In retrospect, the battle lines of the Cold War — the West, NATO and democracy on one side; the East, the Warsaw Pact and dictatorship on the other — seem obvious and inevitable. The outcome — the collapse of the U.S.S.R. — feels now as if it were preordained. But at many moments in the half-century that the Cold War lasted, the battle lines were far from clear and the ultimate outcome very much in doubt.
You know the scenario from 19th-century fiction and Hollywood movies: Mankind has invented a computer, or a robot or another artificial thing that has taken on a life of its own. In “ Frankenstein,” the monster is built from corpses; in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it’s an all-seeing computer with a human voice; in “Westworld,” the robots are lifelike androids that begin to think for themselves. But in almost every case, the out-of-control artificial life form is anthropomorphic. It has a face or a body, or at least a human voice and a physical presence in the real world.
There were at least eight people in the room on June 9, 2016, when two Trump family members and Donald Trump’s campaign manager met with a Russian lawyer and her extended team in Trump Tower. Focus your attention just briefly on one of them: Ike Kaveladze. Of course it will be important to learn, in due course, what he was really doing there. But in the meantime, we should spend a few minutes thinking about the peculiar financial culture — American as well as Russian — that he represents.
If an illiberal government — democratically elected, but determined to change the rules — tries to do something unconstitutional, what can the public do? What can the political opposition do? This is a dilemma we now know from several countries — Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, and possibly soon Greece. The prospects are pretty gloomy, as I’ve argued before, for those who want to stay within the bounds of the law.
I feel like we sort of choked.” That’s how one former administration official recently described President Barack Obama’s failure to react to intelligence reports on Kremlin attempts to influence the U.S. election. Plenty of other people — including, with extraordinary cynicism, President Trump — have also asked why more wasn’t done. Continue reading “How U.S. presidents missed the Russia threat — until it was much, much too late”
“It’s all under control: Mattis is in charge.” That, or words to that effect, is what U.S. national security officials have been telling European allies in recent days. Don’t worry. There won’t be any surprises. The defense secretary is making all the big decisions. Continue reading “Why ‘Mattis in charge’ is a formula for disaster”
“Regulation” is a boring word with unpleasant connotations, especially in Britain. Schools, offices and governments have regulations. British students, employees and businesses seek to get around regulations. Regulations are thought to cost money, time and effort, preventing people from engaging in more productive activity. One of the most important arguments against the European Union in Britain during the Brexit referendum campaign last year was that the E.U. is widely believed to be a source of time-wasting regulations. Continue reading “The Grenfell Tower disaster gives Britain’s ‘bonfire of regulations’ a whole new meaning”
The contrast could not be more stark. Theresa May, the British prime minister, presides over a hung Parliament and a divided country. Donald Trump, the American president, rules alongside a Congress almost too paralyzed to legislate. In both countries, far-left and far-right movements and ideas have more adherents than ever; political debate is angry, hate-filled — and violent. Gunmen have now shot at U.S. lawmakers on the left and right; in Britain last year, an MP was murdered. Continue reading “Everyone said Old Europe was dying. Sure doesn’t look like it now.”
President Trump has told British Prime Minister Theresa May he will cancel his state visit to Britain,the Guardian reported today, supposedly on the grounds that there will be mass protests. But while some official disappointment may be expressed, behind the scenes there will be no sorrow in Downing Street. Although I don’t want to exaggerate the U.S. president’s importance in last Thursday’s snap election in Britain — the main issues were domestic — this was a very hard-fought contest. Had a few hundred votes gone the other way in a handful of constituencies, May’s Conservatives might still have their parliamentary majority. And there is a serious argument that, on the margins, Trump helped swing the electorate against the Tories — in three ways. Continue reading “How Trump helped defeat Theresa May”
Theresa May had a plan: Steal the policies of Britain’s “far right” — the U.K. Independence Party — and then steal their voters, too. Since she took office about a year ago, the formerly moderate British prime minister attacked foreigners, jeered at the European Union and held Donald Trump’s hand. In April, she called an early general election, confident that UKIP voters would now endorse her “hard Brexit” and her watered-down English Tory populism. Continue reading “Theresa May and the revenge of the Remainers”