Semantron 23 Summer 2023

Semantron 23

Summer 2023

Semantron was founded in 1992 by Dr. Jan Piggott (Head of English, and then Archivist at the College) together with one of his students, Richard Scholar (now Senior Tutor at Oriel College, Oxford and Professor of French and Comparative Literature).

The photographs on the front and back covers were taken by Siwoo Ryu.

Editor’s introduction

Neil Croally

For those educated in literary criticism in the 20 th century, the text rather than the author was the thing. More than anything else, a critic had to avoid the related traps of the biographical and intentional fallacies. While the essay that most vigorously argued for such a position was published in 1946, 1 the critical view goes back at least as far as T.S. Eliot’s 1919 essay ‘Tradition and the individual talent’, where Eliot argued that the focus should be on the poetry rather than the poet. 2 In the 1960s, as part of a very different philosophical and indeed political project, Roland Barthes declared the death of the author, thereby forcibly removing him from the critical gaze (and it was ‘him’ then). 3 But I was never quite comfortable with the pious, new critical insistence on the integrity of the text (even though I cannot now find any evidence for the biographical detail about William Burroughs that allowed me to stop even trying to read his work). 4 This was partly based on what I took to be an honest uncertainty about where text ended and context began (or vice-versa), but also on a conviction that we were surely within our rights to use any information – biographical, intentional, contextual – that help to produce compelling interpretations. This approach was not meant to be relativistic, so much as open and catholic. I was pleased, then, to see the publication this year of Claire Dederer’s Monsters: a fan’s dilemma , 5 a book that seemed unafraid to grapple with the problem of how we appreciate artwork produced by men (it is normally men) whose actions we find inescapably offensive (the ‘monsters’ of the title). This problem has always been with us, but the biographical fallacy and the death of author tended to shut down discussion, until, that is, movements such as #metoo demanded a reappraisal. For what become obvious reasons, Dederer concentrates on male monsters, such as Picasso, Hemingway, Polanski and Miles Davis, though she also spends some time discussing those female artists who, one way or another abandoned children for the sake of their art (Doris Lessing, Sylvia Plath and Joni Mitchell). The appetites of those male artists for monstrous transgression are unflinchingly described and, at first, it seems as though Dederer is going to adopt a position of unequivocal rejection of their work based on an unambiguous condemnation of their lives. However, by the time we reach the end of the book, she argues that, if we love a work of art but hate – or feel the stain of – the actions of the artist, we must try to accommodate both responses, however inconsistent. We know that 1 Wimsatt & Bearsley 1946; later published in Wimsatt 1954. 2 The essay is available in Eliot 1932. 3 Barthes originally published his essay in 1967; the earliest English translation appeared in Barthes 1977. See Foucault 1979 for a provocative response. 4 I heard, or though I heard, that Burroughs, while struggling with his heroin use, would pass the time by shooting his cats. However, some quick internet research shows only that he seems to have been very fond of cats. 5 Dederer 2023.

Editor’s introduction

members of our family and the people we count as friends are imperfect, capable indeed of terrible things, yet we can still love them. There is a sort of moral calculus at work here. With friends and family, we normally like to think that the good outweighs the bad. Dederer, though I don’t think she wants to admit it, is arguing for a similar approach to artists, where the sublime of their art trumps the monstrosity of their behaviour. In the end, then, it appears that Dederer has not quite moved us onto new ground. That said, the book can stand as a welcome invitation to reflect further on this central problem of appreciation. 6 It is also worth noting that, as is so common, the ancient Greeks, in their concept of the hero, were already onto the tragic ambivalence I have been describing. Greek myth and tragedy is full of heroes whose extraordinary qualities of power, resilience and astonishing violence are used to defend and promote a civilization which then in turn finds it cannot accommodate those same qualities. For the Greeks, heroes were always a problem, as well as a solution. 7

It is worth noting that that the following essays were commended in various ways in various competitions, as follows:

• Daniel Kamaluddin ’s essay on Christianity and environmental ethics, and Alex Gerasimchuk’s on philosophy and the environment were awarded first and third places respectively in the inter-schools Erasmus essay competition; • Sujaan Singh Kochhar’s essay on promises in law wa s highly commended in the Peter Cane Legal Reasoning Prize run by Corpus Christi College, Oxford; • Wentao Liu’s essay on inequality saw awarded equal first prize in the inaugural Popper Prize for Year 10 students held at the College; • Calvin Dean’s essay on d esigning a space elevator was highly commended in the Aristotelian Award for Year 9 students organized by the Perse School, Cambridge.

I hope, dear reader, that you will be as impressed and I am by the range and sophistication of the essays contained in this volume of Semantron .


Barthes, R. (1977) Image, Music, Text . London Dederer, C. (2023) Monsters: a fan’s dilemma . Sceptre Eliot, T.S. (1932) Selected Essays . London Foucault, M. (1979) ‘What is an author?’, in Harari, J. ed. Textual Strategies . Ithaca Knox, B. (1964) The Heroic Temper . Cambridge Searle, J. (2005) Mind: a brief introduction . Oxford Vernant, J-P. & Vidal-Naquet, P. (1981) Tragedy and Myth in Ancient Greece. Harvester Wimsatt, W. & Beardsley, M. (1946) ‘The intentional fallacy’, The Sewanee Review 54.3: 468-88 Wimsatt, W. (1954) The Verbal Icon . Kentucky

6 I would argue that a lot of work also needs to be done on the notions of ‘intention’ and ‘intentionality’; on the latter, see, for instance, Searle 2005. 7 The formulation that the hero is a problem is Vernant’s (see Vernant & Vidal -Naquet 1981, ch. 1). A similar view of the Greek hero can be found in Knox 1964.



