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Radicalisation in Bosnia: old wounds reopened by an emerging problem

Written by Louis Monroy Santander.

Bosnia experienced a difficult reconstruction process after its 1992–1995 war. Now its ongoing political and economic crisis is making it harder to respond to a growing global problem – radicalisation.

According to recent reports, Bosnians have been travelling to Syria to fight for radical Islamist groups in increasing numbers since 2012. They now constitute one of the largest European foreign fighter contingents as a proportion of national population. Figures from 2015 suggest there are more than 300 Bosnians in Syria.

There have also been a number of low-level incidents of terrorist violence in Bosnia. In April 2015, for example, a 24-year-old man from an area near the town of Zvornik drove into a police station and opened fire. He killed one officer and injured two others before being shot dead.

This has prompted heated debates about how to handle the problem without feeding into the tensions that pervade in Bosnian politics. Of particular concern is the possibility that decisions about security will be coloured by ethno-politics. Continue reading Radicalisation in Bosnia: old wounds reopened by an emerging problem

Facing a hostile press, Jeremy Corbyn can’t win – but he could at least try

Written by Justin Lewis.

It is a fact of British life that leaders of the Labour Party have the disadvantage of dealing with a fiercely partisan press with an in-built Conservative bias. But, according to two research reports from the London School of Economics and Birkbeck College/Media Reform Coalition, this antipathy has reached new levels of vitriol.

The LSE study was conducted well before the post-Brexit debacle, in the first two months of Corbyn’s leadership. This, it turns out, was less of a “honeymoon” period than a trip to a war zone. The report found that Corbyn was subject to repeated ridicule and vilification that “went well beyond the normal limits of fair debate and disagreement in a democracy”. It also said that the new leader was “often denied his own voice” and that anti-Corbyn sources were favoured over pro-Corbyn voices.

The report acknowledged that this was “not an entirely new phenomenon in the UK and has happened before in relation to other left-wing leaders from Neil Kinnock to Ed Miliband” – but the authors suggested that “in the case of Corbyn the degree of antagonism and hatred from part of the media has arguably reached new heights”.

The report by Birkbeck/Media Reform Coalition deals with the more recent period, covering a ten-day period following the wave of resignations until the report of the Chilcot enquiry. Unlike the LSE report, the researchers look at the leading online and broadcast media – the latter is subject to strict rules of impartiality. Continue reading Facing a hostile press, Jeremy Corbyn can’t win – but he could at least try

Why stopping Islamic State’s Afghan operation means tackling the Taliban

Written by Michael Semple. 

The Afghan capital, Kabul, recently saw its deadliest terror attack in some time, as a suicide bomber detonated a device in the middle of a peaceful street protest. Some 80 people were killed and hundreds more wounded.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) promptly claimed responsibility for the bombing, while a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban made it clear that his group had nothing to do with the attack. Both IS and the Taliban use their media organs to disseminate propaganda in support of their separate Afghan campaigns, but for once, both claims appeared plausible, and it seems that IS really is the culprit.

The bombing has again focused attention on the threat IS poses to Afghanistan – and once again raises the question of how the country’s various jihadist groups relate to each other. Continue reading Why stopping Islamic State’s Afghan operation means tackling the Taliban

Philippines’ lightning-rod president Duterte charts a surprising course

Written by Pauline Eadie.

The Philippines’ highly controversial president, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, has delivered his first State of the Nation address – and what a spectacle it turned out to be.

It was scheduled to last 38 minutes, but went on for 140. Its tone oscillated between a formal presidential address and free-spirited informality; the hashtag for it, #SONA2016, was trending worldwide for hours after it finished.

As Duterte went on, he visibly relaxed and increasingly wandered off-script with his comments. At times he stumbled over words – but this only added to the impression that he was speaking from the heart. Duterte used the speech to address many of the criticisms against him, particularly his relationship with the rule of law and human rights. Continue reading Philippines’ lightning-rod president Duterte charts a surprising course

May the Force Be With You: Britain’s New Government

Written by Tim Haughton.

For once the journalistic clichés were not over the top. The 23 June referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union was a seismic event, an earthquake which brought a dose of destruction to the British political scene: the Prime Minister resigned, allies knifed each other in the Conservative party leadership election, a new Prime Minister was appointed who then undertook one of the most extensive cabinet reshuffles of modern times with some eye-catching appointments and the leader of the Opposition lost a no confidence vote of his parliamentary colleagues. Even caffeine-fuelled journalists found it difficult to keep up with the speed of events.

Like all earthquakes tensions had been building for some time. Divisions in the Conservative party had been evident since the UK first applied to join the then European Economic Community in the 1960s, but since the late 1980s the party had begun to tear itself apart over Britain’s continuing membership of the EU. Whilst a sizeable slice of the Leave vote in the referendum came from traditional Conservative voters in the heartlands of rural England, the Leave side was bolstered by disaffected Labour voters. Both groups were mobilized and emboldened by Leave’s alluring slogan to ‘Take Back Control’. A significant proportion of traditional working class Labour voters, many of whom had stayed at home in previous elections or who had cast their votes for UKIP, used their votes to express their discontent with the state of the government and to give the political class a good kicking. Continue reading May the Force Be With You: Britain’s New Government

Labour is turning the tragedy of 1981 into a very modern farce

Written by Matthew Cole.

