This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn walk through the House of Commons towards the House of Lords in London on June 21, 2017. (Kristy Wigglesworth/AFP/Getty Images)

(Image: Kristy Wrigglesworth/AFP/Getty Images)

There’s Officially Nobody in Charge of Britain

Stephen Paduano

Foreign Policy

Who is in charge of the clattering train?

The axles creak and the couplings strain.

The pace is hot, and the points are near,

And sleep hath deadened the driver’s ear;

And signals flash through the night in vain.

Who is in charge of the clattering train?

As Europe’s engines of war grew louder and hotter, it was this section from Edwin Milliken’s 1890 poem “Death and His Brother Sleep” that Winston Churchill thought of reciting, asking who was steering or stopping Europe’s fateful course. Nearly a century later, as Britain barrels hopelessly toward an exit from the European Union without a deal—a scenario that has been linked to a simultaneous food crisis, financial crisis, and border crisis—one of his grandsons, the Remainer and Conservative Member of Parliament Nicholas Soames, is asking the same.

Tuesday’s vote made clear that nobody is at the lead of an increasingly rickety and rudderless Parliament. After nearly seven hours of debate, Theresa May, the MP for Maidenhead who still technically bears the title of prime minister, lost the greatest meaningful vote by the greatest margin since the advent of the modern party system. A remarkable 432 MPs lined up against the withdrawal agreement she had reached with the EU, tossing Brexit into ever greater uncertainty. And now, whether Britain has left itself with no deal, no Brexit, or no prime minister remains to be seen. (Read more)

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Time to Break the Silence on Palestine

Michelle Alexander

New York Times

On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped up to the lectern at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. The United States had been in active combat in Vietnam for two years and tens of thousands of people had been killed, including some 10,000 American troops. The political establishment — from left to right — backed the war, and more than 400,000 American service members were in Vietnam, their lives on the line.

Many of King’s strongest allies urged him to remain silent about the war or at least to soft-pedal any criticism. They knew that if he told the whole truth about the unjust and disastrous war he would be falsely labeled a Communist, suffer retaliation and severe backlash, alienate supporters and threaten the fragile progress of the civil rights movement. (Read more)

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German Gilets Jaunes Have a Case, Too

Leonid Bershidsky

Bloomberg

Can the yellow vest, that symbol of French anti-elite protest, travel? Well, it’s clearly not as internationally ubiquitous as the red flag of class struggle was some 100 years ago, but most of the 700 people who demonstrated in Stuttgart on Saturday were wearing yellow security vests.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chosen successor, has said she sees no room in Germany for a “Yellow Vest” movement like the French one – both left- and right-wingers have tried to adopt the symbol but failed. In reality, however, Germans have some of the same reasons to complain as the original French Yellow Vests. (Read more)

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US asks world to ‘pick a side’ on Venezuela as UK calls for fair elections

Jamie Doward

Guardian

Britain has issued the embattled Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, a stark ultimatum, warning him it would throw its weight behind the country’s self-declared interim leader unless he called an election within the next eight days – as the US government called on the world to “pick a side” in the crisis.

Echoing calls from Berlin, Paris and Madrid, Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, said on Saturday it was clear Maduro was no longer the legitimate leader of the Latin American country after last year’s “deeply flawed” election.

The coordinated move by western powers to boost the opposition challenger Juan Guaidó came as the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, addressed the United Nations security council in New York and not only said that it was now time for countries to “pick a side” on Venezuela after Washington recognised Guaidó as the nation’s head of state but also urged countries to disconnect financially from Maduro’s government. (Read more)

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7 Takeaways From The Longest Shutdown In U.S. History

Domenico Montanaro

NPR

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history is finally over.

The government is back open — at least until Feb. 15 — after President Trump announced Friday that he would be in favor of opening and funding it for three weeks while he and congressional negotiators try to work out a broader deal on immigration and border security. Congress then quickly acted to reopen the government Friday evening.

There are no two ways about it — Trump caved.

He blinked Wednesday night when he agreed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he would not deliver the State of the Union address next week from the House chamber until the shutdown ends. Then, early Friday afternoon, after a day dominated by the news that his former political adviser Roger Stone was indicted as part of the Mueller Russia probe, Trump completely gave in. (Read more)

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