The world is in extraordinary turmoil — a violent Islamic Caliphate overturning the borders of Syria and Iraq; a war in Europe pitting Russia and pro-Russian rebels against the new regime in Ukraine; Israel invading Gaza and trading rocket exchanges with Hamas; Egypt, Libya and Yemen disrupted by the Arab uprisings; confrontations among Japan, China, Vietnam and the Philippines in the South and East China Seas; and gang wars in Central America driving thousands of young families and children across borders. Worse yet, Europe is caught up in its own internal squabbles, leaving the U.S. without the full support of its most powerful and reliable allies in dealing with these crises.
In September, the NATO allies will meet at the summit to discuss issues ranging from the end of NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan to the reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank.
The agenda and areas of consensus will mostly be prepared by national officials and the NATO staff well in advance of the meeting. Most likely not on the agenda, however, is a philosophical but critical question that hangs over the alliance: does the ‘West’ still exist?
CAMBRIDGE – This year marks the hundredth anniversary of a transformative event of modern history. World War I killed some 20 million people and ground up a generation of Europe’s youth. It also fundamentally changed the international order in Europe and beyond.
Indeed, WWI destroyed not only lives, but also three empires in Europe – those of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia – and, with the collapse of Ottoman rule, a fourth on its fringe. Until the Great War, the global balance of power was centered in Europe; after it, the United States and Japan emerged as great powers. The war also ushered in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, prepared the way for fascism, and intensified and broadened the ideological battles that wracked the twentieth century.
How could such a catastrophe happen? Shortly after the war broke out, when German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg was asked to explain what happened, he answered, “Oh, if I only knew!” Perhaps in the interest of self-exoneration, he came to regard the war as inevitable. Similarly, the British Foreign Minister, Sir Edward Grey, argued that he had “come to think that no human individual could have prevented it.”
Many in Sri Lanka had hoped that the arrival of world leaders for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo recently would have signalled the triumphant re-emergence of Sri Lanka on the world stage, having cast off doubts about war crimes committed at the end of its 25-year-long civil war and concerns about the increasingly authoritarian nature of its government.
Instead, the summit ended up being a political disaster for the Sri Lankan administration. Prominent leaders—of Canada, India and Mauritius—boycotted the event, only half of the Commonwealth’s 53 member states sent an actual head of government (the others were represented at a more junior level) and those leaders who did turn up insisted on asking questions publicly about accountability for war crimes allegedly committed at the end of the civil war.
The announcement of Kim Jong-Un as Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army is one more step in the process of Pyongyang’s efforts to consolidate power as quickly as possible after the sudden death of Kim Jong-Il. It is fairly certain that the proliferation of pronouncements and titles given to the young Kim are manifestations of a terribly rushed succession process. Something that they hoped could be done over the course of a decade or more has suddenly been set in motion.
Many Western analysts believe the North has been planning such a succession for a long time and they are therefore methodically carrying out the power transition step-by-step. I do not think this is right.