2022: looking back, looking forward

“What is the state of the world?” my colleague asks as we enter 2022. I’m still not sure whether to count my answer as optimistic or pessimistic.

While the years from 2015 to 2019 were marked by a distinct worsening in world security – which I traced each year in the Introduction to the annual SIPRI Yearbook – it was different in 2020. That was the year when things didn’t get worse.

All right – now, how to characterise 2021? That was the year when things didn’t get better.

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Facts, understanding and peace: reflections on receiving the Jeju 4.3 Peace prize, 2021

I can hardly express how honoured I am and how grateful to receive the Jeju 4.3 Peace Prize for 2021. It is a moment I will always treasure.

My previous post was about the massacre, torture and repression hiding under the headline, Jeju 4.3 incident. This post is a heavily edited version of the speech I gave when accepting the award.

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Jeju, 1948: long-suppressed truths about a massacre

In the history of colonialism and war, there are many atrocities, many of which stay hidden for decades and more. One such is known as the Jeju 4:3 incident, on the island of that name off the south coast of South Korea, in the years just before the Korean War. A sub-tropical island, a tourist magnet within Korea, the honeymoon island for prosperous Koreans before foreign travel became more popular, and again now during the Covid-19 pandemic. I know about it only because the Jeju Peace Foundation 4:3 has done me the extraordinary honour of awarding me the 2021 Jeju 4:3 Peace Prize. In this post, I summarise the Jeju 4:3 incident; the next one will contain my remarks upon receiving the award.

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Covid, conflict, climate – and our crying need to be more resilient

Covid-19 has implications not only for health, well-being and prosperity but also for security and peace. The impact of the virus on war torn societies could be devastating, whether the scene is of massive physical destruction as in Syria, or the rampaging power of militias, jihadi groups and criminal gangs as in parts of the Sahel and Horn of Africa. Ramping up the humanitarian response, even though the big humanitarian headquarters are themselves part of the general lockdown, is one necessity. The UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire is a second one – though whether the call will be heeded, heaven knows. Beyond that the Covid-19 virus has revealed a worrying and widespread lack of social and political resilience. Continue reading

Syria: the mission and the alternatives

On Saturday 7 April came reports that chemical weapons (CW) were used in Douma, Syria. In the very early hours of Saturday 14 April the US, France and the UK launched 105 cruise and air-to-surface missiles against a CW research centre and two CW storage facilities. US President Donald J Trump tweeted “Mission Accomplished!” But what was the mission? Continue reading

Impressions from Moscow – MCIS 2018

The seventh Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) was on Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 April. Listening to the speeches and chatting with various people during and after it, my first thoughts concern three related issues: the growing confidence of Russian policy; soft power; and shared concern about the increasing risks in global politics, together with deep differences about where those risks come from.  Continue reading

2 minutes to midnight?

On 25 January, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced the current time on its long lasting Doomsday Clock: two minutes before midnight, the Editorial Board decided, with midnight, of course, equalling apocalypse. The following day, The Economist, a magazine, carried a cover story on ‘The Next War: the growing threat of a great power conflict’. Are things really that bad? And if so, what can be done about them? Continue reading

Syria – myth and argument about non-intervention

Last week an article in the Washington Post stirred what seemed like quite a Twitter buzz, lamenting the effects of “the disastrous nonintervention in Syria“. The article is angry and vivid about the misery and destruction wrought by war in Syria. It blames the war’s continuation largely on the US deciding not to intervene in the war. It is an argument that could become influential so it’s worth examining. Continue reading