Intermediaries and the Ottomans: Why Albert Hourani’s ideas remain relevant

Intermediaries and the Ottomans_bin_websiteAlbert Hourani (1915-1993) is a much-celebrated historian born to Lebanese parents in Manchester. His writings on the middle east are priceless. One of these is “Ottoman Reform and Politics of Notables” first published in 1968. In this short review Armenak Tokmajyan says that the debate it started is still relevant and ongoing. Continue reading “Intermediaries and the Ottomans: Why Albert Hourani’s ideas remain relevant”

Book Review: ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara

For the duration of time that I was reading this book, I referred to it as “800 pages of pain”. And it is exactly that, but with bouts of mania and happiness and friendship intensely woven into its narrative. It is written with such a beautiful rawness that 800 pages (albeit painful) passed very quickly (this is a good thing, although I found myself wanting more when it was over).

The novel explores the lives of four friends, each with their own baggage and idiosyncrasies, and follows them from their young adulthood to middle age. Written in several “volumes”, points of view change almost as quickly as reader emotions. I didn’t think I was a particularly sensitive reader, but a note of warning: this book is not for the light-hearted and certainly not to be read in planes – because even the strongest of us cry at altitudes. I learned this the hard way. Recommend 10/10 unless you’re feeling emotionally fragile.

Irene Katopodis

Play Review: ‘The Gronholm Method’ by Jordi Galceran

Theatre is my passion – I attend plays as often as I can. One of my favourite plays, which I often have on my mind, is ‘The Gronholm Method’ by playwright Jordi Galceran.

The play tells about an interview in a big company, which turns to be an experiment on a human mind, its abilities, skills and values. It highlights the blurred lines between rights and liberties on one hand, and power on the other.

This play shows clearly what kind of rights we have and what happens when one’s dignity is insulted, and how others react. It shows the reality where we live and the way we act daily, and makes you rethink about the values and attitudes towards things that form one’s personality.”

Nini Kvirikashvili

Article Review: ‘Back to the Future: Instability in Europe After the Cold War’ by John Mearsheimer

John J. Mearsheimer, “Back to the Future: Instability in Europe After the Cold War,” International Security, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Summer 1990)

‘Back to the Future’ is an article in three main parts. The first is a review of what Mearsheimer calls “the long peace” in Europe following the conclusion of World War Two. In this part Mearsheimer also outlines the reasons why this long peace was maintained, all of them related to precepts of realism such as the balance of power, stable bipolarity and nuclear deterrence. The second part of Mearsheimer’s article considers four possible scenarios for a post-Cold War Europe. In turn, Mearsheimer outlines and assesses a Europe without nuclear weapons; a Europe with nuclear weapons states “on the flanks”; a poorly managed nuclear proliferation regime in Europe; and, finally, a well-managed nuclear proliferation regime across the continent. Mearsheimer concludes that the first two scenarios are highly unlikely and, of the latter two, the fourth is much preferred. Finally, in the third section of his article Mearsheimer assesses the counter arguments made by those primarily of a liberal-institutionalist perspective who regard the end of the Cold War optimistically. Specifically, Mearsheimer rejects three key arguments of the post-Cold War optimists and concludes, pessimistically, that, “the stability of the past 45 years is not likely to be seen again in the coming decades”.

Mearsheimer notes that there are some within the foreign policy elites of Europe and North America who would seek to make Europe a nuclear weapons-free zone. Such an outcome would necessarily demand not only a halt to further proliferation but also that the existing European nuclear powers – Britain, France and the Soviet Union – denounce and destroy their existing nuclear capacity. Mearsheimer argues that this will potentially lead to problems for the states of Europe as the “pacifying effects of nuclear weapons” – the security, caution and rough equality they impose – would be lost.

A nuclear free Europe would be more dangerous for all but particularly the post-socialist states of Eastern Europe, which would, once again, find themselves positioned between two continental powers. Of the four scenarios he offers, Mearsheimer holds the least hope for this particular eventuality.

Alexandre Mishvelidze

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