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

 (Evan Vucci)

(Image: Evan Vucci)

Stop calling Trump a ‘Russian dupe.’ The truth is much worse

Greg Sargent

Washington Post

You hear it constantly: President Trump is a “Russian dupe.” Republicans spreading lies about Ukrainian interference in 2016 are Vladimir Putin’s “useful idiots.” By getting Trump to adopt those lies rather than admit to Russian interference, the Russian leader has skillfully played on Trump’s “ego.”

As the impeachment inquiry heads into its next phase, such phrases will be everywhere. In a New York Times editorial that excoriates Trump and Republicans over the Ukraine lie, we get this: “In Mr. Trump, Mr. Putin found the perfect dupe to promote even the most crackpot of theories.”

It’s time for a reconsideration of this concept. We need to be much clearer on why Trump himself is doing these things — that is, on his true purpose in employing these lies to serve his own corrupt interests. (Read more)



Why do politicians lie? Because voters don’t want the truth (£)

Robert Crampton

Sunday Times

Falling asleep in front of Question Time the week before last I was jolted awake by a question I’d given up writing in my notebook. “Why,” a woman in the audience asked the panel of politicians and commentators, “do you lie all the time? Wouldn’t it be better if you just told us the truth?”

Reporting from Lancashire, Yorkshire and Teesside earlier in the campaign, I’d come across this plea and its close cousins many times over. “You can’t trust any of them.” “They’re all the same.” “They’re all in it for themselves.” “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, or if you vote at all, it doesn’t make any difference.” “I don’t believe a word they say.” (Read more)


China Isn’t the Soviet Union. Confusing the Two Is Dangerous.

Melvyn P. Leffler

The Atlantic

Anyone looking for evidence of a growing economic and ideological conflict between China and the United States will have no trouble finding something—the trade war now roiling both countries’ economies, the standoff between police and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, Beijing’s swift retaliation against the NBA over a single Houston Rockets executive’s tweet in support of those same protesters. President Donald Trump seems to think a new cold war is at hand. His national-security strategy statement identifies China as an adversary bent on dismantling a U.S.-centered global order and forging a new one in its own favor. This point of view is catching on outside the administration, too. Earlier this year, the Committee on the Present Danger relaunched once again. First organized in the late 1940s to push for a massive military buildup and revived in the 1970s to promote a more confrontational approach toward the Soviet Union, the group now seeks to mobilize Americans for an existential struggle against China.

I am a historian who has been writing about the U.S.-Soviet Cold War for nearly three decades. However tempting the analogy might be as China’s influence and military strength grow, invoking it now is profoundly wrong. The Cold War happened not simply because there were two superpowers in the world, but because of the specific circumstances confronting the United States after 1945. The historical context in which the United States operates today, the prevailing configuration of power in the international arena, and the ideological appeal of the rival regime are all entirely different. In today’s circumstances, Cold War–era policies—starting with the containment strategy adopted in the late 1940s—are not only unnecessary, but likely to catalyze a destructive spiral of heightening tensions that would make the world a more dangerous place. (Read more)


COP25: Climate summit kicks off as Guterres issues stark warning

Alasdair Fotheringham

Al Jazeera

United Nations leaders and delegates kicked off COP25 on Monday in Madrid, launching a two-week summit on climate change with warnings over the fast-rising perils of a global environmental challenge.

“By the end of the coming decade we will be on one of two paths, one of which is sleepwalking past the point of no return,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his opening address.

“Do we want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sand and fiddled as the planet burned?”

The other pathway, Guterres said, was to aim for carbon neutrality by 2050. (Read more)


“Democracy Facing Global Challenges” – V-Dem Annual Democracy Report 2019


Democracy in decline in more countries than ever before.

This year’s Democracy Report is titled “Democracy Facing Global Challenges”. Democratic declines now affect more countries than ever before. Still, most democracies remain resilient despite challenges such as the financial crises and the rampant spread of fake news on social media. Yet, we show that government manipulation of the media, weakening of civil society, the rule of law and even elections is increasing.

There are also some positive stories to report from 2018. Central Asia recorded its first ever peaceful handover of power from one democratically elected leader to another in Kyrgyzstan. In Malaysia, an autocrat surprisingly lost in the elections despite electoral manipulation – showing that even in autocratic settings, elections can be a force for change. Pro-democratic movements have also mobilized masses of people across the globe in 2018 and 2019, for instance in Algeria, Armenia, Slovakia, and Sudan. (Read more)


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