- Richard Poplak
As far as secrets go, this one was a virtually foregone certainty, but on Sunday, 12 April, Hillary Clinton let slip via social media that she would be a candidate, yet again, to win the US presidency. The election doesn’t happen until November 2016, few if any Democrats will oppose her in the primaries, and, as a consequence, Republicans are already pinning a bulls-eye target on her, history and her political record. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a first, now official, look.
April 9th was the 150th anniversary of the collapse of the Confederate cause and the end of the American Civil War. Thousands of people, historical re-enactors and tourists alike, gathered at the site where the war ended to mark this event. J. BROOKS SPECTOR contemplates that surrender by General Robert E Lee to General Ulysses S Grant, and the effect this event has had on the course of American history.
Official Candidate Number Two – Kentucky Senator Rand Paul – has announced his intention to seek the Republican Party’s nomination to be that party’s presidential candidate for the 2016 election. Paul stands out as a surprisingly idiosyncratic possibility for his party, and J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look at Paul’s announcement, as well as a quick look at some of the senator’s positions on issues he will be challenged on in this effort.
The crisis in Ukraine presents one of the gravest threats to global order in the past quarter century. Military action by Russia against Ukraine is a breach of international law and a violation of the terms of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. It pits Moscow directly against Western powers at a time of deep instability in other parts of the world, including Europe’s southern neighbourhood and at the borders of several post-Soviet states. The strategic order of Europe is being dangerously undermined, and with it the stability of the continent. PIERS PIGOU suggests a ten-point strategy for Western powers, for the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP.
“One of the asymmetries of history,” wrote Henry Kissinger of Lee Kuan Yew, “is the lack of correspondence between the abilities of some leaders and the power of their countries.” Kissinger’s one-time boss, Richard Nixon, was even more flattering. He speculated that, had Lee lived in another time and another place, he might have “attained the world stature of a Churchill, a Disraeli, or a Gladstone”. By GREG MILLS.
Yemen is at war. The country is now divided between the Huthi movement, which controls the north and is rapidly advancing south, and the anti-Huthi coalition backed by Western and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) allies that President Abdo Robo Mansour Hadi is cobbling together. By THE INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP.
This week, the United Nations human rights council announced the establishment of a special new role to look into issues pertaining to privacy, in the wake of the Edward Snowden surveillance revelations. Information activists argue that such an individual could play a vital role in protecting citizens’ right to privacy. Guess which country said it couldn’t support such a resolution? South Africa. By REBECCA DAVIS.
The IS explosion onto the Iraqi scene has crumpled the last remaining supports of Iraq’s fragile state and revealed the total fragmentation of Iraq’s political system. This fragmentation, militarisation and militia-isation have all opened the door to foreign intervention, which is empowering actors along partisan lines. Then there is Iraqi Kurdistan’s inter-party history. A complex interplay of factors in the region has made the future a questionable one. But ultimately, Iraqi Kurdistan must put its own house in order. By the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP.
For three decades, travelling around, into and out of Southeast Asia, J. BROOKS SPECTOR and his family passed through Singapore numerous times. One of his children was even born there. This gave him a chance to see Singapore’s evolution under the guidance of its redoubtable, and very long-lived leader, Lee Kuan Yew.
There are two competing visions of how to promote peace and justice in situations of violent political conflict. One vision reifies the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the ethical and political successor to the Nuremberg trials, the famed series of Allied tribunals that prosecuted leading Nazis in the aftermath of the Second World War. The other contrasting vision places politics at the core of conflict management and resolution, with all the messy compromises that entails. By MARTIN KIMANI.
It is easy to think of the US presidential race as starting sometime in September 2016 when the official fight between two major parties finally begins in earnest. But, the respective jockeying for the nomination in the two parties starts long before that. This year, Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz has already put his cards on the table. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look.
Lee Kuan Yew, who died on Sunday aged 91, was an autocrat who favoured harsh punishment over the softly-softly approach. He also, nearly single-handedly, turned a tatty colonial outpost into an economic powerhouse – and kept it his family’s preserve. In his honour, we're republishing here our 2007 story by ANDY DAVIS, first published in Maverick magazine.
