‘I hope for one collapse - the collapse of collapsism’
Galtung, 86, sat down for an interview with Kim Young-hie, a senior JoongAng Ilbo columnist who specializes in international relations, during the Jeju Peace Forum in May, where he discussed the relative fall of the United States and how to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.
The following is an edited excerpt of the interview.
Q. You have mediated over 150 conflicts and written many books and articles on conflict resolution and peace. What are the root causes that are common in all conflicts?
A. Incompatible goals. Somebody wants something, somebody else wants something else. Somebody wants North Korea to collapse, but North Korea wants to survive. Somebody wants South Korea to collapse, but South Korea wants to survive.
If the goals are incompatible then often you get hatred as an attitude and violence as a behavior. Basically, we have to solve the conflict.
Immanuel Kant [1724-1804] wrote in his essay “Perpetual Peace”  that democracies or republics don’t fight each other.
But you’ve written in your book that democracies top the list in belligerence. Do you mean that Kant’s republican or democratic peace formula has no relevance today?
Really happy that you mentioned Kant. I’m also happy you haven’t quoted the criminals in my mind, one of which is Machiavelli.
Kant made a philosophical mistake — just because republics are the opposite of monarchies and monarchies are belligerent doesn’t necessarily mean that republics are peaceful.
More crucially, Kant said that if republics trade with each other, to destroy your trade partner is to destroy yourself. But I also think here he made a mistake, if I may say so. I don’t think he emphasized enough that the trade had to be equal. It’s not enough when one country becomes very rich and the other trading nation becomes poorer and poorer. It has to be equal to both.
You’ve written in one of your books that the more democratic a country is, the more self-righteous the leaders and the people are. The more self-righteous the people and the leader are, the more belligerent the country is.
America comes to mind. If the United States is more belligerent than, say, China and Russia, is it because it’s more democratic than both China and Russia?
Self-righteousness brings justification so that the leadership can say, “Our country is democratic, you benefit from our democracy, we have a right to demand from you to respect the order and that you pay the taxes.”
However, the case of the United States is worse than that. Because the United States is based on the idea, “We are supreme because we were chosen by God, it’s the promised land.”
We can simply look at warfare for the last 1,000 years and count how many times a country has been in a war and then divide that by the number of years the country has existed. Then the first-ranking country is the United States, second is Israel, third is the United Kingdom and fourth is Turkey. What do these four countries have in common? They believe in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Now, what do the first three countries have in common? They are democracies, very strong ones. It’s not a question of democracy, but a question of what kind of people they are. What do the United States and Israel have in common? They think they are chosen by God. Promised lands.
We have to come to the Korean Peninsula now. North Korea is a “kinder box,” not only for South Korea but for Northeast Asia as a whole. Based on your studies of conflicts and your experiences mediating them, how are we to address North Korean issues, including their nuclear program?
By engaging in peaceful relations with North Korea and normalizing relations and by cooperating.
To me, North Korea is not a communist country. It is a fundamentalist Confucian country. And their fundamentalism is based on filial piety, so we have a succession of Kims in the North and a succession of Parks in the South. Confucianism is the key. You both are extremely good at it.
We are the same people, and we share common factors and, as you say, Confucianism or Taoism can be common denominators, but the North is developing nuclear weapons. How do you explain that? Why are they doing this, and why are they engaged in such provocative actions? Does this have anything to do with Confucian teaching?
Confucianism makes them work hard. It takes a lot of work to develop these things. And they make a lot of stuff that troubles the South. So why do they make these stuff? … Libya and Iraq were both invaded by the United States, so maybe the North has a feeling they need the nuclear weapons.
Maybe the North is upset about the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that governed it for decades. Maybe they also feel they need a bargaining chip.
It’s not good enough that a table or two represents North Korea. If you want to build peace, it has to done on an equal ground.
Kim Jong-un’s father put enormous amounts of money into developing WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] while the people are starving. How do you justify this?
I don’t justify it, not at all. I don’t even justify the weapons in South Korea. I say peace would come so much faster if you think about a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. The conflict, in my mind, is not between North Korea and South Korea. It’s between North Korea and the United States, and they hate North Korea for a very simple reason.
