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

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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)

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

(Image: Thomas Paterson)

Requiem for a Dream

Roger Cohen

New York Times

I have covered many stories that marked me over the past 40 years, in war zones and outside them, but none that has affected me as personally as Britain’s exit from the European Union. Brexit Day, now upon us, feels like the end of hope, a moral collapse, a self-amputation that will make the country where I grew up poorer in every sense.

Poorer materially, of course, but above all poorer in its shriveled soul, divorced from its neighborhood, internally fractured, smaller, meaner, more insular, more alone, no longer a protagonist in the great miracle of the postwar years — Europe’s journey toward borderless peace and union. Britain, in a fit of deluded jingoism, has opted for littleness. (Read more)

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

Hanover Park children pose for a picture and mimic gang gestures embedded by the suburb's gang culture, although they are not gang members.

(Image: Guy Oliver/TNH)

Demobilising South Africa’s ‘child soldier’ gangs

Guy Oliver

The New Humanitarian

Hanover Park, a depressing neighbourhood of drab buildings and unemployed young men, is one island in a violent gangland archipelago that stretches across South Africa’s coastal city of Cape Town, where even the deployment of the army has failed to stop the shootings.

Gangsters as young as 12 operate within a contested jigsaw of fiefdoms in the historically “coloured” township just a 15-minute drive from well-heeled central Cape Town, South Africa’s legislative capital.

Mary Bruce points to identical three-storey flats 30 metres from her Donegal Court home in Hanover Park. “That’s the Ghetto Kids. Over there is the Dollars, and this side is the Americans: they fight everyone.” A couple of hundred metres towards the taxi rank the “turf” yields to two more gangs – the Mongrels and Laughing Boys.

Up to 500 youths in Hanover Park could be classed as “child soldiers”, according to Brian Williams, a visiting professor for peace, mediation, and reconciliation at the University of the Sacred Heart Gulu, in Uganda. (Read more)

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

Funeral of Qasem Soleimani, Tehran, Iran on 6 January 2020.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Iran in the Trump Era

Eric Schewe

JSTOR Daily

President Trump’s January 3, 2020, decision to order a drone assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq has backfired in spectacular fashion. Less than two months ago, the streets of nearly every major city in Iran were choked with more than 200,000 anti-regime protestors. They chanted slogans against recent increases in gas prices and income inequality. They set fire to hundreds of banks and other businesses.

Trump’s abrupt withdrawal, two years ago, from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program has had a strong impact on Iran’s economy. Severe U.S. sanctions have suppressed Iranian oil exports and led to spiraling inflation. The sanctions enact a collective punishment of the Iranian people for the actions of their political leaders, meeting the demands of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the American right wing. (Read more)

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

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Qasem Soleimani brutalised the Middle East, but the bloodshed is far from over

Oz Katerji

New Statesman

Nobody saw it coming. Nobody. General Qasem Soleimani, the most feared man in the Middle East, was assassinated in Baghdad by a US drone strike in the early hours of Friday morning, and not a single Middle East analyst, journalist or pundit had seen it coming. When disbelief finally faded and reality set in, the confirmation of the news that the commander of Iran’s Quds Force had been assassinated on orders from Washington sent shockwaves around the world. We were and are witnessing an era-defining moment for the Middle East.

The Soleimani era is over, not a single person predicted it, and not a single person knows what will happen as a result for the region, or for the world. And that is terrifying. “A multitude of mixed feelings, but ‘fear’ is the dominant one,” tweeted Iraqi journalist and editor of Irfaa Sawtak, Rasha Al Aqeedi. “God-like figures aren’t supposed to die. When they do, it gets very confusing.” (Read more)

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

(Image: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times / Redux)

War Is Not Over: What the Optimists Get Wrong About Conflict

Tanisha M. Fazal and Paul Poast

Foreign Affairs

The political turmoil of recent years has largely disabused us of the notion that the world has reached some sort of utopian “end of history.” And yet it can still seem that ours is an unprecedented era of peace and progress. On the whole, humans today are living safer and more prosperous lives than their ancestors did. They suffer less cruelty and arbitrary violence. Above all, they seem far less likely to go to war. The incidence of war has been decreasing steadily, a growing consensus holds, with war between great powers becoming all but unthinkable and all types of war becoming more and more rare.

This optimistic narrative has influential backers in academia and politics. At the start of this decade, the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker devoted a voluminous book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, to the decrease of war and violence in modern times. Statistic after statistic pointed to the same conclusion: looked at from a high enough vantage point, violence is in decline after centuries of carnage, reshaping every aspect of our lives “from the waging of wars to the spanking of children.” (Read more)

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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)

 

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