Part One



Why did the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan fail? ARISTIDES HALL


Donald Trump and ‘Trumpism’ in relation to the rise of Hitler and Nazism JOSS TITCOMB


Should diplomatic immunity be abolished? THOMAS HARRIS


Copyright law, creativity and innovation YAN HUNG LUI




Promises in law, or estoppel SUJAAN SINGH KOCHHAR


Are economic sanctions against Russia proving ineffective? FREDDIE WALKER

Part Two


40 The interior self in the surveillance state: the role of the personal diary in Maoist China EDMUND IRVING


Can artificial intelligence ever be considered truly intelligent? YUSUF HASSAN


Learning and memory: a psychological and neurological analysis LAWRENCE VAUTIER


Behavioural economics and wine THOMAS SHOTTON


Genetic algorithms and optimization problems SETH BALDREY


Music and religion BROOKE STOREY



69 Identity and the ‘colonized self’: J.M. Coetzee’s In the Heart of the Country and Life and Times of Michael K FRED EDENBOROUGH


Multilingualism HUGO BIRD


Will AI take over creative jobs? ANDREW BROWN


The use of heuristics in political and economic contexts OLLIE MONBLAT

Part Three



How effective were Hong Kong’s COVID measures? JUSTIN TAM


The UK’s ‘cost -of- living crisis’ THOMAS HENDERSON


How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted inequalities? OLISA AGHADIUNO


346 lives: to what extent was the Boeing 737 MAX crisis due to a human error? MATTHEW WU

138 Value investing versus the efficient market hypothesis in terms of profitability and risk management for retail investors SVIATOSLAV IASENYTSKYI


Could rent controls solve London’s cost -of-living crisis? HECTOR SENIOR


US corporate debt JAMES HAWKINS

Italy’s pallid growth in the 21 st century LEONARDO COIRO



Vaccine hesitancy amongst the elderly in Hong Kong JASPER TSUI



Part Four


21 st -century technology, specifically AI, in modern medicine SAM MORRISSEY



A shot at a perfect society HERMON SOLOMON


Hacking the cell: are synthetic biological circuits the future of medicine? OSCAR PELLY


The island of stability JACOB POPOFF


Can we ever trust what we remember? DANIEL KAMALUDDIN


Is truth a human invention? GEORGE BICHARD


Would a good society be an equal society? WENTAO LIU


Lessons we can learn from a prison economy HENRY CHAN


Markov chains and coin tosses JAN CHELMECKI


How predicate calculus is used in computing JOSHUA MENDEL




Is hydrogen the solution to the world’s energy crisis? JON HIEW


Can Christian ethics offer a distinctive justification for environmental ethics? DANIEL KAMALUDDIN


Can philosophy shape human action when it comes to environmental issues? ALEX GERAMSIMCHUK


Causes and consequences of the 2022 UK energy crisis DARIUS PATILEA




Climate change and the younger generation EDWARD DOEPEL


Aviation and fossil fuels MATT GLADWELL


Hydrogen: somewhere over the rainbow? FINBAR PERCY

Part Six



Engineering challenges of supersonic transport CLINTON CHAN CHEUK WANG




Korean architecture – a traditional solution for modern problems SIWOO RYU

283 Implementation of mathematical curves and Hooke’s chain theory in architecture TIANWEI LU


The nature of gravitational potential energy ALBERT DAI


The thermodynamics of a black hole KAMRAN DIN


Designing a space elevator CALVIN DEAN


The future of supersonic transport MATTHEW WU


Where I end and you begin: the potential of neuroprosthetics FRANCIS McCABE



Why did the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan fail?

Aristides Hall

The invasion of Afghanistan by the 40 th Army of the Soviet Ground Forces in December 1979 marked the beginning of brutal fighting between the Soviets and the Afghan mujahedin. 1 This essay seeks to understand why Moscow was unsuccessful in subjugating Afghanistan, by examining the military and political failures that led to a humiliating defeat and withdrawal. It argues that Soviet military strategies failed to be effective against the mujahedin as a result of military incompetence coupled with political shortsightedness. It also argues that Soviet backing of the Afghan communist party was doomed to fail due to widespread ideological and religious resistance. It concludes that study of the war, though overlooked in the public conscience, remains relevant today, particularly in the context of Russ ia’s efforts to expand its influence and territory.


The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) came to power following a coup in 1978. It was an unpopular and unstable regime from the beginning. The Party was split between two wings: Parcham, led by Babrak Karmal, deriving its power from urban intellectuals; and Khalq, headed by Nur Mohamed Taraki and Hafizullah Amin, with a power base in the countryside and the Pushtun tribes. The PDPA’s program for reform – promising education for wo men and the weakening of ‘feudal relations’ – came up against the fierce conservatism of the Afghan countryside, confrontation that rapidly devolved into bloodshed. The clashes came to a head in March 1979 with the Herat Rising, the culmination of violent conservative resistance and equally violent government-sponsored repression. The Afghan leadership, controlled by Taraki and Amin, looked to the Soviets for hard military assistance in quelling the uprising, but received none. The Soviets, content with maintaining only a small military presence in Afghanistan, feared the implications of engaging the Red Army in military operations against the rebels. Worrying that 60 years of relationship-building between the two states might be jeopardized, Moscow was alarmed by the increasing anti-Soviet sentiment among the Afghan people. Seeking solutions, a KGB report favoured the widening of the Afghan regime’s political and social base. There were concerns that this would necessitate the forceful removal of Amin, whom they considered the main instigator of the use of terror and a liability, especially as he appeared to be seeking closer relations with the USA while simultaneously estranging the Soviet Union. 2 Worried by the increasingly unstable situation stoked by government repression, with provinces in open armed rebellion against the PDPA, and tired of the instability and infighting within the Khalq faction, Moscow decided it was time to start preparing a new government, which would be headed by Babrak Karmal, an exiled Soviet loyalist. At that stage, an invasion by the Red Army remained off the

1 The term mujahedin describes Afghan fighters engaged in jihad , the holy war on behalf of Islam. 2 Rodric Braithwaite, Afgantsy: the Russians in Afghanistan 1979-89 , 2011, pp. 59 and 71.


