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


Russian Demographics and Power: Does the Kremlin have a long game?

Michael Kofman

War on the Rocks

One of the oft-voiced constraints on the longevity, or perhaps durability, of Russian power is that of its demographic decline. If there is a mainstay of wisdom in Washington, it is that Russia’s underperforming economy, and a terrible demographic outlook, mean that Russia doesn’t have a “long game.” President Barack Obama echoed this view in 2014:

I do think it’s important to keep perspective. Russia doesn’t make anything. Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking.’ (Read more)


Are the 1930s the true historical parallel for Labour today?

Colm Murphy

Prospect Magazine

As Labour’s leadership contest drags on, the temptation to revisit the party’s past is powerful. One place to look is its “wilderness years” of 1979-1997. Yet, Labour has a longer history, and the troubled 1930s are especially riven with striking parallels. Perhaps, then, mournful Labour members seeking inspiration should return to this grim decade?

After all, the 30s opened with an economic catastrophe, swiftly followed by a near-fatal election defeat. Labour had the misfortune to find itself in government when the reapers of the Wall Street Crash and Great Depression crossed the Atlantic. Buffeted by the whirlwind, Labour’s prime minister Ramsay MacDonald reached for orthodox medicine: fiscal retrenchment to defend the gold standard. When this divided his own party, he jumped ship and ran on a “National” ticket with the Conservatives and some Liberals, leaving Labour to crumble to a crushing defeat in 1931. Despite the obvious differences, an existential economic crisis followed by a ringing electoral endorsement of the right will sound familiar to any observer of British current affairs since 2008. (Read more)


Amid Lebanon’s Economic Crisis, The Country’s Health Care System Is Ailing

Deborah Amos and Lama Al-Arian


Like many Lebanese, Jesuit priest Gabriel Khairallah has been on the front lines of anti-government protests for more than three months.

“I mean, what am I doing on the front? I am against corruption and seeking social justice, and the same for the doctors,” he says.

He’s done much more than protest on the streets — in recent weeks, he also opened a low-cost medical clinic in the annex of Beirut’s St. Joseph Church.

In Khairallah’s clinic, which is run mostly by volunteers, the cost of a visit is about $5 and is waived for those who can’t afford it. More than 30 doctors serve on a rotating basis, providing specialized care in cardiology, pediatrics, gynecology and orthopedics. Khairallah also corralled pharmacies to donate certain medicines. (Read more)


Liberal democracy has failed in Nigeria

Moses E. Ochonu

Africa is a Country

When I was an undergraduate at Bayero University in Kano, Nigeria, in the mid 1990s, I was enthralled by liberal democracy. The concept came to us as students, a generation accustomed to military rule and its oppressions, spruced up in superlative adjectives. I wrote a laudatory term paper on it in light of Francis Fukuyama’s triumphalist proclamation of the dawn of liberal democracy as the end of history.

More than twenty years later, I am ashamed to admit that I was duped. I am not the only one. Backed by millions of dollars from Western pro-democracy foundations and governments, Nigeria’s civil society and pro-democracy activists sheepishly adopted the rhetorical claims of liberal democracy. We all assumed that liberal democracy was the only form of democracy and that any modification of or deviation from its proclaimed ideals was sacrilegious. Twenty years later, civilian rule in Nigeria has not brought the vaunted benefits of democracy—development, accountability, and civic freedoms. (Read more)


The Jim Crow Army in the Philippine-American War

Matthew Willis


The Philippine-American War of 1899-1902 is barely remembered by Americans. Even less well remembered are the more than 6,000 African American soldiers who took part.

In the immediate aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States annexed the Philippines. This came as a disappointment to Filipino nationalists who had welcomed American help in their revolt against Spanish colonialism. No more interested in being run by Washington, D.C., than they were in being controlled by Madrid, Filipinos under Emilio Aguinaldo waged a guerrilla war against the occupying American forces. Of the 126,500 Americans who served, 4,200 were killed. Some 20,000 Filipino soldiers were killed, along with an estimated 200,000 civilians. The Philippines would not become an independent nation until 1946. (Read more)


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