Category Archives: Global Politics

America Alone

You may have noticed that the nations of the world are segregated in a pair of distinct groups. One is committed to fighting climate change, and the other is not.

How many nations are in each bloc? Until last week, 196 countries had signed onto the Paris Accord. And two, the United States and Syria, had not done so.

But last week, Syria announced that it is joining the Accord. The count then shifted to 197-to-1.

So what does this mean to the United States? How worrisome is its isolation from the other nations on earth?

It may be comforting to recall that America has taken lonely diplomatic stands in the past. After the First World War, for instance, it declined to join the League of Nations even though President Woodrow Wilson won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to create it. The League mediated several territorial disputes before shutting down and transferring its assets to the United Nations after the Second World War.

But is this example truly relevant to our present day circumstances? At the conclusion of the First World War, none of the European (or Asian) nations was in any position to challenge the United States. Britain, France, and the other Allies were focused on rebuilding their decimated economies. Indeed, there was no global competitor with the relative strength of modern China to challenge the American nation.

And it is perhaps more worrisome that the League did not fulfill its mission to keep the world at peace. Without the United States, it was powerless to stop the rise of fascism and the onset of the Second World War.

So as America bids farewell to Syria and assumes its lonely stance, it may be reasonable to feel a bit worried about the future. After all, even without a global rival like China, the self-imposed isolation of the United States from the global diplomatic community a century ago preceded the rise of Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Emperor Hirohito, and Benito Mussolini.

Brexit: A State Of Deadlock

Are you an American who feels worried about the state of deadlock that now reigns throughout your federal government? Here’s a suggestion that might make you feel a little better about your circumstances: just glance across the Atlantic Ocean and observe the level of paralysis that is gripping the government of Great Britain.

Why? Because the British government can’t seem to settle a fundamental issue regarding its own sovereignty. Although the United Kingdom is currently a member of the European Union, its citizens recently voted in a national referendum to secede from the continental bloc.

We thus might have expected British Prime Minister Theresa May to issue a formal statement of secession by triggering Article 50 of the Union treaty. But that has not yet occurred, and last week’s opening arguments of a Court case now raise some doubt that it will ever occur.

Why? Because there is confusion about whether the result of the national referendum is binding under British law. Based on a concept known as the royal prerogative, the Prime Minister is the chief executive of the federal government. She therefore maintains the privilege and the obligation to implement the royal family’s directives under federal law.

And Theresa May has indeed announced her intention to issue a formal statement of succession by March 2017. So why is there any confusion or gridlock regarding this intention?

Well, for starters, the British Parliament might need to ratify the result of the referendum. And even though the members of Parliament are elected by the people of Britain, they may not necessarily decide to ratify a result that generates such risk for the British economy.

In addition, the British royal family has maintained a strictly neutral position on the question of Brexit. So It is difficult to define the Prime Minister’s proposed trigger of Article 50 as a matter of royal prerogative, given that the royal family maintains no public position on the question of Britain’s status within the European Union.

And finally, the Prime Minister is the leader of the political party that controls the most seats in Parliament. So it would be awkward at best, and perhaps a conflict of interest at worst, for Theresa May to initiate succession over the protests of Parliament while leading the political party that controls that very legislature.

Of course, even if the British courts grant Parliament ratification or veto authority over the results of the Brexit referendum, there is no guarantee that the legislators will vote against secession. After all, by doing so, they would be voting against the will of the people, and against the declared intention of their own political leader.

The government of the United Kingdom is in quite a state of confusion, isn’t it? Fortunately, the British courts are expected to settle the issue with a legal judgment relatively soon. And with the American Presidential election about to occur as well, the world’s two oldest democracies may soon be able to put their greatest uncertainties to rest.

Brexit: What Happens Next?

Next week, on June 23, the citizens of Great Britain will vote in a referendum that asks whether their nation should “Remain a Member of the European Union” or should “Leave the European Union.”

So … what will happen if they vote to Remain? And what will happen if they vote to Leave?

The simple truth is that no one really knows what will happen next. The European Union’s agreements do not contemplate the possibility of a member leaving the organization. Thus, they do not specify the impact of such a referendum.

Nevertheless, the New York Times reports that a vote to Leave will trigger a two year period of negotiations with the European Union to agree on a dis-association process. But it also reports that, as a result of such negotiations, Britain might “remain in the European Union’s common market.”

The Common Market, of course, predated the emergence of the Union. Technically, it no longer exists. But today there exists the European Economic Area, as well as the European Free Trade Association. Both organizations include nations that maintain their own national currencies and other aspects of independence from the Union, and yet are indirectly affiliated with the Union.

Furthermore, even nations that have adopted the Euro currency, and that aren’t voting on whether to Leave the Union, maintain aspects of independence from the Union. Several nations, for instance, have received reprieves from the critical budget deficit limitations that support the solvency of the Euro currency.

So what will actually occur as a result of this Brexit vote? Well, if the vote is to Leave the Union, negotiations to revise political and economic relationships will commence. And if the vote is to Remain in the Union, such negotiations — which routinely occur among all Union members — will continue.

Thus, the referendum is simply an opinion poll that might establish a transitory sense of direction to such negotiations, until some future event modifies that direction. In other words, although the vote represents an important barometer of British opinion at the current time, it will hardly settle the question of the future of the European Project.