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

Iran likely to divide Trump from allies at UN gathering

Nahal Toosi, David M. Herszenhorn and Matthew Karnitschnig


Donald Trump sees next week’s main session of the United Nations General Assembly as a chance to condemn Iran for spreading what he’s called “chaos and terror” through the Middle East.

But many key U.S. allies will likely use the global forum to present Trump himself as a threat to world peace.

The result could be an unusually combative gathering at an annual forum meant to promote harmony among world leaders.

“It’s not going to be a pleasant conversation,” predicted Ilan Berman, senior vice president of the conservative American Foreign Policy Council. (Read more)

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

Populism is the true legacy of the global financial crisis

Philip Stevens

Financial Times

The legacy of the global financial crisis might have been a re-imagination of the market economy. Anything goes could have made way for something a little closer to everyone gains. The eloquent speeches and bold pledges that followed the crash — think Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel and the rest — held out just such a prospect. Instead we have ended up with Donald Trump, Brexit and beggar-thy-neighbour nationalism.

The process set in train by the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers has produced two big losers — liberal democracy and open international borders. The culprits, who include bankers, central bankers and regulators, politicians and economists, have shrugged off responsibility. The world has certainly changed, but not in the ordered, structured way that would have been the hallmark of intelligent reform. (Read more) Continue reading “This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy”

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

Yemen crisis children

(Image: Flickr/Julien Harneis)

Why Yemen Suffers in Silence

Eric Schewe


Children are starving to death in Yemen. The NGO Save the Children has estimated that in 2017, more than 50,000 children died from cholera and famine caused by Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign and naval blockade against the country. A further 8 million Yemenis are near starvation.

What Saudi Arabia is Doing in Yemen

Since 2011, Saudi Arabia has sought to bolster its power and authority in the Middle East, and in the Arabian Peninsula in particular. In the chaotic aftermath of the “Arab Spring” protests, it has sought to support its allies in many different regional conflicts. In 2015, the Houthi Shiʿi Islamist movement occupied Yemen’s capital Sanaʿa and deposed Saudi-supported President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Shortly thereafter, Saudi Arabia launched “Operation Decisive Storm” in a coalition with eight regional allies including the United Arab Emirates, invading the country with ground troops to fight the Houthis, in addition to the air raids and blockade. It has justified this choice to the world by claiming it is countering Iranian support for the Houthi movement. (Read more)

Continue reading “This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy”

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

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(Image: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

The Unconstrained Presidency (£)

James Goldgeier and Elizabeth N. Saunders

Foreign Affairs

In the age of Donald Trump, it often feels as though one individual has the power to chart the United States’ course in the world all by himself. Since taking office as U.S. president, Trump has made a series of unilateral decisions with enormous consequences. He walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris agreement on climate change, and the Iran nuclear deal. He imposed tariffs on Canada, China, Mexico, and the European Union. In June, he single-handedly upended the G-7 summit by insulting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and withdrawing the United States from the group’s joint communiqué. In July, his European travels produced more diplomatic fireworks, with a NATO summit in Brussels that raised questions about his commitment to the organization—before his deferential press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Each choice has brought howls of outrage—but little real pushback. Congress, for example, has proved unable to block the president from starting a trade war with China and with U.S. allies. For all of Trump’s talk of a shadowy “deep state” bent on undermining his every move, the U.S. government’s vast bureaucracy has watched as the president has dragged his feet on a plan to deter Russian election interference. Even the United States’ closest allies have been unable to talk Trump out of damaging and potentially withdrawing from institutions of the liberal international order that the country has led for decades. How can a political system vaunted for its checks and balances allow one person to act so freely? (Read more)


Britain’s Populist Revolt

Matthew Goodwin


More than two years have passed since Britain voted for Brexit. Ever since that moment, the vote to leave the European Union has routinely been framed as an aberration; a radical departure from ‘normal’ life. Countless journalists, scholars, and celebrities have lined up to offer their diagnosis of what caused this apparent moment of madness among the electorate. Russia-backed social media accounts. Shady big tech firms like Cambridge Analytica. Austerity. The malign influence of populist ‘Brexiteers’ like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. The Brexit campaign exceeding its legal spending limit. Or a much-debated claim, written on the side of a bus, that Brexit would allow Britain to redirect its millions of pounds worth of contributions to the EU into its own creaking health service. Typical is a recent piece by a (British) columnist in the New York Times who argues: “Britain is in this mess principally because the Brexiteers—led largely by Mr. Johnson—sold the country a series of lies in the lead up to the June 2016 referendum.”

