On this week’s episode, we’re discussing the war of words between President Trump and North Korea, and asking whether it could spill over into an actual war. We’ll also be looking at the plight of the Yazidis, struggling to recover from genocide committed by Isis in 2014, and, finally, wondering whether it’s better to stay in the UK for your summer holidays.
First, North Korea’s increased militarisation was met this week by a threat from President Trump to unleash ‘fire and fury’ against the rogue state. Conjuring up images of nuclear warfare on the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki created something of an international panic, but are we really approaching that point? In this week’s magazine Jacob Heilbrunn warns that Trump’s rhetoric might be spiralling out of control, and he joins the podcast along with Jonathan Fenby, author of Will China Dominate the 21st Century?, and Freddy Gray. As Jacob writes:
“Trump’s madman approach to foreign policy may bring about quick wins — nobody wants to mess with a leader who might do anything at any point, especially when he has easily the most powerful military of all time at his disposal. But Kim Jong-un is mad, too; or at least he does a better impression of being a lunatic than Donald Trump. If this is a high-stakes game of chicken, who will be first to turn aside? In trying to teach China a lesson, Trump may find himself facing a disaster he cannot control.”
In 2014, the Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority found predominantly in the Ninevah plains of northern Iraq, were the victims of a genocide committed by Isis. Three years later and they are still suffering, but in the magazine this week Tom Holland argues that we must not forget what they have endured, lest we allow it to happen again. He joins the podcast along with Gareth Browne, a reporter based in Mosul. As Tom writes:
“With the liberation of Mosul by the Iraqi army, and the return of Shi’ite militias to the plain of Nineveh, fresh ingredients have been added to the mix of ambitions. No wonder, looking at this swirl of competing interests and remembering what happened the last time they stuck their hands into the Iraqi magimix, that western powers shrink from intervening. Yet we owe it to the Yazidis not to forget them. Even as the feuding of rival Kurdish and Arab factions stop refugees returning to their homes in Sinjar, the poisonous interpretation of Islamic scripture used to justify their genocide has not gone away. The ideologues of Isis have awakened ancient ghosts.”
And finally, if you still haven’t booked your summer holiday, then you can beat the last-minute prices, airport queues and European heatwave by staying in Blighty this summer. So says Mark Mason, who writes this week’s diary and champions the ‘staycation’ (whilst also consolidating his presidency of the Venice Is Crap Club) and he joins the podcast to elaborate. As he writes:
“I’m also delighted to report a new member of the ‘Venice is crap’ club. My friend Jane, just back, says that even without the heat and mosquitoes she wouldn’t have liked the place: it’s too pretty-pretty. I used to worry that my dislike of the city was simply me being an uncultured oik, but John Pearson (biographer of everyone from Ian Fleming to the Krays, and as cultured as they come) tells me he agrees. Venice isn’t a real place: hardly anyone lives there now, and those that do are only there to cater for tourists. It’s a theme park, not a city. If Disney were going to do Venice, they would do Venice.”