“The United States has been at war one place or another almost every year since 1981. The American public forgets. War in Context does not.”
– Christopher Dickey, Paris Bureau Chief / Middle East Editor, Newsweek & The Daily Beast.
“I check out War in Context daily. It’s an invaluable ‘ally’ in my own work. It has just what I want from a political website: a sharp-as-tacks editor with a great eye for riveting writing and reportage from around the world that I might otherwise miss, a way of framing our world that increases my understanding and makes me look at it differently, and an idiosyncratic, original way of taking that world in. It’s a great package. The focus on the Greater Middle East and on American power (but with regular treats and surprises beyond those subjects) seals the deal for me. What more could I ask for?”
– Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, author of The United States of Fear and End of Victory Culture.
“Paul Woodward’s War in Context has been one of my top reads every morning since before the invasion of Iraq. With thoughtful and incisive analysis of world events, War in Context is must-reading for anyone interested in the Middle East, the War on Terror, or the trials and tribulations of the Global South.”
– Hassan M. Fattah, Editor-in-Chief, The National newspaper.
“War in Context is one of the most reliable blogs on the Middle East. It is filled with sharp commentary, useful summaries, and an excellent selection of the best articles. Paul Woodward is smart and plugged in. He knows the Middle East. I read it every day.”
– Joshua Landis, SyriaComment, Director, Center for Middle East Studies, University of Oklahoma.
“Paul Woodward’s War In Context provides an idiosyncratic and effusively heterodox view of what important is going on in the world. Never predictable, never dogmatic, the site is always alert to writers and themes that, if not part of standard Beltway discourse, are critical to understanding a struggling planet. I read it often, and always learn something new.”
– Scott McConnell, Founding Editor, The American Conservative
“If you are seriously interested in international politics, especially the Middle East, War in Context is one of the best sites on the web. Not only does it say smart things about war on a daily basis, but it also deals extensively with the broader political context in which war takes place. In that sense, Paul Woodward is a Clausewitzian at heart. He is also tough-minded, smart, and goes where the evidence takes him. The end result is first-rate analysis on the key issues of the day, something that is increasingly difficult to find in the mainstream media. It is for good reason that I make sure to read War in Context every day.”
– John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago, co-author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.
“Like anyone else interested in the news, I spend the beginning of each day reading — from the U.S. mainstream media to overseas newspapers, from personal websites to news aggregators to political blogs. But of the dozens of internet sites that I read, War In Context is always first on my list. For me, it is the one indispensable source that gives me both a essential insight into the news, coupled with an always crucial and pointed commentary. I find War In Context supremely useful, as it not only identifies and highlights the news of the day, but also provides a breadth of coverage that I’ve not found elsewhere. War In Context says that it provides ‘attention to the unseen,’ but for me it also brings my attention to ‘the unread and unnoticed’ — a crucial culling of stories that I will surely have missed had I not read it. So it is that War In Context provides me not simply with another set of eyes, it provides another, and very badly needed perspective.”
– Mark Perry, journalist and author most recently of Talking to Terrorists: Why America Must Engage with Its Enemies.
“Paul Woodward’s War in Context is well named except it is not just war Woodward puts in context but foreign policy in general. For me, War in Context serves as a corrective I apply to my own thinking and writing. If I am on the same page as Paul Woodward, I know I have got it right. If I’m not, I go back and re-think. It’s not that I will change my own thinking if it is not compatible with Paul’s but rather that I respect his powers of analysis so much that he makes me think twice. Additionally, War in Context provides me with a guide to articles and columns from sources I would probably have missed otherwise. Having it close at hand is an insurance policy. If I read it, I know I am on top of events even if perchance I don’t get to read much else. It is indispensable.”
– M.J. Rosenberg, blogger and author of The Israel Lobby & Me to be published by Just World Books in 2013.
“War in Context is an exceptionally valuable source of information about international affairs in general and conflicts and crises in particular. It has many merits: broad coverage, a liberal perspective, sound editorial policy, a user-friendly format, and, above all, a healthy scepticism towards the claims made by governments. War in Context enables me to keep up-to-date with my main research interest – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I also enjoy the range of materials it offers on other regions such a film footage of hot spots and interviews with peace activists like Noam Chomsky. All in all, it is a first-rate online service for its readers.”
