Is the Pax Anglo-Saxonica worth defending?

Recently, expressing opinions, let alone writing them down, has felt like wading through mud. Given the absolute flood of bad, unfounded, wrong, nonsense opinions that is The Internet, one less take is not necessarily a bad thing. Still, if I want to become a white middle-aged male columnist paid absurd sums to write vacuously on topics I have no real expertise on in The Guardian, I need to get the practice in.

Naked aggregating wasn’t actually a particularly good way to do so, and while I do still occasionally reach for the “add to favourites” button on Pocket like it’s a missing limb, the reading list is ultimately an experiment I’ve moved on from*. I’m not ready to let go of the crutch of other people’s work to buttress my own though**, so I’m going to try something here. Here endeth the navel-gaze, which I’ve put in italics for you. Post begins now.

Perhaps it is unsurprising that an essay by a man who can get commissioned by both the leftish*** New Statesman and the (seemingly) broadly neo-con/liberal hawk American Interest magazines should have such an interestingly broad reach, but there you go. Dr. John Bew’s “Pax Anglo-Saxonica”, published in The American Interest in April 2015, is the rare essay on the special relationship, benevolent hegemony, and the liberal world order that a) doesn’t include a call to bomb a single country (explicitly) and b) might not entirely alienate The Left.

Bew argues that the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the USA is founded not simply on strategic interests so much as a shared set of norms and ideological assumptions, perhaps drawn from their shared sense of relative security:

“Wolfers argued that the distinguishing characteristic of Continental theorists was that they operated in the face of constant external threats to their national existence. Meanwhile, the Anglo-Americans had the advantage of relative security from foreign invasion; they were both islands of sorts. Theirs “was a philosophy of choice, then, which was bound to be ethical, over against a philosophy of necessity, in which forces beyond moral control were believed to prevail.””

The key is Bew’s articulation of the hypocrisy at the heart of what he calls “the higher realism”. Both the British Empire, and in turn, the USA, acted aggressively to maintain the status quo, defending it as a liberal, rules-based international order, “while failing to mention that those laws had been crafted in their image and in their interests.” Both powers created self-serving myths to set themselves apart from each other:

“The British myth is that the United Kingdom wielded a softer, more subtle form of power, replete with a more sophisticated diplomatic armory […] The American myth is that the British Empire of the 19 century represented something immeasurably different from the American Century that followed it.”

This account is helpful for understanding the past two centuries, and the continuities between British and American foreign policy, and like most of what I’ve seen of Dr. Bew’s work, it’s just generally quite interesting in that anecdote/reference-rich way good historians have****. What is, I find, more interesting, is the unspoken assumptions in this:

“the world today could still benefit from a Leviathan with a skin thick enough to bear the allegation of hypocrisy, all in the name of a higher realism. Alas, for that to work the Leviathan must believe in its own benign nature, however self-serving that may be. Too much humility and not enough ethical egoism, it turns out, is not good for international security.”

And it is, of course, here, with the “benign” Leviathan and the “ethical egoism” of the British Empire and the USA, that one must turn left. Not even that far left, really. In the recurrent debates over American retreat*****, a point that the better critics often make is that what the Kagans and Fergusons of the world wilfully obscure is that the golden age of hegemonic stability, while obviously devoid of the horrors of great power war in Eurasia, was pretty grim for lots of people in lots of the world.

There is almost a dishonesty in claims for the benevolence of empire and hegemony that don’t mention the cruelty, violence and aggression they are all founded on. Bew toes this line in this piece, but I think what saves him from the bin Niall Ferguson lives in is that he doesn’t pretend the positive side-effects of British self-interest were the point – he makes a realist case for British foreign policy, not the sketchy case that the Empire and its intentions were noble.

Nevertheless, this problem recurs when you try and extend the logic in this essay to the present. Bew discusses how the German and Japanese challenges to this liberal world order were born of their resentment of their place behind the “noble Anglo-American vanguard”. Particularly in the European context, this is fair enough as an explanation, encompassing strategic rivalries and ideological differences. This has the advantage of ultimately being resolvable by a conflict of arms. Implicit in the idea of benevolent hegemony is that at the end of the day, it’s backed by a big stick.

Bew provides more optimism than most on hegemonic transitions:

“Britain was swift to reconcile itself to the fact that the United States had inherited its role as the strongest nation on earth”

Which invites the possibility that when the United States face the same challenge from China, they might also ‘swiftly reconcile’ themselves to that fact. Except while Britain and the United States shared a culture, history, and interests which helped them through the transition******, it is less clear that the United States and China share anything similar – there is not, to my knowledge, a Chinese Castlereagh.

