Dr. Jan Oberg (Director & Co-Founder, Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research)

08.11.2010 - Interview conducted by Joel MacMillan

Q1. Where does the greater danger of human or technological failure lie: with Russia or Pakistan?

Itís a combination of technological, human, and structural failure. As I said this morning, the theory of deterrence has this one precondition that human beings are rational in periods or moments of extreme stress. For all we know about psychology, people generally are not that rational when working under heavy pressure. Technology is not fail-safe either, as we have had these failing systems and indications on radars that turned out to be birds. If a human being found out that it wasnít a threat, we would have had a nuclear exchange. When I say structure, I mean also that this is unfortunately, the danger that overwhelms us all because it is in the hands of so few people who are outside of democratic control. If people want to have these terrible weapons, then letís have a democratic decision about them, instead of having this democratic sword hanging over us without any legitimacy in democracy. Iím not talking about dictatorships or nuclear weapons, they donít fit in a democracy because of the structure they have-they are a secret society. They are god like powers, and I question if humanity is capable of handling them.

Q2.Which is a greater priority? The reduction of small arms, or nuclear weapons baring in mind that small arms are responsible for over 500,000 deaths a year?

Itís very true that modern warfare uses conventional small and large arms which are responsible for the deaths, but not nuclear weapons. However, nuclear weapons have killed people at the test site and Japan, and have created long term consequences of radioactivity. Today, you have large areas of Kazakhstan where nobody can go because this was a test site of the Soviet Union. So nuclear weapons do kill, and you can say the risk is very small, but if it happens it will result in a mass killing. A gun, missile, or an aircraft will not mass kill, whereas you can say that the probability of that being used in conflict is higher than nuclear weapons. We have had many conflicts where nobody got the mad idea to use nuclear weapons, so you can ask yourself the question Ďare they unusableí? For the same reason you can say, in a conflict, if you want to achieve something like a territory or a goal, what would be the purpose of using nuclear weapons? Destroying what you want to acquire. The second thing is there any political goal definable that would justify the killing of say a hundred million people. Is there something anybody on earth could want so much that itís justified to kill 50 or 100 million people, and my answer is no. You can argue that maybe these weapons are enigmatic structures because to a certain extent they keep us away from fighting a war because they are so terrifying. But if it happens that way, it could be the end of all of us. I donít want any technology that could put an end to humanity, itís such a beautiful world.

Q3. In your presentation, you spoke about the security council and how they are the 5 largest spenders on military respectively. Do you think the security council needs to be re-evaluated, and do you think the G4 (Japan, Germany, Brazil, and India) are a viable alternative?

I think itís a question of how we see what the UN is. Before we talk about reforming the UN, we should know what UN is. The UN to me s not just the headquarters in New York, itís all the organizations that belong to the UN family for food, health, communications, or agriculture as well as the missions it does around the world. In the eyes of most though, itís just a skyscraper in New York. So before we talk about that, letís think of how each member state can make the UN stronger. The problem was first expressed by the first secretary of the United Nations, the Norweigan Trygve Lie. In 1948 he said the following, ďthe UN can never be stronger than what its member states want to make itĒ. My reform of the United Nations begins with each member state grading the United Nations in their domestic and international policy. Therefore, Sweden should be willing to pay more to the UN, and put more people at the service of the UN, it should send itís best people-those who decide UN missions should come up with clear mandates, and they should budget it much better. Even before we talk about changing it, we should treat the UN in a decent way and not in this indecent way in which the world treats it. Itís not the fall of the United States which pays 30% of its budget, itís the fall of the others who donít do much else. We can keep on blaming the USA dominating the UN, but thatís wrong. Itís not the fault of the UN, itís the fault of the others who donít do their duties. We have countries around the world who sent their most incapable policemen and soldiers, who were so bad at home that they sent them off to the UN missions to get rid of these idiots. I would like to have a parallel development council taking the structural violence problems together with the direct violence problems, to look at security and development in one go. My definition of peace, to put it crudely is to develop security in secure development. You canít have peace if you donít deal with military and security. Peace comes from changing the world, alleviating poverty, creating some kind of equitable chance for everybody, and dialogue among different societies. So we need another council, and you can talk about the composition, because the over-arching thing is how does each member state treat the UN better, and what new institutions do we need? We need a peopleís assembly, a facility which I would call a ďhearing instituteĒ where people with grievances about to start a war can get a hearing in the UN, either a new people's assembly, or the current general assembly. You can have the parties in conflict coming and being asked questions that everybody knows the issues better than coming out of the mouths who are in the conflict. Imagine you had all of the Yugoslavian parties coming to a big hearing where they would be asked intelligent questions about what their problem is. We would have been much better, in that case to treat Yugoslavia in a more intelligent way than what we did, because no one knew anything about the complexities of Yugoslavia. Therefore, everyone falls into the stupid Western, Christian idea that there are two parties in all conflicts and that one is black, and one is white. Iíve never seen this in any conflict. So before we talk about who should sit in the old council, letís look at the institutions we need the UN to be, this includes better money. Finally, I feel the headquarters should be moved out of the United States and move it somewhere else, have more headquarters, or have it rotate.

Q4. You spoke in your presentation about the documentary, ďFog of WarĒ which is a documentary about Robert McNamara. He seemed to be very remorseful discussing some of the decisions he made while the Secretary of Defense, which is certainly rare to see from an American official involved in a military conflict. In just a few weeks, President George W. Bushís memoirs will be published. Bush seemed to be remorseful about the situation in Iraq, despite the fact that the UN could not find any nuclear weapons. What does this say about their leadership capabilities respectively?

I donít believe George Bush for a second. Before heís worked for over thirty years at being remorseful and trying to understand going to Iraq as a pensioner, and talking to Iraqi leaders to understand what went wrong, until he has done what McNamara has done, I think this is purely ghost-writer lies. This is deception, and he is trying to cover himself up, by saying he is so sorry. If he was so sorry, then why didnít he say it at the time? He didnít apologize for the mistake as best I can remember, he said weíre getting rid of Saddam. That was a damn high price to pay for that-4.5 million refugees, 2 million of which were killed. Secondly, Saddam was made by us, and a result of our policy. If you want to learn anything from Iran, then stop the arms trade, these guys come up because we give them weapons and they become a megalomaniac. The West gave him (Saddam Hussein) all of his weapons, and Rumsfeld met him in the 1980ís, and they talked about a variety of things when Iran was our enemy, to quote ďThe enemy of the enemy is my friend.Ē Until I see George Bush having spent the rest of his life saying how sorry he is, and doing something concrete to correct his mistake I donít believe the man for a moment. Heís a war criminal and he should be judged according to that. McNamara was a war criminal to, but I have a big heart for a person who can say Ďforgive me for what I did.í A criminal who can say I am sorry for what I did, is a better criminal than who says I am not sorry at all.

Thank you for your time.