Soviet intervention in Afghanistan

table. It was the assassination of Taraki, ordered by Amin, on 9 October 1979 that finally convinced the Soviet leadership that Amin should be removed. Units of the newly formed 40 th Army 3 began Operation Storm-333 on the night of 24 December 1979. The invasion marked the first time Soviet forces had faced a major conflict since the end of the Second World War, with the exception of the deployment of the Red Army to Hungary and Czechoslovakia to quell popular uprisings in 1956 and 1968. The operation resulted in Amin’s death (in uncertain circumstances), the overthrow of the government, and Karmal’s installation as the Chairman of the Revolutionary C ouncil and the Council of Ministers. Once the transfer of power was complete, ordinary Afghans were hoping that the departure of the Soviet troops would be imminent. The Soviets hoped for a similar result, only looking to stay long enough to stabilize Afghanistan, 4 allowing Karmal to introduce reforms, most notably a general amnesty for those imprisoned under Taraki and Amin. However, rising violence against Soviet diplomatic and military personnel, coupled with violent mass anti-Soviet protests in Kabul, convinced Moscow that stabilizing Afghanistan, a vital ally on an uncertain border, required a prolonged occupation.

Military failures

After continuous defeats in larger set-piece battles in the early months of 1980, the mujahedin , unable to match the strength of the 40 th Army in conventional warfare, began to wage guerilla warfare. The Soviets, who had only trained for conventional warfare against NATO, soon found themselves unprepared to deal with strongly motivated, lightly armed, mobile groups of what 40 th Army strategists deemed ‘bandits’. 5 The mujahedin fought Soviet troops at close range, neutralizing conventional army advantages such as artillery and air strikes, both pillars of Soviet combat doctrine. 6 The ill- preparedness and overall inflexibility of the Soviet armed forces had stemmed from the Stalinist political purges of the 1930s, which had intentionally stifled innovation. 7 The result had been an unchanging and stagnant school of Soviet military thought. Soviet armed forces had not developed counterinsurgency strategies, despite seeing their benefits during the Second World War, when Red Army partisans used them with success against the Nazis. It was not until later in the Afghanistan War that tactics such as picketing the sides of hills and mountains to protect convoys from potential ambushes were developed, reflecting the British experience during their punitive military expeditions in the 19 th century. The changes did not, however, reflect major doctrinal shifts within the 40 th Army. A sizable component of the Spetsnaz (special forces) attached to the 40 th Army was dedicated in the east to cutting mujahedin supply lines by neutralizing caravans hauling equipment from bases in Pakistan. The porous nature of the border and the difficult terrain meant that the Spetsnaz was only successful 3 At the time, the 40 th Army was composed of 81,000 men, 600 tanks, 1,500 infantry fighting vehicles, 300 armored personnel carriers, 900 artillery pieces and 500 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Braithwaite (2011), p.122. 4 Zalmay Khalilzad, Afghanistan: Anatomy of a Soviet Failure, 1988, p.102. 5 Major Brian C. Hawkins, ‘Soviet counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan (1979 - 1988)’, thesis for Master of Military Studies degree, United States Marine Corps, Command and Staff College, Marine Corps University, April 2010. 6 Lester W. Grau and Michael A. Gress , The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost , 2002, p.13. 7 One of the victims of that era had been General Mikhail Tukhachevskii, author of multiple articles on counterinsurgency.


Soviet intervention in Afghanistan

in stopping 15-20 percent of supply caravans. 8 The mujahedin on the other hand did not encounter severe logistical difficulties.

Soviet technological advantages were often neutralized during fighting. For instance, the Mi-24 attack helicopter, nicknamed the ‘crocodile’, provided security and valuable overwatch to the special forces in the mountains and to regular forces on the ground. In response, the mujahedin received American, British, and Chinese supplied man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) such as the famous Stinger. The missiles threatened Soviet air power, forcing the development and practice of reliable countermeasures. However, despite their best efforts, the 40 th Army lost 113 fixed-wing aircraft and 333 helicopters during the war. 9 Soviet troops, trained on easier terrain in eastern Europe, suffered severe headaches from altitude sickness as well as the extreme temperatures on the Afghan mountains. Soviet manpower constraints meant that they could not hold any ground gained during major operations. The mujahedin would simply reoccupy Afghan kishlaks (villages) during the night, after the Soviet troops had left. As a Soviet officer lamented, ‘ when the operation was over, our forces would leave, and everything would return to what it had been before ’ . 10 The Soviet failure to prioritize winning hearts and minds over military success contributed to the prolonged fighting which gradually eroded Soviet morale. It further dispelled idealist notions of warrior-internationalism that the Soviet leadership had attempted to instill in the general public and 40 th Army. 11 Ultimately, despite Soviet ideological indoctrination, a soldier’s motivation to fight was increasingly derived from his desire to survive. Soviet soldiers suffered terribly. While the psychological trauma experienced by American soldiers in Vietnam is well documented in literature and film, less well known in the west is the human cost and profound impact on the veterans of the 40 th Army, the ‘Afgantsy’. Such impact is illustrated by Soviet Afghan war songs such as ‘We Are Leaving’ and ‘Swallowing Dust’. 12 While the Soviet-Afghan conflict may not be as prevalent as the Vietnam War in western political conscience, some interesting comparisons can be drawn from the two events. They appear extremely similar in that both great powers had to contend with a highly motivated, homegrown insurgency, both were unable to triumph militarily despite technological superiority and both were unable to create the political conditions necessary for a foreign war to succeed. 13

