We Need to Fix the Way We Talk about National Intelligence

CIA memorial wall. Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 10 October 2014.

In the last few years, the list of sensitive government information made public as a result of unauthorised disclosures has increased exponentially. But who really benefits from these leaks?

While they are media catnip and provide useful information to hostile individuals and organisations, they only occasionally contribute to the public debate on intelligence and truly advance the cause of democracy.

A scoop on the secret world of espionage is a guaranteed journalistic coup. And with good reason; at the simplest level, news exposures of intelligence service activities inform the public and contribute to a self-evidently important public debate on the role of intelligence in modern democracies. » More

World War I and the Transformation of the World

British Vickers Machine Gun. Wikimedia Commons/John Warwick Brooke

This article was originally published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in October 2014.

This summer marked the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, perhaps the most transformative war in history. While the wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars harnessed national populations in a way not previously seen since the emergence of the modern state system, World War I combined the mobilization of both populations and industrial power, enhanced by technology, to produce a most lethal form of warfare. » More

The Passing of the Nuclear Torch: The Next Generation of WMD Scientists

Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Image: yeowatzup/Flickr

This article was originally published by 38 North on 22 September 2014.

You probably missed the obituary. But on July 7, when North Korean media announced the death of the 88-year-old senior North Korean official Jon Pyong Ho, it highlighted an important but largely ignored development in Pyongyang’s effort to build weapons of mass destruction (WMD). While most observers focus on Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests, they ignore the shift happening in North Korea’s WMD community: a newer generation is replacing the North Korean scientists who played a key role in developing Pyongyang’s WMDs. This new generation will play a central role in determining whether North Korea will become a (small) nuclear power. » More

IR Theory: Problem-Solving Theory Versus Critical Theory?

The Thinker by Rodin. Image: Jean-David & Anne Laure/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 19 September 2014.

Robert Cox began his canonical 1981 essay “Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory” with the observation that it is “necessary and practical” for academic disciplines to “divide up the seamless web of the real social world”. We make these divisions, Cox wrote, in order to analyse the world and thus to produce practical knowledge of that world. It is not a stretch to suggest that the real social world of International Relations scholarship might also be approached as worthy of analysis and theory. Indeed, reflection on International Relations as theory appears in the field as part of the necessary and practical division of the complexity of the social and political world. Rare is the introduction to IR textbook that does not emphasize, and usually begin with, the “great (theoretical) debates” that have structured the field since it emerged as an academic discipline. » More

Book Review: The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited by Louisa Lim

Image: Robert Croma/Flickr

This article was originally published by the LSE Review of Books on 15 September, 2014.

The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited. Louisa Lim. Oxford University Press. 2014.

It is astonishing that the 25th anniversary of one of the key events in China’s modern history has triggered comparatively little academic activity. The occupation of Tiananmen Square by student demonstrators in the spring of 1989 and the ensuing massacre in the streets of Beijing committed by the People’s Liberation Army was an event that brought many consequences for China. It thoroughly put an end to any reform of China’s political system while ensuring the continuation and indeed acceleration of the country’s economic transformation. It also ushered in a new era in which the history of class struggle has been turned into a history of China’s national humiliation. Finally, it made it possible to elevate nationalism and consumerism to core values supported by the party-state and to legitimate to a considerable extent the enormous effort and cost of the now most important task of ‘stability maintenance’. » More

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