Western commentators on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing war are frequently using the term, ‘quagmire’ – a bog, swamp or morass, from which, once you have entered, it is between hard and impossible to get out, as every move you make to free yourself sucks you deeper in. The term was widely used in the 1960s about the USA’s war in Vietnam.
As Lawrence Freedman has pointed out in one of his commentaries on the war, the term has a closely related partner – escalation, which might seem to a state stuck in a quagmire like the only way out. Both terms have a history and have considerable currency when analysing the problems and risks big states face in wars with smaller states.
But there is another metaphor from the time of the Vietnam War and all those arguments and debates, which I find even richer – the six-sided box. By invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has taken his country into a box from which it is hard to see the way out. And that is bad news for everyone.
Or at least, who cares enough to try to start thinking anew? The region is burning. Apart from the parties to the conflicts who want to win, nobody seems to have any idea of what to do. Continue reading
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
The UK’s International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell made a speech in London on 16 September setting out his and DFID’s approach on development, security, conflict and peace issues. It was barely noticed by the press. That’s a shame because it was very important – far more so than what he and other members of the government are saying this week at (or about) the UN Millennium Summit in New York. Continue reading
As the UK government reviews its bilateral and multilateral aid programmes and moves towards reshaping aid policy, there have been a couple of leaks and a bit of background noise. So what do they add up to and what do they tell us about how the wind blows? Continue reading
President Obama used the occasion of his Nobel lecture as he accepted the 2009 Peace Prize in Oslo on 10 December to defend the idea that war can be a legitimate means of upholding the larger peace, and specifically to argue that the US and allied war effort in Afghanistan is a just war. Did he convince? Continue reading
The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has not done either President Obama or itself any favours by awarding him this year’s prize. It’s an award for promise rather than achievement. Read the citation and it sounds pretty much like saying, ‘We award the prize to the most popular man in the world because we like his views.’ Continue reading