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What We Owe Gaza’s Journalists

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/05/2024 - 3:24am in

War rages on in the months since Hamas’ assault against Israel and its ongoing retaliatory punishment of the blockaded Gaza Strip. It has been agonizing to witness. As of May, Israeli military actions are estimated to have killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, the majority of them women and children. Almost the entire population of Gaza has been displaced from their homes. A quarter of the…

Source

TSSA members in Network Rail London South vote no-confidence in Eslamdoust, Heywood

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/04/2024 - 8:15pm in

Motion and letter reveal deep dissatisfaction among members as branch says it will support union staff when they strike and accuses management of inflaming the problems and indulging in delusion

TSSA rail union members in south London have passed a motion of no confidence in the union’s general secretary Maryam Eslamdoust and its president Melissa Heywood over their conduct toward union staff and the GMB union that represents them at work.

The TSSA and Eslamdoust and her team have been in crisis since the Kennedy Report exposed widespread bullying and sexual harassment by senior union figures, leading to the sacking of former general secretary Manuel Cortes and Eslamdoust, who was supposedly going to clean up the union after the scandal. was rocked by fresh allegations of abuse and deep resentment against the new general secretary for the treatment of staff, particularly women.

Eslamdoust, who was recommended to members by the union’s executive despite what appears to be a complete lack of relevant experience, wrote a bizarre article for the Guardian in which she accused the GMB union of attempting to bully her so it could take over the TSSA and distract from its own renewed sexual harassment scandal, and tried to blame others for her failure to take meaningful action to implement the Kennedy Report’s recommendations.

Former TSSA Assistant General Secretary’s take on Eslamdoust’s actions

She then followed up her attack on the GMB by emailing all TSSA member branches with an astonishing assault branding the union’s workers as greedy and lazy, and treating the GMB union as if it, and not the unhappiness of TSSA staff, was the driver of the impending strike action for which more than 93% of staff voted last week.

Such is the anger among members at the situation that earlier this month the TSSA’s branch for members working in Network Rail in South London passed the following resolution:

That this branch has no confidence in the leadership of the General Secretary and President in the management of internal conflicts that exist in our union and have been created since the election of our General Secretary.

Our branch has more confidence in our TSSA staff who are currently in dispute. Should our TSSA staff who are represented by the GMB decide they have no option but take industrial action, our branch will support them in this action.

The branch then sent a letter to the TSSA executive:

Network Rail London South Branch

Notice of vote of no confidence in TSSA Leadership of our General Secretary and President for circulation to TSSA Executive Committee

At our branch meeting on Thursday 11 April, we invited our General Secretary and President to respond to concerns that our branch has regarding the internal conflicts within our union.

Melissa Heywood did attend this meeting despite her partner being in hospital and joined via phone from her car in the hospital car park. Our branch very much appreciated her attendance, and it would have been entirely justifiable to give apologies, and not attend in these circumstances. Our branch meeting later agreed to specifically thank Melissa for attending this challenging meeting and will make that clear with a separate message to her. Maryam had indicated she would be attending but did not attend, although it was noted that there may have been family commitments for this non-attendance.

We presented an outline of our concerns which included the following:

TSSA had been through the massive challenge of removing the previous senior management team, including our General Secretary following an investigation and report by QC Helena Kennedy. There was a remarkable and positive consensus across the union to achieve these goals.

We have gone through the election process for a new General Secretary with Maryam being successful in that election, being endorsed by the Executive Committee. At that point Maryam had the overwhelming support of our union employees and members, with the hope that we had every prospect of a positive leadership that would have learnt from our previous conflicts.

Within weeks internal conflicts started to emerge, including one EC member leaving as he found the environment to be intolerable. The derecognition of Women in Focus was illegitimate and unnecessary.

Disputes between TSSA staff and the senior management team soon emerged, with complaints about non-compliance with agreements, accusations and counter accusations of bullying, with TSSA staff now moving to a ballot for industrial action, referencing “a culture of bullying, harassment and victimisation.”

The communications from our General Secretary to the employees appear to have inflamed rather than attempted to resolve this conflict. The article in the Guardian, in which the dispute is claimed by Maryam to be a takeover attempt by the GMB, can have done nothing but harm to our union and the GMB, and appears to have no basis in reality.

Subsequently there was evidence that our President liked a social media post that called for the derecognition of the GMB, which represents our employees in TSSA. There now appears to an extension of this conflict with the Executive Committee apparently agreeing this week to the suspension of three TSSA members who have been critical of the leadership.

Whilst it is not for our branch to consider the detail of the staff complaints, we should however be able to expect that our leadership acts in the best interest of our union and does not bring our union into disrepute. Currently, there appears to be no path to resolve this.

Our President responded to some of these challenges and to many others made in the meeting. There was however no indication that the leadership recognised that they have a responsibility to resolve the many conflicts which appear to have been caused by the action of the General Secretary and the President.

Our branch therefore proceeded to debate and vote for the following:

That this branch has no confidence in the leadership of the General Secretary and President in the management of internal conflicts that exist in our union and have been created since the election of our General Secretary.

Our branch has more confidence in our TSSA staff who are currently in dispute. Should our TSSA staff who are represented by the GMB decide they have no option but take industrial action, our branch will support them in this action.

Invited to comment, a TSSA spokesperson said:

“The TSSA is committed to working with our staff to ensure that we have a union that is fit for purpose and fully focused on delivering for members. We have arranged talks with Acas on 24th April. However, so far, the GMB is refusing to take part. We hope the GMB leadership will reconsider its approach and join the talks.”

GMB reps among TSSA staff have accused Eslamdoust and her team of not informing them that they had approached ACAS, and of bypassing them to try to negotiate the dispute with GMB general secretary Gary Smith instead of engaging with workers and their representatives.

Other branches are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks. The workers’ first strikes will take place on 30 April and 4 June, including pickets of TSSA offices.

If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

Failed ICJ Case Against Russia Backfires, Paves Way for Genocide Charges Against Ukraine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/03/2024 - 2:50am in

As January became February, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered a pair of legal body blows to Ukraine and its Western backers. First, on January 31, it ruled on a case brought by Kiev against Russia in 2017, which accused Moscow of presiding over a campaign of “terrorism” in Donbas, including the July 2014 downing of MH17. It also charged that Russia racially discriminated against Ukrainian and Tatar residents of Crimea following its reunification with Moscow.

The ICJ summarily rejected most charges. Then, on February 2, the Court made a preliminary judgment in a case where Kiev accused Moscow of exploiting false claims of an ongoing genocide of Russians and Russian speakers in Donbas to justify its invasion. Ukraine further charged the Special Military Operation breached the Genocide Convention despite not itself constituting genocide. Almost unanimously, ICJ judges rejected these arguments.

Western media universally ignored or distorted the substance of the ICJ rulings. When outlets did acknowledge the judgments, they misrepresented the first by focusing prominently on the accepted charges while downplaying all dismissed allegations. The second was wildly spun as a significant loss for Moscow. The BBC and others focused on how the Court agreed that “part” of Ukraine’s case could proceed. That this “part” is the question of whether Kiev itself committed genocide in Donbas post-2014 was unmentioned.

Ukraine’s failed lawfare effort was backed by 47 EU and NATO member states, leading to the farce of 32 separate international legal teams submitting representations to The Hague in September 2023. Among other things, they supported Kiev’s bizarre contention that the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics were comparable to Al-Qaeda. Judges comprehensively rejected that assertion. Markedly, in its submitted arguments, Russia drew attention to how the same countries backing Kiev justified their illegal, unilateral destruction of Yugoslavia under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine.

