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Archive for February, 2012

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed — Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan

Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed


The authors of Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed: The MSF Experience recount their experiences with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). In particular they focus on some of the practical and frequently difficult experience of having to work with unfriendly governments or warring factions. While Doctors Without Borders is committed to providing medical assistance to all individuals civilian and combatant alike, they must be wary of being used for political purposes.

The following excerpt is from the chapter, “Afghanistan: Regaining Leverage,” by Xavier Crombe (with Michiel Hofman) describing MSF’s return to the country. In this passage Crombe describes MSF’s dealings with opposition groups, including the Taliban:

Full compliance with MSF’s “no weapon” policy was to be the starting point for the medical programmes. They were launched officially in Kabul in October, but remained effectively on hold in Lashkar Gah until January 2010. The teams were on the wards, but had to wait for drug supplies to arrive as their transport by truck from Kabul to Helmand depended on obtaining permission from the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan (IEA), the most influential armed opposition group, also known as “Quetta Shura”. This was in essence a sovereignty issue, as most districts in the southern provinces, and consequently road traffic, were under effective control of this group.

Since MSF’s return to Afghanistan, there had been several setbacks in engaging the Taliban leadership. Getting approval for the Kabul project had been relatively straightforward as MSF’s initial opposition contacts judged the selected hospital located in a Pashtun area to be easily accessible by their constituency, and planned surgical activities opened up the prospect of treatment for their wounded combatants. But the scant interest and commitment they had shown from the outset regarding MSF’s intended projects in the southern provinces, including Helmand, known to be the heartland of the IEA, had cast doubts over the breadth of their connections.

(more…)

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Denis Lacorne: Breaking Down the Wall of Separation from JFK to Santorum and Romney

“Excessive or opportunistic professions of faith can only damage the political process when the truth is distorted in the name of religion to the point of absurdity.”—Denis Lacorne

Denis Lacorne, Religion in America: A Political HistoryRecent news about the Republican primary has seen its fair share of discussion on the role of religion in public life. Of course, most prominently there was Rick Santorum’s “throw up” remark regarding John F. Kennedy’s famous speech to ministers in Houston regarding how his Catholicism would and would not shape his decisions as President. However, as Denis Lacorne, author of Religion in America: A Political History, argues in a recent essay in Huffington Post, Romney and Gingrich have also put forth positions regarding the separation of church and state that reflect a dubious understanding of the constitution.

Referring to a speech Romney gave last October, Lacorne concludes that Romney sees that “there should be no real separation between church and state.” Lacorne also suggests that it seems as if Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich feel obliged to take on the Republican’s “Southern Strategy” by adopting the viewpoints of Southern fundamentalist Protestants.

Needless to say, Lacorne sees a real danger. He writes:

This reversal of viewpoints on the role of religion in politics, from Kennedy’s Houston speech to the present position defended by the Republican candidates, points to the danger of calling into question the existence of a wall of separation between church and state. If politics cannot be separated from religion, the political debate about the common good and the future of the U.S. democracy is likely to turn into an endless scholastic babble about abortion, contraception, prenatal testing, fertilization treatments and “aspirin between the knees” as a form of abstinence. In attacking the Obama’s administration decision to require faith-based institutions to cover the cost of contraception (before Obama’s “compromise”), conservatives, Republican candidates and Republican Congressional leaders made it a constitutional issue: Obama had violated the “Free Exercise clause” of the First Amendment, concerning freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. But conservative Republicans forget that the First amendment has a dual purpose: it also prohibits support for an official or privileged religion as stated in the “Establishment clause.” The tension between the two clauses of the First Amendment is far from being resolved and Justices of the Supreme Court are still struggling with this dilemma.

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed in Somalia

Humanitarian Negotiations RevealedOn the occasion of its fortieth anniversary, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has published Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed: The MSF Experience exploring the practical realities of conducting humanitarian negotiations in complex situations.

In a recent interview with PRI’s The World, Duncan Mclean, who helps to manage the group’s work in an area of Somalia controlled by the Islamist group al-Shabab, discussed some of the challenges working in this dangerous area.

