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.
Two years ago, the Geneva II talks on Syria took place. As they began, their prospects could be optimistically viewed as “virtually zero“. On Friday 29 January, Geneva III talks are due to begin and prospects do not look much better. That doesn’t mean they are a waste of time. Continue reading →
Russia’s military intervention in Syria brings a dramatic new dimension to a protracted, brutal conflict. The war will go on, however, and nothing so far suggests it will end any time soon with victory for one side or another. If peace is to come about other than through exhaustion, then, it can only be by agreement. And that means everybody grasping the nettle of negotiation. Continue reading →
Peace is the big, under-reported good news story of the 20-plus years since the Cold War ended. There are fewer wars than in the 1980s. There have been more peace agreements, and an increasing proportion of them endure for longer.
Good. Because the next 20 years will make the last 20 seem like a rehearsal for the real thing. Continue reading →
Today, 21 September, is the UN International Day of Peace. It’s a day to think about how peace is achieved, safeguarded and built. It is, of course, not the work of a day. Think of Syria, and how much rebuilding of all kinds will be needed when the opportunity of peace arrives. Or think of Rwanda, 19 years on from the genocide, and how it is still recovering and building a peaceful society. Here’s a brief video of (some of) my thoughts about it.
As Syria stays in our news, every day we can have access to new imagery – visual or verbal – of what is happening there. And from these images come discussions and positions that fuel our views in the controversy about what to do and what not to do, about how to help and what kind of assistance (and to whom) might be effective for the common good in Syria and the region.
Against that backdrop, International Alert organised a discussion – one of our series of PeaceTalks – in partnership with the University of Sussex, hosted and recorded at the Frontline Club in London on Wednesday 18 September. Our panel was almost uniquely qualified to discuss the issues. It comprised Martin Bell, renowned former reporter on war and peace; Timothy Large, Editor-in-Chief at Thomson Reuters Foundation, responsible among other things for the AlertNet news service; and international relations Professor Cynthia Weber of Sussex University, who is also a documentary film-maker. I was chairing.
In our wide ranging discussion we covered how stories are selected and shaped, why some imagery works and some doesn’t, the use of social media, what we want from journalism and whether news organisations are providing it, whether there is such a thing as peace journalism or really there’s just good or bad journalism, what we mean by truth and whose truth we mean. Take a look.
Today, Sunday 24 February, the heads of state of eleven countries have signed a peace and security agreement addressing the conflicts in and around eastern Congo. It’s a potentially important step – but it’s the start of a long process, not the end of it.
Most of the trends that The State of the World Atlas looks at are ones that are visible across the last two decades since the Cold War ended. During that period, peace is one of the big, under-reported (though not unqualified) good news stories. Continue reading →