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30 years in the service of peace

Propaganda, manipulation and other psychological tools are invaluable in both war and foreign policy strategies.


Before the summer, a seminar was held at the Peace Research Institute PRIO in connection with Ola Tunander retiring after 30 years of work at the institute. Tunander delivered in 1989's doctoral dissertation on the US maritime strategy and geopolitics in Northern Europe, and as a researcher has been known as an outspoken critic of Norway's participation in US military interventions.

A key theme of the seminar was psychological warfare, and many of the speakers provided interesting information about how the United States, in particular, actively and deliberately uses manipulation and propaganda to achieve foreign policy goals. Sverre Jervell talked about how the United States used military forces in the High North in its "fraud strategy," which aimed to give the Soviet Union the impression that they were under threat of attack, and then to trick them into arming more than necessary. Jervell believes that US military policy in the High North was not intended to deter the Soviet Union from attacking the west, but to intimidate them to uproot so much that it undermined the Soviet economy. It is obvious to draw parallels to today's situation with an increasingly aggressive armament against Russia.

Submarine threat again. Mathias Mossberg led the Swedish Submarine Investigation in 2001, where Tunander participated as a civilian expert. The investigation was to find out whether the submarines that violated Swedish territorial waters in the 80s, and which almost created war hysteria in Sweden, were Western or Soviet. The investigation concluded openly – both could be possible, and there was no absolute proof that they were Soviet. Mossberg says that they had come across two reports with drawings showing that some of the observed submarines were most likely West German. These reports were evaded by the public, secretly stamped and filed in a way that allowed the incident to be included in the statistics of observed Soviet submarine violations. Mossberg claims that the Swedish military is fully aware that the submarines observed in 2014 – and which the media used to house a scare of an aggressive Russia – were in fact NATO submarines. This is being concealed to scare the public into becoming more positive about a Swedish NATO membership.

Tunander believes that it was deliberate US fraud to scare the Swedes into believing that the Soviet Union violated Swedish territorial waters, and that it was this fraud strategy that destroyed Olof Palme's independent social democratic foreign policy. The war hysteria went so far that officers in the navy had meetings where they discussed how they could kill the "traitor" Palme. The Soviet leader Andropov is supposed to have asked the Swedes to sink all the submarines in the archipelago, and then wait and see what it was that floated up. Tunander further quoted a British official he spoke to in the 1990s, who said they could not reveal that they were the ones behind the submarines: they might need to repeat the scare tactics and lay the blame on Russia again later – something that now seems to have happened again.

"It is tragic that Norway does not have research communities capable of confronting the lies about Libya."

Propaganda as a weapon. Rune Ottosen talked about his research on psy-ops (psychological operations), ie the use of propaganda and psychological tools in war, and presented the crash of the Saddam statue in Baghdad in 2003 as an example. In reality, very few, especially selected people participated in tearing down the Saddam statue, but it was presented in the press as evidence that the Iraqi people welcomed the US invasion. According to Ottesen, pure propaganda lies are uncritically disseminated in the media – for example, that Gaddafi should have given his soldiers viagra for being better at rape, or that Iraqi soldiers should have stolen incubators from Kuwaiti hospitals and left Kuwaiti infants to remain and die . Ottosen also annoyed that Norwegian organizations that worry about abuses against journalists elsewhere in the world never worry when NATO bombs journalists and broadcasters in Yugoslavia or Libya.

Anders Björnsson highlighted how Tunander was one of the earliest to warn against the intervention in Libya, and is among the few who have dealt with the war scientifically afterwards in the critical book Libya War geopolitics – humanitarianär intervention or colonial war ?. Tunander believes that none of the Norwegian politicians understood what they were up to when they decided to go to war against Libya. He says that the main rebel groups were Islamists operating with military support from Qatar, and that the forces that captured Tripoli later went on to Aleppo, Syria, to wage war against the secular regime there. Tunander pointed to the leaked emails to Hillary Clinton, where her close associate Sidney Blumenthal goes through the French arguments for the Libya war: to prevent Gaddafi's plans to create an alternative Pan-African currency; securing greater shares of Libyan oil reserves; to increase French influence in North Africa; to strengthen President Sarkozy's position in France and France's position in the world. The humanitarian arguments for the war were pure propaganda. "It is tragic that Norway does not have research environments capable of confronting the lies about Libya," Tunander says.

The state of the state. Ole Wæver talked about Tunander's work on the "deep state" – that behind the official legal structures of power lies a hidden power structure in the form of military, intelligence and so on, which constitutes a "state in the state". The term was introduced by the Italian historian Franco de Felice. Felice believed that the governments and elected authorities of a democratic state are based on the support of the people. But for most states, the support of the people is not enough to preserve the state – it also depends on the support of a protective superpower. This support can be put into play if there are excessive differences in the views of a new, elected leadership and the views of the protective superpower – in Italy's case the United States. Among other things, the Americans had great influence over who was appointed to lead Italy's intelligence, and the Americans could then use their people in the military and intelligence to pressure the elected leadership not to deviate too far from the US political line. They did this, among other things, by threatening a military coup. Right-wing groups linked to Italian intelligence were also behind bomb attacks in the 1960s, '70s and' 80s, blaming Communists for creating fears for the Soviet Union and the Communist Party. These are examples of parallel power structures that are meant to function permanently, regardless of the change of government, and which can take effect in the event of a crisis in the state.

Tunander believes there are fewer such structures in Norway than in many other countries, due to our egalitarian history and the absence of an influential nobility who considered themselves to be above the law. In Norway, there is reason to believe that the military is loyal to the political leadership, and the Americans have not exercised the same influence over the appointment of intelligence chiefs in this country.

Since the seminar was held, two interesting events have taken place, which affect the analyzes presented there: On June 11, Sweden's Radio released a program stating that a possible submarine observed by the Wind Boat in the spring of 2015 turned out to be German – not Russian. And in mid-July, what was known is an attempt at a coup d'état in Turkey, which testifies that parallel power structures in the military and state apparatus may pose a threat to political leadership in several parts of the world.

See Ola Tunander's article «Saudi Arabia directly involved in September 11?»In the same newspaper!

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