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What coronavirus can tell us about Health Emergencies past, and its future

This is a guest post from Dr. Joshua R. Moon is a Research Fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, researching biomedical research global health security policy. Research & Twitter

The coronavirus epidemic that is ongoing at the moment is not the first to spark global panic and it certainly won’t be the last. Looking to the future, even as we strive to end transmission and bring the epidemic to a close, we have an opportunity to examine the 21st century’s record when it comes to health emergencies. Looking from SARS to COVID19 tells us a story of technological success and political peril.

SARS: Renewed hope for IHR revisions

The rise of SARS, a novel coronavirus, in 2003 fulfilled fears that had been building around “the threat” of emerging infectious diseases. In addition to this, the SARS outbreak provided measures that were “recognized as effective emergency responses and as blueprints for the IHR revision process”. This manifested in a number of changes to the International Health Regulations, the World Health Organization’s legally binding framework of rules, guidance and expectations for states in the event of a health emergency.

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What Money Can (and Can’t) Buy for the Global Coronavirus Response

This is a guest post by Summer Marion, a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Northeastern University, where she is a PhD candidate in Political Science. Her research examines international cooperation and crisis politics, with a specific focus on philanthrocapitalism in global health emergencies.

On February 5, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked the international community for $675 million to fund a global response plan for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, including $61.5 million to cover urgent needs between February and April of 2020. Funding in the early stages of an outbreak can mean the difference between virus containment and further spread.

As of February 28, closing out the first month of the three-month plan, more than 2,800 people have lost their lives and WHO has received only $1.45 million. This constitutes just 2.4 percent of the $61.5 million urgent appeal. It remains unclear how much has been pledged toward the total $675 million ask. While WHO reports donors have pledged an additional $29.9 million toward the urgent response, promises of future cash do little good in fast-moving crises.

As the virus continues to spread, with cases spiking in South Korea, Iran, and Italy last week, the international community’s financial response is emblematic of problems that run much deeper.

This post examines funding mechanisms in the context of this latest Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). My primary takeaway is that influx of cash during crises is a short-term necessity that distracts from much-needed long-term investment in global health infrastructure.

This piece builds on a six-part series of posts by Josh Busby covering background on this new virus, politics of declaring a PHEIC, international travel restrictions, China’s domestic response, next steps for this response and future outbreaks, and steps for individual and community preparedness.

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Wash Your Hands: It Has Not Been Contained

A quick update to my series from last week. The coronavirus has not been contained to China, and there are now nearly 1000 cases in South Korea, 270 in Italy, and 60 in Iran.

Health experts and writers (see for example Ian MacKay, Devi Sridhar, James Hamblin, Helen Branswell, Michael Osterholm) now think it will eventually spread globally, meaning that containment strategies of travel restrictions will become increasingly ineffective.

We are now entering a phase of having to reduce the impact and harm associated with the spread of the virus, including taking precautions at the individual level to prevent infection like washing hands frequently and avoiding touching your mouth, eyes, and face.

(This is not the time for panic or overreactions, but I do think it is appropriate for us to be prepared for cases to come to countries that have not yet experienced an outbreak yet. Most cases are mild, but some are not).

I took a big bottle of hand sanitizer to the office and wrote our buildings manager about what plans they have in place to protect the workplace.

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Now What? Health Security after the 2020 Coronavirus

On the same day that the World Health Organization said that there were now only 889 new cases of the coronavirus in China (down from 1749 on Wednesday), there were also reports of new outbreaks in two Chinese prisons. We also witnessed the deaths of two people in Iran (apparently from COVID-19) and an outbreak in Korea–now up to more than 150 casesfueled by a superspreader associated with a strange cult and no known connection to China.

In the U.S., there are both reports of several hundred people getting out of quarantine after 14 days with a clean bill of health as well as the amazing story that the State Department overruled the Centers for Disease Control in allowing fourteen people infected with the coronavirus to be on the same plane of evacuees from the Princess Cruises ship.

So, we might be cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind us, or maybe not. It’s looking like the disease will not be contained in China, with there being local transmission taking off in a few other countries.