This may not be the only area where Ukraine and its overseas sponsors are in trouble moving forward. A closer inspection of the Court’s rulings comprehensively discredits the established mainstream narrative of what transpired in Crimea and Donbas following the Western-orchestrated Maidan coup in February 2014.

In sum, the judgments raise serious questions about Kiev’s eight-year-long “anti-terrorist operation” against “pro-Russian separatists,” following months of vast protests and violent clashes throughout eastern Ukraine between Russian-speaking pro-federal activists and authorities.

 

Damning finding after damning finding

In its first judgment, the ICJ ruled the Donbas and Lugansk People’s Republics were not “terrorist” entities, as “[neither] group has previously been characterized as being terrorist in nature by an organ of the United Nations” and could not be branded such simply because Kiev labeled them so. This gravely undermined Ukraine’s allegations of Russia “funding…terrorist groups” in Donbas, let alone committing “terrorist” acts there itself.

Other revelatory findings reinforced this bombshell. The ICJ held that Moscow wasn’t liable for committing or even failing to prevent terrorism, as the Kremlin had no “reasonable grounds to suspect” material provided by Ukraine, including details of “accounts, bank cards and other financial instruments” allegedly used by accused “terrorists” in Donbas, were used for such purposes. Moscow was also ruled to have launched investigations into “alleged offenders” but concluded they “d[id] not exist… or their location could not be identified”.

Nonetheless, the ICJ ruled that Moscow had failed “to investigate allegations of the commission of terrorism financing offenses by alleged offenders present in its territory.” This was due to the Kremlin not providing “additional information” upon Kiev’s request and failing to “specify to Ukraine what further information may have been required.” Ironically, judges conversely condemned Kiev’s allegations of “terrorism” by Russia as “vague and highly generalized,” based on highly dubious evidence and documentation, including – strikingly – Western media reports:

The Court has held that certain materials, such as press articles and extracts from publications, are regarded ‘not as evidence capable of proving facts.’

The ICJ was also highly condemnatory of the quality of witnesses and witness evidence produced by Kiev to support these charges. Judges were particularly scathing of Ukraine’s reliance on testimony supporting a systematic, state-sanctioned “pattern of racial discrimination” discrimination against Ukrainians and Tatars in Crimea since 2014. Statements attesting to this were “collected many years after the relevant events” and “not supported by corroborating documentation”:

The reports relied on by Ukraine are of limited value in confirming that the relevant measures are of a racially discriminatory character…Ukraine has not demonstrated… reasonable grounds to suspect that racial discrimination had taken place, which should have prompted the Russian authorities to investigate.

Elsewhere, Ukraine argued that “legal consequences” for residents of Crimea if they opted to maintain Ukrainian citizenship post-2014 and a “steep decline in the number of students receiving their school education in the Ukrainian language between 2014 and 2016,” amounting to an alleged 80% drop in the first year and a further 50% reduction in 2015, were signifiers of a discriminatory environment for non-Russians in the peninsula.

Ukraine War CrimesUkrainian soldiers patrol alongsidethe Donbas Battalion, a Ukrainian militia, in Luhansk, July 26, 2014. Dmitry Lovetsky | AP

In support, Kiev submitted witness statements from parents claiming they were “subjected to harassment and manipulative conduct with a view to deterring” their children from receiving “instruction in Ukrainian,” which judges did not accept. By contrast, Moscow provided testimony not only demonstrating that parents made a “genuine” choice “not subject to pressure” to have their children taught in Russian but also “unresponsiveness on the part of parents to some teachers’ active encouragement [emphasis added] to continue having their children receive instruction in Ukrainian.”

The ICJ lent weight to these submissions, noting, “It is undisputed that no such decline has taken place with respect to school education in other languages, including the Crimean Tatar language.” Judges attributed much of the drop in demand for Ukrainian language “school instruction” to “a dominant Russian cultural environment and the departure of thousands of pro-Ukrainian Crimean residents to mainland Ukraine.” Moscow moreover “produced evidence substantiating its attempts at preserving Ukrainian cultural heritage and… explanations for the measures undertaken with respect to that heritage.”

Russia supplied documentation showing that “Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar organizations have been successful in applying to hold events” in the peninsula. In contrast, “multiple events organized by ethnic Russians have been denied.” Evidently, Russian authorities are even-handed towards Crimea’s population – the color of someone’s passport and their mother tongue are immaterial. On the same grounds, judges rejected Kiev’s accusation that “measures taken against Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian media outlets were based on the ethnic origin of the persons affiliated with them.”

Still, the Court contradictorily concluded Russia “violated its obligations of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,” as Moscow “[did not demonstrate] that it complied with its duty to protect the rights of ethnic Ukrainians from a disparate adverse effect based on their ethnic origin.”

 

Kiev goes in for the kill

The ICJ has now effectively confirmed that the entire mainstream narrative of what happened in Crimea and Donbas over the previous decade was fraudulent. Some legal scholars have argued Ukraine’s acquittal on charges of genocide to be inevitable. Yet, many statements made by Ukrainian nationalists since Maidan unambiguously indicate such an intent.

Moreover, in June 2020, a British immigration court granted asylum to Ukrainian citizens who fled the country to avoid conscription. They successfully argued that military service in Donbas would necessarily entail perpetrating and being implicated in “acts contrary to the basic rules of human conduct” – in other words, war crimes – against the civilian population.

The Court’s ruling noted the Ukrainian military routinely engaged in “unlawful capture and detention of civilians with no legal or military justification…motivated by the need for ‘currency’ for prisoner exchanges.” It added there was “systemic mistreatment” of detainees during the “anti-terrorist operation” in Donbas. This included “torture and other conduct that is cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.” An “attitude and atmosphere of impunity for those involved in mistreating detainees” was observed.

The judgment also recorded “widespread civilian loss of life and the extensive destruction of residential property” in Donbas, “attributable to poorly targeted and disproportionate attacks carried out by the Ukrainian military.” Water installations, it recorded, “have been a particular and repeated target by Ukrainian armed forces, despite civilian maintenance and transport vehicles being clearly marked…and despite the protected status such installations enjoy” under international law.

All of this could quite reasonably be argued to constitute genocide. Regardless, the British asylum judgment amply underlines who Ukraine was truly fighting all along – its own citizens. Moscow could furthermore reasonably cite recent disclosures from Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande that the 2014-15 Minsk Accords were, in fact, a con, never intended to be implemented, buying Kiev time to bolster its stockpiles of Western weapons, vehicles, and ammunition, as yet further proof of Ukraine’s malign intentions in Donbas.

The Accords did not provide for secession or independence for the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics but for their full autonomy within Ukraine. Russia was named a mediator, not a party, to the conflict. Kiev was to resolve the dispute directly with rebel leaders. These were crucial legal distinctions about which Ukraine and its overseas backers were immensely displeased. They repeatedly attempted over subsequent years to compel Moscow to designate itself formally as a party to the conflict despite Russia’s minimal role in the conflict.

As a 2019 report published by the Soros-funded International Crisis Group (ICG), “Rebels Without A Cause” found, “the conflict in eastern Ukraine started as a grassroots movement… Demonstrations were led by local citizens claiming to represent the region’s Russian-speaking majority.” Moscow only began providing financial and material support to the rebels after Ukraine’s “counter-terror” operation in Donbas started in April 2014. And it was meager at that.

Ukraine War CrimesVolunteer pro-Russian fighters bring aid to civilians living in Donbas, February 01, 2022. Svetlana Kysilyova | Abaca | Sipa via AP

The ICG found that Russia’s position was consistent: the two breakaway republics remain autonomous subjects within Ukraine. This frequently put the Kremlin at significant odds with the rebel leadership, who acted in their own interests and rarely followed orders. The report concluded that Moscow was ultimately “beholden” to the breakaway republics, not vice versa. Rebel fighters wouldn’t put down their arms even if Vladimir Putin personally demanded them to.

