Sunday Conversation

Time For US To Take More Active Role In African Conflicts? Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution argues in The Los Angeles Times that the time has come to abandon the hands-off approach to Africa’s wars and to make a “modest investment” that could improve the odds for peace on the continent.

O’Hanlon suggests the United States “should seize the opportunity to contribute to a greater international effort to help turn Africa gradually from a zone of conflict to a zone of hope,” which would serve “America’s own security and economic interests, as well as humanitarian ones.”

Specifically, he says the US could send one to two security force assistance brigades, to the Congo to strengthen the existing United Nations forces and “give it the capacity to help the DRC get on its feet.”

German Academics Continue To Debate Nation’s Guilt
Dirk Kurbjuweit touches on a touchy subject in Der Spiegel article – German’s culpability in sparking two major global wars. This year will mark three historic events — the 100th anniversary of the eruption of World War I, the 75th anniversary of the start of World War II and the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. For many outside of Germany, the question of culpability for the start of the two world wars is fairly settled. Among German academics, however, it is not.

“The first two dates have been the source of heated debates among German intellectuals. The Fischer controversy in the early 1960s had to do with assigning blame for the eruption of World War I, while the dispute between historians in the mid-1980s revolved around culpability for the Holocaust. Both debates were informed by the positions in what was then a divided nation, including views on German unification.

“History is not just history, but also a part of the present. This is especially true of Germany. The overwhelming history of the 20th century engulfed the country and shaped the consciousness of politically active citizens,” he writes.

Rajan Menon’s The National Interest article reflects the reality that historical debates are not confined to Germany.

(Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe comparing current relations between Japan and China to those between Germany and Britain pre-World War I.)

Both Japan and China employ history and past slights to spark nationalistic fever in an effort to further their contemporary political goals, which Menon argues holds the potential for a dangerous miscommunication.

“What’s more likely is that the tit-for-tat trading of insults and accusations will increase the risk of overreaction during crisis and decrease the room for the compromises needed to contain them. Once leaders start campaigns to vilify a putative opponent, especially one with which there is a history of conflict, the harder it becomes for them to back down in a crisis without losing political capital at home. This is particularly true in the age of the Internet and social media, when citizens can, with unprecedented speed and in unprecedented numbers, get into the game of demonizing foreign antagonists and demanding that their leaders stand tall and not give ground,” contends Menon.

Growing Unrest In Venezuela
An inflation rate that has risen to 56.3% over the past 12 months and one of the world’s highest murder rates are fueling ongoing and increasingly violent protests in Venezuela and calls for the ousting of President Nicolás Maduro.

Daily Beast reporter Juan Nagel notes that the protestors are not poor, but middle class, young students who, like their counterparts protesting in other nations, lack clear goals.

After the government cracked down on protests, Secretary of State John Kerry responded with “concern” about the “chilling effect” on citizens.

“We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protesters and issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez,” said Kerry. “These actions have a chilling effect on citizens’ rights to express their grievances peacefully.”



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