As the Labour Party begins its leadership contest, it may be a faux pas to mention Karl Marx. But many party members must be thinking of his observation that everything in history happens twice – the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.

Take Labour’s current predicament: an elderly, leftist leader faces a new Conservative Prime Minister. He is burdened by divisions over his own competence, his policy on Europe, the economy and defence, and wrangling over his party’s constitution. Change Jeremy Corbyn for Michael Foot, Theresa May for Margaret Thatcher and have the nation enthralled by Brideshead Revisited instead of Downton Abbey and you’re back in 1981.

The Labour Party is in some ways better off today than in 1981; in others, worse. Either way, the resonance is not a good sign for the opposition in the near future. Continue reading Labour is turning the tragedy of 1981 into a very modern farce

Why British politicians find it so hard to vote against nuclear weapons

Written by Nick Ritchie.

In 1982, Robert Lifton and Richard Falk wrote about the condition of “nuclearism” – the idea that nuclear weapons can solve our political, strategic and social problems and that they are an essential means of ensuring peace.

This ideology is based on a series of illusions. It rests on the assumption that the use of nuclear weapons can be managed, that their effects can be controlled, and that protection and recovery in a nuclear war are meaningful ideas. Nuclearism thrives despite the absence of compelling evidence about the security benefits of nuclear weapons.

It is argued that the nuclear deterrence prevented the Cold War from turning into all out war. But as academic Benoît Pelopidas argues:

The nuclear peace is not a fact. It is a hypothesis trying to link two observable facts: the existence of nuclear weapons in the world since 1945 and the absence of war between the United States and the Soviet Union during the same period. The nuclear peace hypothesis faces the challenge of proving a negative. In these circumstances, faith in the nuclear peace becomes a bet or a matter of trust. Continue reading Why British politicians find it so hard to vote against nuclear weapons

Why China won’t back off the South China Sea – whatever the world might say

Written by Jing Cheng.

A much-anticipated ruling on the South China Sea dispute initiated against China by the Philippines finally came down – and unsurprisingly, the Hague-based international tribunal that judged it ruled in favour of the Philippines, rejecting China’s claims of historical rights to the sea’s resources.

The Philippines welcomed the ruling, and celebrated it as a devastating legal blow to China’s claims in the contested waters. Filipinos coined a new word, “Chexit”, inspired by the term Brexit, to symbolise that China is out of the South China Sea.

The reaction from China was furious. Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately declaredthat “the award is null and has no binding force”, and that China “neither accepts nor recognises it”. Xinhua, the state news agency, said the tribunal was “law-abusing” and its award “ill-founded”. Meanwhile Beijing released a white paper reiterating its claims to the South China Sea and adhering to the position that the dispute should be settled through negotiations. Continue reading Why China won’t back off the South China Sea – whatever the world might say

After Warsaw: NATO, Russia and facing hybrid warfare

Written by Bettina Renz.

The Warsaw Summit Communiqué issued by the heads of state participating in the NATO summit in Warsaw from 8-9 July 2016 heavily focuses on the alliance’s capabilities required for dealing with ‘hybrid warfare’. This concept became prominent in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and has since established itself firmly in the official parlance not only of NATO, but also of various Western governments and military establishments. ‘Hybrid warfare’ describes an approach to war relying not only on conventional military means, but also on non-military means, such as information, disinformation, psychological operations and the use of proxy fighters. The idea gained traction in the aftermath of Crimea, because Russia achieved its objectives there with minimal use of force. This stood in stark contrast to the fairly traditional military campaigns Russia had conducted in Chechnya and in Georgia in 2008, which relied on heavy firepower. Russia’s approach in Crimea evoked fears in the West that Russia had found a new way of war that would be hard for NATO and the West to counter. Continue reading After Warsaw: NATO, Russia and facing hybrid warfare

New Administration, New Future: Reducing Disaster and Risk in the Philippines

Written by Maria Ela L. Atienza

When Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte officially assumed office last week, disaster preparedness was the one of the issues he addressed during the first official Cabinet meeting of his administration. The President talked about his experience when he brought a rescue team from Davao to Tacloban in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Based on this experience, the President cited the need to pre-position equipment in disaster-prone areas to enable the government to provide aid to affected residents.

This development is a promising sign that the new administration will look closely into improving disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) in a country that is prone to natural and human-made disasters. The new government will definitely consult experts and practitioners in the field of DRRM to improve the existing framework and to prevent high loss of lives and property and minimize vulnerabilities of people and communities in future calamities. These experts and practitioners will probably advise the administration to focus not just on relief and rehabilitation but more importantly, on disaster risk reduction. However, the Duterte administration could also spend some time listening to what young people think about DRRM and other issues facing the country. After all, the Philippines has a large young population. The overall youth literacy rate is about 97% and the country’s median age is 24.4 years.      Continue reading New Administration, New Future: Reducing Disaster and Risk in the Philippines