We live in troubled and troubling times. Though we can, if we look, find reasons for optimism, many indicators are pointing in the wrong direction – more armed conflicts, more military spending, more arms trading. Worse, this unfolds against a seriously concerning background of long-term trends: increasingly toxic geopolitics, the crumbling of arms control and the climate crisis. The doomsday clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved 20 seconds closer to midnight; it has never been closer.
Amid the gloom, would it not be a welcome relief for a new peace vision for the Middle East to be launched, to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, and open the door to a new possibility of political and social progress in the region?
Yes it would. But…
Nuclear weapons have come into the political limelight in 2017 as they have hardly done since the 1980s. North Korea, the Iran nuclear deal and the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons create a triptych – one panel for arming up and nuclear confrontation, one for arms control, and one for complete nuclear disarmament. Which way is the world headed? Continue reading
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
In the course of little more than a week, the idea that diplomacy could achieve anything to prevent the war in Syria escalating yet further fell off the international agenda as arms supplies became the dominant theme and returned to head it following the G8 summit at Enniskillen’s Lough Erne resort in Northern Ireland. Here’s my quick take on what seems to be going on. Continue reading
EU government leaders have put no headline energy into trying to end the warfare torturing eastern Congo for the past month. And you can’t blame that on being distracted by Israel retaliating against random rocket attacks from Gaza with an 8-day bombardment until Egypt brokered the ceasefire on 21 November. Heads of EU governments weren’t headline visible on Gaza either. They’re distracted by other things. Continue reading
Students in the Master of Fine Arts course at Slade, University College London, have put together a collection of their work. They chose the theme of conflict and all the pieces reflect on it in one way or another. The collection ranges from internal conflict to open war, from the personal to the political and back again. They asked me to write a foreword and as a result I had (the opportunity) to think about some things from the bottom up. Here is what I wrote: Continue reading
Just before the summer shutdown, the last key decisions were taken to establish the EU’s new External Action Service – the European Parliament on 8 July and the Council of the EU on the 20th. As the EAS starts to become real, what can and should we expect from it? Continue reading
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?
What just happened? – it might be a good question to ask about the UN climate summit convened by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last Tuesday. “Not a lot” is the most likely answer. Continue reading
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