Gibbon, Federer and the United States: Some Reflections on Decline

By chance, I happened to be reading Edward Gibbon’s monumental, classic account of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire while watching Roger Federer’s semi-final match against Andy Murray at the Australian Open. I was reading Gibbon as part of a reflection on the role of the United States in the world following the jamboree of President Obama’s inauguration. Gibbons’ work, much like Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, analyzes long cycles in history and the inevitability of rise and fall. According to Gibbon empires like Rome and with Kennedy France, England, Spain, Holland and the United States, have certain internal contradictions which lead to their eventual decline. There is a tragic sense that nothing can change this destiny.

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Falsely Blaming Algeria, the Forgotten Country in the Arab Spring

Headlines are screaming about Algeria’s raid in a remote gas field facility in the desert to free hostages. “Lack of Warning on Rescue Effort Highlights Limits of Algerian Cooperation” tops an article by Michael Gordon and Mark Mazzetti in the January 17 New York Times. “Early reports of casualties follow surprise assault to free hostages at gas field” highlights a front page story in the January 18 International Herald Tribune – the global edition of the New York Times.

All of a sudden, Algeria is in the news. Since the beginning of the Arab Spring in Tunisia in December 18, 2010, rulers have been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Uprisings have occurred in Bahrain; a civil war is taking place in Syria; there have been serious attempts at reforms in Morocco. And Algeria? The complaint against Algeria’s acting unilaterally without informing other countries lacks an understanding of Algeria’s history. With so much attention on the Arab Spring focused on other countries, people forgot the importance of Algeria.

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Drones and Cyberwarfare: Let the User Beware!

A debate is raging about President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next United States Secretary of Defense. Behind this debate is another debate about the future role of the United States in the world. On the one hand, conservative critics are accusing Hagel of being reluctant to intervene militarily to protect Israel or to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. On the other hand, progressives are cheering the potential national security team of John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and John Brennan as being realistic about the limited possibilities for projecting U.S. power. Their preference for “light footprints” or “leading from behind” is seen in stark contrast to George W. Bush’s bellicose foreign policy.

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14:53 Publié dans USA, War | Lien permanent | Commentaires (1) |  Imprimer |  Facebook | | | |


Newtown and Daillon: Do Events Matter?

After the Newtown shootings, several cities in the United States offered rewards for citizens to turn in their firearms. Many people did. But the fundamental laws on purchasing weapons have not changed and probably will not change. Since December 14, there have been 400 gun related deaths in the U.S. The more recent shootings in Daillon also raise the question of access to weapons. Although the situation in Switzerland is far from the situation in the United States – 2.3 million weapons among a population of less than 8 million compared to almost one weapon for 300 million citizens with shooting rampages very rare -, one could reasonably ask whether Newtown and Daillon will affect gun legislation in Switzerland. The answer is probably not. In 2011, Swiss citizens rejected a proposal to tighten gun laws.

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11:04 Publié dans Switzerland, USA | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) |  Imprimer |  Facebook | | | |


The Art of Compromise: The Fiscal Cliff, Switzerland and Israel

The United States government narrowly avoided the fiscal cliff. At the last moment, the very last moment, members of Congress and the President agreed on a package that avoided tax raises and drastic cuts in spending. That is definitely positive. However, the measures taken, unlike the Grand Bargain hoped for, fall well short of a sweeping reform. Indeed, the measures passed are to some extent temporary since hard decisions on spending cuts were put off for two months when the question of the debt ceiling will also come up. 

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