Looking Forward, Looking Back: Cautionary Vignettes

The outset of a new year, and indeed, of a new decade, is as good a time as any to pause and reflect.  As far as I can determine, the roiling, whirling forces of globalization which have been dominant for at least twenty years continue to cut all ways.

Consider, for instance, this initial sampling:

  • Long-serving Tunisian President Ben Ali – one of the region’s less despotic rulers in one of its more stable and prosperous countries – has been driven from power in a revolt which few, if any saw coming
  • The Australian states of Queensland and Victoria, which have in recent years experienced severe drought,  now face disastrous flooding
  • Baby Doc Duvalier, a reviled former dictator forced to seek exile in France in 1986, has returned to his still earthquake-devastated homeland, Haiti, for reasons as yet unknown
  • A previously obscure Icelandic MP and one-time WikiLeaks volunteer spokesperson, Birgitta  Jonsdottir, has become a near-celebrity, mainly by virtue of the attention lavished upon her by the US Justice Department
  • After decades of intermittent civil war and failed peace negotiations, the results of an internationally-monitored referendum suggest that Southern Sudan is now headed inexorably towards independence
  • The latest mass shooting incident in the USA has unleashed torrents of political vitriol and interpersonal venom, but has not appreciably advanced the case for gun control

Add to this mix a smattering of, say, suicide bombings and IED blasts in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq,  and what emerges is a pretty good snapshot of the day’s news.

At first blush, it doesn’t sound much like anything that would have inspired Louis Armstrong to record “What a Wonderful World”.

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Making Sense of Intelligence

What’s in a name?

In the lexicon of international relations, key terms such as  intelligence and diplomacy are often bandied about without much regard for their actual meaning.

Diplomacy is a non-violent approach to the management of international relations which features a dedication to dialogue, negotiation and compromise. Since at least the time of Chamberlain in Munich, however, diplomacy has come to be associated with weakness, appeasement, cheap talk and caving in to power.

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