Current focus: Global Views

New Book Suggests Rigid Norms Delay Crisis Response Times

Peacekeepers in action. Image: Wikimedia

This book review was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 6 October 2014.

When it comes to responding to conflict, the phrase “they didn’t act fast enough” is one of the most common criticisms of international organizations. From the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s to the recent conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, swift and timely intervention by peacekeepers and other international actors can mean the difference between life and death. » More

Prior focus: Academic Perspectives

We Need to Fix the Way We Talk about National Intelligence

CIA memorial wall. Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 10 October 2014.

In the last few years, the list of sensitive government information made public as a result of unauthorised disclosures has increased exponentially. But who really benefits from these leaks?

While they are media catnip and provide useful information to hostile individuals and organisations, they only occasionally contribute to the public debate on intelligence and truly advance the cause of democracy.

A scoop on the secret world of espionage is a guaranteed journalistic coup. And with good reason; at the simplest level, news exposures of intelligence service activities inform the public and contribute to a self-evidently important public debate on the role of intelligence in modern democracies. » More

Prior focus: Our Perspectives

Germany’s Islamic State Problem

Fighter in Syria. Image: Freedomhouse/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Long War Journal on 13 October 2014.

Berlin: There is a growing sense among leading German politicians that the Federal Republic’s preoccupation with the NSA surveillance scandal should not overshadow the pressing need to confront the Islamic State.

“German worry over Islamist attack eclipses spy scandal,” Bloomberg News headlined its Oct. 8 report on the issue. A new reality appears to be sinking in. Roderich Kiesewetter, a Bundestag deputy from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and a former army colonel, was quoted as saying, “In the German public, there is more of an awareness that our intelligence services need information to confront these terror threats.” » More

Prior focus: Global Views

IR and the Future Wars of First-Person Military Shooters

Artwork for Call of Duty: World at War. Image: FireFishMike/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 9 October, 2014.

Game theorist McKenzie Wark has provocatively suggested that the four freedoms for which the US fought during WW2 – freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear – have now been replaced by a new set in the wake of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. These are “Freedom from religion, Freedom from speeches, Freedom to desire” and “Freedom from security”.[1]His Orwellian observation is that ”What secures the state is the production of insecurity”. In other words, the existence of a perpetual conflict, or the narrative of a perpetual conflict to be precise, creates a permanent sense of insecurity that legitimates any action taken by the security state, including the dismantling of civil rights or the pre-emptive invasion of other states.[2] » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

How (Not) To Write about African Wars

Rwandan genocide memorial church. Image: Adam Jones/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 30 September 2014.

Even a seasoned follower of political affairs might be excused for struggling to make sense of the seemingly worsening vortex of ongoing armed conflicts. Chances are, given the recent war in Gaza, the promising but still fragile developments in Afghanistan, and the twinned and tragic mess Syria and Iraq has become, his analytic brain might be reasonably overwhelmed.

But, to be sure, in the daily media discourse, some of the complicated nuances of these events have been gaining attention, making their way into public debates and helping form policy positions and diplomatic or military options. In short, news and information consumers are treated to a varied diet in relation to the coverage of world conflicts— most of which, in recent years, have been internal civil wars.

The argument holds, however, only if African civil wars are removed from the list. As it appears, those belong to a different category. For African civil wars, if the dominant media discourse is to be believed, explanations are easy and definitive. » More

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