referred to as the corporate scandal.
As the corporate interest moves to power in what was the public sector, it serves the corporate interest. It is most clearly evident in the largest such movement, that of nominally private firms into the defence establishment. From this comes a primary influence on the military budget, on foreign policy, military commitment and, ultimately, military action. War. Although this is a normal and expected use of money and its power, the full effect is disguised by almost all conventional expression.
Given its authority in the modern corporation it was natural that management would extend its role to politics and to government. Once there was the public reach of capitalism; now it is that of corporate management. In the US, corporate managers are in close alliance with the president, the vice-president and the secretary of defence. Major corporate figures are also in senior positions elsewhere in the federal government; one came from the bankrupt and thieving Enron to preside over the army.
Defence and weapons development are motivating forces in foreign policy. For some years, there has also been recognised corporate control of the Treasury. And of environmental policy.
We cherish the progress in civilisation since biblical times and long before. But there is a needed and, indeed, accepted qualification. The US and Britain are in the bitter aftermath of a war in Iraq. We are accepting programmed death for the young and random slaughter for men and women of all ages. So it was in the first and second world wars, and is still so in Iraq. Civilised life, as it is called, is a great white tower celebrating human achievements, but at the top there is permanently a large black cloud. Human progress dominated by unimaginable cruelty and death.
Civilisation has made great strides over the centuries in science, healthcare, the arts and most, if not all, economic well-being. But it has also given a privileged position to the development of weapons and the threat and reality of war. Mass slaughter has become the ultimate civilised achievement.
The facts of war are inescapable - death and random cruelty, suspension of civilised values, a disordered aftermath. Thus the human condition and prospect as now supremely evident. The economic and social problems here described can, with thought and action, be addressed. So they have already been. War remains the decisive human failure.
This is an edited extract from The Economics of Innocent Fraud: Truth for Our Time, by JK Galbraith, published by Allen Lane, 2004.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Peace Strategies Focused on Understanding

It seems to me that there is a rather limited number of approaches that are taken to the issue of how to bring about or maintain peace. Some approaches focus on the understanding as a means toward peace, while others take a more practical approach, e.g., conflict resolution, military forces used as “peace keepers”, reconciliation, etc.. Of course, the understanding also plays a role in the practical approaches, too. Even the military enforcement of peace is designed, in part, to get potentially warring factions to understand that continuation of hostilities will not lead to desirable consequences. However, the focus of what I am calling “practical approaches” is not on the understanding, per se, but on behavior and relationships, or on the ways in which different groups of people interact.
I do not mean to suggest that approaches toward peace that focus on understanding are not realistic or that they are impractical. To the contrary, it seems to me that understanding is a key to the achievement of lasting peace. Approaches toward peace that focus on understanding may be divided into several varieties, according to the sort of understanding thought to be effective toward bringing about or maintaining peace.

Moral Understanding. A large number of thinkers have argued that peace is to be won through moral understanding. War is wrong, it is argued, either absolutely or in specified conditions. When people understand this, and also that the conditions that would make war wrong obtain, they will refrain from war.

Religious Understanding. Often it is argued on religious grounds that war, either generally or in some cases, is wrong. So, according to Catholic just war theory, a war is wrong if it lacks an appropriate causis belli. Sometimes pacifists take a particularly strong position of this sort, that is, that pacifism has no justification except a religious one, and that without the religious justification, there is no reason not to engage in war when this seems politically advantageous. So, religious understanding is held to be an effective preventative of war generally, or of wars meeting certain conditions. In all of these cases, however, the religious understanding that is held to inhibit war (or some wars) is an understanding that God condemns war (or some wars). It is the desire to conform to the commands of God that should then motivate peace. Another sort of religious understanding related to mysticism has also been held to promote peace. It is held that when one empties the self of petty desires (Buddhism) or fills oneself with the love of Christ (Christianity), for example, enmity is replaced by love. An absence of passion or a universal love can motivate peace.

