In November, Diplo celebrated 15 years of DiploFoundation and 25 years of research and training on Internet and diplomacy. To mark this milestone, we reflected on the role of diplomacy in the modern era, and the impact of technology and other area...
 5 Dec 2017

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Conviction without experience makes for harshness Flannery O’CONNOR The internet is an enabler. Arguably, the internet has been the most transforming event in the last thousand years – akin, in its impact, to writing, or the do...
 26 Aug 2015

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Chappatte’s cartoons – as always – say a lot. The attack on Charlie Hebdo was more than ‘just’ another terrorist attack; it was an attack on humour, one of the most sophisticated ways we have of communicating as humans. ...
 8 Jan 2015

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The Geneva II talks have just ended with little to show for them, or so the press claims. They started out with an undiplomatic outburst by the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem directed at UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, when he was asked to r...
 5 Feb 2014

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I’ve pointed out previously that “war” covers two very different kinds of affray: raids and conquest. This distinction is fundamental – yet it is hardly mentioned in international fora dealing with international and humanitari...
 12 Aug 2013

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I perused the UNESCO World Heritage list, recently. As I scrolled the “properties” that made it, I asked myself: would my life change in any way, were these cultural sites to disappear, one and all? The honest answer is: I’d feel sa...
 11 Aug 2013

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At a champagne and caviar event, referring to Gödel’s theorem identifies the speaker as pleasantly and ironically post-modern. Suavely dropping the name Gödel is akin to be seen driving the Rolls Royce of learned ignorance. Alas, G...
 10 Aug 2013

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Ambassador Dumitriu has thrown down the gauntlet on the issue of “lethal autonomous robots.”[1] As Contrarian in Residence, I could not forego the challenge. Ambassador Dumitriu begins his two-part blog with a quote from the UN Charter t...
 8 Aug 2013

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Alasdair MACINTYRE is a well-known philosopher.[1] His After virtue. A study in moral theory is considered a classic. I’ve started reading it, but I have encountered “heavy weather” with his metaphors – in fact on the very fir...
 15 Jul 2013

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Governments have been caught spying on each other. So what else is new? Before taking informed decisions, governments weigh benefits and costs of action. To this end they gather – by hook or crook – as much contextual and social informati...
 25 Jun 2013

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I was answering my eMail, at the reception of the resort in Kerala where I’m staying at the moment, when I heard sweet talk coming from the side. A mother and her teen-age boys were rocking gently on a wooden swing, talking, and sharing. The...
 22 Jun 2013

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The French police stopped the Swiss Ambassador to OECD, the other day, on suspicion of driving under the influence. Charges were placed against him. The Swiss government lifted the ambassador’s diplomatic immunity but did not recall him –...
 7 Jun 2013

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Unimaginable, right? Well, this was the situation in the French rural areas under the Ancien Regime (things were no better in the stinking cities). Most people barely had enough to eat: at best it was 2kg of bread a day in water – or an equiva...
 30 May 2013

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I have been arguing recently that the XXIst century will be the century when we'll bring together what is known (rather than speculated) about man and society. This will transform societies in way we can barely begin to imagine. ...
 30 May 2013

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Ms. Shirin EBADI, an Iranian human rights lawyer who received the Nobel Prize in 2003, has written an occasional piece (http://bit.ly/157Bvmw) – probably on the occasion of the “Nobel Women’s Initiative Conference” in Belfast....
 29 May 2013

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In my blog entry 211, I waxed skeptical about Joseph S. NYE’s “soft power”. I disliked the intertwining of persuasion and brute power. Persuasion backed by power tends to become dogma. NYE’s concept of “change from withi...
 23 May 2013

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In Broken Images He is quick, thinking in clear images; I am slow, thinking in broken images. He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images; I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images, Trusting his images, he assumes...
 23 May 2013

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An 18-year-old science student has made an astonishing breakthrough that will enable mobile phones and other batteries to be charged within seconds rather than the hours it takes today’s devices to power back up. http://bit.ly/10P41oY Saratoga...
 20 May 2013

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I'll be too short, for I'm off and about. I've read this article on North Korea http://bit.ly/10lPEbe and I'd recommend it for its content and style. This is how I'd like a diplomatic report, or policy paper, to be orgaized and ...
 7 May 2013

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“Speaking at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Calif., in front of a group of more than 500 financial advisors and investors, Ferguson responded to a question about Keynes' famous philosophy of self-interest versus the econo...
 5 May 2013

