Our Disordered World November 2015

This post aims to provide a snapshot of the major issues currently shaping global politics, by presenting short quotes from recent stories in the news. Please feel free to add recent quotes from your national media which you think will be of interest to readers of Disordered World.   

The Paris Attacks

Values should be defended, rather than diluted, amid the clamour of populist politicians offering simplistic – and often counter-productive – solutions.

The attacks come at a moment of acute vulnerability for Europe as it struggles to cope with a migrant and refugee crisis originating in North Africa and the Middle East… Further integration, rather than the demonisation of minority communities, is the only sensible, if difficult, response.

Financial Times editorial, Time for engagement, not fearful retreat, 16 November

Here in eastern Paris, where most of the attacks took place, this is a time of mood swings and confusion. Yet turn on the television and you see politicians and pundits spouting certainty.

The outbreak of certainty is predictable… As the misguided U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq taught us, the emotional days after an attack are the worst time for quick decisions – especially since there is no simple, satisfying solution to ISIS.

Simon Kuper, Notes for a wounded city, Financial Times, 21 November


Since the group emerged in Syria in 2013, long before they reached Mosul in Iraq, the jihadis saw oil as a crutch for their vision for an Islamic state… While al-Qaeda depended on donations from wealthy foreign sponsors, Isis has derived its financial strength from its status as monopoly producer of an essential commodity consumed in vast quantities throughout the area it controls. Even without being able to export, it can thrive because it has a huge captive market in Syria and Iraq.

Black gold fuels the ‘caliphate’ war machine, Financial Times, 15 October

The US-led coalition against Isis, said one former US official, had to break the jihadis’ narrative of success with a show of military force. In that context, retaking the Syrian city of Raqqa from the group appears imperative. The other suggestion was that international talks over Syria should focus less on the unlikely – a peace deal – and more on a ceasefire and a disengagement of forces.

Roula Khalaf, A new normal emerges in a Europe infected by Arab wars, Financial Times, 16 November

Yet there is no sign so far of detente between Shia Iran and Saudi Arabia, the leading Sunni Arab power, which could lead to a deal on Syria and an end to the sectarian proxy wars tearing the region apart.

David Gardner, The treacherous path to defeating ISIS, Financial Times, 16 November

Europe in Crisis

Fragmented parliaments, minority governments, coalitions among parties that were once bitter rivals and elaborate deals aimed at keeping anti-establishment movements out of high office – welcome to the changing landscape of European democracy… Such weaknesses make it hard for governments to carry out reforms required to lift the EU’s economic performance, or to help forge a coherent response to pan-European challenges such as the refugee and migrant crisis.

Across much of the 28-nation EU, political party systems are less stable than at any time since the end of the cold war a quarter of a century ago.

Tony Barber, Political disrupters rattle old guard and generate uncertainty, Financial Times, 15 October

Ms Merkel’s vulnerability speaks to the convulsions across Europe caused by the tide of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Maghreb and Sahel countries of Africa. In the eastern, post-communist part of the continent, the influx has strengthened the hands of the ethnic nationalists who never quite signed up to the idea of liberal democracy. To the west it has bolstered the fortunes of nativists such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France.

The financial crash, the euro crisis and the collapse of the Schengen open borders arrangement has seen Europe unravelling as centrist parties across the continent have struggled to meet the challenge of the populists. Ms Merkel has been the rock of certainty – the leader with the authority to keep the show on the road. Without her the fractures would multiply.

Philip Stephens, If Merkel is ousted, Europe will unravel, Financial Times, 30 October

Climate Change

The concern with climate change is not simply humanitarian. The changing climate would drive even more people from Africa and the Middle East to attempt to migrate across the Mediterranean or through the Balkans. Epidemics can spread rapidly in an age of global travel and trade. In these circumstances it is hard to see how national and European security can be preserved without active intervention to deal with the problems at source. That means that Europeans and possibly other countries will have to put people on the ground, and invest seriously in a process of development that helps to manage each of the risks…

Nick Butler, Action on climate change is self-defence not altruism, Financial Times, 20 October

Hitherto, global emissions of carbon dioxide per head have risen, not fallen – despite all the global conferences – as the rapid growth of emerging economies, notably China, has swamped feeble efforts to curb emissions elsewhere… It would help by eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels (estimated to be three orders of magnitude larger than state spending on research and development in renewable energy)… the need for rapid cross-border dissemination of innovation and for assistance to poorer countries in taking investments in new energy and transport systems remains.

The bad news is that the coming Paris conference will not deliver a credible path away from the potential disaster. At best, it will slow the pace at which we approach such a point.

Martin Wolf, The upside of addressing climate change, Financial Times, 27 October


In both Hong Kong and Taiwan, there is growing evidence that the young are less and less inclined to treat Beijing’s edicts with respect. Hong Kong, which is now part of China, had its umbrella movement in 2014, demanding free elections. Taiwan had the sunflower movement, which also rose up last year in protest over a new trade agreement with China. These are fiercely difficult problems for Mr Xi. But they are also problems of Beijing’s own making… Meeting the president of Taiwan is a powerful symbol of flexibility. But if Mr Xi really wants to calm his sea of troubles, he needs to change the substance of Beijing’s approach to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Gideon Rachman, China is sailing into a sea of troubles, Financial Times, 9 November

Beijing has a point when it says that things cannot stay the same… Like other great powers, it must assume a role in policing the global commons. To say that the old balance must not be disturbed is to defy the facts of geopolitics… East Asia will not stay the same for the simple reason that China’s rise has remade the landscape. America cannot hold onto a primacy that has already been lost. But nor can China claim its own hegemony. A new order must accommodate both.

Philip Stephens, China must learn how to be a great power, Financial Times, 5 November

Elections in Myanmar

The military will control one vice-presidency and three ministries, including the formidable home ministry, which runs both the police and local administration. Such a byzantine constitutional set-up is far from democratic but it is the arrangement that, by protecting core military interests, allowed the initial shift away from pure dictatorship five years ago. This delicate moment may turn out to be a decisive step towards democracy. Or it may further consolidate a quasi-military system.

Thant Myint-U, Myanmar’s election is a first step on a hard road, Financial Times, 11 November

US Elections

The US is changing in ways that are clearly making much of the Republican party’s base fearful and insecure… Whites still make up 72 per cent of the electorate, but America is changing fast. According to the US Census Bureau, by 2020 “more than half the nation’s children will be part of a minority race or ethnic group”, with Hispanics the largest single group… Mr Trump’s rhetoric appeals to white voters who are scared by this change. He has promised to deport all 11m illegal immigrants in the US and to build a giant wall along the Mexican border.

Gideon Rachman, Republicans search for a winner, 2 November





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