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

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

Poster for Women's Day, March 8, 1914, demanding voting rights for women.

(Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

The Socialist Origins of International Women’s Day

JSTOR Daily

In 1987, March was designated as Women’s History Month in the United States. The month of March was chosen because it incorporated International Women’s Day, March 8th. The story of how International Women’s Day came to be, however, is convoluted to say the least.

As historian Temma Kaplan writes, International Women’s Day has its origins in socialism and the conditions of working women. Kaplan acknowledges the importance of secular communal holidays for nineteenth-century socialists, communists, and anarchists, citing Bastille Day, May Day, and various anniversaries of the Paris Commune. These holidays were more about “the solidification of a sense of community” than the actual date they fell on. That said, it’s worth noting how oddly complicated the history of this holiday is, complete with invented backstories and shifting dates. Here is a rough chronology. (Read more)

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