Political failures

Soviet troops, initially labouring under the misconception that the Afghans would welcome the stability, law and order that they provided, soon discovered that the Afghan people rather preferred the

8 Braithwaite (2011), p.134. 9 Such countermeasures included firing infrared flares to confuse the guidance systems of the MANPADS and flying at over 16,500 feet, over the advertised range of the Stinger. Braithwaite (2011), pp.204-205. 10 Braithwaite (2011), p.223. 11 The term had also been used to describe those who had performed their ‘international duty’ in the 1936 -1939 Spanish Civil War. 12 See and 13 David N. Gibbs, ‘Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion in Retrospect’, International Politics 37, no. 2, 2000, 233-246 at pp. 241-242.


Soviet intervention in Afghanistan

foreign infidels to go home, dead or alive. Soviet soldiers, raised as atheists, could not understand the entrenched religious conservatism within Afghan society and were therefore puzzled by the unpopularity of various Soviet- inspired PDPA projects, such as developing women’s rights. As a result, there remained a major social divide between Afghan civilians and Soviet troops, both incapable of comprehending the other’s value systems. Guerilla warfare meant that attacks on patrolling Soviet soldiers could come from anywhere. Farmers, seemingly working their fields, could suddenly start shooting at passing soldiers. An apparently friendly group of villagers could direct a Soviet convoy into an ambush. 14 Soviet troops, already estranged from the people of Afghanistan, became incredibly suspicious of Afghan civilians, with feelings often descending into paranoia. This, compounded with the brutality that the mujahedin often inflicted on Soviet prisoners, 15 contributed to a mental state that accepted violence against a ‘reactionary’ populace as justified. 16 The 40 th Army also found itself unable to rely on Afghan government forces. On paper, these were well- equipped. 17 Many Afghan officers had been trained in the Soviet Union and spoke Russian. 18 Their hardware was composed of some of the most modern equipment that the USSR could offer. However, some 70 percent were conscripts, with volunteers ending up in the officer corps. This meant that a majority of the forces were often unwilling to fight, especially if they lacked Soviet military backing. Afghan officers had been continuously purged by the PDPA for questionable loyalties, which had the counterproductive effect of causing many of them to desert to the mujahedin . Soldiers too would desert, in some cases simply going home to their villages to see their family, in others, joining the mujahedin . This was a result of the process of conscription, which consisted of blockading a village, rounding up those deemed capable of fighting (and some who were not), providing them with basic training and a weapon and then pressing them into active service. The unpopularity of conscription was evident by the fact that the Afghan military was only able to produce 65 percent of the predicted conscripts. This process produced poorly motivated soldiers for the Afghan government and unreliable allies for the Soviets. Within six months, some two thirds of the conscripts (1,200-1,500 every month) had deserted with their weapons, some to the mujahedin . 19 Many Soviet soldiers despised their allies, questioning both their resolve and why they fought so badly for the government but so well for the mujahedin . 20 Clearly, the notion of fighting the government infidels and Russian invaders proved a more passionate cause for the Afghan regular. 14 Braithwaite (2011), p.200. 15 Rumors and reports of mutilation and torture of Soviet prisoners of war were effective in scaring Soviet soldiers. For example, an ambush of a company of the 22 nd Special Forces Brigade in April 1985 resulted in the deaths of 31 Soviet soldiers. Troops inspecting the scene after the ambush soon understood that seven of the soldiers had killed themselves instead of surrendering. Braithwaite (2011), p.227. 16 Some 714 cases involving Soviet soldiers accused of committing murder against in Afghanistan were documented, with 200 more serving prison sentences for premeditated murder after the war. Braithwaite (2011), p.227. 17 Afghan government forces comprised of twelve divisions, 30 fighter jets, over 70 fighter bombers, 50 bombers,

76 helicopters and 40 transport aircraft. Braithwaite (2011), p.136. 18 Mark Galleoti, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , 1995, p.7. 19 Grau and Gress (2002), p.50-51. 20 Braithwaite (2011), p.138.


