The Soviet experience in Afghanistan: lessons to be learned?

This article examines the experience of the Soviet army’s occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. It draws heavily on the report of the Russian General Staff, which gives a unique insight into the Soviet–Afghan war by senior Russian officers, many of whom served in Afghanistan. The author then places this analysis in the broader geopolitical context of Soviet expansionism from the early 1970s to the mid 1980s. And the author proceeds to ask: Did Afghanistan account for the demise of the USSR? Finally, the issue of whether there are parallels with the failure of the Soviet Union’s invasion and the current problems facing the USA in Afghanistan is examined.

Multilateralism, Intervention and Norm Contestation: China’s Stance on Darfur in the UN Security Council

This article argues that an explanation of China’s stance on a possible international intervention in Darfur cannot eschew considering the wider context of the ongoing dialectics of normative change and contestation surrounding the progressive redefinition of norms of intervention since the early 1990s. It suggests that by emphasizing the need to respect Sudan’s sovereignty and the requirement that Sudan consent to an international intervention, China has sought to promote a return to more traditional forms of peacekeeping, as a way to oppose emerging interpretations of the norm of intervention, which it sees as a threat to its own security. Such an interpretation challenges the accusations of foot-dragging of which China has been the object. The hypothesis is tested by analysing China’s voting and declaratory record in the Security Council, and assessed against the country’s historical record on peacekeeping discussions in the Council. Embracing Finnemore’s argument that multilateral intervention represents the pillar of the post-Cold War international order, the article concludes by relating China’s norm-brokering effort to its asserted interest in reshaping the international system.

Building a Standing National Capacity for Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Kenya

Most conflicts today arise from intra-state rather than interstate tensions. Many developing countries are unable to manage intra-state conflicts effectively, mainly because of capacity constraints in their governance and oversight institutions, political manipulation and executive interference. The result is that public confidence in the institutions remains weak and there is greater resort to private and group justice. National development is thus deeply affected. In restoring public confidence in the state’s ability to manage inter-group and inter-community conflicts, many governments are establishing and institutionalising standing national capacities for conflict prevention and resolution as extensions of their national governance framework. This article is a critical review of the efforts to establish such capacities in Kenya.

Iraq: Back to the Future

The world breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement of a new Iraqi government on 21 December 2010. After nine months of wrangling following the 7 March elections, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki finally engineered a deal that kept him in place at the head of a 42-person cabinet. Maliki was unable to name a full coterie of ministers; ten of the portfolios, including the main security ministries, are being managed on a temporary basis by other ministers until permanent nominations are made. Nevertheless, approval of the cabinet brought to an end a crisis that left the political system in limbo and saw a deterioration of the security situation.

But now the deed is done, a much bigger question looms: will the government be able to manage Iraq, stabilise the country further and heal the internal divisions that threaten its long-term security?