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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2006, Vol, 6 No. 1 .


Pax Pacifica: Terrorism, the Pacific Hemisphere, Globalisation and Peace Studies
Johan Galtung

London: Pluto Press, 2005, 170 pp, PB 15.99, ISBN 0-7453-2002-3

Pax Pacifica, as the title suggests, focuses the issues that surround war and peace within the Pacific arena. In this book, Galtung, one the most pre-eminent Peace Studies scholars, examines the Pacific region in geopolitical terms, assessing the main actors and powers within the Pacific Hemisphere and the threats and challenges the region has to confront in order to achieve sustainable peace through non-violent means, impossible without also considering the past, present and future conflict dynamics in the region and its vast racial, cultural, economical and political diversity.

The book is delineated into seven concise chapters, within each the author seeks to analyse the key historic events that have occurred within the Pacific Hemisphere. Chief among these events are the colonisation and decolonisation processes, the Pacific War, the Pearl Harbour attack, the politics of non-reconciliation within Japan-Asia-US, the Cold War, the European Union integration and its synergies for peace and war towards the region, September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US and finally the importance of the prospect of consolidation of the East Asian community. Galtung dissects these issues highly critically, but also pays considerable attention to more philosophical arguments in examining these themes and the way in which they have been affected, and in turn have influenced, the Pacific region.

A key focus of this book is to illustrate using a variety of arguably world-changing events and post-conflict situations such as the nuclear genocide on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the exploitation and military intervention in Latin America, the Korean War, and so forth, to exemplify the unilateral dominion based on the force and the unrestricted use of power by the US. In the view of the author these events have caused deep resentment, which remains in the collective psyche of many people living in the Pacific region, making it hard to accomplish peace and build various functional regional organisations. However, Galtung is not merely concerned with the role of the US, and arguably its brutality, he goes further in his critique. He argues that traumas affect victims and victimiser alike, and as a result, the international community must attempt to build a cultural, direct and structural peace.

Galtung draws upon a theoretical peace studies model, chiefly concerned with past, present and future elements of direct and structural violence. He argues that in the search for peace in the Pacific Hemisphere, the root causes of direct and structural violence must be addressed and resolved. He proposes a Pacific Hemisphere agenda for peace which welcomes dialogue between civilizations, believing that there is a need to talk about the traumas of the past in order to alleviate the present and prevent future traumas, but he also recognises that this resolution cannot be achieved without UN reforms, civil society participation, international law versus force solutions, in essence dialogue, reconciliation, coalition-building, harmony and solidarity. For Galtung, peace has to be a cooperative and contagious process, an increasing sum game.

In addition, Galtung assesses the problematic entry of developing countries of the region into a market system driven by globalisation, which lie under the shadow of the Pacific Hemisphere powers like Russia, China and Japan, not least the US. His analysis also includes a response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. All the examples in this book are a collection of terror and, without diminishing the dramatic events of 9/11, the author reiterates that the main obstacle to the construction of a sustainable peace is structural violence and the need to find peaceful solutions to terrorism, and to reject homogenization and world hegemony.

Finally, the epilogue of this book, Pax Pacifica in Yokohoma Harbor, is a moving transcript of a workshop for conflict transformation and reconsolidation held in the City of Yokohama in 2002. The main idea of this workshop was to understand what happened during the Pacific War 1931-45 and move towards a symbolic burning of the records. The facilitator within this dialogue, called Wise Man and interpreted by Galtung, concludes that everyone, everywhere, no matter what socio-cultural background or geographical context, must learn to apologize; we must not forget the atrocities of the past to ensure that the atrocities are not repeated, however we must learn to close a chapter and open another, a peaceful one, Pax Pacifica.

In this book, the author suggests a new vision and an interesting approach for peace in the Pacific, using a mix of the diverse cultural heritage of the Hemisphere. In the words of the author it is to use the alo?ha spirit to engender a fa?a pasifika, to try to understand the bad karma and how this karma can be improved, using the ying the yang, the harmony. The author?s message is that the path for peace is to respect all cultures, and allow them all to contribute to this vision. Even though some may consider this approach controversial, it provides a highly illuminating and healthy starting point to the consideration and evaluation of new approaches to peace. In that sense, this book is essential reading, even more if we are on the side of peace, not just as the absence of war, but in the search for real harmony and equality.


Asmara Gonzalez Rojas, MA in International Studies, University of Sheffield, INCORE Intern, 2005



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