Why did Mali fall into jihadist hands?

Jihadists have succeeded in taking control of more than half of Mali, where many people in rural areas are now adherents of one armed group or another. This situation is largely the result of widespread frustration with the bad governance by the country’s corrupt ruling elites. While the jihadists have managed to take advantage of… Read more »

This Week in South Sudan – Week 5

Wednesday 31 January SPLM/A (IO) leader, Riek Machar unveiled a position paper for the second round of the High-Level Revitalization Forum, demanding a transitional unity government for 27 months. GoSS, on the other hand, declined to announce their position prior to the negotiations. The Government of South Africa and GoSS signed a memorandum of understanding on… Read more »

From Wales to Catalonia and Beyond: Gene Sharp and Non-Violent Nationalism

Photo: Right Livelihood Award 2012

Gene Sharp – a pioneer in the study of non-violent action – died peacefully at the age of 90 on 28 January 2018. Obituaries in many newspapers have highlighted his contributions to the study of non-violent resistance against dictatorial regimes, pointing to how his work inspired the Arab Spring and his reputation as a “dictator’s worst nightmare”.

However, there has been less attention to other sides of Sharp’s work and other important forms of non-violent action. Indeed, Sharp’s first 1957 published pamphlet Which Way to Freedom? was written for the Welsh Nationalist Party Plaid Cymru, and argued for non-violence as a more effective way for national liberation than violence.Read More

“Security and Defensive Democracy in Israel. A critical approach to political discourse” (2015)- Reviewed by Chloé Thomas

Sharon Weinblum,  Security and Defensive Democracy in Israel. A critical approach to political discourse, Routledge: New York, 2015, 156 pp.: 978-1-138-82380-8 (hbk) Book Review by Chloé Thomas The balance between basic rights and democratic principles on the one hand, and security on the other has been a central question of our political imaginary for a… Read more »

Towards a More Peaceful World [insert ‘!’ or ‘?’ here]

Each war is dramatic and horrible and warrants a hundred history books and a thousand songs of sorrow. But it also provides one more data point, along with relevant covariates, to the collection of Tolstoyan war-and-peace data-bases, and statisticians may study the evolution of alleged decreasing violence levels over time.

1066 and All That … with perhaps six thousand dead out of twenty thousand soldiers.

One of the bigger questions is both deceptively simple and quite controversial: are we getting more peaceful over time, or not?

PRIO, the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, jointly with the University of Oslo, organises a series of Oslo Lectures on Peace and Conflict, and their invited speaker in January 2018 was Aaron Clauset (University of Boulder, Colorado). In the ensuing panel discussion, where I took part, along with war-and-conflict researchers Håvard Hegre and Siri Aas Rustad, proper attention was paid to the partly controversial question mark in his talk title, Towards a More Peaceful World?. It is controversial, since we would prefer it to be a !! instead, and since there is extensive work, in vivid prose and with dry facts and neutral analyses, indicating that The Better Angels of Our Nature are slowly winningRead More

Gene Sharp Has Died and the World Has Lost a Global Educator

Just a week after his 90th birthday, Gene Sharp passed away 28 January.

Gene Sharp has been called the “Machiavelli of Nonviolence” and “the Clausewitz of Nonviolent Action.”

The magazine New Statesman once described Gene Sharp as the “Machiavelli of Nonviolence” and Thomas Weber labelled him “the Clausewitz of Nonviolent Action.” Who was this man, and what did he contribute to our understanding of the use of nonviolent tactics in large-scale societal conflicts?

Gene Sharp completed his baccalaureate in 1949, just a few scant years after the close of World War II, and quickly turned his attention to the study of nonviolence. After serving nine months in prison for being a conscientious objector to the Korean War, Sharp secretaried for A.J. Muste. He next joined the editorial team of Peace News in London before accepting an invitation from Arne Næss to join him in Oslo with Johan Galtung and others to study the philosophy and practice of Mohandas Gandhi. Throughout this time, Sharp exchanged letters with Albert Einstein, deepening his understanding of and commitment to nonviolence.Read More

From Failure to Victory – 50 Years since the Tet Offensive

The Vietnam War remains the deadliest war the world has seen since 1945. The Tet offensive was a turning point. For the US, it took away the belief that victory was possible. All that was left was to find a way out.

Anguished Vietnamese woman carries her napalm burned child, moments after a misplaced napalm bomb strike injured and killed a score civilians and soldiers. Photo: Nick Ut, AP

Fifty years ago, in the middle of the night on January 30, the annual weeklong festivities at Tet – the Vietnamese New Year – had just begun when gun shots were heard in the capital Saigon and in multiple other South Vietnamese cities. President Nguyen Van Thieu was celebrating in his wife’s native city of My Tho. The US Army, under the command of General William Westmoreland, focused on defending the Khe Sanh base near the Demilitarized Zone between South and North Vietnam. For nine days it had been under heavy North Vietnamese artillery bombardment in an operation meant to divert US attention from what would be coming next.

People first thought they heard firecrackers. Instead, it was the beginning of a hazardous and daringly great offensive. Together with North Vietnamese troops who had strategically infiltrated themselves across South Vietnam, the Front for the National Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF) had been preparing the offensive for a long time. 38 of South Vietnam’s 44 provincial capitals came under attack, including My Tho. The offensive surprised and shocked US President Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as the US public. Thieu was evacuated from My Tho by helicopter. The local NLF did not know that he was there.Read More

This Week in South Sudan – Week 4

Tuesday 23 January New satellite images show how the tiny village of Bidi Bidi, Uganda has grown into the world’s largest refugee camp since 2016. Wednesday 24 January South Sudan’s embassy in London is closed due to unpaid rent since August 2017. GoSS said it is trying its best to sort the payment situation out… Read more »

“Politics of Anxiety” (2017) – Reviewed by Jessica Auchter

Eklundh, Emmy, Andreja Zevnik, and Emmanuel-Pierre Guittet, eds, Politics of Anxiety. London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017. Book Review by Jessica Auchter Politics of Anxiety, edited by Emmy Eklundh, Andreja Zevnik, and Emmanuel-Pierre Guittet, is arguably one of the better applications of Lacan in the field of International Relations (IR), following on engagement with Lacan by… Read more »