The CSS Blog Network

Democratic Fundamentalism in Switzerland

Imagine you are asked to vote on a treaty concluded between your home and your neighboring country. The treaty aims at improving cooperation in border control matters between the two states. Would you vote in favor of or against adopting the treaty? Or would you not go to the polls at all?

How much democratic control of foreign policy? Photo: courtesy of Kanton Glarus

How much direct democracy in foreign policy-making? Photo: courtesy of Kanton Glarus

The Action for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland (AUNS) launched a popular initiative, which, if adopted by Swiss voters, will amend the Constitution so as to require a popular vote on all but the most trivial international treaties. What sounds like empowerment from a committed democrat’s point of view sounds like handcuffs from a foreign policymaker’s perspective.

Yet, the motivation behind AUNS’ initiative is not so much democratic as politically strategic. The group’s main goal is to prevent Switzerland from joining the EU, overtly, or as they fear, covertly. AUNS members, which unsuccessfully vowed against Switzerland joining the UN in 2002, lament that the Swiss political elite is too open-minded toward the world. The strategy they employ is an old one: If you think the majority of the people is behind your cause, you ask them, if not, you ignore them. » More

The Consequences of German Decisions

Small button, big consequences / Photo: Steven De Polo, flickr

Small button, big consequences / Photo: Steven De Polo, flickr

After the German-directed ISAF air strike on two fuel vehicles stolen by the Taliban reportedly cost civilian lives, public calls for clarification are accompanied by both palsy and hectic in Berlin. Federal elections will take place in less than 3 weeks.

What often happens when things go very wrong is that people engage in speculation and search for a scapegoat. Too seldom though, we see people take responsibility, especially in politics. Clausewitz wrote that war never is an end in itself and always serves a political purpose. Imagine now a trigger in the hands of a German soldier serving in an army with a heavy legacy; an army from a pacifistic, self-traumatized post-war state, in which military planning, strategy and even tactics are subject to widespread emotional discussions. How much politics can efficient tactics bear? » More

Iran: Options for the West

Iran: Domestic Crisis and Options for the West

Iran: Domestic Crisis and Options for the West

What are the effects of Iran’s domestic crisis on the nuclear issue?

A new analysis by the Center for Security Studies (CSS) looks at policy options available for western governments.

Roland Popp, senior researcher at the CSS, argues that the weakening of the Iranian regime is unlikely to ease negotiations with Tehran over the nuclear issue.

You can download the paper here.

At 40, Gaddafi’s Libya Has Much to Celebrate

He has called himself ‘an international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of Muslims.’ And today, the self-proclaimed ‘king of kings of Africa‘ has a lot to celebrate.

I am talking of course of Muammar Al-Gaddafi, the ‘Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution,’ who today celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Libyan Revolution, which brought him to power.

Photo: antheap, flickr

Photo: antheap, flickr

‘Celebrate Libya’, as today’s event is called, will be one of the biggest events the African continent has seen in modern times. Tonight’s ceremony is said to be comparable in magnitude to an Olympic opening ceremony. Hundreds of thousands of spectators, 800 performers, sound and light shows, 1000 camels, military bands, acrobatic planes, flame ballet and spectacular fireworks will mark the occasion.

The celebrations can be monitored on the official Celebrate Libya website.   » More

ISN Weekly Theme: US Achievements in Iraq

Welcome to Baghdad, photo: Austin King / flickr

Welcome to Baghdad, photo: Austin King / flickr

In the wake of US troop withdrawals from Iraqi cities and with the scheduling of full withrawal still ahead, the ISN looks at the past, present and future of US involvement in Iraq. With a new president, a new strategy and a set of new challenges at home, the level of US engagement is changing drastically and rapidly altering the realities and demands on the ground. Will Iraqi troops stand up once Americans stand down? Will political reconciliation and institution-building take root?

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