Category Archives: History

North Korea and Literature

North Korea is in part fascinating because it is mysterious. Cut off from viewing eyes not by geographical remoteness but by political design, the state and the lives within it seem strange and bizarre to observers. The mystery of the hermit state is part of its myth, which is cultivated by North Korea’s leadership, as well as a by-product of its peculiar circumstances. Outsiders can enter only irregularly. Western journalists cannot report on North Korea as they might any other country. Outside analysts can only guess at the bare facts of its economy, its politics and its culture. Continue reading

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Why Nazis Love Bashar al-Assad

This week’s march, entitled ‘Unite the Right’, by a collection of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other right-wing extremists in Charlottesville, Virginia, has thrown the United States into turmoil. Continue reading

Questions Remain With ISIS Leaders Down but Not yet Out

The Islamic State (ISIS) is on the back foot after its defeat in the Iraqi city of Mosul and smaller losses in Syria, but questions re­main over eradicating the group’s leadership. Continue reading

The Ground Beneath Our Feet

Review – Imaginary Cities by Darran Anderson

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is one of the most imaginative works of twentieth century fiction. The book is a dream, a vision, literally so. It depicts, as a framing narrative, a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, the great figure at the head of the Mongol Empire. The two of them exist in a dream state, caught in a suspended moment. They discuss wonders and marvels, the result of Polo’s travelling. These are the cities of the title. Continue reading

White Phosphorus and the Judgement of History

White phosphorus is an easily produced compound that has numerous military applications. It burns brightly and persistently. In battle, it can create a smokescreen that can hide troop movements.

These uses are not objection­able but the status of white phosphorus is complex. It is not normally used offensively, though it sometimes is employed as a makeshift weapon. When this happens, it can be dangerous. Continue reading

Emmanuel Macron Saved France from the Far Right. But His Success Will Be Hard to Copy

Emmanuel Macron’s achievement is immense. His rise to the French presidency was remarkable to watch, transforming from an unknown former economy minister into Europe’s youngest head of state, and the youngest French leader since Napoleon. Continue reading

Enemies of the People, Past and Present

‘The revolutionary government owes to the good citizen all the protection of the nation; it owes nothing to the Enemies of the People but death.’ So declared Maximilien Robespierre in a speech delivered to the French National Convention on Christmas Day, 1793. Continue reading