Russia is cultivating Germany’s far right. Germans don’t seem to care.

It’s not as though the relationship between the Russian government and the German far right, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, has ever been a secret. Last year, when the government expelled a group of Russian spies, AfD leader Alexander Gauland protested: Germany could be letting “itself be drawn into a new Cold War by rabble rousers,” he declared. During Germany’s most recent election campaign, Russian state media campaigned openly for AfD. Pro-Russian and Russian-based social media accounts, some real and some automated, repeated AfD’s anti-immigration and anti-European messages, as well. Continue reading “Russia is cultivating Germany’s far right. Germans don’t seem to care.”

Theresa May was warned about Brexit. She didn’t listen.

At every fateful historical turning point — every time a bad decision is taken or a wrong choice is made — there is always someone who tries to stop it, someone who predicts the consequences, someone who proposes an alternative plan. Cicero tried to halt the fall of the Roman Republic; Churchill opposed appeasement. And there are less mythical, more recent examples, too: Before the invasion of Iraq, the State Department conducted a massive study of the country, foreseeing many of the problems, making many proposals for a post-Saddam Hussein regime — all of which were ignored by the Pentagon after the invasion in 2003. Continue reading “Theresa May was warned about Brexit. She didn’t listen.”

France’s yellow vests highlight a gap between policy and how it’s perceived

At the national level, support is dropping. More than half of French people now say they want the gilets jaunes — the yellow-jacketed protesters with a record of violence — to stop their demonstrations. An even bigger majority — more than two-thirds — agree that the protesters who still block traffic circles and march through Paris every weekend are not the same people, with the same motivations, who began the protests last fall. To many, it looks as though the movement that began as a provincial revolt against gasoline taxes has become a home for political extremists of the far left and the far right, some of whom have used the demonstrations as an excuse to battle one another. Continue reading “France’s yellow vests highlight a gap between policy and how it’s perceived”

The Mueller probe shows that our laws need fixing

The Russian government made extensive efforts, through hacking of email as well as information warfare, to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election. Multiple members of the Trump campaign knew of these efforts in advance. Trump himself publicly called on the Russian government to release information that would hurt Hillary Clinton and benefit him. During the course of the election, Trump’s campaign chairman exchanged polling data with someone who the FBI has said has ties to Russian intelligence; Trump’s son wrote “I love it!” when offered what he thought was dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russia; Trump’s camp maintained an elaborate business relationship with Russians who by definition had ties to the Kremlin (because all wealthy Russians have ties to the Kremlin). And in every single one of these cases, the people involved lied extensively when questioned. Continue reading “The Mueller probe shows that our laws need fixing”

Theresa May isn’t the adult in the room. She’s part of the problem.

“She was dealt a bad hand.” “She took a poisoned chalice.” From a great distance, it is possible to feel sorry for British Prime Minister Theresa May. She seems so dignified. She seems to be trying so hard. The circles beneath her eyes have grown so much deeper since she became prime minister back in 2016, following the surprise result of the Brexit referendum, the resignation of her hapless predecessor, David Cameron, and an ugly leadership squabble, during which several of her male colleagues metaphorically stabbed one another in the back. Since then, she has always seemed to outsiders the sensible person in the room, the adult who knows what she is doing, the sane person in a madhouse. Continue reading “Theresa May isn’t the adult in the room. She’s part of the problem.”

Radicalism kills. Why do we only care about one kind?

It begins with humor. The alt-right’s jokes, a teenage friend assures me, are genuinely funny: They ridicule the pomposities of “mainstream” culture, laugh at political correctness and create ridiculous memes mocking everything, including themselves. And once you’ve laughed at the jokes, there is a whole amusing, darkly ironic, alternative world out there, only a couple of clicks away. Continue reading “Radicalism kills. Why do we only care about one kind?”

Brexit has devastated Britain’s international reputation — and respect for its democracy

In Madrid last week, a senior politician told me that he was watching the Brexit crisis with growing astonishment. “England, the mother of parliaments,” he said, shaking his head. “We’ve looked up to them for so long.” Meanwhile an Italian friend who arrived in London on a delayed train — French customs officers are having a pre-Brexit strike at the Gare du Nord in Paris, delaying London-bound trains and demanding extra compensation — was also amazed. “We think our democracies are weak, elsewhere in Europe. But even if you took a bunch of Italians, Poles and Hungarians, kept them up all night and got them drunk, they still wouldn’t come up with anything as disastrous as what we are seeing in the House of Commons.” Continue reading “Brexit has devastated Britain’s international reputation — and respect for its democracy”