All posts filed under: World Affairs

Tensions in NATO and the Looming End of Pax Americana

As NATO leaders gathered in London this week to mark the 70th anniversary of history’s most venerable military alliance, it has been widely forgotten that not so long ago the specter of armed conflict haunted the European continent. When the Washington treaty establishing NATO was signed in April 1949, the Soviet Union occupied the captive nations of Eastern Europe and an invasion of Western Europe by the Red Army was not a remote possibility. On current trends, the Atlantic alliance may well suffer a premature demise as the world moves into another great power rivalry that is also an ideological contest between democracy and autocracy. A terse review of the historical record is in order here. In the aftermath of World War Two, the United States committed itself to a revolutionary foreign policy. The extraordinary task of maintaining some semblance of international order after two global conflagrations was premised on a controversial but compelling notion of enlightened self-interest. The guiding principle of U.S. statecraft was that the peace of the world was in grave and …

The New White Man’s Burden

In recent years, we have seen graphic and disturbing scenes of migrants attempting to cross into Europe as they flee the developing world. Especially poignant are the pictures of young, sub-Saharan African men scaling the barrier fences that surround the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco: Leaving aside whether Spain should return these enclaves to Morocco, the determination of migrants bound for Europe is striking. They have illegally entered Morocco and, from there, are allowed to enter another country illegally—almost certainly with the tacit approval of the Moroccan authorities. Also striking is the sight of the young men crying “freedom” and wrapping themselves in the EU flag upon their arrival in these enclaves. In reality, they are anything but free, as it is highly unlikely that the Spanish authorities will grant them asylum and the right of abode. If it is determined that they are illegal economic migrants, they will be removed in due course. Even so, this is not a remotely sufficient deterrent. We are often told that such images are an …

Something for Nothing—The Importance of Mindful Volunteering

Every day we receive fresh solicitations requesting our time, our money, and our attention to various causes. It is not enough simply to live our lives, we must somehow justify our existence beyond earning a living and paying our taxes. According to a VolunteerHub estimate, one out of four people in the U.S. volunteer their time and effort with an average value of $24.14 per hour. The average is 22–23 percent in Europe and 19 percent in Australia. The site states that volunteering improves health and chances of gaining employment by 27 percent. So it is not an entirely selfless act. I come not to praise volunteering but to consider its benefits and our motivations; to reflect on my experience that has led me to question what we are giving and what we are getting as volunteers. Such an assessment becomes more urgent as groups and individuals face decisions about where to invest limited resources in resolving crises such as global warming and inequities of wealth, freedom, and opportunity. For some, volunteering is an anodyne …

Bereft of Impartial Arbiters

The proximate cause of the US House of Representatives’ decision to invoke articles of impeachment is the president’s decision to make Congressionally authorized military aid for Ukraine conditional on a commitment from Kyiv to pursue investigations into his chief political rival. Trump, in short, has sought (unsuccessfully, thanks to the efforts of a whistleblower) to grossly abuse his office for personal political gain. Nothing that has yet come to light contradicts this pregnant allegation. On the available evidence, there is presently no reasonable doubt that Trump was engaged in the extortion of a foreign head of state—and the betrayal of the national-security interests of the United States—to smear a political opponent. Trump’s defenders contend that presidents often use leverage to induce foreign leaders to act in ways they might prefer not to, but such inducements are legitimate only in service of the national interest, which Trump’s patently were not. As the impeachment process unfolds, it is becoming apparent that few American politicians today understand that democratic republics need to be bastions of moral order if …

Abandoning Malmö to Its Criminals

“I think they just shot someone right across from my balcony,” my friend told me.  The gunshot rang out even as we were texting about another recent act of violence here in the Swedish city of Malmö—a car bomb that went off in a residential area close to my home. Acts of violence occur so frequently in Malmö that news of one blurs into the next. This year, there already have been 29 explosions in a city of just 320,000. Sweden as a whole is on pace for about 150—or about three per week (as Quillette has reported previously). These are attacks by criminal gangs that usually target other criminals. But the victims are sometimes innocent bystanders. In one recent case, for instance, a female student was severely injured in the face when she happened to pass by a shop that exploded in Lund, a ten-minute car ride from Malmö. The more spectacular attacks have left whole cities such as Malmö fearful and traumatized, as a grandmother explained in a recent Facebook post about a …

Chile’s Been Falling Apart for Years. Can It Repair Itself and Remain a Democracy?

