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

Roger Stone

(Image: Mary F. Calvert/Reuters)

Stone Walks Free in One of the Greatest Scandals in American History

David Frum

Atlantic

Roger Stone’s best trick was always his upper-class-twit wardrobe. He seemed such a farcical character, such a Klaxon-alarm-from-a-mile-away goofball—who could take him seriously?

Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen: They had tradecraft. They didn’t troll people on Instagram or blab to reporters. They behaved in the way you would expect of people betraying their country: conscious of the magnitude of their acts, determined to avoid the limelight.

Stone could not have been more different. He clowned, he cavorted, he demanded limelight—which made it in some ways impossible to imagine that he could have done anything seriously amiss. Bank robbers don’t go on Twitter to announce, “Hey, I’m going to rob a bank, sorry, not sorry.” Or so you’d expect. (Read more)

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Singapore’s First Election Under the Fake News Law

Paul Meyer

Diplomat

Amid COVID-19 restrictions, campaigning activities are limited to the bare minimum for Singapore’s 2020 general election, set for July 10. There will be no physical rallies; instead, political parties are relying on livestream gatherings and social media communication to reach out to their constituents.

In a country with harsh restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, a de facto limitation of campaigning to social media could be an opportunity to observe a fairer election process. The asymmetry of resources needed for physical campaigning and to mobilize crowds would be cushioned by the equalization effect of social media. At least, that could have been the case if the city-state authorities had not released a controversial fake news law last October. (Read more)

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The humbling of the Anglo-American world

Edward Luce

Financial Times

It takes effort to recapture how Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s hastened the demise of the Soviet Union. Images of that triumphal moment are as fresh as yesterday. The atmospherics smell of another era. Yet it is worth the effort.

America and Britain’s poor responses to Covid-19 can be traced partly to post-cold war self-congratulation — the belief that neither had much to learn from the rest of the world. In a few short months a microbe has exposed the underside to Anglo-American hubris. It could take far longer to undo the pandemic’s damage to their brands.

The tale is best captured graphically. With the exception of Sweden, continental Europe succeeded in May in flattening its infection curve. Its countries have been taking measured steps to keep it flat. Most of east Asia had already achieved that in April. (Read more)

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Russia and the Gulag: Putin is fighting for state control over how Soviet horrors are remembered

Andrea Gullotta

The Conversation

Army soldiers digging mass graves to try and show that the state wasn’t responsible for the dead. A historian who vehemently disagrees behind bars on charges that many believe are false. Organisations that support him being attacked by an omnipotent power. It might sound like some movie, but this is Russia in 2020. These are three snapshots of the war currently being fought over how the Gulag is remembered.

The Gulag was the system of Soviet concentration camps (also known as gulags) in which at least 20 million people were kept over more than six decades. More widely, Gulag identifies the different strands of Soviet repression, including the arrest, execution and forced exile of thousands of victims who were never imprisoned in the camps. (Read more)

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Why a Biden Administration Shouldn’t Turn the Page on the Trump Era

Kevin M. Kruse

Vanity Fair

As Joe Biden looks ahead to the presidency, he should look back as well.

When he first entered the White House, as Barack Obama’s vice president, Democrats faced a crisis nearly as large as the combined health and economic panics confronting them now. But back then, Obama’s team had little interest in holding accountable the individuals and institutions that created those problems. Whether it was Wall Street bankers or CIA torturers, Obama insisted he wanted to “turn the page” and “look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” A range of wrongdoers paid no price and, as a result, many went on to make the same mistakes again.

If Democrats actually want to move on from the Trump era, they’ll first have to provide a real reckoning with the past. Not everything can be probed, of course. But a deep dive into the administration’s mishandling of the coronavirus and other crises, plus its wider pattern of incompetence and corruption, would be warranted.

On this point, a look back at the most successful Democratic administration in American history—Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal—is illustrative. (Read more)

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