I’m stretching here, but I can’t help but read Bew as suggesting that the USA either faces, or will face, another situation akin to the World Wars, where it was reluctantly dragged in despite its attempts to stay aloof from the world’s problems. There are about three steps from this argument to the credibility fairy and American support for literally any war that should crop up. Once you concede that the USA can’t “avoid suffering the consequences when [the Anglo-Saxon world order] began to unravel due to neglect” you invite more vigilance for signs of neglect or unravelling.

This is where, as much as I like Dr. Bew’s work, and this piece, my wariness leads me to tense up and compose some snarky tweets.

There is a very strong case to be made that despite being driven by elite self-interest in the respective countries, the Pax Anglo-Saxonica has been more benign than it could have been.

It is nevertheless undeniable that the Pax Anglo-Saxonica has been very bad for a really large proportion of humanity. From the Bengal Famine to concentration camps in Kenya to literally any U.S. policy south of its borders until about last week, you don’t have to be Noam Chomsky to concede that the Pax hasn’t been universal.

Again, not the worst. I genuinely don’t know where I stand on the truth of this but I think there is a case to be made that, even accepting the very worst claims made by critics of American foreign policy, you could do a lot worse as far as hegemons go.

But the fact that you could also do a lot better leaves me very uncertain about the implications of this argument for the future. Bew posits some inherent qualities to Anglo-Saxon ideology******* that make it more benevolent, which would then suggest that this particular hegemony is the best we can hope for, and therefore worth seeking to protect, aggressively if need be. This is unclear, at best.

I’ve yet to see challenges to the Pax Anglo-Saxonica that aren’t from that strand of the left that critique the current order without offering anything else. I’m far from convinced a 安******** would be better. Nor am I convinced that it would be so much worse that we should be supportive of future great power (and nuclear) war to prevent it.

I have gotten this far without losing faith in my own words********* and I am not about to pretend I can offer a glib conclusion on the future of great power relations, the Asia pivot, liberal internationalism, the rules of the game as we know them, and imperial power in the 21st Century. This is where I trail ineffectually away in true mediocre columnist style.

You should read Dr. Bew’s essay********************. He’s smarter than me, tbh. I just hope I’ve offered some Food For Thought for when you’re done with it.

 

 

*although I did get to use it fairly credibly in a job interview earlier which was interesting – I didn’t mention the Kanye gifs

**which to be completely fucking honest I’m going to put down in the “pro-Gabby_L_M” column, as there are altogether too many amateurs writing authoritatively on stuff they don’t know about and even though I’m mostly refraining out of insecurity, I’m going to reframe it as a moral stand against the student bloggers of the world

***despite its best efforts to drag itself down by standing on all the worst sides of every internet feminism debate going recently

****dude looks young which makes him all the more impressive

*****cf. the grand strategy section in at least one post a month from the reading list

******pretty sure the bit about Britain during the American Civil War is my favourite in this essay just because of Germany being all “SMH England you’re weak man”

*******am I being unfair here?

********this is ‘peace’ in Mandarin and don’t you ever say that I don’t treat you, dear reader

*********at the cost of a bottle of cheap wine and a ton of asterisks

**********once a content-aggregator….

7th of September: Human Sadness

We now enter into this blog’s seventh month (I think). So that’s cool.  Seven months in, I still occasionally forget what day it is and leave writing/compiling links to the last minute, which is telling. As ever, I’m about to send out the newsletter version of this, so you can subscribe over here.

Song of the week has to be Julian Casablancas’ mad new single. (called Human Sadness, hence the title)

NATO Council article of the week is on India’s nuclear submarine programme – as you can tell by the “previously”, there should be another one before it but IDK.

I also wrote a quick post on the announcement that the UK will operate its second carrier after all, which was based on faulty assumptions, but still got a lot of traffic. Embarrassing.