“In Chile, a billionaire president pushes austerity while the military represses protesters,” Tweeted U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential aspirant Bernie Sanders on October 30. “Thousands have been arrested. Knowing Chile’s history, this is very dangerous. The solution here and across the world is obvious. Put power where it belongs: with working people.” The next day, Donald Trump’s White House put out a statement containing the opposite message: “The United States stands with Chile, an important ally, as it works to peacefully restore national order. President Trump denounced foreign efforts to undermine Chilean institutions, democracy, or society.” Needless to say, both statements vastly simplify the situation in Chile, a country that still is used as a proxy battle for old-fashioned arguments for and against “neo-liberalism.” Like Sanders, some media outlets suggest that the current protests in Chile may be construed as toxic fallout from the free-market legacy of right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet. On the other side are those such as City Journal writer Guy Sorman, who see the protests not as an indictment of free-market policies, …

Why Taiping 2.0 Isn’t in the Cards: A Reply to ‘China’s Looming Class Struggle’

In the immediate aftermath of the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, some Western pundits suggested that army factions might rebel against China’s central government. Living in Taiwan, where emotions were at a pitch, I felt this outcome to be plausible, perhaps even desirable. Over the decades since, I’ve watched commentators, many on my own conservative side of the spectrum, offer cheery dreams of the imminent collapse of communist power, or at least hopes that the facade would drop off a few storefronts of the Potemkin village. While I was living in South-Central China a few years back, a friend cited one such source from North America, and informed me that the “peasants” in inland China were desperate and half-starving. I replied that I’d walked past a “peasant” home that very afternoon, and found the family out washing the car and having a water fight. Over time, I have grown jaded in the face of flamboyantly expressed doubts that China can survive in its current political form. Joel Kotkin’s recent Quillette essay, China’s Looming Class Struggle, may …

Denial and Defamation: The ITN-LM Libel Trial Revisited (II)

PART TWO: THE TRIAL VI. The Standards of Western Journalism The trial eventually began at the High Courts of Justice in London on 28 February 2000. The defendants—recorded as Michael Hume, InformInc (LM) Ltd., and Helene Guldberg—arrived at court on the heels of a disappointing pre-trial hearing. The presiding judge, Mr. Justice Morland, had ruled the testimony of a number of key defence witnesses, including the BBC’s John Simpson, inadmissible. He was not interested in rehearsing the debates about the journalism of attachment or press freedom that had convulsed the chatterati for three years. The claimants—recorded as Independent Television News Ltd., Penny Marshall, and Ian Williams—held that Deichmann’s article, Hume’s accompanying editorial, and the first LM press release were all false and defamatory. Under Britain’s controversial libel law, the defendants were required to show that their contested claims about ITN’s reporting were true. Morland simply wanted to establish if that was the case. The defence’s priority was to establish the location of the barbed wire fence at Trnopolje. This their lawyer Gavin Millar successfully accomplished …

Denial and Defamation: The ITN-LM Libel Trial Revisited (I)

PART ONE: THE CAMPS Intro: From Phnom Pehn to Srebrenica In 1977, Noam Chomsky and his co-author, the late Edward S. Herman, wrote an essay for the Nation entitled “Distortions at Fourth Hand,” in which they scorned reports that the Khmer Rouge were turning Cambodia into a charnel house. Stories of genocide, they suggested, were either exaggerated or fabricated outright by refugees, and any deaths—regrettable though they may be—were most likely the result of disease, starvation, and confusion caused by America’s devastating involvement in the foregoing civil war. The two books that bore the brunt of Herman and Chomsky’s disdain were John Barron and Anthony Paul’s Murder of a Gentle Land and François Ponchaud’s Cambodia Year Zero. Contemporaneous accounts from and about war zones are rarely correct in every particular. But Chomsky and Herman ignored everything Ponchaud and Barron-Paul got right, and seized upon isolated errors and inconsistencies to discredit their work in its entirety. Gareth Porter and George C. Hildebrand’s book Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution, on the other hand, they praised as “a carefully …

Palestine Misunderstood

From my home on the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv, I hear the Muslim call to prayer every day as it issues from a mosque half a mile away in neighboring Jaffa. Jewish Israelis see Arabic on their money, on street signs, on buses, and on the labels adorning foodstuffs that provide consumers with nutritional information. They hear Arabic in the stores, shopping malls, and cafes they routinely frequent. And if they visit a clinic or hospital, Jewish Israelis will hear Arabic spoken by their fellow patients, and by the doctors and nurses who tend to them. Israel may be the world’s only Jewish state, but Arabs account for roughly 21 percent of its population, so the sounds and sights of the Arabic language are simply part of daily life in this corner of the Levant. So I was surprised to learn, from an article written by Michael Humeniuk for Quillette, that “when Jewish Israelis hear spoken Arabic, which they perceive as screams, they don’t know if a bomb is about to go off or …