Have you ever had a problem reading a person’s name from their conference badge? You can usually find about the name of the conference, although you already know what conference you are attending. You can find the name of the venue, although you should already know where you are. You can find the dates, although again, you should know what these dates are. Yet the three most important pieces information – name, organisation, country – are very often lost in this mix.
Thomas C. SCHELLING won the 2005 “Nobel” Prize in Economics for his “having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis”. In fact, much of his work found immediate application in arms control planning, in particular the use of nuclear weapons as deterrent. Unsurprisingly, his Lecture deals with 60 years of living with strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.
A Snapshot in Foreign Affairs  provides a good summary of the current state of international “hydro-politics” around the world. Here the main results:
1. In short, predictions of a Water World War are overwrought. However, tensions over water usage can still exacerbate other existing regional conflicts. Climate change is expected to intensify droughts, floods, and other extreme weather conditions that jeopardize freshwater quantity and quality and therefore act as a threat-multiplier, making shaky regions shakier.
Before the UN General Assembly PM Benyamin NETANYAHU has argued that the UN should “red-line” Iran. The country should face the foreseeable threat of foreign military intervention, should its nuclear capability reach inadmissible levels. Is this a sensible diplomatic tactic?
The “command and control” (or “principal – agent”) approach is built on the assumption that by achieving “information dominance” a government can shape events to suits one’s purposes. Karl Rove famously argued: “We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” The war in Iraq proved him disastrously wrong.
George PACKER’s thorough and thoughtful analysis of the experience on the ground in Iraq (http://nyr.kr/P1CTBP The Lesson of Tal Afar – in New Yorker) shows that in a social reality achieving “information dominance” is delusion.
Our hunter/gatherer ancestors had say 300 SKU (stock keeping units) – the managerial term for kinds of worldly goods. In New York City alone the SKU is well over 10 billion nowadays. If you think nature is multifarious, think again: we have probably created more cultural objects in 10’000 years than nature has created species in 500 million. True, one may not compare brands of breakfast cereals with finches, but what about the innumerable boring species of insects (Haldane quipped that God must have had an inordinate fondness for bugs…)?
The Peace of Augsburg 1555, and then the Peace of Westphalia (1648) marked the end of common rules that would apply across emergent national states in Europe. Henceforth each state was autocratic within and autonomous without. The border was the boundary delimitating the internal and external fields of power – and by implication potential “friend” from “foe”. This boundary was physically protected by the army, and administered by diplomacy (diplomacy is war by other means – said von CLAUSEWITZ).