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

(Image: Peter Strain for Politico)

UK awaits its Brexit Napoleon

Tom McTague

Politico

LONDON — Don’t get too comfortable, we have not even reached the Great Terror phase of the Brexit revolution yet.

In the bars and tea rooms of the Palace of Westminster, Conservative MPs have begun drawing playful comparisons between Britain’s chaotic exit from the European Union and the decades-long convulsion sparked by the French Revolution.

Roles have been assigned to leading Brexiteers. Michael Gove as Brissot, the hard-line republican who compromises to enter government and is the first to face the guillotine; Boris Johnson as Danton, the great orator who outlasts Brissot but also falls to the mob; and then there’s Jacob Rees-Mogg as Robespierre, the arch radical pursuing a “Republic of Virtue” but who also eventually faces the chop himself. (Read more)

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

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Trump Is Launching a New, Terrifying Arms Race

Michael T. Klare

Nation

Ostensibly, President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, announced on February 1, is intended to coerce Russia into admitting that it has violated the accord and then to destroy any weapons so identified. But the closer one looks, the more obvious it becomes that administration hawks, led by National Security Adviser John Bolton, have no interest in preserving the arms-control agreement but rather seek to embark on an arms race with Russia and China—a dynamic that will take us into dangerous territory not visited since the Cold War.

According to the INF Treaty, “intermediate-range nuclear forces” are nuclear-capable ballistic or cruise missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, or approximately 310 to 3,400 miles. These can be fired from ships, submarines, planes, or ground-based launchers; the treaty, however, covers the land-based variants only. When it was signed in 1987, the United States and the Soviet Union had deployed some 1,293 of these weapons, mostly in Europe. (Read more)

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

(Image: Meredith Kohut/New York Times)

An Urgent Call for Compromise in Venezuela

Francisco Rodríguez and Jeffrey D. Sachs

New York Times

Over the past two weeks, the United States, with the support of several countries in Latin America, has recognized the government of Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, and given it control over the country’s oil revenues. By doing so, it has entered a dangerous game of chicken with the Venezuelan military: Abandon President Nicolás Maduro or face the devastation of the Venezuelan economy. The message is stark: Change regime or starve.

The United States is acting with typical bravado, assuming that all will be over soon: Mr. Maduro will leave, sanctions will be lifted and Venezuela and the United States will benefit. Mr. Maduro is widely despised inside and outside Venezuela, so many countries are falling in line with the Trump administration’s gambit. (Read more)

 

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

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(Image: Baz Ratner/Reuters)

The Retreat of African Democracy

Nic Cheeseman and Jeffrey Smith

Foreign Affairs

In the decade following the Cold War, Africa saw many democratic success stories. In 1991, Benin and Zambia became the first former dictatorships to hold multiparty elections after the fall of the Soviet Union. In both countries, the opposition beat the incumbents. In 1994, South Africa replaced apartheid with majority rule, and soon after that, Nelson Mandela was elected president. Later that decade, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi also held elections and saw power change hands. All told, by the middle of the first decade of this century, every major peaceful state in Africa except Eritrea and Swaziland, the continent’s last absolute monarchy, was, at least in principle, committed to holding competitive elections.

But in recent years, Africa’s political trajectory has begun moving in the opposite direction. In Tanzania, President John Magufuli has clamped down on the opposition and censored the media. His Zambian counterpart, President Edgar Lungu, recently arrested the main opposition leader on trumped-up charges of treason and is seeking to extend his stay in power to a third term. This reflects a broader trend. According to Freedom House, a think tank, just 11 percent of the continent is politically “free,” and the average level of democracy, understood as respect for political rights and civil liberties, fell in each of the last 14 years. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance shows that democratic progress lags far behind citizens’ expectations. The vast majority of Africans want to live in a democracy, but the proportion who believe they actually do falls almost every year. (Read more)

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

Mike Pompeo addresses students at the American University in Cairo.

(Image: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AP)

In the Middle East, Is Trump the Anti-Obama or Obama 2.0?

Uri Friedman

The Atlantic

During a visit on Thursday to the nerve center of the Arab world, Mike Pompeo declared that reports of America’s departure from the Middle East under Donald Trump had been greatly exaggerated, and that it was Barack Obama who had abandoned the region—to devastating effect.

And yet the irony is that while the conduct of Obama and Trump in the Middle East couldn’t be more different, they’ve in fact ended up engaged in the same struggle: to extract the United States from the Mideast morass.

The U.S. secretary of state accused Obama—who 10 years ago in Cairo famously sought “a new beginning” between the United States and a billion-plus Muslims—of grossly underestimating radical Islamist ideology, willfully ignoring the dangers of the Iranian regime, and mistakenly perceiving the United States as a “force for what ails the Middle East.” This, he argued in a speech at the American University in Cairo, harmed hundreds of millions of people across the region and the world as isis “raped and pillaged and murdered,” Iran “spread its cancerous influence,” and the Syrian government “unleashed terror” by gassing its people, all in the face of American timidity. (Read more)

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

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Iraq’s Post-ISIS Campaign of Revenge

Ben Taub

The New Yorker

A September morning in Baghdad. Traffic halted at checkpoints and roadblocks as bureaucrats filed behind blast walls and the temperature climbed to a hundred and fifteen degrees. At the Central Criminal Court, a guard ran his baton along the bars of a small cell holding dozens of terrorism suspects awaiting trial. They were crammed on a wooden bench and on the floor, a sweaty tangle of limbs and dejected expressions. Many were sick or injured—covered in scabies, their joints twisted and their bones cracked. Iraqi prisons have a uniform code—different colors for pretrial suspects, convicts, and those on death row—but several who had not yet seen a judge or a lawyer were already dressed as if they had been sentenced to death.

Down the hall, the aroma of Nescafé and cigarettes filled a windowless room, where defense lawyers sat on couches, balancing stacks of paper on their laps. Most were staring at their phones; others sat in silence, arms crossed, eyes closed. In terrorism cases, lawyers are usually denied access to their clients until the hearing begins. (Read more)

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