Britain has produced a Brexit debate that is utterly dry, sterile, and completely lacking in imagination. Much of the commentary has shared three features: an exclusive focus on incredibly short-term factors that apparently proved decisive; a clear and concerted attempt to try and delegitimize the result by implying that either voters were duped or that the Leave campaign was crooked; and absolutely no engagement whatsoever with the growing pile of evidence that we now have on why people actually voted for Brexit. Far from staging an irrational outburst, most Leavers shared a clear and coherent outlook and had formed their views long before the campaign even began. (Read more)


Turkey’s homemade currency crisis has truly global implications

Clemens Hoffman and Can Cemgil

The Conversation

Turkey’s recently reelected president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is blaming the sudden and dramatic decline of the Turkish lira on an international conspiracy, variously railing against an “economic war” and a “currency plot”. On the surface, this looks like a reaction to US president Trump’s steel and aluminium sanctions, which are ostensibly designed to press Turkey to release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is in custody on terrorism charges.

But Turkey’s financial crisis has not been caused by its refusal to release an evangelical pastor. The US’s new sanctions have merely inflamed a crisis that’s been a long time coming. And while Turkey’s woes are mostly homemade, they are nevertheless embedded in a fragile global political economy – meaning there is a serious risk of contagion. This is therefore not the time to merely point fingers at the structural deficiencies of Turkey’s political economy; Turkey is just the proverbial canary in the coal mine. This is a local manifestation of global problems and an indication of looming ones as well. (Read more)


Latin American countries selling out their sovereignty to Russia, China

Martin Arostegui

The Washington Times

A Chinese space force in Argentina, Russian control of Venezuelan gas and South American armies equipped with the latest Chinese and Russian hardware. Until recently, it might have sounded like the plot of a geopolitical thriller in a region once considered America’s backyard.But this is what Defense Secretary James N. Mattis faced on his visit this week to several South American nations, where economic and military posturing by Beijing and Moscow has been on the rise for the past decade.

The whole reason Mr. Mattis made the trip was to try to “recover lost territory in Latin America,” said one foreign ministry official in Argentina, where the U.S. defense secretary stopped Wednesday. “Chinese and Russian influence grew during years in which the U.S. largely abandoned the region,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of his sensitive post coordinating security policies with Washington and other international powers.

Analysts say Chinese loans in recent years have allowed authoritarian leaders to consolidate power in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, and have separately generated corruption scandals that brought down the presidents of Ecuador and Argentina. (Read more)


Matteo Salvini may find it hard to blame the EU for the Genoa bridge collapse

Sofia Lotto Persio

New Statesman

Rescuers are still searching under the rubble of a collapsed viaduct in the Italian city of Genoa to find any survivors, but a very Italian polemic has inevitably already started.

The tragedy struck on Tuesday, when a portion of the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in the middle of the day under torrential rain, causing the death of at least 39 people.

While authorities have begun investigating the incident as manslaughter and “culpable disaster,” interior minister Matteo Salvini was already framing the collapse in terms of EU shortcomings.

“Should there be any are European constraints that prevent us from spending money to secure the schools where our children go or the highways on which our workers travel — we will put in front of everything and everyone the security of the Italians” he told the press in a message shared on his social media platforms on Tuesday, ensuring maximum reach.

Salvini had also previously published a statement promising to find the culprits, “with names and surnames,” and make them “pay, pay everything and pay dearly” — perhaps naively thinking that only a handful of people could shoulder the blame for a calamity of such proportions in a country like Italy. (Read more)

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

Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud is pictured at the Divan Palace in'Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Dec. 8, 2016.

(Image: Rainer Jensen—picture-alliance/dpa/AP)

The Real Message Behind the Saudi Crown Prince’s Diplomatic War With Canada

Bessma Momami


Saudi’s young Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS) has been moving his country at a rapid speed of change. At home, that has elicited joy and caused a surge of nationalism. But since becoming crown prince last year, his foreign policy moves have been a source of anxiety for the international diplomatic community. Unpredictable and brash moves have now become the crown prince’s diplomatic signature.

From the alleged kidnapping of the Lebanese Prime Minister to get him to renounce Hizbollah and Iranian influence in Lebanese politics, to the severing of all diplomatic and economic ties with neighboring and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member Qatar, to the now intractable war against the rag-tag Houthi rebels in Yemen, MBS takes foreign policy to the extreme. (Read more)


Zimbabwe’s Opposition Is Under Attack. It Should Seek a Unity Government Before It’s Too Late.

