The asymmetrical proxy conflict currently being fought in Syria has many interested state parties and Qatar has taken a prominent, multi-track approach to influence the outcome. The Qataris have met with Assad, armed rebels, provided facilities for the US to train militants, paid defectors and–employing a novel methodology– used the trappings of civil society in the form of a ‘report’ on torture and the coverage provided by a ‘free press’. Qatar’s participation raises some interesting questions: What is the goal of this geopolitical manoeuvring? Are they using a civil society façade to achieve state goals? » More
South Africa has big plans to expand its involvement in Africa. To implement these, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, has a vision and a 400-page Defence Review to guide her in developing the capabilities of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to match the national, regional and continental role envisaged by cabinet and the Presidency. Yet she will need support and additional funds: quite a lot of it too, judging by the recommendations in the review. » More
In September, the NATO allies will meet at the summit to discuss issues ranging from the end of NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan to the reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank.
The agenda and areas of consensus will mostly be prepared by national officials and the NATO staff well in advance of the meeting. Most likely not on the agenda, however, is a philosophical but critical question that hangs over the alliance: does the ‘West’ still exist? » More
Culture has a salient geopolitical relevance in a world that defines itself by much more than diplomatic exchanges and inter-state relations. This is primarily because of the deeply visceral and emotional connotations associated with identity issues. This has been the case throughout history, as exchanges have taken place between people of different cultures for millennia, but today they are marked by unprecedented intensity and scope of relations. This offers great opportunities on a number of levels but also has the potential to initiate tension or conflict when combined with injustice, inequalities and insecurities. » More
In response to the second season of the US remake of House of Cards, a flurry of articles appeared in various outlets pondering the accuracy of China’s portrayal. This includes discussion on how the show indicates the role ofChinese soft power, is an accurate portrayal of domestic US politics, how the show deals with issues of race and whether or not it represents an accurate portrayal of China and issues in the Asia-Pacific. The writers, praised for “doing their homework” by one outlet, met with numerous China specialists including Xiaobo Lu of Columbia University who commented that “overall the writers were successful in putting in the China
storyline with a mix of sensational fiction and possible reality”. » More