The first post in this series provided background on the virus, the second examined the declaration of a global health emergency, the third explored international travel restrictions, and the fourth reflected on China’s internal policies. In this fifth and final post of the series, I write about what policies the international community and individual states need to implement to contain this outbreak and prevent the next one.

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China and the Coronavirus: Getting It Right or Very Wrong?

In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, the stories on China’s quarantine and population control measures seem downright crazy, with people needing hall passes to go out of their apartments, buildings turning away residents who had been out of town, periodic temperature checks on residents, drones being deployed to disinfect villages or to shame people to go indoors or put on a mask, and health workers deployed in train stations checking phone records of visitors to see where they have been.

Over the weekend, the New York Times reported the extent of the measures China has imposed on its citizens to control the coronavirus outbreak, which encompass about half of China’s entire population, some 760 million people.

Are these draconian measures working? News out of China is confusing. The last few days have seen a decline in the number of new cases which raises hopes that the herculean efforts imposed by the Chinese government (implemented with zeal by local actors) are succeeding.

However, international observers, like Dr. Tony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, warn that that it too early to conclude the worst is over: “I think we need a few more days to determine if that’s real or variability.” Others like mathematician John Allen Poulos have made similar points.

It is not clear when China’s workforce of some 700 million will get back to work after a three week hiatus and what that will do to infection numbers.

In my previous posts in this series, I laid out basic attributes of the virus, the declaration by the WHO of an international health emergency, and the role played by international travel restrictions. In this post, I want to review whether or not China’s efforts have made the situation better or worse.

My basic takeaway is that the same authoritarianism that gave China the ability to respond to the virus is the same one that allowed the outbreak to get as bad as it did in the first place.

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Practicing Academic Kindness in the Classroom

This is a guest post by Philipp Schulz, who is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Institute for Intercultural and International Studies (InIIS) at the University of Bremen. Philipp’s research focuses on the gender dynamics of armed conflicts, with a particular focus on masculinities and wartime sexual violence. His book ‘Male Survivors of Wartime Sexual Violence – Perspectives from northern Uganda’ is forthcoming with University of California Press. 

Academic competitiveness and pettiness is alive and real. From expediting demands of the competitive academic job market, disrespectful peer review comments, to micro-aggressions and open hostilities at conferences – in particular to early career, women and/or people of colour scholars – there seem to be countless examples for an acute absence of kindness and empathy in the academy. Probably most of us, although to varying degrees, have been confronted with the unkind aspects of academic environments. In many ways, of course, these problems are embedded in wider structural problems of racism and sexism within the academy at large.

Fortunately, there seems to be increasing (albeit slow) recognition of the toxic practices of academic work cultures. As an early career researcher, I am particularly excited about some of the kindness that many of my peers are extending and the horizontal generosity that is beginning to spread across conferences, workshops and social media. Yet, I do believe that the (sub-)field of feminist international relations is particularly unique in that way, perhaps not unrelated to some of the disciplinary sanctioning and marginalizing that the field still experiences in the discipline more widely. 

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Shut it Down? The International Response to the Coronavirus

If you’ve been following the coronavirus outbreak, you’ve probably heard about the Princess Cruises ship, quarantined in Japan with thousands of passengers on board. It sounds like the veritable cruise ship from hell. Of the 1219 passengers screened for the virus, some 355 passengers tested positive for COVID-19, including some 44 Americans. The Americans were finally being evacuated today after having been quarantined on the ship since February 5th.

The horror of confining thousands to a boat underscores the incredible measures governments have undertaken to try to contain the virus. The Princess Cruises ship harkens back to the original meaning of the word quarantine as Howard Markel reminds us:

Quarantine laws — from the Italian “quaranta giorni,” meaning 40 days— were first developed in Venice in 1370, to keep the bubonic plague at bay by banning any ships and goods for the time it seemed to take most epidemics to burn themselves out.

Howard Markel, New YorK Times

But, were these extreme measures justified? This is the third in the series on the coronavirus COVID-19. In my first post, I provided some background on the nature of the virus, from what we know. In the second, I reflected on the belated declaration of the Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization in late January 2020.

In this post, I want to reflect on both the international restrictions on travel to and from China. In the next post, I’ll reflect on China’s internal response.

