For a variety of reasons, many of today’s armed conflicts exist at the intersection between politics and economics. As part of this phenomenon, organized criminal activity in armed conflict is increasing rapidly and poses many challenges for policymakers. In this context, an important question is whether there is space for mediation in resolving conflicts in which organized criminal activity plays a significant role.
For all our cherished empiricism, historians have a decidedly metaphysical task: to reject linear readings of the past, to warn against simplistic consequentiality, and yet – all the while – to impress a narrative onto history. Our discipline thrives on complexity and yet dreams of simplicity, employing ‘periodisation’, individualisation and causality as readily as it dismisses them. Should we beware, then, of the historian tempted by topical commentary? Maybe. Yet how can we be blamed, when History is exploited so effectively in politics, employed so callously in nation-building (and un-building), wheeled out so unscrupulously to justify just about everything?
One in five African states produce hydrocarbons, and most of these are heavily dependent on oil and gas revenues to finance their governments and generate foreign exchange. Further, an emerging group of East African states are waiting on international oil companies to develop new oil and gas reserves. But Africa’s record using non-renewable oil and gas resources to trigger economic and social development is poor – and plummeting prices may portend more instability to come.
International constraint and mutual nuclear deterrence may have prevented all-out war with Pakistan in the past over contested Kashmir. With thousands fleeing their homes amid escalating violence, that may not remain a secure wager.
Rising tension at the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan is putting in question the widely-held assumption that their conflict will not escalate to an all-out conventional or even nuclear war. International concern has extended to the US, previously resistant to mediating in the Kashmir dispute.
This is at the heart of the existential rivalry between the two states. Kashmir has become so symbolically significant to both India and Pakistan that they are beset by zero-sum thinking, though a resolution would potentially put an end to their hostilities. In the current context that seems unlikely.
Drones were among the most popular Christmas gifts in 2014 — so popular, in fact, that British authorities warned recreational drone users to make sure to use their toys lawfully, or to expect hefty fines. Similarly, the US FAA released a video just before the holidays, teaching aspiring drone users how to “stay off the naughty list”. More and more people are becoming familiar with drones as the number of ‘hobby droners’ (yes, this is a term) grows. Businesses are discovering drones as well: drones carry mistletoe in restaurants (with questionable results), or are used to give real-estate buyers a better view of their property. Beyond this, hundreds if not thousands of commercial drone users are waiting in the wings for a few last technical details to be figured out (especially sense-and-avoid technology) and for the implementation of legal regulations allowing drones to share airspace with manned aircraft.