The CSS Blog Network

The Era of Mutual Assured Disruption

Courtesy of brillianthues/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 16 February 2017.

The five forces that are ‘liquidising’ global security.

As the liberal order frays and geopolitical competition returns it is natural that people turn to Henry Kissinger.  No one has a more finely-grained understanding of power politics, and his treatise on World Order sits on the bed side tables of many global leaders (even if few have actually read it).

But Kissinger’s ideas of order represent an impossible aspiration in the world of ISIS and fake news. They are designed for a slower world and powerful states, rather than our age of permanent uncertainty, rapid change and disruption.

Many traditional concepts – even well-tested ones – have been overtaken by events. Deterrence, alliances, even diplomacy seem out of fashion; old certainties are gone. Kissinger’s order was based on two pillars: legitimacy and balance of power. The defining moment of his world view was the Peace of Westphalia. He laments the disappearance of the split between domestic and foreign policy. But, in spite of the return of power politics, the world is not Kissingerian any more.

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Get Real! Five Spiritual Responses to Political Reality

Peace dove

Peace dove, courtesy Dan Slee/Flickr

This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy on 1 June 2016.

“Get real!” they say, in a thousand different ways, but mostly as a call for conformity, not awakening.

At its best, spiritual life is fundamentally about a deeper engagement with reality, a turn towards the confounding fullness of life, not an attempt to escape it. The idea that a renewal of progressive politics might require a spiritual turn is therefore about courage, about squaring up to those neglected features of reality that have untapped political potential.

One way to get real is to consider Neal Lawson’s excellent analysis on the existential threats to social democracy. Many believe in a beneficent state that arose from an alignment of class, governance and the cold war, when politics was national and industrial. But this state is clearly failing to adapt to a global and post-industrial world.

Part of the solution, Lawson suggests, is that we need a more visceral appreciation for values and activities that are not materialistic. We can still love our homes and our gadgets, but we need to dethrone consumption as our lodestar and touchstone. That means fostering passion for the time rich, relationship rich, experience rich and purpose rich lives we want to live.

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Six Million Mubaraks

Egypt's Mubarack is in a Cage

Egypt's Mubarak is in a Cage. Photo: ssoosay/flickr.

It goes without saying that Egypt has seen a revolutionary political change. Its new president is a leader of an organization that a little more than a year ago was still banned and feared. Since February 2011 Egyptians have voted four times. Yet, people-oriented policies are nowhere to be found and ordinary Egyptians feel little change for better in their everyday lives. Few dare to say this out loud: big part of the problem is the Egyptian society itself. It is still authoritarian: at work, at home and in the Arab street.

The notion of an authoritarian Arab society is not new. Brian Whitaker, a British columnist at the Guardian, in his book “What’s really wrong with the Middle East” (Saqi, 2009) talks to an Egyptian journalist who explains that not the single Mubarak is the problem but the fact that “Egypt has a million Mubaraks”. » More

Putin’s Ironic Potential

Russian protester on the streets of Moscow in June 2012

Russian protester, Moscow, 12 June 2012. Photo: somiz/flickr.

MOSCOW – Vladimir Putin’s recapture of the Russian presidency has been met with widespread derision, both at home and abroad. But the autocrat’s return to the Kremlin could be Russia’s best hope to escape stagnation.

With his open contempt for Russian society – exemplified in his mocking response to widespread demonstrations – as well as his arrogance, readiness to stifle dissent, and fear of competition, Putin has singlehandedly quashed the long-held myth that he himself propagated: personalized power can modernize the country while preserving stability. » More

You Can Run – Or You Can Hide

Fighting a losing battle? photo: Peter Vlam/flickr

On 26 January of this year, David Kato Kisule, a prominent gay rights campaigner from the east African nation of Uganda, was beaten to death with a hammer in his house near the country’s capital of Kampala, shortly after winning a lawsuit against a magazine which had published his name and photograph identifying him as gay and calling for him to be executed.

The story goes back to October of last year, when a weekly Ugandan tabloid newspaper, the Rolling Stone (with no affiliation to the iconic American music magazine), published the names and photos of 100 suspected homosexuals next to a banner that read “hang them”, which led to those listed being singled out, threatened, attacked, and – as in the case of Kato – killed.

Kato’s funeral was held on 28 January in Nakawala. Tears flowed as family members and human rights activists wailed. A statement from President Barack Obama was read, condemning the killing and urging authorities to bring swift justice. However, the presiding Anglican pastor shocked the mourners when he called on gays to repent or else be “punished by God” and made comparisons to Sodom and Gomorrah, before the bereaved managed to grab the microphone from him. During the resulting scuffle, the onlooking villagers, refusing to bury Kato within their parish, sided with the preacher. » More

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