Evans Simbarashe Zininga

Foreign Policy

After Zimbabweans voted on July 30, it took the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission three days to confirm President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s victory. The opposition MDC Alliance is still clinging to the hope that it can reverse the election results in court, something that will never happen if the ruling party, Zanu-PF, has its way. Indeed, in the days since the election, the opposition has reported attacks on its leaders and their families; some of the have even attempted to flee the country for fear of abduction by the military junta. The question now is whether the MDC Alliance should push for a coalition government or continue shouting from the sidelines that Mnangagwa’s victory was illegitimate. (Read more)


Why has the populist radical right outperformed the populist radical left in Europe?

Valerio A. Bruno and James F. Downes


Twenty-first century European politics has been characterised by patterns of electoral volatility, alongside the recent economic and ongoing refugee crisis. This has allowed ‘populist’ parties on both the right and left to capitalise on the electoral failure of mainstream centre left and right parties.

There has been a considerable amount of research on the recent rise of populist radical right and populist radical left parties. A number of studies have shown that these parties have shaken up the political landscape in contemporary European politics during times of economic and political crisis. But surprisingly few studies have examined the electoral fortunes of radical right and left parties together.

Electoral gains

The figure below demonstrates that in the last two national parliamentary elections that fall across the recent refugee crisis period, the radical right made the largest electoral gains in EU countries. Mainstream centre left parties suffered the largest losses, underlining the electoral downfall of this party family in the post-economic crisis period and wider anti-incumbency effects. Radical left parties performed well electorally, but their electoral gains were considerably lower than those of radical right parties. (Read more)


Rajiv Gandhi’s Foreign Policy: Diplomacy in Tough Times

Antony Clement

Modern Diplomacy

The end of the World War II in 1945 gave the birth to Cold War among the two superpowers. The U.S. and the USSR had respectively been spreading their ideologies (Capitalism and Socialism) across the globe. This was continued till the disintegration of the Soviet in 1991. International relations scholars described 1980s as the peak period of bipolar competition which had already expanded to the Indian Sub-continent. Shri Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of our country during that time (1984-89).

Throughout the Cold War many developing countries were on the hinge, had stuck without moving either side but wedged with Non-allied Movement (NAM). Moreover, at that time India was leading the NAM, a trustful head for the Third World countries. Further, throughout the Cold War playoffs, building relations with other countries were not only a hard task but getting a new partner would be seen as suspicious in our old friend’s camp. Hence, in the Cold War era reaching out to new friends while keeping the old friends close to us was one of the difficult jobs and challenging. In general, articulating strategy and diplomacy would be really a tough choice but necessary. If a single word is spelt out wrongly would have greater consequences in the international stage. However, the neorealist thinker Kenneth Waltz “believes that bipolar systems are more stable and thus provide a better guarantee of peace and security” (Read more)


Treaties and Irrelevance: Understanding Iran’s Suit Against the U.S. for Reimposing Nuclear Sanctions

Elena Chachko


As the United States gradually reimposes sanctions following its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal (formally  the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), the other parties to the agreement are beginning to advance their own legal measures in response. The European Union is set to activate its “Blocking Regulation” to protect EU companies doing business with Iran from U.S. sanctions. Iran just initiated proceedings against the United States in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to enjoin the reinstatement of U.S. nuclear sanctions. The case tees up an interesting question: whether, under international law, a treaty can be abrogated because too much has changed in the relationship between the parties. In other words, can a treaty become inapplicable because it is simply irrelevant? (Read more)



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

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Is a Storm Brewing in the Taiwan Strait? (£)

Michael Mazza

Foreign Affairs

On June 24, in her first interview with Western media in well over a year, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen called on the international community to “work together to reaffirm our values of democracy and freedom in order to constrain China and also minimize the expansion of their hegemonic influence.” These are remarkably strong words for a president of the Republic of China (Taiwan)—even for Tsai, a member of the notionally independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Since Tsai was elected in 2016, she has remained committed to the status quo in cross-strait relations, despite what she called in her interview “immense pressure” from Beijing. This means maintaining de facto rather than de jure independence for Taiwan, conducting cross-strait affairs in accordance with the ROC constitution and extant legislation, and respecting previously negotiated cross-strait agreements.