Given present-day events, the report’s conclusions are eerie. The ICG declared the situation in Donbas “ought not to be narrowly defined as a matter of Russian occupation” and criticized Kiev’s “tendency to conflate” the Kremlin and the rebels. It expressed hope that newly-elected President Volodymyr Zelensky could “peacefully reunify with the rebel-held territories” and “[engage] the alienated east.”

The 2017 ICJ case explicitly concerned validating allegations of Russia’s direct, active involvement in Donbas. We are left to ponder whether this lawfare effort was intended to secure Kiev’s specious legal grounds for claiming it was invaded in 2014. After all, this could, in turn, have precipitated an all-out Western proxy war in Donbas of the kind that erupted in February 2022.

At the start of that month, French President Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed his commitment to Minsk, claiming he had Zelensky’s personal assurance it would be implemented. However, on February 11, talks between representatives of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine collapsed after nine hours without tangible results. Notably, Kiev rejected demands for “direct dialogue” with the rebels, insisting Moscow formally designate itself a party to the conflict in keeping with its past obstructionist position.

Then, as documented in multiple contemporary eyewitness reports from OSCE observers, mass Ukrainian artillery shelling of Donbas erupted. On February 15, alarmed representatives of the Duma, led by Russia’s influential Communist Party, formally requested that the Kremlin recognize the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Putin initially refused, reiterating his commitment to Minsk. The shelling intensified. A February 19 OSCE report recorded 591 ceasefire violations over the past 24 hours, including 553 explosions in rebel-held areas.

Civilians were harmed in the strikes, and civilian structures, including schools, were apparently targeted directly. Meanwhile, that same day, Donetsk rebels claimed they thwarted two sabotage attacks by Polish-speaking operatives on ammonia and oil reservoirs in their territory. Perhaps not coincidentally, in January 2022, it was revealed that the CIA had been training a secret paramilitary army in Ukraine to carry out precisely such strikes in the event of a Russian invasion since 2015.

So, on February 21, the Kremlin formally accepted the Duma’s plea from a week earlier to recognize Donetsk and Lugansk as independent republics. And now here we are.

Feature photo | Pro-Russian Serviceman with a heavy machine gun observing the movement of Ukrainian troops from the advanced trenches of the people’s militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic in the Yasne village area, Donbas, February 11, 2022. Svetlana Kysilyova | Abaca | Sipa via AP2022. Svetlana Kisileva/Abaca/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images)

Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPress News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg.

The post Failed ICJ Case Against Russia Backfires, Paves Way for Genocide Charges Against Ukraine appeared first on MintPress News.

Foreign Aid and Its Unintended Consequences – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/02/2024 - 10:14pm in

In Foreign Aid and Its Unintended ConsequencesDirk-Jan Koch examines the unintended effects of development efforts, covering issues such as conflicts, migration, inequality and environmental degradation. Ruerd Ruben finds the book an original and detailed analysis that can help development policymakers and practitioners to better anticipate these consequences and build adaptive programmes.

Foreign Aid and Its Unintended Consequences. Dirk-Jan Koch. Routledge. 2023.

Find this book: amazon-logo

Foreign Aid and its Unintended Consequences_coverDirk-Jan Koch’s Foreign Aid and its Unintended Consequences offers a rich discussion on the unintended consequences of development efforts, including effects on conflicts, migration and inequality and changes in commodity prices, human behaviour, institutions and environmental degradation. The book explains how different perceptions of donors and recipients lead to quite opposite strategies (eg, for managing the Haiti earthquake), whereas in other settings aid programmes can even intensify local conflicts or spur deforestation.

Koch devotes due attention to the aggregate impact of development activities through so-called backlash effects, negative spillovers and positive ripple effects.

Koch devotes due attention to the aggregate impact of development activities through so-called backlash effects, negative spillovers and positive ripple effects. Many of these effects also occur in Western countries, where they are commonly labelled as crowding-in and -out, linkages and leakages, and substitution effects. Each chapter includes real-life examples (mostly cases from sub-Saharan Africa), ranging from due diligence legislation on conflict minerals in DR Congo to the experiences of the author’s parents with the Fairtrade shop in the tiny Dutch village of Achterveld.

Koch consistently argues that the analysis of unintended effects is helpful to unravel the complexities of development cooperation and enables better identification of incentives that allow for more adaptive planning. This is a welcome contribution, since it provides a common language for better communication between development agents.

Everyone involved in development programmes is invited by this book to reflect on their own experiences with unintended consequences. I still remember the shock when an external review of a large integrated rural development programme in Southern Nicaragua revealed that most funds were spent at the local gasoline station and car repair workshop for maintenance of the project vehicles. My original enthusiasm for Fairtrade certification of coffee and cocoa cooperatives was substantially reduced when I became aware that price support enabled farmers to maintain their income with less production and therefore increased inequality within rural communities.

Koch consistently shows that it is important and possible to disentangle each of these possible or likely side effects and to act to combat them.

The systematic overview of unintended consequences of foreign aid gives an initial impression that development cooperation is a system beyond repair. This is, however, far from the truth. Koch consistently shows that it is important and possible to disentangle each of these possible or likely side effects and to act to combat them. That requires an open mind and thorough knowledge of responses by different types of agents and institutions.

The analysis falls short, however, in showing that several types of unintended consequences are likely to interact (such as price and marginalisation effects, or conflict and migration effects). Other consequences may partially overlap or perhaps compensate for each other. Moreover, there is likely to be a certain ”hierarchy” in the underlying mechanisms, where behavioural effects, governance effects and price effects crowd out several other consequences. In addition, a further analysis of the development context and the influence of norms and values might be helpful to better understand why certain effects occur, or not.

There is likely to be a certain ‘hierarchy’ in the underlying mechanisms, where behavioural effects, governance effects and price effects crowd out several other consequences

Koch argues that unintended consequences are frequently overlooked due to “linear thinking” in international development. He probably refers to the dominance of logical frameworks in traditional development planning and the recent requirement for presenting a Theory of Change with different impact pathways for development programmes. Since links and feedback loops between activities are already widely acknowledged, Koch seems to merge “linearity” with “causality”. For responsible development policies and programmes, we need better insight into the cause-effect relationship, recognising that differentiated outcomes may occur and that side effects are likely to be registered.

The absence of linear response mechanisms has been part of development thinking since its foundation by development economist and Nobel-prize winner Jan Tinbergen. His work (and my PhD thesis) heavily relied on linear programming, which is still considered as an extremely useful approach for showing that an intervention can generate multiple outcomes and that policymakers need some insights into alternative scenarios before they start to act. Impact analysis through different (quantitative and qualitative) methods digs deeper into the adaptive behaviour of development agents in response to a wide variety of incentives (ranging from financial support and legal rules to knowledge diffusion and information exchange). Our attention should be focused on understanding how non-linearity as occasioned by the involvement of multiple agents with different interests (and power) in development programmes leads to multiple – and sometimes opposing – outcomes from interventions.

Our attention should be focused on understanding how non-linearity […] in development programmes leads to multiple – and sometimes opposing – outcomes from interventions.

Koch’s analysis is based on a wide variety of case studies and testimonies, enriched with secondary research on the gender effects of microfinance, the occurrence of exchange rate disturbances (Dutch Disease), and the effectiveness of incentives to encourage natural resource conservation (Payments for Ecosystem Services). In a few cases, it makes use of more systematic impact reviews made by the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) and Campbell Collaboration. Information about the size and relative importance of the unintended consequences is notably absent.

