Greetings and welcome in the New Year, 2013. Last year, I left this blog inactive from February to September largely because I was working on the ninth edition of my atlas of world affairs, The State of the World published January 2013 by New Internationalist.
But I am back from that work now and so is this blog. So what is it and, if you like, why do I bother alongside my day job?
This is a place for discussing international events, trends and policies, airing and exploring ideas for how to understand key issues and what to do about them. My posts look at the impersonal ways that events and policies play out and as we feel our way through the changing world they discuss how things are and what can be done about them.
This evolving blog
As I have been writing the blog, what it focuses on has evolved. I began by focusing on four inter-related themes: climate change, conflict and peace, the economic crunch and power. Doing this, in the first half of 2009 I put particular emphasis on the international actions and policies of the Presidency of Barack Obama (under the heading of power), and I devoted a few posts to the London G-20 summit. In the second half of 2009 I focused rather less on the economic crunch and a little more than before on international development and on climate change in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate summit in December and its failure.
In 2010, I focused on climate change, conflict and development and the political challenges that surround them and put some time into looking at how they might be affected – could be affected if the right choices are made – by the establishment of the EU’s new External Action Service.
In 2011 the inevitable focus became the wave of change in the Middle East. I was especially concerned about how intervention was being discussed – both during the Egyptian events in February 2011 and then again and more pointedly from March onwards as armed intervention was first discussed and then carried out.
By the end of 2011 I was wanting to get into some of the more big picture issues around peace and conflict – and this was partly shaped – or at least motivated – by the way violent conflict briefly exploded in England with the summer riots. I felt this particularly strongly because the street next to where I live in Hackney, east London, was in flames one night, with my own street closed by the police while the helicopters circled overhead. When, as explained above, I vacated the blogosphere for some months, it was partly to do some research and thinking about some of those big picture issues.
So I started back in September 2012 and since with a series of blogs that are mainly on these big issues. But, it has to be said straightaway, not them alone: one of the things I have learned to enjoy about blogging is that there it offers the freedom to go where I want with my thinking, my preoccupations and my research. So I won’t be surprised if some more specific and focused issues continue to surface among the bigger ones.
I want to work out my own ideas, express myself, hear back from you. Here is some of what I aim for with this blog:
To make the connections: To discuss today in the light of the past and future, bringing out origins and consequences; to explore links between issues, between events, and between the global trends and policies and the lived, local realities.
To respect the complexity of the problems, while dealing with them in language and with arguments of the greatest possible clarity.
Thus, to consider things carefully, conscientiously and to take a bit of time before leaping out with opinions and positions. I’m afraid this also means that my blog posts are often quite long. If you’re used to snappy tweeting, my posts that come through at 1500-3000 words a time may be something of a change of pace.
To be some kind of a compass: I think about looking at the past and the future as a question of identifying the longitudinal connections in international politics. And I think about the links between different issues and places where they have an impact as establishing the lines of latitude. I hope the metaphor doesn’t sound too pretentious, but I am thinking maps, charts and compasses for navigating a confusing world.
To be part of a conversation with people who share my concerns and my focus on latitudinal and longitudinal linkages.
(Updated January 2013)