Beijing, on the other hand, has intensified its efforts to unify Taiwan and mainland China under Beijing’s “one China” principle. In response to the 2016 election in Taiwan—in which the DPP gained simultaneous control of the executive and legislative branches for the first time—Chinese President Xi Jinping immediately launched a pressure campaign on the island, beginning even while the relatively China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou government was still in office. In the 35 months since Tsai’s victory, Beijing has cut off official communications across the strait, stolen Taipei’s diplomatic allies, used economic leverage to punish Taiwan, ensured Taiwan’s exclusion from international forums, and increased the pace and scope of military exercises in the waters surrounding the island. Xi shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. (Read more)


Zimbabwe was united. This election has divided us again

Blessing-Miles Tendi

The Guardian

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the leader of the ruling Zanu-PF party, has been declared the winner of Zimbabwe’s presidential election. But his margin of victory – he garnered 50.8% of the votes – has led the main challenger, Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (who secured 44% of the votes), to describe the result as rigged.

Now questions are being asked about what the poll outcome means for Zimbabwe’s future, and the political debate is already rapidly shifting.

Last November, when the military coup led to Robert Mugabe being replaced as president by Mnangagwa, many in the west were unwilling to condemn it. They saw Mugabe as the key impediment to economic and political reform and looked to the staging of a free, fair and credible poll in 2018 as an important step towards re-engagement with the country. (Read more)


‘We’re both outsiders’: Trump casts himself and Italy’s populist prime minister as kindred spirits

David Nakamura and Anne Gearan

Washington Post

President Trump on Monday praised Italy’s populist Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte for striking a hard line on immigration and used his visit to the White House to reiterate a threat to shut down the federal government over border-control funding.

Trump and Conte, who was installed last month to lead an anti-establishment coalition government, expressed camaraderie on a range of issues, billing themselves as kindred spirits in their bids to upset the status quo.

During a joint news conference, Trump said he is the “most closely aligned” with Conte over any of the other five leaders in the Group of Seven nations, which include U.S. allies France, Germany and Britain. The two first met at the G-7 summit in Canada last month, where Trump disrupted what had typically been a close-knit economic dialogue by abruptly yanking support for a joint statement after the conference. (Read more)


The anti-imperial empire? (£)

David Armitage

Times Literary Supplement

The United States has long been the peakaboo empire: now you see it, now you don’t. The American empire comes into focus at moments of stress or success – the Spanish–American War, the Second World War, 9/11, the Second Gulf War – but fades away when the crisis abates. Empire-talk has tracked these peaks and troughs: it ramped up during the second Bush presidency but then fell off markedly during the Obama years. It has barely returned under the Trump administration, despite all its bluster about “making America great again”, the President’s frustrated inability to detach himself from his predecessors’ military commitments, and the country’s seeming death-struggle with China for global hegemony. Where are the empire analysts of yesteryear? When, if ever, will the American empire reappear? (Read more)


The Venezuelan exodus: placing Latin America in the global conversation on migration management

Nicolas Parent and Luisa Feline Freier

LSE Latin America and Caribbean Centre Blog

Though media and politicians in the Global North have condemned Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and denounced the political conditions which have wrought socioeconomic horrors on the country since 2014, they have not been so swift to tune into regional responses to the resulting migratory outflows.

With respect to social science research, there are very few migration scholars who have written on topic. Reflecting the well-established divide between the Global North and South in the production of knowledge, migration scholars in the West typically focus on international South-North migration.

As public and political awareness affects not only the global conversation on forced migration but also policy responses, there is a need to place the Venezuelan exodus – the largest forced displacement of people in the history of Latin America – in the conversation on global migration management, as is clear when we compare it to the European migration crisis (2014-2016). (Read more)


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

The lights temporarily go out in the Cabinet Room as U.S. President Donald Trump talks about his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a meeting with House Republicans at the White House on July 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

RIP American Exceptionalism, 1776-2018

Daniel Sargent

Foreign Policy

When Benjamin Franklin went to France on a mission to win support for America’s fledging revolution, his fur hat intrigued Parisians, spurring emulation. But the fashion choice was also a considered statement of the distinct values of his country. From the very beginning, the affirmation of republican probity has remained a touchstone for U.S. diplomacy, just as a sense of the United States as a nation “conceived in liberty” has informed Americans’ understanding of their place in the world. As citizens of the “freest of all nations,” as Ulysses S. Grant put it, Americans favored “people struggling for liberty and self-government.”

