The CSS Blog Network

The Consequences of German Decisions

Small button, big consequences / Photo: Steven De Polo, flickr

Small button, big consequences / Photo: Steven De Polo, flickr

After the German-directed ISAF air strike on two fuel vehicles stolen by the Taliban reportedly cost civilian lives, public calls for clarification are accompanied by both palsy and hectic in Berlin. Federal elections will take place in less than 3 weeks.

What often happens when things go very wrong is that people engage in speculation and search for a scapegoat. Too seldom though, we see people take responsibility, especially in politics. Clausewitz wrote that war never is an end in itself and always serves a political purpose. Imagine now a trigger in the hands of a German soldier serving in an army with a heavy legacy; an army from a pacifistic, self-traumatized post-war state, in which military planning, strategy and even tactics are subject to widespread emotional discussions. How much politics can efficient tactics bear? » More

Social Media Misers

The usual suspects according to ONI / Screenshot: OpenNet Initiative

The usual suspects according to ONI / Screenshot: OpenNet Initiative

The OpenNet Initiative, a partnership according to the site between “the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto; Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme, University of Cambridge; and the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University,” has posted an interactive map showing which countries filter or block particular social media sites. Facebook, Flickr, Orkut, Twitter and YouTube are the ones they focus on.

The usual culprits are represented: China intermittently blocks Facebook, Saudi Arabia totally blocks it; Saudi Arabia and Iran block Orkut (they seem to be the only two that care to do so); China and Iran block Twitter from time to time; and Indonesia apparently blocks YouTube off and on.

There are a couple of user-friendliness issues with the map: The pop-up that appears about a country when you hold your mouse over it seems to be too wide for the map window; and it would be nice to have instructions on how to navigate the map for those who aren’t click-savvy.

Not all countries have been tested though; hopefully that’s in the near future.

Other than those picky little things, ONI’s map is a great start, giving an interesting overview on which countries are extending their authoritarian might onto the internet.

Politics in Motion

ISN Booth

ISN Booth

Greetings from the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Toronto.

In the first time in its 104 years, the meeting takes place outside the US. According to the organizers, this traveling across a border is symbolic for the conference theme “Politics in Motion: Change and Complexity in the Contemporary Era”. The event, consisting of hundreds of panels and an exhibition, looks at what is new, different and unusual in politics today and aims to think about what knowledge is needed to deal with change and complexity and address today’s crucial challenges.

Emotions and Politics

Looking for the unusual in the thick conference program, I attended a panel on neuropsychology and international politics. The panel converged two fields that have been unconnected previously: brain science and international politics.
The presenters advocated the consideration of emotions when studying political decision making. Evidence shows that cognition (thinking) is actually preceded by emotions (feelings). Hence, “rational” decisions are taken on the basis of emotional beliefs. According to the panelists, it is, however, still unknown how cognition and emotions work together in different situations.

What do these findings in brain science mean for political science and international affairs?

» More

Iran: Options for the West

Iran: Domestic Crisis and Options for the West

Iran: Domestic Crisis and Options for the West

What are the effects of Iran’s domestic crisis on the nuclear issue?

A new analysis by the Center for Security Studies (CSS) looks at policy options available for western governments.

Roland Popp, senior researcher at the CSS, argues that the weakening of the Iranian regime is unlikely to ease negotiations with Tehran over the nuclear issue.

You can download the paper here.

This Is for the Mara Salvatrucha

This Is For The Mara Salvatrucha, by Samuel Logan

This Is For The Mara Salvatrucha, by Samuel Logan

ISN Security Watch correspondent Samuel Logan has just released his first book, “This is for the Mara Salvatrucha” (Hyperion Books), a non-fiction narrative about Brenda Paz and her last three years of life.

Paz was a young member of the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, who became a federal informant before she was killed after running away from witness protection.

“This is for the Mara Salvatrucha” uncovers little-known truths about the MS-13, one of America’s most violent street gangs, and reveals how the street life can be alluring. It also takes a close look at the the realities of living inside the US as part of a Latino immigrant community, underscoring the challenges with policing these communities and the fluidity of illegal movement across the US-Mexico border.

The book has been optioned by Paramount Vantage Films.

More of Sam’s extensive work about the MS-13 in ISN Security Watch:

Tri-state trouble with Mara Salvatrucha

Mexico’s Parallel Power

Prison Gangs and Organized Crime

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