The CSS Blog Network

Would You Download a Weapon?

AR-15 lower receiver and ‘print file’. Images: Wikimedia Commons, Thingiverse


3-D printing, while unknown to most of the public, has been around for quite a while. Its industrial applications range from rapid prototyping and archaeological reconstructions to medical uses in implant technology and custom-fitted hearing aids. Now, the technology is becoming affordable for the average consumer: while an industrial-strength 3-D printer that can use materials like bronze-infused steel, or even titanium, still costs more than $10,000, desktop machines for printing hard plastics are being sold in kits available for little over $1000. » More

Thucydides, or Plato?

Statue of Thucydides in Vienna

A statue of Thucydides in Vienna. Photo: ChrisJL/flickr

The first important contributor to ‘international’ thought is usually considered to be Thucydides.   Though Herodotus is the “father of history” and it was Socrates that first brought philosophy ‘down from the heavens’ and into the agora, Thucydides was the first to deal with the relations among and between political communities in a theoretical manner. » More

Innocents Abroad?

Innocents abroad? Photo:

The next American presidential election is only 13 months away, and the campaign season is getting close to full-swing.  Last night in Hanover, New Hampshire, the candidates for the Republican nomination met for what is already their seventh debate, and there are signs, in his energetic push for the Jobs Bill, that  ‘campaign Obama’ may be about to emerge from his presidential shell.   At this stage, all eyes are understandably focused on the economy, as it is widely believed that the election will be decided by what happens with unemployment.  In September, the economy created 103,000 non-farm jobs, edging the official rate up to 9.1 percent.  Looming ever more ominously on the horizon, however, is the much bigger problem of the national debt.  At last count, total outstanding public debt is now at 99 pct of GDP, the highest level since the heyday of the Marshall Plan.

As  James Traub, for Foreign Policy, has pointed out, this focus on economic matters has meant less direct attention to foreign affairs, particularly by the Republican candidates.  » More

Keyword in Focus: Liberia

Elections in Liberia: pointing to the future. Photo: United Nations Photo/flickr

Some degree of controversy is almost inevitable at the annual announcement of perhaps the most prestigious prize in the world. The awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to three women’s rights activists is an undoubtedly appropriate recognition of the role of women in peace building. But opponents of Liberia’s incumbent president, joint-winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, claim that the prize is politically motivated and interferes with domestic politics. With the first round of presidential elections — in which Sirleaf is seeking re-election — taking place only days after the announcement, they fear the timing of the prize for Africa’s first elected female head of state could unfairly boost her prospects.

Whatever. As Liberians go to the polls today, the Nobel Peace Prize is hardly the main reason the international community is watching so closely, and apprehensively. With the images still fresh in our minds of the post-election violence in the Ivory Coast last year (in which Liberians were involved), these second elections since the end in 2003 of decades of civil war are an important test for Liberia’s fragile peace. If the presidential and legislative elections are conducted successfully, i.e. without major incident, then pressure will mount on the UN peacekeeping mission to withdraw. This will no doubt be a delicate undertaking in a country where the presence of international security forces has long been the main guarantor of peace. » More

This Week at the ISN…

It's week 41 on the ISN's editorial calendar, Photo: Marc Thiele/flickr

We’ll highlight the following topics:

  • In ISN Insights on Monday, Dr John Daly of Johns Hopkins Central Asia-Caucasus Institute previews the trial of ‘Merchant of Death’ Victor Bout set to open this week
  • On Tuesday, we’ll feature our vast content holdings on Liberia
  • In Wednesday’s ISN Insight, Professor Plamen Pantev from Sofia University discusses an oft forgotten geostrategic realm: the states surrounding the Black Sea
  • On Thursday, we offer up a brief history of power
  • In Friday’s ISN podcast, Andreas Kleiser discusses the work of the International Commission of Missing Persons

And in case you missed any of last week’s coverage, you can catch up here on: a new Saudi security force funded by the US; an update on Northern Kosovo; Putin’s return to the Kremlin; a profile of Kenneth Waltz; and a discussion on the real and perceived threats of cyberwarfare

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