All posts filed under: World Affairs

The Scars of Rwanda, 25 Years On

I was home from University for the Easter holidays when the genocide began. April 7, 1994 is a date seared into my family’s psyche. My parents and I were transfixed by the news. They’d been front-line aid-workers for decades. My father was with the UN’s refugee agency. My mother, a child psychologist, worked with child soldiers. Neither were naïve about the world’s darker recesses, but the speed and scale of the savagery in Rwanda left everyone, even the most jaded and battle-hardened of my parents’ colleagues, reeling. The phone rang repeatedly. Meetings ran late. People we knew were dispatched to the region.  Over the next 100 days, an estimated 800,000 Tutsi were hacked to death with machetes wielded by their Hutu countrymen. House by house. Village by village. Town by town. Often it was neighbor killing neighbor. Occasionally, family members butchered their own kin. Two pieces of footage from those days remain clear in my mind. One was shot clandestinely, by someone hiding in some bushes. It filmed a makeshift roadblock with a few Tutsi …

The Exhaustion of Hedgehog Morality

“The liberal world is suffering its greatest crisis of confidence since the 1930s,” columnist and historian Robert Kagan recently wrote in a major essay in the Washington Post,—reprising an analysis that has become familiar after Brexit, the rise of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), and other shocks to the established political order in Europe and the West. This analysis suggests that, as in the 1930s and the Second World War, liberalism today is being confronted by “authoritarianism.” In response, the analysis counsels, liberals should either renew their appeal to voters by persuasively restating their intellectual foundations and historical accomplishments or promote a more muscular version of their creed. For example, in an op-ed published in multiple European newspapers, French president Emmanuel Macron, also invoking the war,  recently proposed that to protect Europeans from the emotional appeals and manipulations of “nationalists” (increasingly a synonym for “authoritarians”), the European Union should impose “rules banishing incitement to hatred and violence from the internet,” enforce a single asylum policy with common acceptance rules, and introduce common social rights and wages …

Venezuela and the Half-Truths of Noam Chomsky

As a young socialist, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism by Noam Chomsky and his late collaborator Edward S. Herman helped to convert me to the worldview of the anti-Imperialist Left. I remained a member of this political tendency, for whom Chomsky has become an unrivaled intellectual hero, for most of my adult life. That is, until I was confronted by the gap between its doctrines and an unfolding reality I really knew something about. I continue to respect some of Chomsky’s writing on topics such as the devastation of East Timor by Indonesia. But the more one knows about a subject, the more apparent the selectivity of Chomsky’s analysis becomes. When Chomsky argued that the 9/11 atrocities were morally equivalent to President Clinton’s rocket strike on the Al Shifa medicine factory in Sudan (and that “we” should therefore hesitate before judging “them”), his erstwhile admirer Christopher Hitchens observed that, “Noam Chomsky does not rise much above the level of half-truth.” This, Hitchens went on to complain, had “lately become his hallmarks.” In retrospect, …

The Fall of a Third-Rate Stalin

His Excellency the President, Sheikh Prof. Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh Babili Mansa, ruled the Gambia for 22 years. During those decades, he did everything to transform himself from an undistinguished army officer into a bona fide eccentric dictator, complete with an elaborate personal mythology and a list of honorifics longer than the presidential convoy. At no point did the US consider convening a coalition to invade the Gambia and depose Jammeh, despite plentiful evidence that he kept power through election-rigging and police thuggery. Why not? Because the Gambia is irrelevant to almost anyone who is not inside it. A country the size of Connecticut, whose main export is peanuts and whose main import is IMF loans, the Gambia is so puny that it evokes the contempt even of other West African nations. When Jammeh announced that he would behead any gay man caught in the Gambia, it elicited a flurry of Amnesty International press releases and not much else. Those outraged press releases were, of course, just what Jammeh was after—proof that he and …

The Attractions of the Clan—An Interview with Mark Weiner

Why are ambulances attacked by rock-throwing youths in Sweden? And how should Germany deal with a recent surge in clan-based crime?  Mark S. Weiner is a professor of legal history, a scholar of multiculturalism and the author of The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom. Quillette’s European editor Paulina Neuding spoke to him in Stockholm, Sweden. Weiner is currently on a Fulbright scholarship at Uppsala University, where he is teaching about American constitutional law, collaborating with Swedish scholars of prehospital medicine—and riding along with paramedics in immigrant and other neighborhoods. What follows is an edited reproduction of that interview.   *   *   * Paulina Neuding: Sweden has experienced a rise in violence against first responders in recent decades, including rock throwing against paramedics in the country’s “vulnerable areas.” How do you explain this phenomenon? Mark S. Weiner: The easy answer is that Sweden has a growing population of alienated young men, and ambulances are representatives of social and government authority. If I were …

