With my Masters Thesis submitted, and graduation just around the corner, I got together with my cohosts, Valentina Caracci and Ricardo Salas, to record our final episode the DeFacto Political Affairs student podcast. In the episode, we introduce the new hosts, Amanda Lee and Yaser Hammadi, who will be taking over from us next semester. We also talk about the research each of us has done for our masters theses, in a discussion whose focus ranges from Mafias abroad to EU crisis management to the effects of Music on political engagement.
In the latest episode, Valentina Caracci, Ricardo Salas, and myself chat with Dr. Matteo Garavoglia, Giulio del Balzo, and Davide Zilli about the results of the 2018 Italian election.
Join Ricardo Salas, Valentina Caracci, and myself as we talk with Hertie School students Josephice Quioc and Georges Delrieu about cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, and what they mean for the future of governance in the Season 3 premiere of DeFacto!
On December 6th, I had the pleasure of taking part in a panel at the Hertie School as part of the Financial Times' #FutureofEurope project. The panel featured Dr. Henrik Enderlein, Dr. Jean Pisani-Ferry, Financial Times Associate Editor Philip Stephens, and myself, and was moderated by Financial Times Deputy Editor Roula Khalaf.
For more information on the panel or its participants, click here.
For more information on the #FutureofEurope project and to read my op-ed in the Financial Times, click here.
Als die Vorsitzenden der Parteien im neuen Bundestages am Wahlabend zusammen in der Berliner Runde erschienen, um die ersten Wahlergebnisse zu diskutieren, wurde Christian Lindner gefragt, ob er mit „starken Worten zur Flüchtlingsfrage und […] auffallend europaskeptischen Kurs,“ versuchte, AfD Wähler abzujagen. Als Antwort sagte Herr Lindner: „Ein Grund dafür, dass es heute die AfD als Protestpartei gibt am äußersten rechten Rand, war, dass die Parteien im Bundestag die Mitte frei gelassen haben, und wir werden jetzt in diese Mitte hinein gehen. Das ist unser platz, traditionell und den wollen wir auch wieder behaupten.“ Dieser Drang der FDP, sich selbst als Partei der Mitte statt als rechtsstehende oder rechtspopulistische Partei zu bezeichnen, war auch in den Verhandlungen zur Sitzordnung des neuen Bundestages zu beobachten, als die FDP sich zunächst weigerte, zwischen den Fraktionen der CSU und AfD zu sitzen.
Aber trotz ihrer Behauptung, man stehe für die Mitte und sei nicht populistisch, hat die FDP möglicherweise der EU mehr Schaden angerichtet als jede jetzige populistische Partei (außer vielleicht UKIP). Ohne eine starke und geeinigte Regierung in Deutschland werden die von Macron geforderten Reformen der EU viel schwerer zu realisieren sein. Wenn es zudem Neuwahlen gibt, ist von einer Verzögerung von einem Jahr auszugehen, bis diese Neuerungen überhaupt ausgehandelt werden können. Weder eine geschäftsführende Regierung noch eine Minderheitsregierung hat die Rechtmäßigkeit um vernünftigerweise mit anderen EU-Ländern in Verhandlungen dieser Tragweite zu treten und könnte auch nicht garantieren, dass etwaige Reformen innerhalb Deutschlands effektiv eingeführt werden.
Aber nur, weil eine Partei die EU schadet, heißt das doch lange nicht, dass sie euroskeptisch, radikal oder populistisch sei, oder? Es könnte ja auch gute Gründe geben, ein Sondierungsgespräch abzubrechen – Laut dem Harvard Konzept für Verhandlungen ist das BATNA (ein Englischen Akronym für die Beste Alternativoption falls eine Verhandlung scheitert) ein wichtiger Teil der Verhandlungsstrategie. Die FDP sagt außerdem auch, dass sie ihre Grundprinzipien aufgegeben hätte, wenn sie in eine Jamaika Regierung eingetreten wäre.
