Category Archives: Politics and International Relations

Border Walls 25 Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Posted by Katy Crossan, Commissioning Editor

The fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago this month raised hopes of a new borderless era however in recent years the border wall has been given renewed vigour, particularly along the U.S.-Mexico border, and in Israel-Palestine. The success of these new walls in the development of friendly and orderly relations between nations (or indeed, within nations) remains unclear. What role does the wall play in the development of security and insecurity? Do walls contribute to a sense of insecurity as much as they assuage fears and create a sense of security for those ‘behind the line’? Exactly what kind of security is associated with border walls?

Borders fences and wallsTackling these questions, Borders, Fences and Walls edited by Élisabeth Vallet, explores the issue of how the return of border fences and walls as a political tool may be symptomatic of a new era in border studies and international relations. Taking a multidisciplinary approach, it examines problems that include security issues ; the recurrence and/or decline of the wall; wall discourses ; legal approaches to the wall; the ‘wall industry’ and border technology as well as their symbolism, role, objectives and efficiency.

Élisabeth Vallet has recently been interviewed by the Courrier International and her research has informed an article in the Washington Post.

Élisabeth Vallet is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Geography and scientific director of Geopolitics at the Raoul Dandurand Chair at the University of Quebec at Montreal, Canada.

Gandhi in Political Theory: Truth, Law and Experiment – a guest post from Anuradha Veeravalli

This is a guest post from Anuradha Veeravalli, author of Gandhi in Political Theory.

Gandhi as the ‘Mahatma’ (great soul) or Gandhi as the shrewd politician — opinions have swayed vastly on the role Gandhi played in the Indian freedom movement and the question of whether and what lessons the modern world can learn from his life. It is thus befitting that on the 145th anniversary of his birth, falling on October 2nd, the debate be given a fresh break, pushing beyond these dualities to a discussion of his presuppositions, theory and method.

Gandhi in Political TheoryGandhi in Political Theory argues that the clincher is in Gandhi’s engagement with experiment as an epistemological category and methodological tool. This allows the coming together of theory and practice, and the normative and the descriptive, besides establishing a principle of motion in the context of history, a lacuna which the social sciences have been unable to fill.

Gandhi’s approach then is not merely a moral or spiritual one but a matter of theory and method. It is not an anti-colonial stance as much as it is a considered and systematic response to the presuppositions of modernity and post-Enlightenment thought. The focus of the book then is not on explaining Gandhi’s influences and actions but on locating the principles of his political thought within a philosophical trajectory that systematically challenges the presuppositions of the dominant mode of post-Enlightenment thought.

Thus, on each significant head of political theory – sovereignty, territory, political economy, the relation between individual, civil society and state, equality and difference – we argue that there is not only a response to the immediate issue by Gandhi but a significant and sustained reformulation of the fundamental and perennial problems that inform political theory. The reformulation of these issues pit Gandhi’s thought against mainstream political theory and the result is a thought provoking discussion that bears not only on the foundations of modern political theory but also on modern western philosophy. The book spans across Gandhi’s experiments in civil disobedience, political economy and the controversial brahmacharya (or “celibate sexuality” as it has been aptly called by Vinay Lal) experiments taken up during the partition riots before his assassination soon after India’s Independence putting it in the context of specific issues raised by modern political theory and its implications for the modern nation state.

‘Anuradha Veeravalli provides us with a provocative study of Gandhi’s political theory. Gandhi is seen as a systematic thinker who rejects the many dualisms that dominate much modern political thought. The author not only knows her Gandhi very well but also demonstrates a keen command of Western political thinkers. In this book, Gandhi takes on not only British colonialism but also the Enlightenment and the modern nation state.’    Ronald Terchek, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland, USA

About the author: Anuradha Veeravalli is an Assistant Professor at the University of Delhi. Her teaching and research focus on issues regarding science, religion and politics and the relation between them through a consideration of their epistemological presuppositions in a comparative perspective.

The United Nations, Peacekeeping and Global Governance – Kate Seaman’s book is a YBP core title for 2014

Untied nationsKate Seaman’s book Un-tied Nations: The United Nations, Peacekeeping and Global Governance has been selected by Yankee Book Pedlar as a UK core title. This is a special commendation, as only 300 books a year receive this designation.

