Al-Shabab: A Close Look at East Africa's Deadliest Radicals

Hundreds of newly trained Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18Km south of Mogadishu on Thursday Feb. 17, 2011 (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh).

More than any other organization, Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahedeen, widely known as al-Shabab, has left its mark on the recent history of Somalia. Political and radical Islam have a long history in the country, but no group has survived longer than al-Shabab, and no group has emerged stronger from challenges and setbacks. Today, the group has emerged from an existential crisis and looks stronger than it has in years. Though al-Shabab is often referred to as simply a “terrorist group,” the term does not accurately describe the range of the group’s activities.

more

Nagorno-Karabakh’s Summer of Violence

Nagorno-Karabakh soldiers and tanks return to their positions during military exercises outside Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh, April 19, 2006 (AP photo by Karen Minasian).
This year, while Europe commemorated 100 years since the beginning of World War I, a long-forgotten conflict on the edge of the continent rumbled on. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a contest for control over Nagorno-Karabakh for more than 25 years. Following a particularly dismal stretch of the peace process over the past two years, tensions have come to a head in a summer of violence along the front line. Yet while front-line casualties have dominated the headlines, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has also become a formidable weapon for both Armenia and Azerbaijan to securitize politics, exclude opposition and explain away the absence of domestic reforms.
more

The Impact of War: Health, the Environment and Cultural Heritage in Conflict

The destructiveness of armed conflict has been a painful constant throughout human history. And despite efforts to limit its range and impact, the damage resulting from war still extends far beyond the battlefield. David P. Fidler explains how the realities of war challenge the very beliefs underpinning efforts to limit war’s impact on civilian health. Talia Hagerty and Jurgen Brauer argue that efforts to address the environmental damage from war must be integrated with peacebuilding to be effective. And Craig Forrest spotlights the threats war poses to cultural heritage sites and how international law has evolved to mitigate them.

more

The Post-Mao Generation: Transforming China From the Bottom Up

The Chinese generation born since 1980 has come of age in a country its parents and grandparents hardly recognize. China’s rise from poor communist state to wealthy global superpower has had wide-ranging implications for how this generation sees itself, China and its place in the world. Robert L. Moore and Zhao Chang examine the cultural attitudes of China’s millenials and its even younger generation of digital natives. Teresa Wright explains why despite the post-Mao generation’s changing political attitudes, the Communist Party has little to fear. And Stanley Rosen examines this generation’s contradictory global outlook, which combines an embrace of Western culture with a renewed nationalism.

more

Political Capital: Banking and Finance in Global Politics

Since the global financial crisis, banks and the financial sector have become identified with destabilizing risk-taking and policy capture. But the nefarious influence of banking and finance is often overblown, while their important contributions to growth and development are at times underappreciated. Cornelia Woll explains why the banking lobby is not the monolithic juggernaut, nor the villain, it is often made out to be. Hans Dieter Seibel looks at informal finance and the various ways to integrate it into formal development approaches. And Johannes Linn examines the shifting environment for multilateral and subregional development banks, and the challenges and opportunities it presents.

more

Farewell to Arms: Political Approaches to Ending Insurgencies

The ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels have put the process of ending insurgencies in the spotlight. But even in cases when an accord is reached and implemented, a stable peace depends on making sure insurgent groups, commanders and individual combatants do not return to the battlefield. Robert Muggah examines the evolution of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration initiatives and the rise of a new generation of DDR approaches. And Johanna Söderström explains why transforming armed groups into political parties is just one aspect of transforming insurgencies, and insurgents, into democratic political actors.

more

Fertile Ground: Agriculture’s Role in Trade and Development

Agriculture has historically played a central role in the expansion of human societies as well as commerce among them, and it continues to do so today. With the advent of new technologies, agricultural development has become more efficient, but not without implications for the environment. Timothy Josling explains agriculture’s outsized role in the global trade agenda. David Zilberman and Scott Kaplan argue that true sustainability in agricultural policy requires balancing economic wellbeing with environmental concerns. And Samuel Benin examines Africa’s agricultural development benchmarks and its progress so far in meeting them.

more

Asian Triangle: The Geopolitical Calculus of China, Japan and South Korea

With tensions heating up over territorial disputes and historical grievances, relations among China, Japan and South Korea have become a complicated geopolitical triangle. But chilly political ties co-exist with increasing economic integration, even as the dynamics driving the three sets of bilateral relationships at times contrast and at other times reinforce each other. Tiffany Ma examines China’s opposite approaches to Japan and South Korea, and the factors driving them. Benjamin Self looks at Japan’s so far unsuccessful efforts to harmonize ties with its East Asian neighbors. And Scott Snyder traces the evolution of South Korea’s post-Cold War approach to East Asia’s power balance.

more

Language Barriers: The Politics of Identity in Ukraine, China and Canada

The interaction between language and national identity is rendered particularly complicated, and visible, when a country’s borders contain more than one native tongue. In such cases, language policy can be determinant in managing, or exacerbating, political tensions among a country’s various language groups. Nicolai Petro examines the deep-seated and unresolved concerns at the heart of Ukraine’s language divide, and the history behind them. Arienne Dwyer argues that China’s language policy, in particular the triumph of Mandarin, has become a vehicle of choice for projecting global soft power. And Jack Jedwab explains why four decades of efforts toward bilingualism have not significantly reduced Canada’s language gap.

more

End of an Era: Monarchy in Morocco, Thailand and Spain

Political turmoil in three countries has put a focus on the continuing role the monarchy plays in their political systems. In each, whether the monarchy survives into the next era will depend on how the individuals who currently wear the crown respond to the institutional pressures they face. In Morocco, writes George Joffé, high expectations that King Mohammed VI would complete a liberalizing agenda remain unfulfilled. In Thailand, explains David Streckfuss, King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s disastrous intervention into the country’s political crisis raises grave questions about the constitutional monarchy’s future. And in Spain, Omar G. Encarnación writes, King Juan Carlos’ fumbles have left a once highly respected legacy tarnished.

more