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

We can’t breathe

Gary Younge

New Statesman

I had been spending a fair amount of time reporting from the Caribbean when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in August 2005. Making my way to the Crescent City from Kingston, Jamaica, I arrived to see US troops stationed outside the Harrah’s casino, as mostly black people were plucked from trees and roofs, and bodies floated down main streets and started decomposing in houses.

It wasn’t just the levees that had been breached but the facade of a First World nation: one of the United States’ most celebrated cities appeared like Port-au-Prince, only with skyscrapers.

The hurricane had not created the inequalities of race and class so evident in the aftermath; it had simply laid them bare. When Katrina struck more than 44 per cent of New Orleans residents were functionally illiterate; close to one in three African Americans in Louisiana lived in poverty; rates of black infant mortality in the state were worse than infant mortality in Sri Lanka, and black male life expectancy was the same as that for men in Kyrgyzstan. African Americans were less likely to leave town before the storm came because they were less likely to have cars or cash. As thousands of people, most of them black, flocked to the convention centre, in search of shelter and sustenance, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, said, “We’re seeing people that we didn’t know exist.” (Read more)


History Will Judge the Complicit

Anne Applebaum


On a cold march afternoon in 1949, Wolfgang Leonhard slipped out of the East German Communist Party Secretariat, hurried home, packed what few warm clothes he could fit into a small briefcase, and then walked to a telephone box to call his mother. “My article will be finished this evening,” he told her. That was the code they had agreed on in advance. It meant that he was escaping the country, at great risk to his life.

Though only 28 years old at the time, Leonhard stood at the pinnacle of the new East German elite. The son of German Communists, he had been educated in the Soviet Union, trained in special schools during the war, and brought back to Berlin from Moscow in May 1945, on the same airplane that carried Walter Ulbricht, the leader of what would soon become the East German Communist Party. Leonhard was put on a team charged with re‑creating Berlin’s city government. (Read more)


Around the world, the U.S. has long been a symbol of anti-black racism

Nana Osei-Opare

Washington Post

The extrajudicial killing of George Floyd has sparked days of unrest and protest around the United States. What is less well known but no less important is how this event has sparked massive anti-racism protests around the world, including in Nairobi, Lagos, London, Berlin, Toronto and most recently, Paris.

Among black Africans, anger and criticism have spread widely on social media platforms. The African Union also waded into the controversy. It released a statement on May 29 condemning Floyd’s murder “at the hands of law enforcement officers.” And on June 1, the Zimbabwean government summoned the U.S. ambassador to explain Floyd’s death.


These represent only the most recent episode in a long global history of black protest and activism against anti-black violence. Throughout the last century, the United States has projected itself as a global leader of liberty, democracy and freedom. But on questions of race, America has consistently been on the wrong side of history — and the world has noticed. (Read more)


China ‘needs to win over Europe’ after loss of trust and impact of US rivalry

Wendy Wu


As the United States puts pressure on its allies to stand against China, Beijing must act to rebuild its relations with the European Union, business and diplomatic observers have said.
The EU has so far avoided taking sides in a China-US rivalry that has expanded to multiple fronts, but Beijing should not be complacent after an economic rift with the bloc and loss of political trust, the observers said.
When Washington imposed tariffs on Chinese imports to set off the US-China trade war in 2018, Beijing warned Europe not to “stab China in the back”, yet the continent has since criticised China on issues including trade, the coronavirus and its actions in Hong Kong. (Read more)


Law and order won’t help Trump win reelection

Kevin M. Kruse

Washington Post

As protests over police brutality rage across the nation, President Trump predictably responded with a call for an aggressive response against rioters.

“Get tough Democrat Mayors and Governors,” he tweeted Sunday. “These people are ANARCHISTS. Call in our National Guard NOW.” On Monday, he held a conference call with the nation’s governors, urging them to seek “retribution” against rioters he characterized as “scum” and “terrorists.” “You have to dominate or you’ll look like a bunch of jerks,” he told the governors; “you have to arrest and try people.” His approach was summed up in a simple all-caps tweet: “LAW & ORDER!”

The president’s theme is a familiar one for him. During the 2016 campaign, he insisted that “I am the law and order candidate,” and during his inaugural address he promised that “this American carnage stops right here and right now.” (Read more)


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