It’s true that United States became in the 20th century an imperial republic, but even then, it disavowed conquest and subjugation. Liberation and emancipation became the refrain for America’s many wars, animated by President Woodrow Wilson’s refrain that the United States battles tyrants but emancipates ordinary people. The United States would even strive to elevate and redeem the citizens of the Axis powers it defeated in 1945. After 9/11, the trope became entrenched, as President George W. Bush aimed to sever al Qaeda from Islam and Iraqis from their president. “The tyrant will soon be gone,” Bush promised Iraqis. “The day of your liberation is near.” What other conquering power has code-named a major military operation for the liberation of the invaded, as Bush did with Iraq? (Doubtless it did not occur to Hitler’s high command to dub Operation Barbarossa “Operation Soviet Freedom.”) (Read more)


Can Imran Khan Really Reform Pakistan?

Steve Coll

The New Yorker

In 2011 and 2012, when Imran Khan, the former international cricket star and London night-club Lothario, first emerged from Pakistan’s political wilderness, he rode an Arab Spring-inspired wave of urban middle-class hopes for cleaner politics and better government. If Khan, a celebrity with his own income, came to power, the thinking went, then he might sweep away the family-based nepotism and corruption that had so curtailed Pakistan’s progress since independence, in 1947, and perhaps also loosen the Army’s grip on the country. Hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic, educated young people attended his rallies in cities such as Lahore, the country’s cultural capital. Khan fired them up by talking about a coming revolution in Pakistani politics, one that would modernize governance, attack inequality, and level the economic playing field through the impartial rule of law.

Khan’s tiny political party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, or P.T.I., expanded rapidly, and it surged in national and provincial elections, ultimately leading a provincial government for a number of years, to mixed reviews. But Khan fell short of winning a high national office and, in recent years, he has largely played a role of opposition agitator and provocateur. Now he appears to be within close reach of his ambition to serve as the Prime Minister. According to results in Pakistan’s general election, held on Wednesday, the P.T.I. won the most seats, by far, in Parliament, although not an absolute majority. The expectation is that Khan will be able to negotiate a majority coalition by attracting support from smaller parties and independent members of parliament. (Read more)


A Surveillance State Unlike Any the World Has Ever Seen

Bernhard Zand

Der Spiegel

These days, the city of Kashgar in westernmost China feels a bit like Baghdad after the war. The sound of wailing sirens fills the air, armed trucks patrol the streets and fighter jets roar above the city. The few hotels that still host a smattering of tourists are surrounded by high concrete walls. Police in protective vests and helmets direct the traffic with sweeping, bossy gestures, sometimes yelling at those who don’t comply.

But now and then, a ghostly calm descends on the city. Just after noon, when it’s time for Friday prayers, the square in front of the huge Id Kah Mosque lies empty. There’s no muezzin piercing the air, just a gentle buzz on the rare occasion that someone passes through the metal detector at the entrance to the mosque. Dozens of surveillance cameras overlook the square. Security forces, some in uniform and others in plain-clothes, do the rounds of the Old Town with such stealth it’s as if they were trying to read people’s minds. (Read more)


White Helmets heroes: time running out for volunteer of the Syrian war

Hannah Lucinda Smith

The Times

To some they are heroes, to others terrorists. No other group in Syria’s messy and prolonged civil war has divided opinion as sharply as the White Helmets.

Unarmed, unpaid, and trained according to a manual drawn up for firefighters during the Blitz, on paper these search-and-rescue workers should make easy good guys. They estimate that they have saved more than 100,000 lives, often digging through rubble with their hands as fighter jets swoop round above them to come in for a second strike.

But a concerted propaganda campaign against them, spearheaded by President Assad’s supporters, has found traction around the world. (Read more)


Trump and Brexit: how can the US and UK media tackle a culture of lies?

Richard Wolffe

The Guardian

This is a story of two media cultures struggling to cope with the political rise of brazen liars.

The BBC’s Emily Maitlis distilled the challenge when she demolished Sean Spicer, the hapless former White House press secretary, with a simple description of the simpleton’s record, starting with his whoppers about the crowds on the mall at Donald Trump’s inauguration.

“You joked about it when you presented the Emmy awards. But it wasn’t a joke,” said Maitlis. “It was the start of the most corrosive culture. You played with the truth. You led us down a dangerous path. You have corrupted discourse for the entire world by going along with these lies.” (Read more)