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Must Reads of the Week: Radiation After Chernobyl, Remaking China's Military, and More

Author: CFR.org Editors
April 29, 2016

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The Hell After ISIS
By Anand Gopal
Atlantic

"In the prevailing Western view, the Islamic State's reign of terror is hideously unique—it stands apart from the everyday barbarities of war and dictatorship convulsing the Middle East. According to this theory, the difference between ISIS’s brutality and the government repression in, say, Syria or Saudi Arabia is one of kind, not degree. This has proved true for certain communities, like the Yazidis of northern Iraq, who have suffered mass slaughter at the hands of ISIS. But many Sunni families tell a different story. They have found themselves caught between the Islamic State on one side and U.S.-allied forces—the Iraqi government, its army, and Shiite militias—on the other. In this telling, the anti-ISIS forces are just as violent and oppressive as the entity they’re fighting." 

Thirty years after Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.Tatyana Chernyavskaya visits her flat which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine. (Photo: Gleb Garanich/Reuters)
The Chernobyl Conundrum: Is Radiation as Bad as We Thought?
By Manfred Dworschak
Spiegel

"Three decades ago, half of Western Europe was contaminated with weakly radioactive precipitation. The public at large was taught to view the ubiquitous radioactivity as particularly insidious. But now, apparently not everything that gives off radiation is bad after all. The body seems to be able to cope with low doses of radon. 'We are continuing to search for damage to the genome,' says [radiobiologist Claudia] Fournier, 'but so far we aren't seeing anything.'"

President Xi Jinping's Most Dangerous Venture Yet
By Jeremy Page
Wall Street Journal

"The plan, to be implemented by 2020, is one of Mr. Xi's most ambitious and politically risky undertakings yet. If it succeeds, it could lay the ground for China to conduct combat operations as far afield as the Middle East and Africa. That would mark a milestone in the nation's emergence from a period of isolationism that began under the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century." 

The Post-Imperial Moment
By Robert D. Kaplan
National Interest

"The United States, in other words, is signaling that it will less and less be providing world order. This is not the work of one president. It is the beginning of a new phase in American foreign policy, following the hyperactivity of World War II and the Cold War—and their long aftershocks in the Balkans and the Middle East. Social and economic turmoil at home and intractable complexity and upheaval abroad are driving Washington toward retrenchment."

How to Measure Prosperity
Economist

"If GDP is failing on its own terms, as a measurement of the value-added in an economy, its use as a welfare benchmark is even more dubious. That has always been so: the benefits of sanitation, better health care and the comforts of heating or air-conditioning meant that GDP growth almost certainly understated the true advance in living standards in the decades after the second world war. But at least the direction of travel was the same. GDP grew rapidly; so did quality of life. Now GDP is still growing (albeit more slowly), but living standards are thought to be stuck. Part of the problem is widening inequality: median household income in America, adjusted for inflation, has barely budged for 25 years. But increasingly, too, the things that people hold dear are not being captured by the main yardstick of value."

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