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17 January 2016 |
The US, while backing Saudi Arabia, seems to be increasingly exasperated with how far it has to stick its neck out for its ally. Relationships with Iran, by contrast, have improved recently. The difficulty is that sections within both Iran and Saudi Arabia's governments seem to see a certain short-term interest in tearing the region apart. Australia, which has full diplomatic ties with Iran, a strong trade partnership with Saudi Arabia, and the ear of the US, can play an important diplomatic role.
13 January 2016 |
As I marched for Remembrance Day in our small village in France, I wondered, 'How long will these villages keep these ceremonies? When will someone decide these wars are too long ago or too far away?' Two days later, Paris was attacked. The news came like war does: sudden and violent. Then came declarations of a state of emergency and the closing of borders. My eldest daughter was over the border in Switzerland without a passport. War starts in increments, in the small ordinary worries of families.
15 December 2015 |
Ai Weiwei might be more Dada than Dao and a hirsute satirist of Beijing's rulers, but he is no mere trending hashtag. Since his birth in 1957, his life history has moulded him, and given him the courage to speak up for a reformed China. And while he might appear the court jester that a simplistic West wants, he is in fact a clever and pragmatic political operator in his own world pursuing a rights agenda in a systematic, constructive and humorous way, often through artistic production.
09 December 2015 |
Located in Paris in the aftermath of the attacks, COP21 spookily mirrors how climate change politics occurs within complex and pre-existing power structures that determine its effectiveness. Social and environmental wars merge with increasing intensity: from Syria to the Arctic, from Indonesia to Paris. Climate change complexity matches the complexity of terrorism. Causal chains of social conflict are as complicated as carbon movements that result in environmental distress.
07 December 2015 |
The 'Just War' doctrine has made a reappearance, in the form of an endorsement from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. The occasion was the debate in the British House of Commons to expand the air conflict against ISIL into Syria, in what is already a horrendously crowded airspace. The endorsement was filled with doubts, however, and rightly so. For all the surmising that has taken place, it is very difficult to see how one might bring the various enemies to the prosperity of peace.
26 November 2015 |
This week marked three years since the Tazreen Fashions factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, left over 100 garment workers dead. Six months later, Rana Plaza in Dhaka collapsed, and 1134 people were killed. Labels for top brands such as H&M and Benetton were found in the rubble. While steps have been taken by some companies to promote ethical supply chains, it may be that the only way for a more just treatment of garment workers is the proper organisation of the workers themselves.
25 November 2015 |
The downing of a Russian Sukhoi-24 bomber by Turkey reminds us of the risks which attend military intervention. There are, however, a number of additional complicating factors which promise to make the Syrian war even more dangerous and bloody for all sides. The situation could escalate dangerously. If this kind of event is not to become much more common, potentially leading to a much wider war, genuine peace talks with a lot more honesty on each side need to be a priority.
19 November 2015 |
It is tempting to view the aftermath of terrorist attacks such as those in Paris as a well-rehearsed script. There are condemnation of the killings, sympathy for the families of victims, resolve to seek and punish perpetrators, expressions of solidarity across nations. Also, assaults targeting Muslims on the street and in policy. This time a few things have gone off-script. 'Hugs and hashtags' won't stop ISIS, but there is strength in refusing to cede control over our language and behaviour to terrorists.
18 November 2015 |
The mass murder of unarmed civilians in Paris last weekend was appalling. Whether considered as an act of war or of terror, it was indefensible. The themes of war against terrorism and victory have dominated commentary on the killings. In light of the fact that the war against terror was the seedbed in which IS grew, they demand serious reflection. We should ask precisely what our enemy is attacking, what therefore must be defended, and what will be the signs of victory or defeat.
18 November 2015 |
It is possible to find 'texts of terror' in Jewish, Christian and Muslim Scriptures. They need to be responsibly understood and explored with a close understanding of their context. We did not demand all Catholics stand up and denounce every IRA attack, nor that all Christians apologise for Anders Breivik. Similarly, why should we expect all members of a religion with over a billion adherents with multiple ancient variants to actively disown every horror claimed to have been committed in its name?
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