The reliance on illustrative case studies and dense description challenges the academic rigor of the book. It may hinder our understanding about the underlying causes and mechanisms behind these effects: are they generated by the development intervention themselves, or are they due to the context in which the programme is implemented, or the types of stakeholders involved in its implementation? A more comparative approach could be helpful to better understand, for instance, why microfinance was accompanied by an increase in domestic violence in certain parts of India, but not in others. Comparing different ways of designing and organising microfinance would provide clearer insights into the causes of variation in outcomes.

Opening up for such an interactive engagement with development activities asks for an institutional re-design of international development cooperation, permitting projects with a substantially longer duration (eight to ten years), closing the gap between policy and practice and accepting a political commitment for learning from mistakes. Moreover, dealing with unintended consequences requires that far more aid is channelled through embassies and local organisations that have direct insights into local possibilities and needs.

Social and community service programmes for basic education and primary healthcare tend to deliver the most tangible positive effects on incomes, nutrition, behaviour, women’s participation and income distribution.

Furthermore, focusing on adaptive planning and learning trajectories may also imply that policy priorities for foreign aid need to change. Social and community service programmes for basic education and primary healthcare tend to deliver the most tangible positive effects on incomes, nutrition, behaviour, women’s participation and income distribution. The development record of programmes for trade promotion is far more doubtful and still heavily relies on (unproven) trickle-down reasoning. Particular attention should be given to budget support and cash transfers as aid modalities with the least strings attached that show a high impact on critical poverty indicators. Contrary to these findings, several years ago the Dutch parliament stopped budget support and eliminated primary education as a key policy priority.

While the author concludes by focusing on the need to act on side effects and further professionalisation of international development programmes, more concrete leverage points could be identified. First, many of the registered effects tend to be related to cross-cutting structural differences in resources and voice, and therefore programmes that start with improving asset ownership and women’s empowerment are likely to yield simultaneous changes in different areas. Second, a stronger focus on systems analysis (beyond complexity theory) can be helpful to identify inherent conflicts and tensions in development programmes that could be the subject of political negotiation. Unravelling potential trade-offs then becomes a key component of development planning. Third, more space could have been devoted to the role of experiments in the practice of development cooperation. Policymakers expect a high level of certainty and face difficulties to become engaged in more adaptive programming. Accepting deliberate risk-taking may be helpful to improve aid effectiveness.

Policymakers expect a high level of certainty and face difficulties to become engaged in more adaptive programming. Accepting deliberate risk-taking may be helpful to improve aid effectiveness.

These reservations aside, Foreign Aid and its Unintended Consequences is a welcome and original contribution to the debate on development effectiveness. Koch offers a systematic conceptual and empirical analysis of ten types of unintended effects from international development activities, and its recommendations on how these effects can be tackled in practice will be useful for policymakers, practitioners and evaluators.

This post gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science. The LSE RB blog may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon affiliate link. This is entirely independent of the coverage of the book on LSE Review of Books.

Image Credit: Jen Watson on Shutterstock.

Between Conflict and Collegiality: Palestinian Arabs and Jews in the Israeli Workplace

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 01/02/2024 - 11:35am in

by Asaf Darr* The ongoing and fierce conflict between Jews and Palestinian Arabs is a daily reality in Israel, the country where I reside. As a sociologist of work and economic sociologist, I became increasingly interested in the ways in which the broader conflict is manifested in daily socio-economic encounters on the shop floor between […]

Afghanistan: Long War, Forgotten Peace – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/01/2024 - 10:13pm in

In Afghanistan: Long War, Forgotten Peace, Michael Cox brings together scholars to analyse the failure of Afghan state-building, the Taliban’s resurgence and the country’s future. Anil Kaan Yildirim finds the book a valuable resource for understanding challenges the country faces, including women’s rights, the drugs economies and human trafficking and exploitation. However, he objects to the inclusion of a chapter which makes a geographically deterministic appraisal of Afghanistan’s governance.

Afghanistan: Long War, Forgotten Peace. Michael Cox (ed.). LSE Press. 2022.

This book is available Open Access here.

Afghanistan, long war forgotten peace coverIn Afghanistan: Long War, Forgotten Peace, Michael Cox gathers scholars, policymakers, and public intellectuals to shed light on the factors contributing to the failure of Afghan state-building, the successful takeover by the Taliban, and to share some insights on the country’s future. The chapters in the collection impart valuable insights on international law, human trafficking, women’s rights, NATO, and the international drug trade, with the exception of one essay that uses a problematic framework in its analysis of Afghan statehood and seems out of place within the book.

One of the main tasks of any state-building process is to create a political sphere that includes all parties to decide on policies and strategies shaping the future of the country.

One of the main tasks of any state-building process is to create a political sphere that includes all parties to decide on policies and strategies shaping the future of the country. However, in the case of Afghanistan, as argued by Michael Callen and Shahim Kabuli in Chapter Three, the de facto power structure did not align with the de jure systems of institutions. Excluding the Taliban from political discussions, adopting a fundamentally flawed and exclusionary electoral system, and employing a centralised presidential system which did not correspond to Afghan “diversity and reality” have been the “three sins” of the Afghanistan project. Along with these mistakes, the authors also identify the issues that created a “dysfunctional” state-building, including the lack of complete Afghan sovereignty within regional power dynamics, the diversion of the US’s focus to Iraq, and other foreign influences such as Russia and China that tried to attract the power-holders of the country. This powerful essay points out the three sins in the creation of the structure and other dynamics that destabilised the country. Thus,  the state-building project collapsed not because Afghanistan was unsuited to democracy, but because of a combination of many different mistakes.

The authors also identify the issues that created a “dysfunctional” state-building, including the lack of complete Afghan sovereignty within regional power dynamics, the diversion of the US’s focus to Iraq, and other foreign influences such as Russia and China

The role of women in the Afghan state-building effort is highly contested among different power holders, the international community, and the Taliban. Writing in this context in Chapter Six, Nargis Nehan explores the issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan before and after 9/11, positioning the matter within the spectrum of extremists, fundamentalists, and modernists. The highly masculinised country following many years of different wars created a challenging political and social area for women. Therefore, all changes in the political sphere resulted in a change in the lives of women.

Nargis Nehan explores the issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan before and after 9/11, positioning the matter within the spectrum of extremists, fundamentalists, and modernists.

As an internationalised state-building project, Afghanistan has challenged international institutions and norms. Devika Hovell and Michelle Hughes examine the US and its allies’ interpretation and application of international law in military intervention in Afghanistan. With discussion of several steps and actors of the intervention, they demonstrate how this operation stretched the definitions of self-defence, credibility, legal justification, and authority within international realm.

The book explores several other key problems in the country. These include Thi Hoang’s chapter on human trafficking problems such as forced labour, organ trafficking and sexual exploitation; John Collins, Shehryar Fazli and Ian Tennant’s chapter on the past and future of the international drug trade in Afghanistan; Leslie Vinjamuri on the future of the US’s global politics after its withdrawal from the state; and Feng Zhang on the Chinese government’s policy on Afghanistan.

The essays mentioned above demonstrate what happened, what could have been evaded and what the future holds for Afghanistan. However, the essay, “Afghanistan: Learning from History?” by Rodric Braithwaite is a questionable inclusion in the volume. By emphasising geographical determinism, this piece a problematic perspective on Afghanistan. The essay argues that the failure of the West’s state-building project was down to the “wild” character of Afghan governance historically, which he deems “… a combination of bribery, ruthlessness towards the weak, compromise with the powerful, keeping the key factions in balance and leaving well alone … (17)” or “… nepotism, compromise, bribery, and occasional threat” (26-27). This perspective paints a false image of how Afghan history is characterised by unethical, even brutal methods of governance. Also in this essay are many problematic cultural claims such as “… Afghans are good at dying for their country … (18).”

