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Global Pulse: A lesson for Trump from the Vietnam War, are women drivers Saudi Arabia’s ‘PR stunt’?

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‘I saw it all coming’

Would you imagine a world leader — the most powerful man in the world— leading their country into a war when they know that a military commitment in a country would be a disaster?

When the US found itself it the midst of a self-defeating war in Vietnam, its president knew that the country was headed for something ugly.

If not Trump, his advisors would do well to read the chilling transcript of the telephone call between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell, the publicly hawkish chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, writes Jeff Greenfield in Politico.

“Other than the question of our word and saving face, that’s the reason that I said that I don’t think that anybody would expect us to stay in there. It’s going to be a headache to anybody that tries to fool with it. You’ve got all the brains in the country, Mr. President—you better get a hold of them. I don’t know what to do about this. I saw it all coming on, but that don’t do any good now, that’s water over the dam and under the bridge. And we are there,” Russell said to the president.

The ghosts of colonial neglect

The storm in Puerto Rico has brought the island’s state of political neglect into sharp relief. But with its debilitating structural problems, the island has been in a state of emergency long before the storm hit, writes Ishaan Tharoor in The Washington Post.

Only 54 percent of Americans knew that people born in Puerto Rico were American citizens, according to a new poll of 2,200. “Tellingly, the majority of those who were not aware of their compatriots’ status did not approve of sending aid to the island.”

“It just so happens that this year marked the 100th anniversary of Washington’s decision to confer U.S. citizenship on the inhabitants of Puerto Rico, an island wrestled away from Spain in an earlier war at a time when a burgeoning American empire ran roughshod across the Caribbean. Yet, even a century later and amid a barrage of news reports on the two consecutive hurricanes that battered Puerto Rico, the island still seems a distant relic of forgotten imperium for many Americans,” writes Tharoor.

Abort at your own risk

As debates on the right to abortion and other reproductive rights rage across the world, a major piece of research from the World Health Organisation has found that almost half of the abortions carried out across the globe are unsafe.

Taking pills without prescription is not even the worst of the practices. Around eight million abortions, which the study categorised as “least safe”, involved measures like swallowing toxic substances to inserting wires to try to bring about a miscarriage.

The findings “call for the need to ensure access to safe abortions to the full extent of the law, particularly in low income regions of the world, and efforts are needed to replace the use of unsafe methods with safe methods. Increasing the availability, accessibility and affordability of contraception can reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancies, and therefore abortions,” says the lead author of the study.

Yet, with cuts to the international family planning organisations budgets announced by the Trump administration in the United States, coupled with the reimposition of the Mexico City policy which prohibits US federal funds to any organisation that counsels women on abortion, things only seem to be getting worse for women asserting their reproductive rights.

Macron’s old wine in new bottle

With his big speech on Europe, Emmanuel Macron may have reasserted his role as the lone EU leader still daring to defend greater European integration, but his ideas don’t stack up too well with reality, writes Nicholas Vincour in Politico.

“Macron deliberately climbed down from his original, ambitious plans to reform and strengthen the single currency area, and focused on his proposal to create a eurozone budget,” he writes. However, “there is little chance that the reform Macron is calling for will see the light of day before the 2019 European election. He will be happy enough in the short term if the next German government does not slam the door shut on his idea.”

“One of Macron’s boldest-sounding pitches was for the EU to equip itself with an ‘intervention force’ capable of acting militarily on behalf of member countries.” Here too, Macron seems to be missing a few facts. “The EU already has an intervention force, hypothetically at least: the EU Battlegroups. No battlegroup has ever actually gone into battle — partly because the logistics of getting all EU countries to approve a mission and agree on the rules of engagement are so nightmarish,” he says.

On trade, agriculture, counterterrorism, among others, Macron only offered ideas that EU countries have refused to back in the past.

Saudi Arabia’s ‘PR stunt’

A single royal decree, no matter how seemingly progressive it is, shouldn’t lead us to think that the Saudis have had a change of heart over human rights, writes Madawi-al-Rashid in The Guardian. In fact, allowing allowing women to obtain a driving licence without any real democratisation is part of the kingdom’s public relations machinery – no more than a “PR stunt”.

“The decision must be assessed in the context of an absolute monarchy championing women’s causes while only last week it detained more than 30 professionals, clerics, and activists for no reason other than to spread terror and intimidate,” she writes.

“Allowing women to obtain a driving licence is little more than a public relations stunt designed to cement this notion of the Saudi regime as the liberator of women.”

“Saudi women will soon find that while driving is very helpful, their full rights as citizens can only ever be achieved if they join with men to call for full inclusion in a regime that indefinitely detains its critics and activists, has no political representation, no elected national assembly, and no government.”

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