President Donald Trump removed his controversial chief strategist Stephen Bannon from the National Security Council yesterday. The right-wing scatterbrain should never in the first place have been allowed to poke his nose in a cabinet-level committee that decides questions of war and peace. What’s unclear is whether we should view the move as part of Trump’s maturation out of adolescence or as just another late-puberty whim.
A dark cloud of discord casts its shadow over the world in 2017. Warring parties have been fighting and killing viciously – with no regard to civilian casualties – in hotspots like Mosul, Aleppo and Damascus as well as Ukraine and many parts of Africa. A spiral of threats and counter-threats is also swirling in areas (still) at peace, such as Gibraltar, the Korean peninsula and the South China Sea. If you were to page through “Civil Wars: From L.A. to Bosnia” by German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger, you might think the book appeared this spring – and not in 1993.
Civil wars, from the molecular to the large scale, are contagious, wrote Enzensberger, who was just 15 when the Third Reich collapsed. While the number of nonparticipants in these wars declines as more of them die, flee or join one of the factions, the participants increasingly resemble one another, he noted. In war zones, the police and army charge ahead as if they were just another violent gang. In this environment, even conservative social classes ape the radicals among the disenfranchised in their choice of means, i.e. weapons. Aggressor and defender become indistinguishable, and the dynamic becomes one of blood feuding. More and more people, Enzensberger concluded, are drawn into the vortex of fear and hatred.
What reminded me of Enzensberger’s thesis are the shocking images of Syrian children and adults poisoned by the latest gas attack. Such atrocities wrench our guts. The dynamic of hatred and anti-hatred kicks in. In Germany some people are already calling for an anti-Islam law which, if enacted, would bear the seed of a modern religious war. If we don’t practice restraint, no one else will. That’s how global civil wars begin.
There must have been sighs of relief in the chancellery: Angela Merkel, who is also the boss of the Christian Democrats, has again widened her lead in the polls over the SPD’s wannabe-chancellor, Martin Schulz. If the federal elections were held tomorrow, the latest Forsa survey shows the Christian Democrats winning 36 percent of the vote, the Social Democrats getting only 29 percent. Schulz’s dream of becoming chancellor remains just that. And the more the SPD gets carried away with its fantasy, the more unlikely it becomes. What many in the party considered a given is, on closer inspection, nothing more than a mirage in the heat of the silly season.
Litigation is his profession. Paul-Otto Fassbender, the majority owner of the Arag insurance company, has a thriving legal-protection business. But the 70-year-old executive has been battling his sister Petra for – lo and behold – 34 years in court over her demands for a bigger share of their father’s inheritance. Yesterday, the district court in Düsseldorf ruled that Paul-Otto had to pay his sister about €3.5 million, plus interest. But she wants more and has appealed to the next highest court. Their father Walter may have given them plenty of money – but he obviously forgot to pass on his wisdom.
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