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

(Image: Chamila Karunarathne/AP)

How terror detonated with precision across Sri Lanka (£)

 

Washington Post

A series of coordinated bombings — and fear of more to come — has convulsed Sri Lanka since Easter Sunday morning. The bombings stretched the width of the island nation of 22 million but were largely executed in a narrow timeframe, decimating three Christian churches and three luxury hotels.

By Thursday morning, at least 250 people were dead, including several Americans, and 500 more were injured in one of the worst terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, and Sri Lankan officials warned that additional bombings were possible as they searched for other suspects. Despite the massacre’s magnitude, surprisingly few witness testimonies were available, after authorities shut down social media to try and quell the spread of fake news. (Read more)

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

(Image: Flickr/Fibonacci Blue)

The Mueller Report Is a Challenge for Democracy to Solve

Samuel Moyn

Lawfare

It would be hard to imagine a scenario that casts harsher light on the limits of American governance than the aftermath of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report—or one that demonstrates how lucky the country is that he chose to make the resulting mess a problem for democracy to solve.

Mature democracies must balance two contending imperatives. One is to permit regular and serious monitoring of government, especially the executive with its ever-expanding authorities. The other is to keep that monitoring from becoming just another mode of political opposition. This is especially fraught at a moment across the world in which political elites—inside and outside of government—are repeatedly scandalized by choices the people seem to be making at the ballot boxes. What if we creatively interpret Mueller’s handiwork as responding to precisely this dilemma? (Read more)

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

(Image: New Statesman)

The rise and fall of British democracy

Robert Saunders

New Statesman

If walls could talk, the structures that house our democracy would teach a desperate lesson. Beneath the gold and gilt and glamour, parliament is a ruin. Its walls are riddled with asbestos; its cracked pipes tip dirty water into the chamber; and fires break out with alarming regularity. A cross-party inquiry in 2016 found steam lines, gas pipes and water pipes piled haphazardly on top of one another, in a “potentially catastrophic mix”. Without urgent renovation, the whole edifice faced “sudden, catastrophic failure”.

It is not just the building that is in trouble. Trust in parliament has never been lower. According to the Hansard Society, barely a third of voters trust MPs “to act in the interests of the public”. Forty two per cent would prefer it if governments did not “have to worry so much about parliamentary votes”, while more than half want “a strong leader who is willing to break the rules”. An unwritten constitution, once prized for its flexibility, has created a chaotic patchwork of competing authorities – including the referendum, an uneven devolution settlement and member-led parties – with little consideration of how they fit together. In short, Britain’s parliamentary democracy has rarely felt more under siege. (Read more)

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

Image result for foreignaffairs Why Europe Is Getting Tough on China

Why Europe Is Getting Tough on China

Andrew Small

Foreign Affairs

Over the past two years, Washington has come to embrace a policy of strategic competition with China. The Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy and National Security Strategy make clear that the United States sees China as a great power rival not only militarily but also in a contest for economic and technological supremacy.

As a result, an effective coalition to manage China’s rise can no longer center on Asian security partnerships alone but must now include the world’s principal concentrations of economic power, technological progress, and liberal democratic values. Among these are many of the United States’ partners in the Indo-Pacific, such as Australia, India, and Japan. But the European Union and its major member states are also becoming increasingly critical U.S. counterparts in dealing with China. (Read more)

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

(Image: FT montage)

EU faces big Brexit question: should UK stay or go? (£)

Alex Barker

Financial Times 

The Westminster deadlock over Brexit is now confronting EU leaders with the choice British voters faced almost three years ago: is it better for the UK to leave or remain in the EU?

Such a momentous political decision will ultimately be for Britain. But, with the House of Commons seemingly paralysed, EU leaders are aware that their approach — notably on the question of delaying the UK’s exit — might help determine whether Brexit happens at all.

The judgment turns on not just an assessment of Britain’s place in the European project, but on the chances of reversing the Brexit vote, and whether it is worth the risk to wait and see how the UK ructions end.

“I tell you my personal view,” said one of the principal players in the Brexit saga. “They will not leave. They cannot find the exit. They do not want to leave. They have not developed a concept of what Brexit means.” (Read more)

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William Barr, executive assistant to Donald Trump (£)

The Economist

Many Democrats are dismayed by Robert Mueller’s failure to take down the president. Yet they have a consolatory new hate figure in the form of William Barr, who began his second spell as attorney-general last month. A grandfatherly 68-year-old, who first presided over the Justice Department for George H.W. Bush, Mr Barr has been castigated for his handling of Mr Mueller’s report, which remains under wraps at his discretion. Jerrold Nadler, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called his summary of the report “a hasty, partisan interpretation of the facts.” Several Democrats running for president, including Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, derided Mr Barr as Donald Trump’s “hand-picked attorney-general” (as if there were any other kind).

