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How the Dead Hand of Imperialism Continues to Influence World Politics – The New York Times

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THE SHADOWS OF EMPIRE
How Imperial History Shapes Our World
By Samir Puri

We are all in the throes of a hangover, Samir Puri writes, a “great imperial hangover.” He explains in “The Shadows of Empire” that we are living in the “first empire-free millennium” in history and yet the legacy of these empires still powerfully shapes our times. He is aware of the notion of informal empires but makes a strong case that there was something distinct and notable about formal empires, which existed from the days of the oldest human civilizations until 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. This juxtaposition — imperial legacies in a postimperial world — is an intriguing idea that proves a clever prism through which to look at the world. Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Britain’s exit from the European Union and the breakdowns in Iraq and Syria all have deep roots in an imperial past that still casts shadows on the present.

Once you start to think along these lines, you see the shadows of empires everywhere. The day I began the book, I had been reading about a topic that Puri does not discuss but is one more example of his thesis: the roiling debate about what to do with the hundreds of thousands of artifacts that were, over the centuries, taken from across the globe and now sit proudly in the great museums of the West. In recent history, because of the reach of Western power, most countries have either acted as imperialists or found themselves subjugated, and in both cases their national identity was profoundly shaped by the experience. Even the United States has been deeply affected by imperialism, Puri says, arguing that American slavery was an idea imported from Europe’s empires and was “the ultimate manifestation of colonization, not of land but people.” In fact, the MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes has described the historical circumstance of African-Americans as “a colony within a nation.”

Puri, an expert on armed conflict who has worked in the British Foreign Office, makes the case that Britain’s two pivotal decisions of the last several decades — joining the United States in the Iraq war and Brexit — were both crucially conditioned by the country’s imperial hangover. Once the world’s greatest imperial power, Britain clung to the idea that it had the military strength, the diplomatic skill and above all the ambition to shape far-flung parts of the globe. In addition, modern-day Iraq was a British creation, cobbled together in 1920 out of three provinces of the collapsing Ottoman Empire. London could once again decide Baghdad’s fate.

Brexit was animated by a view that Britain was not a country defined by its proximity to Europe. In fact, what had often characterized British nationalism was its separation from the Continent. (In Shakespeare’s “Richard II,” John of Gaunt gives voice to a deep-rooted English nationalism when he describes the island nation as “this precious stone set in the silver sea / Which serves it in the office of a wall / Or as a moat defensive to a house, / Against the envy of less happier lands.”) The leading Brexiteers, including now-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, often spoke about a “global Britain,” continuing its historical mission around the world, forging closer ties in particular with its old colonies and dominions from Canada to India to Australia.

The Russian case is in some ways even easier to make. Puri points out that “the evolution of Russia was inextricably linked to its expansion, so much so that it is unclear whether Russia created an empire or the process of imperialism created Russia.” He dates the start of Russia’s European-facing empire to the kingdom of Kievan Rus, which began in the ninth century in Kyiv, the present-day capital of Ukraine. From those modest beginnings grew an empire that at its height, after the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II, spanned 11 time zones and comprised almost 200 million people. When you consider this history, Vladimir Putin’s remark that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “a major geopolitical disaster of the century” makes sense, especially if you listen to what he said immediately after: “Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself.” These deep imperial ties with Ukraine help explain why Putin’s brazen annexation of Crimea was broadly popular within Russia.

We enter the postimperial 21st century with an unusual geopolitical dynamic. The two leading powers on the planet, the United States and China, both derive a great deal of their internal legitimacy and purpose from the notion that they are anti-imperial nations. In America’s case, its identity is tied to its birth story of rebelling against the British Empire. In China’s case, every schoolchild is taught that the country’s modern history began with Western imperialism humiliating and crippling the Middle Kingdom for over a century. And yet both countries have informal empires. The American one is a vast network of economic alliances and military bases scattered around the world. China, for its part, is trying to develop something quite similar with its huge Belt and Road Initiative, which may swell to 10 times the size of the Marshall Plan.

How will these two distinctive postimperial superpowers interact in the 21st century? What will be the consequences of the imperial shadows cast in this new, emerging bipolar era? Unfortunately, Puri does not have much to say about any of this. Having provided a fresh perspective on all the issues I have raised above, he offers brief and intelligent speculation, but mostly proceeds to simply recount the imperial histories of major countries or parts of the world. Much of this is well written, comprehensive and judicious, but it is still potted history. Having introduced a fascinating subject, Puri declines to fully engage and explore his own thesis. He seems to imply that this task is left to the reader, but that leaves too much to us, and lets the author of this stimulating book off the hook too easily.

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Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say

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When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.

“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.

“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”

Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.

“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.

He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”

 

Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.

Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.

Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.

“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.

She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”

What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.

“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”

Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.

Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.

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“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.

For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.

 

Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.

At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.

One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.

“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.

“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”

Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.

 

“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.

With files from Alex Boutilier and Kieran Leavitt

 

 

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After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.

McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.

The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.

In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.

“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”

Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”

“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

Source:- NBC News

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Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics

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(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.

Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.

“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”

In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.

The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.

The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.

The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source:- BNN

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