Theorizing (Dis)order: Exploratory Remarks

The philosopher Eric Heller wrote, ‘Be careful how you interpret the world; it is like that.’[29] One of the challenges facing the social scientist is that a deep knowledge of a particular issue, or a particular place, allows the scholar to write about it with an authoritative subjectivity. In my own writings on Sudan, I have approached the same topic (e.g. political violence) from different perspectives, each time with some explanatory purchase. These different frameworks of explanation may be incompatible with one another, but that has not hindered me from using them.

My concluding point in this paper is therefore, that (dis)order may be in the eye of the beholder, or the pen of the writer, as much as in the world that is being observed or described. However, rather than lapsing into an irretrievable subjectivity and a resigned agnosticism, I prefer to be cautious about what can and cannot be explained, and to insist on always bearing in mind the limitations of any particular point of view.

Read more

The foreign policy debate I’d like to see

Under the Obama Administration, we have seen the humanitarian imperative compromised by counter-terror laws and the politics of alliances. In Somalia and Syria, aid agencies were hampered by the PATRIOT Act from operating in areas in which they might be deemed to be providing assistance, material or symbolic, to groups labeled as terrorists. Preventable humanitarian disasters followed. In Yemen, the U.S. has been party to economic warfare conducted by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, causing famine conditions. In each of these cases, U.S. counter-humanitarianism cost lives, to no political benefit.

Read more

The End of Interventionism

The era of the West’s enthusiasm for military intervention is over. Two reports on Iraq and Libya—written from the heart of the British establishment and published recently—have delivered its obituary. Each is damning; together, they dismember the case for intervention in both its neocon and liberal-hawk variants. Although their focus is almost exclusively on decision-making within Whitehall—the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Ministry of Defence, and, above all, No. 10 Downing Street—Americans will recognize many of the same ills afflicting their own government.

Read more

South Sudan’s corrupt elite have driven a debt-free and oil-rich country to ruin

The South Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations, Akuei Bona Malwal, described the violence as part of his country’s ‘learning curve.’ It’s his job to put a brave face on disaster. But the learning curve surely needs to be that South Sudanese citizens can no longer afford a political elite whose greed, ambition and bellicosity have driven their country to ruin. The long-suffering people of South Sudan need to have their own voices heard directly in the next peace process, so that they can find ways to bend that curve towards peace.

Read more

Brexit is Bad News for Africa. Period.

But perhaps the biggest blow to Africa from the Brexit comes in the least tangible sphere of international political culture. As the weakest continent, Africa has the most to gain from the principles of multilateralism — collective security, international cooperation, and respect for international law. The continent achieves its best outcomes for democracy and human rights, and for peace and security, when its governments collaborate in the African Union and regional economic communities, and when they work in partnership with the United Nations and the European Union.

Read more