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About 6 million years ago, the chimpanzees, the bonobos, and hominids divided up the realm of Pan, their Common Ancestor. Looking at the apish offspring today, we see a shared tendency for alpha males/females[1] to appear at the top of pecking orders...
 3 May 2013

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Continuing the dialogue on the concept of 'climate refugees'...... 1.1 In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these ef...
 2 May 2013

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A raging row has developed over who is am “American novelist”. The matter is described by James GLIECK http://bit.ly/11B9uRe. I recommend reading the comments as well, for they illuminate the subject matter significantly (as well as the a...
 1 May 2013

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Alain TESTART has written a brilliant analysis of “transfers” in socio-anthropological terms.[1] He observes that there are three types of transfers between people: exchanges, gifts and, finally, what he calls (somewhat awkwardly) “...
 28 Apr 2013

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I’ve been reading a prominent French social anthropologist, Alain TESTART. His critical analysis of the concept of “gift”[1] in anthropology is nothing short of exact. Reading the text is akin to intellectual Pilates. It challenges ...
 27 Apr 2013

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With the emergence of the nation state national borders became a Western obsession. Every bit of the globe was carved up, with ruler and pencil if need be (see Africa in 1884). Predictably, long-term issues arose from trying to fit the social real...
 19 Apr 2013

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Balochistan, in the north of West Pakistan (Quetta is capital), does not get much international press coverage. The Carnegie Endowment for Peace has just published a lengthy report on the politics of the region http://bit.ly/11iW904 Any aspiring d...
 18 Apr 2013

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From the current New Yorker ...
 17 Apr 2013

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I have been reading too much on persuasion, these days, and I have even done some pontificating on the subject matter. It is only while reading on humanity’s Pan Ancestor,[1] however, that I have to come to realize the complexity hiding behind ...
 10 Apr 2013

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I shall begin with an analogy. “Killing two birds with one stone” is a nice metaphor for what I am about to do: reply to two blogs in one go. Yes, Katharina: we live by analogies. Since hundreds of millions of years, the unconscious brai...
 8 Apr 2013

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For the reflective man Is the creation simply a circle of greed? The ocean is certainly not agitated By fish flashing about BHARTRI-HARI In 1706, the Numunu moved from the west to the dominant continental grasslands east of the Continental Divid...
 7 Apr 2013

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Professor Raymond Cohen, a leading historian of diplomacy, says “The practice of Greek diplomacy was quite rudimentary” (…) “Compared with Persian cosmopolitanism, Greek diplomacy was provincial and unpolished”.[1] Sinc...
 30 Mar 2013

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“Past performance is no indicator of future success” is a warning attached to many financial products that are hawked in the Street. Few people pay any attention to the warning. In fact, “past performance” is the basis of meri...
 28 Mar 2013

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For over two thousand years we have celebrated heroes – in war and in diplomacy. By din of skill and savvy they changed the circumstances in their favor. People who argued otherwise – like Lev Tolstoy – were called “revisionis...
 27 Mar 2013

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A landmark document created at the request of NATO has proposed a set of rules for how international cyber- warfare should be conducted. Written by 20 experts in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the US Cyber Command, ...
 26 Mar 2013

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The New York Times is having a debate in its “Room for debate”. The title is: “Does Diplomacy Need Star Power? Can celebrity ‘ambassadors’ who get involved in diplomacy or antipoverty efforts do more harm than good?&rdqu...
 18 Mar 2013

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The internet washes up all sorts of flotsam. Along the way, comments attach themselves to an innocent photo, affording me an opportunity for a rumination on cultural differences. I’ve received this photo both from people in Europ...
 17 Mar 2013

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In my last post, I promised to continue my look at the collusion of corporate efforts to prevent internet piracy, but in the past couple of days I've been pondering Carole Cadwalladr's shocking interview with Jason Russell in The Guardian. An...
 16 Mar 2013

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Records of an international relations system go back to the mid-fourteenth century BC.[1] At that time already, treaties were signed. Brides were exchanged. Relations between extractive elites focused on the balance of “vital interests” &...
 15 Mar 2013

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“Sophie reveals her deepest, darkest secret: on the night that she arrived at Auschwitz, a sadistic doctor made her choose which of her two children would die immediately by gassing and which would continue to live, albeit in the camp. Of her t...
 14 Mar 2013

