Lanfranco Vaccari­­

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Paradigm shuffle

The election of Macron has pulled the rug out from under our notions of political right and left. The uncharted path he is proposing entails a reshuffling of categories in order to address the problems facing societies in the post-industrialist age.

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What's left of the left

Pummeled by a wave of almost unimaginable electoral defeats, the left in Europe and the US must now examine how it managed to misunderstand all the changes in a society that has lashed out against it. 

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Letting Trump be Trump

It’s not by coincidence that Donald Trump’s run for the presidency harked back to that of the most successful Republican in memory. Yet despite similarities in the campaign, certain fundamental differences in the candidates as well as the context will surely generate surprises.

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Merkel mulls another run

For years it seemed as if no one could compete with Angela Merkel. Even though the recent refugee crisis has eroded her consensus in the country, she remains the best-suited leader to contrast the world’s growing populism. 

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Democracy can’t close the inevitable gap between its dual existence as an ideal and as a reality, between what it promises and what it delivers. Although it always fails, it never fails completely, and over time it has demonstrated remarkable adaptability. The question is, will it be able to overcome its present crisis?

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A fairytale gone awry

Not long ago Europe seemed poised to become a superpower in world affairs. Now everybody is trying to figure out how the once noble European project can keep from crumbling into pieces.

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As economies undergo rapid transformation, those who get left behind often blame the trend toward globalization. But the process is much too complex to demonize in its entirety. For sure, globalization is neither a panacea nor the culprit of all middle-class woes.

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America in Trumpland

It seems as if a large chunk of the US population has stepped through the looking glass and seen the wonders of what winning might look like. But who are the folks who have turned Trump into a movement that is shaking America up?

Millennial America
Millennials mind the gap

The generation of Americans coming of age today has become a political force to be reckoned with. Bernie Sanders, in particular, is riding the wave as he shines a spotlight on concerns over growing wealth inequality. But can he do anything about it?

Redrawing the Gulf
The Middle East's original sin

The Gulf region has become a powder keg as Saudi concerns over Shia expansionism keep growing. And yet, the Sauds now fear a very similar phenomenon to what originally brought them to the throne. 

Science deniers
The war on science

When scientific evidence gets in the way of a given political agenda, then an insidious mechanism of denial sets into motion. These days, science denial may be one of the few aspects of political debate that are truly bipartisan.

Europe’s dark hour
What to do with the Islamic State

In a tactical shift the Islamic State is now exporting its terror into Europe. The West must deal with the growing threat on many fronts, but ultimately the solutions are limited. What lies ahead will be a long war of attrition.

USA
The Republican meltdown

The GOP is currently experiencing severe turbulence. The cultural chasm between its white male middle-class base and the urbane elites who fund it has opened further and seriously jeopardized the party’s chances for the White House.

Emergency aid disasters
Disastrous emergency aid

Despite the noble intentions of aid organizations in the aftermath of natural disasters, their effectiveness is often negligible, if not calamitous. Nevertheless, certain valuable lessons can be learned from recent experiences.

Iran
1980: a dour Persian New Year

The Islamic Republic of Iran was still in its infancy, Tehran’s disciplinarians were on the lookout for vice, and so was I, along with the other guests dancing to disco music at the Hyatt Hotel’s party. It wasn’t long before the authorities decided to take matters, and this correspondent, into their own hands.

Fiscal paradise lost
The scent of money

The practice of offering and taking bribes is much older than money itself. As the world economy grows more sophisticated, corruption’s tendrils simply ramify in more elaborate ways.

Islam’s Thirty Years’ War
The Middle East’s Thirty Years’ War

If history rhymes, then the current crisis in the Muslim world sounds very much like the upheaval Europe underwent in the 17th century. With religious clashes as an underlying pretext, a new geopolitical order is working itself out.

Euro Sisyphus faces jihad
Averting Eurogeddon

For years Europe has avoided expansionary economic policies in favor of austerity. But with the examples of successful quantitative easing in the US and UK, Europe has no choice but to follow suit. Will it be enough? Or has the European economy passed the point of no return?

Modifying India
Wringing out India’s waste

India is a dysfunctional colossus if ever there was one. But there has been progress in many areas, and the new government is well-positioned to build on already existing momentum and fill in some of the myriad economic sinkholes. 

