Fidel Castro, who ruled through eleven American presidencies, is dead. The Miami Herald has the definitive (long) obituary. I think it’s a fair assessment; I recall Castro depicted in the United States as a freedom fighter against the landed overlords, and then his turn to Communism and the Soviet Union. As the obit says, we’ll never know if he was a communist all along. All that is vivid to me because my high school hosted a talk on Castro’s 1956 victory, one of my first understandings of international events.
North Korea will be an early nuclear problem for Donald Trump. And, surprise, China has a part in solving it, so that either Trump’s promise of a trade war with China or his insistence that China solve the problem will have to go. Actually, both are likely to go. Very inconsiderate of all these things to be happening simultaneously. Can Trump make a deal with North Korea? As the South Korean assembly prepares to impeach the president, paralysis looms. A good time for North Korea to make mischief, but it probably will involve conventional shelling of an island, or perhaps more missile tests.
Long read: Why Trump is unlikely to succeed in the unlawful actions he proposed during the campaign.
Stephen Walt: Ten ways to tell if your president is a dictator.
Daniel Drezner: Trump likes to be ‘unpredictable.’ That won’t work so well in diplomacy.
The Department of Defense, with no fanfare, published its targeting manual online last week. The manual lays out the rules that America’s military uses when fighting wars and deciding which object or person to fire at. It also details the language in which those actions are described. This is in contrast to Trump’s threat to kill terrorsts’ families and his ignoring protocol in dealing with heads of state. Nobody knows why the manual was published, but one might speculate that DoD personnel who are concerned that they might be asked to do something illegal want that information out there.
Michael Krepon: Trump and the bomb.
Rudy Giuliani, mentioned for a number of cabinet posts including Secretary of State, has worked with a strange, cult-like group opposing the government of Iran.
Calibrating your internet BS sensors in 9 easy steps. There’s a lot of discussion about fake news, but ultimately the best defense is your own BS sensors.
Scheduled for release in the new year is Butterfly City, a feature documentary about the small, remote and mostly Russian-speaking city of Visaginas in Lithuania, constructed during the Soviet period to serve the Ignalina nuclear power plant and how its residents are coping with economic turmoil resulting from the decommissioning of the plant and feelings of marginalisation in Lithuania. Top photo from here.