Political Understanding. There are also a variety of views according to which a certain sort of political understanding can prevent war. The sort of political understanding in question can be pragmatic or ideological. For example of a pragmatic argument, one could argue that a proper understanding of political relations in the modern world will show that the political aims for which wars are fought are more effectively achieved by other means. Such arguments could be made generally against all wars, or particularly against a specific war or against wars meeting certain conditions. As an example of an ideological argument, consider the position taken by socialists against the world wars and militarism because they viewed war as against the interests of the working classes.

Psychological Understanding. Sometimes it is held that an understanding of other people who are potential enemies will prevent war against them. Armies have often instituted rules against fraternization with the enemy because of the belief that friendly relations would make psychological impediments to warfare. Peace advocates have also advocated friendly relations among people who are potentially enemies as a means of reducing the risk of war. Some have also held that aggressive tendencies are caused by a certain psychological temperament, and that peace is to be achieved by creating conditions in which such temperament is mollified. Others have held that wars take place because those who call for war do not understand the horrors of war. Sometimes it is held that if we understood what motivates others to war against us, we could prevent war through negotiation.

Historical Understanding. Sometimes it is claimed that if people understood how futile wars have proven to be through history, no one would engage in war. Some have held that if both sides knew what the outcome of a war would be there would never be any war, because one of the sides would know that the outcome would be defeat and would therefore not engage in war, and there can be no war unless both sides engage in combat. The argument is fallacious, but here I’m not trying to evaluate the arguments, just compile a list of ways in which people have thought that understanding can bring peace.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam

What follows are excerpts from the introduction to
Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice
edited by
Abdul Aziz Said, Nathan C. Funk, and Ayse S. Kadayifci
Center for Global Peace, American University
Washington, D.C., University Press of America, 2001


