The CSS Blog Network

A note to our users:

After many years as a stand-alone project, the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) has been absorbed into its parent organization’s website, the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich. The impact of this adjustment to our blog page is negligible, aside from its new name. As for the rest of the former ISN site, it now makes up the Resources Section of the CSS website. Please use the menu in the left column to access its pages.

The Doctor and the Cure: The Crisis of Sovereignty in the Twenty-first Century

Courtesy of Pedro/@catrin818/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 24 February 2017.

The world is sick. Un/fortunately, while advocates of Brexit and other populists have correctly identified the symptoms of broad societal illness—overpowering anxiety about the present and the future; a loss of control of the self, the family, the community and the nation itself—they have misdiagnosed the primary cause of our infirmity and their efforts to cure the patient are therefore doomed to fail.

The palliative narrative offered by Leavers is a simple one.  In their view, a nefarious cabal of ‘globalists’ are far removed from the everyday realities of regular people.  Yet they have somehow wrested authority from local representatives (since globalism and national interest are inherently at odds), and thereby have undermined the democratic character and unique identities of individual countries. Leavers now suggest that a ream of new barriers and other protectionist measures will seal and heal the punctured state and allow people to “take back control” of their countr(ies).

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How Organization Theorists Help Explain Military Power

Courtesy of Comrade King/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 21 February 2017.

With the inauguration of Donald Trump, the United States began the same kind of reevaluation of military priorities and strategies that accompany all transitions of power. Crucial in such appraisals is updating assessments of the military power – and therefore threat – posed by a variety of states around the world. My research suggests that a factor rarely considered in estimates of military power – armed forces’ command and control systems – needs to be front and center in the minds of analysts.

To understand why command and control systems, or command structures, are so important to estimates of military power, it is helpful to turn back the clock to a very old conflict. In the late summer of 1904, Japanese and Russian forces fought a major battle outside the Manchurian town of Liaoyang and, to the shock and surprise of both observers and combatants, the Japanese won. This occurred despite the fact that the Japanese fielded fewer men and weapons, attacked well-prepared defensive positions with unimaginative tactics, and enjoyed no clear advantage in soldier quality or skill. The Japanese won because they could better discern what was happening on the battlefield and, as a consequence, use their men and materiel more efficiently and effectively than could the Russians.

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Why Border Controls Won’t Protect Europe Against Terrorism

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This article was published by the Institute for Strategic, Political, Security and Economic Consultancy (ISPSW) in February 2017.

In mid-December, people and families all over Europe and in many parts of the world were gearing up to cele­brate Christmas, one of the most important events in the Christian calendar. But on 19 December 2016 at 20:02 local time, a hijacked truck veered into a traditional Christmas market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memo­rial Church in Berlin, Germany. Twelve people were killed. Four days later, the suspected perpetrator was shot and killed by police on an Italian plaza in Sesto San Giovanni, a suburb north of central Milan, Italy.

On the same day, ISIS extremists released a video of the perpetrator, filmed recently in Berlin. His name was Anis Amri. Having pledged allegiance to the group, he suggested that the Berlin attack was vengeance for coali­tion airstrikes in Syria.

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The Era of Mutual Assured Disruption

Courtesy of brillianthues/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 16 February 2017.

The five forces that are ‘liquidising’ global security.

As the liberal order frays and geopolitical competition returns it is natural that people turn to Henry Kissinger.  No one has a more finely-grained understanding of power politics, and his treatise on World Order sits on the bed side tables of many global leaders (even if few have actually read it).

But Kissinger’s ideas of order represent an impossible aspiration in the world of ISIS and fake news. They are designed for a slower world and powerful states, rather than our age of permanent uncertainty, rapid change and disruption.

Many traditional concepts – even well-tested ones – have been overtaken by events. Deterrence, alliances, even diplomacy seem out of fashion; old certainties are gone. Kissinger’s order was based on two pillars: legitimacy and balance of power. The defining moment of his world view was the Peace of Westphalia. He laments the disappearance of the split between domestic and foreign policy. But, in spite of the return of power politics, the world is not Kissingerian any more.

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One Year after the Sanctions: Is Europe Ready for the Belarus Crisis?

This article was originally published by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) on 9 February 2017.

The results of the ongoing normalization in relations between the EU and Belarus have been very modest, as have the domestic changes, which the turn in the European policy was intended to assist. Meanwhile, Moscow reacted to Alexander Lukashenko’s perceived “drift to the West” by toughening its approach towards Minsk. A new crisis in the east of Europe may be in the making.

On February 15, 2016, the EU decided not to prolong the sanctions it had imposed five years earlier on the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in response to brutal repressions against the Belarusian political opposition. The sanctions were lifted as a reward granted to Minsk in return for the release of remaining political prisoners, for the less oppressive presidential campaign of 2015 and – perhaps above all – for Belarus’s refusal to fully support Russia in the conflict over Ukraine. At the same time, the decision was driven by hopes and expectations that the normalization of relations between Europe and Belarus would stimulate the latter to start domestic liberalization and economic reforms.

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