  • Stephen Saideman has had a number of good posts on NATO and Russia this week, with a number of little correctives and explanations – I’ve linked one on burden sharing, but it’s worth going back a few days.
  • Normally, “X must lead” is irritating do-somethingism, but I like this from the RUSI.
  • Speaking of irritating do-somethingism, great defense of Obama’s caution and a good critique of current rhetoric around Ukraine
  • Solid proposal for reinvigorating European defence
  • Interesting counter to the narrative of an “isolated” China.
  • Report from a journalist embedded in the Donetsk People’s Republic
  • Jihadism expert J.M Berger examines what their different approaches to hostages may mean about the future of IS and Jabhat al Nusra
  • Rather terrifying account of the Filipino peacekeepers’ escape from the Golan Heights
  • Defence of the lack of an ICC investigation in Gaza by its chief prosecutor
  • Again, Boris is a cretin.
  • Great attack on motorists’ dominance in Britain – published in the Telegraph, too!
  • Interview with Gordon Brown
  • Professor Marlière explains recent events in French politics
  • Meanwhile, France finally suspended the Mistral sale. This examines some implications (Fr.)
  • Quite scary account of an operation under the Brazilian dictatorship in 1970
  • Depressing New Yorker feature on gun culture in the States
  • Fascinating story on Google’s drone delivery programme
  • Number of excellent pieces on the stolen celebrity nudes. One here. These two, read in tandem, because I liked the BuzzFeed one but this is critical of it and I don’t know what to think.
  • Brilliant defence of bad British food, and a great article on Jamie Oliver
  • Rather great short story
  • Moving article on how we fail to deal with terminal illness
  • Lovely piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates about learning French as an adult
  • The Debrief have become one of my favourite sites in recent weeks – then they got an interview with Jon Hamm and now I’m dying of envy
  • Oliver Burkeman reviews some self-help books
  • Rediscovered this great career advice article from George Monbiot this week
  • Lovely feature on hangovers across time and cultures
  • Finally, very cool remix of the Game of Thrones theme

And that’s it. Have a good week x

31st of August: Final Stretch

In the UK at least, summer seems to have collapsed in on itself. Which can only mean I’m that much closer to moving into a flat and restarting some semblance of a life again, so with any luck, these posts will get a lot more streamlined. Until then, I’m still pinging across London multiple times a day, several days of week, with all the scope for consuming enormous amounts of reading. Without any further ado, then, let’s get stuck in.

Song of the week was my favourite revelation of last week’s VMAs – Usher and Nicki Minaj have done a song together, and it sounds like something that could have come off Confessions, which was lovely as I’ve kind of lost touch with Usher since then. NB: Going to be a Nicki-heavy week*. EDIT: There’s a real video! Excitement!

 

First up, NATO Council of Canada article this week involves neither Canada or NATO, but it is on procurement, so I just about stayed on-topic – I looked at Brazil’s military modernization programme.

Also, weekly reminder – I’m still sending this out in newsletter form every Sunday, hoping that it’ll eventually hit critical mass – you can subscribe here.

  • Lots on the Islamic State this week** A thought-provoking John Schindler essay (/polemic) on what he sees as the generational struggle against militant Islamists. IDK. Worth reading, possibly overblown.
  • A couple of good pieces looking more closely at IS – this one on the Britons going to join it, and this on its rise, relationship with Al-Qaeda, and future
  • Boris Johnson is a cretin.
  • Interesting discussion of why we respond so much more to IS’ violence than, for example, gang violence in Latin America, given their apparent similarities
  • Clear pushback on the emerging idea that we should side with Assad against IS
  • Great essay on the vacuum of power (but not a “why won’t Obama lead”) in the Middle East
  • Kind of terrifying article embedded with the Shia militias on the frontlines in Iraq
  • Important reminder from a while back that bombing Syria last year would have done fuck-all, and diplomacy has eliminated their chemical weapons
  • Investigation of the possible legal justifications for American airstrikes against IS in Syria
  • Another good Stephen Saideman piece on reforming NATO
  • First of the week’s New Yorker backlog clearout – long feature on Putin and the new anti-Americanism in Russia
  • Lot of talk of Obama’s foreign policy falling apart this week. A reminder that the low-hanging fruit is gone.
  • Hopi Sen continues his hot-streak in his first appearance this week, on the “Stop the World” coalition – I remember wanting to argue with something in this but not finding anything.
  • Second New Yorker is a feature on the Sri Lankan civil war. Hard reading, but nothing that’ll surprise anyone who watched the Channel 4 documentary (go watch that if you haven’t)
  • This profile of an abortion doctor in Mississippi is a great look at a wonderful man, that doesn’t lose sight of the fucked up conditions he is forced into
  • Couple of good pieces on the dangers of condescending reporting on the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa. This one, at the Atlantic, is heartbreaking (that ending – chills). This one, at the Monkey Cage (I know), more scholarly
  • Hugh Muir is excellent on the continuing horrors coming out of Rotherham and the shameless attempts to blame them on PC gone mad.
  • Thoughtful essay on admitting your white privilege
  • History of race riots in the USA, and growing more positively out of similar fuckery in the UK, a history of the Notting Hill Carnival
  • Harsh piece on war reporting today
  • Rather weirdly beautiful piece of writing on war through the eyes of the C-130 transport plane
  • Obviously this is a great blog on what all the horrid images shared on Twitter do to us, but I’m mostly sharing it because despite having consigned Thinking Fast and Slow to the “two-thirds read” pile***, I recognised the quote!
  • Fascinating account of the botched rescue of the Iranian embassy hostages
  • I may have linked to this before, but you should all be checking out Willard Foxton’s WW1 History Tumblr – based on a collection of contemporary magazines, he also shares little anecdotes or histories. Really interesting little tidbits every day.
  • Hopi Sen, again, on the need for a Spotify for news – I feel this.Even if money wasn’t a concern, the hassle is maddening – the Financial Times is pretty egregious in this regard.
  • Told you Nicki was going to feature heavily. These two posts that I found really helpful provide context to the brilliant Anaconda video– plenty overlap, but this one is a snappy Tumblr, and this one is a bit boilerplate feminist. Meanwhile, this by Emily Reynolds is just quite funny.
  • Now that Playboy have de-perved their website (mostly), can respectably link to them. This, on the whitewashing of hip-hop, is great.
  • Suspect time-lapse videos are going to be everywhere soon (Dad showed me the new Instagram app), but until then, this one of the Panama canal is quite incredible
  • IDK if I’m horrified or enticed by Arby’s Meat Mountain but this is a brilliant article
  • I defer to no man**** in my love for About a Boy/Bridget Jones Hugh, but this is funny.
  • As the start of the academic year approaches, this might be helpful to some of you.
  • Finally, Fuck this tortoise.