Aber am letzten Tag der Gespräche beteuerten jedoch Politiker der Union und der Grünen, dass ein Kompromiss erreichbar war und unmittelbar bevorstand. Als Partei der Mitte hätte die FDP doch sicher ihren eigenen Standpunkt dann zwischen einer rechteren und eine linkeren Partei gut fördern können. In einer solchen Diskussion könnte ein guter Unterhändler die beiden anderen Seiten gegeneinander ausspielen und sich je nach Thema mit der einen oder der anderen Partei zusammenschließen, um seine eigene Ziele zu erreichen. Aber genau darauf verzichtete die FDP – am letzten Tag überholte sie die CSU politisch rechts auf mehreren Themen – Familiennachzug für Fluchtlinge, Kohle und dem Solidaritätszuschlages – anstatt eine moderate Position zwischen den Grünen und der CDU/CSU vorzubringen. Wenn sie die CSU – die Partei, die bis zu dieser Wahl immer die konservativste Partei im Bundestag war – von rechts überholt statt Kompromisse einzugehen, wirkt die Behauptung der FDP, in der politischen Mitte zu stehen, eher hohl.
Manche Politiker und Journalisten meinen jetzt, dass die FDP nie wirklich an einer Jamaika-Koalition interessiert war – das mag sein. Herr Lindners „nicht regieren ist besser als Falsch regieren“ Aussage klang eher vorbereitet als spontan. Das würde bedeuten, dass sich FDP nach ihrem Wiedereinzug in den Bundestag strategisch eher in der Opposition sähe. Und wenn sie Positionen rechts der CSU fordert, dann scheint der Vorwurf, dass sie rechtspopulistisch auftrete, auch nicht mehr so haltlos. Dass sie in der Flüchtlingsfrage eine so harte Linie fährt, obwohl es bisher dieses Jahr die wenigsten Asylanträge seit 2014 gab, deutet auch darauf hin, dass die FDP doch eher versucht, der AfD Wähler streitig zu machen, trotz Herr Lindners Behauptung dagegen.
Die FDP ist noch lange keine AfD, aber die neue Richtung, die sie fährt, ist auch gefährlich. Eine Partei die weit-rechte Positionen fördert, aber sich selbst erfolgreich als Anhänger der politischen Mitte darstellen kann, legitimiert Positionen, die rechtsextreme Parteien wie die AfD fördern. Im Gegensatz zur AfD hat die FDP einen demokratischen Ruf und eine tief verankerte Geschichte. Wenn sie erfolgreich AfD Wähler abjagt, könnten ihre Positionen durch ihre neuen Mitgliede noch weiter nach rechts rutschen. Sie könnte auch konservative CDU und CSU Wähler anziehen, die jetzt vom rechtsextremen Ruf der AfD abgeschreckt sind, was wiederum zu einem weiteren Rechtsrutsch der Union führen könnte, wenn Kanzlerin Merkels Amtszeit zu Ende geht. Wenn die Union einen Verlust ihre konservativsten Wähler vermeiden kann, könnte sich die FDP zudem als starke (und etwas europaskeptische) Partei zukünftigen und benötigten Reformen der EU in den Weg stellen.
Herr Lindner kann stolz sein, dass er seine Partei als viert-stärkste zurück in den Bundestag geführt hat. Aber wenn dieser neue Kurs von rechten Positionen und wenig Kompromissbereitschaft so weitergeht, hat die deutsche Demokratie und die EU ein neues Problem; und rechtsextreme Wähler eine Alternative für die Alternative für Deutschland.
Today the Financial Times published an op-ed of mine: "What the EU must learn from Donald Trump". I wrote this piece as my entry to the Future of Europe Project, and I'm both honored to have been selected as the Hertie School of Governance's winning entry, as well as grateful to both the Financial Times and the Hertie School for organizing this great opportunity for students to make their voices heard.
This week, Ricardo, Valentina and I had a chance to sit down with Dr. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi and Raphaelle Arino to talk about the Paradise Papers.