The group’s work in al-Shabab-controlled areas of Somalia has been complicated by their policy of treating everyone, including al-Shabab soldiers. This has led the African Union to claim the Doctors Without Borders is the opposition’s surgeons. Further complicating the matter is that al-Shabab recently announced it is merging efforts with al-Qaeda militants.

As Duncan Mclean explains these types of complexities are part of the experience of Doctors Without Borders and that aid efforts in general raise difficult issues. Mclean says:

“There are many, many parts of the world where we basically accept that a certain degree of aid that we’re providing will be used for other ends than what we intended it to be. And it would be naive to consider it otherwise to sort of maintain this idealistic image of aid work that only goes in greatest need, only civilians, only the intended beneficiaries are receiving. In our case, it’s medical aid, but we could be talking about food aid, water, sanitation programs, we could be talking about all sorts of things. That’s simply a fact of humanitarian work today I would say as much as it’s unpleasant to consider.”

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

New Book Tuesday — Mark Taylor on Art and The Foundations of the American Century

Mark Taylor, Refiguring the SpiritualThe following titles are now available:

Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy
Mark C. Taylor

Foundations of the American Century: The Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations and the Rise of American Power
Inderjeet Parmar

Sacred Exchanges: Images in Global Context
Robyn Ferrell

The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch
Philip Yampolsky

Deleuze, Altered States and Film
Anna Powell

Film Sequels: Theory and Practice from Hollywood to Bollywood (now available in paper)
Carolyn Jess-Cooke

An Introduction to Political Thought, second edition
Peri Roberts and Peter Sutch

Cinema and Sensation: French Film and the Art of Transgression
Martine Beugnet

Cinematic Journeys: Film and Movement (Now available in paper)
Dimitris Eleftheriotis

Romantics and Modernists in British Cinema (Now available in paper)
John Orr

British Government and Politics, Second Edition: A Comparative Guide
Duncan Watts

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Santiago Zabala: How to Be a European (Union) Philosopher

Santiago Zabala, How to Be a European (Union) PhilosopherIn recent weeks, Santiago Zabala, coauthor of Hermeneutic Communism: From Heidegger to Marx, has been writing about the importance of continental philosophy in addressing some of the current political, economic, and even existential crises.

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, How to Be a European (Union) Philosopher, Zabala argues that the hermeneutic tradition, which has largely been forgotten by those making policy for the European Union, continues to offer a vital tool for the way we live and give meaning to our lives. Zabala writes, “We exist first and foremost as creatures who manage to question our own being and in this way project our lives. Without this distinctiveness we would not exist; that is, our lives would be reduced to a predetermined subordination to the dominant philosophical or political system.”

The E.U. with its emphasis on technocratic governance has relied on classification and hierarchies. This is not merely an objective system of governance but rather a system of thought that excludes various individuals and has ethical implications. The type of policy approaches used by the E.U. has ultimately served to exclude other types of thought that might challenge neoliberal orthodoxies.

Zabala concludes by writing:

The fact that the European Research Council funds predominantly analytic philosophy projects, as well as those subservient to the hard sciences, perhaps is an indication that they prefer intellectuals who submit “reality to reason” rather than fighting the ongoing exclusion of the most vulnerable citizens by those in power. The work of a philosopher in Europe must involve guarding being, namely the existential lives of those not in power, from systems of thought that seek to exclude them. Before the parentheses in this article’s title can be removed, the European Union must reconsider the existential nature not only of citizens but also of philosophy itself since it seems to have forgotten both.

