The tone of this year’s Munich Security Conference – the Davos of global security – was captured by the Munich Security Report’s theme: ‘Boundless chaos, reckless spoilers, helpless guardians.’ The front page headline on The Security Times, a conference special edition from the stable of Die Zeit, featured a box of matches and urged an appropriate response: ‘Don’t do stupid stuff.’ Continue reading
The US-Iranian-Syrian diplomatic dance
The destruction of Syrian chemical weapons (CW) has started. In a breakthrough moment in Iran-US relations, the two Presidents talked on the phone and the foreign ministers sat down to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme. Though the connection has received little comment in the western news media, these two welcome developments are deeply linked and close to inter-dependent. Continue reading
Obama, 1 year in: flaws aren’t failure – but there are new risks in policy towards Iran
President Barack Obama has handed himself his sharpest challenge yet: a year of showing his unclenched fist to Iran has produced nothing and now he is toughening up his stance with a missile shield for the US naval forces in the Gulf. What will this do to his presidency? There was so much hope and much of that energy remains, even if it is not being so effectively tapped, but in confronting Iran, might Obama seriously lose his way?
Obama in power (13): is the war in Afghanistan a Just War?
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
Copenhagen: time to re-think? Or just keep thinking!
As thousands of negotiators, activists, diplomats, scientists, politicians and journalists start pouring into Copenhagen for the climate summit – formally said, the 15th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – the question has been raised whether we should want them to succeed or fail. Which, of course, begs the next question: what is success at Copenhagen?
So is Copenhagen not the time to seal a new climate deal after all? Is it time for a re-think? My own view is that it’s best never to stop thinking, then you don’t have to make the effort to start up again. Continue reading
Adapting to failure in Copenhagen
It’s official. A new treaty on mitigating and adapting to climate change will not be agreed at the Copenhagen conference in December. So now we have to mitigate the impact of that failure and at the same time adapt to it. Continue reading
Obama in power (10): Cairo – brilliant speech but that awkward question persists
President Obama’s speech in Cairo on 4 June offers further evidence of his unrivalled communication skills and of his will and capacity to address thorny issues by reframing and reshaping them in a way that offers new openings for change and improvement. As an opening to the Muslim world, is it possible to imagine an American president doing better given the realities in which he works? For many of the issues he raised, the question is if interlocutors and counterparts will step forward able to use the opportunities he is creating. And over Israel and Palestine, that is a familiar and awkward question. Continue reading
Obama in power (9): To strengthen peace in the Middle East, the first big step is in the US
It’s a big week for US policy and the Middle East, a defining moment for the Obama administration’s impact. What happens this week will not alone be enough to achieve regional cooperation with the US on peace and security but, if it goes wrong, that will be enough to make that cooperation next to impossible for several years again. Continue reading
Britain’s international standing
Ever since the end of the British empire, some of us British have been pondering and picking over the question of what is our place in the world. For the British, it is so much part of the condition of being British that for the most part we don’t realise we’re doing it and, when it’s pointed out to us, we assume that it’s simply part and parcel of having a national identity. But it’s not. And our obsession with it says something about us. As our Parliament merrily implodes before our eyes, the question is coming back again but in the end the answer may be surprisingly banal. Continue reading
Obama in power (6):policies clarifying, pattern still hazy
By the time Obama was inaugurated, he had promised so much, there was a risk that he could only disappoint. Let’s not get too carried away in these tough times, but there is some much needed good news: perfect his administration is not, but the first signs in foreign policy are far from negative. This extended post surveys the key issues. Continue reading