World

Whistleblowers

Somehow I missed the movie The Whistleblower , an action film about a woman in the UN peacekeeping forces who tries to hold her male colleagues and superiors accountable for sexual coercion and abuse of girls, boys, and adults they are supposed to be protecting. (The movie is on my list now.) Women’s E-News reports that a UN screening of the film last week involved a testy exchange between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the filmmakers, and others who say that the problem continues—and that the way that the UN deals with it is worse than inadequate. Buried in the report is an incredibly disturbing allegation: Movie director [Larysa] Kondracki also noted that top officials in U.N. headquarters should be scrutinized just as carefully as peacekeepers for their moral and legal conduct. "This is not just about peacekeepers on the ground. We have videos of high-level diplomats walking around U.N. headquarters with people they purchased," she said during the forum. If that's true, what hope...

Looking at Gadhadi

After Osama bin Laden was killed, I wrote a somewhat contrarian piece arguing that the government should release a photo of his body. I then went on NPR's On the Media to talk about it, alongside the New Yorker 's Philip Gourevitch, who was rather contemptuous of my position (audio here , transcript here ), but I stuck to it. And today, grainy video footage of Moammar Ghadafi's body has emerged. OTM asked me what I thought -- you can read my response here , as well as see the video if you haven't already, but here's what I had to say: This is a very different situation from the Bin Laden question. First, in that instance there were very few pictures of Bin Laden, and so an image of his end would be all the more important. Second, any photograph the U.S. government released would have been carefully composed to represent the American victory over him. In Gadhafi's case, the images are from cell phones -- they're much more spontaneous, chaotic, and violent. They don't display the...

A Jew of No Religion

Yoram Kaniuk has won: The prominent Israeli novelist is now very officially a Jew of no religion. Hundreds of other Israelis, inspired by his legal victory, want to follow his example and change their religious status to "none" in the country's Population Registry, while remaining Jews by nationality in the same government database. A new verb has entered Hebrew, lehitkaniuk , to Kaniuk oneself, to legally register an internal divorce of Jewish ethnicity from Jewish religion. Kaniuk is 81 years old, one of the surviving writers of Israel's founding generation. His latest and most lauded book is a memoir about fighting in the country's 1948 war of independence. He's also a veteran and sharp-penned critic of Jewish religion, which he has at times represented as an amalgam of the national religious extremism of the settlements, ultra-Orthodox fundamentalism, and the state's clerical bureaucracy. During the escalation of the secular-religious kulturkampf that followed the...

The Glorious Invasion

T hree weeks after September 11, 2001, the day I arrived in Moscow to begin as National Public Radio’s bureau chief, my editors gave me four hours to pack before I was dispatched on an overnight flight to the never-never land of Uzbekistan. It was a temporary stopping--off point before I went on to neighboring Afghanistan. I had never been to Uzbekistan and knew only that the place was renowned as a hotbed of terrified, stonewalling bureaucrats. It had taken the U.S. three weeks to turn Uzbekistan into its biggest regional ally, with the Uzbeks agreeing to provide an air base outside the city of Karshi in the southern part of the country. The U.S. State Department continued to list a yearly litany of Uzbekistan’s appalling human-rights abuses, but the offenses were subsumed under the “strategic partnership” mantra, a concession to the need to fight the war in Afghanistan and worry about human rights later. Before the Afghan War, foreign reporters were a rarity in Uzbekistan. But visa...

History's Missed Moment

Why did the greatest failure of laissez-faire capitalism since the Great Depression lead to a turn to the right rather than the left in both Europe and the U.S.?

(Sipa via AP Images) President of France's far-right National Front party Marine Le Pen gives a press conference after protesting a French National Assembly vote that authorized a 15 billion euro aid package for Greece.
The epic financial crash of 2007–2008 should have produced a massive political defeat for the conservative ideology whose resurgence began three decades ago. Its signal achievement, liberated finance, did not reward innovation, enhance economic efficiency, or produce broad prosperity. Rather, the result was a speculative bubble followed by a severe crash. Along the way, the super-rich captured a disproportionate share of the economy’s gains, while other incomes stagnated. In the aftermath, ordinary people have suffered large losses of earnings, assets, social protections, and hopes for their children. By any measure, therefore, 2008 was primed to be a political watershed on a par with 1932. History delivered a profound teachable moment for American progressives and European social democrats. But, to borrow from T.S. Eliot, between the idea and the reality fell the shadow. Three years after the financial dominoes toppled, right-wing ideas are ascendant and right-wing policies reign...