Soviet intervention in Afghanistan


While military shortfalls may have reinforced the inevitability of Soviet defeat, the ultimate driver of Soviet failure in Afghanistan was Moscow’s inability to sustain the PDPA regime in Kabul and win the political war against the mujahedin . The Soviets, despite the completion of some 142 major construction projects, 21 including the strategically vital Salang tunnel, 22 could not understand what they had to do to change the fundamental reality that they were unwelcome in Afghanistan. The PDPA also demonstrated a similar misunderstanding of Afghanistan when they tried to modernize and industrialize the country by force. The Kabul government’s political ideology, aligned with Russian Marxism-Leninism, found no audience in Afghanistan, where there was no industrial proletariat to speak of. Their laws on women’s education, seen as blasphemous, were unpopular with the deeply conservative countryside. This was well-known in the PDPA, and the response was to repress the very people they claimed to represent. Afghanistan had hosted repressive governments before, but those that preceded the PDPA government could at least claim to be following the teachings of Islam. However, the PDPA rejected Islamic fundamentals, putting itself at odds with the overwhelming majority of the country. These factors had been considered by Moscow prior to the invasion, with Yuri Andropov, chief of the KGB at the time, stating that it was impossible for the Soviets to protect the PDPA without ‘ Soviet bayonets ’ , condemning the notion that the party could command popular support. 23 This shows that the Soviets had entered Afghanistan knowing they could not sustain the PDPA government as it was. The initial motivation for the invasion had been short-term stabilization until the PDPA would be in a position to unite the nation, a doomed endeavour for a party incapable of adapting its ideology to encompass a broader support base and secure support from rural communities. Another motivator for the USSR was to keep Afghanistan out of America’s hands. The Iranian revolution of 1979 and the ensuing hostage crisis meant a loss of face and influence for Washington in the Middle East. An unstable Afghanistan was capable of falling under American influence, and this was in the forefront of the minds of the Politburo. 24 The consideration was a symptom of the type of disconnected thinking that was increasingly practised in Moscow, treating Afghanistan as yet another Cold War ideological battlefield, rather than an independent nation. It is therefore not surprising that an improvement in Soviet-American relations in the late 1980s gave General-Secretary Gorbachev the freedom to exit Afghanistan with a minimal loss of credibility among Soviet allies. For many years afterwards, the Russian public gave him credit for ending what they saw as a pointless war. It was not until 2018 that, in the context of Russian geopolitical ambition, the State Duma of the Russian

21 Paul Robinson and Jay Dixon, ‘Soviet Development Theory and Economic and Technical Assistance to Afghanistan, 1954 –1991’, The Historian , 2010, p.600. 22 Frank N. Schubert, ‘U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Afghanistan’s Highways 1960 - 1967’, Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 117, 1991, 445-459 at p. 446. 23 Panagiotis Dimitrakis, ‘The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan: International Reactions, Military Intelligence and British Diplomacy’, Middle Eastern Studies, 2012, 511-536 at p.512. 24 David C. Gompert, Hans Binnendijk and Bonny Lin, Blinders, Blunders, and Wars: What America and China Can Learn , 2014, p.130.


Soviet intervention in Afghanistan

Federation voted to deem the Afghan war a decision justified by international law and the strong and friendly relationship between the then Soviet Union and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. 25

The Afghan legacy played a significant role in Moscow’s approach to the first Chechen War (1994 - 1996). Heavy losses and a lack of public support prompted then President Boris Yeltsin to declare a ceasefire. The wounds of Afghanistan were still fresh, and the Russian government feared repeating the same mistake. This was in marked contrast to the second Chechen War (1999-2009). Newly appointed President Vladimir Putin used the pretext of Chechen separatism, including incursions into Dagestan and terrorist bombing campaigns, to garner public support for an operation to crush Chechen militants with overwhelming force. Initial military success allowed the creation of a new Chechen constitution in 2003, granting the Chechen Republic a degree of autonomy but allowing Moscow to install a government of Russian-backed Chechen loyalists and devolve to them responsibility for the subsequent counterinsurgency effort. Russian incursions into Georgia, Syria and Ukraine have followed since, and help to explain the attempt to rewrite history implicit in the 2018 Duma resolution. However, it remains to be seen whether these latest Russian efforts to expand their power and influence will be successful.


Primary sources TASS News Agency, ‘Condemnation of sending Soviet troops to Afghanistan unfair - Russian State Duma’, 22 November 2018. Manuscripts Hawkins, Major Brian C., ‘Soviet counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan (1979 - 1988)’, thesis for Master of Military Studies degree, United States Marine Corps, Command and Staff College, Marine Corps University, April 2010. Secondary sources Braithwaite, Rodric, Afgantsy: the Russians in Afghanistan 1979-89 , Profile Books, London, 2011. Dimitrakis, Panagiotis, ‘The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan: International Reactions, Military Intelligence and British Diplomacy’, Middle Eastern Studies, 48, no. 4, 2012, 511-536. Galleoti, Mark, Afghanistan: The Soviet Union’s Last War , Frank Cass, London, 1995. Gibbs, David N. ‘Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion in Retrospect’, International Politics, 37, no. 2, June 2000, 233-246. Gompert, David C., Binnendijk, Hans, and Lin, Bonny, Blinders, Blunders, and Wars: What America and China Can Learn , Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, 2014. Grau, Lester W. and Gress, Michael A., The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost: the Russian General Staff , University Press of Kansas, 2002. Khalilza d, Zalmay, ‘Afghanistan: Anatomy of a Soviet Failure’, The National Interest , no. 12, Summer 1988, 101-108. Robinson, Paul, and Dixon, Jay, ‘Soviet Development Theory and Economic and Technical Assistance to Afghanistan, 1954 –1991’, The Historian 72 , no. 3, 2010, 599 – 623.

25 TASS News Agency, ‘Condemnation of sending Soviet troops to Afghanistan unfair - Russian State Duma’, 22 November 2018.


Soviet intervention in Afghanistan

Schubert, Frank N., ‘U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Afghanistan’s Highways 1960 - 1967’, Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 117, no. 3, 1991, 445-459.


