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  • Author: Flavio Fusco
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Located at the heart of the Middle East, connecting the Levant to the Persian Gulf, Iraq has always been at the centre of regional dynamics. Yet, the country is today reduced to a quasi-failed state fundamentally damaged in its political, social and economic fabric, with long-term consequences that trace a fil rouge from the 2003 US-led invasion to the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and the country’s current structural fragility.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, European Union
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Lorenza Errighi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: If 2020 was the year of “mask diplomacy”, as countries raced to tackle the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and acquire the necessary protective gear and equipment, 2021 is likely to be remembered as the year of “vaccine diplomacy”. Growing competition between states to secure the necessary quantities of vaccines to inoculate their population has already become an established feature of the post-COVID international system and such trends are only likely to increase in the near future. It normally takes up to a decade to transition from the development and testing of a vaccine in a laboratory to its large-scale global distribution. Despite current challenges, the speed of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns is unprecedented. To put an end to the current pandemic – which in one year has led to the loss of 2.6 million lives and triggered the worst economic recession since the Second World War – the goal is to ensure the widest immunisation of the world population in a timeframe of 12 to 18 months. In this context, COVID vaccines emerge as instruments of soft power, as they symbolise, on the one hand, scientific and technological supremacy and, on the other, means to support existing and emerging foreign policy partnerships and alliances with relevant geopolitical implications. From their experimentation in laboratories, to their purchase and distribution, the vaccine has emerged as a significant tool for competition between powers, often associated with the promotion of competing developmental and governance models across third countries.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Health, Vaccine, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Vedran Džihić, Paul Schmidt
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: In societies devastated by the pandemic, the EU needs to leave its conventional tool-box behind and urgently speed up the Europeanisation of its neighbours in Southeast Europe. The coronavirus pandemic has deepened the vulnerabilities affecting Western Balkan countries and exposed the weakness of their state institutions, especially in the health sector and social protection. At the same time, related to the limited effectiveness of the EU enlargement process over the past years, the progress of reforms has stagnated and some countries have even experienced concerning regressions in the rule of law. The outbreak of the coronavirus crisis has meanwhile increased the presence of other geopolitical players in the region, mainly in the context of competition over vaccinations, not only of China but also of Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Awareness is growing that the EU and the West is not the only available partner. As other powers not known for their democratic practices use or misuse the Western Balkans to promote their interests, the vision of a free, democratic and truly European Balkans is no longer self-evident.
  • Topic: European Union, Institutions, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe, Balkans
  • Author: Nicoletta Pirozzi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Union is struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has swept through European societies and economies, causing more than 500,000 deaths (and counting) and a GDP downturn of –6.4 per cent in 2020. This is the third big crisis – and possibly the most dramatic – to impact the EU over the last 12 years, following the economic and financial crisis in 2008– 2010 and the extraordinary influx of migrants arriving on European shores in 2015–2016. All these crises produced asymmetrical consequences on the member countries and citizens. The already marked differences among member states have been exacerbated, making a unified response by EU institutions difficult in the process and suboptimal in the outcome. Indeed, especially during the first wave of the pandemic in Europe, the actions and statements of national leaders revealed a deep rift within the EU and the Eurozone, leading to nationalistic moves in border control and the export of medical supplies. Citizens were therefore exposed to the negative consequences of a Union with limited powers in sectors such as health and crisis management. Meanwhile, important decisions such as the approval of the Next Generation EU package and the new budget for 2021– 2027 risked ending in failure due to the opposition of some member states.
  • Topic: Regional Integration, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Marine plastic pollution has worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic. Nuclear technology provides a sustainable and scientific approach to tackling this environmental problem. Can it help Southeast Asian countries battle plastic pollution?
  • Topic: Environment, Science and Technology, Pollution, Pandemic, COVID-19, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia
  • Author: Alistair D.B. Cook
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: As the confrontation between the protestors and the military in Myanmar continues to deteriorate, now more than ever is the time for regional diplomacy. Countries in the region can be the bridge needed to the people in Myanmar and the wider international community
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Affairs, Regional Integration
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Author: Jose M. L. Montesclaros
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: With vaccines not expected to fully roll out until 2024, lockdowns remain a critical priority to save lives today. February 2021 marks the end of a year of COVID-19, and the opportunity to re-visit and improve the way lockdowns are implemented in the year ahead.
