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

Image result for nytimes jungle prince

(Image: Brian Denton/New York Times)

The Jungle Prince of Delhi

Ellen Barry

New York Times

On a spring afternoon in 2016, when I was working in India, I received a telephone message from a recluse who lived in a forest in the middle of Delhi.

The message was passed on by our office manager through Gchat, and it thrilled me so much that I preserved it.

Office manager: Ellen have you been trying to get in touch with the royal family of Oudh?

Ellen: this has to be the best telephone message ever

Office manager: It was quite strange! The secretary left precise instructions for when you should call her — tomorrow between 11 am and 12 noon

Ellen: oh my god

I knew about the royal family of Oudh, of course. They were one of the city’s great mysteries. Their story was passed between tea sellers and rickshaw drivers and shopkeepers in Old Delhi: In a forest, they said, in a palace cut off from the city that surrounds it, lived a prince, a princess and a queen, said to be the last of a storied Shiite Muslim royal line.

There were different versions, depending on whom you spoke to. Some people said the Oudh family had been there since the British had annexed their kingdom, in 1856, and that the forest had grown up around the palace, engulfing it. Some said they were a family of jinns, the supernatural beings of Arabian folklore. (Read more)


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

Why Turkey Turned Its Back on the United States and Embraced Russia

(Image: Umit Bektas/Reuters)

Aaron Stein

Foreign Affairs

Turkey’s fraught relationship with the United States has been in a downward spiral for years. Divided over an ever-lengthening list of issues, from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian turn to the United States’ refusal to extradite a Pennsylvania-based cleric accused of trying to overthrow the Turkish government, the putative allies are increasingly at odds. Yet there is still a widespread belief among U.S. policymakers and national security professionals that despite the superficial hostility, the Turkish national security elite continues to view the United States as an indispensable ally. Ankara cannot secure its national interests without working with the U.S. government, or so the thinking goes.

But since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which paved the way for a more assertive Kurdish regional government, Turkey has viewed the United States as a destabilizing force in the Middle East. U.S. support for Kurdish militias in Syria has cemented that view in Ankara, driving Turkey into Russia’s arms and raising questions about the country’s commitment to NATO. For proof of how little faith Turkey places in Washington these days, look no further than its plan to acquire Russia’s advanced S-400 missile defense system. (Read more)

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

Indian Rebellion of 1857: Sepoys rebelling in Delhi

(Image: Culture Club/Getty Imaged)

Britain’s story of empire is based on myth. We need to know the truth

Priyamvada Gopal

The Guardian

These days we’ve become wearily accustomed to depictions of Brexit Britain as oppressed by a villainously imperial Europe. Annexed “without permission”, Nigel Farage claimed melodramatically, defending Brexit party MEPs against charges of “disrespecting” the European Parliament. In a particularly far-fetched comparison, Ann Widdecombe MEP has compared Brexit with the resistance of “slaves against their owners” and “colonies against empires”. Prime ministerial frontrunner Boris Johnson too has spoken of Britain’s supposed “colony status” in the EU though, with a familiar double standard, he also believes that it would be good if Britain was still “in charge” of Africa.

These bizarre comparisons can be made and go unchallenged because the stark fact remains that most Britons know very little about the history of the empire itself, still less the way in which its long afterlife profoundly shapes both Britain and the wider world today. (Read more)

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

Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, and Donald Trump are more and more at odds on international affairs.

What the Iran Crisis Reveals About European Power

Tom McTague

The Atlantic

Donald Trump is forcing Europe to confront its own weakness.

The U.S. president’s bellicose policy toward Iran has, until now, been met with an unusual unity of opposition from Europe’s big three powers, the U.K., France, and Germany, as well as from the European Union itself. And yet, despite their combined economic weight and presence on the world stage, Europe’s principal players have proved largely powerless to do anything in the face of raw American hegemony.

The brute reality, as things stand, is that Europe does not yet have the tools—or the will—to project its power. The euro cannot be a credible alternative to the dollar as a reserve currency until it is radically reformed, and without a credible reserve currency, Europe’s financial might cannot match that of the United States. Even more fundamentally, there remain deep divisions within Europe over whether it should even seek to be a power, with or without Britain. (Read more) 

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

(Image: Chamila Karunarathne/AP)

How terror detonated with precision across Sri Lanka (£)


Washington Post

A series of coordinated bombings — and fear of more to come — has convulsed Sri Lanka since Easter Sunday morning. The bombings stretched the width of the island nation of 22 million but were largely executed in a narrow timeframe, decimating three Christian churches and three luxury hotels.

By Thursday morning, at least 250 people were dead, including several Americans, and 500 more were injured in one of the worst terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, and Sri Lankan officials warned that additional bombings were possible as they searched for other suspects. Despite the massacre’s magnitude, surprisingly few witness testimonies were available, after authorities shut down social media to try and quell the spread of fake news. (Read more)

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

(Image: Flickr/Fibonacci Blue)

The Mueller Report Is a Challenge for Democracy to Solve

Samuel Moyn


It would be hard to imagine a scenario that casts harsher light on the limits of American governance than the aftermath of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report—or one that demonstrates how lucky the country is that he chose to make the resulting mess a problem for democracy to solve.

Mature democracies must balance two contending imperatives. One is to permit regular and serious monitoring of government, especially the executive with its ever-expanding authorities. The other is to keep that monitoring from becoming just another mode of political opposition. This is especially fraught at a moment across the world in which political elites—inside and outside of government—are repeatedly scandalized by choices the people seem to be making at the ballot boxes. What if we creatively interpret Mueller’s handiwork as responding to precisely this dilemma? (Read more)

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