Weekend Roundup: Aleppo Is The 21st-Century Guernica


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

A fertile crossroads of trade and culture for millennia, Aleppo today is a victim of the unfathomable suffering that results when ancient enmities meet modern weapons and poisonous post-Cold War geopolitics. Its ongoing decimation by Russian and Syrian air bombardment ranks the city as an emblem of human brutality in our time comparable to the Nazi air assault on the Basque town of Guernica in 1937 iconified by Pablo Picasso in his famous painting. These images of a thriving Aleppo before the war document the stunning toll of conflict. 

Yet, the carnage continues as every cease-fire and proposal for a no-fly zone or safe evacuation corridor for civilians goes nowhere because no one is in control.

“We live in a period in which we no longer have a unipolar or bipolar world,” the incoming United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said. “We don’t even have a multipolar world; it’s kind of a chaotic world where power relations have become unclear. When power relations are unclear, impunity and unpredictability tend to prosper.” This observation underscores the realist perspective that there is no justice without order, and no order without the use of force. The bottom line lesson of history is that either the just use force and establish their order, or the unjust do ― or no one can and everyone pays the price.  

Along with Russia, Iran is also a key player in the Syrian conflict as a supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former member of Iran’s National Security Council, warns that America’s slowness in implementing the recent nuclear accords is pushing Iran even closer to Russia and other countries in the Eastern bloc, risking consequences across the Mideast and beyond.

WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones reports from the front lines at Qayyarah Airfield West in Iraq on the final preparations for an all-out assault to liberate Mosul from the self-described Islamic State. Given the wide range of factions involved in the pending offensive ― “U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces, Sunni Muslim tribal fighters, Kurdish Peshmerga, lran-linked Shiite militias, Turkmen fighters and Turkish forces” ― Jones says many wonder “who will control Mosul after ISIS … and whether the city will descend once more into sectarian violence.” She notes that, just as nearly 15 years ago when it first invaded Iraq, the U.S. is more focused on winning the battle ahead than what comes after.

The collateral impact of the massive wave of refugees from a war-torn Mideast seeking shelter in Europe, conjoined with longer-standing immigration issues, has reawakened nationalist and nativist sentiments. Scott Malcomson casts the reaction pithily: “The specter of patriotism is haunting Europe.” Like Trump in the U.S., he says, Brexit signals a revolt against the cosmopolitan elites who have been the custodians of integration and globalization. “Too many people in positions of power,” Malcomson quotes the new British Prime Minister Theresa May as saying, “behave as though they have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road, the people they employ, the people they pass in the street. But if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.”

Writing from Berlin, Alexander Görlach argues for a more universalist path. Today’s Europe, and Germany in particular, he argues, needs a new “inclusive” narrative for the future that supplants the resurgent appeal to blood and soil belonging. His candidate for that narrative centers around the rule of law that binds individuals and community, irrespective of origins. “Constitutionalism is the finest exhibition of modern European Enlightenment principles,” he writes.

Writing from Lviv, Ukraine, Christian Borys examines how Poland’s profoundly conservative Catholic culture that once played such a key role in liberating Poland from communist rule when John Paul II was pope, is now proving a bulwark against the liberal norms of an integrated Europe. The conflict came to a head last week when massive protests by women forced the authoritarian-leaning Law and Justice Party government to reject a proposed ban on abortion. 

In a seemingly endless cycle, North Korea explodes a more powerful nuclear device or launches a longer range missile, new sanctions are enacted by world powers and then Kim Jong Un only ratchets it up yet again with a new and more powerful provocation. Jane Harman, a former member of the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, proposes to break this cycle by offering direct negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang aimed at securing a freeze on missile and bomb development. “The United States has an underappreciated ace in its deck,” Harman writes. “North Korea has been trying to talk to us since 1974. Only the United States ― the supposed existential threat that justifies its nuclear and ballistic missile programs ― can fully address Pyongyang’s security concerns.”

Three Nobel laureates for peace ― José Ramos-Horta, Muhammad Yunus and Kailash Satyarthi ― call for a new treaty banning the possession of nuclear weapons to be proposed to the U.N. General Assembly this month. The aim of this treaty, they say, is to, “create a powerful new norm about nuclear weapons, defining them not as the status symbols of great nations, but as the badges of shame of rogue nations.”

As the unpredictable president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, prepares to visit China later this month, Richard Javad Heydarian ponders what Duterte’s proposal for an “alliance” and “close friendship” with China means for the long-standing alliance with the U.S..

As the race to the White House hits its final stretch, this week WorldPost partner, the South China Morning Post, explores why recent Chinese immigrants to the U.S. are supporting U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. 

Following last week’s award of the first $1 million Berggruen Prize to Charles Taylor, Berggruen Institute President Craig Calhoun provides a guide to the Canadian philosopher’s thinking on a wide range of topics from “the self” and “authenticity and recognition” to religion in a secular age. Daniel A. Bell recalls Taylor’s talents as a transformative teacher at McGill University in Montreal.

Gordon Brown, a former British prime minister and U.N. special envoy for global education, calls for a new commitment to the empowerment of girls worldwide, some 500 million of whom, he says, will probably leave school this year without secondary-level qualifications. “Girls have different needs,” he writes, “to stay in school without the threat of child marriage, to stay in school without being forced into domestic service, to be seen for what they are and will be ― the leaders of families.” In these moving photos, we take a look back at how Brazil’s youth once battled to save their own schools. 

Tobias Rees reviews the first “AI 100 Report” by a Stanford group looking out 100 years ahead to gauge the impact of artificial intelligence on society. The most important message, Rees writes, is, “don’t be afraid!” He continues: “On every page, in so many different ways, the readers are assured that whatever they may have read about AI in the popular press, whatever they may have seen in a movie ― it is likely wrong. The report insists that singularities, that is, machines that are self-conscious and begin, as if they were unique, singular beings, to think and act themselves, are likely never going to exist.”

Science writer Bahar Gholipour invites you to take a virtual reality tour of Pluto. These breathtaking images from an international action photography contest will get your blood pumping. Finally, our Singularity series this week examines what happens when you create a chatbot to memorialize a friend who has died.



EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Suzanne Gaber is the Editorial Assistant of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is News Director at The Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s news coverage. Nick Robins-Early and Jesselyn Cook are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is World Social Media Editor.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media), Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa),Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as theAdvisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk,Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy,Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen,Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair,Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing,Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


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