UN-Tied Nations provides a concise and analytical introduction to the ongoing debates around the development of global governance, global security governance, and the continuous impact these are having on the ability of the United Nations to act as an international peacekeeper.

With the recent developments in the Middle East the United Nations is once again making headlines. The failure to reach agreement on Security Council resolutions demonstrates the continued problems in forging a coherent international response to crisis situations. This lack of coherence continues despite recognition of the need for more cooperation to solve the growing list of global problems. With the relative success of global governance initiatives in relation to the environment, health issues, and economic problems, the focus has increasingly shifted to the problems of international security. This timely and important book represents a response to that shift and the implications this has for the wider international system.

Using a number of relevant case studies (including the UN interventions in Bosnia, Somalia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and East Timor) Kate Seaman examines the securitisation of global governance through the prism of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and demonstrates that the development of both global governance and global security governance have transformed the environment in which international organisations, such as the United Nations, are operating. The author also brings together a number of the key academic debates surrounding both global security governance and peacekeeping, and combines an examination of the power relations of global security governance with the changing nature of peacekeeping operations. By bringing the two areas together the book for the first time bridges existing literatures and debates, from theoretical discussions of global governance, to practical examinations of peacekeeping operations.

‘As peacekeepers engage with peace-building in intensely divided post-conflict environments, they find themselves labouring in the engine room of other societies’ political systems. Should peacekeeping become a form of governance, and if it does, what becomes of the original enterprise of peacekeeping? Kate Seaman’s book argues that peacekeeping has been degraded and delegitimised by its encounter with global governance. She supports this argument with interviews with prominent policy-makers, a wide ranging review of the literature on peacekeeping and global governance, and case studies. This book makes a critical contribution to the debate about how peacekeeping and global governance should evolve.’   Hugh Miall, University of Kent, UK

‘Conceptually informed and empirically rich, Seaman skilfully unpacks recent developments in UN peace-keeping through the lens of global governance theory. This incisive work brings together and synthesises the -at times – confounding array of voices surrounding the utility of UN peace-keeping operations and brings an impressive degree of clarity to a frequently opaque discussion. The analysis presented is compelling, at times provocative and always illuminating.’   Feargal Cochrane, Conflict Analysis Research Centre, University of Kent, UK

Kate Seaman is a teaching fellow at the University of Bath.

Understanding the Tea Party Movement

Understanding the Tea Party MovementUnderstanding the Tea Party Movement is edited by Nella Van Dyke, University of California, Merced, USA, and David S. Meyer, University of California, Irvine, USA

‘With the rise and now potential decline of the Tea Party movement, we have been sorely in need of a volume explaining this pivotal early 21st century conservative mobilization. With Van Dyke and Meyer’s edited volume, containing chapters written by scholars foremost in their field, we now have the definitive source on this fascinating and important social movement.’   Holly McCammon, Vanderbilt University, USA

‘When the Tea Party movement erupted, it challenged mainstream politics and scholars: where did the Tea Party’s resources come from? Who were its supporters? What defined their goals and identities? In this volume, some of the most insightful scholars of social movements today provide convincing answers to these questions. Better than any other, this volume shows why the Tea Party emerged and how it has reshaped the political landscape.’   Jack A. Goldstone, George Mason University, USA

Hailing themselves as heirs to the American Revolution, the Tea Party movement staged tax day protests in over 750 US cities in April 2009, quickly establishing a large and volatile social movement. Tea Partiers protested at town hall meetings about health care across the country in August, leading to a large national demonstration in Washington on September 12, 2009.

The movement spurred the formation (or redefinition) of several national organizations and many more local groups, and emerged as a strong force within the Republican Party. Self-described Tea Party candidates won victories in the November 2010 elections.

Even as activists demonstrated their strength and entered government, the future of the movement’s influence, and even its ultimate goals, are very much in doubt. In 2012, Barack Obama, the movement’s prime target, decisively won re-election, Congressional Republicans were unable to govern, and the Republican Party publicly wrestled with how to manage the insurgency within.

Although there is a long history of conservative movements in America, the library of social movement studies leans heavily to the left. The Tea Party movement, its sudden emergence and its uncertain fate, provides a challenge to mainstream American politics. It also challenges scholars of social movements to reconcile this new movement with existing knowledge about social movements in America.

