Before a day had passed after the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya—in which four Americans were killed, including J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and as many as ten Libyans trying to protect them—some commenters declared an end to the Arab Spring. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tried to use the Libya attack and attempted attack on the U.S. embassy in Egypt, both reportedly sparked by an American-made anti-Muslim video, to score political points. His statement darkly warned that the protests could represent the end of a trajectory away from authoritarianism and instead a turn toward an "Arab winter."
Even those who weren’t as ready as Romney to declare the Arab Spring over were worried. Foreign Policy’s Marc Lynch suggested that the fate of democracy hangs in the balance in the aftermath of the violence, which continues as rioters attack the U.S. embassy in Yemen. Not the events themselves, but how governments and peoples react in the days to follow, he writes, will decide.
The wide cement walkway that separates Lafayette Park from the front lawn of the White House is the official no man’s land of Washington, D.C.—just north of it lies the rarified sphere of the West Wing, to the south of it, the banalities of life in a sedate city. On the ordinary park side, haggard West Wing staffers make private phone calls while tourists noodle back and forth happily on Segways. Wednesday evening, on the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue side of the divide, a Secret Service agent made a sweep of the front lawn with his dog at a little before 7 p.m. A flag waved at half-mast in remembrance of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, only hours earlier that left four Americans dead; among them, Ambassador Christopher Stevens—the first American ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979.
If the current wave of Republican criticism of Mitt Romney—due to his ideological uncertainty and the general incompetence of his campaign—keeps up, here’s a suggestion for a replacement candidate: Viktor Orban.
Thousands of Palestinians take to the streets. In Hebron, demonstrators burn an effigy. In Tul Karm, Ramallah, and other cities, they block streets and set tires ablaze. Teens hurl stones. All of the West Bank's bus, truck, and taxi drivers go on strike for a day. In Bethlehem, truckers park sideways, blocking streets. In Nablus, kindergarten teachers join the strike; elsewhere storekeepers shut their shops. Universities announce they, too, will strike.
I've been looking at the crisp blue sky and remembering when the world went silent. The unspeakable images—which we have not yet shown to our son—are seared into all of us who were adults, then. How strange is it that a generation of young people has come of age who were sitting on school buses or in schoolrooms that day, who didn't watch as hundreds of people burned cruelly to death, as New York City was coated with human ash?
Hasta la muerte! “To the death,” chanted 12 hunger strikers outside the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia. General Motors subsidiary Colmotores had fired the workers a year ago, claiming they were dismissed because of declining productivity. In truth, they were injured on the job and deemed no longer useful. On August 1, they sewed their mouths shut in protest.
On July 26, as traders were once again deserting Spain’s government bonds, setting up the risk of a default and a deeper crisis of the euro, Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank surprised and delighted financial markets. Speaking off the cuff in London, he vowed to do “whatever it takes” to save the European economy.
In late July, European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi, speaking off the cuff in London, pledged to do “whatever it takes” to save the Euro, including massive intervention in bond markets to keep speculators from extending the Greek disease to Spain and Italy, where interest rates were ominously rising. This impressed money markets for a few days—until investors realized that Draghi’s commitment came with big strings. Strapped countries benefitting from these purchases would first have to double down on austerity. No thanks, said the leaders of Spain and Italy.
When I first read that the Democratic platform said nothing about Jerusalem, I was quite impressed. Quietly, by omission, the party had brought a moment of honesty to the fantasy-ridden American political discussion about Israel.
I know you have a lot on your mind. It's been less than three months since you won Egypt's first democratic election for president as the Muslim Brotherhood's second-choice candidate. Activists who overthrew the old regime could yet rise against you if you convince them that you stole their revolution. Millions of hungry Egyptians are waiting for you to rebuild the economy—a job made harder because the army controls so much of it.
As predicted, when the Democratic National Convention rolled out its platform today, we learned that one of the planks calls for marriage equality, along with a call for federal protection from being fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The marriage-equality plank signals a significant shift in the Democratic Party, a decision to work on behalf of me and my gal, for which I am deeply grateful.
So it’s the last week of the summer, and you’re one of the few in the office who hasn’t escaped for vacation, and the Republicans are failing their God-given duty to offer you some entertainment while you wait for things to speed up again? Some nerve they have! Here are some things to read, and not to read, while we wait for the balloons to start dropping.
Oh, what excitement we’re having for a slow August! (One of my editors, frustrated that no one would return his calls, once called these two weeks “the dead of summer.”) First we learned that Representative Todd Akin believes women have magical powers to repel a rapist's sperm from our uteri—and the underlying ideas that, as Lindsay Beyerstein yesterday delineated so crisply, "forcible rape is the only real rape" and "women habitually lie about rape," which she notes are two sides of the same coin.
If you’ve been following the news, chances are you have heard of “sequestration” by now. Everyone in national security—from the Pentagon to Congress to industry to the think tanks—seems to agree that the spending cuts would be a menace that deserves to be squelched. But is it?
It has been a long time since Europe has featured so prominently in an American presidential race. Republicans, in particular, have seen the crisis plaguing the Eurozone as an opportunity to attack president Obama, who—they claim—is leading America away from its core values and towards the sickly collectivism prevalent in the European Union. Mitt Romney, in one of those hilarious-but-horrifying Republican debates last September, spoke of a president “taking his inspiration […] from the socialist democrats in Europe," before pointing out that he, in contrast, believed in America.