World

What We Talk About When We Shout About Iran

The real argument isn't about the fine print. It's about Obama, Netanyahu, and the value of diplomacy.

(Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) President Barack Obama answers questions about the Iran nuclear deal during a news conference at the White House on July 15. I n the week since the Iran deal was announced, we’ve been watching the political theater of reactions to it. As with most theater, the first thing for the audience to remember is that the dialogue is deceptive. The characters skirt what's really on their minds. In the Iran drama, America and Israel have become virtually one stage. Ostensibly the argument in both countries and between them is whether the agreement is a success or a surrender. But if it were a real debate about the accord itself, there would have been a long silence after the Vienna press conference, as ex-diplomats, retired generals, and the Strangelove-ian community of nuclear arms experts pored over the dense 159-page text. Instead, a host of politicians, lobbyists, and talking heads responded almost immediately. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu...

The Real Debt Problem

(Photo: AP/Rex Features)
(Photo: AP/Rex Features) Demonstrators protest the recent deal imposed on Greece by the European Union outside the German Embassy in London. Note: This is adapted from the new preface to the just-published paperback edition of Debtors’ Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility . (Vintage) I n the era when it was common to throw people in jail as a punishment for debts they could not pay, the result was perverse for both debtor and creditor. The debtor’s economic life ended—in prison there was no way the inmate could earn money to repay debt; thus there was no way the creditor could be made whole. The invention of bankruptcy in 1706 during the reign of Queen Anne of England offered an ingenious solution. A magistrate would evaluate the assets of the bankrupt party; creditors would be repaid at so many pence on the pound; the debt would be considered discharged and the debtor could get on with his life. This was the origin of the modern Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in which a...

Endgame in Europe

In a deal struck this week, Greece offered its creditors unconditional surrender. Will that be enough?

AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert
AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks with the media after a meeting of eurozone heads of state at the EU Council building in Brussels on Monday, July 13, 2015. T he deal struck in the wee hours of July 13—Bastille Day Eve—between Greece and its Eurozone creditors has been described in some quarters as a compromise. It was not. It was nothing less than a humiliation of a small and suffering member state, a sadistic display of naked financial power. Do as we say or we will “collapse your banks,” Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem had apparently told Greek negotiators earlier. In the climactic weekend it emerged that he wasn’t bluffing. Despite the fact that the ‘No’ vote had scored a resounding victory in a national referendum a week earlier, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras decided he had no choice but to surrender to all the creditors’ demands, but in the end it turned out that even unconditional surrender was not enough. Germany’s...

A Note to Hillary on Boycotts and Settlements

It's time for Clinton to clarify her positions on Israel and Palestine. 

AP Photo/Jin Lee
AP Photo/Jin Lee Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks after receiving the American Jewish Congress' lifetime achievement award on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in New York. D ear Hillary, It's hard to believe a whole eight years have gone by. Again, you're running for president. Again, you've made an early policy statement intended to prove your support for Israel, written to fit the catechism of the self-proclaimed guardians of the pro-Israel faith. And again, as I watch the bizarre rites of American politics from the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, I feel uneasy. Do you believe what you are saying and implying to donors and voters? Do you intend to act accordingly as president? Today, with the State Department as well as the Senate on your résumé, surely you know that American policy commitments—and your actual support for livable future for Israel—will take you in a different direction. You've been through this. Eight years ago, early in your last campaign, you...

The Joy of No

Greece's rejection of austerity was an important step forward, but it also threw Europe's deep divisions into stark relief.  

The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images
The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images Thousasnds of jubilant government supporters celebrate after the result of the referendum showed the "No,'' majority in Athens, Greece on July 5, 2015. An earlier version of this article appeared at The Huffington Post . T he ‘No’ vote to austerity is a stunning vindication of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s tactical gamble and political savvy. However, the Greeks and the austerity-mongers, most notably in Germany, remain as far apart as ever. The financial press and the European elite played Tsipras’s surprise referendum as reckless and suicidal. Much of the EU establishment was savoring a ‘Yes’ vote, a Tsipras resignation, and a new center-right unity government as enablers of austerity. But Tsipras demonstrated that he has a far surer grasp of his own people than the Berlin-Brussels echo chamber. In the aftermath of the ‘No’ vote, opposition leaders rallied behind Tsipras. The elite press has tended to play this tragedy as a case of Greek...

World Cup Corruption: The Bigger Scandal

In the shadow of Qatar's new soccer stadium, Nepali migrant workers face exploitation, injury, and death.