  • Topic: Pandemic, ASEAN, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Despite Duterte’s desire to shift Philippine security policy away from its treaty alliance with the US, Manila remains a close American ally. Key domestic, strategic and humanitarian factors actually make the alliance healthier. The Biden administration might just wait for Duterte to finish his term in a year's time.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Philippines, North America, Asia-Pacific, United States of America
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The recent swarming of Chinese militia boats in Whitsun Reef may indicate that President Duterte’s appeasement strategy towards China does not really work. Asserting the Arbitral Ruling must therefore be explored by Manila.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Militias
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Vietnam, Philippines
  • Author: Alistair D.B. Cook, Joel Ng
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The military coup in Myanmar has caused widespread human insecurity. The reaction of Asian countries and investors will influence Myanmar’s prospects, but further deterioration will compound difficulties.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Partnerships, Political stability, Human Security
  • Political Geography: East Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • Abstract: After four dark years during which President Donald Trump systematically weakened the United States’ commitment to multilateralism, international law and universal human rights, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect congratulates President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their impending inauguration. As an international civil society organization with its headquarters in New York, we join human rights defenders both here and abroad who view this historic moment with relief and hope. President Biden and Vice President Harris will be sworn in at a time of unprecedented crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous suffering around the world and killed over 380,000 Americans. Globally, more than 80.3 million people are also currently displaced by conflict, persecution and atrocities, the highest number since the Second World War. In all too many countries the laws, institutions and individuals who defend human rights appear to be under threat. This includes the United States, where disturbing political developments over the last four years led to the proliferation of online hate speech, the criminalization of asylum seekers and a prejudicial “Muslim Ban” aimed at refugees.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Elections, Responsibility to Protect (R2P), Atrocities, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Andrew Preston, Darren Dochuk, Christopher Cannon Jones, Kelly J. Shannon, Vanessa Walker, Lauren F. Turek
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: Historians of the United States and the world are getting religion, and our understanding of American foreign relations is becoming more rounded and more comprehensive as a result. Religion provides much of the ideological fuel that drives America forward in the world, which is the usual approach historians have taken in examining the religious influence on diplomacy; it has also sometimes provided the actual nuts-and-bolts of diplomacy, intelligence, and military strategy.1 But historians have not always been able to blend these two approaches. Lauren Turek’s To Bring the Good News to All Nations is thus a landmark because it is both a study of cultural ideology and foreign policy. In tying the two together in clear and compelling ways, based on extensive digging in various archives, Turek sheds a huge amount of new light on America’s mission in the last two decades of the Cold War and beyond. Turek uses the concept of “evangelical internationalism” to explore the worldview of American Protestants who were both theologically and politically conservative, and how they came to wield enough power that they were able to help shape U.S. foreign policy from the 1970s into the twenty-first century. As the formerly dominant liberal Protestants faded in numbers and authority, and as the nation was gripped by the cultural revolutions of the 1960s, evangelicals became the vanguard of a new era in American Christianity. Evangelicals replaced liberal Protestants abroad, too, as the mainline churches mostly abandoned the mission field. The effects on U.S. foreign relations were lasting and profound.
  • Topic: International Relations, Religion, International Affairs, History, Culture, Book Review, Christianity, Diplomatic History
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Dustin Walcher, Lindsay M. Chervinsky, James F. Siekmeier, Kathryn C. Statler, Brian Etheridge, Seth Jacobs
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: Seth Jacobs can write. Rogue Diplomats is a book that specialists and educated general readers will enjoy, and the reviewers agree with my assessment. It is, in Kathryn Statler’s words, “an absolute page-turner.” Lindsay Chervinsky writes that it “… is a serious diplomatic history that contributes to our understanding of the field and U.S. history, but is also fun – a quality that isn’t always associated with historical scholarship, but should be welcome.” Brian Etheredge finds that Jacobs’ “vignettes are beautifully told,” and that he “has an eye for the telling quote and writes with a verve and sense of irony that captivates.” He is “a master storyteller at the top of his game.” In sum, Jacobs elucidates important episodes of U.S. diplomacy and entertains in the process. That alone is a substantial accomplishment.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, History, Diplomatic History, Dissent
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Thomas W. Zeiler, Grant Madsen, Lauren F. Turek, Christopher Dietrich
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: When David Anderson, acting as a conduit for editors at the Journal of American History, approached me at a SHAFR meeting in 2007 to write a state-of- the-field essay, I accepted, in part because we were sitting in a bar where I was happily consuming. The offer came with a responsibility to the field. I was serving as an editor of our journal, Diplomatic History, as well as the editor of the digitized version of our bibliography, American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature. Because these positions allowed me to survey our vibrant field, accepting the offer seemed natural. And I was honored to be asked to represent us. Did I mention we were drinking? I’m sure that Chris Dietrich accepted the invitation to oversee this next-gen pioneering Companion volume from Peter Coveney, a long-time editorial guru and booster of our field at Wiley-Blackwell, for similar reasons. This, even though there were times when, surrounded by books and articles and reviews that piled up to my shoulders in my office (yes, I read in paper, mostly), I whined, cursed, and, on occasion, wept about the amount of sources. What kept me going was not only how much I learned about the field, including an appreciation for great scholarship written through traditional and new approaches, but both the constancy and transformations over the years, much of it due to pressure from beyond SHAFR that prompted internal reflections. Vigorous debate, searing critiques, sensitive adaptation, and bold adoption of theory and methods had wrought a revolution in the field of U.S. diplomatic history, a moniker itself deemed outmoded.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, History, Diplomatic History
