Thucydides On the Greek Crisis

Sparta as the EU, and the Greeks resist mightily:

When Thucydides declared his work was “a possession for all time,” he meant that its relevance was as fixed and unchanging as was human behavior. Like his friend, the tragedian Sophocles, he would not be surprised that the blindness and hubris that undid ancient Athens remain with us today, and that the noble and humanist aims that once animated the European project have given way to unbending technocratic impulses. The ironist in Thucydides would appreciate that the very monuments in Athens, largely funded by its imperial mastery, might end up as collateral offered to new imperial masters by its battered and bemused descendant.

The Victoria Nuland Way of Diplomacy

Sometimes being a diplomat is not what we think it means. Irritating Germany (twice). Dissing the EU. And talking tough against Russia.

“Many Europeans, and certainly Moscow, hate Nuland, which is just one more reason why her political base on Capitol Hill adores her,” said a congressional aide familiar with the issue.

via The Undiplomatic Diplomat | Foreign Policy.

Tough Times for the ICC

What just happened? And does it confirm that the ICC has it out for African leaders?

One reason is that every indictment issued by the ICC has been in Africa. The court’s jurisdiction is somewhat hobbled by the non-participation or non-cooperation of many countries, most notably the United States. But the fact remains that Africa has been the focus of a court based in Europe, and given that memories of colonialism are in some places still fresh and very raw, that raises hackles.

via the

Or, more likely, does this reveal “a fundamental flaw” in the institution, namely that universal jurisdiction doesn’t exist–making it impossible to have individual enforcement–as noted by Nesrine Malik in The Guardian.

The ICC has hit a wall as South Africa appears to have allowed Omar al-Bashir leave the country, avoiding arrest. This international institution “will only be as relevant as the international community allows it to be,” according to Alex Whiting, a law professor at Harvard and former ICC prosecutor–quoted by Somini Sengupta in the NYT.

See Omar al-Bashir Case Shows International Criminal Court’s Limitations – The New York Times.

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Ethical Negotiation: Not an Oxymoron

From a Carnegie Council podcast on the behavioral insights into keeping ethics a part of negotiations.

Ethical Negotiation: Not an Oxymoron.

Europe news highlights | Week of 8 June 2015

Greece is Weakened  in its Austerity Challenge 

“There was a window of opportunity to change course,” said Paul De Grauwe, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science who is a critic of austerity. “But somehow the northern view — of Germany, Holland and Finland — has prevailed. Why was this? That is where the power is. The power of the purse.”

via Greece’s Alliances Fade in European Debate About Its Debt Crisis –

For Greece to Win is Game Theory the Plan?

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Yanis Varoufakis is an expert in game theory and a key negtiator in Greece’s efforts to overcome the financial pressures of austerity.

Virtually everyone agrees that a default by Greece is the least desirable outcome for both Greece and its creditors — among them Germany and France; the European Central Bank; and the I.M.F. Yet one of Dr. Nash’s critical insights is that there may be many possible outcomes — so-called Nash equilibriums — that produce suboptimal results. A Nash equilibrium exists when each side’s strategy is optimal given what they believe to be the others’ strategy.

For example, if Germany and other creditors don’t believe Greece’s threat to default, and underestimate the severity of such an outcome, they might see their optimal strategy as remaining firm in their demands for Greek fiscal austerity and structural reforms. If, on the other hand, Germany believes Mr. Varoufakis to be ideologically motivated to reject further austerity, it might well cave to Greek demands for leniency.

via In Greek Debt Puzzle, Game Theorists Have it

Can a Market Solution Solve the European Refugee Crisis?

A Yale University professor looks at European country incentives, sees a market-of-sorts already in place, and observes that the question is not whether refugees should be allowed to enter–but where.

via Creating a Market for Refugees in Europe –

Ask a Russian Major about Putin

Still can’t figure out what makes Russia’s top leader tick? In an article that is both literary analysis and intelligence brief, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’s dean lays out the psychology, historical mindset, and cultural underpinnings of Vladimir Putin and the Russian people that he leads.

Forget the NSA intercepts or spy satellite imagery. And drop the jargon-filled scholarly analysis from those political science journals.mInstead, get back to the richest literary gold mine in the Western world: Russian novels and poetry. Read Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, and Bulgakov. That’s where you’ll really find how Russians think. And it’s all unclassified!

via James Stavridis in

Nobody Likes the New U.S. Embassy in London

So the old location in Grosvenor Square was historic, elegantly designed, and yet susceptible to attacks and outdated. The NYT reports on much ado about thew new one–which solves the security problem with a LEED-certified technology-packed building but leaves others wanting more.

via With Move Across London, U.S. Embassy Can’t Please Everyone 

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The Truth About Lies, a new film

At the core of discussions about ethics is the issue of lying.  A new documentary, featuring Dan Ariely of Duke University makes the case that everyone does it.