(Photo: AP/Amnesty International/DPA)
(Photo: AP/DPA/Amnesty International) What migrants encounter in Qatar: Worker accommodations are shared with old paint cans and other toxic waste. Amnesty International found "an alarming level of exploitation." This article appears in the Summer 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . G anesh Bishwakarma left for Qatar in 2013 to join the thousands of migrant workers hired to work on construction projects for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He had a dream of earning enough to build a comfortable life for himself and his impoverished family in the Dang District of Nepal. Six weeks later, he was back home, in a coffin. The 16-year-old had died of cardiac arrest, leaving his grief-stricken family with a lost son, in deeper poverty than before. His dream had taken him on a journey of exploitation and deceit, involving a fake passport, extortionate recruitment fees, and huge debt—typical of what faces Nepali migrant workers. Two recent events briefly focused the world’s...

The EU's Future in the Wake of the Greek Crisis

This weekend may mark a turning point for Greece's debt crisis, but Europe's problems don't stop there. 

AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza
AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza A man sells Greek and European Union flags during a rally organized by supporters of the YES vote for the upcoming referendum in front of the Greek Parliament in Athens, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. T he endgame in the Greek crisis remains murky at this hour despite Alexis Tsipras’s apparent capitulation to the demands of Greece’s creditors: the so-called Troika or “Institutions” consisting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission (EC), and the European Central Bank (ECB). With surprise developments occurring daily if not hourly, it is difficult to stand back from what has transpired to date in order to assess the implications for the future of the European Union and the Eurozone. Still, the exercise is worth attempting. A number of depressing conclusions emerge. No matter how the saga ends—whether in “Grexit” (Greek abandonment of the euro) and the self-imposed austerity that must inevitably follow, or in an agreement with the...

Greece: Only the 'No' Can Save the Euro

As Greece prepares for a referendum on its creditors' demands for austerity, the future of Europe hangs in the balance. 

AP Photo/Petros Karadjias
AP Photo/Petros Karadjias Pedestrians walk by posters for the NO vote in the upcoming referendum, in central Athens, on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. G reece is heading toward a referendum on Sunday on which the future of the country and its elected government will depend, and with the fate of the euro and the European Union also in the balance. At present writing, Greece has missed a payment to the IMF, negotiations have broken off, and the great and good are writing off the Greek government and calling for a “Yes” vote, accepting the creditors' terms for “reform,” in order to “save the euro.” In all of these judgments, they are, not for the first time, mistaken. To understand the bitter fight, it helps first to realize that the leaders of today's Europe are shallow, cloistered people, preoccupied with their local politics and unequipped, morally or intellectually, to cope with a continental problem. This is true of Angela Merkel in Germany, of François Hollande in France, and it is true...

Black Lives Matter: Responding to the Dominican Deportation Crisis

Protests erupt worldwide as more than 200,000 people of Haitian descent may soon be deported from the Dominican Republic. 

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell Haitians wait for the opening of the border between Jimani, Dominican Republic, and Malpasse, Haiti, on a market day, Thursday, June 18, 2015. M isma isla, misma raza is Spanish for “same island, same people” and it’s one of the rallying cries of the hundreds who gathered in Washington, D.C., on June 22 to protest the citizenship crisis happening right now in the Dominican Republic. Haitians, and those descended from Haitians, are being denationalized while the threat of deportations looms. In September 2013, a Dominican high court ruled that anyone born after 1929 to undocumented parents were not citizens. With the government’s June 17 registration deadline now passed, an estimated 200,000 people are threatened with deportations and statelessness—and most of them are black. The crisis happening in the Dominican Republic affects two kinds of people. Black Dominicans born to Haitians or with Haitian grandparents and Haitian migrants who came to the Dominican...

The U.N. Gaza Report: Grim, but Even-Handed

AP Photo/Hatem Moussa, File
AP Photo/Hatem Moussa, File In this July 29, 2014 file photo, smoke and fire from an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City. P oliticians, speechwriters and even some headline-writers had their reactions ready in advance—or so it appeared when the McGowan Davis Report on last summer's war in Gaza was published this week by the U.N. Human Rights Council. Why bother studying it when prejudging is so much easier? "Flawed and biased" is how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly labeled the report. A week earlier, Netanyahu said that reading the report would be a waste of time, so one can reasonably doubt that he bothered doing so. Some government spokespeople initially referred to it as the Schabas Report, as if it had been written by the original chair of the investigating panel—Canadian law professor William Schabas—who quit months ago when it emerged that he'd done paid legal work for the PLO. The mass-circulation tabloid Yediot Aharonot 's oversized headline called it "The...

