Why Is Statehood So Popular?

Photo: Andrew Bossi/flickr

This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 27 June 2014.

From Scotland to Syria to Somalia, various groups are seeking to create independent states. The Scots will vote on independence this September. Kurds in northern Syria and Iraq have revived their hopes for an independent Kurdistan as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) envisions redrawing the map of the Middle East. And tribal leaders in northwest Somalia govern the territory they claim more effectively than the internationally-recognized Federal Government of Somalia controls the south. » More

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Book Review: Referendums and Ethnic Conflict by Matt Qvortrup

Photo: Al Jazeera English/flickr

This article was originally published by the blog LSE Review of Books on 26 June 2014.

Drawing on political theory and descriptive case studies, Matt Qvortrup looks to create typologies of referendums that are held to endorse secession, redraw disputed borders, legitimize a policy of homogenization, or otherwise manage ethnic or national differences. He considers the circumstances that compel politicians to resort to direct democracy, such as regime change, and the conditions that might exacerbate a violent response. Gary Wilson believes the book will be of interest to political scientists and international relations scholars as some chapters are heavy with mathematical formulae used to predict the probability of various outcomes of referendums. » More

Europe’s Future as a Global Power

Photo: isafmedia/flickr.

As the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War draws closer, it must be remarked that the most significant change to the geopolitical map since 1914 was not the defeat of fascism, nor the death of Soviet-style communism, but the complete collapse of all the European imperialist systems of government. Of course, various forms of hegemony, colonialism, and suzerainty still exist in the modern world and European nations have not been above overseas conflict since the end of the Cold War. However, a century after the start of Europe’s bloodbath the continent, now at peace, has turned inwards in its thinking.

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Virtual Conflict as Cultural Catharsis: Re-fighting Vietnam 2.0

Online Game Call of Duty, courtesy of Movistar Campus Party México

This article was originally published by Strife on 12 June 2014.

Storytelling is a core part of how we communicate with each other, understand complex issues and come to terms with the world around us. The prevalence of so-called ‘talking therapies’ show that such processes are important in helping to overcome and move past negative events and experiences. The experience of 9/11 left long-lasting and deep collective and cultural damage on the US/Western collective psyches. The ‘War on Terror’ has been compared to what Vietnam was for Lyndon Johnson: ‘a vast, tragic distraction in which he must be seen to be winning, lest the domestic agenda he really cares about be derailed.’ Popular culture, in this case Western-developed video/computer games, have become a medium in which the cathartic and curative process of storytelling is taking place on a cultural level, to move past and overcome both of these ‘unfinished’ conflicts.

War and conflict have been staple thematic topics in games for decades, as far back as Space Invaders and Missile Command in the late 1970s. However, the games released after 9/11 show an interesting pattern indicating a marked swing in direction and focus. Between 2002 and 2005 there were two games released that were set during the first Gulf War (Conflict: Desert Storm I & II), at least nine games released set during the Vietnam War (Vietcong, Vietcong 2, Battlefield: Vietnam, Conflict: Vietnam, Shellshock: ‘Nam 67, Wings over Vietnam, Platoon, Men of Valor, Line of Sight: Vietnam) as well as many more set in the modern day in real or analogous Middle-Eastern theatres. One of the most stand-out titles from this period was America’s 10 Most Wanted, whose finale consists of the player fighting Osama Bin Laden in hand-to-hand combat, and subsequently bundling him into a helicopter that flies off into the sunset while the credits roll. From this period mainstream game development began to shift to reflect changing current events. From 2008 games in this thematic field have often adopted Private Military Contractors in both pro and antagonistic roles. after the details of Blackwater’s/Xe’s involvement in Iraq became wider public knowledge and a hot topic of the time.

The ability of popular culture to serve as a space for cultural catharsis and as a coping mechanism isn’t a new one; after the collective cultural trauma of Vietnam a similar process of mourning and understanding took place. The trajectory of tone and content in the ‘war is hell’ films from the 1970s such as Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter shifted dramatically to the restorative and cathartic films from the 1980s like Top Gun and Rambo. These films either painted the US military in a far more positive and victorious light or, in the case of Rambo, literally re-fighting Vietnam on-screen. » More

The Rise of the Humanitarian Drone: Giving Content to an Emerging Concept

Unmanned/Unarmed Aerial Vehicles, courtesy of MONUSCO

This article was originally published by iRevolution on 30 June 2014.

Kristin Bergtora, who directs the Norwegian Center for Humanitarian Studies (and sits on the Advisory Board of the Humanitarian UAV Network, UAViators), just co-authored this important study on the growing role of UAVs or drones in the humanitarian space. Kristin and fellow co-author Kjersti Lohne consider the mainstreaming of UAVs as a technology-transfer from the global battlefield. “Just as drones have rapidly become intrinsic to modern warfare, it appears that they will increasingly find their place as part of the humanitarian governance apparatus.” The co-authors highlight the opportunities that drones offer for humanitarian assistance and explore how the notion of the humanitarian UAV will change humanitarian practices. » More

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