02.26.11 | A fascinating and insightful discussion on Friday at Independent Diplomat here in NYC.  The subject was how to use technology to break open that closed practice, diplomacy.  Two challenges were clear, and help define the problem:   1.  First challenge: to open and improve the current closed practice of state-to-state interaction by promoting transparency and providing technological means (combined with incentives) to encourage and structure that transparency.   2.... more
02.26.11 | Noted this quote from Noam Chomsky (appearing on Democracy Now on 17 February)   "In fact, the current wave of protests actually began last November in Western Sahara, which is under Moroccan rule after a brutal invasion and occupation. The Moroccan forces came in, carried out—destroyed tent cities, a lot of killed and wounded and so on. And then it spread."   Well said, and delighted to see someone take notice of the Western Sahara.  You can see my FP article on the Moroccan... more
02.23.11 | My article in The Guardian, Comment is Free:   Several days after the Gaddafi regime began attacking its own people, the UN Security Council, relaxed and refreshed from its long weekend (the UN was on holiday on Monday), met on Tuesday afternoon to issue its weakest form of expression: a press statement. That statement condemned the violence, demanded that civilians be protected, and – almost laughably – called for political dialogue. It was, of course, lowest common denominator stuff... more
02.21.11 | Heads of state and government agreed to the following text on the Responsibility to Protect in the Outcome Document of the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly in September 2005 138. Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. We accept that... more
02.20.11 | Watching the spreading revolt against autocracies in the Middle East - Tunisia, Egypt and tonight Libya - I am struck by how irrelevant is that international body of state governments, the UN.  What a pity the UN is as awful as it is, a body all too often deadlocked in stale debate, repeating tired patterns of bloc politics.  No one is inspired by it; no one can love it.  Populated only by governments both democratic and not, it is run according to that dry calculus of states'... more
02.19.11 | I attended a conference this week about the impact of technology on social issues.  It had many interesting speakers, not least the wonderful people at AccessNow who are doing extraordinary and secret things to help political activists use the web and get the word out despite repression.  Above all, it was fascinating to watch people grapple with the seismic impact of technology on the world - but with no clear map to guide them.  Many, I'm afraid, turned to familiar prejudices... more
02.15.11 | The Guardian requested this from me today: The Guardian's revelation that "Curveball", the renowned source of intelligence on Iraq's WMD, made it all up is yet another nail in the coffin of those who claim that the intelligence was clear about the alleged threat. Curveball's evidence that Iraq was secretly rebuilding a substantial biological weapons capacity was a key part of US and British claims that Iraq presented a growing and imminent threat. Now that the truth about this propaganda has... more
02.14.11 | I was recently asked by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons to submit thoughts about the Foreign Office, whose role in the world the Committee is considering.  This is what I sent them last week:   I am a former British diplomat who resigned after giving evidence to the Butler Inquiry in 2004 (my last posting had been as Britain’s Middle East and particularly Iraq specialist at the UN Security Council in New York).  I then founded and now head... more
02.11.11 | Letter in the Financial Times, 8 February 2011:   Sir, In citing the arguments of Paul Romer, Sebastian Mallaby suggests that we can dispense with democracy in order to provide “good governance” and thus promote development (“Future cities need to hand over the keys”, February 4). While no one can dispute that good government – clear enforceable rules, property rights, credible dispute resolution and so on – fosters development, it is taking the argument too far to suggest that in... more
02.04.11 | This was the question that occurred to me after listening to Bill Keller, Executive Editor of the New York Times, and Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, last night at a discussion at Columbia University (well reported by Micah Sifry here). There were several striking revelations from the discussion, though I am not sure that they were those intended by Rusbridger and Keller.   Rusbridger said that the Guardian had now completed its reporting of the cables, but it was clear from what... more