From 1812 to 1953, 141 years, the United States had won all the wars it engaged in. It’s a country that, since 1801, has intervened militarily 248 times in other countries. It’s a country that, since the Second World War, has killed 237 million in other countries.
My country is an ally of it, your country is an ally. I just simply speak the truth. You can look at your newspapers, but you will not find it. I don’t find it in the Norwegian newspapers, either. It’s all basic, basic facts. Maybe they know this in North Korea, and for this reason they feel like being well armed.
North Korea is under UN-initiated international sanctions, and you are against sanctions, arguing that they kill through malnutrition and lacking medical attention and that this hits the weakest; the children, the old, the poor and women. That’s what’s happening in North Korea.
Without sanctions, how do we make the regime, Kim Jong-un’s regime, renounce its WMD programs and its belligerent actions?
I interpret the Koreans with “han,” or “resentment” in French, for stimulating an enormous amount of defiance. Go with sanctions, and they will become more defiant. Good luck. That’s what’s being done, and that’s what will be done. Proliferation has reached three other countries — Pakistan, India, Israel. If go backward in time, we haven’t had such sanctions in Israel. We haven’t had them against Pakistan and India, either. Why only North Korea? The North Koreans are asking that question.
Maybe there’s an excess of han. Maybe if you beat the dog many times, the dog becomes crazy and starts biting, and the han comes out.
Maybe that dog has been beaten too much. Maybe that dog should be treated better. And I think I can guarantee you, you will get very quick results.
I’m sitting here with a map of Korean Air. Korean Air has flights to everywhere in East Asia, and Korean Air doesn’t make distinctions between democracies and dictatorships.
There are lots of flights to dictatorship in China and lots in between, but there are no flights to Pyongyang. You can even hardly read the word Pyongyang on the map. Shame on you, Korean Air, shame on you! Get your company together and start flights to Pyongyang immediately. Or don’t do it, continue the team spirit and listen to the hoax, get your nukes if you want that. You may risk a nuclear war.
I sense a lot of stupidity on the Korean Peninsula. Neither Seoul nor Pyongyang has a monopoly over the stupidity. The major stupidity comes from Pyongyang.
Collapsism, that North Korea will sooner or later fall, is on the rise both in Seoul and Washington. Apparently, based on what you have said, you’re not buying this theory.
I think it is madness, and I think it is based on a total disrespect for the Korean personality and nationality.
There is pride and dignity in your spiritual force. Don’t underestimate the spiritual force on both sides of the armistice line. There will be no collapse. There is maybe one collapse I’m hoping for — the collapse of collapsism.
You predict the fall of the U.S. empire by 2020, just four years away, and time is ticking, but do you still stand by your prediction?
You have to understand what an empire is. During colonialism, you sent your own people, you steal other people’s country, you make yourselves lord over them and you send settlers.
That’s not what the United States does. The U.S. strategy is imperialism in building an empire. You don’t send so many Americans, but you pay local elites in various ways to do the job for you. One important job in colonialism is to kill on behalf of the United States.
Okay, what’s happening? They lost Latin America, they are gradually loosing NATO, France and Germany refuse to kill for the United States essentially in Ukraine.
In Latin America, they used to have one enemy country called Cuba that will enter the history books as the first country that challenged the United States empire. Fidel Castro is still alive, he has survived 10 U.S. presidents and he is working on No. 11, his name is Obama.
My prediction to a large extent has been fulfilled. Today in America, the United States has one friend and that is actually Canada… Obama capitulated on Cuba, Obama will one day successively capitulate on North Korea’s stupidity, too.
I have the feeling that my prediction has come true earlier than I said. And by that, I do not mean that the United States isn’t killing but that it has to do the killing itself. … Three leading U.S. politicians are saying no to more warfare. Obama is doing a lot of it, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz.
