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GEOPOLITICAL BULLETIN

FEBRUARY 2017

THE RISE OF POPULISM;  BREXIT: 'DIVIDED WE WAIT';  THE END OF ISIS?

 

THE RISE OF POPULIST NATIONALISM

We face this as a difficult year, reflected in all of the three articles here. ‘The Rise of Populism’ by Sara Bielecki, sets the scene for key nation states of Europe, reviewing their state of play and their prospects. These are showing evidence of a worrying nationalism, quite in contrast to the civilised ethos of the post-war European community. It drags back not so old memories of European fascism, which led inexorably to WWII. Recent history, today even a long lifetime shows that nationalism as a form of government, offers a false prospectus. Yet propelled by generalised discontents, fanned by populist media, stirred by frightful terrorist incidents coinciding with a great surge of immigration from warzones, it is once again an ugly problem that could, if not checked, descend into a deep crisis. 

Frontiers by definition are shared. In a continent of nationalist states, inevitably collisions would occur with others in neighbouring states, each with their equally valid ‘story,’ resurrecting old quarrels and creating competitive frictions and frustrations, ending in violence There is a danger of creeping authoritarianism, leading eventually to states enforcing curtailment of their own citizen’s rights, particularly of minorities, in favour of the supremacy of the ‘state,’ whoever that might be at any time. 

There are surely enough precedents in recent history and unlike the days of the recent past, we now live in a world where worst case, if problems spin out of control, at least ten nations in the world own ‘ultimate weapons.’ 

The UK sadly looks to be in the forefront of this unwelcome change in political direction. Peter Crisell’s: “Divided We Wait,” describes the battlelines in Britain at this time, six months after an almost evenly divided referendum, where bitterness is a part of the outcome. Now, UKIP that led the Brexit charge, is trying to get some presence in the UK Parliament where currently only one MP represents them (out of 650 members). Mr Farage no longer their leader, tried and failed seven times to become elected. They are hoping to replace the Labour Party now ‘the official opposition,’ looking like a sorry imitation of an earlier time. But UKIP, the new populists, whilst targeting Labour seats, also projected their ideas onto working and middle class conservatives, whose heavily biased newspapers of choice, each it should be remembered, the not disinterested vehicles of super-rich proprietors, persuaded enough of them to narrowly win the referendum result. 

Finally, we consider “The End of ISIS?” by Alessandro Bruno. This reflects today’s Iraq and Syria, where the convulsions following the US and allied invasion of 2003, broke open the crust of a simmering brutal religious struggle between Shia and Sunni moslems. Millions of refugees looking for sanctuary, the bolder ones getting to Europe, have been the catalyst for a populist reaction. This European reaction is exacerbated by fanatical terrorism randomly aimed at civilians. ISIS competes with al Qaeda for its horror shows in the west. The article identifies why military victory, no kind of a walkover although essential, will not in itself be sufficient to proclaim the end of Isis. Bruno suggests what may be necessary for this. 


 
Clive Lindley - Publisher/Editor



 

The Rise of Populism

2016 has offered seismic shifts in the Western political hemisphere. In Europe, over the past several years, there has been a notable resurgence in right wing, populist movements, led by nascent political parties which have gained alarming momentum in representative terms. In Poland and Hungary extreme nationalist governments are currently in place. The Law and Justice party in the former, advocates highly conservative, Catholic values and has been accused of undermining the independence of the judiciary and overseeing democratic backsliding. In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s ruling Fides party has built a fence to keep migrants out and is taking increasingly hardline measures to deter voters from abandoning them in favour of the even more radical, undeniably racist Jobbik party. In countries like Germany, Denmark, France and the Netherlands, movements of a similarly intolerant, nationalistic ilk are gaining votes with worrying alacrity. 

Buttressed by anti-immigration rhetoric, which has easily exploited incidents of terrorism and fears of swathes of refugees unbalancing the economic status quo, these parties have also gained traction thanks to the UK’s Brexit vote, which confirmed and legitimised widespread dissatisfaction. The election of Donald Trump in the U.S... [
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Divided We Wait

“Just think for a moment what a prospect that is. A single market without barriers—visible or invisible—giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of over 300 million of the world's wealthiest and most prosperous people. Bigger than Japan. Bigger than the United States. On your doorstep. And with the Channel Tunnel to give you direct access to it”. 

How times have changed since the Brexiteers’ goddess, Margaret Thatcher, spoke those memorable words at Lancaster House, London, in April 1988. Nearly three decades later, Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May declared: “A little over six months ago, the British people voted for change. They voted to shape a brighter future for our country. They voted to leave the European Union and embrace the world”. By the “British people,” she meant the 52% who voted to leave, not the 48% who wished to remain. (she also didn’t point out that since 27% of reg’d electors didn’t vote, only 37% - just over a third of the “British people,” voted to leave).
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The End of ISIS?

Trump has vowed to take down ISIS, making this a promise during his presidential inaugural address on January 20. His willingness to treat Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, as allies brings the end of ISIS (aka: Islamic State/Daesh) closer to realization in 2017. But how can anyone truly defeat the Islamic State? It’s rather more than a conventional army and it has shown an uncanny ability to strike against targets in Europe as well as Iraq and Syria. Islamic State is fluid; it offering the semblance of an actual State, the ‘Caliphate’. But, it is also a ‘state’ of mind. It can inspire and indoctrinate already criminally inclined individuals, thousands of miles away from Raqqa or Mosul to perpetrate deadly attacks in Paris, Brussels, Nice, Berlin, Istanbul and more - they have even inspired lethal attacks in Fort Lauderdale and San Bernardino.

For at least two years, a coalition of NATO, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have tried to defeat the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
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