Staffan de Mistura’s office recently stated that he will shortly stand down as the United Nations’ special envoy to Syria. This announcement impelled cordial official references to the man and his work from governments and non-governmental organizations across the globe, but occasioned little sadness. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Diplomacy
In Sight of Sochi
After weeks of threat and portent, the people of Idlib have been granted a stay of execution. The regime of Bashar al-Assad and its Russian backers will not, for now, rampage through the northern province and bomb it to rubble. Their incipient offensive has been delayed, though it has not been cancelled. Continue reading
Modern Day Presidential
On real mania and its imitations
A piece nominally about how social media drives people mad, or at least superficially so; but also how, instead of that madness being a product of authenticity, it is in fact just another role played by some participants, who are able to induce others into legitimate, real mania while remaining, if not detached, at least unaffected by its worst excesses.
How we communicate has changed dramatically in recent years. It is increasingly defined by the artificial world we have constructed on our phones and our computers. What is said there and, more importantly, how it is said bleeds out of the devices on which such things are displayed. Continue reading
Diplomatic summits contain dualities common in politics and life. They express the divergence between presentation and reality, hope and expectation. Continue reading
His Country: A Syria Blighted and Wronged by Assad
Review – My Country: A Syrian Memoir by Kassem Eid
Kassem Eid’s memoir opens with a mournful preface. The author, a Syrian who has faced the full force of his country’s recent history, accepts he cannot escape its suffering. Eid says he has fled across continents, travelling as far as he can. He has lived as hard as he can, yet he cannot forget. He cannot suppress the bitter memories of which he is the custodian. Continue reading
The Singapore Summit Has Trivialised a Brutal Dictatorship
The world’s attention is fixated on Singapore, the venue for a summit that not long ago looked like it wouldn’t happen.
Discussion between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump was imperilled by the former’s intransigence and the latter’s rashness. Trump dictated an intemperate letter to Kim on May 24 cancelling the thing. It looked as though that was that. Continue reading
Even Under Trump, Warmer Relations With Russia Are Impossible
Diplomacy, to pervert Carl von Clausewitz’s most famous epigram, is the continuation of war by other means. Its practitioners can use diplomacy to support allies or publicly rebuke adversaries. In the post-Cold War era, the severing of diplomatic relations has often served as a substitute for conflict. Continue reading
Henry Kissinger: The Idealist?
Review – Kissinger 1923–1968: The Idealist by Niall Ferguson
Henry Kissinger remains one of the world’s most controversial statesmen. He is a man who is, as Niall Ferguson states at the beginning of this new biography, covering the first 45 years of his subject’s life, both revered and reviled in equal measure. Kissinger is held up by some as a kind of seer, an intellectual without parallel in recent times; others declare – just as fiercely – that he has exercised an entirely corrosive influence on world affairs, that he is a war criminal – and, perhaps most oddly, that he is an agent of the shadowy forces which operate behind supposedly democratic nations to control the way the world really works. (The latter position is obviously ridiculous, but it is worth mentioning – not least because the risible imaginings of David Icke and his ilk can sometimes reflect the more vigorous denunciations of Kissinger which exist in significantly more acceptable circles.) There is one thing, however, on which both sides of this particular debate – which seeks to decide whether Kissinger is a hero or villain, a saint or sinner – appear to agree: that Kissinger was a realist, and a realist par excellence. Ferguson, however, takes a dramatically divergent view, one which is contained within his provocative subtitle. For him, Kissinger is (or at least was) an idealist, which represents the exact opposite of much of the popular and scholarly perception of Kissinger’s life and his work. It appears that everyone else has got the man entirely wrong. Continue reading