February 23rd: Responsibility to Keep it Brief

I almost wish, as a society, we valued different things. That way, two consecutive weeks in which no reading was done and few classes were attended, but ridiculous amounts of TV were consumed would maybe be considered more of an achievement than an embarrassment. Regardless, less reading=less links=shorter, more manageable blogposts, so it’s to your benefit I guess.

Last week there was unusually little IR/foreign policy stuff, so a bumper edition this week. It’s also going to be structurally brilliant.

First off, two articles on The Bridge, another good security studies/defence stuff website. The first one is an interesting defence of the Responsibility to Protect (see what I did with the title?). By drawing the debate away from the extremes of airstrikes and no-fly zones, the author provides a strong justification for its continuing relevance – even when the appetite for military intervention seems generally limited, early warning mechanisms that appeal for more limited interventions before things get too bad can still be useful. It’s well worth reading, as is the rebuttal, published a few days later on the same site. The rebuttal is good at pointing out a few flaws, gaps and oversights in the original article, but less good at making its own case, so it’s only worth reading as a means of being made to pay attention to the flaws in the first article.

Like I said – structurally brilliant. Much like a university lecturer or someone equally talented, I’ve just alid out a theoretical debate for you, and now, bang. Case study. I’m pretty sure I’ve linked to Peter Munson before* but his pieces at War on the Rocks are great – this one on Syria places it in the context of the Just War debate (which admittedly, isn’t quite the same as the R2P one but is closely descended enough that my course outline holds together). It’s both a sanguine and level-headed consideration of the limited prospects for success of any US intervention in Syria, and a (possibly quite irritable) plea for a less self-righteous tone to the arguments for intervention. Every time I read a great piece on Syria I feel less inclined to write one myself because it really has all been said.

As a transition to the more ill-themed segment of the article, this review from War on the Rocks isn’t really what I thought it would be, but it’s quite nice anyway. Since reading a piece about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year I’ve been fascinated by the logistical side of armies, so I was hoping this would be an article about that, but I guess I’d have to read the actual book.

Next, and I think this is the first time I’ve linked to anything Novara, so I’d just like to take a moment to strongly recommend their radio show/podcast** – it’s kind of depressing, because the presenters usually have a really compelling, radical, plausible take on politics that makes you feel both very smug and superior when reading mainstream op-eds and very depressed when you consider the state of the future. Reading it back, this doesn’t sound like the best recommendation, but check it out. This week’s article is just a brief outline of the arguments in favour of campaigning for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) . This is a really interesting proposal that I feel has a certain amount of momentum – this article makes arguments for it both in and of itself and also as part of a broader anti-capitalist campaign. Quick and interesting, check it.

Possibly of limited interest to people who aren’t me, but I’ve been following Mauricio Savarese on Twitter for a while and his posts on Brazil are always interesting – this one is on the skewed portrayal of Brazilian politics in the media – he’s written previously on how badly the international media reports on Brazil, but this one is more general. It seems even-handed to me, but part of why I like the piece so much is that it is really fucking hard for me, having lived abroad for the best part of twenty years, to form any sort of opinion on Brazilian politics***. This at least illuminates part of the problem. Of course, if he’s right that Brazilian political parties tend to paint their opponents as radically different to themselves despite having almost identical politics, I wonder if that doesn’t just bring Brazil closer to “developed world” (lol) politics. Anyway.

Bit more frivolous, but this is a good article about Tinder, its founders, and some quite nice anecdotes about outcomes. I was kind of hoping the author would write more about the bug that seems to afflict people whose names begin with G and end in –abriel that seems to hide all the matches we- they are getting, but…****

Finally, something very relevant to this blog, which is definitely not neutral but pretty poor at expressing definitive opinions, this post on Charlie’s blog***** is really good on ambivalence.

A bit longer than last week, but hopefully still within reasonable limits. Enjoy the end of February x

*just checked – I haven’t. My bad. This piece, again on Syria, is brilliant.

**if nothing else, I feel like this blog could have been written by a Republican in recent weeks and I feel like recommending a radical left-wing media outlet regains me some left-wing credit

***and I have to vote this year!

****good God. I was making a crap joke, but I just found a Yahoo answers page that is filled with this level of almost so-sad-it’s-almost-adorable delusion.

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