February 25, 2016 | By Ivo H. Daalder

This Week’s Reads

A boy rides a bicycle past a man sitting on rubble of a damaged house in the rebel held historic southern town of Bosra al-Sham, Deraa, Syria, February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir

One of the great illusions that followed the Cold War was that we had entered an era in which power and geopolitics didn’t matter—we had approached the “end of history.” Today this notion seems bunk. As liberal democracies retreat throughout Europe and great power politics play out across the Middle East, it certainly looks as if history has bounced back.
 
This week’s reads offer a glimpse of what history’s return looks like. Anna Sauerbrey in The New York Times writes about the “centrifugal forces” that are pulling Germany apart, from the refugee crisis to growing nationalism. Similarly, Steven Erlanger writes about the mayor of London’s call for “Brexit,” reminding us that the era of European convergence may be coming to an end.
 
Then there’s the Middle East, which Thomas Friedman writes is a region “shaped by a struggle over a one-state solution, a no-state solution, a non-state solution, and a rogue-state solution.” Three of this week’s reads detail the floundering attempts of Russia and the United States to manage this chaotic landscape. Another piece, by Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, paints a chilling illustration of ISIS and the Syrian civil war.
 
These reads leave little room for optimism, but hopefully they will provide you with a clearer picture of some of the dynamics that are shaping our world.

The End of the Merkel Era

Anna Sauerbrey/The New York Times

For the past decade, under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany experienced rapid economic and cultural integration. However, the rise of the Alternative for Germany Party, along with 81 percent of German citizens disagreeing with Merkel’s approach to the migration crisis, could signal the end of Merkel’s era of increasing diversity and cooperation.

London Mayor Joins Chorus Demanding Exit from EU

Steven Erlanger/The New York Times

London Mayor Boris Johnson has voiced support in favor of Britain leaving the European Union, demonstrating just how much work is left for David Cameron ahead of the British vote this June.

The Many Mideast Solutions

Thomas L. Friedman/The New York Times

Presidential candidates have pledged to stand with America’s Israeli and Sunni Arab allies to solve crises in the Middle East. But Thomas Friedman argues this fanciful approach doesn’t match up to reality and the next president will be dealing with a new, complex Middle East for which old platitudes no longer apply.

Syria Is Merely One Piece in Russia's Strategic Jigsaw

Tony Barber/Financial Times

Tony Barber argues that Syria is merely one piece in Vladimir Putin’s plan to achieve his international objectives, which include regaining influence over neighboring land lost in the post-Cold War era; proving it can stop western governments from doing away with dictators they dislike; and stopping dangerous foreign ideas—like constitutional monarchy or liberal democracy—from contaminating Russia’s political system.

Why Obama’s Middle East Policy Is Failing

Kenneth M. Pollack and Barbara F. Walter/The Wall Street Journal

According to Pollack and Walter, the Obama administration’s approach in the Middle East is failing because it focuses on defeating the Islamic State instead of ending civil wars. Extremist groups like ISIS form during civil wars, and even if the United States “defeats” or “degrades” ISIS, another group will take its place until civil wars in the Middle East end.

Solving Obama's Aleppo Dilemma

Thomas Wright/ Brookings Institution

The Obama administration has condemned Russia’s actions in Aleppo, but how can the administration persuade Russia to stop attacking the city and allow aid in without direct military confrontation? Thomas Wright argues this can be done through the use of financial sanctions against Russia for their actions in Syria.

Syrian Officer Gave a View of War. ISIS Came, and Silence Followed.

Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad/The New York Times

The New York Times Beirut bureau shares an intimate look inside the Syrian war through the eyes of Abu al-Majd, a contact in the Syrian police force who provided unfiltered, philosophical, and emotional updates about his role in the war before his death at the hands of ISIS.
 

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