International Relations Foreign policy

Dancing With the Devil – Dealing With Gaddafi

Photo: donjohann/flickr

Sometimes there are articles that simply get under my skin and that create a pesky need to address them individually. John Deverell’s op-ed in The Guardian, There’s no shame in talking to people like Gaddafi, was one of those pieces.

Deverell is a British military figure who notes, with obvious pride, that he was involved in negotiations between the UK and Gaddafi. He is frustrated with a trend of criticizing the British government and institutions over their relationship with Gaddafi:

“it has become politically expedient to decry the relationship fostered since 2003 between the last British government and Gaddafi’s regime.

Former prime minister Tony Blair, officers from the British secret intelligence service, the London School of Economics ( in the news again last week): all have been criticised for the personal relationships they built with senior Libyans, to the extent of being accused of turning a blind eye to human rights and other abuses.”

International Relations History

Charles Tilly, AD 990-1992: Twenty Years On

The French Revolution
According to Tilly, the French Revolution (a milestone in the civilanization of French politics) emerged from protests against the high taxes French Rulers imposed to compensate for the costly American War. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The other day I was re-reading what should perhaps be on every politics student’s bookshelf, Coercion, Capital and European States: AD 990-1992 by Charles Tilly. In this book Tilly examines what formed the modern state by looking at the impact of Europe’s violent history. In contrast to other theories like the idea of a social contract, Tilly argues that: “War wove the European network of national states, and preparation for war created the internal structures of states within it.” The European welfare state as we know it today, Tilly argues, occurred as an inadvertent spin-off from rulers’ bargaining with subject populations when seeking to extract the means to wage war. In exchange for giving up their most valuable resources (sons, lands, weapons, animals), citizens were granted civil rights, social benefits and protection by the state in return.

Throughout the more than 200 pages of historical anecdotes, AD 990-1992 develops a convincing argument that it was indeed rulers’ zeal for developing and adapting to new types of war – thus changing the nature of political-bargaining – that pushed state-transformation. For example, in Revolutionary France the public only agreed to mass disarmament and conscription in exchange for rights of civil suit, local assembly and social benefits.


Advanced Distributed Learning Working Group Meeting in Georgia

St George's monument in Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Reto Schilliger

From 1-3 November 2011, the members of the Partnership for Peace Consortium’s ADL Working Group met for their annual conference, this time in Tbilisi, Georgia. The event, kindly hosted by the Georgian Ministry of Defense and organized in close cooperation with the ISN and the PfP Consortium, focused on the introduction of new and updated open-source tools, discussion of current members’ activities as well as the launch of new ADL projects.

November 1st: Workshops

The meeting started with a full day of workshops providing theoretical background as well as hands-on training on updated and new tools. The ISN Training and ADL Competence Center (TACC) prepared and delivered three workshops on the following topics:

Security Conflict

The Other Sides of Afghanistan: A Regional Perspective on Security Issues in Afghanistan

What's the way ahead for Afghanistan in light of the proposed troop withdrawal by 2014? Photo: US army/flickr

On 4 and 5 November, the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH hosted an academic workshop entitled “The other sides of Afghanistan: A regional perspective on security issues in Afghanistan”. It was organized by Dr Stephen Aris and Dr Aglaya Snetkov (CSS) and supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation. The focus of the workshop was on the regional dimensions of the security situation in Afghanistan.

Ahead of the proposed US and NATO withdrawal from military operations in Afghanistan by 2014, many analysts are now arguing that the role and influence of regional powers and neighboring states in Afghanistan have become increasingly important and that an effective solution to the current instability in Afghanistan will require a coordinated regional approach. To evaluate the prospects for and likely nature of regional cooperation on Afghanistan, the goal of the workshop was to analyze the perceptions and responses of neighboring and regional states to the security situation in Afghanistan, as well as their views on the implications of the proposed Western withdrawal in 2014. To this end, area studies and country-experts on the states bordering Afghanistan (China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and regional powers and states in close proximity (Russia, India, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) gave presentations about these countries’ perceptions, strategies and policies towards Afghanistan. In addition, experts examined the view and approach of NATO and Afghanistan itself to a regional solution, while regional analysts examined the transnational security and economic dynamics between the states of the wider Afghan neighborhood.


A Quick Introduction to the Upcoming ISN Editorial Plan

The earth viewed from space. Photo: NASA Goddard/flickr

Dear valued members of the ISN community:

As of next Monday, 14 November, you are going to see something slightly different on the ISN webpage. Yes, you will continue to see many of the features we already provide. We are, however, going to embark on an experiment – a new Editorial Plan.

One of the temptations of being exclusively current events-oriented is that you can be “all over the map.” To try and avoid this problem, and to provide a service that few other websites of ISN’s type provide, we are going to implement an Editorial Plan. The title may infer something grand but all we actually want to do is tell a story. We want to walk through a three-part narrative that stops and thinks about some of the enduring issues that define international relations and security studies today.

The following slides depict what our story will focus on and how we will walk through it. Frankly, there is nothing complex about the three-part narrative of this tale, which is as follows.