In the aftermath of the most recent Israeli election, commentary about where Binyamin Netanyahu plans to take his nation (and to goad its neighbours and allies) in the future has already reached a near-riotous uproar. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a first look at some of those responses to Bibi’s victory in that election, even as the victor still has to conclude all the negotiations needed to complete a coalition with various right wing and religiously inspired parties.
The Israeli parliamentary election results are coming in and it looks like that country’s electorate remains deeply divided about what it wants from its politicians – and what issues it sees as the critical ones. J. BROOKS SPECTOR summarises the just-ended election – and the likely way forward for Israel’s politicians.
South Africa’s nuclear munificence is stockpiled in the Pelindaba Nuclear Research Centre, just west of Pretoria. Within a secure vault smoulders almost a quarter of a tonne of highly enriched uranium, enough to make about ten cities go boom. Using diplomacy by other means—AKA an expose by an outfit called the Centre of Public Integrity, published in the Washington Post—the Americans have announced that they believe Pelindaba to be one of the world’s great security threats. How afraid should we be? RICHARD POPLAK dons a nuclear protection radiation suit and wades in.
Last week, inspired by a public decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to take a pay cut, CNN put out a list of world leaders' salaries. While no one was really surprised that Barack Obama came first, there was some anger at our president’s fourth place. That has led to the usual criticism one sees when Zuma is involved in anything. But the list is a nonsense; it doesn’t actually measure anything and it is just another example of creating news where there's none. By STEPHEN GROOTES.
Depending on which rumour one believes, Russian President has been deposed, is gravely ill, has had the flu, is undergoing some restorative plastic surgery to shave years off the bags under his eyes – or is even in Switzerland attending to the birth of his child with his girlfriend, a champion gymnast. Does it matter? J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look.
Washington has been twitching with two political snit-fights. The first is a letter by 47 Republican senators castigating the president and warning Iran to tread carefully in its negotiations. The second is the startling revelation former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose to use a private email server rather than send her notes to family, friends and colleagues via the State Department’s email servers. J. BROOKS SPECTOR looks at how these two issues intersect – and what this may mean for the future.
Somewhere in Athens is a little mound of earth, beneath which Loukanikos, or the legendary Riot Dog of Syntagma Square, is playing “roll over.” Policy has been banished from politics, and only spin remains. In the short term, a major shock to the system appears to have been avoided, but the long term prospects look bleak. By TIMON WAPENAAR.
This is a story about an escape from the secret Colombian jungle ranch of the infamous narco-baron Pablo Escobar. But the escapees were not exactly prisoners; it happened after Escobar had been gunned down and his hideout had fallen to pieces. The result of the escape, however, could have huge environmental implications. It involves four hippos. By DON PINNOCK.
On 7 March, negotiators for the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced that they would embark on a joint demining effort. After two-and-a-half years of negotiations in the Cuban capital of Havana, and outline agreements on three agenda points, this is the first accord that will have a direct impact on the ground, delivering long overdue humanitarian relief and bringing Colombia a big step closer to ending five decades of bloodshed. By CHRISTIAN VOELKEL for the INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP.
Selma, Alabama was – and remains – a small southern town. One day in 1965, however, it became a global buzzword for repression against the just struggle for the right to vote by black American citizens. This past weekend, President Obama took part in commemorations of the fiftieth anniversary of that march on 7 March - and the police brutality that had ended it. Obama used his moment to offer a vision of the nature of American exceptionalism - and the country’s continuing efforts to meet its own standards. J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a look both at the commemorations and the events that gave birth to them.
Words fail us in the face of Islamic State’s (IS) destruction of ancient treasures in Syria and Iraq, captured in their own videos last week and released to an uncomprehending world. We are on surer ground with their clips of beheadings and mass executions; all but the most fanatical adherents to IS’ extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam have been united in revulsion at their grisly spectacle. But on the violent end of things much more permanent than us – things built to last for hundreds even thousands of years, importing meaning to the myths and narratives we create about ourselves – we grasp for an appropriate response, writes TERENCE MCNAMEE.