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We humans are deeply exercised by inclusion and exclusion, by who is in and who is out. Clusivity: the mother of all doubt. At the end of January 2013, there was a furore over rumours that UK ministers were considering a negative advertising campa...
 10 Mar 2013

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(A history of war in two easy pages including an outlook on its future) Hunter-gatherers only had portable goods. Raiding between such groups was probably for women and children – their main “wealth”. Agriculture led to durable st...
 8 Mar 2013

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(with apologies to who took "my" reading icon to publish an interesting blog on the same topic and induced me to pour out reflections of my own) A recent article[1] described an instance of internet virality and its consequences fo...
 7 Mar 2013

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On 2-3 March the Swiss voted on a “constitutional initiative” introducing changes in corporate governance. The voters obligate the legislative to create laws or rules within a substantive framework. Here, the “constructive” m...
 6 Mar 2013

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n 213, I have commented on the Italian elections. Meanwhile, a friend of mine has suggested to me signing a “petition” on the future of the country. http://www.change.org – “the world’s petition platform” – s...
 4 Mar 2013

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(a true fairy tale) There was strife among the Pakicetus[1] – 50 million years ago or so. The older generation dreaded a future about to destroy the very population of Pakicetus and its values. Relativism was sundering cherished traditions. So...
 2 Mar 2013

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“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Lev Tolstoy Societies evolve. We have no idea of how it happens, but in a short time societies can be transformed. In the XVIth century, the Soshone of the...
 2 Mar 2013

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Italy has voted. And the winner is….the people! I’d say. Do not let blinkered pundits lead you astray. The people’s message is: “Think out of the box”. The electoral vote is a classic case of “unexpected outcome&...
 26 Feb 2013

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An Oxford Don (or Doña? – since my friend Bi is a lady) called me up the other day: she had been asked up to participate in a seminar on “Translation and Language in the Media”. She asked me for my three-penny worth of opinio...
 26 Feb 2013

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Human capacity for adaptation always surprises me. This is why I prefer an adaptive to a directive stance. Out capacity to “imagine” is way inferior to our hidden abilities, when put to the test. My political example is Sonia Gandhi, who...
 23 Feb 2013

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I’m no friend of the precautionary principle – and I’ve argued against its indiscriminate use. I could not pinpoint clearly my uneasiness, however. Thanks to Biljana Scott (http://bit.ly/VghI0L)I’m now able to do so. In...
 13 Feb 2013

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159 member states are about to select the new WTO Director General. I’ve attended a beauty contest among some of the candidates. Their personalities are impressive. But what about the policies they should implement in the organization? An impr...
 3 Feb 2013

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Counterfactual history[1] is mostly idle speculation – is Monday night quarter-backing. After all, when we engage is such spinning hypotheses we do not change all the concomitant causes of an event – we select just one to please our reaso...
 30 Jan 2013

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Let’s recall the definition of game theory as applied to international relations: “Game theory assumes each state is a unitary actor concerned about promoting its national interests, and rationally calculates the payoffs associated with v...
 18 Jan 2013

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I closed 206 by saying that “diplomacy is where there are no rules”[1]. Here is a situation, which would fit a “use” definition of diplomacy. (A “use” definition is one that describes what one does, rather than wha...
 17 Jan 2013

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I’ve vented my prejudices against “theory” in the past (see my http://wp.me/p81We-xh ). For one, the term “theory” seems to me perilously fuzzy. Here two definitions I got off the net[1]: 1. a coherent group of tested g...
 16 Jan 2013

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International meetings can be drudgery - we all know that. Most interventions are idle points for “home consumption”- or beside the point. Oversized egos show off his ignorance of the issues, or vent their prejudices. The rest is conventi...
 13 Jan 2013

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In my http://wp.me/p81We-zo I mused that we are just beginning to understand the complexity of social realities and of history. Sounds clever, but what do I really mean? As luck would have it, I’ve been reading recently on the origins of the Am...
 10 Jan 2013

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(Yamashita will die) In January-February 1945, acting against General Yamashita’s express orders (then commanding the Japanese Army forces in the Philippines) 15’000 Japanese mainly Navy troops holed up within Manila to fight the America...
 4 Jan 2013

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Prof. Maureen O’HARA, Department of Economics, at Cornell University, recently blew my mind away (not that there was much of it, so it created no more than a small dust-devil). As she was about graciously to receive her honorary doctorate from ...
 2 Jan 2013