There is one person who is enthusiastic for more warfare. Her name is Hillary Clinton. I think Donald Trump will be a disaster for the United States but a bliss for the world. Hillary Clinton would become a horror for the world. If you want a war with North Korea, try to encourage your American friends to vote for Hillary Clinton, you may get it. You won’t get it with Donald Trump. He has lots of cards, some of them I like, most of them I don’t like.
We know how strong the military industrial complex is in the United States. Do you think the military industrial political complex, including Congress, will allow the U.S. empire to collapse?
It costs a lot if you have to do the killing yourself. If you have others doing the killing for you, it helps.
Now Trump’s argument is “we can’t afford it,” Cruz’s argument is that it doesn’t work, Obama’s is to continue his produce of mini-nukes.
Obama is a professional liar, not an amateur. He is a hypocrite. … I don’t believe a single word he says. He does the opposite of what he says. He talks of nuclear disarmament but he produces more nukes.
Can you cite one example of Obama’s lies?
To talk in Prague about nuclear disarmament, entering a treaty with Russia to disarm “old-fashioned weapons” but at the same time, in the same week or months at least, allocating $1.5 billion for producing more modern weapons, I call that a lie.
He knew perfectly well where he was allocating the money. As you know, it goes through the Department of Energy, it is concealed, it is taken off the military budget, and it’s a little trick.
But it was your motherland, Norway, that awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize. Was it also deceived?
The Nobel Prize is a prize, but it is neither about Nobel nor peace. It’s a prize essentially for Western politicians. It can be for other politicians if their policies are compatible with Norwegian foreign policies.
Those who abolished the Costa Rican army didn’t get a peace prize; even though in the Nobel testament it says [to include candidates who] reduced standing armies, they didn’t get it.
It wasn’t the Norwegian policy to reduce the Norwegian army. If there is anything they are afraid of, that is someone saying, “Ah, you’ll get a peace prize on that one; what will happen to Norwegian foreign policy?”
China is on the rise, militarily as well as economically, and Japan is becoming a “normal country” with war-capable armed forces.
If, in your theory, the United States as an empire collapses, does it follow that China or Japan will become the sole superpowers in the region?
No, China is too arrogant for that. The world doesn’t deserve to be run by China. It can be run by the United States, maybe the world deserves that, but not by China. China sees itself as very superior, it’s very China-centric.
A point-blank question. When, and in what manner, will Korea be unified, if ever?
I make a distinction between the unification of nations and the unification of states. The unification of nations means open borders and cooperation, and you may start with the 11 million families that have been separated. The unification of states means one president. That’s problematic.
Kim Il Sung had a very clear idea about which president was superfluous; the other one had an equally good idea about who was superfluous. My advice was, don’t waste time on jealousies and egocentric habits. Build unification, and maybe one day we might even have a Korean Union.
What is the driving force of the Islamic State. Why do so many youngsters join?
The driving force of the Islamic State has to do with the custodianship. It is not primarily about Iraq and Syria. They are small things. It is about Mecca and Medina.
About 92 percent, according to a recent Gallop Poll, said that the best carrier of Islam today is the Islamic State. About 92 percent of citizens in Saudi Arabia said it, not the corrupt, decrepit Saudi Arabian royalty, who happens to be an ally of the United States. They say, “You have one branch of Christianity, you have a Vatican and the Catholic church. The Vatican is our Mecca, our church is called the caliphate. If you have a right to have that, we have the same rights, my friends.”
And they are going to pursue it. They’re brutal. They take revenge. They’re not taking it so lightly that one million Muslims were killed in a U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, 100,000 in Afghanistan. But they’re taking retribution with moderation, killing 1,000, for instance. I don’t agree with that, and my recommendation is for the West to use its military defensively. Go ahead with killing, and the next morning, you’ll wake up with 1,000 more Islamic States, I promise that.
Ladies and gentlemen, they are strong. Negotiate with them, respect them, denounce them for their brutal violence then look into your own usage of the military defensively. Skype with them if you don’t want to travel to their territory ever.
I feel like you have dropped a bomb on us.
I would like to emphasize that I’m not the slightest bit anti-American. Absolutely not. My wife and I love those people.
BY KIM YOUNG-HIE, SHIN SOO-YEON [email@example.com]