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Christopher McKnight Nichols, Heather Marie Stur, Brad Simpson, Andy Rotter, Michael Kimmage
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: The title of this book evokes numerous Donald Trump tweets, statements, and threats over the past five years. It also raises questions: was Trump pro-West or not, and how does his administration and its policies compare to those of his predecessors? Trumpism and the related, inchoate policies of “America First” were firmly positioned against the organizational structures and assumptions of the so-called liberal international order, or rules-based order. Trump’s targets ranged from NATO to the World Health Organization (WHO). From his speech at Trump Tower announcing his run for office to statements we heard during his efforts to contest the results of the 2020 election, Trump promulgated racist, particularist claims about which peoples and groups counted (white ones), which immigrants should be allowed in (northern European) and which should be banned (Muslims, those from “shithole” countries), and what wider heritages they fit into or “good genes” they were blessed with.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Liberal Order, Donald Trump, Anti-Westernism, Rivalry, Clash of Civilizations, America First
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Daniel Bessner, Michael Brenes
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: The U.S. academic job market is in total freefall. As the American Historical Association’s (AHA) 2020 jobs report bluntly stated, “History Ph.D.s who graduated in the past decade encountered fewer opportunities and more competition on the academic job market than any cohort of Ph.D.s since the 1970s.”1 And this was before the COVID-19 pandemic, which, the 2021 jobs report noted, has resulted in numerous “program closures, enrollment declines, and faculty layoffs.”2 It’s not an exaggeration to say that, even if things improved tomorrow (which they won’t), there will be several “lost generations” of historians who will never secure stable academic employment. The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) is well aware of these depressing and disturbing trends. Under the leadership of past-SHAFR presidents Barbara Keys and Kristin Hoganson, the organization recently established a Jobs Crisis Task Force to begin to deal with the new material and structural realities of U.S. higher education.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Higher Education, Academia, Diplomatic History
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Marijke Verpoorten, Nik Stoop
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: On January 1, 2021, the European Conflict Minerals Act came into force. It aims to regulate the trade in four minerals—tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold, also known as 3TG—that are often sourced from conflict-affected countries where the profits may allow armed groups to finance their activities. The regulation aims to break the link between minerals and conflict by ensuring that European Union (EU)-based companies only import minerals from conflict-free sources. If companies import minerals from conflict regions, the law requires them to report where the minerals were mined, the location of processing and trade, and the taxes and fees that were paid.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Conflict, Minerals
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Navin Bapat
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: The risk of terrorism is often overstated. Americans are more likely to die from everyday risks, such as driving, drowning, or being hit by lightning, than from terrorist attacks. I’ve often criticized the willingness of leaders to politicize terrorism, arguing that this results in ‘othering’ that harms racial and ethnic minorities, and, in some cases, in very large, costly, and brutal wars. I therefore do not say this lightly: In the case of the US, however, white supremacists like those who engaged in the mob attack on the US Capitol, are a clear and present danger to the human security of the American nonwhite population and to national security.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Far Right, White Supremacy, Racism
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Nina von Uexkull, Halvard Buhaug
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: While former US President Donald Trump frequently denied man-made climate change, the Biden administration has pledged to make climate change a priority, including for national security. In line with years of thinking within the defense sector, the Biden-Harris team refers to climate change as a “threat multiplier,” pointing to risks of regional instability and resource competition driven by worsening environmental conditions. This perspective also aligns with the initiatives of other countries that have pushed climate security in the UN Security Council and other international bodies.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Climate Change, International Security, Conflict, Armed Conflict
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Anthony Bubalo
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The examples of Egypt and Saudi Arabia show the risks in betting on the stability of autocratic regimes in the region. Despite the Arab uprisings of the last decade, most countries in the Middle East remain in the grip of autocrats, with a widespread view that this is the 'default setting' for the region. However, an examination of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where authoritarianism has been revived, reveals both regimes are struggling for popular legitimacy. Increasingly reliant on repression, these regimes risk provoking civil unrest, and external powers should reconsider their assumption that autocracy guarantees stability in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Authoritarianism, Political stability, Legitimacy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Egypt