Archive for the ‘Op Ed’ Category

4
Dec

As a theoretical physicist based in Cambridge, I have lived my life in an extraordinarily privileged bubble. Cambridge is an unusual town, centred around one of the world’s great universities. Within that town, the scientific community that I became part of in my 20s is even more rarefied.

And within that scientific community, the small group of international theoretical physicists with whom I have spent my working life might sometimes be tempted to regard themselves as the pinnacle. In addition to this, with the celebrity that has come with my books, and the isolation imposed by my illness, I feel as though my ivory tower is getting taller.

So the recent apparent rejection of the elites in both America and Britain is surely aimed at me, as much as anyone. Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European Union and by the American public to embrace Donald Trump as their next president, there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.

It was, everyone seems to agree, the moment when the forgotten spoke, finding their voices to reject the advice and guidance of experts and the elite everywhere. Read more…

by Stephen Hawking; Thursday 1 December 2016 ; theguardian.com

21
Nov

“It looks like it is now just Germany and Canada holding down the Western world,” an elected politician from one of Germany’s prosperous western states told me over dinner this week. I started to laugh, but he put up his hand – he was being serious. He launched into a depressing tour of the countries once known as the Group of Eight, most of them sliding into chaos or extremism or long-term political paralysis.

At the head of the table, the United States is weeks away from falling off the political map, as far as its trade and military partners are concerned: Donald Trump’s administration will be, at best, unstable and untrustworthy; at worst, it will be a voice of toxic extremism to be shunned and avoided. Britain fell off in June, its Brexit referendum and harsh-edged new government limiting its relations with the world to a negotiated retreat, its future too uncertain for anyone to strike up commitments.

France is in deep crisis in advance of an election next year that could have frightening results: a victory by the race-hatred candidate Marine Le Pen or a lunge far rightward by conservatives to stave her off. Italy appears an oasis of sanity under Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, but his reforms are under attack and his government could be on the edge of collapse. Poland and Hungary have extreme, xenophobic governments that are withdrawing from international co-operation. Scandinavian countries are wrestling with coalition governments that include extremists.

And Russia, which has been lost for a long time, seems poised to establish a bloc of states with illiberal, authoritarian governments aimed against the liberal democracies – a bloc that could now come to include the United States. Scanning the horizon from Berlin in search of safe partnerships, there’s Canada. And, as Germans kept telling me this week, not much else. Read more…

Published on Nov. 19, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/, Doug Saunders

4
Nov

‘Brexit is the greatest threat to national wellbeing since the war, and this will test the mettle not just of individual MPs, but of the nature and purpose of a representative democratic system.’

A momentous constitutional decision was taken by the high court of England and Wales this morning. A prime minister’s absolute power to do what they like, when they like, regardless of laws and treaties, was struck down. Theresa May cannot tear up our right to be EU citizens without the authority of parliament. Those rights were bestowed by parliamentary votes in a series of treaties. She can’t high-handedly abandon them and trigger our exit from the EU without parliament’s agreement.

Judges, wisely, do not generally want to usurp the power of elected governments to govern. Laws made by judges are a poor substitute for those made by elected MPs in parliament. But this is a matter of the profoundest constitutional importance, with deep implications, controversial whichever way they had decided. They rightly pronounced that parliament is sovereign – which is what the Brexiters claimed we were voting on, until it no longer suited them. Read more…

https://www.theguardian.com; Polly Toynbee; 3 Nov. 2016

26
Aug

However tempting it is to keep writing about Donald Trump, I’m going to move on to less bizarre topics. Last week I participated in a panel at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on the implications of the Brexit vote (along with Leslie Vinjamuri of the University of London and Barry Posen and Francis Gavin of MIT). Their comments got me thinking— and not for the first time — about where the world is headed these days.

It’s easy to understand why people think the current world order is rapidly unraveling. Despite steady reductions in global poverty, the continued absence of great power war, and mind-boggling advances in science and technology, world politics doesn’t look nearly as promising as it did a couple of decades ago. It’s still possible to offer an upbeat view of the foreign policy agenda — as Joe Biden recently did — but the vice president is not exactly the most objective judge. He thinks the next president will be able to build on the Obama administration’s successes, but a more candid evaluation would conclude that the next president — whoever it might be — is going to face some serious challenges. Read more…

 

  • By Stephen M. Walt
  • August 21, 2016
  • Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

 

15
Aug

In the next few months, a mixed force of Iraqi Arab and Kurdish security forces — including various Sunni and perhaps some Shiite militia elements — will enter Mosul, clear the city of Islamic State extremists and then work to bring governance, stability and reconstruction to one of Iraq’s most complex cities and its province.

There is no question that the Islamic State will be defeated in Mosul; the real question is what comes afterward. Can the post-Islamic State effort resolve the squabbling likely to arise over numerous issues and bring lasting stability to one of Iraq’s most diverse and challenging provinces? Failure to do so could lead to ISIS 3.0.

The prospect of the operation to clear Mosul brings to mind experiences from the spring of 2003, when the 101st Airborne Division, which I was privileged to command, entered a Mosul in considerable turmoil. Our first task, once a degree of order had been restored, was to determine how to establish governance. That entailed getting Iraqi partners to help run the city of nearly 2 million people and the rest of Nineveh Province — a very large area about which we knew very little.

Establishing a representative interim council to work with us in Nineveh proved to be no easy task — and its formation and subsequent developments hold insights for the coming endeavor in Mosul. Read more…

David Petraeus is a retired U.S. Army general who commanded coalition forces in Iraq from 2007 to 2008 and Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011 and served as CIA director from 2011 to 2012. He is a partner in a major global investment firm.

August 12th, thewashingtonpost.com

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