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Book Giveaway — Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed: The MSF Experience

This week our featured book is Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed: The MSF Experience, edited by Claire Magone, Michael Neuman, and Fabrice Weissman, published on the fortieth anniversary of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of the book and we are also offering a free copy of the book to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address (U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only, unfortunately). We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

Praise for Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed: The MSF Experience:

“The book brings out the perennial dangers of silence and stresses the continuing need to highlight the hidden victims of ‘just wars.’ It also exemplifies Médecins Sans Frontières’s tradition of self-criticism and internal disagreement, traditions now more valuable than ever.” — David Keen, London School of Economics and Political Science

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Luis Barrios and David Brotherton on Desperation in the Dominican Republic

“Once again we are face to face with what dependency feels like in an area of the world almost completely dominated and controlled by US and European foreign interests.”—Luis Barrios and David Brotheron on the Dominican RepublicBanished to the Homeland

In a recent essay in the English version of Le Monde Diplomatique, Luis Barrios and David Brotherton, the co-authors of Banished to the Homeland: Dominican Deportees and Their Stories of Exile, examine the current economic and political situation in the Dominican Republic.

Their essay, “Dominicans’ dance with want,” was written in the aftermath of the recent tragedy in which a boat capsized off the Northern Dominican coast, leaving at least 12 dead and 39 still missing. The Dominicans who died were looking to escape the desperate conditions facing the nation, whose already fragile economy had been severely hurt by the global recession. As Brotherton and Barrios point out, about 50% of the country is either unemployed or underemployed. The authors write, “Further, about one third of the country’s population live in poverty, i.e., exist on less than 7 US dollars per day, while the top 12 percent continue to own almost 60 percent of the nation’s wealth, although again these figures are misleading since they do not include wealth owned abroad by the Dominican elite. Moreover, the government spends less than 2% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health, almost the lowest in the region.”

(more…)

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Michael Mann: “A Look into Our Climate: Past to Present to Future”

We conclude our week-long feature on The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines by Michael Mann with this video of a recent talk he gave for the TEDxPSU series. The title of the talk was “A Look into Our Climate: Past to Present to Future”.

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Jay Garfield on David Foster Wallace as Philosopher

David Foster Wallace, Fate, Time, and Language“I thought of David as a very talented young philosopher with a writing hobby, and did not realize that he was instead one of the most talented fiction writers of his generation who had a philosophy hobby.” – Professor Jay Garfield

We continue our look back at David Foster Wallace and his philosophical work, Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will. For a more in-depth discussion of David Foster Wallace’s work in philosophy, visit our special page The Philosophy of David Foster Wallace: Context and Conversation.

Jay Garfield, a philosophy professor at Hampshire College, was David Foster Wallace’s undergraduate honors thesis advisor, working with Wallace on the project that eventually became the centerpiece of our collection of essays, Fate, Time, and Language. In his moving afterword to Wallace’s thesis, Garfield looks back on what it was like to work with David Foster Wallace, the philosophy student:

This was all a long time ago, and I cannot be sure that my memory is entirely accurate, especially regarding details; but David was memorable enough that I think that most of our time together is burned into my brain. I was teaching then at Hampshire College. My close friend and colleague Bill de Vries, then teaching at Amherst College phoned (e-mail was still a rarity) late in the fall semester to ask me if I would be willing to talk with an honors student he was advising. Much of my work at the time was on natural language semantics and logic; Bill knew that I was supervising another student—Jamie Rucker—on a semantics thesis; and he suspected that his student’s thesis was headed in that direction. He did mention that this student was uncommonly talented, that he was the son of the renowned philosopher James Wallace, that he was simultaneously writing honors theses in philosophy and English, and that the English thesis was to be a novel. I agreed to meet with him, and a few days later David Wallace turned up in my office.

It was evident immediately that Bill was right about the talent. David’s passion and aptitude for philosophy were obvious. He wanted to talk about Taylor’s fatalism paper, the many failed attempts to refute its argument, and he proposed to explore a new refutation. David came prepared. His grasp of the literature was sure, even professional. His insight into the reasons that prior attempts to reply to Taylor failed was not just accurate but also nuanced and precise. He felt that Brown was on the right track but also saw the inadequacies of his approach and wanted to talk about how to develop Brown’s ideas. It all came out in a torrent, but a carefully constructed torrent. I probably guessed at the time that it was rehearsed, but over the ensuing months in which I worked closely with David, it was clear that he simply thought and spoke so clearly that I now guess that this unlikely introduction was most likely spontaneous.

