The CSS Blog Network

Studying Somalia’s War Economy From Outer Space

Mogadishu

Mogadishu. Photo: macalin/flickr.

When we look at images of civil war such as the recent images from Syria, our gut response is that such destruction and suffering cannot and should not last. Surely war is a ‘means to an end’—and once that end is reached, civil society and the economy will rise from the ashes? Not necessarily so, says the literature on war economies: war can be ‘economics by other means’. We test this proposition by using satellite images to reconstruct the unwritten economic history of the Somali civil war.

War can be seen as a rational economic activity. Warlords and insurgent movements use violence to extract rents: through looting and extortion or by charging taxes and ‘protection payments’ from traders and producers in their territories. International aid can be a significant revenue source for such ‘violence entrepreneurs’: it can be embezzled, diverted at roadblocks or directed to allied populations rather than the vulnerable and displaced. A ‘combat economy’ thus creates an elite of warlords, criminals and fighters with a direct interest in the continuation of war. » More

Interview – Michael Walzer

Israel and Gaza

Israel and Gaza. Photo: Amir Farshad Ebrahimi/flickr.

Professor Michael Walzer is one of America’s foremost political philosophers and public intellectuals. He has written about a wide variety of topics in political theory and moral philosophy, including political obligation, just and unjust war, nationalism and ethnicity, economic justice, and the welfare state. He played a critical role in the revival of a practical, issue-focused ethics and in the development of a pluralist approach to political and moral life. He has published 27 books and over 300 articles, including  Just and Unjust WarsOn Toleration, and Arguing About War. He has served as editor of the political journal Dissent for more than three decades, and is a contributor to The New Republic. He graduated Summa cum laude from Brandeis University with a B.A. in History, studied at the University of Cambridge on a Fulbright Fellowship (1956–1957) and completed his doctoral work at Harvard, earning his Ph.D. in Government in 1961. Currently, he is working on issues having to do with international justice and the new forms of welfare, as well as on a collaborative project focused on the history of Jewish political thought.

Professor Walzer answers reader questions about intervention in Syria, just war in the age of drones, preventing genocide and mass atrocities, and Israel-Palestine peace negotiations. » More

The Helsinki+40 Process: Determining the Future of the OSCE

Helsinki, KSZE-Konferenz, Schlussakte

Helsinki, KSZE-Konferenz, Schlussakte. Photo: German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons.

Many times, reference has been made in this blog to the so-called Helsinki+40 process. What are the origins of this multilateral discussion process and what does it stand for? Has any progress been made so far and how likely are any concrete, landmark achievements by 2015? » More

Russia’s Multi-vector Nuclear Policy: a Hindrance to Disarmament

Chemical Nuclear Warheads

Chemical Nuclear Warheads. Photo: jenspie3/flickr

Today, Russia and the US possess approximately 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons, and bilateral nuclear relations between these two countries still constitute one of the main issues in global nuclear disarmament.

In spite of recent Russia-US agreements to reduce their respective nuclear stockpiles, however, Russia still maintains an active and robust nuclear policy, one that is now no longer solely dependent on the issue of balancing against the United States, but which must also take into account a number of nuclear states – both lesser, traditional nuclear threats such as China, France and the United Kingdom as well as newer potential threats such as Pakistan and North Korea. Russia’s nuclear strategy is encapsulated in an unpublished but widely-acknowledged document called “Foundations of State Policy in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence” (Russian: Основы государственной политики в области ядерного сдерживания). The Russian Ministry of Defence acknowledges that all nuclear states have their own particular nuclear strategies, which account for their own respective national security needs as well as nuclear reduction and non-proliferation. » More

Africa’s Fragile States Need Extra Help

UN military escort

UN military escort. Photo: Julien Harneis/flickr.

It is true for Mali and Somalia. But not for Burkina Faso or Kenya. To be labelled a ‘fragile state’ is not something any country in Africa welcomes. The category implies that a country is unable to borrow on the market and faces stringent conditionalities put in place by international financial institutions such as the World Bank. It carries the stigma of incapacity and lack of progress; of poverty, violence and poor governance.

Despite the welcome news of ‘Africa rising’, new research shows that ten African states will remain fragile for much longer than previously anticipated.

In a recent policy paper, Africa’s 55 countries have been classified as either ‘more fragile’ or ‘more resilient’. By 2050 more than 1 billion people, about half Africa’s population, are forecast to be living in ‘more fragile’ countries. Yet this number could be reduced to only 372 million, or 16% of the continent’s population, with the right interventions. » More

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