Interesting start to the new year: Iraq Flag Hoisted Over Baghdad Green Zone, Britain Ready To Take in Guantanamo Prisoners, Hundreds of Iranians Storm British Compound In Tehran After Gaza Attacks (shades of 1979?), and just in case you thought it was all about the war on terror: Russia Cuts Off the Gas Supply to Ukraine.
Where to begin? Krasner? Foucault? Agamben?
It's hard to imagine that a little more than a year has gone by since I first thought about starting up a research group focused on the spatial dynamics and politics of conflict - originally inspired by participation in the New Battlefields Old Laws project, and one of its workshops in Herzliya, Israel, in the summer of 2007. The ambition was that it might evolve into a fully fledged research centre. The intent was that it would be inclusive, reaching out to academic and non-academic practitioners (yes, academics are practitioners, too!) of all kinds, and bridge scholarly disciplines. I also had in mind that it would take advantage of online technologies and function as a virtual think tank of sort.
CTlab hasn't taken the full shape I intended for it: we managed to host two symposia, and organized a well attended public lecture at University College London in November. Many ideas were voiced but never followed through, or were unsustainable; constraints of time and resources. We've been most active with this blog. Tim Stevens' participation and enthusiasm, eventually taking on the mantle of Managing Editor, has helped it to flourish in its first year. He "got it" when many didn't, or didn't want to. My old friend Matt Barlow brought to the table an historian's perspective and depth on place and space, and his continued involvement promises to lead us in interesting directions in 2009. Both have been invaluable sources of advice, sounding boards for my ambitions for CTlab, and great sources of individual and intellectual support to the project. Various contributors have written subtantive pieces for CTlab, as well, helping us build a critical mass of content.
There's much more that I could write about the experience of the last year. I'll sum it up with the suggestion that we have a long way to go, and that it's become clear that our interests and our focus are both much broader and much narrower than initially envisioned. I look forward to what CTlab has yet to become.
Fred Kaplan, writing at Slate: "It's time to start getting nervous about Afghanistan." He sums up the issues thus:
The problem of Afghanistan is the easiest—or at least the easiest to calculate—in the sense that it's to some extent susceptible to military power. But, as Gates and Petraeus have said several times, it's not entirely a military problem; there can be no "victory" in the standard meaning of the word. A good ending, if there is one, will involve a negotiated settlement in which "reconcilable" Taliban—those who joined the insurgency for nonideological reasons—are lured over to the Afghan government's side.
With Israeli strikes on Gaza raising temperatures over the weekend, you'd think major outlets would have their hands full of real material to fill the pages. Not the New York Times, which published a piece by Dan Bilefsky entitled "Islamic Revival Tests Bosnia's Secular Cast" (sic). I'd like to think the spelling of "cast" this way was deliberate, but that would be a stronger attribution of talent than I'm qualified to comment
Waltz With Bashir, an animated movie about memory and Israel's 1982 war in Lebanon, looks compelling, and reviews have been positive. Andrew O'Hehir, in his Beyond the Multiplex blog at Salon, writes that the movie's depiction of "war as a bad acid trip" is, "stunning", "...the year's most singular visionary experience available at the movies, and catapults Folman from the obscurity of Israeli TV onto the world stage." The New York Times' reviewer A.O. Scott notes that it's "by no means the world’s only animated documentary... But