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Pull the Alarm? The Coronavirus as a Global Emergency

In my first post on the coronavirus outbreak, I reviewed the nature of the disease. Here, I want to ask and answer the first of four questions I posed about whether a global public health emergency should have been declared earlier. In the next post, I’ll tackle the appropriateness of China’s quarantine measures, the adequacy of its overall response, and what should be done going forward.

The response to the COVID-19 coronavirus has been draconian. With the lunar year vacation looming at the end of January, China shut down travel out of the city of Wuhan on January 23rd (and severely restricted entry as well), soon extending to the wider province of Hubei, with a population of 58 million people.

Commerce and public outings in much of the rest of the China have also dropped markedly with cities like Shanghai looking like ghost towns after the government extending the lunar holiday and people stayed away from malls and other public places.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization finally declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on January 30, 2020 after having deferred making such a declaration the week before.

In making the declaration, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the Chinese response and argued against travel and trade restrictions with China, raising concerns he was being overly deferential to the Chinese government.

In response, the United States elevated its travel advisory warning citizens not to travel there and said it would deny entry to foreign nationals who recently visited China. On January 31, three American air carriers — American, Delta, and United suspended all flights to China temporarily, with some airlines cancelling all flights to China and Hong Kong through the end of April.

Should a PHEIC been declared earlier? Has it had an impact?

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The Coronavirus: Global Health is High Politics

Even if you don’t study global health, you’ve probably been following the coronavirus outbreak in China with a mix of dread and fascination. Li Wenliang, the whistleblower Chinese doctor, who himself succumbed to the virus riveted the world. His death was mourned in China, even as the government initially censored conversations about his passing.

The Chinese government’s problematic response has created one of the most significant political challenges the Xi Jinping government has faced. Today, the heads of the Communist party in Hubei province and the city of Wuhan, the epicenter for the virus, were both fired.

This episode reminds us that global health is high politics. The stakes of a global outbreak for international relations, the global economy, and trade are enormous, independent of the impact on human lives. The nearly 1500 who have already died is a major tragedy, and we do not know if things are finally getting better.

This week, just as some analysts thought new cases had peaked, the Chinese government widened the definition to include suspected cases, since the diagnostic techniques for verifying infections have often produced false negatives, showing no infection even when people are symptomatic and ultimately do have the virus.

I’ve been hoping to have a roundtable on the topic on the Duck from global health experts, but many of the top folks I reached out to are just overwhelmed. If you are interested, do send me a note, as we would love to hear from you.

Here are the questions I posed, which I’m going to try and answer in a series of posts. This first post is mostly background on what I’ve learned about the coronavirus, but I ultimately hope to answer the following questions:

  1. What do you make of the WHO’s decision to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)? Too late? Impact? 
  2. What do you make of various quarantine measures and airline flight cancellations to China?
  3. What’s your take on the adequacy of the Chinese response?
  4. What’s needed at this point to prevent this outbreak from becoming worse on the global level?
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Are the liberal internationalists wrong? On “being nice” and US foreign policy

I got an alert from the Foreign Policy app on my phone the other day: Tunisia had fired its UN ambassador after he opposed Trump’s Israel-Palestine “peace plan.” Tunisian foreign policy doesn’t usually make waves, but this caught my attention. It’s a sign that, while Arab states aren’t enthused about this plan, they are unlikely to push back strongly. It got me thinking about a bigger question: whether Trump will face any costs as the result of his unilateral and aggressive foreign policy, as liberal internationalists might expect. The answer seems to be no, and that has big implications for US foreign policy.

Anyone who was around during the Bush-Obama transition remembers the debate. Liberal internationalists argue the United States has an interest in compromising with other states and working through multilateral institutions like the UN. It’s not just “being nice,” it actually advances US interests better than unilateral actions. We increase our influence with other states, making it more likely they’ll cooperate with us in the future. And we decrease backlash against and anxiety over US power. So, the argument went, the neocon policy of George W. Bush will actually undermine US interests by making it harder to get things done internationally.

The Obama years seemed to validate this argument. Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize just being Barack Obama. America signed a ground-breaking nuclear arms treaty with Russia, the New START. The United States negotiated a nuclear deal with Iran, and was part of the historic Paris Agreement on climate change.