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Justice is predicated on guilt/innocence of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. It is steeped in the view of personal autonomy and individual responsibility. Justice is grounded in the paradigm that the sleuths of justice may solve the puzzle underp...
 17 Dec 2012

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(just a fairy tale?) We love to anchor history to events – kings and battles or revolutions. Savvy historians tell us that this reflects our need for retrospective coherence – and not reality (which is mostly chaotic). History, they (rig...
 11 Dec 2012

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Popular belief long held that one could steal a person’s soul (and hold him/her in one’s power) by casting a spell over something that belonged to the victim. Witchcraft the world over is predicated on such stealing of hair, nails, or mak...
 4 Dec 2012

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Pity, in a way, China’s Emperor Qianlong[1]. The “Lord of the Civilized World” (this was his title) personally supervised an extensive bureaucracy reporting to him either by the “open” or the “confidential” c...
 3 Dec 2012

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In the 1930 Nicolaas TINBERGEN, Konrad LORENZ; and Karl von FRISCH created a new science – ethology: the study of animal behavior. Their progress warranted them a Nobel Prize… in medicine. Three hundred years before DESCARTES had argued...
 1 Dec 2012

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A fact is a fact is a fact – we all know that. But what is a “social fact”? “Social facts” – according to John SEARLE who has spent most of his life studying them – “are only facts by common agreement&...
 29 Nov 2012

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As the new Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party is inaugurated in Beijing, terms like “harmony” and “stability” are buzz-words describing the vision of the China Communist Country for the country. The West tends t...
 28 Nov 2012

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I’ve come across a substantial study of European perceptions of “Asia”[1]. It is one of numerous similar studies as background to the ASEM process[2]. According to this study, research on perceptions is not concerned with the study...
 25 Nov 2012

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Cohesion within a group of monkeys is maintained through reciprocal grooming. Studies of captive monkeys have shown that grooming makes them more relaxed, reducing their heart rate as well as other external signs of stress. They sometimes become so r...
 16 Nov 2012

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The Brookings Institution has published a long review article on eDiplomacy at the US State Department[1]. Much of the report is factual, interesting, but nothing in it indicates that e-diplomacy is going to transform diplomacy. Electronic means w...
 16 Nov 2012

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I’ve asked a US diplomat friend of mine what his experience had been with Facebook as a tool in diplomacy. Here is his answer: “we had good results with Facebook outreach to Palestinians and Israeli Arabs on business, economic, social ...
 15 Nov 2012

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Jovan has commented recently on the name tags people wear around their necks when they attend a meeting http://bit.ly/SDO5C2 . He looked at it from the practical pointof view of“usability”. Jovan’s point is wholly valid....
 12 Nov 2012

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More than specific technologies it is our “habits of thought” – our “mentality” – which allows societies to advance in understanding reality of a broad front. Around 1250 such a change in mentality took hold in Eur...
 10 Nov 2012

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Should we not take advantage of today’s “tradition” of aversion against nuclear weapons – I’ve highlighted this “taboo” in my 186 – to go for nuclear disarmament? A friend asked me this question. I&rsqu...
 7 Nov 2012

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Twenty years ago “good governance” became the buzz-word among theoreticians of economic development. Once in place, “good government” would spearhead the drive toward development. Mick MOORE[1] has recently made rather skeptic...
 4 Nov 2012

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Jovan has wondered whether my use of the term “multi-stakerism” signified a hidden agenda. In fact, any –ism being what it is, a mouthful, one can’t decently write about “multi-stakeholder-ism” without splattering ...
 2 Nov 2012

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The availability heuristic is an uncoscious process by which our brain substitutes one (difficult) for another (easy) one. One answers the easy one, retrofits it to the difficult one and: presto! One’s self-affirmation is once more comforted. T...
 25 Oct 2012

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150 years ago the issue of slavery tore the US apart. The Union survived thanks to military power, but also the efforts of Pres. Abraham Lincoln and others, prominent among them William H. Seward, the Secretary of State, to seek a political solution ...
 21 Oct 2012

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When I first mentioned to a diplomatic friend my intention of writing a blog entry on “diplomats without borders” I was met with incredulity. “Diplomats are the peacetime gate keepers at the border! You can’t have diplomats wi...
 16 Oct 2012

