Book Review – Digital Diplomacy: Conversations on Innovation in Foreign Policy

Digital Diplomacy explores what it means to be innovative in foreign policy and diplomacy. Digital and social media technologies are having an impact on everyday life and also on diplomatic practice, notably on the ways governments engage foreign publics. While the fundamentals of diplomacy may remain the same, and the traditional tools are by no means discarded, diplomacy in today’s world is more public, participative and global due to the emergence of new communication platforms. Governments can reach wider, even global audiences, and non-state actors and even individuals are empowered by instant communications, in a process that creates both opportunities and challenges.

Tom Fletcher, the British Ambassador to Beirut, underlines the importance of these trends when he states in the Preface to this volume that “in the ten years since 9/11, that world has been transformed more by American geeks in dorms than by Al Qaeda operatives in caves” (p. xi). The result is the creation of a new context for diplomacy in which “it matters less what a minister or official says is our policy on an issue than what users of Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc., decide it is.”

This review has been published by the Global Policy Journal. Click here to continue reading.

 

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Book Review – Islamist Radicalisation in Europe and the Middle East… and Talking to Terrorists….

I published this book review in 2013 in the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF). Both books are relevant to understand and clarify concepts and processes related to radicalization, extremism, and terrorism. I suggest the lecture of both for those interested in these processes in the wake of the Paris attacks.

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George Joffé, ed., Islamist Radicalisation in Europe and the Middle East: Reassessing the Causes of Terrorism , London and New York: IB Tauris, 2013.

Anne Speckhard, Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers and “Martyrs” , McLean: Advances Press, 2012.

Why and under what circumstances do individuals, groups or larger parts of societies radicalise? What are the drivers of extremism? Why do some individuals and groups engage in terrorism? Are today’s radicals tomorrow’s terrorists? The two volumes addressed here provide important insights in answer to these questions. Although they have rather different approaches, both share features that make them remarkable within current debates about radicalisation, extremism and terrorism, i.e. (1) a clear understanding of the differences among concepts and how to approach them; (2) a non-deterministic vision of the origins and nature of radicalism that rejects generalisations; and (3) an analysis of radicalisation(s), extremism(s), and terrorism(s) as context-bound processes that are both multiple and diverse, and that rely on a series of interactions of internal and external drivers.

The whole text can be accessed in the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF).

Book Review: Demobilizing Irregular Forces

How to deal with members of irregular forces that have been involved in violence and armed conflict, and facilitate their (re)integration into civilian life in a post-war society is one of the main dilemmas affecting countries in transition from war to peace. The fate of former combatants is inextricably linked to wider efforts to build sustainable security institutions and, in more general terms, to build peace after war.

Check my review of Demobilizing Irregular Forces, by Eric Y. Shibuya, published in the Global Policy Journal, 28 August 2014.

Good-Bye Hegemony!

American international hegemony is a fiction created, sustained and propagated by policy makers and IR scholars to support a large defense establishment and a foreign policy reliant on power – identified with material (military) capabilities. This is neither good nor desirable for the global order, nor for America’s own interests. Today, real hegemonic functions are diffused through the international system and performed by a range of actors including the European Union, China and other powers. If the US does not understand how the international system works and what functions and abilities are necessary to pursue a constructive (even if self-interested) foreign policy, it may continue to be – as it has often been – a source of global instability.

Challenging and provocative as they may appear, these are the major ideas driving Good-Bye Hegemony! Power and Influence in the Global System.

If you wish to continue reading my Book Review, go to the Global Policy Journal website.

Book Review – The UN and Changing World Politics

“International media headlines regularly cover issues such as international negotiations on climate change; conflict and stabilization missions in Mali, DRC Congo, Afghanistan and Lebanon; nuclear negotiations with Iran or the collective failure to protect Syrian civilians. What all of these events have in common is the complex and sometimes overlooked matrix of actors and relationships evolving behind the scenes to set policies, and the processes through which those policies and responses eventually become norms.”

I have just published a book review of The United Nations and Changing World Politics, Seventh Edition, by Thomas G. Weiss, David P. Forsythe, Roger A. Coate and Kelly-Kate Pease. In this volume, the authors bring to the analysis their scholarly depth and practical experience to explain what the UN is – and what it is not – and how it operates. They also elucidate the systems of incentives and disincentives that facilitate (or hamper) processes and advances, and describe the relations with external actors ranging from states to NGOs and international organizations. It is in this realm of competition and cooperation among actors that world politics is shaped, created and re-created, and the UN is literally and symbolically placed at the centre of these endeavours.

The Book Review has been published by the Global Policy Journal. If you wish to read it complete, check here. And of course, if you are interested in world politics, do not miss the reviewed book.