It has become common for the foreign policy elite to think of Omar El-Bashir–the dancing dictator– as a fool, idiot or a buffoon. See the video for an illustration of New York Times coverage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bXb5_WWtCQ
Or just witness the recent references to Omar El-Bashir in Condelezza Rice’s memoirs. In the excerpts released to the press, Secretary Rice says of El-Bashir that, “he looked as though he was on drugs.” When the image of El-Bashir as a buffoon is combined with his status as a fugitive from the International Criminal Court: wanted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide, it becomes easy to dismiss El-Bashir, and by association the ruling NCP, as little more than an incompetent, backwards and irrational ruling junta with no strategic vision–except, perhaps, of the most vindictive and vicious nature, usually directed against its own citizens. (None of this is to argue that the NCP has not committed horrible crimes, usually against its own people, or even that Bashir’s regime has governed well.) Yet, the solidification of caricatures is always dangerous, especially when the caricature itself becomes the explanation.
Ghislaine Lydon’s study of the Sahara uncovers the dynamic commercial and trade networks that have always dominated the desert. It offers vivid portraits of the evolution of social and economic institutions, which should put to rest once and for all any ideas that the pre-colonial societies of Africa, north, within or south of the Sahara have ever been stagnant.
Can a statelet be a regional power? Does size or population matter if a state possesses wealth? And if not at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, what are the sources of power and authority in the international system? Have we entered a world where even a lonely city-state can leverage the resources necessary to shape regional or global events?
The strange rise of Qatar as a regional actor has restored to center stage questions about the types of power that different kinds of actors can marshal within the international system.
Just when we thought the Somali crisis couldn’t get any more complicated, it did.
The effects of Kenya’s recent intervention in Somalia – both for Kenya, and the Somalis themselves – remains the subject of much speculation. Some question whether Kenya will achieve its war aims. Others ask if military intervention can stabilize the desperate political and humanitarian situation in southern Somalia. Many more openly ponder whether Al-Shabaab will respond by striking targets within Kenya’s major metropolitan centers, thereby widening the regional stakes of a conflict that is already deeply complex. Continue reading →
What have we learned from the death of Qaddafi and the end of his 42 years in power about the international system? My answer is very little. However, this flies in the face of two popular narratives about the present. One narrative argues that we have now entered a new age of multilateral humanitarian interventions, of if you are cynical “right to protect” imperialism by the usual Western suspects. Another storyline about the Arab Revolutions is that we are witnessing a democratic shift based on a revolution in information and communication technologies that should make all dictators quake in their feet.