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Obama’s international relations theory December 12, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : International relations, United States, World politics , comments closed

Dan Drezner’s blog at Foreign Policy has a nice blog post about the international relations theory of Obama’s Nobel speech. As a treasure trove for IR lecturers, he claims to have seen clear traces of both Realism, Neoliberal institutionalism, Social construcivism, Democratic peace theory, Feminist IR theory and Human security theory. Personally, I can spot a few of those, but my knowledge of IR theory isn’t quite sufficient to cover them all.

But what is the moral of the story of Obama’s theory mixing? Logical inconsistency? No, that the real world is significantly more complex than what either of those theories portrays it as, and that any government drawing on just one way of analyzing the world has a much smaller toolbox to choose from when trying to understand what’s going on and what to do about it.

Just having an American president that has relaxed the hardcore neo-Conservative thinking of the White House seems to me to be important enough for world peace to justify a Nobel Peace Prize all on its own, regardless of the greatness of his future achievements.

Nobel Peace Prize to Obama October 9, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : International relations, United States, World politics , comments closed


Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama is certainly an unexpected and interesting choice by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. On the one hand, awarding it to a person with a nine month history of involvement on the scene of international diplomacy may seem odd. On the other hand, awarding the prize based on work towards international diplomacy and multilateralism must be considered a return to the original intent expressed by Alfred Nobel in his will.

Some critics claim that awarding it to the man that advocated stepping up the military effort in Afghanistan is outrageous. Awarding the prize to someone who has shown himself willing to use military force is however nothing new. Theodore Roosevelt (1917), Henry Kissinger (1973) and Mikhail Gorbachev (1990) are examples of statesmen who aren’t remembered as always being soft when it came to the application of power. (more…)

Obama’s soft power July 25, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : International relations, World politics , comments closed

Some numbers are out from Pew Global Attitudes on how different nations view the United States after the change in the presidency. Dan Drezner has made some comments on them, saying that this is a measure of how Obama’s soft power policy is changing the world’s  attitudes. But the really amazing stuff has been dug up by Kevin Drum at the Mother Jones blog. Just have a look at this table (click it to see the entire table in its original location):


These figures are rather amazing. There seems to be only one country where the people don’t think Obama is more likely to do the right thing in international affairs – Israel. And the relationship between Israel and the US can hardly be said to be much like the relationship with any other country…

Carl Bildt not wanted in Sri Lanka April 28, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , comments closed

My last post covered the EUs new involvement in Sri Lanka. Today, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt reports on his blog that the Sri Lankan government har refused to receive him. As a consequence, only his British and French colleagues Millband and Kouchner will be coming on behalf of the EU. According to Bildt, UN representative John Holmes has expressed disappointment. He also says that it “will affect bilateral relations” and that Sweden will recall its Charge d’Affairs “for consultations”. Diplomat language for “we’re annoyed and don’t want to play with you for a while.”

No reason has been given for the refusal, but I can hardly see how it can be a positive sign for the Sri Lanka situation.

The EU goes in with force in Sri Lanka April 26, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , comments closed


Norway’s role as peace broker in Sri Lanka seems pretty much played out after Norwegian police failed to prevent damage to the Sri Lankan embassy in Oslo on the hands of Tamil protesters. The Sri Lankan government has reputedly declared Norway unwanted in the process.

But according to Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt’s blog, he is going to Sri Lanka to try and handle the humanitarian situation – together with French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner and their British counterpart David Milliband. It’s a real show of force from EU to apply pressure on the parts of the conflict to refrain from further bloodshed. It may also be a sign that the EU is really serious about its role as a global peace broker with  a different focus than that of the US.

The Tamil Tigers (LTTE) have according to various media already asked for a cease fire, but the Sri Lankan government has rejected it, demanding a complete surrender.

Watchmen – political science in popular culture November 21, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Political Science in Popculture , comments closed

watchmenStruggling with those political science textbooks, falling asleep every few minutes? We’ve all been there. Why not try learning from somewhere else? Like from a comic?

Watchmen is one of the best graphic novels ever made, and according to Martin Seymour-Smiths’s The 100 most Influential Books ever Written[1] also among the most important books overall. It has received a lot of credit for along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns being one of the works to reinvent the new adult style of comics. But in addition to being a story that changed the history of comics, it’s so much more than a super hero story that The Dark Knight Returns can never hope to come close to. It is also a story about the cold war and the madness of the nuclear arms race. My claim is that you could learn quite a bit of political science by reading it. (more…)

South Ossetia: More than a Caucasus matter August 11, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , comments closed

The conflict in South Ossetia (and Abkhasia for that matter) drags on, and the Internet is crawling with different accounts. Most of which have very strong opinions of who has right on their side. As a political science student, I have been taught to take interest in moving one step back and look at the chessboard in large rather than the details of who shot first and how many troops and planes are coming from where.

The myriad of opinions of great strength are confusing, and tell little but that each side has a lot of patriots willing to characterize the other in very strong terms. This suggests that the picture is most likely not as black and white as either side claims. Finding good balanced reports is not as easy, see the bottom of this post links to some of the better sources I have found – both strongly biased and not.

As I have formerly commented, I believe this conflict is a test of the new world order, in a way quite different from Iraq. Previously we saw a defeated Russia at the end of the cold war, a Russia in tatters and under Yeltsin a Russia that was succumbing to corruption and organized crime. Russia made careful advances towards becoming a part of the European community of nations, with the the scars of the cold war not yet healed, Europe wasn’t prepared to accept them.

Under Putin, however, Russia slowly turned around. Helped by skyrocketing oil prices and a huge demand for natural gas in Europe that has been filling Mother Russia’s coffers with gold, the urge and drive to once again become a great power has grown. And an introduction into Europe on uneven terms no longer seems as attractive. (more…)

South Ossetia: A challenge for the new world order. August 8, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , comments closed

Numerous media sources inform us today about a Georgian offensive against South Ossetia, its separatist state. At first glance, it sounds like yet a minor border dispute in a forgotten corner of the world. But this is something more, bound to have an impact on geopolitics. For the South Ossetian sepraratists are under the protection of Russia, which reportedly have started bombing Georgian targets. And Georgia has since 2006 been on the path towards becoming a NATO member, having signed an “Individual Partnership Action Plan“, which has repeatedly raised russian protests.

So what are the implications of Russia bombing a “near-NATO-member”? Is this a direct military challenge to NATO? Or have Georgia blown their chances for good relations with NATO by escalating aggression with South Ossetia? European commentators have barely woken from their sleep, and have yet to get to their keyboards and radio microphones to let us know what this all means. But all the ingredients of an international relations crisis seem to be there… (more…)