– Avi Shlaim, FBA, Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford, and author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World 1948-1998
“Paul Woodward epitomizes the new internet journalist, that combination of fiercely independent judgment and intellectual depth that the internet has brought to journalism in our time. He has a roving mind with a philosophical bent, but he is tenacious when it comes to the corruption of American foreign policy and mainstream journalism by the special relationship with Israel; and his pithy, newsy and ironical observations of this process have made his site indispensable to anyone who wants to understand the American role in the world today.”
– Philip Weiss, journalist and co-editor of Mondoweiss
“War in Context is an indispensable resource, both for its posting of valuable comment and analysis from around the web and for Paul Woodward’s progressive voice which, rather than constraining itself in an ideological straitjacket, is always attentive to facts and the perspectives of suffering people internationally.”
– Robin Yassin-Kassab, author of the novel The Road from Damascus, journalist, and co-editor of Critical Muslim and PULSE
Why “War in Context”? In October, 2001, I sent a few articles to some friends and colleagues who shared my concern about President Bush’s decision to engage in a “war on terrorism.” These were articles on some of the political and cultural issues whose consideration might have led to an appropriate response to 9/11. I bundled them into a rather long email, subject line: “The War in Context.” There seemed to be a hunger for the type of material I was able to trawl from the Web so I continued sending out emails. After gathering and distributing articles for a few months, I switched to a blog. For several years, this was a news aggregation site, but nowadays also contains my own analysis — at least when I feel like I have something to say.
After 9/11, the Middle East — seen through American eyes inflamed by fear and anger — took on an amorphous, undifferentiated otherness. The threat was called “terrorism” but really it was the unknown. And because we couldn’t isolate it, suddenly it seemed to be everywhere.
The tenor of the political moment was captured in a single sentence as President Bush said, “We will make no distinction between those who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” With those words, as though wielding a scalpel, the president deftly lobotomized the nation. At a time when discrimination was in desperate need of refinement, instead, it was thrown away!
War in Context, from its inception, has been an effort to apply critical intelligence in an arena where political judgment has repeatedly been twisted by blind emotions. It presupposes that a world out of balance will inevitably be a world in conflict.
The tagline, … with attention to the unseen, comes from my observation that in America we inhabit a culture marked by its inattention to the unseen.
This is not a religious statement. The unseen to which I refer is the amalgam of non-material entities whose co-existence and interaction produces culture.
What makes culture work is shared meaning. This has an ephemeral life in a space of resonance that ties together individual human beings. The spark that animates that space is language — a vessel that circumscribes experience and makes it exchangeable and through the aggregation of that exchange gives rise to this amorphous entity that we call culture.
In a materialistic age we have come to confuse culture with its products; we have devolved from being creators to consumers and by so doing come to measure our wealth in terms of what we possess rather than what we share.
While I created War in Context with the vain hope of helping stem cultural divisions, I also wanted to explore the underpinnings of culture itself. At this point, the murmurings of that exploration are tucked between the lines of my occasional comments but as we race towards the post-Bush era, the “context” in this site will gradually expand.
(Writing now at a point when we are supposedly already in the post-Bush era, it turns out this bears too many similarities with the Bush era to constitute meaningful change. As for the expanding context I promised, it’s not here yet — but it’s still coming (though held up by circumstances beyond my control).)
Who is Paul Woodward? I am by nature if not profession, a bricoleur*. A dictionary of obscure words defines a bricoleur as “someone who continually invents his own strategies for comprehending reality.” In the process of doing just that I have at various times been an independent journalist, editor, designer, software knowledge architect, construction worker, and Buddhist monk, while living in England (where I was born), France, India, and for the last twenty-some years the United States. The views I express here are my own.
I live in Western North Carolina with my wife, Monica, a cat and a dog.
If you have questions or comments, please let me know by writing to editor[at]warincontext.org
* It might be pretentious to describe oneself as a bricoleur, but here’s why I like this term. The basic translation of bricoleur is handyman, but as the renowned French anthropologist Claude Levi Strauss suggested, the distinctive attribute of the bricoleur is not the way he uses his hands but the way he thinks. The bricoleur has a syncretic, adaptive view of the world through which whatever comes to hand can be adapted to the required purpose. Design is subordinate to adaptation. This engenders an irreverent, practical approach to the world. Curiosity and resourcefulness are the requisites for engaging with the unfamiliar. This stands in contrast to the increasingly pervasive mystique of expertise, an intellectual feudalism that territoritorializes human understanding. That about which we can claim no expertise, is that about which we should, supposedly, barely venture to think. As a bricoleur, I reject this mentality.