East 53

The Editor’s Note – Burger wars

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There is an attractive thesis in ‘pop’ geopolitics – the McDonald’s Theory of Peace – which holds that no two countries where the company’s hamburger restaurants are present have ever gone to war with one another.

This is supposed to be because nations able to sustain a McDonald’s ought to have reached a level of prosperity and global integration that makes organised military violence unacceptable to their populations.

The company has now closed its three outlets in Crimea, citing “logistics problems.” But while war is war, business is business: competitor Burger King appears set to take its place. “We are planning to open in Crimea – Burger King Russia CEO Dmitry Medovy told the Itar-Tass agency – but I cannot say when exactly it will happen or how many outlets the company will have.”

The “burgers for peace” theory had already been shown false in the 2008 South Ossetia War, when units of the Russian 58th Army and airborne troops occupied parts of independent Georgia. At one level, worrying about hamburgers when real bullets are flying is silly – but the idea that economic integration leads to peaceful co-existence has been at the basis of many successful international policy constructs, including the European Union.

The failure of the hypothesis is discomforting. Building on lesser themes – fast food in this case – to speak of greater issues is at the heart of East’s editorial policy.

In this issue, we look at Chinese expansion in both Bolivia and Algeria, at what we still know about the First World War – which began exactly a century ago – the progress in ‘killer drone’ technology and even at Winston Churchill’s cats. Cambodia is increasingly uneasy with its authoritarian post-Khmer Rouge emergency government, Italy’s Mafias are invading the rest of Europe, the Freemasons have laid claim to the Moon and Nigeria now makes twice as many films a year as Hollywood. Beautiful women are wearing furs again – if they ever stopped – Austria is in Freudian denial over the advantages of EU membership, warships are winning their last battles by sinking to the seabed and ‘internal devaluation’ is either killing our economies or saving them. Finally (not really, there is much more, but this space is limited) we look at Poland’s winged Hussars, Europe’s first ‘universal soldiers’ – because geopolitics shows that the past is both ever-changing and unending.

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