The limitation of the entire Afghan agency, history and political culture to a ruthless character and geography that always produces “terrible results” for state-building is a false narrative

The limitation of the entire Afghan agency, history and political culture to a ruthless character and geography that always produces “terrible results” for state-building is a false narrative, which is reflected in and supported by the postcolonial term for Afghanistan: the “graveyard of empires”. While many different tribes, states, and empires have successfully existed in the country, Western colonial armies’ defeats and recent state-building failures should not misrepresent the country as a savage place in need of taming. Rather, as the other essays in the book argue, research on these failures should examine the West’s role in precipitating them.

Not only does this piece disrespect the scholarship (including other authors of the book) by asserting the ontological ungovernability of the country, but its deterministic stance also disregards the thousands of lives lost in the struggle to contribute to Afghan life those who believed that the future is not destined by the past but can be built today. Additionally, using only three references (with one being the author’s own book), referring to the US as “America”, random usage of different terms and not providing the source of a quotation are all quite problematic for a lessons-learned-from-history essay.

Beyond the limitations of the essay in terms of how it frames the past, what is more damaging is the creation of a false image of Afghanistan for future researchers and policymakers. For the points mentioned above, including the false narrative of ‘graveyard of empires’, Nivi Manchanda’s Imagining Afghanistan: The History and Politics of Imperial Knowledge (2020) is worth consulting for in-depth insight into the colonial knowledge production system and its problematic portrayal of Afghanistan.

Braithwaite’s essay excepted, this book, exploring different political and historical issues from various perspectives, provides significant insights into what happened in Afghanistan and what the future holds for the nation

Braithwaite’s essay excepted, this book, exploring different political and historical issues from various perspectives, provides significant insights into what happened in Afghanistan and what the future holds for the nation. For practitioners, policymakers, and scholars seeking a broad perspective on state-building problems, policy limitations and relevant research areas in Afghanistan, this collection is a useful resource.

This post gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science. The LSE RB blog may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon affiliate link. This is entirely independent of the coverage of the book on LSE Review of Books.

Image Credit: Trent Inness on Shutterstock.

Spiritual Contestations: The Violence of Peace in South Sudan – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/01/2024 - 11:41pm in

In Spiritual Contestations: The Violence of Peace in South Sudan, Naomi Pendle dissects the interactions between Nuer- and Dinka-speaking communities amid national and international peacebuilding efforts, exploring the role of spiritual culture and belief in these processes. Based on extensive ethnographic and historical research, the book offers valuable insights for scholars and policymakers in conflict management and peace-building, writes Nadir A. Nasidi.

Spiritual Contestations: The Violence of Peace in South Sudan. Religion in Transforming Africa Series, Vol. Number: 12. Naomi Ruth Pendle. James Currey. 2023.

Find this book: amazon-logo

Spiritual Contestations Naomi Pendle book coverThe history of South Sudan includes a series of protracted conflicts and wars, which have attracted the attention of many researchers covering their socio-economic and political dimensions. Following in this vein, Pendle’s Spiritual Contestations explores the interactions between Nuer- and Dinka-speaking communities within the context of national and international peace-making processes. This also includes the role of the clergy and traditional rulers in such processes, which is complicated by politics, sentiments, and the urge to profit from the South Sudan’s protracted conflicts. Pendle also assesses the experiences of ordinary South Sudanese people in peace-making, including their everyday peace-making meetings. The book is divided into three sections and 14 engaging chapters based on the author’s ethnographic and historical research conducted between 2012 and 2022 among the Nuer- and Dinka-speaking peoples.

Pendle’s Spiritual Contestations explores the interactions between Nuer- and Dinka-speaking communities within the context of national and international peace-making processes

Chapter one describes the historical evolution of the hakuma (an Arabic-derived, South Sudanese term for government) in the 19th century and the physical violence which South Sudan has experienced through its mercantile and colonial history, as well as many years of war that influenced contemporary peace-making. It also shows how the hakuma claimed “divine” powers (as a result of god-like rights the government arrogated to itself). Chapters two, three, four and five discuss the contemporary making of war and peace, oppositions to the Sudan government’s development agenda, the 1960s and 1972 Addis Ababa Peace Agreement and South Sudan’s 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. These chapters also examine the Wunlit Peace Meeting, which was a classic example of what the author calls “the ‘local turn’ in peace-making whereby international actors championed ‘local’ forms of peace-making” (35-119).

Chapter seven largely focuses on the escalation of violence in Warrap State as a result of having an indigenous hakuma alongside ever-evolving ideas of land, property, resources, and cattle ownership. Chapters seven to fourteen then focus on the proliferation of peace meetings in Gogrial and the cosmological crisis brought by the years of war (which involves the disruptions or perceived threats to cosmic order and by overarching beliefs about the universe held by the Nuer- and Dinka-speaking communities), a crisis which was met with a proliferation of prophets. This section also covers wars in South Sudan since 2013, the prevalence of revenge in giving meaning to armed conflicts, the post-2013 power of the Nuer prophets, the post-2013 era in Warrap State, and the role of the church in South Sudan’s peacekeeping through the activities of Dinka priests who are popularly known as the baany e biith.

Although the title of the book appears oxymoronic, the author argues that peace remains violent when understood in a context wherein the methods employed to establish or foster peace involve force, suppression, and coercion

Although the title of the book appears oxymoronic, the author argues that peace remains violent when understood in a context wherein the methods employed to establish or foster peace involve force, suppression, and coercion. This is especially true in the context of South Sudan’s “unsettled cosmic polity”; a polity characterised by periods of questioning, restructuring or conflict in response to perceived disruptions of cosmic order and balance, which further push the boundaries of contemporary discourse on the meaning and conceptualisation of peace and peace-making (179-189).

The author further explains how [] religious connotations are used to contest the moral logic of government, particularly in the rural areas of South Sudan

Pendle bases her arguments on the “eclectic divine” and religious influences among communities located around the Bilnyang River system. The author further explains how these religious connotations are used to contest the moral logic of government, particularly in the rural areas of South Sudan. Through this means, the author clarifies how religion and religious assertions shape the peoples’ social and political life. This includes issues such as spiritual and moral contestations, as well as the making and unmaking of norms within the “cultural archive” (including traditional, economic and historical recollections) that reshape the violence of peace, feuds, and its associated political economies. She advances this argument in her study of conflicts over natural resources and cultural rights that are understood as cosmological occurrences by the people of South Sudan, the meanings of war and peace, and the assertion of power within these events.

Pendle states that to understand the real politics and violence of peace-making, one must also understand ‘how peace-making interacts with and reshapes power not only in everyday politics’, but also ‘in cosmic polities’

Pendle states that to understand the real politics and violence of peace-making, one must also understand “how peace-making interacts with and reshapes power not only in everyday politics”, but also “in cosmic polities” (75-99). Looking at the nature of human societies, she concludes that they are largely hierarchical, mostly located within the purview of a cosmic polity that is populated by “beings of human attributes and metahuman powers who govern the people’s fate” (7).

Basing her arguments on Graeber and Shalins’ research, Pendle observes that South Sudanese society’s secular governments and self-arrogating divine powers can pass for a cosmic polity. It is within this context that the South Sudanese Arabic term for government, ‘hakuma’ operates; the term refers not only to government, but to a broad socio-political sphere including foreign traders and slavers.