Through the candid testimony of public figures and regular people — and also relying on expert opinions, behavioral experiments and archival footage — the film explores thorny questions like why people lie, how they do it and what is the fallout. What quickly becomes clear is that the leap from little white lies to insider trading is not that far.

“When you look at what those people did at the end, you say, ‘My goodness, I can’t imagine ever doing something like that,’ ” said Professor Ariely, who specializes in psychology and behavioral economics and who serves as a guide through the film. “But when you look at what they did at the beginning, you say, ‘I can see myself doing that.’ It is a story about a slippery slope.”

via ‘(Dis)Honesty — The Truth About Lies’ Examines How Falsehoods Sprout –


Thou Shalt Not | Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis

Leadership advice articles  tend to focus on the positive areas we can improve rather than negative behaviors to avoid. Gary Hamel analyses a few key lessons in HBS from none other than Pope Francis, pointing out pitfalls for leaders:

So, are you a healthy leader? Use the Pope’s inventory of leadership maladies to find out. Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 5, to what extent do I . . .

Feel superior to those who work for me?
Demonstrate an imbalance between work and other areas of life?
Substitute formality for true human intimacy?
Rely too much on plans and not enough on intuition and improvisation?
Spend too little time breaking silos and building bridges?
Fail to regularly acknowledge the debt I owe to my mentors and to others?
Take too much satisfaction in my perks and privileges?
Isolate myself from customers and first-level employees?
Denigrate the motives and accomplishments of others?
Exhibit or encourage undue deference and servility?
Put my own success ahead of the success of others?
Fail to cultivate a fun and joy-filled work environment?
Exhibit selfishness when it comes to sharing rewards and praise?
Encourage parochialism rather than community?
Behave in ways that seem egocentric to those around me?

Europe news highlights | Week of 1 June

Don’t miss the following NYT stories from this past week that relate closely to the themes of immigration, the European economic crisis, and current conflicts in Europe’s periphery:


Is the UN Relevant in Development? David Malone responds.

Consider the state of development thinking as considered in a new book by David Malone, UNU’s chief rector and the former head of Canada’s International Development Research Centre. He explores whether new development goals–for any millennium–will matter:

When the Millennium Development Goals were adopted shortly after the turn of the millennium, they were fairly succinct, and they were mostly about quantities of things—for example, universal primary education available to all kids around the world. That was a goal because many kids didn’t have access to primary education around the world.

This time round, the goal is much more qualitative. Experts, societies themselves are quite worried about the quality of what kids get in school, and quite rightly so. Just having bums on seats in schools doesn’t achieve a great deal in terms of rapidly changing economies and societies. You need to be learning useful skills and knowledge that is valuable to kids. That insight on quality more than quantity is increasingly reflected across a wide range of fields of human endeavor in the developing world, and it shows how much progress there has actually been in development, that you have moved from worrying about the number of kids in primary school to thinking about things like quality education, and perhaps even—although it is very aspirational for many—lifelong education, which is a great idea.

These are fundamental shifts in thinking about what is achievable in the developing world and what the developing world wants to achieve for itself.

And concerns about “one-size-fits-all”:

By the way, if you need any convincing on how different very successful development tracks can be from each other, think of India and China over the last 30 years. These are the two large countries that have produced consistently the two highest rates of growth over the last 30 years. They had completely different development models. China first, after Deng Xiaoping came to power, focused on feeding the population, so much of which had starved during earlier waves of economic policy in China, then moving to export-oriented industries, for which they needed strong infrastructure, which they somehow or other managed, such that, within 30 years, probably the greatest growth in history, and also the largest adventure in pulling people out of absolute poverty unfolded in China over the last 30 years. It’s worth reflecting on, as we are often quite critical of China, what they have achieved in the last 30 years.

via The UN’s Efforts in International Development: Relevant or Not?.

Laura Sicola Explains “Strategic Tonality”

Watch this TED Talk for two insights on public speaking that you possibly didn’t know about: how to use “strategic tonality” to say your name effectively, and how to avoid “up-speaking”–a kiss-of-death for career success, highlighted in numerous publications but most effectively ridiculed by BYU’s Studio C comedy troupe.

▶ Want to sound like a leader? Start by saying your name right | Laura Sicola | TEDxPenn – YouTube.

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