Join Valentina, Ricardo, and I as we interview Dr. Başak Çalı, Naz Ali, Roberto Japón Treffler on the subject of Separatism in the wake of the recent independence referendums in Catalonia and Kurdistan.
Join Ricardo Salas, Valentina Caracci and I as we kick off Defacto's second season with the results of the 2017 German Federal Election with Dr. Mark Kayser, Julian Georg, and Helene Kuchta.
At the end of August, I was one of a couple dozen students and professionals from the public and private sector selected to join members of the National General/Admiral Staff Officer Course in a 2-week intensive UN Peacekeeping Course at the Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr (The Military Academy of the German Armed Forces) in Hamburg.
Housed at the nice-yet-austere (by civilian standards, anyway) Clausewitz Barracks, we spent the first week of the course mixed together with the military officers in daily lectures and seminars. Held by former and current members and directors of various UN missions around the world, the lectures focused on a wide variety of topics, both civilian and military, ranging from procurement logistics to the role that culture plays in coordinating the medley of international staff that make up UN missions. The seminars were organized into smaller groups (still of mixed civilian/military makeup) and focused on topics relevant to the departments relevant in peacekeeping mission (for example, my seminar was on Challenges to Peace Processes). During this week I was also lucky enough to be selected to attend a reception at the Hamburg Senate's guest house, attended by staff of the various foreign embassies and consulates in the city.
After some final concluding lectures at the start of the second week, we were divided up into three Headquarters, each of which would be simulating a peacekeeping planning mission to the fictional country of Kolpoto. Each HQ was led by a former head of an actual Peacekeeping mission, assisted by a Chief of Staff selected from volunteers among the course's participants. Directly under him, the HQ was organized into eight departments, each made up of a small team led by a department director. To my surprise, I was selected to serve as Director of the Political Affairs Department in HQ1.
Working with a small team of students and military officers, my task was to lay out a political road map for the future of Kolpoto's peace process, as well as coordinate with other department heads to ensure that a future peacekeeping mission to Kolpoto would be able to fulfill its mandate. If I am entirely honest, I felt completely out of my depth. While I have obviously worked within teams in various contexts before, I had never experienced being in a formal leadership role in a professional environment before, and immediately ran into problems with my own team about on our strategic goal and a clash of organizational cultures with some of the military staff. To add to that, a fuzzy division of labor and mandates between the departments and the need for me to attend constant meetings and coordination with seven other teams made meeting with my own team difficult at times. My ideas for what the role of the Political Affairs department should be (mainly, in the planning process were challenged both by members of my own team and the Chief of Staff.
Yet hard work and communication paid off -- sitting down with my own team, we were able to resolve our own problems via honest dialogue both about our department's role and objectives and my team members preferred methods of organization. Though sometimes strenuous and time consuming, the meetings with other department heads also proved fruitful, allowing us to produce joint solutions to difficult challenges facing the missions. My apparently controversial ideas regarding what Political Affairs' role should be in the peacekeeping mission were also validated, both by the Head of Mission, who called it "brilliant" and "something [he'd] never seen before," and by the organizers of the course, who showed our presentation as an example of an "extremely well organized" plan.
Overall the experience was exhausting yet extremely interesting. Speaking and working with military officers offered unique insights into both their mindset and planning process that civilians like me rarely get a chance to see. The lectures and seminars offered insights and information that are rare even in academia. And the simulation, though it very much felt like a trial by fire at times, has allowed me to improve my own skill set in the fields of management, organization, and communication in a way only hands-on contexts allow. The academy holds this same training course every year, and for those interested in the subject of peacekeeping, particularly civilians and students, I cannot recommend the experience highly enough.
In spite of the obnoxious amount of rain, it is a great day in Berlin. After years of getting what could be called the silent treatment from government, homosexuals seem to have won the right to get married & adopt children. Yet the fact that it took this long is in itself confusing: over 80% of Germans support gay marriage, and this support did not appear over night, and -- especially for somebody used to American politics -- Merkel is frequently touted as one of the most progressive leaders the West has to offer (in spite of being the head of a christian conservative party). Yet if anybody should take the blame for not tackling this issue sooner it is her.