A long one, but there you go. Lots to be getting on with – see you in September! x

*I have some thoughts on Super Bass, which for some reason, I hadn’t heard before, and I have a platform so: 1) the aesthetic of this video is terrifyingly frenzied. Just that blinking in the first verse is disquieting 2) first time I heard it, I was immediately reminded of the soundtrack to Thomas Was Alone and this felt like a really good insight. Look!

**I’ve noticed that about half of these articles are still referring to ISIS. There are sound political reasons for this (not legitimising them as a state, chiefly) but I go with IS largely out of laziness and Twitter character limits.

***started it up again last night after writing this

****admittedly I probably don’t need to

10th August: Binary Mood

I don’t know if this is just one of those confirmation bias things but I feel like the past few weeks have just been a bleak, bleak time to be human. The last awful headline barely has time to be fade before another horror arrives on the news. So I’m rejigging the structure a bit this week. The first half is pretty grim but, I hope, interesting as ever. Meanwhile, I’ve shoved anything mildly optimistic/light-hearted into the second half, regardless of topic. If you’ve read enough dire reports on the state of the world today, scroll straight down.

Song of the week  – Guns N’ Roses’ “Coma”. Had forgotten about it as I’m no longer 16 ( 😦 ) The last two or three minutes of this song are properly incredible – rest is good two but from the solo onwards it’s something else.

 

After some hiccups in the posting schedule, my latest-ish piece at NATO Council is up (hoping for a couple more to appear soon) – this one was on the United Kingdom procuring the F-35. It’s also the last of the little miniseries I was writing (in my mind) on British defence matters so that’s cool. Been playing with a concluding post to go up here, may arrive this week.

With that, let’s get the nastiness out of the way first

The Bad

  • So IS(IS/L) have been all over the headlines (and all up in US bombsights now) this weekend. This essay in the London Review of Books is properly depressing stuff – they look increasingly likely to be here to stay
  • I’m sure you’re all dying to know – the official stance here is cautiously in favour of the operations against IS announced this weekend. Then again what the fuck do I know I was pleased when UNSC1973 got passed and look at Libya now. Regardless this is a well-argued proposal at Foreign Policy for a proper disengagement by the USA from the Middle East.
  • I’ve spent the past few days sneering, sniping and generally being unpleasant about the various irritants who make up the British liberal interventionist segment of the media. So it’s only fair that I share with you this thoughtful, honest meditation by Hopi Sen, shining light among them, on the current state of Western foreign policy
  • Properly arming the Kiev government would be a bad idea right now
  • Vladimir Putin seems a bit of a tragic figure, aside from all the nastiness. But what if sanctions do force him out of power?
  • Bringing research and scholarship to bear on the ongoing problem of creating a lasting ceasefire in Gaza
  • The fact that the Ebola serum has only been used on two white Americans while Africans die by the hundred looks bad – but it’s more complicated than that
  • This is a powerful, upsetting read about a young reporter’s first night in Kiev. Dispiriting but important. TW for sexual assault.