Understanding the Tea Party Movement addresses these challenges by explaining why and how the movement emerged when it did, how it relates to earlier eruptions of conservative populism, and by raising critical questions about the movement’s ultimate fate.

About the Editors:

Nella Van Dyke is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Merced, USA. She is the editor of Strategic Alliances: Coalition Building and Social Movements.

David S. Meyer is Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and Planning, Policy, and Design at the University of California, Irvine, USA. He is the author of The Politics of Protest: Social Movements in America and editor of Routing the Opposition: Social Movements, Public Policy, and Democracy in America and Social Movements: Identity, Culture, and the State.

Contributors: Rory McVeigh; Tina Fetner; Brayden G. King; Paul Almeida, Nella Van Dyke; David S. Meyer, Amanda Pullum, Abby Scher, Chip Berlet; Deana A. Rohlinger, Jesse Klein; Ruth Braunstein.

Recent reviews by the LSE Review of Books

The LSE Review of Books regularly features Ashgate titles. It’s a fantastic site for book reviews in general, and covers a wide range of social science topics, including sociology, politics and IR, architecture, planning, gender studies, to name just a few.

Recent reviews of Ashgate books include:

Dynamics of Political Violence: A Process-Oriented Perspective on Radicalisation and the Escalation of Political Conflict, edited by Lorenzo Bosi, Chares Demetriou and Stefan Malthaner

Unconventional Warfare in South Asia: Shadow Warriors and Counterinsurgency by Scott Gates and Kaushik Roy

The Greening of Architecture: A Critical History and Survey of Contemporary Sustainable Architecture and Urban Design, by Phillip James Tabb and A. Senem Deviren

Media and the Rhetoric of Body Perfection: Cosmetic Surgery, Weight Loss and Beauty in Popular Culture by Deborah Harris-Moore

The Impact of Racism on African American Families: Literature as Social Science by Paul C. Rosenblatt

The Greening of ArchitectureUnconventional warfare in south asiaThe impact of racism on african american familiesDynamics of political violence

For more reviews visit the LSE Review of Books

When Soldiers Say No: Selective Conscientious Objection in the Modern Military

“adds considerably to the literature by bringing together a range of perspectives on the merits of selective conscientious objection, as well as consideration of its application (or lack thereof) in a number of states. Its interdisciplinary nature is particularly attractive.”

Gary Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Law at Liverpool John Moores University, has reviewed When Soldiers Say No for the LSE Review of Books. You can read his full review here.

Shannon E. French, Case Western Reserve University:

‘We expect members of the military to accept civilian authority and not determine foreign policy. But what if a nation commits its troops to an unjust war? Are they then morally obligated to refuse to fight? This is a question with potentially devastating real-world consequences that should concern every citizen. Whetham, Robinson, and Ellner have produced a brilliant, provocative volume that examines the issue of selective conscientious objection from many perspectives and across several cultures to provide a balanced array of arguments from which readers can derive their own conclusions.’

David Rodin, University of Oxford:

‘The issue of selective conscientious objection is where the rubber really hits the road for recent debates about the moral status of soldiers. The real achievement of this fine volume is to connect the theoretical debate with the concrete policy challenges faced by military and government – and to substantially advance both. Essential reading for anyone working on the ethics of war.’

When soldiers say noTraditionally few people challenged the distinction between absolute and selective conscientious objection by those being asked to carry out military duties. The former is an objection to fighting all wars – a position generally respected and accommodated by democratic states, while the latter is an objection to a specific war or conflict – theoretically and practically a much harder idea to accept and embrace for military institutions.

However, a decade of conflict not clearly aligned to vital national interests combined with recent acts of selective conscientious objection by members of the military have led some to reappraise the situation and argue that selective conscientious objection ought to be legally recognised and permitted. Political, social and philosophical factors lie behind this new interest, which together mean that the time is ripe for a fresh and thorough evaluation of the topic.

This book brings together arguments for and against selective conscientious objection, as well as case studies examining how different countries deal with those who claim the status of selective conscientious objectors. As such, it sheds new light on a topic of increasing importance to those concerned with military ethics and public policy, within military institutions, government, and academia.

When Soldiers Say No is edited by Andrea Ellner, Defence Studies Department, King’s College London, Paul Robinson, professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, the University of Ottawa, and David Whetham, Senior Lecturer in Defence Studies, King’s College London, based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College at the UK Defence Academy.

