Archive for the ‘Regions’ Category

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

31
Oct

THE Chinese Communist Party likes to describe threats to its grip on power in barely comprehensible terms. Over the past three decades, it has struggled against the menace of “bourgeois liberalisation” (leaving many wondering whether there is an acceptable proletarian kind) and fought against “peaceful evolution” (exceedingly dangerous, for some reason, unlike “reform and opening up”). Now Xi Jinping, China’s president, is waging war against “historical nihilism”, a peril as arcane-sounding as it is, to his mind, grave. As a state news agency recently warned, there is a “seething undercurrent” of it in China. Failure to stamp it out, officials say, could lead to Soviet-style collapse.

Days before the party’s 350 or so most senior officials gathered in Beijing this week for a secretive conclave (as they normally do in the autumn), a party website published a compendium of Mr Xi’s public remarks on the nihilist problem (intriguingly headlined: “Xi Jinping: There Can Be No Nothingness in History”). People’s Daily, the party’s main mouthpiece, marked the start of the meeting with a commentary laced with references to the lessons of history, including the collapse of the Soviet Communist Party.

Against the flow

So what are the nihilists doing that so troubles China’s leaders? Mr Jiang’s main concern was a television series broadcast in 1988 called “River Elegy”, which had portrayed China as a country weighed down by a long history of backwardness and inward-looking conservatism. The documentary programmes had prompted energetic debate among intellectuals about how to reform China that helped foment the following year’s unrest. Read more…

The Economist, Oct 29th 2016

26
Oct

A thundercloud, heavy and dark gray. That is what it looks like from a distance. But the closer you get to Mosul from the south, the bigger and darker this cloud becomes. Instead of floating in the sky, it grows out of the ground, ultimately becoming a towering, opaque wall that swallowing entire villages, making them disappear into the darkness.

 Driving to Mosul is a drive into the apocalypse. Or at least that’s what it feels like, with the gigantic clouds of smoke coming from burning oil wells, reservoirs and ditches — laid out by Islamic State over the last two years and now set alight one after the other. Although it would normally be a sunny midday in fall, the military jeeps coming from the other direction have their lights on.

The dark curtain is meant to keep the attackers’ jets and helicopters at bay; the smoke irritates the throat and causes headaches. An armada of over 30,000 soldiers and fighters from at least a half-dozen countries began a major offensive against the de-facto capital of the “caliphate” in northern Iraq last Monday. It is not only the biggest coalition to have assembled in the fight against Islamic State (IS), it is also the least predictable. Read more…

 

http://www.spiegel.de/; By Christopher Reuter; Oct. 22nd

18
Oct

In Washington’s ongoing debate about the cause of the continuing chaos in the Middle East, President George W. Bush stands condemned for the 2003 intervention that pushed Iraq into civil war, while President Obama stands condemned for the nonintervention that worsened Syria’s civil war. In Libya, meanwhile, Washington’s partial intervention also failed to bring peace, while too few Americans are even aware of their country’s role in the conflict afflicting Yemen.

Without trying to defend or absolve U.S. policy, then, it is worth stepping back to ask what shared historical experiences might have left these four countries — Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen — particularly at risk of violent collapse. The following maps help highlight how, at various points over the past century, historical circumstances conspired, in an often self-reinforcing way, to bolster the stability of some states in the region while undermining that of others.

1. Century-old states are more stable today

Countries whose political or geographic precedents stretch back over a century are more stable today. Turkey, Egypt, Iran, and, to some extent, the ruling dynasties of what are now Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, all, in one form or another, trace their current political structures to the late 19th century, before European colonialism took root in the region. Consequently, they were more likely to have the resources to maintain some independence in the face of European imperialism, or at least negotiate a less disruptive form of colonial rule.

 

Read more…

3
Oct

Europe Needs Its Realist Past

Written on October 3, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, Foreign Policy, Security

As Europe’s troubles deepen and pose more of a threat to the vital interests of the U.S., Americans are recycling their tried and tested critiques of the European Union: It is too statist and bureaucratic. Its instincts are too protectionist. Its decision-making bodies are too slow and secretive. EU foreign policy is too naive, too feckless about defense and security. The problem with Europe, in a word, is that it is too European.

But the EU isn’t in trouble today because its leaders are “too European.” The EU is in trouble because its leadership isn’t European enough. It is time for the continent to return to the tradition of realist politics that gave rise to its modern union in the first place.

It is easy today to forget just how hardheaded the original architects of Europe’s postwar drive for integration actually were. Charles de Gaulle of France, Konrad Adenauer of West Germany and Alcide De Gasperi of Italy were conservative nationalists whose vision for Europe reflected the bitter experiences of two world wars and a failed peace.

In its origins, European unity was an unsentimental exercise in geopolitics. Germany and Italy saw it as a way to reintegrate into the world after the disaster of fascism. France saw a coalition with a defeated and partitioned Germany as a way to cement its power in Europe and to strengthen its global reach. All these governments saw European unity as a way to keep the Old World as independent as possible from both Moscow and Washington. “Europe will be your revenge,” Adenauer told de Gaulle after the humiliation of the Suez crisis in 1956, when the U.S. forced France and Britain to back down from a joint campaign with Israel against Egypt.

These leaders did not think that submerging their national histories and identities in a cosmopolitan, post-national Europe was either possible or desirable. They supported Europe because it seemed to be the best way forward for the peoples they led. For its part, the U.S. backed the project because a united Western Europe offered the best hope to stop communism in the short term and to prevent the recurrence of major European wars farther down the road. Read more…

 

 

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