Ugh. All-round unpleasant.

But look.

  • First up, Daniel Woodburn presents a more optimistic look at ISIS’ prospects*
  • Intriguing proposal to end the violence in Ukraine from Dan Drezner
  • Slight, but fascinatingly futuristic idea for humanitarian relief
  • Realistic proposals for positive change in the DRC? :O
  • A reminder that there are no nuclear weapons in South America – that’s nice. Interesting look at why that is.
  • Hesitated on where to put this, as it’s bittersweet, but a lovely profile of one of the women involved in the Supreme Court case against the Defence of Marriage Act.
  • The New Statesman has a tendency to publish pretty irritating stuff on feminism**, but this brilliant (long) essay on trans people and radical feminism kind of makes up for it
  • Was only vaguely aware of this – amid the commemorations of the soldiers, Paul Mason argues the First World War was brought to an end by workers’ movements
  • CityMetric is an interesting project. This is cool on the definition of a city, and this is encouraging on the urban revolution.
  • Speaking of cities: very fun account by Clive Martin of a pub crawl through the worst of gentrifying London dickery. Surprisingly even-handed. While most of my trips into Central London make me pray for the day all its wanky boutiques, pop-ups, craft beer and fancy coffee houses disappear from the face of the Earth, this sort of piece makes me wonder if I shouldn’t give it a chance while I’m still here.
  • Great interview with the wonderful Christina Hendricks
  • Been reading a lot of The Debrief this week (you should too) – enjoyed this on the mad reactions to J-Law’s breakup, and not just because her dating that annoying kid out of About a Boy was annoying
  • Liked this by Daisy Buchanan – just eight years to go till I hit my peak, apparently
  • Really want to play Far Cry 3 again after reading this great piece
  • I identify deeply with this Buzzfeed.
  • My hero.

Also, I wanted to do a Kanye-eyeroll here but can’t be arsed, but can we just take a moment to note that on Thursday morning Dan Hodges wrote a weasel wordy, incoherent, ignorant column decrying the paralysis and cowardice of the non-interventionism that dominates Western policy and literally like twelve hours later, Obama was authorising airstrikes on ISIS (just in time to spare us a tedious Nick Cohen column on the topic, I hope). Beautiful.

Long’un this week. Whoops. We’re done. Enjoy the week as best you can guys. This too shall pass, maybe? IDK.

As ever, if receiving this thing to your email inbox late Saturday night instead of seeking it out yourselves during Sunday appeals to you, I’ve started a newsletter which you can subscribe to ->here<-

*optimistic for us, not them, obv.

**which I’m loathe to really criticise because I’m a bloke but.

3rd of August: “Commuter” Edition

I’ve decided I don’t like coming into London during the week. As befits my status as “a bit of a waste of space” ™, recently I’ve been coming in to the centre, wearing shorts and sunglasses, and overlapping with various segments of commuters on the train, all besuited and miserable, and god. Nothing quite like it to remind you you’ve done nothing with your week.

Nothing but read a bunch of stuff! The advantage of “commuting”, of course, is I read a bunch of stuff – which is good for you, as you don’t even need to do the commuting bit (unless you do anyway, in which case, sorry)

Song of the week isn’t exactly a song so much as an indulgence. Despite realising their audience is apparently mostly 14, and despite their hawking their songs to every awful thing from the Olympics to Twilight, I still have a lot of time for Muse, if only out of loyalty to high-school me. This week’s song is the three-part ‘symphony’ off the end of The Resistance, ‘Exogenesis’. It’s ridiculous, self-indulgent, and just a bit beautiful. It’s also twelve minutes long: luckily, there are a lot of links this week.

  • Two posts on the international response to Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. One arguing for a more assertive policy, and one praising the restrained one so far. You choose*
  • Interesting article examining different scenarios for China’s rise to challenge the narrative of its inevitable hegemony
  • What are NATO and the EU’s rapid response forces good for? Also wrote an article about this, which I submitted about three hours before reading – annoying.
  • Mean Girls reference and slamming right-wing orthodoxies? Sold. On Mitt Romney, the ‘fetch’ of presidential candidates
  • Damning piece on the aftermath of the Libyan intervention
  • The Early Warning Project present their assessments for risks of state-led mass killing in 2014 – interesting for my dissertation, but also for you
  • Adam Elkus has some problems (to say the least) with US policy in ‘AfPak’
  • Bitterly funny.
  • Quite nice interview with someone who I assume is famous in the States on travel, food, and …war
  • I don’t know how the hell to summarise this piece without sounding mad. One of their pictures might help:

    taken from The Atlantic

  • Reassuring blog by Tom Chivers on the Ebola outbreak.
  • There was a lot of money sloshing around for contractors after the Afghan and Iraq war – this piece looks at someone who made a lot of money from them, perhaps not too ethically.
  • Charlie’s got more thoughts on development – interesting ones
  • Lovely piece from Roxane Gay
  • Dorian Lynskey has an excellent feature on the egregious example of cultural appropriation that is the ‘festival headdress’
  • Mythologised history is fun, but it’s nice to know the truth about les taxis de la Marne
  • Speaking of mythologised history, this (multi-part, not sure which link I’ve given you) “degenerates” into mid-century Swiss army fan-fiction (as if that’s a bad thing), but is interesting on the German plans for an invasion of Switzerland in WW2
  • Ally Fogg is not unhappy that men’s appearances are getting more scrutiny than in the past
  • This sounds appalling to me, because strangers, but quite an interesting concept – like blablacar but for food
  • This is nice, somewhat encouraging, stuff by Bim Adewunmi
  • The pieces from the New Yorker archive are starting to come through. This week, celebrity profiles! First up, this is cool on George Clooney
  • Didn’t mean for this to happen, honest, but GQ’s interview with Kanye West is great, and it was right next to this very interesting (quite old, pre-Red) profile of Taylor Swift** in my bookmarks. I’mma let you finish indeed.
  • Got endless time for writing about Confessions
  • This is inexplicably funny.

Weekly reminder that if you’d prefer, the Reading List is available in newsletter form here, and with that, I bid you bubye. Enjoy the weather or something. x

*currently writing something on Parliament’s report on the issue, so watch this space

**god this has been a week for “guilty” pleasures, hasn’t it? Muse and Taylor Swift (who even my teenaged sister (ie, Swift’s target audience) rolls her eyes at me for liking).

13th of July: They Think It’s All Over

And, mercifully, it almost is. It’s been a wonderful Cup but I’m ready for the footballing humiliation to end and the irritating coverage of Brazil to go away. That means it’s the last of the Brazilian choices. To suit the mood, the beautiful “Tive Razao” by Seu Jorge. Come for the effortlessly cool video, avoid weeping over the Brazil team’s goal difference in the last two games, and stay for Jorge’s gorgeous voice.

With that, off we go. One thing: I forgot how publishing works when it’s not just me alone in my room pressing “post”, so the next NATO Council piece will actually be up this week, maybe.

  • Somewhat reassuring look at how the USA will retain the capacity to deter Chinese expansion until domestic factors make China less of a threat
  • Then again, with the continuing absurdity that is the F-35 program, maybe the optimism is misplaced…
  • Analysis of the different possible motivations and strategies behind IS(IS?)’s violence
  • Great piece for the IR nerds by Adam Elkus on the “state of the state”. His “ISIS as Jay Gatsby” analogy is my favourite thing
  • Consideration of the pro-Russian narrative in Ukraine on Kiev’s atrocities
  • Bit glib, but within this comic there’s a really interesting story of the AU peacekeeping mission in Sudan
  • Charlie’s blog is really hitting its stride – I’m actually starting to get the hang of the complexity economics thing he keeps going on about
  • I snark enough about reporting on Brazil here, so only fair to highlight – this is a good piece on the World Cup serving as an introduction to Brazil for the world and vice versa*, this is a sweet piece on kids who won tickets to the final (Charlie Bucket eat your heart out), and this is both snark on crappy reporting and a nice look at Brazilian’s reaction to the Mineiraço
  • 😦 **
  • While it is all a bit obvious, this is a useful reminder that everything is fucked in case you’re also struggling to find a job and hating everything – it’s not all your fault***
  • Brilliant little Civil War story
  • Occasionally I think I might stop dodging the draft and go and do my Brazilian military service. This piece, on Royal Marine Commando training, was a nice deterrent. It’s also interesting to note how sophisticated it all seems compared to the “Curahee” episode of Band of Brothers
  • The Emmy nominations were this week, and I saw a lot of “OMG why didn’t X get a nod” stuff circulating. This is a good Voxplainer on the process behind the awards that goes some way to explaining all the anomalies, like Jon Hamm not winning all the awards ever.
  • I like Mindy Kaling a lot, The Mindy Project a lot less, but it’s great that it exists as a show if it inspires these sorts of conversations. Article itself is a bit flabby – it’s one of those Buzzfeed “roundtables” that gets too rambly. A lot of interesting stuff about second-generation immigrant alienation, among other things.
  • This is stunning – behind-the-scenes footage of the VFX work on Game of Thrones work
  • Looks like this could be an interesting series on Lana del Rey. Could also be tossy and dull of course, because it’s the New Inquiry, so one to watch
  • Super exciting news about a republication of The Sun Also Rises, along with a lovely collection of all the covers through the years