Why Losing TPP Won't Hurt the U.S. in Asia

TPP is a big deal, but not for American foreign policy. 

The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images
The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama hold a summit meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. on April 28, 2015. T he failure of the House of Representatives last week to accept the president’s proposals for approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal (TPP) he has long been negotiating, has resulted in a cloudburst of baleful predictions of the collapse of American foreign policy and the complete impotency of the rest of the Obama presidency. You would think that while the trade provisions were controversial, there was unanimity on the premise that TPP is a foreign policy imperative. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers likened the vote to rejection by the Congress of President Woodrow Wilson’s proposal for a League of Nations after World War I. Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks said the vote against the president would help China dominate Asia. Speaking at a Washington think...

This is What Happens When Abortion is Outlawed

Restrictive anti-abortion laws in states like Texas are forcing women into dangerous situations. 

AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca
AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca A man walks past the former site of a clinic that offered abortions in El Paso, Texas, Friday, October 3, 2014. Abortion services for many Texas women require a round trip of more than 200 miles, or a border-crossing into Mexico or New Mexico after federal appellate judges allowed full implementation of a law that has closed more than 80 percent of Texas' abortion clinics. I n Paraguay, a 10-year-old rape victim is denied an abortion —even though her stepfather is her attacker. In El Salvador, suicide is the cause of death for 57 percent of pregnant females between ages 10 and 19. In Nicaragua, doctors are anxious about even treating a miscarriage. All of these instances are the result of draconian abortion laws that have outlawed critical reproductive care in nations throughout Latin America. If stories like these seem remote to American readers, it’s because they’ve been largely eliminated through widespread access to basic abortion services beginning in...

Bad Faith

Why real debt relief is not on the table for Greece. 

Sipa via AP Images
Sipa via AP Images Angela Merkel, German chancellor, and Greece Primer Minister Alexis Tsipras give a joint press conference, after the meeting, at the German chancellery on March 23, 2015, in Berlin. R eaders of the financial press may be forgiven for thinking that the negotiations between Greece and Europe have one feckless partner—the new government of Greece—and one responsible partner, a common front of major governments and creditor institutions, high-minded in their pursuit of rational policies and the common European interest. The view from Athens is different. On June 11, I attended the hearing of a Greek parliamentary commission investigating the Greek debt. Phillipe Legrain, former adviser to the then-EU President José Manuel Barroso, testified. Legrain is a technocrat, an economist, and a very reserved individual. He spoke in measured tones. The original crime in the Greek affair, Legrain said, was committed in May 2010, when it became clear that the country was insolvent...

What is Reform? The Strange Case of Greece and Europe

Why creditors' demands would only prolong Greece's crisis. 

AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis
AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis Ruined EU and Greek flags fly in tatters from a flag pole at a beach at Anavissos village, southwest of Athens, on Monday, March 16, 2015. O n our way back from Berlin on Tuesday, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis remarked to me that current usage of the word “reform” has its origins in the middle period of the Soviet Union, notably under Khrushchev, when modernizing academics sought to introduce elements of decentralization and market process into a sclerotic planning system. In those years when the American struggle was for rights and some young Europeans still dreamed of revolution, “reform” was not much used in the West. Today, in an odd twist of convergence, it has become the watchword of the ruling class. The word, reform, has now become central to the tug of war between Greece and its creditors. New debt relief might be possible—but only if the Greeks agree to “reforms.” But what reforms and to what end? The press has generally tossed around the...

Derailment on the Fast Track

Passing TPP just became a lot more difficult.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais President Barack Obama speaks during his meeting with leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries on the sidelines of the APEC summit, Monday, November 10, 2014 in Beijing. Editor's Note: On the afternoon of June 12, the House defeated Trade Adjustment Assistance , 302 to 126 with only 40 Democrats voting in favor. Although House Speaker John Boehner vows to hold another vote on TAA next week following the House's passage of trade promotion authority, also on June 12, the vote puts the larger Trans-Pacific Partnership into serious jeopardy. I t’s now looking increasingly like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will go down to defeat. The first hurdle is the House vote scheduled for Friday on trade promotion authority, popularly known as fast-track, giving the executive branch an up-or-down vote in Congress on its Pacific trade deal. In recent days, as President Obama turned up the heat on about a dozen House Democrats, it looked as if...

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