Then Trump came. He withdrew from the JCPOA and the Paris Agreement. There are signs New START is going to fall apart. Trump was skeptical of other international commitments, withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty and signalling he may withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. The United States left the UN Human Rights Council. Trump was openly disparaging of NATO. And he was generally not nice in his foreign policy, bullying Canada and China over trade agreements, demanding South Korea provide more money for US troops based there.

Based on the logic of liberal internationalism, US influence should be waning. States will tire of Trump’s aggression and stop following US directions. America will find it harder to get anything done.

But…that’s not happening.

There are some signs of waning US influence. The UN General Assembly famously laughed at Trump during a speech, and NATO leaders mocked him behind his back. China seems to be increasing its sway over the UN.

But that doesn’t seem to extend to substantive complications in US foreign policy. Canada still went through with the new US trade deal despite irritation with Trump’s tactics. South Korea has been scrambling to keep Trump happy, even as they’re frustrated with his pressure. And as we saw, Trump’s unilateral and imbalanced Israel-Palestine deal isn’t provoking much anger among Arab leaders.

So what does this mean for liberal internationalism?

One could argue that America is just so powerful it can get away with behavior like this. But that would be an important caveat for liberal internationalism, which often argues that it’s in America’s interest to be nice.

One could also argue Trump is doing long-term damage to America’s influence. Basically, wait for it. This sounds uncomfortably similar to realist defenses of their predictions that the world will balance against a unipolar America, though. With two of three 21st century US Presidents pursuing aggressive unilateral policies, we should be seeing definite signs of strain by now.

But I think it is very possible that liberal internationalists are just wrong. It is not in a states’ interest to be nice in their foreign policy, especially when that states has the resources to be mean. And maybe, as the neocons argued, it is even necessary to be tough when dealing with other states if you want to maintain your influence.

So where does that leave everyone who opposes Trump’s foreign policy?

Well, we could point out that his approach is effective in advancing his Administration’s interests, but those are not necessarily America’s best interests. For example, Trump may succeed in getting NATO to “pay more” for America’s support, but that doesn’t actually help America much. The benefit of multilateralism and cooperation, then, is not that it advances America’s interests; the process of working with other states helps us better understand what those interests are.

Or it may provide further support for the growing restraint crowd. Maybe the only way to lead the world is to be mean. And if we want to be cooperative and helpful, we’ll have to sacrifice some of our expansive interests. So…we sacrifice those expansive interests. If the only way to lead the world is to act like Trump (or George W. Bush), then we must be satisfied with a more restrained foreign policy.

I’m happy to be proved wrong; please feel free to provide evidence of Trump facing real substantive challenges in foreign policy due to his approach.

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When 70% is good enough

When I was a grad student, I had the privilege of student teaching with political theorist Eric MacGilvray. Eric was—and I’m sure still is—a brilliant teacher. He was always in motion, but in a way that felt deliberate. He often perched on an elevated windowsill while listening to students debate amongst themselves. He made even the most archaic and dense texts accessible. (The class was Classics of Social and Political Thought.) He also had a unique approach to grading. Rather than marking on a scale of 100, where 94 is an A, he introduced a seven-point scale. Actually, it was a ten-point scale, but when he introduced it to students, he explained that seven was what they should aim for. A ten on this scale was publishable work. At their level, students weren’t meant to be doing publishable work. They were meant to be learning. Seven was good enough. 

At an elite American university where too many of the students aimed for perfection, the idea that you didn’t have to be perfect was liberating. It allowed students to take up and internalize feedback. Even though we translated the seven-point scale back into US-based grades at the end of the semester, it opened a space for learning. I found Eric’s system brilliant. Only it turns out that it wasn’t Eric’s system.

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Restraint for what purpose?

Restraint in US foreign policy is having a moment. That’s a good thing. But I worry it’s unclear whether restraint is a means or an end, and what that end would be. Without resolving this–preferably in favor of re-imagining a continued US leadership role in the world–current calls for restraint may do more harm than good.

The popularity of restraint in US foreign policy should be making me happy. I went to college in the Bush years, and marched against the Iraq war. After graduating, I joined a group in DC trying to formulate a smart, progressive foreign policy vision. A few years later I resigned in frustration that they accepted the troubling aspects of Obama’s foreign policy–like his expanded drone strikes–and focused mainly on helping Democrats sound tough on foreign policy. I cheered the pushback on US support for the Saudis in Yemen, beginning under Obama and continuing under Trump.