"For me and the constitution, it is about a woman and a man." Merkel said this, but she did not express this opinion years ago and later change her mind to support it, as some other world leaders have (like former US President Barack Obama), instead she said this today after voting against the bill which has opened the doors to a happy family for so many people. Yet without her, this change would not have been possible: had she not made her comments suggesting that she would allow a vote of conscience (rather than whipping her party to vote as a bloc) on the issue, gay marriage would likely not have been discussed in the Bundestag until after the elections at the earliest. So, if she was so opposed to the idea of changing the definition of marriage, why make those comments in the first place? The answer lies purely in election politics.
On June 17th, the Green party (usual coalition partners for the SPD, though occasional partner of the CDU in certain regions like Schleswig Holstein) announced that not only does it support gay marriage -- it would not enter into a coalition with any party that does not include gay marriage as part of the coalition platform. June 23rd saw the SPD follow suit with a similar promise not to enter a coalition without a guarantee for gay marriage. This was not a move simply to appease its potential coalition partner, but also because support for gay marriage presented the opportunity for the centrist Martin Schulz (the SPD's candidate for Chancellor and the only real contender against Merkel for the position) to finally differentiate himself from the mother of all centrists: Merkel. The following day, the liberal FDP (preferred coalition partner of the CDU) made the same promise.
After this point, the story of how the last week unfolded has two different versions:
Merkel The Master Tactician
One of the biggest reasons Merkel is on the path to becoming Germany's longest serving chancellor is that she has a knack for stealing her opponent's thunder, or, more literally, their platform. This makes it hard for SPD candidates to differentiate themselves from her while still appealing to the center (a problem which Schulz is also facing). So, when the other parties seemed to be mobilizing based on the gay rights issue, she took away their opportunity to campaign on it before the election. By saying she would not whip her party, she opened the clear path to legalization in parliament without giving her actual support. By allowing the vote this week, she took the issue out of the election and became the Chancellor who saw Germany legalize gay marriage (and could therefore take the credit for it). Yet she didn't want to lose support from her base, so she voted against the measure in spite of having cleared the path for it. Now Schulz can't campaign on a platform that says she or her party are homophobes, and her own base can't claim that she sold them out since she didn't vote in favor.
Merkel's Big Mistake
With all her potential coalition partners united on the issue, Merkel was under huge pressure, and tried to soften her stance with her comments in order to leave room for negotiation after the election. Schulz seized this chance to upend the status quo in parliament and force a vote by the end of the week, using Merkel's halfhearted remarks as a justification. Merkel now looks bad to her own base for opening the floodgates to a legalization of gay marriage, and was unable to prevent the bill from passing. By voting against it she alienates centrists who supported it and also cut herself off from being able to take credit as the Chancellor who legalized gay marriage. Rather than removing the narrative of gay marriage from the election, she has strengthened Schulz's image as someone who can get things done, even before he is elected Chancellor.
Its hard to tell which of these two narratives is true. Both? Neither? In the end, the election this fall will be affected by whichever narrative manages to convince more voters. For now, it may be best to simply celebrate that #EheFürAlle is now a reality.
The Syrian Civil War entered its sixth year in March, and the landscape has certainly shifted. The Islamic State, still used as a tool for fear mongering by all sides involved in the conflict, is on its last legs. In Mosul, IS forces have been completely surrounded by the Iraqi army and its allies. Raqqa, the other major urban hub controlled by IS, is now also under siege by Syrian Kurdish forces. Without control of either of these cities, IS will be cut off from supplies, recruits, finances, and will have lost its most defensible positions. Though IS will likely remain an insurgent and terrorist network in the region and around the world for a decade or more, the group's hold on territory (which also serves as part of its claim to being the Caliphate) will be virtually eradicated within the next two years.
