Category Archives: Power

The case for the EU having an external action service

EU High Representative and EC Vice-President Catherine Ashton steps down from leading the European External Action Service in late 2014. She has presented her review of the organisation and how to make it more efficient. But despite her best efforts the basic case for the EEAS remains unclear to many. Winning that case depends not on efficiency alone but on whether the EEAS meets an important need.  Continue reading

The Review of the External Action Service

When the European External Action Service was formally set up in July 2010, it was agreed that the High Representative Catherine Ashton should present a review of it this summer. As Brussels descended into summer slumber, that is what she did. Continue reading

The state of the world’s states

The state is the organising principle of national and international politics and states are the subject of abundant historical research, academic theory and contemporary analysis.  That perhaps makes it a little strange to say that both the state as a category and states in general tend to be taken for granted. But that’s how it is – and it’s a problem. Continue reading

Blog starting up again

This blog has been silent for several months. The main reason was simply that, alongside my day job, I had taken on another research and writing task – preparing the next edition of my atlas of world affairs, The State of the Worldand that took priority. But that’s done (publication date January 2013 but if you really want to use it as a Christmas present, get in touch – pre-publication copies have to be available) and so the blog is back.

At this point, I just want to give an idea of what I intend to be tackling over the coming months. There are five big issues that we – the world – need to get right if more people are to be able live in peace and with a reasonable degree of dignity. They are

  1. Wealth and poverty;
  2. War and peace;
  3. Rights and respect;
  4. Health of people;
  5. Health of the planet – the natural environment.

Despite the pessimism in Europe and America in this extended “moment” of prolonged economic downturn, reasonable progress has been made on three of those issues – war and peace, rights and respect, and health. Even though progress is limited and at risk from powerful countervailing trends, there has been real improvement. It’s on the economy and the environment that we are continuing to screw up.

The background to this lies in some very big issues:

  • The unprecedented scale of demographic shifts, including both population growth and staggeringly fast urbanisation;
  •  The scale of resource use and economic activity, which has increased much more quickly than population has grown;
  • The deep, global environmental predicament we are in – and getting deeper in: it is still poorly understood – among the missing ingredients of our knowledge are the consequences of different environmental issues interacting with each other.

Against this background, questions for my blogging include

  • How to keep building peace and expanding the scope of freedom;
  • Finding ways to ensure that economic and social development is about improving the conditions of ordinary people, not about strengthening the hold of an increasingly transnational-ised elite;
  • Working out which of our national and international institutions are not delivering the way they should be, why, and what can be done to, with and about them;
  • What kinds of knowledge we need in order to do better.

Intervention in Libya? A case of shooting slowly from the hip

Only ten days ago, when UK Prime Minister David Cameron put up the flag for a no-fly zone over Libya, nobody saluted. Now the British and French are drafting a UN Security Council Resolution. After all, you cannot just sit and watch the dictator wield overhwelming force so he and his disgusting son can hang onto power and not think something should be done to stop him.

True enough – but you should think very, very carefully about what can and should be done. Continue reading

Egypt and the outside powers

Now it is clear that Hosni Mubarak’s three decade presidency of Egypt cannot survive much longer, outside powers are visibly positioning themselves for the next phase. Hubristic temptations are clear but not everybody’s falling for them. Continue reading

Egypt: outside powers and their calamitous Algerian error

Sentences that start, “History teaches us that…” usually contain bad history and worse logic. Nonetheless, Egypt makes me think with foreboding of Algeria. Continue reading