Opinion / Middle East, Arab Spring

Consular Work

My latest piece for DIPLOMAT (now in groovy online format) looks at Consular work. Thus: The world is a big place, replete with unexpected problems. Tsunamis, earthquakes, avalanches, terrorist or criminal attacks, robberies, lost passports, aircraft/train/car accidents, sex-traps, arrests, illness, poisonous spiders, unrest at football matches, kidnappings, coups d’état, drug-smuggling, […]

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History and Diplomacy

My latest piece at DIPLOMAT looks at history: … After you’ve made your weary way around planet earth for some six decades, you start to grasp that beneath the torrent of events, there lie deep trends and rhythms. Take, for example, those YouTube videos of the changing map of Europe. […]

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PS752 – Blown Up Unintentionally?

It’s now clear(er) that Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752 was hit by Iranian missiles soon after it took off from Tehran. One line of argument is that this was done ‘unintentionally’ or ‘accidentally’. What might that mean? Consider some options: A bolt of lightning hits the Iranian missile systems, causing […]

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Suleimani and Rational Actors

Who hasn’t heard about the Knobe Effect? Thus: The “Knobe effect” is the phenomenon where people tend to judge that a bad side effect is brought about intentionally, whereas a good side effect is judged not to be brought about intentionally. The best known cases used to demonstrate the Knobe […]

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The Politics of Decompression

My latest piece for DIPLOMAT explores how Optimists, Pessimists and Cynics view options for helping a grotty dictatorship (say the dismal state of Sibya) move to something rather better. Back in the mists of 2016, I shared with Diplomat readers my thoughts on bad leaders: “Yes, we were wicked. But hey, look […]

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Diplomatic Negotiating (2)

My second piece on diplomatic negotiating is now out, over at AP Insights. The first one was here. Thus: Russia and Poland for centuries have been negotiating through war and peace over their borders and cultures. Wary rivalry between England and France has been carrying on since the Battle of Hastings […]

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Diplomatic Negotiating

Here’s my new piece for The Ambassador Partnership Insights series. On the strange world of diplomatic negotiating: In other words, for most negotiating purposes we expect and want the negotiating to end. And it does end. A deal is reached in some sort of reasonable time, or it isn’t. The […]

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Trump v North Korea

+ + + Stop Press + + + North and South Korea leaders meet again today. Have armchair pundits ever been so clueless? * * * * * I’ve been opining over at the new 7DNews on the never dull saga of President Trump and the North Korea knot of […]

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Syria: Red Lines

Take a look at my previous thoughts on Syria and diplomacy. Quite a lot of them. Every pessimistic prediction has been borne out and worse. Remember the long list of Hillary, Obama, Cameron and others who faux-toughly intoned that Assad must go!  They’ve gone. He’s still there. This proclamation, BTW, is […]

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Do You Want Our Money?

Back in November I wrote about the logic and reality of sanctions: One last genre of sanctions is ‘conditionality’. Yes, we’ll give you development assistance, but on conditions. One of which is that if you use our assistance to promote extremism we’ll stop supporting you. This issue comes up periodically […]

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