Brexit Commentary from Brown University Experts

Insights on Brexit from J. Brian Atwood, Keith Brown, Jeff Colgan, Sue Eckert, Timothy Edgar, Alexander Gourevitch, Michael Kennedy, Stephen Kinder, Patsy Lewis, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Jazira F-Y Zamindar, and J. Nicholas Zeigler.

A Fatal Blow

Brexit promises to shatter the post-war order in Europe, to remove the British as intermediaries between the United States and “the Continent,” and to deal a potentially fatal blow to Britain’s special relationships with both.  All this as ill-considered proposals to renegotiate U.S. trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific alliances, the global trade regime, and US-Russia and US-China relations ring out on the campaign trail in the United States.  —(Ambassador Chas Freeman’s full speech)

Source: 2016 – Explore – Brexit Faculty Commentary | Watson Institute


Not So Special Anymore?

One big change that comes from Brexit? The US/UK “special relationship” will change:

“I worry that we will have less clout on our own: In the future we won’t have as much influence on Europe’s response to Putin’s transgressions, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or the E.U.’s foreign and security policy,” said Peter Westmacott, one of Britain’s most experienced diplomats and, until January, ambassador to the United States. “And we will be less able to ensure it is U.S.-friendly.”

He added that without Britain’s direct involvement, Europe was likely to be less enthusiastic about free trade.

Still, Mr. Westmacott noted that “we should be able to cooperate much as in the past on counterterrorism, on intelligence, on cyber and on military issues,” assuming that “our economy does not shrink too much as markets, investors and the Scots take stock of Thursday’s outcome.”

All of which raises the question: If Britain can no longer play that indispensable role for Washington, surely there is another country that can? Perhaps, but it is hard to think of who.

Source: With ‘Brexit,’ Washington’s Direct Line to the Continent Suddenly Frays – The New York Times

Must See: OSLO on secret negotiations

This new play at Lincoln Center Theater by J.T. Rogers explores the nexus of back channel diplomacy with “impeccable sources for his imagined history

He explains how the play emerged through a meeting with the then UN special envoy for Lebanon and his wife, Terje Rod-Larsen and the deputy permanent representative and Ambassador for Norway to the UN, Mona Juul.

In that bar, Mr. Larsen explained that he and his wife were intimately involved with the making of the Oslo Accords. I knew of the first-ever peace deal between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. I’ll never forget watching the signing ceremony in the White House Rose Garden on television, Sept. 13, 1993 — seeing President Clinton preside over that historic handshake between the bitterest of enemies, Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister of Israel, and Yasir Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. I already knew the joy and the rage that handshake caused around the world.

Then he told me something I did not know: that there was a clandestine diplomatic back channel that had made the accords possible. That without a handful of men and women — Israeli, Palestinian and Norwegian — working in secret to try to alter the political reality of two peoples, those accords never would have happened.

Source: ‘Oslo’ and the Drama in Diplomacy – The New York Times


Machiavelli, reconsidered.






“Redemption, rebirth, must take the form of going back to the founding principles” says an expert on the Florentine diplomat.  A lifetime of study helps Professor Maurizio Viroli of Princeton and UT Austin rebrand Machiavelli as a sage observer of political culture and a helpful resource for today. (Also, in his earlier works Viroli worked to redeem Machiavelli from being seen merely as sinister.)

His book, How to Chose a Leader: Machiavelli’s Advice to Citizens, offers solutions to contemporary political predicaments, say, the fallen Berlusconi or the rising Trump, for example. In the LA Review of Books Robert Zaretsky writes:

We are as weak now as we were then. We still want to believe, and not the small stuff. We want, instead, to believe the big stuff. The bigger the lie, the greater our satisfaction; the greater our satisfaction, the deeper our credulity. Yet Machiavelli, contrary to popular belief, does not applaud this sort of dissimulation. Instead, he agonizes over it. Time and again, he urges citizens to exercise their reason, to beware of leaders who appeal to their passions. In troubled times, he warns, citizens turn against minorities within their countries by turning them into scapegoats. This reflex, in turn, lifts to power those who promise to protect the people against their imagined enemies. The enemy of my enemy is not just my friend; he is my leader.

Utah radio interviewer Doug Fabrizio explores the book with Viroli on KUER’s Radio West. It is well worth a listen for a few fresh insights into



After 100 Years, the Meaning of Verdun

Some facts about Verdun may surprise you: Verdun was symbolically important for both sides, had been intended by Germany to be a battle of attrition and caught the French by surprise. It resulted in roughly equal and staggering casualties: 800k dead, wounded or missing with approximately 150 dead–and many unrecoverable remains.

