Most people are familiar with what is known as Hard Power. The idea that someone with more swords, bigger guns and overwhelming military ability can force someone to do something against their will but which is almost entirely in favour of those holding the gun. History is full of situations, the ancient Chinese, Persians, Romans all the way through to the British, French, American and Russians...
Today, faced with gloomy possibilities in Iraq that include the imminent disintegration of the Iraqi state... the Obama administration is once again considering air strikes as a policy option. And as Iraqi cities once again loom in the Imperium's bomb-sights, it's instructive to cast our eyes back on this less-than-glorious relationship between the United States, bombs and Iraq.
I'm not a big football fan either, but, as a psychologist, I'm aware that the game carries a lot more weight than may be at first apparent. In fact, I believe that the world as a whole has a great deal to thank football for, because of the social and psychological benefits it has brought over the last 100 years or so.
What folly. What crass, indescribable, unbelievable folly it was to invade Iraq in 2003. I wonder what George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Tony Blair think now as they read of the latest disasters to befall that wretched land. Do they still say that Iraq is better off than it was under Saddam Hussein? Do they? Really?
I have always admired the expressiveness of the Russian language. Popular turns of phrase that have become enshrined in everyday language reveal quite colourfully Russians' attitudes towards themselves and ongoing events. In particular I am struck by the way Russians reflect on failure with easy humour, as captured in the phrase 'they hoped for better, but it turned out as usual'.
This week has seen a flurry of activity around an issue that for far too long has been forgotten, silenced or viewed as an inevitable consequence of war: sexual violence in conflict. All of this is extremely important - but in the rush to 'do something' about the horrific crimes being committed in Syria, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and other conflict zones, we should not forget some basic premises.
As someone who has an instinctive aversion to over-praising members of the military (indeed, as someone who cannot help but shudder inwardly every time 'our brave boys' are invoked), I was more than a little surprised that the commemoration of the D-Day landings, which took place last week, brought a tear to my eye.
Arlette Gondrée, a beautiful woman, strikingly dressed in a knitted jacket with a faultless neck-chief, the epitome of Normandy style, stands proudly, having provided us with a delicious home cooked lunch, full of traditional flavours from the region, I slowly gather my thoughts examining the abundance of memorabilia in this sanctuary.
During my visit to the Unicef-supported Basic Education School for displaced grade one to four children at the Aleppo University I met a number of confident, upbeat children, not shy to ask tough questions... As a mother, I could not hold back my tears when a young girl got up and asked me: "When will this war end?"
I smelled the decaying bodies in Haiti after the earthquake and I got ill because of the terrible fumes of the dead buried under buildings in Lebanon after the bombings. That was nothing compared to the massacres and violence happening in South Sudan now. I won't go into the details; they're too gory, too much everything.
I first met Hala at a tented settlement in central Bekaa, East Lebanon. She had been here for a year, one in a million refugees who have fled Syria. They call her 'the orphan'; her tomboy walk and winter hat make her easy to spot. She speaks with a disturbing nonchalance; a hardness, common amongst many refugees I have met. Her hair is falling out.
Taking full advantage of the opportunity for peace in the Philippines will require a sustained effort on the part of central and local governments, by the rebel movements, as well as in civil society and the business community, over many years. Some of the factors they will need to take into account were identified at by our taxi driver last night.