Friday Headlines

Ceasefire In Syria Shows Limited Promise – For Now
The February truce negotiated between the US and Russia seems to have produced a steep decline in aerial bombardments, but Russia government officials insist the two are unrelated.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the Russian TASS news agency that there “are no links between the regime of cessation of hostilities and the start of [intra-Syrian] talks” that were held in Geneva.

It might not matter whether Lavrov’s assessment is correct or not. On March 4, there were signs that the two-week old ceasefire already was starting to weaken, reports The Washington Post.

Forces opposed to Syrian President Bashir al-Assad argued that the Syrian military’s continued offensives were putting the ceasefire in peril. The Russians and Syrians have been permitted to launch rocket attacks on select groups, including al-Qaeda, but rebels insist they are missing their targets.

While Russia maintained the truce was not linked to a reduction in violence, European leaders gathered in London urged Moscow to remain committed to the cessation and to build on the recent progress.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, reported that 118 people, including 24 civilians, have been killed in areas covered by the cease-fire during the first five days, according to the Post.

History Shows That “Great Leaders” Often Are Not-So-Great
When asked about their support for GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump, many voters cite their belief that he will “make America great” again. But, says Stephen Walt, history presents a cautionary tale about electing “extraordinary” people who claim to be great leaders.

“Athenian democracy succumbed to Alcibiades’ demagoguery, and a similar fate ultimately befell the Roman Republic. These lessons were not lost on America’s Founding Fathers, by the way, which is one reason the U.S. Constitution contains redundant firewalls against excessive executive power,” he writes.

“In most places most of the time, politics was a lot less like classical Athens and a lot more like Game of Thrones,” and many people are drawn to the appeal of leaders who reflect “the present shortcomings of existing democratic institutions in Europe and North America, the transparent hypocrisy of most career politicians, and the colorlessness of many current office-holders,” adds Walt.

The temptation to vote with one’s emotion, rather than after an examination of their positions could have damaging results.

“The problem with entrusting one’s fate to Great Leaders is that we are all human, and no one is infallible (no matter what a leader’s cult of personality claims). With great power often comes hubris, and hubris unconstrained is a recipe for disaster. If you’re planning to vote sometime this year, you might keep that in mind,” he cautions.

The emotion fueling the rise of Donald Trump (and Bernie Sanders) and his frank, brash talk could have unforeseen and damaging consequences in Latin America, reports The Global Post.

The article quotes Rafel Correa, the left-wing president of Ecuador, as welcoming the harsh rhetoric of Trump because he says that his bravado will provoke a reaction on the Latin American Left.

“What would most suit Latin America is that Trump wins, because his discourse is so dumb, so basic, that it will provoke a reaction,” Correa said.

“When a guy like that comes along, it would be very bad for the United States, but Latin America is pretty independent, and, given the [provocative] message [of a Trump White House] for the progressive tendency in Latin America, this would be very positive.”

Others are not so joyous with the real estate mogul’s ascendency.

“It is a country that is too important for the rest of the world to have in the White House a clown, a demagogue and a racist like Mr. Trump,” said Vargas Llosa, who once ran as a center-right presidential candidate in Peru.

Whether he would be a danger or not, a Trump foreign policy, particularly in Latin and South America would be a sea-change from Barack Obama.

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