(more…)

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Scientific American Interviews Michael E. Mann

Michael Mann, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars


“We’ve lost three years to do something about climate change, and that’s a huge opportunity cost. Each year we wait, it gets that much more difficult to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations below levels that might very well be dangerous. I think that [Climategate] was a crime against humanity. It’s a crime against the planet.”—Michael Mann

Discussion about The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, by Michael Mann continues. The book was recently reviewed by the Daily Kos and Michael Mann was one of the authors of an open letter regarding the leaking of e-mails from the Heartland Institute. While the fallout regarding Peter Gleick’s obtaining of documents from the Heartland Institute continue, it is important to point out, as the authors of open letter do, that groups that deny climate warming have hacked into scientists’ emails, including Michael Mann’s.

Mann discusses being the target of organizations that deny global warming and other aspects of his scientific work in a recent interview with Scientific American. In the interview Michael Mann discusses the scientific data and research that led to his conclusions regarding human-caused global warming. How the hockey stick became a symbol of climate warming and how it feels to be the “whipping-boy” of climate deniers.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Q: How do you feel about being called the whipping boy of climate science?

At times I felt like: “Bring it on.” I’m confident about the robustness of our scientific work. I think that if the climate change deniers thought they had found an area of the science that they could discredit by trying to go after a single scientist—me—I think they’ve been in for a disappointment.

The e-mails stolen in 2009 included some of yours, though they weren’t the most controversial. What was that like?

The people who stole these e-mails and posted them: How would they like someone to take their diaries, their private communications and expose them to the world out of context? The fact that climate change deniers needed to resort to criminal activity to try to discredit our science on the one hand disgusted me. It angered me. It angered, I think, many of us in the scientific community.

There was a concerted campaign to use these stolen e-mails to manufacture an echo chamber of climate change denial propaganda in the lead up to the Copenhagen summit. There was an attempt to use misrepresentations, false allegations, smears based on these out-of-context e-mails to have scientists fired.

At one point, an influential Republican legislator in the state of Pennsylvania threatened to withhold funding for Penn State if the university didn’t take some sort of action against me because of the purported improprieties. So it was ugly.

We’ve lost three years to do something about climate change, and that’s a huge opportunity cost. Each year we wait, it gets that much more difficult to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations below levels that might very well be dangerous. I think that [Climategate] was a crime against humanity. It’s a crime against the planet.

(more…)

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

The Philosophy of David Foster Wallace Revisited

David Foster Wallace, Yesterday would have been David Foster Wallace’s 50th birthday and on this occasion, we wanted to look back at our recent publication of his, Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will. For a more in-depth discussion of David Foster Wallace’s work in philosophy, visit our special page The Philosophy of David Foster Wallace: Context and Conversation.

In his short afterword to David Foster Wallace’s undergraduate philosophy thesis Fate, Time, and Language, Jay Garfield, Wallace’s thesis advisor, describes Wallace as “a philosopher with a fiction hobby.” Wallace is famous today as a novelist, short story writer, and essayist, but his philosophical background shines through in all his writing, from his shorter pieces—notably his analysis of the aesthetics of athletics in his essay on Roger Federer and his reflection on the morality of eating lobster—to the frequent allusions to Wittgenstein in his most explicitly philosophical novel, The Broom of the System.

While Wallace was writing The Broom of the System as his undergraduate honors thesis in creative writing during his senior year at Amherst College, he was also working on Fate, Time, and Language, his attempt to overcome Richard Taylor’s argument for fatalism. Wallace took issue with “Taylor’s central claim, … that just a few basic logical and semantic presuppositions … lead directly to the metaphysical conclusion that human beings, agents, have no control over what is going to happen.” The idea that human decision-making has no impact on the future deeply disturbed Wallace. Years later, Jay Garfield remembers being “struck by the fact that David’s reaction to Taylor’s argument and to the failure of so many philosophers to have solved it was righteous indignation.” In Fate, Time, and Language, as in his other less academic but no less philosophical works, Wallace used his understanding of logic and argument as a way to reinforce his very human instincts and feelings.