This is partly a case of shooting the messenger. Many on the left were convinced Mr Trump was up to his neck in the Russian plot that helped get him elected. They also had an almost cultlike faith in Mr Mueller (the ash-dry prosecutor would be amazed to see how many T-shirts bear his name on campus—as in “Mueller Time—Justice Served Cold!”). The instant Mr Barr relayed the crushing news that the special counsel had found no collusion with Russia by Mr Trump, he was suspected of skulduggery, which seems hysterical. A close friend of the special counsel, Mr Barr is possibly too principled and certainly too canny to have misrepresented his conclusions. If he had done so, they would leak. Yet the attorney-general’s treatment of the second prong of Mr Mueller’s investigation, concerning Mr Trump’s alleged effort to obstruct the various Russia investigations, is more troubling. (Read more)

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How British Teens Blended Pop and Politics

Livia Gershon

JSTOR Daily

In contemporary society, pop music and politics mix freely—from voter registration drives at music festivals, to celebrities like Taylor Swift weighing in on elections. Back in 1970s Britain, however, that combination created controversy within political organizations.

Historian Evan Smith writes that in the late 1960s, a new organization formed, known as the National Front (NF). Appealing to some far-right members of the Conservative Party, it called for the expulsion of non-white immigrants from England. When an economic crisis hit the country in the 1970s, the NF began seeking support from white, working-class Labour voters, arguing that nonwhite immigrants were causing economic problems. Soon, NF members were holding street marches and sometimes violently attacking people in black communities. (Read more)

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Spain hits back at Mexico in row over colonial rights abuses

Stephen Burgen and David Agren

The Guardian

A diplomatic row has broken out between Mexico and Spain after the Mexican president wrote to King Felipe VI demanding he apologise for crimes committed against Mexico’s indigenous people during the conquest 500 years ago.

In a video filmed at the ruins of the indigenous city of Comalcalco, in southern Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador called on Spain and the Vatican to recognise the rights violations committed during the conquest, led by Hernán Cortés. The video was posted on the president’s social media accounts.

“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the [indigenous] temples,” he said. “The time has come to reconcile. But let us ask forgiveness first.” (Read more)

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The Iron Wall Revisited

Michael Young

Carnegie Middle East Center

President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights reminded me of an old joke that goes something like this: “I’ve decided to marry supermodel Claudia Schiffer. I want to do it, and my parents are in full agreement. Now all I need to do is to persuade Claudia.”

Israel and the United States have alone decided that the Golan is Israeli. They may soon do so for large parts of the West Bank. Both must now convince the rest of the world. From the early reactions of many countries, that’s not likely to succeed. After Israel annexed the Golan in 1981, the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 497, unanimously characterized the move as “null and void,” demanding that Israel “rescind” its decision. On Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres said that he continued to adhere to all Security Council resolutions on the Golan. (Read more)

 

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

Mike Pompeo and the Israeli prime minister shake hands in front of a row of Israel and American flags, standing behind two podiums.

(Image: Amir Cohen/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Trump’s Mideast diplomacy in the age of Twitter

Richard N. Haass

Axios

It was another day of diplomacy in the age of Twitter, with @realDonaldTrump tweeting: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”

Why it matters: The president’s tweet calls for a change in U.S. policy toward the Golan Heights but does not actually declare it. There are many reasons for the president not to turn his tweet into policy.  It would all but eliminate what little chance exists for peace between Israel and either the Palestinians or Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia. (Read more)

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

(Image: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy)

Who Governs Britain?

Henry Mance

Financial Times

On August 29 2013, the British submarine HMS Tireless was somewhere in the Mediterranean, ready to go to battle. But unusually, its commanders were watching the House of Commons.

MPs were debating whether to authorise strikes against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Tracking events in parliament via the BBC website, the submarine’s commanders realised, before any order came through, that they would not be firing cruise missiles after all.

The Syria debate was the first time since the American war of independence that a British government had lost a vote on military action. Mindful of how little scrutiny had been applied to Tony Blair’s blueprint to invade Iraq in 2003, many MPs had wanted to avoid the same mistake. Some hadn’t wished to block strikes on Syria altogether, just to force David Cameron to revise his plan. Instead they not only inadvertently stopped the UK going to war: they also caused Barack Obama to abandon the US’s own plans to bomb Syria, leaving Assad’s regime free to commit further atrocities. (Read more)

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