Unfortunately this is not the end of Syria's problems -- the divisions and factions which started this war remain present and actively engaged in conflict, serving as proxies not only for a struggle between Russia and the US, but also between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The central question for strategists in the region, therefore, has changed: it is no longer "How do we defeat the Islamic State?" but instead, "Who gets the spoils?".
This question may help to explain why Russia this week announced that it would consider all US-coalition aircraft west of the Euphrates to be targets. As the linked CNN article reports, this is not the first time Russia has made that claim, having said the same thing months prior after the US cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield believed to house chemical weapons. It is just as unlikely now as it was after the first time Russia made this claim that it would actually risk open war with the United States or it allies over this incident. What is significant, however, is the geographic boundaries it attempts to draw: claiming all territory west of the Euphrates to be under exclusive Russian/Syrian government control, in spite of the fact that all of the non-Kurdish Syrian Opposition forces lie west of the river, and the fact that the Euphrates runs straight through the heart of what remains of IS territory.
Both sides know that they will not gain full control of Syria through military means any time soon without risking dangerous escalation between the US and Russia. As such, strengthening their bargaining positions for potential post-IS peace & settlement talks has taken on a new priority for all the factions involved. Though the conquest of Aleppo was a big win in favor of Assad, the US-backed coalition now stands to take Raqqa and most of the remaining IS territory in Syria, on both sides of the Euphrates. This should frighten Assad, regardless of whether this will simply be used as leverage in a bargaining scenario, or be used as a strategic advantage should the war continue, or should the US-led coalition decide that Assad must go after all. Russia's bluff that it has such firm military control over the Euphrates is an attempt at preempting the coalition's advance through IS territory, and a way of signalling which division of Syria it sees as preferable should a ceasefire go into place.
Regardless of whether the US believes or calls the bluff, it seems likely that Syria will be divided for a long time after the defeat of IS. Neither side is willing to risk the potential nuclear escalation involved in direct military confrontation. And any peace negotiations between Assad & the opposition seem doomed to stagnate for years before any real progress happens, thanks to both Assad's crimes against the people of Syria and the rebels' internal divisions. Each side is now focused on carving out its own sphere of influence before that stalemate falls into place.
Russia and the United States, unwilling to confront each other directly, but each occupying partitions of a divided state, after the defeat of an enemy infamous for its atrocities? Sitting in Berlin, this story reeks of familiarity. Though the narrative of a 'new cold war' has been dominating headlines since at least the annexation of Crimea, with all the other proxy conflicts in the Middle East and beyond, one is left wondering how cold this new cold war will really be.
This week we interviewed Governance Post editors Nathan Appleman and Joseph Pallez on to talk about the ongoing French Presidential elections. Listen below to hear the full discussion of the results of the first round and the future for the second round and beyond.
This weekend, I traveled to Prague to present my paper at the European Public Policy Conference. You can find the paper I wrote on NATO's digital security on this site in the new conferences tab under media.
Join Ricardo, Valentina, and I as we interview Cristina Ciordia, a Venezuelan MIA student at the Hertie School of Governance, about the ongoing crisis in her country. You can find the episode here on soundcloud, or use the following RSS Feed: http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:291050767/sounds.rss
I'm very pleased today to announce that my second article has been published with the Governance Post, "A reminder to Dictators: Lessons from the Gambia" . In this article I talk about the little-noticed drama which unfolded in West Africa at the start of this year.
You can find the article on the Governance Post's website by clicking the link above, or find the full text of this and my previous article on this website under the Media tab.
Last night, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Al-Shayrat Airfield, the airbase from which Assad Regime forces had allegedly launched last week's gas attack against Syrian civilians and rebel forces. Russia has since denounced the attack as aggression "violating the norms of international law," and some Democrats seem eager to jump on the "Trump is a Warmonger" bandwagon. To be fair, there are many reasons to criticize the Trump administration, from austere domestic policy, to divisive rhetoric, to his escalation of the war against the Islamic State, but last night's missile attack should not be one of them.
