How (Not) To Write about African Wars

Rwandan genocide memorial church. Image: Adam Jones/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 30 September 2014.

Even a seasoned follower of political affairs might be excused for struggling to make sense of the seemingly worsening vortex of ongoing armed conflicts. Chances are, given the recent war in Gaza, the promising but still fragile developments in Afghanistan, and the twinned and tragic mess Syria and Iraq has become, his analytic brain might be reasonably overwhelmed.

But, to be sure, in the daily media discourse, some of the complicated nuances of these events have been gaining attention, making their way into public debates and helping form policy positions and diplomatic or military options. In short, news and information consumers are treated to a varied diet in relation to the coverage of world conflicts— most of which, in recent years, have been internal civil wars.

The argument holds, however, only if African civil wars are removed from the list. As it appears, those belong to a different category. For African civil wars, if the dominant media discourse is to be believed, explanations are easy and definitive. » More

Yemen Deal Brings Little Solace

Protestors in the streets of Sanaa. Image: Sallam/Wikimedia.

This article was originally published by IRIN on 23 September 2014.

With northern rebels claiming the capital Sana’a and Al-Qaeda militants increasing their attacks in the south, Yemen’s security crisis is likely to continue, experts believe. While a new agreement between the Houthi rebels and the government may have temporarily reduced fears of all-out civil war, the country’s political, security and economic crises are unlikely to ease, leading NGOs to fear increasing humanitarian needs. » More

If You Liked Vietnam, You’ll Love the War With the Islamic State

Helicopter patrol over the Mekong Delta. Image: Manhai/Flickr

This article was originally published by Small Wars Journal on 12 September, 2014.

Vietnam analogies are often overused, particularly by people who want to stay out of a proposed war or get us out of one we are fighting. Although I agree that the Islamic State, or whatever it is calling itself this week, must be dealt with militarily; the strategy with which the Obama administration is going about it is deeply disturbing and its basic elements bring vividly to mind the War in Vietnam which began in earnest when I was in the Tenth Grade; American involvement did not end until I was a senior Marine Corps First Lieutenant in 1973. I am not yet senile enough to have forgotten key details. » More

The Lesson of Russia’s Serial Treaty Violations

Russian “Topol” missile. Image: Vitaly Kuzmin/Wikimedia

This article was originally published as “Russia’s Treaty Violations & Nuclear Instability” by Real Clear Defense on 15 September 2014.

Last week, US officials began talks in Moscow regarding Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The agreement bans the testing or deployment of intermediate range cruise and ballistic missiles, those with a range between 500km and 5500 km. In its annual 2014 arms control Compliance Report, the Department of State noted that Russia had violated the pact when it deployed a ground-launched cruise missile, whose unique Iskandar system can fire both cruise and ballistic missiles and a system Russia plans to deploy to Crimea. This cruise missile is not a new development; it was first tested in 2007 and has been deployed in the banned ground-launched configuration since 2009. Nor is it Russia’s only INF violation. Moscow also has converted a single-warhead ICBM into a three-warhead intermediate-range ballistic missile, a violation missing from the 2014 Compliance Report. » More

Cutting Corners in the South Sudan Peace Process

Image: USAID Africa Bureau/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 15 September 2014.

On 26 August 2014, the two parties to the South Sudan conflict – the government of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM in Opposition) – reached their fourth agreement aimed at ending the violence that broke out in mid-December 2013. The latest accord mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is called the Implementation Matrix of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, and gives the two parties 45 days to form a unity government.

It follows three previous agreements: the January 2014 Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities and Status of Detainees; the May 2014 Agreement on the Recommitment on Humanitarian Matters of the Cessation of Hostilities; and the June 2014 commitment to the formation of a transitional government of national unity, which was intended to have happened within 60 days.
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