World

One Day in Uganda

(Photo Courtesy of Andy Kopsa)
Two weeks ago, I heard from Andy Kopsa, an American reporter in Uganda whom I know glancingly as a colleague. While in Kampala reporting for The Washington Monthly on U.S. funding for faith-based organizations there, Kopsa found herself helping “a trans woman [who] was beaten to a pulp”—and who, Kopsa told me, had difficulty getting appropriate medical or police attention, again because she was trans. The beating was brutal, as you’ll read below. One man started it, and bystanders joined in. The police wouldn’t help. Doctors wouldn’t help. All these things are shocking to Americans. But as you will read later in this series, the only thing that stands out about this incident is that the transwoman, Mich, was willing to seek help. Uganda may not have passed a death penalty for homosexuality , but if LGBT people can be beaten ferociously and refused medical care, a kind of death sentence is in place nevertheless. Information for this week's three-part series comes from on-the-ground...

Is America Feared Enough in the Middle East?

Supporting Islamist democracies might actually be the best way to win friends in the region.

(Sipa via AP Images)
(Sipa via AP Images) Protesters on the road leading to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo's Tahrir square The past decade should have permanently cured Americans of the idea that we can dictate events in the Middle East. So it’s hard to take seriously some of the conservative claims and criticisms regarding the continuing anti-American demonstrations in the region. Senator John McCain has insisted that the Obama administration’s policy of “disengagement” led to the attacks on U.S. embassy outposts last week. "We're leaving Iraq. We're leaving Afghanistan. We're leaving the area,” McCain said on Face the Nation . “The people in the area are having to adjust and they believe the United States is weak, and they are taking appropriate action." McCain characterized the protests as part of “a fight, a struggle in the Arab world between the Islamists and the forces of moderation. And they want America disengaged.” Liz Cheney believes the problem is that no one is scared of us anymore. “In too many...

Why Istanbul Matters

Ankara may be the capital, but as its diplomatic power grows, Turkey's first city remains the jewel of the Bosporus.

AP Images
While foreign policy was once thought to have taken a backseat in this election cycle, the reactions in the Muslim world to an incendiary film about the Prophet Mohammed have refocused attention on the nettlesome politics of the Middle East. Whoever occupies the White House come January will be faced with an altogether new dynamic—and not just in the obvious cases of a bloody Syrian civil war and a tottering post-Mubarak Egypt, but also with the political awakening of Muslims around the globe. Turkey, with its dual European and Asian heritage, is emerging as a key pivot in the region between the long-dominant influences of the West and an increasingly self-actualized East--just this week, it played host to negotiations hoping to slow Iran's uranium enrichment projects. The country, ruled by the Islamist-leaning Freedom and Justice Party (AKP) since 2002 has become an anchor of democratic stability and a harbinger of what is to come in a 21st century that’s beginning to take on the...

Going Dutch

Cooler heads prevail during recent elections in the Netherlands.

AP Images
The much-maligned and long-drawn-out project to save the euro faced two crucial tests on Wednesday. The first bit of good news for those who do not want to see the euro area break up came in the morning, when Germany’s constitutional court gave the green light for the operation of the European Stability Mechanism, the Eurozone’s permanent rescue fund. Then, at night, there was further cause for rejoicing: In parliamentary elections in the Netherlands, it emerged that Dutch voters had returned an unexpectedly clear pro-European verdict, rejecting the far right’s anti-bailout populism and the hard left’s more moderate skepticism of the euro. With 99 percent of the votes counted on Thursday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right Liberals (VVD) were set to win a narrow victory over the center-left Labor Party (PvdA), led by nuclear scientist and former Greenpeace activist Diederik Samsom. The Liberals were polling at 26.6 percent, which translates to 41 seats in the 150-seat parliament...

Following in Chris Stevens's Footsteps

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)
(AP Photo/John Minchillo) Supporters of slain U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens hold a candlelight vigil outside the Libyan Embassy, Thursday, September 13, 2012, in New York. Stevens was killed by an angry mob during an assault on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi that stemmed from the widespread anger generated by an American-made anti-Muslim film. T he Middle East has a propensity for producing both the tragic and the absurd, two qualities that converged in appallingly consummate fashion with the attacks this week that killed U.S. diplomats in Libya and threatened American embassies across the region. The deaths of Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three of his colleagues at the American consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday represent a profound tragedy on many levels. First and foremost is the loss of such brave and dedicated individuals, who served their country in a place wracked by chaos, uncertainty, and violence. Stevens had a well-deserved reputation as a...

Long Lives the Arab Spring

Many commenters are ready to declare that democratic movements through the Middle East are over. They are wrong.

(Rex Features via AP Images)
(Rex Features via AP Images) Jubilant Libyans who support the revolution in the town of Ajdabiyah after Libyan government forces retreated on March 26, 2011 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...

Libyan Americans Hold a Vigil

After the Benghazi attacks, expatriates worry about the future of their fragile democracy. 

(AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
(AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri) A Libyan man holds a placard in English during a demonstration against the attack on the U.S. consulate that killed four Americans, including the ambassador, in Benghazi, Libya. The wide cement walkway that separates Lafayette Park from the front lawn of the White House is the unofficial 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. The Wednesday evening after the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a flag waved at half-staff in remembrance of the four Americans left dead, among them Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens—the first American ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979. A Secret Service agent did a sweep of the front lawn with his dog a little before 7 p.m. as haggard West Wing staffers made private phone calls and tourists noodled back and forth happily on Segways. Greetings of “ kaifik ?”—how are you?—and “...

The Hungarian Solution

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. The longtime leader of Hungary’s right-wing Fidesz Party and Hungary’s prime minister since 2010, Orban seems more committed to carrying out a Tea Party-esque agenda than Romney does. In his two years in office (he also served as prime minister a decade ago, but with a smaller majority and a less radical platform), Orban has slashed unemployment benefits, restricted collective bargaining, and reduced the nation’s retirement benefits. More than that, though, he’s gotten into trouble with the European Union (which at least nominally tries to hold member states to agreed-upon democratic norms) for his move to make the nation’s judiciary answerable to his office, and his purge of TV programs and newscasters who didn’t take the Fidesz line. Independent voices have largely vanished...

Rebellion in Ramallah?

Israel has managed to outsource the occupation—until now.

(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
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. These are updates from the West Bank over the past week. They sound as if taken from the start of the first Palestinian uprising against Israel 25 years ago. But the leader burned in effigy in Hebron was Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian government in Ramallah, rather than Israel, is the direct target of protest. Economic frustration sparked the fury. This sounds like a variation on revolts in other Arab states—except the Palestinian Authority isn't an independent state. Set up as to provide...

The 11th Anniversary of 9/11

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? I don't know which is more horrible to me: the memory of that day as we sat in our living rooms or offices or kitchens watching the towers (and the people in them, and in the planes) burn and fall, the memory of the awful silence of the skies and the roads, filling up with the sickening knowledge that the United States would soon bankrupt itself going to war—or the next eleven years of war, torture, and the abrogation of our civil liberties. Eleven years of Guantanamo, and Bagram, and Abu Ghraib, and a Democratic president with an unauthorized "kill list," and...

GM's Hunger Games

The hunger strike is just the latest in a long history of labor tensions in Colombia.

(GDA via AP Images)
H asta 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 August 6, Colmotores briefly sat down to negotiations with the workers, who formed the Association of Injured Workers and Ex-Workers of General Motors Colombia (ASOTRECOL), but ended up walking out later the same day. Protests in the United States and Colombia soon sprouted— Martin Sheen and Noam Chomsky have been among the more well-known public defenders of the GM workers. Under mounting public pressure, Colmotores agreed to negotiations facilitated by the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on August 23. The talks, however, did not result in GM rehiring the workers or compensating them for lost wages. After...

Angela Merkel's Bad Medicine

The German chancellor’s remedy of austerity is killing Europe, and the failure to contain financial speculation is spreading the epidemic.

(Flickr/World Economic Forum)
O n 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. Eric Palma The escalating crisis of speculative attacks on government bonds had spread from Greece to Portugal to Ireland to Spain and Italy, threatening to take down the euro and the European Union. It was a message that political leaders had been waiting for. The markets read Draghi’s statement as an audacious declaration that he would begin massive bond purchases, ending the threat of a slide into European depression. A week later, a chastened Draghi walked it all back. There would be no such purchases, he said, not until governments did their part by getting their budgets under control. Draghi made a rare disclosure of some of the infighting that led...

Europe: Old Austerity in New Bottles

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. On September 6, Draghi tried once more. After more than a month of consultations with his own board and national leaders, he declared that the ECB would make unlimited purchases of short term government bonds. He claimed “a massive majority of the [ECB] governing council for this concept.” But the council member who mattered most, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, remained adamantly opposed. A Bundesbank press...

Jerusalem Syndrome

(Flickr/Synne Tonidas)
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. Alas, honesty is ephemeral. Republican attacks, news editors eager for a daily controversy, and Democratic wimpishness have defeated it. In Wednesday night's voice vote, the Democrats added some words to the platform: "Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel ... It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths." The first part is an implied promise that after re-election, Barack Obama will officially recognize Jerusalem's status as capital and move the U.S. embassy there. The second piece pretends that Jerusalem is presently united and accessible to all. This is hallucinatory for at least three reasons: First, Jerusalem is Israel's capital, independent of what is or isn't written in American party platforms. Second, no American...

Dear Mr. Morsi

(AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Dear President Morsi, 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. So relations with Israel may be at the edge of your peripheral vision. Still, I hope you'll take this Israeli's suggestion: You should do more to preserve Egyptian-Israeli peace. Rather than imply commitment to the peace treaty, express it clearly. Egypt's welfare depends on it, as do future Mideast peace efforts. In domestic terms, you certainly did not waste the first crisis on the Israeli border. Just a month ago, the armed forces still had more power than you did. Then militants attacked a base at the eastern edge of the Sinai,...

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