Again, a great, counter-intuitive, book by Bruno Macaes, who’s gaining real traction as one of today’s most interesting thinkers – and prolific twiterazzi. After China and Europe he now turns to the US. His thesis on the United States is not as multi-layered as his last two books on Eurasia and the Belt and Road, but carries nevertheless a great insight: the US is living in a fantasy world, of its own… Read More

Pax Americana in a Chinese world Our modern day addiction Brooks on our Second Mountain

On the eve of Trump launching a missile attack on Syria, I watched “The Final Year” – a Netflix documentary on the efforts of Obama’s diplomatic team (Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, John Kerry) to solve conflict through diplomacy. Featuring Obama’s famous red line, now replaced by Trump’s “Mission Accomplished” – totally different approaches, same result: the war in Syria goes on.

Yascha Mounk interviewed by David Frum in the Atlantic, on populism, the trouble with illiberal democracies and America’s role. An excerpt: “The first is that we need to fight for an inclusive nationalism. This means that we oppose any attempt to identify the nation with a particular ethnic or religious group (as parts of the current U.S. administration consistently do). We must do what we can to protect vulnerable minorities from attacks. But… Read More

Een film van Steven Spielberg. Met Meryl Streep. En ook nog met Tom Hanks, een man die bij mij altijd, ongeacht zijn rol, irritatie opwerkt. Daar mag je niet teveel van verwachten, behalve dat het een gelikte film zal zijn, met wat zwaar aangezette, clichématige karakters. Dat is The Post dan ook. Maar dan wel met een onverminderd belangrijke boodschap: dat de zittende macht, van de staat of anders, altijd moet worden… Read More

Washington staat op zijn kop. Het tell-all boek van Michael Wolff over Trump, de alt-right revolutie en de keiharde strijd om de politieke koers van de VS is een sensatie. Wolffs schrijfstijl is agressief en suggestief, maar ook onderhoudend en geestig. Hij heeft zijn toegang tot Trump en zijn staf maximaal gebruikt (en daarmee voor eeuwig verspeeld) om een vernietigend boek te schrijven over een chaotisch en disfunctioneel Witte Huis. De verschillende… Read More

Een openhartig verslag van een heftig jaar voor Joe Biden, Amerika’s vice-president. Biden schotelt ons drie verhaallijnen voor: het ziektebed en de uiteindelijke dood van zijn oudste zoon Beau, zijn internationale werk als ‘Veep’ en zijn worsteling met de vraag of hij zich verkiesbaar zal stellen als opvolger van president Obama. Wat betreft dat laatste, we weten dat hij ervan af gezien heeft. Hoewel hij zichzelf het beste gekwalificeerd vindt, was hij… Read More

Brilliant documentary on agent-provocateur Roger Stone, mastermind of negative campaign advertising, sleaze ball Washington lobbyist, Richard Nixon’s biggest fan, alt-right supporter and most recently: the creator of Donald Trump, the politician. Roger “Better to be infamous, than never be famous at all” Stone exemplifies all that’s currently wrong with the Republican Party. A must see. Morgan Pehme, Get Me Roger Stone, (2017) – Netflix

The read of the week: an essay on why Francis Fukuyama is still so widely misunderstood and the high level of accuracy his predictions had, including the rise of Donald Trump…25 years ago. An appetizer: “The spread of egalitarian values that went along with secular democratic politics would open up spaces of severe resentment – especially, we might now postulate, among those who had lost their traditional places at the top of… Read More

Na de dood van zijn broer Freddy, mede als gevolg van alcoholisme, besluit Donald Trump dat hij altijd zal voorkomen dat mensen een verliezer in hem zouden kunnen zien. Winnen en succes vormen vanaf dat moment de ingrediënten zijn levensmotto. En dat lukte: eerst met de dappere en gewaagde aankoop en geslaagde restauratie van het Grand Hyatt. De Trump Tower was niet lang daarna de bevestiging van zijn roem. Winnen is waar… Read More

In het tv-programma Buitenhof  wees commentator Tom-Jan Meeus op de stille big data revolutie die zich het laatste jaar heeft voltrokken in politieke campagnes, en zowel Trump als de Brexiteers zeer heeft geholpen de overwinning te behalen. Het bedrijf Cambridge Analytica (ene Steven Bannon was er bestuurslid) koppelt online voorkeuren van mensen aan psychosociale profielen en weet zo precies welke boodschap op welk individu afgevuurd moet worden. Dit zou ook verklaren waarom… Read More

We all know Henry Kissinger as a brilliant, yet divisive figure of American Foreign Politics. He was a bright mind with a first row seat during the great events of the Cold War. Probably less known is the drama of his flight from his home town Furth, to escape Nazi-Germany. After some detours he arrived in New York, together with many other Jews. We join the young Kissinger on his trip; from… Read More

America is not longer the leader of the free world: uncharted waters are awaiting us… …according to Ian Bremmer in this Time article.  

