Fragility and Uncertainty For Our Time


Canadian diplomats in the United States have been asked to no longer use cardboard cutouts of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at any embassy events. “It just doesn’t seem very prime ministerial,” one Canadian civil servant said. John Brassard, the Conservative Party spokesman took it once step further in an interview, stating that the cutout is an accurate metaphor for Mr. Trudeau: “Our prime minister is all about style with very little substance.”


London in Shock: Following an apparent terrorist attack on Wednesday near the Palace of Westminster, which houses both chambers of the British Parliament, British police are on high alert. The attack, which occurred around 2:40 pm local time, is eerily similar to other recent attacks in European cities. The assailant, whose identity at the time of this writing was yet to be released, first drove a grey Hyundai 4×4 into crowds along the busy Westminster Bridge, before abandoning his vehicle and attempting to enter the Parliament building. He fatally stabbed an unarmed police officer stationed outside the building before he was shot dead by an armed guard. The police officer killed, 48-year-old Keith Palmer, was a 15-year veteran of the police force.

London police have so far confirmed four casualties, including the attacker, with seven people injured and in critical condition. Occurring on the anniversary of the 2016 Brussels attacks, the events in London are sure to fuel the ongoing security debate in European and Western nations. While no group has claimed responsibility, police are treating the incident as an attack akin to those previously witnessed in Paris, Berlin, and Brussels. On Thursday, police arrested seven people and searched six addresses, and investigations are taking place in London, Birmingham, and other parts of the country.

The bloodshed drew international condemnation, with British Prime Minister Theresa May calling the events ‘sick and depraved.’ Mayor of London Sadiq Khan assuredhis citizens that London “will not be cowed by terrorism.” London last fell victim to a major terror attack on July 7, 2005 when four suicide bombers detonated explosives on three subway trains and one bus. Referred to as the 7/7 attacks, 56 people lost their lives.

In a day filled with tragedy, one heroic Member of Parliament Tobias Ellwood, a member of the ruling conservative party, rushed to save the stabbed police officer. In an unfortunate coincidence, Ellwood was later revealed to be the brother of one of the victims of the 2002 Bali bombings.


North Korea’s Economics of Violence: North Korea usually receives attention for its saber-rattling missile tests or intra-family feuds that result in assassinations with nerve agents classified as weapons of mass destruction. According to relief organizations, the people of North Korea are in the “midst of a protracted, entrenched humanitarian situation largely forgotten or overlooked by the rest of the world.” The report states that over 70 percent of North Koreans are suffering from an acute lack of water, sanitation, and health infrastructure. Especially at risk is the one-fifth of North Korea’s population that are under the age of 15. Several natural disasters linked to climate change have also created humanitarian emergencies in the country, including heavy flooding in 2011 and more recently, typhoons in 2016 that killed 138 people and displaced 68,000.

According to a 2011 World Bank report, violence is not the only cause of poverty but it is the primary cause. The North Korean government’s focus on violence and conflict is one explanation for the deleterious conditions of its population. Despite the protracted suffering of its people, the North Korean government continues to devote resources to its weapons program, though its latest missile launch was a failure. Imagine being a scientist or engineer on the North Korean missile team. Could it be that some of these missile tests are actually intended to fail?


US Escalating Military Efforts Against ISIS: The US military air taxi’d anti-ISIS fighters a couple days ago to a critical battlefield near Raqqa, the self proclaimed capital of ISIS. The US military’s air convoy of Syrian Democratic Forces was intended to recapture the Tabqa Dam, a critical site near Raqqa. With US military efforts focused on the eradication of ISIS, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that it was “only a matter of time” before the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would be killed. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of Mosul, Iraq has been recaptured from ISIS.

The increased US military airstrikes in the region also resulted in the death of 33 people at a school west of Raqqa. Reports indicate that the people killed in the airstrike were fleeing escalated violence in the area, as there are fears in the region that a more aggressive US military posture will result in even more civilian deaths. The Pentagon has pledged to investigate these airstrikes.

While the US military and its allies in Syria and Iraq likely have the means to defeat ISIS on the battlefield, it will be very revealing to see how post-conflict activities will play out. Because, as we know from the two Iraq wars, the US military can win a war. But more important than the fight itself is what happens to the people, economy, and politics of a region after the conflict and whether or not non-military safeguards are built in to avoid yet another cycle of violence. Post-conflict reconstruction (or lack thereof) will be especially interesting to observe given the US government’s significant budget cuts to the State Department.


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More Reads:

  • Whatever happened to Generation X? “Once we go, there’ll be no living memory of the analogue era.” (BBC)
  • How Louis XVI ruled France with ballet (Mental Floss)
  • The Beatles released their debut album on this day in 1963. Not a fan? A lot of people back then weren’t either (The Atlantic)
  • As the French election nears the end, who is Marine Le Pen? (BBC)

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