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It’s a twisting lane winding its way between by squat buildings huddled together. People mill back and forth creating confusion. Small shops, following one another, spill trashy products onto the narrow passage. The air is stale, and so is the ...
 14 Oct 2012

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I'm a 1960s child, which technically makes me part of the a 'Baby Boomer' generation. I know stuff about things and manage to get through life in my own peculiar, modestly successful fashion. One of my failings though is that I am not tec...
 11 Oct 2012

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In blog entry 178 I have provided an example of how we fail to see what’s obvious, if it does not fit our preconceived ideas. Before I move to ideologies currently at work in shaping what one may call the Zeitgeist – the spirit of our tim...
 9 Oct 2012

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It’s obvious (and efficient): we humans communicate differences and presume commonalities. When I speak I do not begin by explaining the extremely complex rules of grammar and syntax that underlie my sentences. How boring it would be for t...
 7 Oct 2012

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The Ford Edsel[1] was one of the “greatest brand blunders of all times” – a car designed by market experts that never sold. By the time it came on line in 1958-1960 taste had changed. Ford’s CEO happened to be Robert McNamara,...
 5 Oct 2012

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In 175 I’ve described Positive Deviance (PD) and given some examples from the field. I hope they were intriguing enough to get you to reflect on this “new” approach. Now I’d like to muse on its underlying assumptions and try t...
 3 Oct 2012

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It probably is just a further instance of ignorance on my part. I’d never heard of “positive deviance” (PD) as a way to “solve the world’s toughest problems”[1]. The existence of “positive deviance” was...
 30 Sep 2012

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In part I I’ve highlighted the inherent contradiction of a hegemon attempting to maintain the “right of exception” while asking everyone to abide by (his) rules. I now introduce the element of change to show what challenged this ...
 27 Sep 2012

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Looking back through history - hegemons seem to have a propensity to fail. Why is it so? There is no dearth of theories (I’d rather call them conjectures) in this regard. One set argues that hegemons crumble from within. Military/economic ...
 26 Sep 2012

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One has more “good ideas” that he can cope with – especially early in the morning after the first coffee cup or late at night as the last whisky glass slowly warms in one’s hand. How to separate wheat from chaff? Here ...
 24 Sep 2012

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I’ve just come across a case of human-made evolution, and I want to share it with you. Those who have more curiosity, or time, can see the whole story on the net[1]. Others may get the just of it – and my reflections – below. ...
 22 Sep 2012

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The following statement was posted for discussion in an Internet governance group: "I’m not sure I understand what you mean, but the core meaning of Freedom of Expression is the right to offend, and in particular to disparage and r...
 20 Sep 2012

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This announcement might be somewhat premature – but it looks as “longhand” may be going the way of the Dodo. Young children are being first taught to write in print, and then moved on to using the keyboard. Longhand is no longer tau...
 14 Sep 2012

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I was not planning this blog entry – but I’ll do it anyway. I’m sad, terribly sad … and angry. Four people died, yesterday in Benghazi from sectarian violence. Four lives were snuffed out, and many others’ will be ...
 12 Sep 2012

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How do you get a bright and new idea, or the clever turn of phrase that illuminates your thought? By staring stoically at a well-lit light bulb until by empathy the “outer” bulb ignites the “inner” one? By heroically grappling...
 12 Sep 2012

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In December 2008 Colleen GRAFFY, newly minted Deputy Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs, tweeted about her experience in the Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. In 2009 Alec ROSS, social networks guru at the US State Department, tweeted in orde...
 6 Sep 2012

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Blogging is at its best when it generates a conversation that elicits new ideas and garners new perspectives. Earlier this month, Diplo’s Hannah SLAVIK did just that when she posted a blog asking herself and others whether teaching 20’000...
 3 Sep 2012

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After reading my 156 – Between markets and regulation a young friend of mine has argued “I believe in incentives”. Leaving aside the matter of “belief”, let’s look closer at whatthe "incentives" the...
 31 Aug 2012

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I’ll stick my neck out on this one. The next five years will witness a cyberspace revolution comparable to the one internet has just wrought – and going in the “opposite” direction. This revolution is called APPs! for “a...
 29 Aug 2012

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On 3 February 2007 six Ambassadors accredited to Italy wrote a letter to the newspaper "La Repubblica" on the subject of Afghanistan. They urged “unity of purpose”. The Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs called it “irritu...
 29 Aug 2012