Did the horror and utter failure for both sides create a new era of Franco-German cooperation?

What was the meaning of this now-defining battle of World War I? Paul Jankowski writes:

To a historian 100 years later, Verdun does yield a meaning, in a way a darkly ironic one. Neither Erich von Falkenhayn, the chief of the German General Staff, nor his French counterpart, Joseph Joffre, had ever envisaged a climactic, decisive battle at Verdun. They had attacked and defended with their eyes elsewhere on the front, and had thought of the fight initially as secondary, as ancillary to their wider strategic goals. And then it became a primary affair, self-sustaining and endless. They had aspired to control it. Instead it had controlled them. In that sense Verdun truly was iconic, the symbolic battle of the Great War of 1914-18.

Source: World War I’s Iconic, Ironic Battle – The New York Times

Also, don’t miss this incredible interactive then/new photography on the war and Verdun by Guardian UK to see the destructiuon from another perspective.



Looking at the COP21 Negotiations

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21, and Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate change Christiana Figueres (L) attend the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France

Some key takeaways from the negotiations that concluded yesterday in Paris, called “the world’s greatest diplomatic success” by the Guardian, “a big, big deal” by This Week, and “the treaty that dare not speak its  name” by National Review.

The Document

  • The final agreement includes at least seven key elements, as parsed by NYT reporters, namely temperature increase, forests, financing, transparency, fossil-fuel reserves, loss/damage, and 5 year contributions. (Analysts are still breaking down the full implications post hoc, but this brief by Michael Levi of CFR is helpful.)
  • In true diplomatic form, one word (“shall” instead of “should”) nearly derailed the entire process.
  • If you haven’t explored how these negotiations work before, you need to know that brackets “[” and “]” are an essential tool in the negotiations, and part of the game. For the full post-game analysis, including samples of the language as it evolved through the past weeks–see Deconstructing Paris–an essential blog.


The Players

  • President Obama has demonstrated that his critics may be correct–he does have a master plan and can achieve it–and demonstrated his global diplomacy mastery in Paris.
  • And a key negotiator-in-chief behind Paris, Christiana Figueres, is a Colombian who heads the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat; her strategy is explored in the New Yorker profile last August.
  • Bill Gates stepped up to marshall a new coalition from Silicon Valley–but also reaching out to India–and led to a $2B investment in R&D for clean energy.


The Process

  • Indaba, a negotiation strategy of the Zulu and Xhosa peoples of southern Africa may have played a role in fostering large-group consensus. It involves gathering red lines from all interested parties–thus speeding up the process to agreement.
  • An article published in Nature used game theory to explore a possible negotiated outcome. Were they right?
  • The agreement is not binding. Does that matter?
  • Jargon, vocabulary, or technical know-how. Whatever you call it, here are the terms to know.
  • Sometimes skilled negotiations don’t work–because negotiators are influenced by their psychology and can prioritize fairness over a rational offer–and ultimately walk away from a deal. (David Victor, Lab of Law and International Regulation, UCSD)


Civil Society

  • Two New Zealanders created  #COP21Tracker, the worlds largest Google Doc (?) to follow the diplomatic negotiation process
  • @ParisAgreement also provided helpful analysis, in 140 characters or less, of course
  • Follow a rag tag group of students on the Duke to Paris Facebook page as they try to make sense of the process

Booklist | Ian Kershaw’s ‘To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914-1949’ 

Vytautas The Great War Museum Kaunas, Lithuania

Could the Great War have been avoided? Ian Kershaw’s new book offers an explanation:

Kershaw argues that World War I could have been forestalled if Vienna had acted with speed to punish Serbia for its complicity in the murder of the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; it had the Kaiser’s reckless blank check for punishment, but as Kershaw puts it, the Austrian Empire “knew only two speeds, slow and dead stop.” By the time Vienna sent its ultimatum to Belgrade, three weeks after the assassination, Russia, with France in tow, had encouraged the Serbs to be more bloody-minded. More bloody-minded, in my own judgment, than justified.

Kershaw identifies a second missed opportunity to avert mass slaughter. He writes that even as Russia started to mobilize in the summer of 1914 — much before Germany — “a firm British declaration of neutrality . . . might even at a late hour have prevented general war. But Grey’s disastrous hesitation meant that the room for diplomatic initiatives vanished.” Pretty well every history nods to the poetic prescience of Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign secretary, in the foreboding he expressed on Aug. 3. Standing by his big window overlooking Horse Guards Parade, he watched the gas lights being lit in the street below and said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” They were, though Grey lived to see Europe, with the lights on, begin to fumble its irresolute way to World War II.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story

Source: Ian Kershaw’s ‘To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914-1949’ – The New York Times