Donald Trump and ‘Trumpism’ in relation to the rise of Hitler and Nazism

Joss Titcomb

When the importance of the study of history is questioned, perhaps the response most often turned to is that it is crucial to learn from the past in order to prevent a repetition of it. Central to this idea is using the past to examine more recent or ongoing events. With this in mind, this essay will consider the political success of Donald Trum p and the growing movement of ‘Trumpism’ following the 2016 presidential election in relation to rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany during the inter- war period. This is not a comparison of the two men, or their respective movements; the despicable actions of the Nazis, most notably the Holocaust, remain incomparable today. It is also not suggesting that continued growth of Trump’s movement will result in anything like what occurred in Germany under Nazi rule. Despite this, a number of similarities can be drawn from the two movements and their surrounding political situations, such as a growing lack of trust in democracy and its institutions as well as some of the tactics used by both men to gain and galvanize support. If, as this essay will suggest, there are some similarities in how Hitler and Trump rose to prominence and power, as well as other commonalities in terms of their leadership, then this raises further questions regarding the nature and security of democracy itself in America. The situation, both economic and cultural, of a country is a crucial component that must be examined when considering why a particular leader came to power. The rise of Hitler occurred during a period of major turbulence in German history: the inter-war period, in which Germany, as a newly formed democracy following the end of the First World War, was officially called the Weimar Republic. This was a period of political instability and violence as well as severe economic problems. Attempted coups, such as the P utsch led by Dr Wolfgang Kapp and even Hitler’s own Munich Beer Hall Putsch , may have failed in the early 1920s, but they contributed to a sense that the fledgling democracy was in constant danger; political violence was commonplace, with ‘gun battles, ass assinations, massacres and civil unrest [denying] Germans the stability in which a new democratic order could flourish’ – the war had both legitimized violence and desensitized the ordinary German to it (Evans, 2004). Meanwhile, economic disaster deepened, first with the crisis of hyperinflation in 1923, with increasingly high inflation exacerbated by the French occupation of the Ruhr – as Germany could no longer afford their reparations payments given the monetary depreciation (falling behind on deliveries of coal to the French) – and the subsequent German policy of passive resistance. The cost of a dollar in November 1921 was 263 marks, in January 1923 it was 17,000 marks, in July 1923 it was 353,000 marks, in September 1923 it was 98,860,000 marks, and by December of 1923 1 US Dollar cost 4,200,000,000,000 marks. While this terrifying period was followed by some (perceived) economic stability, the Great Depression of the early 1930s led to another economic collapse in Germany with huge unemployment (Evans, 2004). All this unfolded in a society which did not trust its democracy, as highlighted by the fact that ‘from 1920 onwards, [the three political parties associated with the new political system: the Social Democrats, the Centre Party and the German Democratic Party] were in a permanent minority in the Reichstag, outnumbered by deputies whose allegiances lay with the Republic’s enemies to the left and right’ (Evans, 2004). It is clear that political and economic turbulence hindered the newly formed


Trump and Trumpism

democr acy and, as will be highlighted later, was therefore critical to Hitler’s success. The United States in 2016 was clearly not anywhere close to the dire straits Germany found itself in roughly 85 years earlier. However, Umbach (2016) argues that there was, and arguably remains, a sense that many Americans feel they have not been ‘winning’ for a long time, in a similar, but much less dramatic, way to Germans who faced drastic economic turbulence during the 1920s and 30s. This assertion is convincing, given the increasing wealth inequality that plagues the United States, with income inequality at its ‘highest level since the Census Bureau started tracking it more than five decades ago’ (Telford, 2018). In this way, the US – and its democratic structures – have failed to deliver. Umbach (2016) suggests this idea was one reason for Trump’s success, as it is democracy appearing to fail that leads to growing support for charismatic leaders, which Trump responded to – in a similar way to Hitler. But how did Trump do this, given dissatisfaction among the masses was not in itself enough to lead directly to his success in 2016? He had to position himself as someone who could solve what many Americans felt were the issues troubling them. Colasacco (2018) argues, referencing Roger Griffin, that while Trump is not a fascist, as to be so he would have to acquire power democratically before ‘perverting or dismantling the institutions of liberal democracy entirely’ (written before Trump’s denial of Biden’s victory and the subse quent invasion of the Capitol on January 6 th 2021, it should be noted), he does share certain commonalities with fascism – and with Hitler – , notably palingenetic ultranationalism: the idea of renewal or rebirth. This immediately provokes connotations with Trump’s infamous slogan ‘Make America Great Again’. Similarly, Hitler offered an end to the democracy – and those he referred to as the ‘November Criminals’ – who had ‘betrayed’ the country (Evans, 2004); in a way, he offered Germans an image or idea: a Germany made great again. To the analytical eye, however, this idea actually means very little, particularly in the case of Trump. What does it really mean to ‘Make America Great Again’? When was it at its greatest, and how was Trump going to transform the United States back to this state? These were questions that were arguably never really answered, which highlights how Trump favoured slogans over detailed policy. One example of this was his policy regarding the building of a wall on the US-Mexico border to stem the flow of migrants travelling to the US. Trump did not offer detailed plans on how the construction would be paid for and many questions were raised regarding its effectiveness (Benen, 2017). Umbach (2016) notes this, arguing that both Trump and Hitler use slogans over detailed policies. An example is the Nazi ‘Blood and Soil’ slogan, which drew together two key tenets of Nazi policy: a national body defined by race, and living space ( lebensraum ) (Wikipedia, 2022), without laying out how they intended to achieve these policy goals. Arguably, this combination of harking back to a time of greatness alongside populist slogans (admittedly a mainstay of wider politics) supported these men in their portrayal of themselves as strong leaders in tune with the people. This is supported by Umbach’s (201 6) argument that both men present their personal character and biographies as crucial to how they would govern. For example, Trump often referred to his supposed success as a businessman in order to present himself as a strong candidate for the Oval Office. Both Hitler and Trump are charismatic figures, offering ordinary citizens a sense that they are understood. This charisma was perhaps most clearly through the two men’s speeches: Hitler, at first in crowded beer halls, and then later at great rallies, railing against those he felt were to blame for Germany’s ills, and Trump, at his infamous campaign rallies. Another aspect of Trump often examined is his ‘cult of personality’, seen perhaps more clearly today, despite his loss in the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden, than when he first rose to political prominence and success. Following that election loss, Trump refused to admit defeat, claiming that the