Donald Trump doet liever niet aan zelfreflectie. Hij zou dan weleens, zo zegt hij zelf,’iets onaangenaams tegen kunnen komen.’ In ieder geval zou de introspectie van Amerika’s nieuwe president leiden tot een gespleten beeld. Trump is ogenschijnlijk zeer consequent inconsequent. Zo pleitte hij eens op Capitol Hill voor een inkomstenbelasting tot 60% voor rijke mensen, niet lang nadat Reagan deze naar 31%  had verlaagd. Dat zou hij nu niet meer zo snel doen…. Read More

Excellent piece by Yuval Levin from Commentary Magazine on the threat President Trump will pose to institutions, pluralism and – in the end – the American way of life. Full text Donald Trump’s insurgent takeover of the Republican Party and his victory in the 2016 election together constitute the culmination of a series of institutional breakdowns across American society that have been under way for decades. Trump channeled the electorate’s deep frustrations with… Read More

American populism according to Niall Ferguson. In this recent talk he explains what is needed for ‘peak populism’ to get hold of America, as we see happening now. The context is set by four ingredients: 1) a surge in immigration 2) rising inequality 3) the perception of corruption 4) a financial crisis. Add a fifth ingredient, a demagogue, and the recipe starts to work. Trump, as phenomenon, is not unprecedented. Ferguson takes… Read More

Donald J. Trump has been elected President of the United States and will succeed Barack Obama early 2017. The campaign between the two flawed candidates was ugly, negative and intense. The outcome is nothing short of stunning. And has unveiled a divided America. In the coming days a million explanations, analyses and comments will flood the media and the internet. Please make sure to watch Jonathan Haidt explain the challenges America – and… Read More

Boeken over de oorlog in Vietnam blijven me boeien. James Webb schreef Vuurvelden in 1978, na zijn terugkeer uit Vietnam. Webb ging later de politiek in, onder andere als Democratische Senator van Virginia, en schreef nog een tiental boeken. Dit moet een van zijn beste zijn. Een intens boek lang zitten we op de huid van een peloton jongens – want hoewel de oorlog harde mannen van ze maakt, zijn ze, op… Read More

Strong and insightful American Interest article by Jonathan Haidt on how moral psychology can help explain and reduce tensions between nationalism and globalism. What on earth is going on in the Western democracies? From the rise of Donald Trump in the United States and an assortment of right-wing parties across Europe through the June 23 Brexit vote, many on the Left have the sense that something dangerous and ugly is spreading: right-wing… Read More

We dangerously underestimate the risk of populism in this ultra-democratic era. American democracy is in danger of extinction. In an erudite New York Magazine article, Andrew Sullivan  links Plato’s warning on late-stage democracy, the problematic role of our emotional mass media, the economic stagnation of the American middle class, identity politics, fascism, and people’s preference for oversimplified solutions to our complex problems – into a vigorous appeal to do anything possible to… Read More

Obama’s foreign policy is widely criticized for being dangerously reluctant (drawing unimpressive red lines for instance) and too timid (America shouldn’t be leading ‘from behind’). In this Atlantic article the president speaks at length about his decisions and doesn’t shy away from sharing his doubts. We get a front row seat at many important moments over the last 7 years. I wish more presidents were as reflective on their policy as Obama…. Read More

The Rolling Stone long-read that caused quite some online stir, arguing that the the presidential election campaign is really just a badly acted, billion-dollar TV show, in which Donald Trump makes the winning point that the regular guy has been screwed by a conspiracy of incestuous elites. The author,  Matt Taibbi, ends his piece with what a cri de coeur: “King Trump. Brace yourselves, America. It’s really happening.”  

Sarah Palin is back: whatever you may think of her, she gives a fascinating endorsement speech. Enjoy.  

Dit boekje belooft ‘alles over de Amerikaanse verkiezingen’, wat enigszins overdreven is. Wel is het een leuk en nuttig overzicht van de smerigste campagnes (de allersmerigste is die van 1856), slimste leuzen (de beste: I Like Ike), zwakste running mates (natuurlijk Dan Quayle) en beste presidenten (FDR). Voor Amerika lovers. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – Paul Brill (2012)

Interesting Politico piece arguing we don’t really care about the truth, the reason why so many politicians get away with lies. We are inclined to believe them unless we have a previous reason not to believe them. It’s all about cognitive dissonance. Related, some insight on whether the Republican party will survive the Donald.

As this New Yorker article by Dexter Filkins (author of the great book The Forever War) argues, it should’t surprise anyone that no politician in charge in the last 10 years, Republican or Democrat, isn’t compromised by the chaotic American involvement in Iraq. Claiming that State Secretary Hillary Clinton stood by while events unravelled is as un-factual as blaming George W. Bush for all things gone wrong. As always, reality is nuanced – a difficult… Read More

As the US presidential election approaches, books on candidates, geopolitical issues and the hard choices would-be presidents will see themselves confronted with, will hit the bookstores in big numbers. My guess is that this one will probably stand out for clarity, as the author isn’t afraid to balance all his arguments – as normally seen in essays. After G-Zero this is Bremmer’s second book I read, and again he shows great ability in describing the complex world in a… Read More

Hands down the best political biography I’ve read. The book gives great insights in the man and the President Lyndon Baines Johnson was, telling the story of a turbulent era in US history through a new lens – ranging from the Cuba Crisis to the Civil Rights Act. In essence it’s a lesson on how to use power. The book also contains great stories – one of my favorites being German Chancellor… Read More

Ian Bremmer is the new star of international relations, his book is clever, easy to read and has a clear concept. We  live in a wold where no G-20, G-3, G-8 has the power to push through decisions. We are all on our own and should prepare for wheeling and dealing with our neighbours on a permanent basis.