Editors’ Brief - Spring/Summer 2010

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From the Crooked Timber of Humanity…

Greetings from the Other Side of Iceland

Where the Winter 2010 issue of GB asked “What Kind of Order?” we move on in this issue to examine the primary players in most of this new century’s world affairs: human beings themselves – in all colours, shapes, sizes and psyches. Demography (People, People, People) may or may not be destiny, but the agency – the belief systems, instincts, talents, narratives, decision-making – of individuals and groups in very different, complex contexts, cultures and combinations is the ‘kink’ in the armour of predictability that makes the international realm so worthy of study.

This issue of GB sees the light of day just as some of the world’s most important ‘human agents’ gather in Huntsville and then Toronto – both in Ontario, Canada – for the G8 and G20 summits to discuss some of the world’s most pressing problems. More than likely, the world’s major leaders will be disinclined to talk about anything other than the World Cup of football – that other major global gathering with which this issue happily coincides.

Finally, parts of this issue anticipate a wonderful conference to be held by the Glendon Centre for Global Challenges and various partners this coming fall in Quebec on religious freedom, pluralism and common citizenship.

In the One Pager, Russian economist Vladimir Popov launches this number with insights into the radical surge in Russian mortality rates as a result of the transitional ‘shocks’ in the shift from Soviet communism to today’s Russia. GB sits down for Tȇte à Tȇte interviews with Jan Egeland, the former UN humanitarian affairs chief, and Abdou Diouf, Secretary-General of the Francophonie – respectively about international disasters and mass human migrations in search of a better life; and about the language of Voltaire, Senegal and the future of the African continent and its people.

GB Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Irvin Studin, starts us off in the Features section with a vision piece on Canada as a land of 100 million people (rather than its current 34 million), arguing that, at such a demographic mass, the country would be one of the most consequential on the planet. University of Toronto philosopher Mark Kingwell meditates on the nature of the new century’s integration challenges for advanced, liberal societies. Former Canadian foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy and the University of Winnipeg’s Dan Hurley make the case for a future Arctic governance regime rooted in flexible, multi-player networks, rather than in conventional conceptions of inter-state cooperation. University of Ottawa professor Peter Jones explains why Israel and the Palestinians have not really ever engaged in a bona fide peace ‘process’ – largely due to essentially irreconcilable understandings of ‘the peace’ at stake. (Parts of this piece may be read in the light of the volley made by Sam Sasan Shoamanesh, GB Managing Editor and co-founder, and Hirad Abtahi of the International Criminal Court, in the Winter 2010 issue of GB, on the need for a Western Asian political-economic-security union.) GB Geo-Blogger Frédérick Gagnon, for his part, analyzes the stakes for President Barack Obama in the not-too-distant November mid-term Congressional elections. Will Democratic weakness in those elections spell doom for Obama’s presidency?

In Query, Pierre Verluise, GB’s newest Geo-Blogger, reacts to Gagnon’s piece by examining the stature and standing of President Obama from the European perspective. Also in Query, Kevin Bloom, author of Ways of Staying (2010), looks at the precarious state of black-white integration in post-apartheid South Africa. In Situ reports come to us from Tagab, Afghanistan, by Matthew Arnold – reporting on Afghan rural destitution and the country’s strategically pivotal rural majority – and Richard Rousseau from Tbilisi, Georgia, where Russia continues to exact a pound of flesh, with due nuance allowing for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. GB is, in this issue, In the Cabinet Room in the volcanic republic of Iceland. (All flights out of that cabinet room have, alas, been cancelled.) McGill economist William Watson and the Canadian Auto Workers’ Jim Stanford go Nez à Nez in a debate on the policy legitimacy of national (economic, industrial) champions in the 21st century. In The Definition, Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and other notables tell us about “Women in the 21st Century…” We ask several sages in Strategic Futures to tell us “Who Will Win the World Cup?” And Douglas Glover, comme d’habitude, closes things off on the “Boiling, Breathing Masses” in Epigram.

GB notes, with considerable sadness, the recent passing of Fred Halliday, former professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, and arguably one of the top international affairs thinkers in all of Europe in recent decades. The 21st century will surely need many more Hallidays to interpret it, and its people, as elegantly as did the original, and to be as entertaining in the process.

Enjoy your Brief.

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