Pendle also documents the various ways in which South Sudanese people use cultural symbols, rituals, norms, and values, as well as theology, to contest ‘predatory power and to make peace’

Pendle also documents the various ways in which South Sudanese people use cultural symbols, rituals, norms, and values, as well as theology, to contest “predatory power and to make peace” (75). Examples include the Dinka use of leopard skin (which is used for conflict resolution between two warring factions), cultural diplomacy through festivals, as well as the ceremonial blessings of cattle as a symbol of wealth.

The book is not without flaws. The author often oscillates between the use of ordinal and cardinal numbers when a chapter is mentioned Even if this is done for convenience, it is at the expense of chronology and consistency. Although written in plain and straight-to-the-point language, the author’s use of compound-complex sentences throughout the book makes it difficult for readers to comprehend easily.

Considering the ongoing conflicts and wars in and around the South Sudan region, Pendle’s Spiritual Contestations is a timely work. Using a close analysis, the author provides incisive insights into the changing nature of wars and conflicts, as well as the violence of peace among the Nuer- and Dinka-speaking communities. The book is a significant resource for scholars in the field of conflict management and peace-building, international organisations, policymakers and anyone interested in considering the interplay of religion, governance, tradition, peace-making, and conflict management.

This post gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science. The LSE RB blog may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon affiliate link. This is entirely independent of the coverage of the book on LSE Review of Books.

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When Disasters Come Home: Making and Manipulating Emergencies In The West – review

In When Disasters Come Home: Making and Manipulating Emergencies In The West, David Keen considers how powers in the Global North exploit, or even manufacture, disasters in the Global South for political or economic gain. Though taking issue with Keen’s engagement with psychoanalysis, Daniele-Hadi Irandoost finds the book an insightful exploration of the global power dynamics involved in disasters and their far-reaching repercussions.

When Disasters Come Home: Making and Manipulating Emergencies In The West. David Keen. Polity. 2023.

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Cover of When Disasters Come Home by David Keen showing the storming of the US Capitol in January 2021.In When Disasters Come Home: Making and Manipulating Emergencies In The West anthropological writer David Keen attempts to show how disasters are exploited for political and economic gain. A disaster, as defined by Keen, is “a serious problem occurring over a short or long period of time that causes widespread human, material, economic or environmental loss”. Keen’s analysis deals with two types of disaster in the Global North. The so-called “sudden” or “dramatic” disasters are caused by stark terrorism (eg, the 9/11 attacks), natural causes (Hurricane Katrina), financial and economic recessions (crash of 2007–8), migration crises (Calais), Covid-19, and the war in Ukraine.

Keen attempts to show how disasters are exploited for political and economic gain.

On the other hand, “extended” or “underlying” disasters derive from long-smouldering conditions of economic disparity (eg, globalisation and inequality), considerable changes in climate (deficiencies in the domestic infrastructure), as well as political fragmentation (erosion of democratic norms, etc).

Colonial historiography assumed that disasters were usually confined to the Global South. Incidentally, in his investigative research in the Global South, especially in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Keen discovered that the politics of that world were disposed to deliberately make, manipulate and legitimise “famines, wars and other disasters”. This state of affairs enabled certain beneficiary actors to extract political, military and economic benefits.

In his investigative research in the Global South, especially in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Keen discovered that the politics of that world were disposed to deliberately make, manipulate and legitimise famines, wars and other disasters

Here, Keen sounds a note of warning. Democracies provide only a fragile protection against disasters, and for six reasons (according to examples across the globe): disasters might be deemed “acceptable”, vulnerable groups do not always have the “political muscle” to guard against disasters, opportunists may seek to maximise profit through the suffering of certain groups, “elected politicians” may “distort” information about a disaster, democracies “may give false reassurance in terms of the apparent immunity to disaster” (emphasis in original), and, finally, a democracy may itself erode over time.

In theorising disasters, Keen endeavours to advance beyond the traditional distinction between the Global North and the Global South.

In theorising disasters, Keen endeavours to advance beyond the traditional distinction between the Global North and the Global South. His purpose is to show that, in the Western world, disasters have “come home to roost”, that the violence of “far away” countries (“whether in the contemporary era or as part of historical colonialism”) has found its way back into the Global North in the form of “various kinds of blowback”.

These “boomerang effects”, to use Keen’s words, “take a heavy toll on Western politics and society” when they are “incorporated into a renewed politics of intolerance” (“internal colonialism”). In particular, Keen says that, in the Global North, we find there is an increasing drive for security by “allocating additional resources for the military, building walls, and bolstering abusive governments that offer to cooperate in a ‘war on terror’ or in ‘migration control’ – … [which] tend not only to bypass the underlying problems but to exacerbate them” (emphasis in original). Additionally, Keen alleges that the expenses of “security systems” suck “the lifeblood from systems of public health and social security, which in turn feeds back into vulnerability to disaster”.

there is an increasing drive for security […which] tends not only to bypass the underlying problems but to exacerbate them

As Keen sees it, disasters either “hold the potential to awaken us to important underlying problems”, or “keep us in a state of distraction and morbid entertainment”, finding it important to consider their causes rather than their consequences.

Keen draws upon a wide selection of literature, covering authors including Naomi Klein, Mark Duffield, Giorgio Agamben, Ruben Andersson, Amartya Sen and Jean Drèze, as well as Michel Foucault, Susanne Jaspers, Arlie Russell Hochschild, Richard Hofstadter, and Nafeez Ahmed, among others. He pays particular attention to the work of Hannah Arendt. Her 1951 work, The Origins of Totalitarianism is a powerful and permanently valuable account of the way in which politics is framed “as a choice between a ‘lesser evil’ and some allegedly more disastrous alternative”.

[Arendt’s] 1951 work, The Origins of Totalitarianism, is a powerful and permanently valuable account of the way in which politics is framed ‘as a choice between a ‘lesser evil’ and some allegedly more disastrous alternative’.

Keen competently summarises her exposition of “action as propaganda,” upon which reality is prepared to conform to “delusions”. From his point of view, “action as propaganda” is represented by five distinct methods namely, “reproducing the enemy” (war on terror), “creating inhuman conditions” (police attacks in Calais), “blaming the victim” (austerity programmes in Greece), “undermining the idea of human rights” (the growing emphasis on removing citizenship in the UK), and “using success to ‘demonstrate’ righteousness” (Trump’s self-proclaimed powers of prediction).

Keen’s discussion of these strategies to exert control resonates with contemporary politics in the UK. One is reminded of the retrogressive character of Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s article for the Times on 8 November 2023, in the context of the Israel-Hamas war and the Armistice Day, suggesting that pro-Palestine protesters are “hate marchers”, and that the police operate with a “double standard” in the way they handle pro-Palestinian marches. This is, of course, one example of the insidious process of “painting dissent as extremism”.

Nevertheless, Keen’s use of “magical thinking”, or “the belief that particular events are causally connected, despite the absence of any plausible link between them”, is one aspect of his argument that struggles to convince. Keen is persuaded that “magical thinking” links up with a well-developed science of psychoanalysis in accordance with Sigmund Freud’s conception of the magical and how people affected by neurosis may turn away from the world of reality. But the impression given by Keen’s economic or anthropological perspective is that he may have overlooked the complexity of psychoanalysis.

Keen is persuaded that “magical thinking” links up with a well-developed science of psychoanalysis in accordance with Sigmund Freud’s conception of the magical and how people affected by neurosis may turn away from the world of reality

Here, we come to two of the chief problems of what “magical thinking” really means. First, according to Karl S. Rosengren and Jason A. French, magical thinking is “a pejorative label for thinking that differs either from that of educated adults in technologically advanced societies or the majority of society in general”. Second, they found, “it ignores the fact that thinking that appears irrational or illogical to an educated adult may be the result of lack of knowledge or experience in a particular domain or different types of knowledge or experience”. It is necessary, therefore, to understand the writings of Freud as the product of their locus nascendi. That is to say, it is dangerous to politicise the processes of psychology, or, to be more exact, to apply them outside the formalities of therapy.