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We can trace the contingent emergence of the regional concept of South East Asia to WWII. It was created to give Dickie MOUNTBATTEN nothing to do[1]. Too well connected to the British Royal Family and too self-aggrandizing to be sidelined, Dick...
 28 Aug 2012

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My brother recently asked me whether I thought a more rational democratic process could ever eventuate. I harummed a few times, preened my logical feathers, and waffled from social, political, and economic theory. My answer was skeptical – and ...
 27 Aug 2012

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New York’s Mayor Michael BLOOMBERG wants to ban the sale of soft drinks in super-sized containers. He argues that this will cut down on obesity, which is rampant in the city. On the surface the Mayor's “bright idea” smacks ...
 25 Aug 2012

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I’m elated – the recent contributions by Drazen PEHAR and Katharina HÖHNE are a pleasure to read – and allow me to add to their thoughts I’ll reply to both together, because they are, in some ways, related. First let ...
 24 Aug 2012

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Metaphors matter in the world of diplomats. In the following, I suggest three distinct ways in which they do matter. Each of these areas highlights a different take on the role of metaphors in language as well as in making sense of and creating the w...
 20 Aug 2012

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The sociologist Ashis Nandy, one of India’s most respected public intellectuals, recently lamented in an interview that India’s democracy has devolved into a “psephocracy” — a system “totally dominated by electoral...
 19 Aug 2012

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The great merit of LoG was to have exploded the whiggish myth that humanity’s doings always improves on “nature” and is inherently benign. This myth presided over many a massive transformation of the landscape, all done without any ...
 18 Aug 2012

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1972 was hardly a “sterling” year. The US had just unilaterally terminated the convertibility to gold and the world economy was struggling with the new system of freely convertible currencies. Inflation was on the rise, and so were commod...
 17 Aug 2012

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(a contrarian query) I’ll admit to a disinterest – I do not watch Olympic Games (and very few professional sport events). When the tally of medals happened to appear on the screen, I glanced at it distractedly. Two eve...
 15 Aug 2012

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Michael SANDEL – a professor of justice at Harvard, has written a book on the issue of “whether money should be allowed to buy everything”[1]. I did not like the book much – long on hoary examples (over 100) of money being all...
 14 Aug 2012

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US President George W. BUSH, in an address to a joint session of Congress on 20th September 2001 uttered this essentialist statement. He was borrowing from a very long religious[1] and philosophical[2] tradition. It has become inspiration for modern ...
 10 Aug 2012

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I’ve followed – with mild though lingering interest – the development of fusion technology. A nuclear engineer friend of mind introduced me to its potentials in the late 60s. The promise of the technology is staggering. Heating...
 9 Aug 2012

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Pity the Swedish Ambassador to Belarus HE Stefan ERIKSSON. He is an “old hand”, accredited to the country since 2005. He speaks the language fluently and has come to know the country deeply as well as become a “major public figure&r...
 9 Aug 2012

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John KEEGAN, the great historian of warfare[1], just died. After studying warfare all his life he came to the startling conclusion: “Keegan’s book serves as a potent counterpoint to—and more, refutation of—popular claims by sc...
 8 Aug 2012

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On 8 August 2011 the United Nations held a ceremony declaring the disease eradicated, making rinderpest only the second disease in history to be fully wiped out, following smallpox[1]. This giant step forward for mankind escaped my attention (I ...
 2 Aug 2012

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A friend of mine asked me, the other day, whether I was worried about the impending gravitational effect of the alignment[1] between the Sun and the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy (known as Sagittarius A*) – creating havoc ...
 30 Jul 2012

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Awh shucks, Katharina! Not BAUDRILLARD – it is forbidden by the UN Convention Against Mental Anguish. Being subjected to his thoughts is worse than enduring psychological torture at Abu Graib! BAUDRILLARD’s claim to fame is that e...
 27 Jul 2012

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Italy is in a time of crisis. One could expatiate as to the short- or long-term causes of the situation. I’ll leave it to the pundits. How do Italians react to increased economic difficulties – how do they cope? A recent article[1] s...
 27 Jul 2012

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Yes, Katharina, analogies and metaphors are (mental) maps. Indeed, a geographic map is a metaphor of the underlying physical reality. I like your metaphor for metaphors, and I’ll use it in my reply. But first a clarifying point. I nev...
 19 Jul 2012

