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

Opinion | Trump's insulting the troops is just the latest episode of the 'nothing  matters' presidency - The Washington Post

(Image: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

Trump’s insulting the troops is just the latest episode of the ‘nothing matters’ presidency

Max Boot

Washington Post

At the end of James Michener’s Korean War novel, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” an admiral notes the bravery of aviators who are flying perilous missions against the enemy. “Where do we get such men?” he asks.

Apparently President Trump wonders the same thing — but not in a complimentary way. The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, quotes Trump telling aides that the men and women who have given their lives for their country were “suckers” and “losers.” “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” he reportedly asked his then-homeland security secretary, retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, as the two men stood by the grave of Kelly’s son, who was killed in Afghanistan. Trump’s own view of the military seems to echo Sonny Corleone’s. In “The Godfather, Part II,” the mafia scion says of the men enlisting after Pearl Harbor: “They’re saps, because they risk their lives for strangers.” (Read more)

The world to come: The cycles of history

Quinn Slobodian

New Statesman

Bazookas, heart attacks and artificially induced comas. The war over the economics of the Covid-19 crisis has been fought in metaphors. The future will be too. Which ones should we expect? Which ones should we hope for?

The three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 were dominated by metaphors of frictionless movement: flows, scapes and webs. We were presented with a latticework of circuitry strewn across the Earth’s surface, constructed with great precision to line up consumer demand and supply.

This year another metaphor became inescapable: supply chains. And the chains were heavy. Fights over face masks, hand sanitiser, testing kits and rubber gloves revealed simmering conflicts over economic dependency, especially between the US and China. (Read more)


The Legacy of Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Departing Prime Minister

Motoko Rich and Russell Goldman

New York Times

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, announced on Friday that he would resign, ending a term in office in which he pursued — with mixed results — a conservative agenda of restoring the country’s economy, military and national pride.

Mr. Abe, 65, the grandson of a prime minister, was initially elected to Parliament in 1993 after the death of his father, a former foreign minister. He first served as prime minister beginning in 2006, but stepped down after a scandal-plagued year in office.

He became the country’s leader again in 2012, promising to fix its beleaguered economy and achieve his nationalist dream of amending Japan’s pacifist Constitution to allow for a full-fledged military. (Read more)


Peace Yes, But Please Don’t Whitewash UAE Dictatorship

Doug Bandow

American Conservative

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, under legal and political siege, celebrated his government’s agreement with the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations. Egypt and Jordan already had done so, but the resulting peace has been cold. UAE, an oil-rich opponent of Iran, has more potential as a partner. Indeed, the latest agreement “was only made possible due to their shared sense of threat from Iran,” noted Trita Parsi of the Quincy Institute.

Netanyahu also was pleased because Abu Dhabi abandoned anything other than pretense of concern for the millions of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. As part of the agreement Israel agreed to forgo—for now, anyway—unilateral annexation of West Bank territory, but Israel’s de facto colonization of Palestinian lands, ratified by the Trump administration, will otherwise proceed unimpeded. (Read more)


Joe Biden Would Strengthen the U.S.-South Korea Alliance, But Is That Best For America?

Jennifer Lind and Daryl Press

National Interest

In an era of profound flux in American foreign policy, there’s one realm in which U.S. strategy has shown relative continuity: Washington’s approach to North Korean nuclear weapons. Since North Korea tested its first nuclear device in 2006, Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump adopted broadly similar strategies: deterrence to prevent war, and diplomacy (pursued along with America’s South Korean ally) to slow or reverse Pyongyang’s weapons program. Although American leaders often declared that North Korea’s nuclear weapons are “intolerable,” three consecutive administrations determined that deterrence and diplomacy were the least terrible of various terrible options.

In some key respects, the U.S. strategy has been successful. Deterrence has occasionally wobbled; at times North Korea used violence against the South, and Washington itself contemplated preventive strikes. Yet so far both Pyongyang and Washington have backed away from war. Diplomacy, too, has had some successes. Although American officials have not succeeded in talking Pyongyang into giving up its arsenal, diplomacy at times has led to testing moratoriums, ratcheted down tensions, and delayed North Korea’s technological progress. (Read more)

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