Thursday, September 02, 2010
"I open the books on Right and on ethics; I listen to the professors and jurists; and, my mind full of their seductive doctrines, I admire the peace and justice established by the civil order; I bless the wisdom of our political institutions and, knowing myself a citizen, cease to lament I am a man. Thoroughly instructed as to my duties and my happiness, I close the book, step out of the lecture room, and look around me. I see wretched nations groaning beneath a yoke of iron. I see mankind ground down by a handful of oppressors. I see a famished mob, worn down by sufferings and famine, while the rich drink the blood and tears of their victims at their ease. I see on every side the strong armed with the terrible powers of the Law against the weak. . . . And that is the fruit of your peaceful institutions! Indignation and pity rise from the very bottom of my heart. Yes, heartless philosopher! come and read us your book on a field of battle!"
-- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, from "Fragments of an Essay on the State of War"
Monday, August 30, 2010
It's hard for me to believe that the first posts here on Swords Into Plowshares appeared over six years ago. It's easier to believe (but more difficult to accept) that my blogging has been very sporadic over the last half of those six years. The start of a new year—a new academic year, that is—seems to be a good time to revive the blog. To that end, I want to reintroduce Swords Into Plowshares with a few comments about what I do here and why.
First, I have written here, and will again write, about international politics. More specifically, I have written mostly about issues in international politics that get me excited—and sometimes agitated. As the blog's subtitle suggests, these issues generally fall under the heading of "the quest for peace and justice." That doesn't narrow the field a lot, but it does tell you that I tend to post most often on issues related to human rights, international law, the sources of conflict (especially those that are, in some sense, new), and arms control. Posts often relate to specific courses I teach (especially International Organization and Law and Ethics and International Politics) or to research I'm working on (new conceptions of security, justice after war, arms control, and the strange case of Equatorial Guinea have been the most recent topics). On occasion I'll write about interesting books or articles I've come across or current events that seem to indicate something significant about the current state of international politics.
There are a number of reasons why I blog. First, writing in this format provides an opportunity to test out ideas or explore different ways of thinking about what goes on in the world and in the discipline that tries to make sense of it. If an idea, an analogy, or a comparison seems to work, it can end up in a lecture, an article, or a book. If it doesn't, it can prompt another post that explores why it didn't work.
Second, the blog sometimes serves as a journal. By linking to and commenting on what the UN secretary general says about human rights in North Korea or what an American general has said about the security situation in Afghanistan, there's a record that I can easily return to in the future.
Third, the blog allows me to expand on conversations that have begun elsewhere (most often in classes). Just as the "Extension of Remarks" section of The Congressional Record allows members of Congress to put in the record what they wish they had said on the floor of the House or the Senate, the blog allows me to say what time or space constraints (or my state of preparedness) may have prevented me from saying in another forum.
Fourth, writing is a discipline and a blog offers an opportunity—along with a few incentives—to practice it. There's a reasonable expectation—one I dashed many months ago but will try to rebuild now—among those who read a blog that there will be something new to ponder almost every day. This gives the blogger both a reason to write and an incentive to write well about interesting things. And that's what I'll try to do, as I first started trying to do six years ago.