By launching this strike in spite of Russian obstruction in the UN Security Council and the Russian presence in Syria, has sent a very clear message that the usage of chemical weapons by any state will not be tolerated, regardless of its relationship with greater powers. If Assad and other dictators believe that using such weapons will result in a strike on their territory and unavoidable losses, then that serves as a strong deterrent against future chemical weapon attacks.
Some might say call this warmongering, or a repeat of the events regarding George W. Bush's WMD hunt leading up to the Iraq war. While it is too early to tell whether the Trump administration plans on escalating further, there is no reason right now to believe that this was anything more than a one-off, tit-for-tat strike in response to the chemical attack earlier this week. If the US does escalate and begin attacking Assad forces, then it would draw itself into another protracted war in the middle east, and one that risks conflict with another nuclear power -- Russia.
Yet as of now, this does not seem to be the case, and fears about this single strike escalating into a conflict against Russia are unfounded. In spite of the condemnation Russia issued this morning, Russia had been informed of the strike ahead of time as part of deconfliction policies between the US and Russia in Syria, and chose not to intercept the missiles in spite of the fact that it has the equipment to do so. So while Russia may not be pleased with the strike, tensions have not risen to the point at which Russia would actually try to stop the attack.
Previous US administrations have used similar strategies to deal with these kinds of threats. In Operation Infinite Reach, the Clinton administration launched cruise missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan to destroy possible chemical weapons stores in the hands of Al Qaeda. These strikes had high civilian casualties, and would afterward be used as propaganda against the administration, yet last night's strike was against a military target and no civilian casualties have been reported at the time of writing(though the Trump administration has not been squeamish about civilian casualties in other strikes). The Clinton administration also followed a similar logic in the Kosovo War, using air strikes in retaliation for Serbian human rights abuses, in spite of international legal objections. Obama also infamously drew a 'red line' on chemical weapon usage in Syria, but rather than following through on his threat, chose to cooperate with Russia as a solution. At the time, this seemed a prudent political move, avoiding a potential quagmire, but in hindsight it failed to resolve the issue at hand and provided Russia more room to maneuver in Syria. In contrast, last night's strike distanced the US administration from both Russia and Assad, and sent a clear message that their activity in Syria is not unrestricted.
Democrats who object to this strike should also consider this: If the limited use of force is not justified in retaliation to the use of illegal weapons against civilians, when is it justified? The German channel ZDF's heute journal news show asked foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel if the EU is powerless in this conflict, because unlike the US and Russia it is unable to respond to chemical weapons usage or human rights abuse with military force, and though Gabriel responded by saying that the EU has other economic and political tools at its disposal, it is clear that those did not prevent the chemical attack from happening in the first place, and wouldn't prevent another one.
In contrast, the United States has the capacity to respond to such human rights and international law violations with force. Some may point to the lack of UN approval for this strike, but if we look at previous humanitarian crises in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Darfur we can see the difference in the blood spilled between those crises which receive attention from powers able to intervene, and those that do not.
Last night's missile attack by the United States bore a relatively low cost, and may serve as a deterrent against future chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Should the Trump administration decide to escalate further, the value of this strike will change, and the US will risk being drawn into long, costly war, but for now at least, the strike seems like the right move.
After some unfortunate technical difficulties & delays, I'm happy to announce the release of the second episode of Defacto! This week we interviewed Prof. Mark Dawson, PhD, on the subject of Brexit. You can find the episode here on soundcloud, or use the following RSS Feed: http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:291050767/sounds.rss
Last week, Foreign Policy published an article with the headline "Trump Has a Strategy for Destroying ISIS, and its Working". The author, Kori Schake, correctly describes the differences between the Trump administration's strategy and that of the Obama administration. However Schake comes to conclusions that these differences inherently make the new administration's strategy more efficient and effective, when in reality, many of the differences reflect potential flaws and downsides in the Trump administration's long term plan for the region.
