Monday. 4/3/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opener / Peter Firth

Benefit of experience

During the 1984 US presidential debates, the 73-year-old Ronald Reagan – the oldest ever occupant of the Oval Office – was questioned by a journalist from the Baltimore Sun about whether he had the stamina to continue doing the top job. The former Hollywood actor replied, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

Now it appears that former vice-president Joe Biden (a sprightly 76) is preparing to toss his hat into the ring for a run at the 2020 presidency. Biden outstrips the other Democrat candidates in experience and a successful campaign would see him surpass Reagan’s record as the oldest commander in chief.

Currently there is a propensity towards fresh-faced heads of state – Trudeau, Macron and Sánchez to name a few – but Lance Price, former adviser to UK prime minister Tony Blair, thinks there might be a shift underway where an unsettled public will vote in a tried-and-tested veteran instead. “There are times when nations are so uncertain, and feeling insecure, that perhaps they will turn to somebody with Joe Biden’s experience,” he told The Briefing.

Price believes that Reagan’s joshing reply reminded viewers that, in some scenarios, an old hand on the tiller is better than a young one.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / USA and South Korea

Show’s over

The US and South Korea have cancelled their annual joint military drills Foal Eagle and Key Resolve. The manoeuvres, which were due to begin today, involved ground, air, naval and special-operations troops deployed on the Korean Peninsula as well as a set of computer-simulated exercises. The size and scale of the drills in recent years has been a source of deep aggravation for North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, who has viewed them as a rehearsal for an invasion. Now, with the US stepping up diplomatic efforts with the hermit state, it will opt instead for a quieter set of war games involving fewer troops and resources. But last week at the failed Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi it didn’t take a military exercise for negotiations to tank – they ended abruptly, without a denuclearisation agreement, all on their own.

Image: ALAMY

Business / Portugal

Stellar idea

Portugal is putting the finishing touches to its masterplan to build a spaceport on the Azores. Approved by the European Space Agency (ESA) at the end of last year, the facility on the remote island of Santa Maria will make Portugal the 10th country with satellite-launching capabilities. Satellites launched from the spaceport will serve various purposes, from studying Earth to monitoring fishing activities. The Portuguese government now needs to choose between 14 competing companies – from Russia, Germany, France and beyond – to build the station. Once completed in 2021, it’s sure to boost the regional and national economy: not only by creating employment and stimulating manufacturing – ESA asks that Portuguese companies participate in production – but attracting foreign business too. Lisbon and Beijing are already in talks to encourage Chinese firms to make use of the launch facilities.

Print / UK

War paint

The notorious “extraordinary interrogation techniques” at Guantánamo Bay, the US offshore prison camp, were perhaps the nadir of the US’s war on terror. Though nominally ended under the Obama administration, these practices are under scrutiny once more with the release of Guantánamo Kid, a graphic novel telling the story of the camp’s youngest-ever detainee, Mohammed el Gharani, who was just 14 when he was imprisoned. The new book is the result of afternoons spent telling his story to journalist Jérôme Tubiana. While direct US involvement with such techniques might be a thing of the past, Jérôme told The Monocle Weekly that it would be naive to think that the country has given up on them completely. Instead we should brace ourselves for a future in which brutality is outsourced to regimes with less to lose.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Poland

Making a stand

The murder of Gdansk’s mayor Pawel Adamowicz in January shocked Poland. The liberal, who had headed the city since 1998, was stabbed at a charity event by a lone attacker whose exact motives remain unclear. Now the city’s residents appear to have voted to continue his politics. In yesterday’s mayoral election exit polls showed that Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, who took over as acting mayor after Adamowicz’s death, is likely to have won. The city’s first female mayor, the 39-year-old lawyer’s five priorities would be urban mobility, new nurseries and preschools, entrepreneurship, quality of life and civic participation. With Dulkiewicz at the helm, the port city of 570,000 inhabitants on Poland’s Baltic coast would remain an open city, in defiance of the country’s right-wing government.

Image: Getty Images

Living with the past: the Second World War

There is probably no period in history more discussed than the Second World War. Every country involved suffered but Allied nations were able to console themselves that their losses were sustained in a noble cause. It hasn’t been as straightforward for the nations they defeated. In the first part of our series on living with uncomfortable pasts Andrew Mueller is joined by Jennifer Lind, Michael Sontheimer and Shihoko Goto to discuss whether Germany and Japan are reconciled to their histories.

Melbourne: The Monocle Travel Guide

Modern Melbourne is a swirl of superlative cultural outposts, pristine parks, mouth-watering menus and faultless all-Australian wine lists. Join us on a jaunt around this handsome metropolis.

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