Finally, it’s back. I’m trying to be a more positive, professional voice here, but I made the mistake of reading this and ugh. I should have known better – king of the smug interventionists John Rentoul linked to it on Twitter, and the title itself is a warning as to just how smug it’ll get, but god. In response to all the sneering, let’s just take a whistle-stop tour through all the problems with it; massive public opposition to further intervention in the Middle East is dismissed as “cheap campaign promises”; the Iraqi government’s agency in refusing to sign the Status of Forces Agreement is dismissed in favour of scoring cheap shots at Obama; “an attempted détente” with Iran is pitched as a bad thing; the excellent Daniel Drezner is smeared as “one of the administration’s “realist” apologists”…. I mean I could go on, this is just me scrolling through and letting the irritation take me. There is only one thing left to say:

tumblr_mshgsbUsd61qfkqupo1_500

Enjoy the final tonight, and have a lovely week, guys xx

 

*of course if the introduction happens via shitty sensationalising and “oooh how exotic” reporting then….

**unless if you’re spending most of your day playing Skyrim and Crusader Kings… then it’s kind of your fault

***this is a link, in case it isn’t clear

6th of July: Late

This is late as a post has been, so sorry about that – was hanging out with a baby who is far more interesting than blogging.

Think this is the penultimate week of World Cup music, and I’ve missed so much. On the plus side, the delay from normal music choices has probably spared you an endless sucession of songs off Lana del Rey’s new album. This week, it’s the beautiful Chico Buarque (seriously, look up videos of him speaking and get lost in his eyes and voice) and “Apesar de Voce”. Come for the elated chorus, avoid laughing at how the censors let this one through, and stay to prove you’re smarter than them.

Before we start, got an announcement: following the NATO Council Canada articles from last week, am very pleased to have been asked to join their Junior Research Fellow program and write on a more regular basis. So that planned series on British defence spending and strategy will start appearing over there, probably mid-weekish. I’ll link to them in the reading lists too. So that’s exciting. And now let’s go!

  • On the subject of my own writing, here’s my review of John Mearsheimer’s The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.
  • I linked to this in said review, but this is a really interesting discussion of the domestic political factors that are, and will, undermine the pivot to Asia
  • Three interesting, and quite optimistic articles about recent military developments in Africa (I know, I know, Africa’s not a country but.). Here (Fr.), on Nigeria, here on the DRC, and here (less optimistic tbh, and as much about the French as anything), on Mali.
  • But a less optimistic take on things in the Congo with regard to the big steps taken in conflict mineral labelling
  • Thoughtful discussion from Noam Chomsky of the efficiency and justification for the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions campaign against Israel
  • Sobering outline by Tom Nichols of ways nuclear war could still happen
  • Bittersweet account of boxer Joe Dorsey’s fight against segregation in Louisiana
  • Very interesting discussion of Laurie Penny’s recent article on trans people – gets to the heart of quite complex issues of representation and appropriation
  • I’ve been thoroughly unconvinced by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) I’ve taken this year, so this critique was particularly interesting to me, even if it does occasionally stray into irritating academic-speak
  • On David Cameron’s continuing incompetence at European diplomacy: sigh
  • History essay on late nineteenth-century aristocrats, the Habsburgs and Franz Ferdinand
  • Lovely article on  MTV’s Catfish
  • I identified a lot with this Telegraph post on how house prices have become so absurd that they’re not even a concern to young people anymore
  • Football! Great piece on the tedious stereotyping of “physical” “tactically bemused” African teams. Deliciously provocative on how Brazil’s shambolic Latin American lazy shirking organisation compares to brave efficient brilliant clever Britain’s preparation for the 2012 Olympics. Very interesting take on diving in football – a defence that I really liked, having kind of gotten over of complaining about it. Lovely piece on how, even if we do go out against Germany on Tuesday, Brazilians as a people will have been the biggest winners of the Cup.
  • I giggled hard at this article on GTA: Online.
  • Funny comic on Bat-privilege.
  • When Caitlin Moran’s on form and not being dismissive of marginalised voices, she’s wonderful. This article on her teenaged “sex quest” is delightful.
  • I love warm weather but hate the outside and the people who inhabit it – this Buzzfeed list is everything to me.

And with that, we’re done! I’ve just got back to having good internet access so am going to dive headfirst into the Steam Summer Sale windfall. See you all next week!