To conclude, When Disasters Come Home is a book to which all those interested in current affairs, geopolitics and development studies must come sooner or later, abounding in illuminating extrapolations on the ruling and official class’s exploitation (or even manufacture) of disasters.

This post gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science. The LSE RB blog may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon affiliate link. This is entirely independent of the coverage of the book on LSE Review of Books.

Image Credit: Kenneth Summers on Shutterstock.

Homelands: A Personal History of Europe – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/01/2024 - 10:42pm in

In Homelands: A Personal History of EuropeTimothy Garton Ash reflects on European history and political transformation from the mid-20th century to the present. Deftly interweaving analysis with personal narratives, Garton Ash offers a compelling exploration of recent European history and how its lessons can help us navigate today’s challenges, writes Mario Clemens.

Homelands: A Personal History of Europe. Timothy Garton Ash. The Bodley Head. 2023.

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Cover of Homelands by Timothy Garton Ash showing a man and woman in a red and green car on the side of the road with elderly people and a blue sky and trees in the background.Almost ten years ago, I heard the then-German Foreign Minister (and current Federal President) Frank-Walter Steinmeier say that we have to prepare ourselves for the fact that in the near future, crises will become the norm. What sounded like a somewhat eccentric assessment now appears to be an apt description of our reality, including in Europe. How did we get here?

As Timothy Garton Ash argues in Homelands: A Personal History of Europe, Western Liberals made the mistake of relying on the unfounded assumption that history would simply continue to go their way. Post-cold-war-liberals failed, for example, to care enough about economic equality (237) and thus allowed Liberalism to make way for its ugly twin, Neoliberalism.

Western Liberals made the mistake of relying on the unfounded assumption that history would simply continue to go their way.

Whether we want to understand Islamist Terrorism, the rise of European right-wing populism, or Russia’s revanchist turn, in each case we find helpful hints in recent European history. What makes Garton Ash the ideal guide through the “history of the present” is his three-dimensional experience: that of a historian, a widely travelled and prominent journalist and a politically active intellectual.

What makes Garton Ash the ideal guide through the “history of the present” is his three-dimensional experience: that of a historian, a widely travelled and prominent journalist and a politically active intellectual.

Garton Ash started travelling across Europe fresh out of school, “working on a converted troopship, the SS Nevada, carrying British schoolchildren around the Mediterranean” (27). Aged 18, he was already keeping a journal on what he saw, heard and read.

He nurtured that journalistic impulse and soon merged it with a more active political one, eventually becoming the “engaged observer” (Raymond Aron) that he desired to be. In the early 1980s, he sat with workers and intellectuals in the Gdańsk Shipyard, where the Polish Solidarity movement (Solidarność) emerged. Later in the 1980s, he befriended Václav Havel, the Czech intellectual dissident and eventual President. Garton Ash chronicled and participated in the movement led by Havel, which successfully achieved the peaceful transition of Czechoslovakia from one-party communist rule to democracy. Since then, Garton Ash has consistently enjoyed privileged access to key political figures, such as Helmut Kohl, Madeleine Albright, Tony Blair and Aung San Suu Kyi. Simultaneously, he has maintained contact with so-called ordinary people. All the while, he has preserved the necessary distance intellectuals require to do their job, which in his view “is to seek the truth, and to speak truth to power” (173). His training as a historian, provides him with a broader perspective, which, in Homelands, allows him to arrange individual scenes and observations into an encompassing, convincing narrative.

Garton Ash has published several books focusing on particular themes, such as free speech, and events, such as the peaceful revolutions of 1989. In addition, he has published two books containing collected articles that cover a decade each. History of the Present: Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s and Facts are Subversive: Political Writing from a Decade without a Name, which covers the timespan between 2000 and 2010. Homelands now not only covers a larger timespan, the “overlapping timeframes of post-war and post-wall” (xi) – 1945 and 1989 to the present – but the chapters are also more tightly linked as had been possible in books that were based on previous publications.

By the second decade of the twenty-first century we had, for the first time ever, a generation of Europeans who had known nothing but a peaceful, free Europe consisting mainly of liberal democracies.

“Freedom and Europe” says Garton Ash, are “the two political causes closest to my heart” (xi), and he had the good fortune to witness a period where freedom was expanding within Europe. Now that history seems to be running in reverse gear, he worries that this new generation don’t quite realise what’s at stake: “By the second decade of the twenty-first century we had, for the first time ever, a generation of Europeans who had known nothing but a peaceful, free Europe consisting mainly of liberal democracies. Unsurprisingly, they tend to take it for granted’ (23-24).

Thus, one critical aim motivating Homelands is to convey to a younger generation what has been achieved by the “Europe-builders,” men and women who have been motivated by what Garton Ash calls the “memory machine,” the vivid memory of the hell Europe had turned itself into during its modern-day Thirty Years War (21-22). While nothing can equal this “direct personal memory,” he argues that there are other ways “in which knowledge of things past can be transmitted” – via literature, for instance, but also through history (24), especially when written well.

A gifted stylist, Garton Ash makes history come alive by telling the stories of individuals

A gifted stylist, Garton Ash makes history come alive by telling the stories of individuals, for instance, that of his East German friend, the pastor Werner Krätschell. On Thursday evening, 9 November 1989, Werner had just come home from the evening church service in East Berlin. When his elder daughter Tanja and her friend Astrid confirmed the rumour that the frontier to West Berlin was apparently open, Werner decided to see for himself. Taking Tanja and Astrid with him, he drove to the border crossing at Bornholmer Strasse. Like in a trance, he saw the frontier guard opening the first barrier. Next, he got a stamp on his passport – “invalid”. “‘But I can come back?’ – ‘No, you have to emigrate and are not allowed to re-enter,’” the border guard replied. Horrified because his two younger children were sleeping in the vicarage, “Werner did a U-turn inside the frontier crossing and prepared to head home. Then he heard another frontier guard tell a colleague that the order had changed: ‘They’re allowed back.’ So he did another U-turn, to point his yellow Wartburg again towards the West” (146).

History, written in this way, “as experienced by individual people and exemplified by their stories” (xiii), may indeed help us to “learn from the past without having to go through it all again ourselves” (24).

Though he emphasises the wealth, freedom and peace in late 20th-century Europe, Garton Ash also reminds us that post-war European history, even its “post-wall” period, is not an unqualified success story.

Though he emphasises the wealth, freedom and peace in late 20th-century Europe, Garton Ash also reminds us that post-war European history, even its “post-wall” period, is not an unqualified success story. Notably, right after the Cold War, there were the hot wars accompanying the dissolution of Yugoslavia. He regards the fact that the rest of Europe “permitted this ten-year return to hell” as “a terrible stain on what was otherwise one of the most hopeful periods of European history” (187).

Garton Ash is equally alert to the danger of letting one’s enthusiasm for Europe’s post-war achievements turn into self-righteousness. “That post-war Europe abjured and abhorred war would have been surprising news to the many parts of the world, from Vietnam to Kenya and Angola to Algeria, where European states continued to fight brutal wars in an attempt to hang on to their colonies” (327).

While such warnings qualify and differentiate Homelands’ central message – that today’s Europeans have much to lose – they do not reverse it. But knowing that one is bound to lose a lot can also have a paralysing effect, as many of my generation currently experience. Here again, history can help: to understand our present, we need to know what brought us here. Garton Ash is convinced that we can learn from history; he, for instance, claims that the rest of Europe should “learn the lessons of Brexit” (279).

