Greetings and welcome to my blog. 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. I try to write about these big picture issues in ways that you can understand regardless of whether you have specific subject expertise – and I range across a pretty wide range of subjects.
This evolving blog
As I have been writing the blog over a bit more than aa decade by now, what it focuses on has evolved. I began with four inter-related themes: climate change, conflict and peace, the economic crunch of 2008-9, and power. In the first half of 2009 I put particular emphasis on the international actions and policies of the then-new 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 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 in Libya 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; 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 lived in Hackney, east London, was in flames one night, with my own street closed by the police while the helicopters circled overhead. I vacated the blogosphere for a few months around that time, partly in order to do some research and thinking about some of those big picture issues.
I started up again in September 2012 with a series of blogs that were mainly on these big issues. As 2014 began, I linked them to some work I was doing in my position at International Alert at the time, when we were working out a new strategic approach to our work, to write a fair bit on the big peace and conflict trends of the time.
In September 2015, I moved to a new job as Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Here, I have not only retained my broad focus on security and peace issues but actually broadened it.
Moving to SIPRI re-engaged me in questions of nuclear weapons and doctrine, disarmament and arms control, and what are often called hard security issues – the ones that involves tanks, missile, combat aircraft and warships as well as people. It also brought me to the effect of new technologies on security thinking and, vice versa, the effect of security thinking on technological development; this is the world of cyber insecurity, AI and machine learning, and 3D printing.
As the prospects for international peace and security have wobbled across the last 2-3 years, so my focus has become more diverse and multi-grained at the same time as the issues have become more urgent.
I have therefore happily exploited one of the freedoms that blogging offers, going where I want with my thinking, my preoccupations and my research. There’s quite a variety of issues that come to the surface here. I try to approach them all with a strong regard for the facts, as far as they can be ascertained, and to express them all as straightforwardly as possible.
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 between different issues and between global trends and local, human-scale realities.
To be some kind of a compass for navigating a confusing world – perhaps needed now, in the second half of this second decade of the the 21st century, more than ever before.
To respect the complexity of the problems, while dealing with them in language and with arguments that are as clear as I can make them.
This means I often take a bit of time before leaping out with opinions and positions so I’m sometimes not as immediately topical as I’d otherwise like to be. And I’m afraid it also means that my blog posts are often quite long. If you’re used to snappy tweeting, my posts that come through at between one and three thousand words a time may be something of a change of pace. I hope you might even enjoy that; I feel there’s too much instant comment and too little reflection on a lot of the troubling things in today’s world so I like to lean a bit in the opposite direction. But I do also do a fair amount of shorter blog posts, often built around a short film of me sounding off.
And I want to be part of a conversation with people who share my concerns and my focus on latitudinal and longitudinal linkages.
(Updated February 2020)