The Tragedy of Great Power Politics: Review

nicked off Amazon.com

Earlier in the year, I wrote a review of an additional chapter John Mearsheimer had written for a revised edition of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics and published online – as I said at the time, I hadn’t actually read the original book. In my defence, the politics library at my university appeared to be a single room with some Spanish books in it, so I wasn’t confident I’d find it. Anyway, I’m back in London, and I’ve read it now. Review after the jump.

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29th of June: Reading You Can Really Get Your Teeth Into

Bit of topical World Cup humour there. Jokes being the furthest thing from my mind as I sit shell-shocked on the sofa from that exhausting Brazil game. Still we’re through, so I don’t have to open the blog with a sad Brazilian song. Instead, have this delight from Jorge Ben Jor. Come for the weird title, avoid the weird lyrics, and stay for the all-round positivity of it all.

Allons-y.

First up, I’ve already linked to these on the blog, but I figure some of you must only come for the reading list posts – I’m very proud to announce my contribution to the NATO Council of Canada has gone live and can be found here and here (it’s a two-parter  – you guys should know I’m nothing if not concise). There are definitely gaps, and as soon as it went up I was unhappy with bits of it, but there it is and I’m very happy.

Now, for some actual good writing.

  • A number of excellent pieces prompted by the nightmare in Iraq. Wonderfully lyrical at War on the Rocks. Examination of the shifting balance of power in the Middle East by Immanuel Wallerstein*, and a consideration of the “uneasy anti-ISIS coalition” forming by David Wearing. Finally, one, two, three and (a delightfully nerdy) four pieces on the US response to the crisis and the absurdities of US foreign policy debate.
  • That the CIA toppled the Shah is one of those things that I’ve tended to just take for granted, so this well-researched account of the 1979 revolution was an illuminating rebuttal to that narrative
  • Good call for a more effective NATO, an interesting (if occasionally laden with dodgy politics) argument for why Germany is reluctant to pull its weight militarily, and an honest explanation for Europe’s ‘under-investment’ in defence.
  • Speaking of Europe, two excellent pieces on the utterly tedious debate over the Commission presidency at the Guardian, and the BBC.
  • Master Storifier Kelsey Atherton compiled these tweets in response to what sounds like a daft drone-panic piece – well worth scrolling through.
  • Speaking of tweet collections, Teju Cole is on top form here on the impossibility of sustaining the caring about #BringBackOurGirls
  • Don’t know if you read that dreadful Gary Oldman interview, but this is a good article on how it demonstrates the triumph of “PC gone mad” nonsense
  • Great profile of the wonderful Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Though he’s off making the world a better place in Kenya (I assume), Charlie is still finding time to post reviews of bafflingly complicated books
  • The excellent Mauricio Savarese has been telling us for months that the World Cup would not be the disaster everyone was predicting. This is his victory lap. On that note, this is another excellent piece giving Brazilians agency in taking advantage of the Cup – on favela residents renting out rooms in their homes for tourists – Hadley Freeman’s place in the Guardian’s World Cup team justified immediately
  • While we’re on the football, this is rather lovely on supporting teams because of the people you care about (NB: If Brazil crash out embarrassingly, I’m taking this piece as a Bible). Also a great profile of the different sibling relationships in international football, and a bit of bants from Marie le Conte on being a French supporter in London – identified strongly with bits and pieces of it but it’s funny either way.
  • Less lovely but important piece on the outrageous tossers who blacked up to “support” Ghana against Germany and FIFA’s lack of action in response
  • Brilliant idea for an app to support people in mental health crises
  • Fascinating account of how an almost unintentional decision to allow same-sex relationships saved The Sims – one of those pieces that really makes me want to re-install The Sims (fortunately Steam only has Sims 3 on sale)
  • I promised I wouldn’t link to recaps every week but Mad Men isn’t airing anymore and this is more of an essay anyway – on Betty Draper and the crippling limitations women of her time faced.

And that’s that – watching Colombia thunder over Uruguay now (delicious) so I’m not confident about Brazil’s chances on Friday. There’s a chance I’ll be writing the next post through my tears. Have a good week, enjoy the rest of the second round! x

*feels like First Year IR all over again

on Reforms to the British Military

on Reforms to the British Military

The second half of my piece on NATO Council of Canada went up. In my head the second half was more substantial than this. 

Still, very proud of the whole thing and, again honoured and grateful to have been given the opportunity and the platform to ramble on like that. I assume the world’s militaries, governments, newspapers and just general organisations will be scrambling to hire me now.

 

 

Right?