In the field of peace and conflict resolution studies, Western scholars have identified a diversity of praxeological styles, or paradigms, in which theory meets the challenges of practice, and practice provides information whereby theory is reconstructed. Advocates of power politics attempt to secure peace by augmenting the capability of their states to use and resist coercion; protagonists of a reformed world order organize for peace by promoting multilateral, value‑maximizing institutions and covenants; facilitators of conflict resolution pursue peace by improving communications and building relationships; proponents of nonviolent social change work for peace through grassroots social movements and solidarity against oppression; and representatives of philosophical and spiritual traditions approach peace through transformation of human consciousness.
…Western traditions of peace studies and peace research have yielded important insights, such as the distinction between conceptions of peace that are premised on no more than the absence of war and organized violence, and conceptions of peace that signify an additional presence of human dignity, economic wellbeing, and ecological balance. Scholars and activists alike have testified to the dangers and costs of pursuing peace through preparation for war and maintenance of hegemony. They have only just begun, however, to identify cultural pluralism as an essential resource for world order, and to develop a truly cross‑cultural research agenda.[1]
…Where the Western approach celebrates human self-determination, Islam underscores divine purpose and human exertion. Where the Western approach affirms political pluralism and individual rights conjoined with consumerism as the substance of peace, Islamic perspectives frame communal solidarity, social justice, faith in the transcendent, and even cultural pluralism as the way of peace. Where Westerners have placed a priority on innovation and “freedom to do”—freedom as a means to diverse human ends—Muslims have more often than not sought to preserve the historical continuity of a tradition that frames existential freedom—“freedom to be”—as an end in itself, a state that may be experienced despite the presence of external constraints.
While the strongest current of the Western approach to conflict resolution prioritizes problems to be abstracted and solved, distinctively Islamic approaches resemble other non-Western approaches insofar as they frame conflicts as matters of communal, and not just individual concern and underscore the importance of repairing and maintaining social relationships. Muslim approaches to conflict resolution draw on religious values, traditional rituals of reconciliation,[2] and historical practices of communal and inter-communal coexistence. Strong emphasis is placed on linkages between personal and group identity, between individual and collective responsibility for wrongdoings, and between attentiveness to “face”-related issues (public status, shame, reputation for generosity) and the achievement of restorative justice. Conflict resolution efforts are directed toward the maintenance of communal or intercommunal harmony, toward the recognition of mutual rights and obligations, as well as toward the upholding of shared values and the need for public apology, compensation for losses, and forgiveness.[3]
…While Muslim writers almost invariably assert that Islam has something of unique value to contribute to international peace and human dignity, many non‑Muslims have articulated visions in which Islamic participation in the contemporary world order can only be conceived as a serious challenge to stability.[4] In other words, Islam has been viewed as an actual or potential problem, and research questions have been framed around threat perceptions rather than potentially positive aspects of the intercultural encounter.
…The future development of cross‑cultural inquiry is of considerable importance, particularly insofar as it can help to provide both fresh contributions to theories of conflict resolution and constructive channels for the perennial religious impulse. Studies of Islamic approaches to peace and conflict resolution provide new angles of insight into universal human dilemmas, as well as important supplementation to studies that recognize contemporary Islamic activism not as a backward-looking rejection of the modern world, but as a deeply felt expression of cultural identity and a critique of domestic as well as international political orders.[5]
…Muslims have heard different overtones in their religion’s call to peace. Many have interpreted peace primarily as an absence of war, violence, and disorder that must be secured through the use of coercive power or force to compel and protect. Others have understood peace as a condition of justice achieved through virtuous governance or steadfast resistance to oppression. Still others have perceived peace as a state of social equilibrium or all-encompassing harmony.
Power Politics: Peace through Coercive Power
Based on a pessimistic reading of human nature, advocates of this approach use Islam as a language for legitimation of power and authority and for the preservation of social order. Expressed in the “mirror for princes” genre of medieval writings as well as in strains of juridical and philosophical thinking, this paradigm exalts state authority, views peace as an absence of war, and underscores political necessities created by the restlessness of political subjects and the threatening postures of external enemies.
World Order: Peace through the Power of Law
In contrast to the power political paradigm, the Islamic world order approach implies a conception of Islam as an ethical outlook and way of life, underscoring processes for institutionalizing values to shape a humane and just order. Islamic world order thinkers challenge idolatries of state and tribe, pointing beyond exclusivity and power politics to possibilities for affirming and creating more inclusive and participatory legal and political frameworks that can secure the well‑being of the Islamic ummah (community) as well as the larger community of humankind.
Conflict Resolution: Peace through the Power of Communication
Islamic approaches to reconciliation as sulh and musalaha, as well as methods of mediation (wasta) and arbitration (tahkim) that have prevailed in Islamic cultural areas. Islamic approaches to conflict resolution underscore communal collaboration in efforts to open lines of communication, “set things right,” and restore a state of harmony or social equilibrium. They affirm a restorative conception of peace and justice, encompassing notions of compensation for losses, attentiveness to issues of “face” or social esteem, renunciation of retribution for the sake of the whole, and forgiveness.
Nonviolence: Peace through Will Power
The next approach to peace, nonviolence, emphasizes that, while Islam forbids passivity in the face of oppression, tyranny, and injustice, it also discourages violence and reckless subversion. From the point of view of Muslim proponents and pioneers of nonviolence,[6] adherence to Islam requires nonviolent solidarity against oppression, the promotion of renewal through broad-based social movements, and training for programs of direct nonviolent action. A critical premise is that only a linkage of just ends with just means can secure authentic justice, peace, and human dignity.
The section begins with “The Nonviolent Crescent,” a seminal tract on Islam and nonviolence written by Chaiwat Satha-Anand (Qader Muheideen), a Thai scholar and activist. This chapter, which has appeared elsewhere in Arabic, Indonesian, and Italian translations, suggests that, because the technology of modern warfare results in actions that transgress limits imposed by the Qur’an and Prophetic tradition, Muslims must adopt methods of nonviolent struggle for justice if they are to remain true to Islam. Satha-Anand uses an example of direct nonviolent action by Muslims in Thailand to demonstrate the potential efficacy of nonviolence as an Islamic form of action.
…Islamicist Karim Douglas Crow proposes that a proper understanding of Islam’s relation to nonviolence is best obtained through deep examination of Islamic teachings on personal ethics and character development… …Muslim Peace Fellowship founder Rabia Terri Harris, frames nonviolence in Islam as “The Alternative Community Tradition.” Harris finds precedents for nonviolent struggle against injustice in the life of the Prophet, in the “three lost causes” of al-Husayn, al-Hallaj, and Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and in Sufi teachings concerning the “greater jihad” (al-jihad al-akbar).
Transformation: Peace through the Power of Love
The last approach to peace, the Islamic paradigm for transformation of the human heart and mind, prescribes a deep internalization of Islam that leads to inner freedom and to the spiritual elevation of the individual. Based on principles and practices of tasawwuf (Sufism) that were widely diffused throughout the Islamic world by means of spiritual brotherhoods and fellowships, this approach defines peace as a condition of all-embracing harmony perceived through the inward renewal and transformation of human consciousness. The cultural community is the context and receptacle of human realization; renewal takes place within each person through inward cleansing and loving surrender to the divine.