The right tune
What’s right?

Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have seen success in recent elections, but there seem to be two different paths. One involves pragmatism and compromise, the other opposition to anything remotely progressive.

­­­Sowing the seeds of better food policy­
More food with less: a success story

Doomsayers have long been predicting famine as a natural result of overpopulation. But studies continue to show that just the opposite has been occurring. Advances in technology have allowed us to feed more of the world as the population increases.

Borders
The messy business of borders

Idealists believe a borderless world is a better world. Pragmatists recognize that there are no good or bad boundaries, they are just conventions that allow for more civil relations between different peoples. Over time, it seems the more we wish to get rid of borders, the more they crop up.

Mega$port
Is it worth it?

Sports mega-events like the World Cup and Olympics tend to be pitched as moneymakers for host countries and cities. The economic reality of these events, however, is much grimmer than their feel-good effect would suggest.

World war
The price of the West’s strategic ambiguity

For more than two decades NATO and the EU have assumed that they had won the Cold War, expanding eastward every chance they got. Yet this expansion not only ate into Russia’s national pride and geographic buffer, it also undermined the original purpose of the transatlantic alliance.

­­­The battle for Europe
­­­The battle for Europe

What’s at stake in the upcoming European Parliament elections, where the euroskeptic parties are expected to surge, is not the survival of the Union but whether political and economic integration has to be boosted or scaled down – and to what extent.

Full throttle Putin
Putin’s true colors

Putin’s annexation of Crimea is not the end of Ukraine’s crisis. And it’s not even the beginning of the end of the geopolitical mess it provoked. As surely as it buries the post-Cold War order, it heralds the beginning of a new Russian assertiveness. With two main objectives: to be considered an equal partner by the EU and to stop the West’s assimilation of ex-Soviet states.

Global health
One drop at a time

One would think the eradication of a disease like polio would be a universal goal. Unfortunately, cultural resistance and suspicion of immunization programs remain, and there may be a polio resurgence in some countries.

The year of Europe
Back to the bare essentials

The EU elections contain all the ingredients for a perfect storm. With populist and anti-Europe parties gaining steam, the Union may be facing a self-sabotaging minority within the Parliament. Still, this may force the EU to sell its case to disenchanted Europeans.

 

Losing the art of political dialogue
It wasn’t meant to be like this

Political parties originated from within society to advocate for common interests. Over time they have become entrenched in the state, and now their power squabbles risk divorcing them entirely from the people they were intended to represent.

Angela the Great
Angela the Great

The EU was created essentially to contain Germany. And yet, almost despite itself, Germany has become the continent’s dominant power. Angela Merkel’s solid and often misunderstood leadership has played a major part. Now the future of Europe hinges on how she will resolve her country’s numerous paradoxes.

De-globalized manufacturing
Reshoring American jobs

Logic would seem to dictate that manufacturing is cheapest where the labor is cheap. This assumption has held for many years, but now US manufacturers are discovering that, for a number of reasons, products can be made more efficiently at home.

Back to square one
Back to square one

The recent coup in Egypt presents a conundrum for democratic aspirations. Elections brought an illiberal democracy. Then popular will, with a little help from the “deep state,” toppled the elected government. Absent attempts at reconciliation, this may be the start of a vicious circle.

Japan’s recovery roller coaster
Stuck in a quagmire

After two decades of battling slow growth and deflation, Japan is discovering that an ageing and shrinking population is at the heart of the matter. A warning the rest of the West cannot ignore.

German football
Back to its winning ways

 

Germany has long been expected to dominate. Now, after an uncharacteristic slump, the European powerhouse is back on top, showing that the Rhine model is effective not only in industry, but also on the pitch.

 
End of EUphoria
Europe in the doldrums

The common sense approach to Europe’s crisis – getting profligate nations’ fiscal house in order – was clearly going to be difficult. But few questioned its effectiveness. So why has austerity seemed to make things worse?

Unmasking Italy’s mess
Nobody’s laughing now

When Beppe Grillo was beyond the political pale, few took him seriously. Now he is poised to subvert Italy’s political establishment. Yet Grillo is just the latest manifestation of a peculiar Italian form of extreme populism. Like the many anti-establishment movements before it, the M5S wavers between incoherence and a dangerous knack for contagion, which is oddly appealing to a broad range of Italians.

