Boko Haram : Where to begin?


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Boko Haram explained.

When I travelled to Maiduguri last November, a journey I wouldn’t have contemplated two years earlier, I couldn’t get to Gwoza, Boko Haram’s former capital – a five-hour drive south-east from Maiduguri: Boko Haram may have been in retreat, but there had been no ‘final crushing’ and the roads were still unsafe. I couldn’t do the three-hour drive south to Chibok either: some lecturers from a local university had recently been abducted. But I did make a 14-hour roundabout journey to the town, with many military checkpoints along the way. It turned out that the story wasn’t in Chibok any longer. But if I hadn’t made the trip I might never have understood that the kidnapping of the schoolgirls in 2014 is now a slow-burn revenue source, not just for the military, but for numerous NGOs: this once insignificant town is full of white four-by-fours, driven by aid workers.

The complete article

Adewale Maja-Pearce — London Review of Books

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10 Conflicts to Watch in 2018


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The world being so interconnected, any conflict in any part of the world has massive repercussion.

The most ominous threats in 2018 — nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula and a spiraling confrontation pitting the United States and its allies against Iran — could both be aggravated by Trump’s actions, inactions, and idiosyncrasies. U.S. demands (in the North Korean case, denuclearization; in Iran’s, unilateral renegotiation of the nuclear deal or Tehran’s regional retreat) are unrealistic without serious diplomatic engagement or reciprocal concessions. In the former, Washington could face the prospect of provoking a nuclear war in order to avoid one, and in the latter, there is the possibility of jeopardizing a nuclear deal that is succeeding for the sake of a confrontation with Iran that almost certainly will not.

The complete article

Robert Malley — Foreign Policy

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Brexit: A managed surrender


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Britain is the weaker party in this divorce.

London had to accept that EU nationals who settle in Britain during the interim period will have the same right to remain indefinitely as current residents. It has also swallowed, at least provisionally, the Commission’s fallback position for keeping Northern Ireland inside the EU’s single market if Britain cannot come up with a credible alternative to avoid a hard customs border with the Republic of Ireland.

The complete article

Paul Taylor — Politico

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Rosi’s Choice


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Who deserves sanctuary in the US?

Rosi is one of millions of people who have fled the Northern Triangle of Central America, a dense, dangerous, impoverished slip of land between Nicaragua and Mexico, which includes Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Many of these migrants are fleeing violence, but others simply want an education for their children, or to earn money to support their families back home. For most, the only legal option is to insist they fear for their lives and apply for asylum. In 2014, the United States trailed only Germany in the number of people seeking asylum within its borders, with over 121,000 applications—a 44 percent rise from the previous year, attributed largely to people fleeing the Northern Triangle. Among them, Salvadorans had the second-highest asylum-denial rates nationwide between 2011 and 2016, with nearly 83 percent of claims rejected, followed by Hondurans and Guatemalans. (Mexicans topped the list.)

The complete article

Justine van der Leun — VQR

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Goodbye, Cold War


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A well-written piece on what the end of cold war could mean. But, I doubt if the cold war has really ended. Maybe it has just morphed into something else, which will be clearer in the years to come.

THE UNITED STATES is in a remarkable place: for the first time, we are living in a truly post-cold-war political environment. For those on the center-left and center-right, there remains a desperate hope that if Trump were to be removed from the scene, through impeachment or defeat, the US could somehow return to its previous trajectory. And for all the past year’s politics of despair, a likely electoral outcome, because of popular revulsion toward Trump, is that centrist politicians in both parties will gain another shot at power. Given the razor-thin margin of Trump’s victory—despite institutional advantages like the electoral college and voter suppression—there is little reason to assume that Trump the politician will enjoy lasting political dominance. But as long as party stalwarts persist in recycling cold-war tropes, they will remain trapped in the same cycles of social crisis and popular disaffection. Even if this combination of nostalgia and outrage works for a couple of election cycles, it cannot work indefinitely. This is not 1989.

The complete article

Aziz Rana — n+1

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How President Trump Changed Your Imagination


Scott Adam’s views.

In 2015 I told you that candidate Trump would change far more than politics. I said he would change how we understand reality itself. And one of those biggest changes is in the scope of our imaginations. One year ago it was hard for me to imagine Saudi Arabia taking a sudden turn toward modernization. One year ago it was hard for me to imagine an uprising in Iran that could reshape its destiny. I assume it was hard for the Iranian public to imagine it as well. But they sure are imagining it now.

President Trump isn’t the only variable in the world. But he does create a pattern in our minds of making the impossible seem achievable. Don’t underestimate the impact that pattern has on the imaginations of everyone watching.

The complete article

Scott Adam’s Blog

TERRORISM IS NOT ABOUT TERROR


A detailed look on terrorism.

One commenter suggested that Abrahms almost has it right. Terrorists are seeking social ties, but only as a substitute for female companionship. The specific example was the American novel/movie Fight Club; certainly, when one thinks about it, it’s hard to not notice that the narrator goes–thanks to leading a terrorist organization–from being a single loser who has to pretend to be ill (mentally and physically) to get any attention or social interaction, to being an incredibly popular guy with dozens of subordinates to hang out with day and night and a girlfriend.

The complete article

gwern.net