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It’s Duckies time!

This is a guest post from Kindred Winecoff, current Chair of the Online Media Caucus for ISA.

The Online Achievement in International Studies Reception and Awarding of the Duckies will take place on Wednesday, March 25th at 7:30pm. As always we’ll feature three speakers in the Ignite series and enjoy honoring our winners together.  The ISA Online Media Caucus (OMC) appreciates the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation, the Mortara Center for International Studies of Georgetown University, and the Canadian Defence and Security Network of Carleton University.

Now is the time to submit your nominations for the 2020 Duckies. Please send these nominations to onlinemediacaucus@gmail.com by February 15, 2020. Self-nominations are encouraged! Note that the OMC decided last year to change the award categories, in order to reflect the evolution of the online media environment. We now award Duckies in the following categories:

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Opening the Envelope of Oman’s Succession

The following is a guest post by Andrew Leber, a PhD candidate in Government at Harvard University.

The death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, and the succession of Haitham bin Tariq as the country’s new ruler, was yet one more high-profile news item this year amid the back-and-forth attacks and tragic consequences of events further up the Gulf.

Yet for the world of political science, this transition calls to mind important questions for comparativists about authoritarian successions in particular and authoritarian institutions more general.

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An American died in an Egyptian jail. Why didn’t this well-connected human rights community speak out?

Earlier this week, Mustafa Kassem, an American held in Egypt, died. The Trump Administration did little to help him. That wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was that the international religious freedom movement (IRF), a community that has gained close access to this Administration, seemed to have done little as well. The reason behind this should make this movement think seriously about its approach to the human rights.

Let me tell you two stories.

In October 2016, Andrew Brunson–a US pastor who had worked for a long time in Turkey–was arrested for alleged connections to the coup attempt against Turkish President Erdogan. His cause became a priority for the international religious freedom movement, who repeatedly pressed the Trump Administration to act. And it did. US Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom (IRF) Sam Brownback pressed Turkey for Brunson’s release. Vice President Pence spoke out. The United States imposed sanctions against Turkey and raised tariffs. Eventually, Turkey gave in and released Brunson.

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Twilight of Hope

Last year I attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (CoP) for the first time. It was an experience in dichotomies. The events on the periphery (side events) were energetic and forward-oriented. Al Gore did his thing updated with a little Greta Thunberg-esque ferocity, and presentations at country pavilions highlighted a ranging of exciting developments from new advances in wind turbine design to a novel way to visualize national and city level carbon emissions. The events involving the member parties to the UNFCCC were closed to observers (this was not always the case) but were, as we now know, largely a failure. The indications of the pending collapse of the talks were not difficult to discern. At a plenary updating participants and observers on the progress of various negotiations, the president of the CoP called for the participants to be ambitious at least half a dozen times—a clear indication that the negotiations between the UNFCCC parties were anything but. The reports from the various working groups almost uniformly reported limited progress and what we now know was a fruitless search for ‘landing pads’. The negotiations were mired in differences, petty and otherwise. 

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Audit Culture in UK Higher Education

In 2016 I took a job at university in the UK. As an American, British academic culture was new to me, especially its ‘audit culture’. The key elements of audit culture are mechanisms for the evaluation and measurement of teaching and research. The vast majority of UK higher education is delivered by public institutions, regulated and funded in large part by the government. The UK government justifies its use of oversight mechanisms on democratic grounds. They argue that since higher education is funded primarily, though not exclusively, by the central government, academic staff should be held accountable to the public through the evaluation of the relative ‘excellence’ of a university’s research and teaching. However, as I will explain, government-mandated reviews are only the tip of the iceberg. The practice of oversight is woven into the day-to-day administration of teaching and research.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a national review of research quality and productivity that takes place approximately every five years (the upcoming REF is in 2021, the previous one was held in 2014). The process is taken very seriously by university administrators because it informs the allocation of around £2 billion per year of public funding for universities’ research. At my university we have already begun preparing for the next cycle with what is known as the “rolling REF”, an ongoing internal assessment exercise where we all read and assess one another’s published work. What this means, in effect, is that it feels like there is no end to the REF review process. As one colleague put it, “after the REF is before for the REF.” 

