The CSS Blog Network

The Thugs of War in Syria

Destruction in Bab Dreeb area in Homs, Syria, courtesy Bo yaser/WikimediaCommons

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 23 February 2016.

Last summer, the situation in the war-torn Syrian republic pointed towards entrenched fragmentation of the state. Different parties—including President Bashar al-Assad—controlled parts of the country, and neither seemed strong enough for military victory or significant advancements. Russia began air support to the Syrian Army to fight what they labeled terrorists last September, in hopes of tipping the scales.

Now in its fifth year, the war in Syria is particularly complex. What started as (and still is, to some degree) an uprising against a dictatorship has also developed into a sectarian battle between Syria’s Sunni majority and the Shia-Alawite minority; between moderate and extremist Sunnis; between the regime and the Kurdish pursuit for independence; and between regional interests where Sunni Turkey and Saudi Arabia are fighting for influence against Shia Iran by using the Syria war as a proxy. It is also providing the theater for a geopolitical challenge from Russia against the USA.

» More

Follow Me, I’m Right Behind You, Says Kenyatta

Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of Kenya

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS Africa) on 4 February 2016.

As the 26th ordinary summit of the African Union (AU) ended in Addis Ababa on Sunday, Kenyan media led with reports that ‘the African Union has adopted, without amendments, a proposal by President Uhuru Kenyatta to develop a roadmap for withdrawal from the Rome Statute’ – as the Daily Nation put it.

What had actually unfolded was a little more nuanced. The AU heads of state did not decide to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) en masse – yet. Nor even did Kenyatta ask for that. In his speech to the AU Assembly, he asked the summit to give the Open-Ended Committee of African Ministers on the ICC ‘a new mandate to develop a roadmap for withdrawal from the Rome Statute as necessary.’

The key phrase here is ‘as necessary.’ The rest of his speech makes clear that withdrawal from the ICC would be conditional on the court failing to meet the AU’s demands. As Kenyatta said earlier in his speech: ‘It is my sincere hope that our ICC reform agenda will succeed so that we can return to the instrument we signed up for. If it does not, I believe its utility for this continent at this moment of global turmoil will be extremely limited. In that eventuality, we will be failing in our duty if we continue to shore up a dysfunction(-al) instrument.’

» More

The AU’s Less Coercive Diplomacy in Burundi

East African soldiers from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Sudan practice counter-IED movement

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 16 February 2016.

Burundi’s political crisis continues, but it has entered a new phase with the conclusion of the 26th African Union summit on January 31st in Addis Ababa. In a December 2015 Global Observatory article, I analyzed the AU’s novel use of coercive diplomacy in Burundi. This approach came under scrutiny at the January summit, to the point that many consider it a failure. The truth is more complicated.

Before the AU summit, the last decision on Burundi taken by the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) was set out in its communiqué of December 17th last year. Among other things, this seven-page document authorized the deployment of a 5,000-strong African Protection and Prevention Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU). It gave President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government 96-hours to consent to MAPROBU’s deployment, called for the relaunch of the inter-Burundi dialogue between the government and opposition, and for the complete deployment of the 100 human rights and military observers that the AU had authorized in May 2015. The principal goals of the PSC in taking this decision had been to facilitate a political settlement to Burundi’s ongoing crisis and reduce the threat of armed conflict and violence against civilians.

» More

Interview – Richard Ned Lebow

Globes in a Classroom

This interview was originally published by E-International Relations on 15 February 2016.

Richard Ned Lebow is Professor of International Political Theory in the War Studies Department of King’s College London, Bye-Fellow of Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge, and the James O. Freedman Presidential Professor (Emeritus) of Government at Dartmouth College. He has published over 20 books and 200 peer-reviewed articles in a career spanning six decades. Among his recent publications are Constructing Cause in International Relations (Cambridge, 2014);The Politics and Ethics of Identity: In Search of Ourselves (Cambridge, 2012); Why Nations Fight: Past and Future Motives for War (Cambridge, 2010); and Forbidden Fruit: Counterfactuals and International Relations (Princeton, 2010).

2016 marks your 50th year in teaching international relations. If you could encapsulate your career into just a few key events or milestones, which would they be?

I think the milestones would be the publication of my Between Peace and War: The Nature of International Crisis, which I worked on for 10 years. I put a lot of work into the case studies and the theoretical framework. It made my initial reputation in the field and also set in motion a program of researching the failings of deterrence as both a theory and strategy of conflict management and with that as well a critique of rationalist models more generally, so that very clearly was a milestone.

» More

Germany and Russia: Berlin’s Deadly Self-Delusions

Putin propaganda art, courtesy volna80/flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 15 February 2016.

There is a German word for nearly everything. An unquestioned lifelong self-delusion is referred to as a life-lie, a Lebenslüge. When it comes to Germany’s policies vis-à-vis Russia there are plenty of such self-delusions that drive Berlin’s foreign policy. This fact is more important given that Berlin heads the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which runs the two observer missions that are supposed to monitor the implementation of the Minsk II agreements in Ukraine. In January 2016, Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, laid out the priorities for the OSCE chairmanship — and they could hardly be more revealing. They indicate all that is wrong with the German approach to European security. Steinmeier seems to believe that the current insecurity in Europe is the result of a lack of trust stemming from a breakdown in communications between Moscow and Western nations. No wonder, then, that Germany’s emphasis is on dialogue to restore trust and ultimately make Europe secure again.

Unfortunately, this logic has it backwards. There is indeed a lack of trust. However, that lack of trust is a direct consequence of Russian aggression, not Western miscommunication. Approaching Russia with suspicion and mistrust — as many Eastern European nations do — is the only sane reaction, given that Russia has invaded a neighbor, annexed part of its territory, and tried to divide the rest of the country while threatening half a dozen other countries in Europe, all based on a “blood and soil” ideology.

» More

Page 1 of 5