Trump and Trumpism

election had been ‘stolen’ from him. This arguably resulted in the January 6 th riot and invasion of the US Capitol. While many expected Trump to lose support as a result of this, his hold over the Republican Party remains today, based on the continuing support of the grassroots support. This is reminiscent of the total control Hitler managed to secure over the Nazi Party (Evans, 2004) and subsequently Germany, with those serving him desperate for his favour. A similar dynamic was arguably in play within the Trump administration (Woodward and Costa, 2021). It is a further commonality between the two men, which should force people to question how Trump retains his hold over the Republican Party and is considered a strong contender for the 2024 election. Donald Trump was successful in the 2016 presidential election and spent four turbulent years in the White House. He was then voted out, yet remains, as previously mentioned, a likely candidate – with a real chance of success – in 2024. This essay has highlighted a number of similarities with the rise of the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler in Weimar Germany not in order to suggest Trump is in some way as depraved and evil as Hitler. Instead, it serves to highlight the flawed nature of the United States’ democracy, often held up as a beacon of light to the rest of the world (although this idea is increasingly questioned both domestically and abroad): if Trump, despite his 2020 loss, remains so politically potent despite these similarities, the state of American democracy cannot be a healthy one. Umbach (2016) put it best, when discussing the aforementioned sentimen t of being on the ‘losing side’ that many Americans are feeling before his 2016 victory, saying: ‘Trump has not been the first demagogue to capitalize on such sentiments, and he will not be the last. If elected, we will not see a resurgence of National Socialism. Trump is, nevertheless, a symptom of a fundamental problem with our democratic system, which we seem utterly unable to fix.’


Benen, S. (2017) ‘What Trump doesn't understand about his own border wall idea’, MSNBC. Available at What Trump doesn't understand about his own border wall idea ( (Accessed 22/08/2022) ‘Blood and soil’ (2022) Wikipedia . Available at Blood and soil - Wikipedia (Accessed 19/08/2022) Colasa cco, B. (2018) ‘Before Trump: On Comparing Fascism and Trumpism’, Journal for the Study of Radicalism, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 27-53 Available at (Accessed 15/08/2022) Ericksen, R. (2018) ‘Devotion, Protestant Voters, and Religious Prejudice’, Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte , Vol. 31, No. 2,

Frömmigkeit und Erinnerung / Devotion and Memory, pp. 427-440. Available at (Accessed 16/08/2022)

Evans, R. (2004) The Coming of The Third Reich. Penguin Books Telford, T. (2018) ‘Income inequality in America is the highest it’s been since Census Bureau started tracking it, data shows’, The Washington Post . Available at Income inequality in U.S. is at a five-decade high, Census data show - The Washington Post (Accessed 17/08/2022) Um bach, M. (2016) ‘Just How Similar is Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler?’, . Available at Just How Similar Is Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler? ( (Accessed 17/08/2022) Woodward, B. and Costa, R. (2021) Peril . Simon & Schuster.


Should diplomatic immunity be abolished?

Thomas Harris

Diplomatic immunity is an ancient concept whose modern counterpart was established globally through the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and then enacted into UK law by the 1964 Diplomatic Privileges Act. 1 Fundamentally, it allows diplomats in foreign nations to avoid both criminal and civil prosecution if they commit a crime. This is intrinsically an exception to the rule of law and would seem to violate fundamental principles that uphold our society, yet it is still seen by many as having the purpose of maintaining intergovernmental relations in pursuit of international peace. However, in recent times, public perception of diplomatic immunity seems to have soured somewhat with reports of cases where it seems to have been abused. Some people have lost sympathy for diplomats and have called for the abolition of their immunity. In this essay I will explore why diplomatic immunity is in use; investigate important cases; consider arguments for and against abolition; and evaluate any changes to diplomatic immunity that could be made. Through doing this I hope to provide a compelling case as to why I believe that diplomatic immunity needs to be reformed instead of being abolished. Firstly, I would like to examine more closely why diplomatic immunity is used and how it is enforced. Around 23,000 people in the UK currently possess diplomatic immunity, 2 which illustrates that this debate is certainly not unimportant. By nature, diplomats settle disputes between states. This certainly requires some level of protection, as they are particularly at risk of coercion whilst in another nation. They could otherwise face phony charges if they are politically opposed to a host nation, especially one determined to silence or punish another country through their diplomat. And it is important that diplomatic immunity is enshrined in law and not just, as was previously the case, an accepted custom: disagreements about what diplomatic immunity actually constitutes can thus be avoided. In practice, diplomatic immunity means that , as long as the diplomat’s home nation does not lift their immunity, a diplomat cannot be arrested or prosecuted by the host nation, except if they partake in professional activities outside of their official role. The only power that the host nation has is to expel a diplomat. Evidently, diplomatic immunity is designed to protect diplomats so that they are safe to perform their job. While this may seem a just cause, when diplomatic immunity applies to real life scenarios, it does not always seem to be promoting justice.