The Global Patriot Act

From the end of World War II to the start of the "global war on terror," international law provided crucial support for the promotion of human rights around the world. But the response to the September 11 attacks has had a profound and little-appreciated impact on international law with devastating global consequences for human rights, democracy, and constitutionalism. The Bush administration did not just persuade Congress to pass the USA Patriot Act, eliminating critical civil-liberties protections against excessive governmental powers. U.S. officials also mobilized the United Nations Security Council to require all U.N. member states to enact their own domestic versions of the Patriot Act, and many of those governments have used the new globally mandated security program to restrict rights, concentrate power, and suppress political dissent. George W. Bush was certainly no fan of international law. Whenever it became inconvenient, his administration lawyered around it. Officials...

Shoulda Had a Pre-Nup

Bailouts and immigration strain European Union.

(AP Photo/Koen van Weel, Pool) Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, is seen inside the courtroom in Amsterdam, Netherlands, March 30, 2011.
Last Friday, Geert Wilders, the far-right leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, made his way to the Greek Embassy in the Hague. He went to deliver a blunt message for the country: Leave the Eurozone. He read a letter to reporters outside the building urging the financially embattled Greeks to abandon the Euro -- for their own sake and the sake of the other countries in the monetary union. He was then photographed holding up a blown-up replica of a 1.000- drachma note, the old Greek currency, just in case anyone had failed to grasp his not-so-subtle exhortation. A 47-year-old lapsed Roman Catholic, Wilders' radical views are a marked departure from the tolerant, consensus-seeking style that has typically characterized Dutch politics. He has described Islam as "fascist," compared the Quran to Mein Kampf , and campaigned for Islam's most holy text to be banned from the Netherlands. He is currently on trial in Amsterdam for inciting hatred. His Freedom Party, founded in 2004 mainly on an...

Governing Beyond His Means

Rep. Paul Ryan's foreign policy ideas are sensible, but his budget would make implementing them impossible.

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
When I saw that Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP budget guru who's led the charge for Medicare repeal, was planning a major address on foreign policy, my hopes were not high. Indeed, the speech he delivered last Thursday offered its fair share of nonsense, partisanship, and ideological ax-grinding. But in some respects, Ryan's core ideas about international relations were refreshingly sensible. For all his repeated claims that American international decline "is a choice" that policy-makers must resist, however, his speech also doubled down on budget ideas that make decline inevitable. Under the guise of preserving America's military strength, Ryan would gut our economy over the long run by weakening our physical infrastructure and disinvesting in the human beings who are our greatest asset. Consequently, even as Ryan, who has emerged as the new intellectual leader of the Republican Party, is pushing the GOP in a sensible direction on international relations, he's seeking to force the country...

Wrong Turns

Blocked by failed negotiations with Israel and an ambivalent Obama administration, Palestinians look to the international stage.

(Gershom Gorenberg)Nadim Khoury
Nadim Khoury watches as brown bottles march single file along the conveyor belt from the machines that sterilize them to those that fill them, cap them, and glue on labels reading, "Taybeh Beer. The Finest In The Middle East." Under his large graying moustache, Khoury has a small smile of entrepreneurial pride. Patriotism brought Khoury and his brother David home to the West Bank village of Taybeh in 1994. They'd lived for years in America, where Khoury earned a business degree from a Greek Orthodox college, then studied brewing at the University of California, Davis. In the euphoria that followed the September 1993 Oslo Accord, they wanted to help develop the economy of what they thought would soon be an independent Palestine. Next to the palatial house their father built to help attract them home, downhill from Taybeh's single traffic circle, they set up their microbrewery, with shining steel tanks for boiling malt barley with hops, fermenting the brew, and aging it. "I made history...

Obama on Libya

Obama's speech betrayed the tensions liberals feel about intervention in Libya.

President Barack Obama speaks about Libya at the National Defense University in Washington, Monday, March 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama, in his address to the nation, tried to reassure an ambivalent, inattentive public and a skeptical press corps about American involvement in NATO's no-fly zone over Libya. The president's speech sought out a middle ground, couching his administration's approach as measured but decisive in the campaign against loyalists to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. "In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secured an international mandate to protect civilians, stopped an advancing army, prevented a massacre, and established a no-fly zone with our allies and partners," Obama declared. The president favorably contrasted the last 31 days, in which the international community mobilized the no-fly zone over Libya, with NATO operations in a disintegrating Yugoslavia, which took about one year to improve the situation. He also distinguished his present actions from those taken by George W. Bush in the 2003...

Pages