The CSS Blog Network

Beauty and Dehydration

Beautiful - yes. Drinkable - no. Photo courtesy mrlins/flickr


While it is by no means on the same scale as the crisis affecting the Horn of Africa, drought is also leading to disaster on the tiny South Pacific atolls of Tokelau. Home to around 1,500 people, the New Zealand-administered territory is entirely reliant on rainwater; with less than a week’s supply of potable water left on the atolls, 136,000 more liters are being shipped in via the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the US Coastguard.

At the end of September, neighboring Tuvalu went as far as declaring a state of emergency due to drought. Imposing a strict system of rationing, families are receiving two to four buckets of water a day on the main island of Funafuti, according to Olioliga Iosua, Permanent Secretary in Tuvalu’s Ministry of Public Utilities. Desalination units are being airlifted in from Australia and New Zealand, but disease is already spreading among the population.

Is this a message that the end is near for the residents of Tuvalu and Tokelau – that they will soon have to depart for other Pacific islands? Perhaps. Could it be taken as a sign that these atolls were not suitable for inhabitation in the first place? Maybe. » More

Great IR Thinkers: Kenneth Waltz

Man, the State and War: an IR classic

Man, the State and War: an IR classic. Image: Bookworship.com

“Since war begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

Introduction

In June of 2009, the journal International Relations devoted an entire issue (in two parts) to a man it described as “The King of Thought.” The occasion was the 30th anniversary of the publication of Theory of International Politics and the 50th anniversary of Man, the State and War. As Ken Booth wrote in the issue’s introductory essay: “…the justification for a project to celebrate and re-examine these classic books needs little elaboration.  Nor is the stature of their author in any doubt, as is testified by the following recent endorsements by leading figures in the field: ‘Kenneth Waltz is the most important international relations theorist of the past half century’ (John J Mearsheimer); ‘Kenneth Waltz is the pre-eminent international relations theorist of the post-World War II era’ (Stephen M Walt); and ‘Kenneth N Waltz is the pre-eminent theorist of international politics of his generation’ (Robert O Keohane).”  “Intellectually speaking,”  Booth continues, “we are all Waltz’s subjects, whether we be loyal disciples, friendly critics, or rebellious opponents: the discipline defines itself in relation to the authority of his work.” » More

The Return Of The King

Le Roi est Mort, Vive le Roi... photo: Firdaus Omar/flickr

On 24 September, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin announced his decision to return to the presidency, a post he may now possibly occupy for a further two successive terms until 2024. Unfortunately, his election to the post seems to be a foregone conclusion. In previous polls, opposition candidates, anti-Kremlin parties, and other critics failed to even make it onto the ballot paper. And with Russian state TV having developed into a veritable Putin lovefest, he can expect blanket positive coverage ahead of a lofty coronation.

I am surely not the only one to feel reminded of the dark days of the Soviet period, when the General Secretary’s seat was passed from one frail, tottering character to the next, and political prognostication revolved solely around signs of imminent death – since death was the only thing that could open the door to real reform.

However, on closer examination, it hardly seems fair to compare Putin’s reign with the gerontocracy of the Soviet period, as the Soviets at least had a Politburo. Russia’s current transformation into what political scientists are calling a sultanistic or neo-patrimonial regime is a break from Russian history and the global trend toward democratization. The czars at least drew their legitimacy from their blood and their faith, and the General Secretaries owed their power to their party and their ideology, Putin’s rule, however, is based solely on the man himself. » More

Northern Kosovo: Status Quo, for Now

Serbian roadblocks in the divided town of Mitrovica

You choose your borders, we choose ours. Photo: Valerie Sticher

Last week’s outbreak of violence between ethnic Serbs and NATO forces at the border between Kosovo and Serbia may not have been large in scale, but this latest of a number of incidents points toward an escalation of long-simmering tensions in Northern Kosovo. The developments are not just  important symbolically; disagreements over the status of the North are the main obstacle to reconciliation between Belgrade and Pristina. They have implications for the wider region and, in effect, keep Serbia out of the EU and Kosovo out of the UN.

The positions are relatively clear-cut:

  • Belgrade’s motto is ‘partition, then recognition’: it has made clear that the only way it will accept Kosovo’s independence is if Northern Kosovo becomes a part of Serbia
  • Serbs in Northern Kosovo, who make up a large majority of the population, uniformly identify with Serbia and refuse to be part of an independent Kosovo
  • For Pristina, partition is unacceptable
  • The international community also wants to avoid changes to Kosovo’s borders, for fear of destabilizing the western Balkans and playing into the hands of Kosovo’s nationalists. The EU and the US have consistently insisted that Serbia accept Kosovo’s territorial integrity and work with its government on practical matters

» More

This Week at the ISN…

It's week 40 on the ISN's 2011 editorial calendar, Photo: Jon Jordan/flickr

We’ll highlight the following topics:

  • In ISN Insights on Monday, Jody Bennett uncovers a little known US-Saudi defense deal to keep revolution in the Kingdom at bay
  • On Tuesday, we’ll discuss the security situation in northern Kosovo in the context of Serbia’s relationship with the EU
  • In Wednesday’s ISN Insight, Simon Saradzhyan of Harvard’s Belfer Center examines the implications of Putin’s return to the Kremlin
  • On Thursday, we continue our Great IR Thinkers series with: Kenneth Waltz
  • In Friday’s ISN podcast, Myriam Dunn discusses the real and imagined dangers of cyber warfare

And in case you missed any of last week’s coverage, you can catch up here on: China’s space policy; security curves and neorealism; organized crime and social media in Latin America; Islamic fundamentalist recruitment online; and democracy and change in Liberia

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