Those who seek orientation through a better understanding of the past should turn to this extraordinary, eminently readable exploration of recent European history.

Homelands: A Personal History of Europe perfectly complements Tony Judt’s extensive Postwar (published in 2005). While Judt’s work offers a detailed and systematic account of European history after 1945, Garton Ash’s book seamlessly blends personal narratives, insightful analysis, and astute critique. Those who seek orientation through a better understanding of the past should turn to this extraordinary, eminently readable exploration of recent European history.

This post gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science. The LSE RB blog may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon affiliate link. This is entirely independent of the coverage of the book on LSE Review of Books.

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Making Endless War: The Vietnam and Arab-Israeli Conflicts in the History of International Law – review

In Making Endless War: The Vietnam and Arab-Israeli Conflicts in the History of International Law, Brian Cuddy and Victor Kattan bring together essays exploring attempts to develop legal rationales for the continued waging of war since 1945, despite the general ban on war decreed through the United Nations Charter. Linked through a nuanced comparative framework, the essays in this timely collection show how these different conflicts have shaped the international laws of war over the past eight decades, writes Eric Loefflad.

Making Endless War: The Vietnam and Arab-Israeli Conflicts in the History of International Law. Brian Cuddy and Victor Kattan. University of Michigan Press. 2023.

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Making Endless War The Vietnam and Arab-Israeli Conflicts in the History of International Law Edited by Brian Cuddy & Victor Kattan showing two images one of an army hat on a post, another of a person with a rock in each hand, held behind their back.For Jeff Halper, an American-Israeli anthropologist, co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and proponent of a single democratic state in historic Palestine, the decision to become an Israeli in the first place had a great deal to do with the Vietnam War. True to the counter-culture protests that arose in response to the War, the activist Halper, like so many young, idealistic American Jews of his era, viewed Israel as a more direct conduit to his heritage than a homogenising suburban upbringing could ever allow for. This search for meaning was coupled with a widespread difference in how the Vietnam War and Israel’s wars were broadly characterised in Halper’s contexts of influence. For many Americans who opposed intervention in Southeast Asia, Israeli violence differed in its “purity of arms.” According to this framing, in direct contrast to an American government waging wars half a world away, Israel zealously fought for its very survival right at its doorstep. It was witnessing the demolition of Palestinian homes to make way for Israeli settlers in the West Bank that caused Halper to renounce this narrative and rededicate his life.

the collection centres on the broad theme of how mostly American and Israeli lawyers, statesmen and military officers used issues that arose in the two conflicts to proclaim exceptions to the general ban on war as entrenched in 1945 through the United Nations Charter.

While Halper’s journey may be a unique one, it is nevertheless a testament to how intersections between post-Second World War conflict in Southeast Asia and the Middle East shaped the lives of so many different people in so many different ways. For anyone interested in how this multitude of individual experiences might be understood in relation to broader systemic forces, especially the variable medium for navigating “legitimate” violence deemed the “laws of war”, historian Brian Cuddy and international lawyer Victor Kattan’s Making Endless War is an invaluable resource. Comprised of ten robust chapters and an insightful forward by Richard Falk (a leading international legal critic of the Vietnam War and later the one-time United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories), Making Endless War proceeds on a roughly chronological basis from 1945 to the present day, tracing developments and unearthing connections between the two (meta-)conflicts. With chapters confronting a variety of issues from multiple perspectives, the collection centres on the broad theme of how mostly American and Israeli lawyers, statesmen and military officers used issues that arose in the two conflicts to proclaim exceptions to the general ban on war as entrenched in 1945 through the United Nations Charter. While its detailing of legal doctrine is truly world-class, Making Endless War’s revelation of the individual personalities, diplomatic intrigue and political struggles behind ostensibly “apolitical” technicalities is equally outstanding.

Vietnam, emboldened by its resistance to the US, led efforts in the 1970s to include non-state national liberation movements within a regime of the laws of war that hitherto only granted rights to state actors.

One illustration of how this text accomplishes its multi-faceted, but nevertheless cohesive, focus across chapters concerns the debate on the revision of the laws of war via two Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions. In Chapter Five, Amanda Alexander explores the significance of how Vietnam, emboldened by its resistance to the US, led efforts in the 1970s to include non-state national liberation movements within a regime of the laws of war that hitherto only granted rights to state actors. Following this, in Chapter Six, Ihab Shalbak and Jessica Whyte centre the Janus-faced quality of what this revision meant for the Palestinians. While it provided their cause with a newfound degree of institutional legitimation, it also constrained Palestinian efforts to unite themselves as a revolutionary people whose struggle could not be divided along the lines presumed by the law. From here, co-editor Victor Kattan presents an account in Chapter Seven of how Israel moved from being the sole dissident resisting revision in the 70s (due to its application to the Palestinians) to being joined by the US in the 80s. This coincided with the ascent of the Reagan Administration in the 80s where an influential grouping of Neoconservatives and Vietnam veterans – invoking arguments pioneered by Israel – similarly prevented the US from ratifying the Geneva Convention’s Additional Protocols. Finally, in Chapter Eight, Craig Jones examines how, despite their nations’ disavowal, American and Israeli lawyers became adept at using the laws of war to enable, as opposed to constrain, violence through developing a regime of so-called “operational law” that integrated international and domestic legal standards in a manner “…designed specifically to furnish military commanders with the tools they required for ‘mission success’” (215).

With the ascent of the Reagan Administration in the 80s […] an influential grouping of Neoconservatives and Vietnam veterans – invoking arguments pioneered by Israel – similarly prevented the US from ratifying the Geneva Convention’s Additional Protocols

When reading Making Endless War in this present moment, it is naturally impossible to disconnect its insights from the most recent bloodshed in Israel-Palestine that erupted almost immediately following the collection’s release. Fortuitous in the most horrific way possible, Cuddy and Kattan provide an invaluable service in exposing the impossibly high stakes of the despair invoking “endlessness” that animates their collection’s poignant title. However, by connecting the greater Arab-Israeli conflict to the Vietnam War, the editors make a significant contribution in decentring the widespread viewpoint that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is fundamentally unique – a presumption that unites pro-Israel and pro-Palestine advocates who agree on virtually nothing else. In this way, Making Endless War provides a powerful statement on how episodes of violence, however specific they might appear, cannot be understood independent of greater forces – including (and perhaps especially) the principles and institutions that present their mission as an effort to constrain armed conflict. As such, Cuddy and Kattan’s collection can be viewed as a major innovation in building a greater genealogy of global violence.

Making Endless War provides a powerful statement on how episodes of violence, however specific they might appear, cannot be understood independent of greater forces – including (and perhaps especially) the principles and institutions that present their mission as an effort to constrain armed conflict.

While their comparative framework might be viewed as limited in its representations, the editors are eminently aware of this, and this very awareness forms a cornerstone of their methodology. On this point, they deliberately confront the significance of how, especially within the centres of global power, “[t]he Vietnam War and the multiple Arab-Israeli conflicts became cultural moments that captured the public imagination in ways few other conflicts did, even those that were more lethal (262).” With this comparative captivation itself an important finding, there is no reason why the insights developed through Making Endless War cannot be extended to include the multitude of other forces, fixations, and personalities that can be located within the many ideologies of war that shape our lives. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a particularly vast and gut-wrenching repository of said ideologies. Sadly, there is no shortage of material for interested scholars to draw upon.

This post gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science. The LSE RB blog may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon affiliate link. This is entirely independent of the coverage of the book on LSE Review of Books.

Image Credit: Michiel Vaartjes on Shutterstock.