Europe/Americas update: August 7 2018



Parts of Frankfurt airport had to be evacuated on Tuesday after somebody about a family of four triggered explosives detectors and yet the family was able to pass through security anyway. Nothing serious happened, but if you’ve ever tried to fly through Frankfurt you can probably imagine what this situation did to all of its air traffic.


British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson assured us all on Tuesday that the UK “always will be a tier one military power.” First of all, I’m not sure that’s even true now, and second of all, who gives a shit?



Only a couple of days after a Brazilian judge closed the country’s border with Venezuela, an appeals court judge has reopened it on humanitarian grounds. The argument was apparently that closing the border won’t actually stop the refugee flow, it will simply make it harder for the Brazilian government to care for those refugees.


A former Venezuelan police chief turned anti-Maduro activist named Salvatore Lucchese is claiming responsibility for the attempted assassination of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro over the weekend. Lucchese says he’s part of an informal resistance to Maduro that doesn’t have an established hierarchy but is apparently organized enough to buy a couple of drones and use them to try to take out the president.


Iván Duque was sworn in as Colombia’s new president on Tuesday with promises to always keep twirling towards freedom:

The 42-year-old lawyer and former senator for the Democratic Center party won a decisive victory against a leftist opponent in June’s election, promising to make adjustments to the domestically-controversial peace accord with the FARC, cut corporate taxes and redouble security efforts in certain areas.

“I want to govern Colombia with unbreakable values and principles, overcoming left and right divisions,” Duque said in an address before dignitaries, after receiving the presidential sash in Bogota’s Plaza Bolivar.

“I want to govern Colombia with the spirit of building, never of destroying.”

Ongoing peace negotiations with National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels, the country’s last remaining insurgent group, will be evaluated over the next 30 days, Duque said, adding that any process must be “credible” and based on an end to guerrilla criminal activity over a specified timeframe.


Finally, since I brought you Stephen Walt’s criticism of the liberal world order a couple of days ago, here’s Emile Simpson’s criticism of Walt. I don’t find it particularly compelling. Simpson basically argues that, instead of complaining that the international “rules-based” order isn’t really “rules-based” when the richest and most powerful countries feel free to ignore those “rules” at will, realists like Walt should simply believe more in the rules, as though clapping louder will make them actually matter. But I did want to highlight this bit of naïveté (emphasis mine):

Finally, while I accept the realist view that the West should not try to make the world in its own image by involuntarily pressing its values on others through the barrel of a gun, that doesn’t mean that liberal powers shouldn’t push for global rules that instantiate liberal values. Accommodating others does not mean giving up your own values; it just means recognizing their proper limits, on a case by case basis.

Indeed, this is what the realists get the most wrong in their tendency to fetishize power over all else. Politics and political order are downstream from culture, and the power of the United States ultimately rests on its values. The Cold War was not merely about bare power, but two ideas of what constitutes a just society. The problem since the end of the Cold War has been that the United States has no clear standard to define its values against, not least because it has not pushed back against the disjuncture of capitalism and democracy now evident whenever autocrats get the benefits of access to the West and Western investment without signing up to its values.

The United States has no interest in pushing back against the disjuncture of capitalism and democracy, because democracy when genuinely practiced often winds up being a giant pain in the ass for the people who benefit most from unfettered capitalism. And in case you haven’t been paying attention for the past 40 years, those are the people who control the US political system. What Simpson portrays here as a bug, or a failure of US governance, is in fact exactly the way the plutocrats who run this country want things to be. If you can’t even be honest about that, you don’t have any standing to make an honest appraisal of the liberal world order.

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