(more…)

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Michael Mann Discusses “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” with Chris Mooney

In a fascinating interview with Chris Mooney on Point of Inquiry, Michael Mann discusses a variety of issues relating to his new book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines.

Chris Mooney begins the interview by praising Michael Mann for his intellectual and personal courage in his work and willingness to stand up to the various forces and individuals who have challenged him and climate science more generally. Mann also discusses how he went from being a computer nerd to becoming a climate scientist.

In discussing more recent issues, Mooney and Mann consider the ideological and financial motivations shaping the opposition to climate science among coal and oil companies as well as libertarian organizations. At a time, when those who challenge climate science are exploring ways of influencing science education for K-9, they consider how scientists can make sure the public is getting the right information regarding global warming.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

VIDEO: Michael Mann on “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”

Following up on our post on Michael Mann’s interview with the Guardian about his new book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, here is a video produced in conjunction with the story:

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

New Book Tuesday: The AIDS Conspiracy, Confronting Postmaternal Thinking, and More

Our weekly list of new titles now available!

The AIDS ConspiracyThe AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fights Back
Nicoli Nattrass

Confronting Postmaternal Thinking: Feminism, Memory, and Care
Julie Stephens

Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue
Nicholas M. Teich

Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature, and the Arts
Haruo Shirane

Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea: Freedom’s Frontier
Theodore Hughes

The Essential Huainanzi
Translated and edited by John S. Major, Sarah A. Queen, Andrew Seth Meyer, and Harold D. Roth

Reality TV
Misha Kavka

The Politics of Inequality: A Political History of the Idea of Economic Inequality in America (Now available in paper)
Michael J. Thompson

The Will to Survive: A History of Hungary (Now available in paper)
Bryan Cartledge

Remembering China from Taiwan: Divided Families and Bittersweet Reunions After the Chinese Civil War
Mahlon David Meyer

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Book Giveaway: The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

This week our featured book is the much-discussed The Hockey Stick and the Climates Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, by Michael E. Mann.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of the book and we are also offering a free copy of the book to one lucky winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address (U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only, unfortunately). We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

Praise for The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars:

“Michael Mann has been the most important, resilient, and outspoken warrior in the climate battle—responding to threats and persecution with courage and resolve every step of the way. Anyone who cares about the climate issue must read his fascinating—and enraging—story.” — Chris Mooney, author of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future

Friday, February 17th, 2012

The Legacy of Dag Hammarskjold

“I realize now, that in comparison to [Dag Hammarskjöld], I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.”—John F. Kennedy

We conclude our week-long feature on Who Killed Hammarskjöld?: The UN, the Cold War, and White Supremacy in Africa, by Susan Williams with an excerpt from her moving epilogue. Williams focuses not on the mystery surrounding his death but rather his important legacy. Who Killed Dag Hammarskjold, Susan Williams

On 14 March 1962, six months after Hammarskjöld’s death, President John F. Kennedy invited Sture Linnér [a Hammarskjöld aide], who had by now left the Congo and was at UN headquarters in New York, to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. He told Linnér that he wanted to apologize for the pressure that had been put on Dag to implement US policy in the Congo—a pressure which Dag had refused to heed. The Secretary-General’s strategy had been straightforward: ‘I do not intend to give way to any pressure, be it from the East or the West; we shall sink or swim.’ Equally clear were his instructions to Linnér: ‘Continue to follow the line you find to be in accordance with the UN Charter.’

Kennedy explained to Linnér the reasons for US opposition to Dag’s policy in the Congo. For his own political survival, said the President, he had felt obliged to heed the deep aversion towards Communism and left-wing views, which even after McCarthy’s heyday played an important role in American politics. He then said that because it was now too late to offer an apology to Hammarskjöld, he wished to do so to Linnér. ‘I realise now,’ said Kennedy, that in comparison to [Dag], I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.’

