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Where did the idea of an ‘Islamic bomb’ come from?

Written by Malcolm M Craig.

The heavily freighted idea of an “Islamic bomb” has been around for some decades now. The notion behind it is that a nuclear weapon developed by an “Islamic” nation would automatically become the Islamic world’s shared property – and more than that, a “nuclear sword” with which to wage jihad. But as with many terms applied to the “Islamic world”, it says more about Western attitudes than about why and how nuclear technology has spread.

The concept as we know it emerged from anxieties about proliferation, globalisation, resurgent Islam, and conspiracies real and imagined, a fearful idea that could be applied to the atomic ambitions of any Muslim nation or non-state group. It looked at Pakistan’s nuclear programme and extrapolated it to encompass everything between the mountains of South Asia and the deserts of North Africa. And ever since it appeared it has retained its power to shock, eliding terrorism, jihadism, the perceived ambitions of “Islamic” states, and state-private proliferation networks into one fearsome term. Continue reading Where did the idea of an ‘Islamic bomb’ come from?

Artificially inflating the threat from Russia does nobody any good

Written by Sumantra Maitra.

Much has been written lately about Russia “hacking” the US presidential elections, and how Vladimir Putin’s government is in a new Cold War with the West.

Molly Mckew, who advised Mikhail Saakashvili when he was president of Georgia, writes that the West is already fighting a war in defence of the values on which its liberal order is based. Like many others, she never attempts to define what exactly “The West” is, or what its contradictory state interests add up to. In the Financial Times, meanwhile, Lilia Shevtsova is even more pessimistic. She claims the current situation is without historical precedent, and that current Western strategy “requires ideological clarity, but the ambiguity of the post-Cold War world made the strategy irrelevant”. Continue reading Artificially inflating the threat from Russia does nobody any good

Should we really be so afraid of a nuclear North Korea?

Written by Markus Bell and Marco Milani.

The common thinking is that North Korea’s nuclear programme poses a threat to global peace and diverts economic resources from an impoverished population. North Korean leaders are depicted in the Western media as a cabal of madmen who won’t be satisfied until Washington, Seoul, or some other enemy city is turned into a “sea of fire”.

Successive US governments have used a range of carrots and sticks to entice or pressure the North Korean leadership to give up its nuclear programme. The North’s missile launches and nuclear tests in 2016 make plain that these efforts have failed; in short, the West has to accept that it is now a nuclear power and focus instead on limiting the risks a nuclear North Korea presents. Continue reading Should we really be so afraid of a nuclear North Korea?

Benoît Hamon wins French socialist nomination as party sees a reassuring bump in the polls

Written by Paul Smith.

Benoît Hamon has been officially named as the Socialist Party’s candidate for the 2017 presidential election. His path to victory has appeared fairly secure for a while. He recently secured 36% of the vote in the first round before this latest vote, finishing ahead of his main rival, the former prime minister Manuel Valls on 32%. But the real clincher was the declaration by Arnaud Montebourg (17%) that he would support Hamon in the second round. In the end, Hamon took 58.7% of the vote to Valls’ 41.3%. Continue reading Benoît Hamon wins French socialist nomination as party sees a reassuring bump in the polls

Donald Trump’s presidency may lead to a reassessment of the “American Empire”

Written by Andrew Mumford.

In what was seen as one of the starkest inaugural addresses ever delivered by a new president, Donald Trump’s focus was predominantly a domestic one, promising to end what he labelled the ‘American carnage’ of job losses, welfare dependency, and gang violence. Yet there were a few intimations as to how he intended to conduct America’s foreign policy for the duration of his four year term. He stated that: ‘We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.’ This implied a distinct turn in American engagement with the world, hinting at a retreat from the interventionist stance of administrations for the past few decades. The wider question that Trump’s foreign policy platform creates is what this does to depictions of American power at home and abroad. Continue reading Donald Trump’s presidency may lead to a reassessment of the “American Empire”

Trident missile failure: just how safe is the UK’s nuclear deterrent?

Written by Robert J Downes.

The Sunday Times has caused a furore by reporting that a 2016 test of the UK’s submarine-borne strategic nuclear deterrent ended in failure. After the submarine HMS Vengeance returned to sea following a £350M refit, it tested a Trident-II D-5 missile off the coast of Florida. Immediately after launch, the unarmed missile reportedly veered off course and flew towards the US mainland rather than following its planned trajectory towards a sea target near West Africa.

Details of the technical aspects of the failure have not been released for reasons of national security, and aren’t likely to be. But the political fallout has already begun. Continue reading Trident missile failure: just how safe is the UK’s nuclear deterrent?

Milos Crnjanski’s Migrations and the New Borderlands of Europe

Written by Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac.

 He was tired of migrating, tired of the restlessness that plagued the people he led as much as it plagued him. If he left the army, he would have to join his brother and travel as a tradesman from town to town, his daughter in tow; if he remained in the army, he would still be forced to travel, his duty being to pacify the migrating populations. (Crnjankski, 1994, [1929], p. 196)

So reflects Vuk Isakovic in the 1929 novel Migrations by the Serbian writer Milos Crnjanski (1893-1977). Crnjanski, leading writer of Serbian modernism, was born just north of what is now the Serbian-Hungarian border. Crnjanski’s novel is set on the Hapsburg military frontier in the 1740s, an area which is now part of the Western Balkans migrant route north to Germany and other northern European Union countries. Continue reading Milos Crnjanski’s Migrations and the New Borderlands of Europe

Behind the bravado: why Theresa May has to play hardball on hard Brexit

Written by Simon Toubeau.

Even prior to the formal start of what is likely to be a long tournament, the players are taking their seats at the poker table. They’re puffing their chests, turning stone-faced, sternly glaring at each other in the eye. They’re looking at the hand they’ve been dealt and deciding what strategy to pursue. Winning does not depend on having a strong hand but rather on persuading your opponent that you do.

And so, as Theresa May delivered the final few sentences of her speech on her plan for Brexit, the thinly veiled threat was issued: “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.” Continue reading Behind the bravado: why Theresa May has to play hardball on hard Brexit

High stakes as West Africa prepares military action against Gambia’s Jammeh

In further escalation of the post-election crisis in The Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh declared a state of emergency just a day before his official mandate was due to come to an end. The announcement followed reports that a Nigerian warship was deployed off the Gambian coast while a regional military force was being assembled in neighbouring Senegal for possible military intervention. The events are the clearest signs that the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) could act militarily to remove Jammeh from power. Abdul-Jalilu Ateku examines the prospects for intervention in Gambia. Continue reading High stakes as West Africa prepares military action against Gambia’s Jammeh

Lotte in Weimar – Thomas Mann’s Hope for a Humanist Culture against Barbarism

Written by Vanessa Pupavac.

Just a few steps farther, Frau Councillor! Down this corridor, no distance at all from the stairs. We have had to renovate very thoroughly, since the visit of the Don Cossacks, at the end of 1813: stairs, chambers, passages, salons, and all. Maybe the renovation was long overdue; anyhow, it was forced upon us by the violent, world-shaking course of events. They taught us, perhaps, that it is precisely violence that is needed to produce all memorable and historic moments. Yet I should not give the Cossacks all the credit for all our improvements. We had Prussian and Hungarian hussars in the house as well – to say nothing of the French who came before them! (Mann, 1968, [1939], pp. 17-18) Continue reading Lotte in Weimar – Thomas Mann’s Hope for a Humanist Culture against Barbarism