Catalans, Kurds, Given No Other Choice, Announce Referendums

Catalans demonstrate for independence in Barcelona, Spain, July 10, 2010
Catalans demonstrate for independence in Barcelona, Spain, July 10, 2010 (Rob Shenk)

Both the Catalans and Iraq’s Kurds have announced independence referendums this week over the objections of their central governments.

The two might seem a world away. Catalans have virtually no security concerns. The Kurds are waging a war on two fronts: one against Turkey to the north and another against the self-proclaimed Islamic State to the south.

Yet they have things in common. Read more

National Front Has Most to Gain from Becoming Conservative

Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015
Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

France’s National Front will have to reinvent itself after a disappointing election result on Sunday.

The nationalists were hoping to get 40 percent support or more in the presidential runoff, but Marine Le Pen got stuck at 34 percent. Still double her father’s performance when he qualified for the second voting round in 2002, but a letdown nonetheless.

In her concession speech, Le Pen promised voters “profound reform” of her party in order to create “a new political force” for all French “patriots” who oppose the globalism of Emmanuel Macron, the incoming president.

Whether this means starting a new party or rebranding the National Front remains to be seen, but change is in the air. With it could come a struggle for the movement’s identity. Read more

The Forces Shaping the French Election: Populism, Pride and Prejudice

Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, October 26, 2016
Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, October 26, 2016 (European Parliament)

And why is it so critical? Nothing less than the European Union is at stake — and with it, the geopolitical contract that has bound Germany and France together since World War II.

After the defeat of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders early this month in the Netherlands, it is reasonable to ask if populism as shaped by the alt-right has hit its limit. Europeans have watched the confusion in Britain over Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump. Now they are revisiting both their Euroskepticism and their willingness to gamble on ideologies not yet fully tested.

Yet France is subject to powerful forces quite different than the Netherlands, which has only a fraction of its population and international obligations. A large, unassimilated Muslim and African population simmers; an aging, conservative voter base roils; a discredited, weakened left wavers; and nobody knows what to do with the neoliberal threads that hold together the European Union yet impoverish just about anyone not in the upper classes. Read more

The Global History of the Alt-Right

Marine and Jean-Marie Le Pen, May 1, 2009
Marine and Jean-Marie Le Pen, May 1, 2009 (Laurent Garric)

When I was a teenager, I had to drive my older brother to downtown Phoenix. He couldn’t drive himself; he’d made a series of poor life choices, so it fell to me, the relatively responsible one, to ferry him about.

As we drove, he ranted to me about blacks, Mexicans and Jews, using all the tried and true tropes of the traditional white-supremacist right — tossing in, for my “education,” that the Bible had given blacks over to whites as slave-animals. When we pulled up to our destination, a Mexican guy was hanging out on the Phoenix equivalent of a stoop; my brother would have to pass by the guy. I asked him, in that teenaged point-blank manner, what he thought of the man.

“Oh no,” my brother replied. “He’s one of the good ones.” Switching off from racist extraordinaire, he proceeded to carry out his errand and have a light, polite chat with the very man whose race he’d spent much of our journey together trashing.

It was my first encounter with the doublethink that would swirl to become the alt-right. Read more

There Are Reason to Be Cautious About Breaking Up Bosnia

Map of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Map of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Pixabay/Stefano Ferrario)

Daniel Berman, who occasionally writes for the Atlantic Sentinel, poses an interesting question at his blog, The Restless Realist: Why not break up Bosnia?

The current situation seems untenable. Bosnia is divided in two: an autonomous Republika Srpska for the (mostly Orthodox Christian) ethnic Serbs and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the (Muslim) Bosniaks and (Catholic) Bosnian Croats.

The federation is itself divided into ten autonomous cantons, five of which are Bosniak-ruled, three Croat and two mixed. Read more

Trump Announces American Retreat from the World

American president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, bid farewell to Barack and Michelle Obama in Washington DC, January 20
American president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, bid farewell to Barack and Michelle Obama in Washington DC, January 20 (DoD/Marianique Santos)

Donald Trump has given the world a chilling preview of his foreign policy.

In his inaugural address as president, the businessman promised to break with decades of international trade policy and “put America first”.

Trump said he would protect the United States “from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.”

“Protection,” he maintained, “will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

That is not what the last century has taught us. Read more

Trump’s European Admirers Are Deluding Themselves

United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26, 2015
United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Donald Trump’s unexpected presidential election in the United States has delighted his ideological counterparts in Europe. Brexiteers in the United Kingdom think he will give them a better deal than Hillary Clinton. Populists in France and the Netherlands responded to Trump’s victory with glee. So did ultraconservatives in Central Europe.

They should think again. Trump may be a kindred spirit and his triumph is a setback for the liberal consensus that nationalists across Europe and North America agitate against. But he is no friend of European nations. Read more