Trump, Brexit: Where’s the Backlash?

I dutifully got a shot this winter to inoculate myself against four different flu viruses. By exposing myself to weakened strains of these diseases, and preemptively suffering some mild flu symptoms, I can ward off the more serious consequences of a full-on infection and do my part to help stop the further spread of these pathogens. Both the United States and United Kingdom came down with chills...
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Whose Coups

Coups have been one of the greatest threats to democracy. The people elect a daring leader willing to take on the status quo. And then, as in Iran in 1953 or Chile in 1973, the military pushes the leader aside to take control. Sometimes the generals remain in power; sometimes they restore a royal to the throne. Often some external force – a foreign intelligence agency, a cabal of corporate...
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Soldiers Who Fight War

One of the enduring myths connected to the Vietnam War is that the U.S. military could have won the war if the politicians and protestors back in Washington didn’t somehow handicap the generals. When George H. W. Bush launched the first Gulf War in 1990, for instance, he said that “this will not be another Vietnam. Our troops will…not be asked to fight with one hand tied behind their...
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Don’t Just Focus on Trump’s Crimes at Home

It’s a cliché in Westerns. The bad guys ride into town only to be met by a sheriff who stands tall. “I am the law,” the sheriff says, “and you boys better move on.” This line appears in King Vidor’s 1930 film, Billy the Kid. But the speaker, sheriff William Donovan, is one of the bad guys, using his position for personal profit. Donovan’s announcement that he is the law is not a...
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The Islamic State and Trump’s Delusion

Even before the recent raid that resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the erstwhile head of the Islamic State, Donald Trump had spoken of how he had single-handedly defeated the caliphate. “Now, when I came, the caliphate was all over the place,” the president said apropos of nothing during a news conference with the Australian prime minister on September 20. “I defeated the...
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The Art of the Back-Pedal

It is a hallmark of right-wing populists to make a preposterous policy and then be forced — by opposition, by circumstance, by the laws of physics — to retreat. Three very recent examples involve Donald Trump, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The backpedaling might look very similar in all three cases, but they reflect fundamentally different...
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