(more…)

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Michael Mann on Life in the ‘Climate War’ Trenches

“I think you are now going to see the scientific community almost uniformly fighting back against this assault on science. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future but I do know that my fellow scientists and I are very ready to engage in this battle.”—Michael Mann
Michael Mann, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

The recent leaks of documents from the libertarian think tank The Heartland Institute, revealed a systematic and well-funded, by the Koch brothers among others, campaign to challenge and discredit climate science and particularly the evidence that suggests global warming. One of the most prominent targets of climate change “skeptics” has been Michael E. Mann, a noted scientist and professor, and the author of the recently published The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines.

In light of the revelations in the wake of the Heartland documents, the Guardian interviewed Michael Mann about the campaign against him personally as well as climate science more broadly. (There is also an excellent video to accompany the article.)

(more…)

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Was Dag Hammarskjold’s Death a Conspiracy?

Susan Williams, Who Killed HammarskjoldA few weeks ago, the BBC reported on the continuing controversy concerning Dag Hammarskjold’s death in 1961 when his plane crashed in Zambia. His death, of course, is also the subject of Susan Williams’s new book, Who Killed Hammarskjöld?: The UN, the Cold War, and White Supremacy in Africa .

Williams’s book and the BBC report describes some of the evidence that have surfaced in recent years that have cast doubt around the official explanation of how Hammarskjold’s plane crashed. Raising doubts is the way the crash scene was handled, a mysterious hole in Hammarskjold’s head that had been airbrushed from official photographs, and another plane which was spotted around Hammarskjold’s DC-6.

Who would want Hammarskjold dead?

(more…)

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Roger Hardy — Islamism and the Arab Spring

Roger Hardy, The Muslim RevoltThe following is a post by Roger Hardy, author of The Muslim Revolt: A Journey Through Political Islam. The essay was originally posted on the Hurst Blog.

The recent success of Islamist parties in elections in Tunisia and Egypt has led many to conclude, a little hastily, that political Islam has hijacked the Arab Spring. In the current context of turbulence and uncertainty in the Middle East, it is more important than ever to understand what Islamism is, what drives it, and what its future role is likely to be.

I wrote The Muslim Revolt: A Journey through Political Islam in an attempt to explain and demystify Islamism, drawing on my experiences as a journalist who had been lucky enough to travel through large parts of the Muslim world. The book argues that, in its origins, Islamism represented a double revolt—against foreign dominion and against local autocracy. Like other anti-colonial movements, its driving force was opposition to European rule; but unlike its secular counterparts, it rallied the faithful under the banner of a ‘return to Islam.’ This was, in Robert Leiken’s terse phrase, ‘anti-imperialism exalted by revivalism.’

But even if these two elements, the external and the internal, remain its defining characteristics, we should not conclude that Islamism is monolithic and unchanging. In the light of the Arab Spring, we can now see Islamism as having passed through three crucial, and very different, phases:

* Its birth and early expansion from the late 1920s to the early 1950s.
* Its revival in the 1970s (especially following the Iranian revolution).
* Its emergence as an actor with new-found importance in the Arab uprisings of today.

(more…)

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Crash of Hammarskjöld’s Plane in 1961: ‘VIP planes don’t crash…’

Upon publication of Who Killed Hammarskjöld?: The UN, the Cold War, and White Supremacy in Africa, the Hurst Blog, published an essay by Adrian Begg, who was then a 20-year-old officer in the Northern Rhodesia Police when Dag Hammarskojld’s plane crashed in 1961. In this essay, he describes that fateful day and the mystery that surrounds the crash. We thank Hurst and Mr. Begg for allowing us to reprint the article on our blog. To view Begg’s photographs from the site, please visit the Hurst Blog.

It began as a normal, quiet Sunday shift at Ndola’s central police station, where I had been stationed as a young assistant inspector since completing my training six months earlier – but it soon became obvious there was something big on the go. Officers were being called in from home, and in the early afternoon I was sent with a squad of other officers to secure Ndola Airport and put it in security lockdown in readiness for VIP arrivals. The word quickly spread among us that Dag Hammarskjöld was expected.

(more…)