The graying of the great powers
The de­­population bomb

The world is facing a demographic watershed of unprecedented proportions. Everywhere on the planet, people are living longer and having fewer children. This “graying” of the world will have huge economic and political ramifications.

When consensus kills governability
Restoring democracy

A government of the people, by the people and for the people is surely a noble idea. But what happens when governments become ineffectual, or even paralyzed, due the people’s desire to reap rewards without paying the price?

Something stirring in Africa
Africa’s golden leap

Long regarded as a hopeless continent, Africa is poised to flourish economically in the 21st century. The causes are a combination of familiar patterns in economic development as well as a dose of uniquely African ingenuity.

The reluctant reformer
Running out of grandeur

The traditional French Socialist approach to economic matters is untenable in the current fiscal climate. Faced with plummeting approval and a fresh downgrade, François Hollande is poised to use his party’s unprecedented hold on power to institute reforms.­­

Iran’s paper bomb
Moving goalposts and missed opportunities

As Iran moves closer to getting a nuclear bomb, those who want to prevent it from happening must assess their options. Neither continued sanctions nor military intervention seem capable of preventing the inevitable. So what next?

India - The floundering colossus
­Mirror, mirror, why not me?

In sports as in politics, dominance means more than just winning. It implies an inherent ambition, drive and will to compete. India’s embarrassing performance in Olympic history reflects what bewilders the country at large, from incompetence to corruption – and beyond.

Arab disillusion
The Arab disillusion

When tyrants fall, hopes rise along with uncertainty. But with hope waning in the Arab Spring’s hangover, the symptoms of a deeply rooted malaise have appeared in the squares that promised
an overdue renaissance, as emblematically expressed in the graffiti of Cairo’s streets.

Europe fights to survive
Europe, Sisyphus and the Greek enigma

Greece is broke and cannot find an easy way out of its crisis. Whether or not it stays in the eurozone, the outcome is equally nightmarish. And whatever happens, the rest of Europe, already tossing in its sleep, will pay a hefty price. 

Joining the club
Developing wealth

For the first time in history, extreme poverty is easing worldwide, despite the recession in the West and a spike in food prices. And as a strong middle class grows in the emerging economies, a virtuous cycle is spurring a higher quality of life and better governance.

Egypt
One hand turns to fist

For decades, Egypt’s military has been seen as “one hand with the people” and it benefited both politically and economically. At the beginning of the 2011 revolution, the armed forces still enjoyed huge popular support. No more: a year of ham-handed tactics has brought them to the point where their main concern is staying in business.

Tech bubble 2.0
Tech it to the max

Unlike the bubble of the 1990s, the recent surge is still limited to social media that process consumer information. And not all the new companies have figured out how to monetize their resources. Still, a spate of IPOs are preparing us for the big one: Facebook.

The new Arab order Islam women money
Bringing the mountain to Muhammad

To what extent is Islam compatible with democracy? The new political parties emerging in North Africa show a wide range that promises to fuel the debate about political Islam.

Debt’s children
The Debt Generation

The anger of the world’s newly mobilized youth is being directed at governments that seem to have failed them and a financial industry that appears to be sabotaging their dreams. The problem is that however vague and impractical their demands, the solutions seem equally unattainable and obsolete.

The West still schools the world
The great swell of learning

The increased movement of students going abroad has only confirmed Anglo-American hegemony in the field of university education. As a result, all education systems throughout the world are having to adapt.

Deep water
Fighting for a drink

Alarmists have been predicting cataclysmic conflicts over scarce water supplies. But water has rarely, if ever, been the prime cause of any war. In fact, it seems that the element’s very nature lends itself to conflict resolution and cooperation, something governments and diplomats would do well to bear in mind.

Aftershock
The balance sheet of disaster

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami that struck the northeastern coast of Japan may well become the costliest natural disaster in history. But it’s not the black swan capable of bringing ­a country, and the rest of the world, to its knees.

Iran
Buying time

Sanctions, sabotage, and even targeted assassinations have delayed Iran’s march toward building an atom bomb. But sooner or later, the inevitable can happen –­ if they want it to