"First, they are prioritizing speed." --Schake makes the argument that Trump's strategy of deploying more US force to end the battle against IS quickly (As opposed to Obama's reliance on slower, local forces) has an advantage in that it gives quicker relief to those suffering the humanitarian consequences of IS rule. However, he fails to address the problems this rapid progress causes -- mainly that Iraqi & Coalition forces could face having overextended lines and succumbing to insurgencies in the region again later on. Obama's strategy of relying on local forces was intended to ensure that this problem would not occur, and that Iraq would be able to stand on its own two feet once the conflict has ended.
"Second, they are committing the United States to a long-term involvement." -- Both Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford have stated that the United States now plans to maintain a troop presence in Iraq in the long term. The logic behind this being a good thing is that this would theoretically avoid a repeat of the events following the previous US withdrawal from Iraq (an armed group arising from a power vacuum and internal divisions). Yet the fact of the matter is that the United States cannot afford to stay in Iraq indefinitely. The Obama administration's strategy of slow but steady progress by local forces would've helped the Iraqi forces regain control of the territory without dragging the US into another long occupation, which could easily be turned into a propaganda tool by Islamist radicals citing 'another oppressive American occupation.'
"Third, they are clear about the priority being assisting the countries we want to win the wars now underway." -- Schake claims that ignoring the "authoritarian tendencies, civilian casualties, and domestic human rights records" of US allies is a good thing, as it allows the administration to focus on winning wars without destabilizing these countries. Yet encouraging the protection of human rights and democratization should never be considered counter to US interests, nor is it mutually exclusive with assisting allies in need. Propping up authoritarian dictators and ignoring their abuses only makes America hypocritical and hurts its soft power abroad by giving radicals a propaganda tool to use against America and its values.
"Fourth, they are laying the foundation for an anti-Iran coalition once the Islamic State problem has been solved." -- Such an aggressive policy against Iran only endangers the progress made by the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, and risks dragging the US further into the cold war between Saudi Arabia & Iran, something which the US has little interest in, and cannot afford. This by no means that Iran must be seen as an ally or friend to the US, but intentionally antagonizing a state with the potential to rapidly build a nuclear arsenal and which would be far harder to invade and occupy than Iraq and Afghanistan in case of a conflict is simply poor strategy.
Confusing the faster speed of the Trump offensive with improved progress is a recipe for disappointment. Obama's strategy had its flaws as well -- the slow pace of relief for the victims of IS occupation, for one. And while Trump's administration may provide relief to those people, it carries risks for the long term success of US interests in the region. For now, Trump's plan may seem efficient, but the full effects of it will not be seen for some time to come.
The following is my own, short, reflections on my experience at the March of Europe on saturday. If you would like to hear a far more in depth analysis on the potential downsides of the Pulse of Europe social bubble, I highly reccomend this excellent article in the Governance Post by a fellow student of mine Clara Stinhoff.
Today I joined thousands of other people in cities across Europe to demonstrate in favor of the European Union and to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. The message, repeated several times by the speakers throughout the demonstration, was one of optimism: "2016 was a s*** year, we must make 2017 a year of hope!" The atmosphere was positive and calming, and the speakers calls for unity as appealing as ever. In a time where far-right populists seem to hog the media limelight, demonstrations like this and the weekly Pulse of Europe in Berlin may be exactly what the EU needs. The reminder that globalization produces gains as well as the losses that the populists focus on. Yet, the rhetoric of multicultural unity occasionally came across as tone deaf to those with socioeconomic disadvantages -- Pulse of Europe's demonstrations fit clearly within the bubble of the urban European elite. Rather than simply displaying the benefits that these demonstrators have been able to take advantage of -- whether that is restriction-free travel across the union or studying in another country -- a better way to strengthen the EU's appeal may be to take steps to make these benefits more widely accessible to less privileged citizens, those who have born the brunt of globalization's costs.