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International Relations

I spent much of yesterday conducting interviews with the media about the situation in Libya. One of the questions I was repeatedly asked concerned the scope of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which authorises the use of force in Libya.  How far does the resolution permit the coalition now acting in Libya to go? What are the objectives of the coalition military action? Does it permit the targeting of Colonel Gaddafi? The objectives set out by the resolution seem to me to broader than what is commonly thought. Para. 4 which authorises the use of all necessary means (short of an occupation force) is not just about protecting civilians but also, importantly, about protecting civilian populated areas under threat of attack. In other words, that paragraph authorises the use of …

As Operation Odyssey Dawn gets underway, political leaders within the coalition continue to articulate their reasons for resorting to force. In so doing, each has invariably invoked the language of the just war tradition. On the eve of military action, President Obama proclaimed, ‘Our goal is focused, our cause is just, and our coalition is strong. ’ Similarly, in his remarks to the Commons on 20 March 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron argued that coalition forces had a ‘just cause’ to use force. When it comes to assessing prospective causes for resorting to arms, few could be more compelling than the protection of populations under threat of mass slaughter. It was on the basis of this pressing need to protect that …

For some time, I’ve been developing the argument that when we want to understand the role of internet technologies in politics—in particular when it comes to getting people involved in electoral campaigns, in various forms of activism, and in other forms of civic and political activity—we should focus less on the newest and most heavily hyped tool of the moment (Twitter election! Twitter revolution!) and pay more attention to the role of what I call “mundane internet tools” like email, search, and ordinary websites. New Media & Society has published the article where I make the argument, based on ethnographic research I did during the 2008 U.S. elections, but based on intuitions and interests aroused by previous research in the …

His Excellency Mr Ban Ki-moon, current Secretary-General of the United Nations, gave this year’s Cyril Foster Lecture on ‘Human Protection and the 21st Century United Nations’ on 2 February at Oxford’s Examination Schools, hosted by the Department of Politics and International Relations. HE Mr Ban Ki-moon was the 4th Secretary-General of the UN to give a Cyril Foster lecture and he was greeted by an audience of over 700 attendees, including the overflow rooms. From the very early days of his tenure as Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon has placed humanitarian issues, and particularly the notion of the ‘responsibility to protect’, at the forefront of his agenda. More specifically, he has sought to turn ‘words into deeds’ – to translate the …

Tony Blair A Journey: My Political Life Knopf, 2010 720 Pages £35.00 ISBN 978-0307269836 “This shows what it’s like being Prime Minister. That’s exactly what the readers want to know. How does it feel to run a country? How does it feel to be so cut off? How does it feel to be so hated?” –  ”The Ghost” This is the obvious checklist for a political memoir, a genre which still manages to be notoriously boring. Tony Blair’s A Journey, though, purposefully evokes a sense of unceasing contingency about the life of the 51st British prime minister. His thematically organized memoir is a folksy, well-paced, and at times cinematic rendering of a decade in office begun in exhilaration and finished …

A year can be a very long time in the life of media interest.  In December 2009, I was one of more than 4,000 journalists who attended the UN’s Copenhagen summit on climate change – probably the largest press presence for an international event outside of sport. The journalists came from 119 countries, and suffered the freezing temperatures and disappointing results.  It wasn’t just the Western press who were there. Emerging powers like Brazil and China both had more than 100 journalists. (see the  RISJ report at http://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/publications/risj-challenges/summoned-by-science.html) One year on, and the next major summit at the Mexican resort of Cancun was much less of an attraction – despite the beaches, tequila and abundance of sun.  This time, around …
Pakistan flag

Amidst a depressing assessment of the ruin wrought by Pakistan’s floods, The Economist nevertheless pronounced a vote of confidence in the country’s survival: “Pakistan is not about to collapse: a prospect first aired at its bloody creation and dusted off for every war, coup and calamity that has followed.” (Leader, 18-24 September 2010). Indeed, India, now much feted as an “emerging power” had also been written off by many at its amputated start. So had Bangladesh when it came into being in 1971, famously dismissed by Henry Kissinger as a “basket case”. All three have managed to survive endless conflict, poor governance and natural disasters, and some of their citizens have notched up world-class achievements in a variety of fields, …

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been both a major concern of American diplomacy since 1967 and the arena of persistent failure. There are many reasons for America’s failure to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians but the most fundamental one is that it is a dishonest broker. As a result of its palpable partiality towards Israel, America has lost all credibility in the eyes not only of the Palestinians but of the wider Arab and Muslim worlds. The so-called peace process has been all process and no peace. Peace talks that go nowhere slowly provide Israel with just the cover it needs to pursue its expansionist agenda on the West Bank.