05.24.11 | The following article appeared in Civil Service World:   The Foreign Office has lost its way, says former diplomat Carne Ross, and could learn much from the US State Department Something seems to have happened to the ‘brain’ of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in recent years. I am not alone in noticing that the quality of UK foreign policy thinking seems to have declined. In a number of cases, UK policy-makers have seemed overly content to stick to superficial generalities,... more
05.23.11 | This article appeared in The Guardian online on 23 May 2011, the first article in a series called "Power and Nations" In contrast to action on Libya, the UN has been tardy and timid over Syria's crackdown – thanks to the threat of a Russian veto There are two reasons why the UN security council has failed, utterly, to react to Bashar al-Assad's murder of hundreds of his own people in Syria. The first is that Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member, has indicated that it will block action. And... more
05.14.11 | While our attention has been on Libya, the aftermath of bin Laden's death and a hundred other news stories, there seem to me to have been three other stories playing out that are of considerable significance. They are not headline grabbing, but that does not diminish their importance.  They are long-term stories of gradual but dramatic change: 1. Banks resist capital controls.  This story has been going on since the credit crunch.  There is one simple measure to stop another such... more
05.07.11 | I had not seen this passage until I read it in "Lapham's Quarterly", an excellent new journal of history and ideas.  It is taken from Karl Marx's Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1884).  According to Lapham's Quarterly, this text was not published until 1959.  One could hardly find a more eloquent description of the fundamental alienation wrought by work.  Work is not spontaneous activity, but belongs to another; it comprises a loss of self.   "It is true that... more
04.29.11 | Below is the summary of my new book, "The Leaderless Revolution", to be published by Simon & Schuster (UK) in September, 2011.  And before it, a very generous quote about the book from a rather better writer than me: 'So bold, so full of incontestable truths and overwhelming convictions, that it should be read by every diplomat, politician and thinking citizen with the courage to pick it up.' John le Carré   There are few books that attempt to interpret the world and how... more
04.23.11 | It is now a commonplace to observe that recent uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world were and are leaderless.  In all these cases, no leadership figures have emerged, neither charismatic individuals nor vanguard organisations.  These revolutions embody a degree of organisation, including on social media, but not very much; these movements are not top-down, driven by the choices of a small group or individual, or inspired by an ideological rhetoric except... more
03.19.11 | There was this terrific battle.The noise was as muchAs the limits of possible noise could take.There were screams higher groans deeperThan any ear could hold.Many eardrums burst and some wallsCollapsed to escape the noise.Everything struggled on its wayThrough this tearing deafnessAs through a torrent in a dark cave.The cartridges were banging off, as planned,The fingers were keeping things goingAccording to excitement and orders.The unhurt eyes were full of deadliness.The bullets pursued their... more
03.18.11 |   Here's a quick and provisional analysis of the main provisions of last night's SCR 1973.   I am not a lawyer, so my reading may not be wholly accurate, though I have negotiated a lot of these kind of resolutions, including on Libya and Iraq.  This analysis should serve as a rough and ready guide.   Overall: the thrust of the resolution is to demand a ceasefire and to impose various military and non-military measures to seek to force the Libyan regime to fulfill its... more
03.11.11 | Published: March 9 2011 23:16 | Last updated: March 9 2011 23:16 The Libyan regime of Muammer Gaddafi must be stopped from killing its own people. No-fly zones are one option, but carry considerable risks. They imply a major attack on Libyan air defences, causing casualties. Colonel Gaddafi would depict this as an act of war, with highly uncertain political consequences. But even without removing the military option, there are non-violent measures that can and should be implemented now... more
03.04.11 | I am like many disappointed by the lack of debate about non-violent alternatives to the situation in Libya.  No Fly Zones are an extremely risky venture, have no current legal basis, and may backfire.  Above all, imposing NFZs, as Defense Secretary Gates has said, means attacking Libya i.e. entering a war.  That means killing Libyans.   Before any violent military action is contemplated, there are other steps available to put pressure on Gadhaffi's regime to step down.... more