Charles King is Professor of International Affairs and Government at Georgetown University, where he also serves as chair of the Department of Government. He previously served as chair of the faculty of Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, the country’s premier school of global affairs. King’s research has focused on nationalism, ethnic politics, transitions from authoritarianism, urban history, and the relationship between history and the social sciences. He is the author or editor of seven books, including Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul (W. W. Norton, 2014); Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams (W. W. Norton, 2011), which received the National Jewish Book Award; and The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (Oxford University Press, 2008), which was named “History Book of the Year” by the Moscow Times.
Michael Hardt is a political philosopher and literary theorist based at Duke University and the European Graduate Institute. He is best known for his collaboration with Antonio Negri, with whom he wrote the Empire trilogy. His work has been linked with autonomist Marxism. His most recent book is Declaration, co-written with Antonio Negri, which refers to the Occupy and other social movements. He currently serves as the editor of the South Atlantic Quarterly.
How has the way you understand the world changed over time, and what (or who) prompted the most significant shifts in your thinking?
Maybe more significant for me is something that hasn’t changed. When Toni Negri and I were writing Empire, in the late 1990s, our first intuition was that the United States would soon no longer be able to dictate global affairs, that it could no longer “go it alone,” unilaterally. But we didn’t therefore think that some other nation-state, such as China, would occupy that position or even that a multilateral alliance among dominant nation-states would be able to control global affairs. Our hypothesis instead was that a network of powers was emerging – including the dominant nation-states together with supranational institutions, corporations, NGOs, and other non-state actors – to control global relations in a shifting and contingent way.
It has been more than four years since the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) crossed the border into Somalia, and Kenyans are entitled to ask what exactly their troops are still doing there.
The official rationale is no longer entirely convincing. The original purpose of the military intervention was to insulate the country from the conflict in Somalia.
‘Kenya has been and remains an island of peace, and we shall not allow criminals from Somalia, which has been fighting for over two decades, to destabilise our peace,’ said George Saitoti, the internal security minister at the time.
It is debatable whether that aim has been achieved. Although Operation Linda Nchi (‘Protect the Nation’) curtailed the operations of al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group has claimed responsibility for dozens of incidents on Kenyan soil in recent years. This includes the high-profile attacks on Westgate Mall and Garissa University.
Recent pushback against Al-Shabaab extremists and a partial easing of tensions between central and state governments have increased hopes for a stable democratic future in Somalia, as it continues to recover from the civil war of the 1990s and 2000s.
Nonetheless, Professor Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College—an expert on the country’s ongoing political transition—said much work was required to recapture momentum from the 2012 establishment of a new federal government, which brought in new political and security expertise, international support, and financial investment. “Finishing a lot of transitional tasks left from the pre-2012 era is essential if the country is to move forward: to have a constitution; to have full elections,” he told International Peace Institute (IPI) Senior Adviser John Hirsch, at a recent IPI forum on 21st century peacebuilding. “Since then, a number of things have not gone terribly well. We’ve seen a prolonged period of political paralysis in the government, with a lot of in-house fighting,” Dr. Menkhaus said. He said the international community was deeply involved in Somalia, providing development and military aid, as well as applying pressure on the country’s leaders to continue their transitional tasks. This includes pushing for an election on a new head of state and a referendum on a new constitution, which had been expected next year. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
How will the U.S. military stay competitive? This is about far more than platforms, bombs, and guns. It is fundamentally about people. And with archaic personnel systems plaguing the armed forces and the Department of Defense, our talented young men and women are being drawn away into the private sector in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter sat down with WOTR’s Ryan Evans to talk about the Force of the Future initiative – a sweeping program of reforms that aims to bring the Department of Defense into the 21st Century in terms of how it manages its most important asset: human beings.