A man and the world. Image: Truthout.org/Flickr
This article was originally published by The Montréal Review.
In 1812 Napoleon Bonaparte, at the heights of his power, set out for the most adventurous, and ultimately fatal, military campaign. Napoleon’s Grand Army of over 500,000 men, the largest force ever mobilized to that date, was led to the lands of Russia. Historians have long investigated the misjudgements of this campaign and the question of hubris emerges as an underlying factor for Napoleon’s vehemence to pursue a disastrous campaign. Hubris is exaggerated pride, often combined with arrogance. Excessive confidence and reassurance, inspired from his established conquests and grandiosity, further inflated by narcissism, led Napoleon to conduct a military campaign that could be allegedly classified as irrational because it took place against the backdrop of a series of warnings and unfavorable forecasts from his lieutenants. The motivations for setting to conquer Czar Alexander’s Russia were less driven by the geopolitical necessity of defeating a rival power as by the impetus “to satisfy a hubris-infected personality” and an insatiable “hunger (…) for applause from others”. » More
Rebel camp in Northern Central Republic, courtesy hdptcar/Flickr
This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies on 23 March 2016.
On Monday 21 March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found former Congolese vice-president and former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Although the charges emanate from crimes committed in Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003, his guilty verdict affects not one, but two African countries.
First, in CAR where the ICC found that troops belonging to Bemba’s rebel group Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC – the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo) committed the international crimes of rape, murder and pillaging at his behest. Second, the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where Bemba’s arrest and elimination from the political scene in 2008 significantly changed the political landscape.
In late 2002, Bemba – then MLC leader – sent his troops to assist CAR’s president at the time Ange-Félix Patassé. Patassé was attempting to quell armed attacks from François Bozizé, the man who would eventually overthrow him. At this point Bemba had been relying heavily on Patassé; using Bangui as his rear logistics base during his rebellion against DRC President Joseph Kabila. Responding to Patassé’s call for help was in many ways a survival strategy for Bemba. Despite these efforts, Bozizé ousted Patassé in March 2003.
Portrait of the UN Secretary-Generals past and present, courtesy Eneas De Troya/flickr
This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 22 March 2016.
Last month, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a long-awaited report, One Humanity: Shared Responsibility, outlining his vision for reforming the global humanitarian system. Riding a wave of successful negotiations on climate change and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Secretary-General is seeking to end his final term by laying the groundwork for what he calls “a new paradigm” for the international aid system. During his tenure, the UN has witnessed large-scale suffering in Syria, climate-related natural disasters, and a massive exodus of refugees to Europe. With the humanitarian system buckling under extraordinary pressure—including 60 million people forcibly displaced and requiring an estimated $20 billion USD to feed and care for them—the timing could not be better.
UN secretaries-general from Dag Hammarskjöld to Kofi Annan have released landmark reports and spearheaded initiatives that went on to have significant—albeit under-recognized—impacts on the multilateral system. Notable among these is Agenda for Peace, written by former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1995 in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and the Srebrenica massacre. The fact that Ban titled his report’s annex Agenda for Humanity is likely no coincidence. Some of these past initiatives may offer instructive guidelines for today. With the first ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) approaching in May in Istanbul, can the Secretary-General help reshape the global humanitarian agenda?
Predator drone firing a rocket, courtesy KAZ Vorpal/flickr
This article was originally published by Peace Policy on 10 March 2016.
Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA and NSA, recently published a New York Times op-ed article claiming that Americans should embrace drone warfare because it helps to keep us safe. The article seriously misrepresents the nature of the U.S. drone warfare program and triggered a number of sharp reactions.
Hayden claims that drones strikes have been extremely precise and that civilian casualties are low, but Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations contests these claims. Using data from non-governmental groups that monitor drone strikes, Zenko calculates that during the time Hayden was director of the CIA he personally authorized an estimated 48 drone strikes, which killed 532 people, 144 of whom were civilians. The civilian death toll in those strikes was 27 percent.
US Army female soldier in Iraq, courtesy of Technical Sergeant William Greer, United States Air Force/Flickr
This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 23 March 2016.
On February 2, the Senate Armed Services Committee heard conflicting testimony from the Army and Marines about integrating women into the infantry. The Marine Corps had opposed the change, drawing the ire of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. So he took gender integration a giant step farther, ordering the Marines to abolish their separate male and female boot camps and to replace them with co-ed facilities. Mabus gave the astonished Marine leadership 14 days to present him a plan that included “removing ‘man’ from job titles.”
Mabus had previously antagonized Congress with his ideological agenda. His plan to shift half the fleet to alternative energy sourcing was so costly that Congress moved to prevent it. The 18 weeks of maternity leave he installed, much more generous than corporations, was rolled back by the secretary of defense. But targeting boot camp is more than ideological overreach. It will do grave harm to America’s battlefield ferocity.