Contents:

Foreword, Jeff McMahan

Introduction, Andrea Ellner, Paul Robinson and David Whetham

Part I Arguments For and Against Accepting Selective Conscientious Objection:

The duty of diligence: knowledge, responsibility, and selective conscientious objection, Brian Imiola

There is no real moral obligation to obey orders: escaping from ‘low cost deontology’, Emmanuel R. Goffi

Selective conscientious objection: a violation of the social contract, Melissa Bergeron

Who guards the guards? The importance of civilian control of the military, David Fisher

An empirical defense of combat moral equality, Michael Skerker

Selective conscientious objection and the just society, Dan Zupan

Part II Case Studies in Selective Conscientious Objection:

Selective conscientious objection in Australia, Stephen Coleman and Nikki Coleman (with Richard Adams)

Conscientious objection to military service in Britain, Stephen Deakin

Selective conscientious objection: philosophical and conceptual doubts in light of Israeli case law, Yossi Nehushtan

Claims for refugee protection in Canada by selective objectors: an evolving jurisprudence, Yves Le Bouthillier

Conscience in lieu of obedience: cases of selective conscientious objection in the German Bundeswehr, Jürgen Rose

Part III Conclusions:

Selective conscientious objection: some guidelines for implementation, J. Carl Ficarrotta

War resisters in the US and Britain – supporting the case for a right to selective conscientious objection?, Andrea Ellner

The practice and philosophy of selective conscientious objection, Andrea Ellner, Paul Robinson and David Whetham

A new review article by Geraint Hughes, of British Generals in Blair’s Wars

A Review Article by Geraint Hughes, of British Generals in Blair’s Wars, was published in the November 2013 issue (6) of The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs

Here’s a short extract:

Over the past 15 years the British armed forces have almost constantly been in a state of war. At the time of writing Britain has fought in seven external conflicts: the joint US–UK bombing campaign against Iraq in December 1998, the Kosovo War (March–June 1999), the intervention in Sierra Leone (April 2000–September 2001), the NATO-led mission to end the Macedonian civil war (August 2001), the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan (October 2001 onwards) and Iraq (March 2003–July 2011), and the multinational air campaign in Libya (March–August 2011). At the beginning of this period, the British armed forces—the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force (RAF)—were hailed by the Labour government of Tony Blair as a ‘force for good’ in world affairs, and the ‘New Labour’ ideology emphasised UK involvement in humanitarian intervention in overseas conflicts.

Currently, however, there is widespread fatigue and disillusionment among Britain’s politicians, senior military commanders and the general public, arising from the legacy of the Iraq war and Britain’s embroilment in Afghanistan, and the parliamentary vote blocking UK participation in any US-led air strikes against Syria (29 August 2013) can be seen as evidence of a widespread and fundamental hostility towards military interventions overseas. Above all, the laudatory and often self-congratulatory commentary about the inherent skills of the British armed forces has become a casualty of the fighting in Basra and Helmand.

Thousands of servicemen and women have served in demanding overseas tours, with hundreds giving their lives in the process, and thousands more dealing with the physical and psychological traumas that come from engagement in combat. The three armed services—and in particular the Army—are now tarnished with a word rarely used since 1942: ‘defeat’. If success can encourage complacency, failure often leads to soul-searching, introspection and recriminations.

British Generals in Blairs WarsIn this volume, two former British Army officers (Major General Jonathan Bailey and Colonel Richard Iron) and a military historian (Hew Strachan) have collected a series of essays from serving and veteran senior commanders, based on papers originally delivered at the ‘Campaigning and Generalship’ seminars held at the University of Oxford’s Changing Character of War Programme between 2005 and 2012. These provide a professional analysis of the armed forces’ performance—and that of the Army in particular—in ‘Blair’s Wars’. Collectively, they make for illuminating and sobering reading…

British Generals in Blair’s Wars is a valuable contribution to the debate surrounding Britain’s recent experiences of war, and on the future of both the UK’s armed forces and its national strategy. It is required reading for historians and political scientists interested in the UK’s politico-military relationships, and is also of relevance for comparative purposes for scholars interested in the foreign and defence policies of other states.

If you subscribe to this journal, this is the link to the full review article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00358533.2013.857810

More information about British Generals in Blair’s Wars