breaking news from the world of ideas

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 22
January 2021
Reaction
14:00

Joe Biden’s European conundrum

Following a peaceful transition of power in the imperial capital yesterday, local rulers are performing their traditional role of ingratiating themselves with the new order and repudiating any connection with the old regime. In Europe, the EU Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen thanked Biden for “the inspiring inaugural address and for the offer to cooperate,” promising that “Europe is ready for a fresh start.”

Certainly, on climate change and the Green New Deal, claimed priorities for both the Biden administration and the EU, there is much room for renewed cooperation. Yet in the broader sweep of foreign policy, America and Europe’s interests and worldviews are increasingly divergent, and while it may suit Europe’s spokespeople to blame the rift on Biden’s newly-departed predecessor, holding the alliance together will remain problematic. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 15
January 2021
Idea
07:00

Weimar analogies miss the point of America’s turbulence

There’s currently a “lively debate,” as the euphemism has it, in the American press over whether or not the abortive march on the Capitol last week proves Trump displays fascist tendencies, and whether the global hegemon is undergoing a period of “Weimarisation.”

Hitler’s rise and fall has become the founding myth of liberal democracy, but the relentless focus on 12 years of European history at the exclusion of all else obscures far more than it reveals. In many ways, America’s politics is better understood though analogy with colonial or post-colonial societies than through comparisons with prewar Europe, and the QAnon phenomenon driving much of the recent revolutionary mobilisation is a perfect example. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Saturday, 9
January 2021
Idea
12:15

The Twitter purge moves us closer to a civilisational internet

The un-personing of Donald Trump by Twitter presents a strange paradox: the most powerful man in the world is simultaneously a nobody; Trump can still (we presume) destroy the entire world many times over, but he cannot speak to the nation he still leads on his chosen platform, a development he likely finds more personally catastrophic than losing the actual election.

There’s no point American conservatives whining about free speech or unfairness or hypocrisy: American politics has moved beyond such abstractions, whatever anyone involved claims to think. It’s as pointless as complaining about the dissonance between the policing and reporting of one side’s riots versus the other: each side wants their riots supported by the state, and the other side’s quashed; their own rioters handled with kid gloves, and the other side’s shot: there’s nothing deeper to it. There are now two popular factions, who hate each other and wish for the other’s total destruction: Trump and Biden are just the avatars in wrinkled flesh of the two opposing popular wills. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Thursday, 31
December 2020
Reaction
12:00

With the China deal, the EU falls back to hard realpolitik

While we finally concluded our painful and excessively drawn-out withdrawal from the EU this week, a vastly more significant milestone, in geopolitical terms, was marked by the EU’s announcement of the conclusion of its long-negotiated investment agreement with China. The deal saw none of the back and forth with Europe’s geopolitical minnows like Ireland that made Brexit so tortuous. As Johnson attempted (and was roundly mocked for), Xi dealt directly with Merkel and Macron, and beneath them with Europe’s most senior diplomats Charles Michel and Ursula Von der Leyen. This was Europe’s Franco-German engine back to working at full throttle. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Monday, 21
December 2020
Spotted
11:14

Even John Redwood now thinks our food system is broken

Even as 2020 winds to a grim close, Covid has delivered once again, presenting us with yet another lesson in the weaknesses and fragility of the globalised economy. The new French restrictions on freight transport to the UK have led to another potential food crisis, with even free-market extremist John Redwood declaring that “we rely on imports too much. Let’s grow and make more at home.”

Like Pavlov’s dogs slobbering at the sound of a bell, Redwood’s naturally being mocked by the online lumpencommentariat who, just like when they campaigned against Brexit on the basis it would make importing sandwich ingredients from the continent more difficult, have internalised the logic of the free marketeers they claim to despise. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 11
December 2020
Response
15:19

Je ne Bregret rien

Of course Ed West’s typically excellent piece on Brexit regret caused such a stir yesterday: the whole topic’s become so poisoned and rancorous, and the two opposing sides have radicalised so much, that any ambivalence or nuance has been more or less extinguished from the debate.

In truth, the arguments for and against Brexit were always finely balanced, so much so that the opinion of anyone who voted with absolute certainty for either side should probably be discounted. But I voted for Brexit myself, and the events of the intervening years have confirmed my opinion that this was the right decision, for us, and for the European Union. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 4
December 2020
Reaction
15:07

Mosul, unexpectedly, is a classic war film

Just over four years ago, as Facebook recently reminded me in that unsettling way it has, I tagged along with an Iraqi Army general and a large convoy of his armoured vehicles as they took us to see the first street in Mosul to be liberated from ISIS rule. The impromptu press tour, right on the edge of the city, didn’t work out quite as planned: ISIS counterattacked, trapping us all in the street, to the general’s surprise and then despair.

Iraqi tanks closed off the street at both ends, firing at the car bombs heading towards us, while mortar teams blasted away in all directions at the snipers harassing us from the neighbouring streets and houses; the general, and his staff, huddled in a commandeered house, with their heads in their hands, arguing with each other about how or whether we could escape. It wasn’t a great experience, but it was a vivid early glimpse of how the gruelling, months-long battle for the ancient city would pan out. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 27
November 2020
Spotted
15:11

The MoD can learn a thing or two from Italy

One of the strangest trends of recent times is how Germany has become the accepted benchmark for a certain type of British political commentator, against which the UK is to be measured and found wanting. The conceit has even been spun into a book recently, whose title, Why the Germans Do it Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country, sums up this particular genre perfectly. Why can’t we be a “normal” country, goes the argument; why can’t we be “grown-up” like our Teutonic cousins? It’s a strange argument at the best of times (what is a normal country?), but when applied to defence, as in this tweet by Aaron Bastani, it really becomes absurd. ...  Continue reading