07.28.11 |   Somalia: victim of war, famine and a pestilence of policy Facing starvation and instability, Somalia needs the international community to stop propping up a failed status quo and rethink     The news from Somalia is grim. Last week, the UN declared a famine in two southern areas, calling the food crisis Africa's worst since 1991-92 (which was also in Somalia). The UN estimates that a staggering 3.2 million people need urgent assistance. The immediate cause of the crisis was the... more
07.08.11 | The internet's private enterprise How far can we trust the corporations that profit by the personal data millions of us disclose online via social networks Google+ creators claim it has features that trumps Facebook, Twitter and Skype, and makes social networking less rigid. Photograph: Ho/Reuters On the internet, as elsewhere, information is money, and information is power. So why have we given it away so lightly? Something extraordinary has taken place over the last few years.... more
06.28.11 |     Greece's crisis, Europe's nemesis The very idea of European union, always a top-down project without popular assent, faces serious questions of legitimacy Banners set up by protesters in front of the Greek parliament in Athens compare European leaders to Nazis. Photograph: Simela Pantzartzi/EPA With its language of budget cuts and bailouts, the sovereign debt crisis that is now engulfing Europe's economies appears to be a financial crisis. But it is also, and... more
06.13.11 | How might outsiders help fight dictators? As protesters fight dictators across the Middle East, people outside are asking what they can do to help. Traditionally, we tend to look to our own governments to act. As Gaddafi's repression of pro-democracy rebels mounted in Libya, campaigners demanded sanctions and, as the attacks intensified, military intervention. But both forms of government pressure have serious drawbacks and, too often, come very late in reaction to gross repression. In... more
06.06.11 | My latest column in The Guardian, in the series "Power and Nations":    Basel III: business as usual for bankers Successful lobbying – or blackmailing – by banks means that financial regulation to prevent another crash is too weak to work guardian.co.uk, Monday 6 June 2011 19.00 BST The Volcker rule, named for its leading proponent, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, is intended to limit big banks’ speculative trading in proprietary derivatives and stocks. But... more
06.01.11 | This is my latest weekly column in "The Guardian" online, in the series "Power and Nations".   Whenever an international problem starts being called a "process", one should immediately become suspicious that the problem itself will not be solved. Indeed, the naming of a problem as a "process" is a way to obscure lack of progress with endless anaesthetising conferences, meetings and statesmanlike speeches. The climate change "process" demonstrates this dismal rule: after years of... more
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