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(Darwin and diplomacy) Many have been told in their youth that God zapped the soul into one’s body – the “spiritual essence” that makes one human (we messed it all up by committing original sin, but that’s another, ...
 18 Jul 2012

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Admittedly – it’s the silly season. Articles get published at the moment that would hardly have a chance any other month of the year. Amy ZALMAN in The Globalist has just published the necrology of “soft power”[1]. Should we m...
 18 Jul 2012

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Rational men will hold superstition[1] in contempt. As a skeptic I’d tend to agree. With one proviso: what we may consider “superstition” may have “positive latent function”. In other words, we outsiders may be too ignor...
 16 Jul 2012

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Katharina HÖHNE, in the www.diplomacy.edu blog[1], has argued the power of analogy. She is right. All of trigonometry is based on analogy. Syllogisms are analogies. Analogies are useful points of departure in Bayesian processes – the wa...
 15 Jul 2012

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I’m no friend of the Precautionary Principle. It is not a principle, but a rhetorical device, which can justify action and inaction, depending on one’s fears, rather than rational analysis. A mathematics professor has done the maths ...
 10 Jul 2012

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The other day Jovan kindly suggested, in an eMail, that I “take a rest” after the shower of blog entries. The problem is – Sylvie and I are already taking a rest in God’s own country, aka Kerala, India. &nbs...
 6 Jul 2012

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In the inanimate world, action leads to an end. The billiard ball falls into the pocket – and that’s it. After the well-aimed shot it stays put. The end is final. In the animate and social world, action leads to another, and then anoth...
 5 Jul 2012

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(I’m childishly proud of this review I did for Amazon.com – enjoy!) (Jonnie HUGHES (2011): On the origin of tepees. The evolution of ideas (and ourselves. Free Press, New York) Had one asked, 2,500 years ago, how the idea of a S...
 2 Jul 2012

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Upon retirement I decided to deepen my knowledge of my country’s origins. The title of the most respected recent history book on the subject bore the less than promising title: Founding period without founders[1]. And indeed: all the famil...
 30 Jun 2012

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In his op-ed “Pacific winds bring spring”[1] former Indian ambassador T P SREENIVASAN reviews the US-India strategic relationship and concludes: “The spring in India-US relation, evident after the third round of strategic dialo...
 28 Jun 2012

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In a two parts article Asia Times[1] argues that 300 million Chinese will soon migrate into Africa. This prediction is startling enough to warrant consideration. The argument relies on a mix of “push” and “pull” factors. ...
 19 Jun 2012

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In 1994, at Inakadate, Japan, farmers seeking ways to attract tourists invented “rice paddy art”[1] – art that would put Chinese conceptual artist A Wei Wei to shame. Here is an example: ...
 18 Jun 2012

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“Proteus (Πρωτεύς) is an early sea-god, the god of "elusive sea change," which suggests the constantly changing nature of the sea or the liquid quality of water in general. (…) He can foretell th...
 10 Jun 2012

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An “outage” I like Malcolm GLADWELL. His book: “The tipping point”[1] introduced me to many aspects of social psychology[2] and created links to other topics like chaos theory and evolution. Never mind that some of his in...
 9 Jun 2012

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You all know Wall’s Street’s icon – the Charging Bull: John R. Hutchinson is an anatomist who works at the Royal Veterinary College in London but is not affiliated with it. He does extraordinary work in presenting ana...
 9 Jun 2012

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Government these days are keen to create “policies which are designed to raise real incomes by obtaining more output from the resources available (both human and physical)”[1]. The logic is rather simple: “obtaining more output...
 9 Jun 2012

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I’ve read somewhere – but I can’t find the exact quote of Simone WEIL – that “civilization is paying attention”. This is both right and wrong. “Civilization (…) has been used primarily to refer to ...
 8 Jun 2012

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Young economic diplomats are soon taught to recognize, respect, and open the way for “market forces”. These forces are unassailable – the working of the “invisible hand” – and sweep the world toward ever higher Eff...
 8 Jun 2012

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While the Nazis perpetrated most of their atrocities in the East , occupied countries in the West were not exempt from hideous massacres [1]. Italy: When Italian resistance killed 33 German soldiers in Rome in 1944, 335 Italians were slaughtered ...
 3 Jun 2012

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Make no mistake: in historical perspective the European Union has been a great success. For about 1000 years Europe was a place of “warring states”. Today’s national states slowly emerged from a struggle for mastery in Europe over...
 31 May 2012

