Current focus: Academic Perspectives

IR Theory: Problem-Solving Theory Versus Critical Theory?

The Thinker by Rodin. Image: Jean-David & Anne Laure/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 19 September 2014.

Robert Cox began his canonical 1981 essay “Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory” with the observation that it is “necessary and practical” for academic disciplines to “divide up the seamless web of the real social world”. We make these divisions, Cox wrote, in order to analyse the world and thus to produce practical knowledge of that world. It is not a stretch to suggest that the real social world of International Relations scholarship might also be approached as worthy of analysis and theory. Indeed, reflection on International Relations as theory appears in the field as part of the necessary and practical division of the complexity of the social and political world. Rare is the introduction to IR textbook that does not emphasize, and usually begin with, the “great (theoretical) debates” that have structured the field since it emerged as an academic discipline. » More

Prior focus: Global Views

Killing of al-Shabaab Leader Throws Future of Militant Group into Question

Al Shabaab War Flag. Image: Ingoman/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 19 September, 2014.

On September 1, the leader of the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabaab, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed in a US-led drone strike in an al-Shabaab stronghold in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. The drone strike coincided with an ongoing military offensive launched August 25 by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali government forces in southern and central Somalia, dubbed Operation Indian Ocean. » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

The Lesson of Russia’s Serial Treaty Violations

Russian “Topol” missile. Image: Vitaly Kuzmin/Wikimedia

This article was originally published as “Russia’s Treaty Violations & Nuclear Instability” by Real Clear Defense on 15 September 2014.

Last week, US officials began talks in Moscow regarding Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The agreement bans the testing or deployment of intermediate range cruise and ballistic missiles, those with a range between 500km and 5500 km. In its annual 2014 arms control Compliance Report, the Department of State noted that Russia had violated the pact when it deployed a ground-launched cruise missile, whose unique Iskandar system can fire both cruise and ballistic missiles and a system Russia plans to deploy to Crimea. This cruise missile is not a new development; it was first tested in 2007 and has been deployed in the banned ground-launched configuration since 2009. Nor is it Russia’s only INF violation. Moscow also has converted a single-warhead ICBM into a three-warhead intermediate-range ballistic missile, a violation missing from the 2014 Compliance Report. » More

Prior focus: Our Perspectives

Political Turmoil and the Pakistani Army – What’s next?

Imran Khan, Pakistani Opposition Leader. Image: WEF/Wikimedia

This article was  originally published as Why Pakistan’s Army Stands to Gain From Political Turmoil  by the East Asia Forum on 18 September, 2014.

The political turmoil in Pakistan is approaching a decisive point. The ongoing protests led by Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri against Nawaz Sharif’s government have the potential to develop into a clash between democracy and the military. Already the crisis has given the Pakistani army greater political leverage. » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

Cutting Corners in the South Sudan Peace Process

Image: USAID Africa Bureau/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 15 September 2014.

On 26 August 2014, the two parties to the South Sudan conflict – the government of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM in Opposition) – reached their fourth agreement aimed at ending the violence that broke out in mid-December 2013. The latest accord mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is called the Implementation Matrix of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, and gives the two parties 45 days to form a unity government.

It follows three previous agreements: the January 2014 Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities and Status of Detainees; the May 2014 Agreement on the Recommitment on Humanitarian Matters of the Cessation of Hostilities; and the June 2014 commitment to the formation of a transitional government of national unity, which was intended to have happened within 60 days.
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