The rules of the REF are baroque and shift with each subsequent cycle. Under the current rules, as a scholar on a research and teaching contract your aim should be to produce four, four-star research outputs every five years. This is because, at least for the 2021 cycle, no one researcher can submit more than four items, but universities have to submit at least something from all eligible staff it employs (just determining eligibility requires a flow chart–see p. 36). There is also an “impact case study” element to the REF used to assess the role research plays outside academia. To give you an idea of the scale of the REF audit, here are the stats from 2014:

https://www.ref.ac.uk/media/1021/guide-to-ref-2021-for-research-users.pdf

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The sneaky rise of “common wisdom” in Middle East studies

We’ve all spent the weekend processing the killing of Iranian official Qassim Suleimani by a US airstrike. While this is obviously very important, we should think about a secondary implication of this act–how this undermined the apparent Middle East analyst consensus that America was pulling back from tensions with Iran, and how this consensus even emerged in the first place.

A few months ago I noticed something interesting. Saudi Arabia, after adopting a hostile foreign policy on Qatar and Yemen–motivated by its fears of Iran–seemed to be getting nervous. They’d issue warning signs about the impact of a war, and their UAE allies actually seemed to be trying to calm things down. I noted this on Twitter (I’m not going to look up my tweets, but you can find them), and thought I was onto something.

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The biggest losers from the Suleimani strike may be America’s Gulf allies

Depending on your Twitter addiction, you either went to sleep or woke up with the news that America had assassinated Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds force. Suleimani was one of the most powerful men in Iran, and the driver of its activities in the Middle East, so this is a big deal. People are debating whether this was just and necessary, and what happens next. But I wanted to raise a different point: what this means for America’s Persian Gulf allies.

Many would suspect these states–particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)–to be the biggest winners in this strike. Both states have a history of antagonism with Iran. Both were also the victim of strikes against their oil industry likely orchestrated by Iran (likely by Suleimani himself). And both have been fighting a proxy war in Yemen against Iran. So removing him from the region would be a good thing for them.

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The Russian Enigma

On an ice-cold winter evening I arrived in Moscow to untangle the riddle that is Russia. After reading two op-eds by Anne Applebaum and Bill Browder I knew what this country was about but I just wanted to see it for myself. The eyes of the border control guards reflected the thousand years of Russia’s repressive regime. I was half-expecting the KGB to arrest me there and then because four years ago I posted on Facebook that I didn’t like Vlad, but they let me through. My Moscow adventure had begun. 

The shadow of Stalin still looms large over this sprawling city. As soon as you approach the Kremlin you can see his doppelgängers entertaining tourists that shows the profound admiration Russians have for this tyrant. The beautiful Christmas lights mask the darkness that lurks in the hearts of the people that have no hope for the future or French cheese. While checking into my Ritz-Carlton room I couldn’t help but wonder, is the master of the Kremlin checking in on me too?

I didn’t find a Pizza Hut on the Red Square and realized that capitalism has failed here. Russian economy has not really become free after all. Gorbachev brought opportunity to this country, but instead they settled for Lenin’s mausoleum where you can still smell the rotting corpse of Bolshevism. After a decadent dinner in Doktor Zhivago restaurant, I could see that Russians are still trapped in the past, longing to resurrect their Soviet legacy, unable to open themselves up to new experiences (they do accept Apple Pay though). 

On my way to the Bolshoi theatre I got lost and a young lady directed me in English. Her surprisingly not blue eyes and not blond hair, as well as passable language skills will stay in my memory forever as a glimmer of hope that still flickers in this country of slaves. Pogrom, kompromat, troika, kalinka, babushka, gulag, vodka. If you know these words, you will see right through the mysterious Russian soul as did I, after a day and a half stay in a five star hotel in Moscow city center.

On my ride back to the airport, I realized that the East will never understand the West. Our values of the Enlightenment, human rights, liberty and democracy are lost on these people who don’t speak much English. They will never comprehend what it’s like to live in a free country and speak a language that doesn’t have 6 cases and 7 declensions.

Russia is no longer an enigma for me. I riddled me this. 

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