The CSS Blog

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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.

Can the US-Philippine Alliance Endure Duterte?

Don't Spook the Gun

Courtesy of Thomas Hawk / Flickr

This article was originally published by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) on 14 September 2016.

Philippine President Roberto Duterte is continuing his anti-American campaign with two latest bombshell statements, first calling for the fewer than 200 American Special Operations Forces advising and training Philippine troops to exit the southern Philippines. “I don’t want a rift,” he told the press this week, “but they have to go.” The terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, he explained, would kill them on sight, a curious claim since U.S. forces have been helping to counter threats in the southern Philippines for years. Perhaps Duterte’s real motives are designed to permit him to conduct military and law-enforcement operations without worrying about international scrutiny, while at the same time letting China know he is willing to distance himself from his ally if that is the price of major capital investment.

Whatever the real drivers behind Duterte, the Philippine president managed within a mere 24-hours to shock the world by ordering his defense secretary to work on security pronouncements with China and Russia to combat drug traffickers and insurgents and cease joint patrols in the South China Sea alongside the U.S. Navy. In case it wasn’t abundantly clear at this point, Duterte spelled out his position: “I do not like Americans. It’s simply a matter of principle for me.” For a leader actively supporting extra-judicial killings, “principle” may be a relative concept. But the biggest problem is the potential long-term damage that could be caused by Duterte airing his emotions in public.

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January 1, 2017: Let the Honeymoon for UN Reform Begin

Mosaic stain glass wall in the UN

Courtesy Mitchell_Center / Flickr

This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 19 September 2016.

Last year was a banner one for progress on multilateral norms, with adoptions of the Paris climate change agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and “sustaining peace” resolutions by United Nations member states. It was also a notable year for a different multilateral genre: UN reform proposals. Comprehensive plans were developed by the Independent Commission on Multilateralism and the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance; and three blockbuster reviews of UN peace operations and architecture were completed—the High-Level Independent Panel on UN Peace Operations (HIPPO), the Advisory Group of Experts on Peacebuilding, and the UN Global Study on Women, Peace and Security. The bottom line was clear: dramatic changes are imperative in UN headquarters and the field if the world organization is to respond to the 21st century’s complex threats.

The stage was set for 2016, only the second time—the first was in 1996—that the campaigns for the United States president and the UN secretary-general would run in parallel. Both have been protracted. As the race to become the ninth secretary-general heats up, it is important to remember an essential consideration: on January 1, 2017, a “honeymoon” begins. The position still may be what the first secretary-general Trygve Lie called “the most impossible job in the world,” but the post-Cold War era has provided its holders with more possibilities for institutional housecleaning. And history provides lessons for 2016’s successful candidate. Many recall Lie’s successor Dag Hammarskjöld’s first year as an unparalleled struggle for institutional reform, but Cold War secretaries-general were less able quickly to shake up the world organization’s machinery than their post-Cold War counterparts.

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The Case for Revising India’s Counterinsurgency Strategy in Kashmir

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Courtesy Kashmir Global / Flickr

This article was originally published on War on the Rocks on 14 September 2016.

India’s Kashmir Valley has been the scene of a Pakistan-backed insurgency since the 1990s. The Indian army and its associated security forces have been engaged in fighting this insurgency and assisting the civil administration in maintaining law and order. On July 8, the Pakistani terrorist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen’s commander in Kashmir, Burhan Wani, was killed in an encounter with security forces in Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Wani’s death plunged the state into deep turmoil, pitting Indian security forces against a large number of disenfranchised Kashmiri youth sympathetic to Wani’s anti-India resistance movement and calls for jihad. A full-blown confrontation between incensed youth and Indian security forces followed that resulted in 68 civilian deaths and over 2000 injured protestors, leaving an embarrassed Indian state facing a crisis of governance with no clear plan to prevent escalating violence. Exposing the fragility of the Indian state further, the Indian military publicly declared its frustration with political directives. In an unprecedented step, a strict curfew imposed in the Kashmir valley during Eid celebrations has renewed a fresh cycle of violence between protestors and security force, killing two protestors and injuring several more. New Delhi appears to be running out of options to de-escalate levels of violence.

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EU Defense, Where Political Opportunity Meets Strategic Necessity

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Courtesy Defense Images / Flickr

This article was originally published by Carnegie Europe on 15 September 2016.

Since Britain voted on June 23 to leave the EU, it seems everyone has an idea for strengthening European defense. The cacophony of calls in the last month alone has included an Italian proposal for a “Schengen of defense,” a reference to the EU’s passport-free travel zone; a Visegrád Four appeal from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia for a “European army”; and a Weimar triangle declaration from France, Germany, and Poland on the need for more effective EU security and defense policies.

Ahead of an informal summit of EU heads of state and government (minus the UK) in Bratislava on September 16, the French and German defense ministers have prepared a paper containing a number of concrete ideas for deeper military cooperation—building on an earlier post-Brexit initiative by their foreign ministers for a “European Security Compact.”

Not to be outdone, EU leaders in Brussels have also joined the chorus. Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, has said that she will produce a security and defense plan by the end of 2016, a follow-on document to her broader global strategy for EU foreign and security policies, which was published in June.

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Internet Shutdowns During Political Unrest Are Becoming Normal – And It Should Worry Us

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Courtesy Michael Coghlan / Flickr

This article was originally published by the Political Violence at a Glance on 16 September 2016.

Last night, for the eleventh night in a row, Internet access was shut down in Gabon. Starting again at 7pm, network accessibility almost came to a halt. These “Internet curfews” come in the aftermath of highly contested and controversial national elections. Just over a week ago, Gabon’s incumbent president, Ali Bongo, declared himself winner of the elections by a narrow margin with 49.8 percent of all votes. His opponent, Jean Ping, who allegedly lost with 48.2 percent of votes has demanded a recount, and the international community has backed him up. Amidst the uncertainty surrounding the election results, protesters took to the streets and set fire to a parliamentary house, while the opposition reported attacks against their premises by incumbent forces. Throughout the post-election tensions, the government has resorted to extreme digital censorship. Prior to the nightly Internet curfews, connections were cut for more than five days across the country while protesters took to the streets across Libreville, and according to Reuters, thousands were arrested under the charges of rioting.

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