Secondly, I think it is very important to look at notorious cases relating to diplomatic immunity in recent years to illustrate why there is such controversy around whether it should be abolished. The first case involves the wife of a US diplomat, Mrs Sacoolas, who ran over a British motorcyclist, Mr Dunn,

1 Pert, A. Diplomatic immunity: Time to change the rules. interpreter/diplomatic-immunity-time-change-rules. Consulted: 16/8/22. 2 BBC. Harry Dunn crash: What is diplomatic immunity? Consulted: 17/8/22.


Diplomatic immunity

after leaving a Royal Air Force base in Northamptonshire on the 27 th August 2019. 3 Mrs Sacoolas used her diplomatic immunity to leave the UK and avoid facing any criminal charges; the US also declined the request from Prime Minister Boris Johnson to waive her immunity. 4 Public outcry soon followed on the basis that someone who was not carrying out diplomatic functions was able to escape consequences for killing a British citizen because the US chose not to extradite her. This would appear to be a clear failure of diplomatic immu nity as it denies victims justice for crimes unrelated to a diplomat’s role. Another often reported issue is of unpaid parking fines in London, where over £100 million in congestion charge fees remain unpaid since 2003. 5 While this is not necessarily the most serious misuse of diplomatic immunity, it highlights how the system is fundamentally flawed and allows diplomats to abuse their powers. The next case I want to highlight is of Basfar v Wong [2022], in which Ms Wong accused a diplomat representing Saudi Arabia in the UK, Mr Basfar, of forcing her to work in conditions of modern slavery. 6 Mr Basfar attempted to fight this claim on the basis of his diplomatic immunity, but the Supreme Court ruled that he would not have diplomatic immunity if the facts of the claim were proven, 7 due to the allegations being considered as commercial activity – one of the few exceptions to diplomatic immunity concerns diplomats conducting commercial activity in the host nation. 8 This ruling does provide some hope that diplomatic immunity may not require complete reformation, as it shows that victims of diplomats’ crimes can seek compensation. However, the diplomat has not faced any consequences yet, and the expansion of commercial activity to include trafficking or slavery could risk creating an uncertainty over what is allowed, which only further complicates the system. Overall, these cases clearly show that diplomatic immunity has been misused in the past, showing that there is a pressing need to change or remove it. On the one hand, as stated previously, diplomatic immunity is clearly essential to the preservation of international cooperation between governments and thus to abolish it could have detrimental effects, such as escalating tensions between states if one feels that a diplomat has been targeted or detained unfairly and, as a result, may look to take more aggressive action as a response. The removal of the accepted principle of diplomatic immunity could also give rise to the shrewd targeting of diplomats overseas where countries may charge them on phony counts in order to try to gain information in exchange for the diplomat’s freedom. Diplomats could also be imprisoned to try to gain leverage over another country in a more severe scenario. Another, potentially overlooked, consequence of the abolition of diplomatic immunity is that it could considerably worsen international relations as diplomats may not feel as comfortable travelling to different countries and, as a result, countries in conflict may fail to reach agreements. This could also lead to more talented diplomatic candidates being dissuaded from entering the service as they would receive less support. In addition, any unilateral 3 Wikipedia. Death of Harry Dunn. Consulted: 20/8/22. 4 See note 1. 5 BBC. Diplomats owe over £116m in congestion charges. Consulted: 13/8/22. 6 Hawley, C. No diplomatic immunity in modern slavery cases, Supreme Court rules. Consulted: 12/8/22. 7 The Supreme Court. Basfar (Respondent) v Wong (Appellant). 0155.html. Consulted: 12/7/22. 8 Wikipedia. Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Consulted: 2/8/22.


Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52 Page 53 Page 54 Page 55 Page 56 Page 57 Page 58 Page 59 Page 60 Page 61 Page 62 Page 63 Page 64 Page 65 Page 66 Page 67 Page 68 Page 69 Page 70 Page 71 Page 72 Page 73 Page 74 Page 75 Page 76 Page 77 Page 78 Page 79 Page 80 Page 81 Page 82 Page 83 Page 84 Page 85 Page 86 Page 87 Page 88 Page 89 Page 90 Page 91 Page 92 Page 93 Page 94 Page 95 Page 96 Page 97 Page 98 Page 99 Page 100 Page 101 Page 102 Page 103 Page 104 Page 105 Page 106 Page 107 Page 108 Page 109 Page 110 Page 111 Page 112 Page 113 Page 114 Page 115 Page 116 Page 117 Page 118 Page 119 Page 120 Page 121 Page 122 Page 123 Page 124 Page 125 Page 126 Page 127 Page 128 Page 129 Page 130 Page 131 Page 132 Page 133 Page 134 Page 135 Page 136 Page 137 Page 138 Page 139 Page 140 Page 141 Page 142 Page 143 Page 144 Page 145 Page 146 Page 147 Page 148 Page 149 Page 150 Page 151 Page 152 Page 153 Page 154 Page 155 Page 156 Page 157 Page 158 Page 159 Page 160 Page 161 Page 162 Page 163 Page 164 Page 165 Page 166 Page 167 Page 168 Page 169 Page 170 Page 171 Page 172 Page 173 Page 174 Page 175 Page 176 Page 177 Page 178 Page 179 Page 180 Page 181 Page 182 Page 183 Page 184 Page 185 Page 186 Page 187 Page 188 Page 189 Page 190 Page 191 Page 192 Page 193 Page 194 Page 195 Page 196 Page 197 Page 198 Page 199 Page 200

Made with FlippingBook - Online catalogs