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Switzerland being a direct-democratic country, the people may elect to abrogate any law. At the Federal level 50’000 signatures are enough to trigger such a vote. Other numbers apply to the cantonal and local level. Exceptions and quirks abound...
 31 May 2012

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The Brooklyn Bridge was the first major suspension bridge, completed in 1883. This basic design was improved upon – over time such bridges more than doubled in length. As confidence in the technology grew, some of the original safety features w...
 29 May 2012

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Errors are not the art, but the artificers – I just twisted NEWTON’s words to make the central point of this blog) Everything fails. Hopefully, failure will not surprise us: we have foreseen it, and precautions have been taken for the e...
 21 May 2012

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Mainstream media no longer controls the narrative on a policy subject. It must expect debate, and counter-narratives. The next best thing to influence a policy narrative is to speak up early and loudly in order to set the theme and tone of the discus...
 14 May 2012

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During an idle pause in a multilateral negotiation you might do worse than read Harry G. FRANKFURT[1] on bullshit[2]. It is short (67 small-sized pages), well and clearly written, and full of wit. He draws a fine line between the liar – who is...
 13 May 2012

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Aldo Matteucci, Diplo’s resident contrarian, wrote three thought-provoking texts on management and planning. In the first text, Is outcome a good measure of performance?, Aldo questions narratives developed around outcomes. Very often the reas...
 7 May 2012

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Duncan J. WATTS has put a conundrum to me in his book[1], which I might share with you. Assume two drivers A and B, both drunk, both running a red light on their way home. Driver A fails to notice a pedestrian as he goes through the red light and ki...
 6 May 2012

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Prediction is dicey – I’ve argued this many times. Does close study and sophisticated methodology pay as compared to “back of the envelope” predicting? Duncan J. WATTS reports[1] on studies he has carried out, comparing vario...
 5 May 2012

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I’m no friend of “top down” planning and have often chided anyone believing that this can be done meaningfully. Reality is messy, is my jaundiced view, and there are too many factors impinging on it: seeking out a few “choice&...
 5 May 2012

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The results of the first round in the French presidential elections have been published[1]. A “public intellectual” – Max GALLO, historical fiction writer and Member of the French Academy – has given an interview, in which he ...
 26 Apr 2012

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I was reading Eric HOBSBAWM’s excellent eulogy on Tony Judt[1] this rainy morning. One sentence struck me. Speaking of the end of the Communist system, this Marxist historian stated: “The real heroes of the period [i.e. the end of Communi...
 22 Apr 2012

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The Barbarians are coming!” – cries Charles A. KUPCHAN[1] from up there, inside the crows-nest high up above the deck of the Good Ship “West”, which reels and pitches in the heavy seas of contemporary history. And then h...
 18 Apr 2012

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Jovan has asked me to reflect on how to determine the “public interest”. As a lazy skeptic I’ve shied away from the subject. It is at the crossroads of epistemology, chaos theory, political science, and consciousness – and muc...
 13 Apr 2012

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In the beginning Western art did not take easily to realism, irony, and caricature. Greek and Roman art was set mainly in the heroic and hieratic mode. Paintings of private homes of Pompeii and Herculaneum at times suggest the grotesque and numinous....
 10 Apr 2012

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Jovan has culled this piece of news for me: On July 27, the Olympic Games will open in London.. Perhaps the most socially significant development in London so far has been on a broad avenue leading down from Hyde Park to the Victoria and Albert Muse...
 9 Apr 2012

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Intellectual property rights, such as patents, are “good good good” - or so we say out loud. Well, way may be soon chanting a different tune. Patents were a conditional bounty at the outset: a time-limited monopoly was granted provided...
 28 Mar 2012

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When too many unknowns chase too few equations one gets the “over-determination problem”: too many possible explanations for the same phenomenon. One has no way of choosing among them objectively. Conspiracy theories are analogous: too ma...
 26 Mar 2012

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Ancient Greece developed a unique way of settling disagreements among cities: hoplites met in a plain, fought for a day and abided by the outcome. “For those men, the purpose was now to settle the entire business, if not fairly, then at least d...
 22 Mar 2012

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(A conjecture – not a theory) The Doha Round in WTO looks like being dead in the water. Wails are heard from many shores while protectionist interests frolic behind rhetoric-swept dunes. Has multilateral diplomacy met its ultimate challenge an...
 31 Dec 2011

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