[1] See, for example, Leslie E. Sponsel and Thomas Gregor, eds., The Anthropology of Peace and Nonviolence (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1994); Kevin Avruch, Culture and Conflict Resolution (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1998).
[2] George E. Irani and Nathan C. Funk, “Rituals of Reconciliation: Arab‑Islamic Perspectives,” Arab Studies Quarterly 20 (Fall 1998), pp. 53-73.
[3] George E. Irani and Nathan C. Funk, “Rituals of Reconciliation”; Chaiwat Satha‑Anand, “The Politics of Forgiveness: Islamic Teachings and Gandhi’s Teachings,” in The Nonviolent Crescent: Two Essays on Islam and Nonviolence, (Alkmaar, the Netherlands: International Fellowship of Reconciliation, 1996).
[4] Richard Falk, “False Universalism and the Geopolitics of Exclusion: The Case of Islam,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 1 (1997), pp. 7‑23.
[5] Richard Falk, “False Universalism and the Geopolitics of Exclusion: The Case of Islam” (Third World Quarterly, Vol. 18 (1997), pp. 7‑23). Falk unequivocally defends the right of Muslims to equitable participation as Muslims in the contemporary world order, and suggests that contemporary Islamic movements manifest resistance to cultural as well as political marginalization. Michael Salla, “Political Islam and the West: A New Cold War or Convergence?” (Third World Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 4, 1997, pp. 729‑742) has advanced a similar argument. Salla suggests that there is a need to move beyond both stereotypical “essentializations” and fragmentary models based on historical contingency, toward representations of Islam as a discourse that critiques the dominant liberal democratic paradigm in a manner similar to many other religious discourses.
[6] It is not widely recognized that Muslims played a decisive role in the planning and orchestration of the twentieth century’s most well known and widely celebrated nonviolence campaigns – the struggle against British colonialism in South Asia. For a review of the Muslim contribution, see Chapter 12 in this volume; for in-depth treatment of the subject, see Robert C. Johansen, “Radical Islam and Nonviolence: A Case Study of Religious Empowerment and Constraint among Pashtuns,” Journal of Peace Research 34, no. 1 (1997), pp. 53-71.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Qur'an 4:114

One of the words for peace in the Qur'an is sulh. This word may also be translated as reconciliation. It derives from the root sad lam ha, from which are also derived words for righteousness, goodness, making amends, compensation, restitution, reform and setting things right. The word islah, from the same root, is also used for peace, reconciliation and reform.

Ayah 114 of Surah al-Nisa may be translated as:
"There is no good in many of their confidential counsels, except for those who command charity or what is honorable or peace (islah) among people."
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