How a Fake Scandal Took Down a Brazilian Fashion Editor

If you’re looking for evidence of racial inequality in Brazil, it isn’t hard to find. Racism is a serious problem in my country, as indicated by statistics showing that Black Brazilians are disproportionately likely to be poor, die young, and suffer from criminal violence. But rather than focusing on such real problems, many Brazilian elites now take their cue from the current Western obsession with aesthetic representation, and instead focus their attention on fake racism scandals that play out on social media. The latest example played out in February, at the 50th birthday party of Donata Meirelles, the (now former) editor of the Brazilian edition of Vogue. The party was held in Salvador, the capital of Bahia state, and a city renowned as a centre of Brazilian black culture, being 28% black in a country where blacks (sometimes known as Afro-Brazilians) make up only about 8% of the total population. Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion, is stronger and more visible in Salvador than in the rest of the country, having been melded into the local Catholic …

China is Gearing up for a Long Fight

On February 18, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that a “sophisticated state-actor” had launched a cyber attack on Australia’s major political parties and parliamentary computer system. The Australian government has not yet identified which state-actor is responsible but suspicions almost instantly fell on China. The Chinese military maintains a dedicated unit (the People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398) for cyber attacks. While several other nations maintain the capabilities for this kind of attack, they do not have China’s record of interference in Australian politics. The Chinese Communist Party puts significant resources into neutralizing opposition to its interests within Australian politics and society. Its increasingly flagrant acts of interference prompted the nation to pass sweeping foreign interference laws in 2018. If China is responsible for the cyber-attack on Australian parliament, it fits a very clear pattern of increasing antagonism by China against the West. This points towards a worrying and unstable future for Western middle-powers with high economic exposure to China. Moreover, China’s increasingly threatening posture suggests that it no longer believes that it can radically …

How Sweden’s Blind Altruism Is Harming Migrants

The 15-year-old boy was standing outside the police station, late one night during the immigration wave of 2015. I was meeting youths like him almost every day, as they came to the station to apply for asylum. Sweden was the country in Europe that took in most immigrants per capita during the crisis, with numbers up to over 160,000 by the end of the year. 35,000 of them, mostly Afghans, claimed refugee status as unaccompanied minors. Linköping is a small town and I was the only police officer there who spoke their language, Dari. As we sat down to go through routine questioning, I started thinking about my own memories of coming to Sweden from Afghanistan with my parents and siblings. I was a few years younger than the boy sitting across the table from me. I wanted to tell him that he had come to an amazing country. I wanted to tell him that he had all the opportunity in the world to build a better future for himself. That he no longer had …

Why the American Left Should Embrace Effective Altruism over Provincial Populism

I After the global financial crisis, the Right seemed to know something the Left didn’t: how to channel post-recession outrage into political action. As Francis Fukuyama observed in a 2012 article: “Despite widespread anger at Wall Street bailouts, there has been no great upsurge of left-wing American populism in response.” The Occupy Wall Street movement sputtered while the Tea Party fueled one of the most sweeping Republican midterm victories in history, including the election of many insurgent hard-Right candidates. Little did Fukuyama know that an upsurge of left-wing American populism was well on its way. Seven years ago, who could’ve imagined that Bernie Sanders would pose a serious primary challenge to the Clinton machine? Who could’ve predicted that the chairman of the DNC would describe Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—a 29-year-old democratic socialist who was working at a bar a little over a year ago—as the “future of our party”? It’s no surprise that left-wing populism is ascendant in the United States. Beyond the fact that Donald Trump has a special talent for enraging and energizing the activist …

The Bolivarian God That Failed

The day after Venezuela’s National Assembly voted to declare its president, Juan Guaidó, interim President of the Republic, I received a text from a former friend. “If the U.S. topples Vz [Venezuela],” he wrote, “I will hold you responsible.” I would have been happy to accept this responsibility had I done anything important enough to deserve it. But the idea was absurd and he knew it. If the Venezuelan regime falls—and I hope that it does—it won’t even be possible to credit (or blame) the United States. It is the Venezuelan people who finally are taking their destiny in hand and rejecting an intolerable status quo. The message was not a serious attempt to apportion responsibility for Venezuela’s current upheaval; it was an attempt to shame me for my treacherous betrayal of the Bolivarian cause. An early supporter of the Revolution, I had traveled to Venezuela in 2013 to cover the April presidential elections. By the time I returned to the US, I was disillusioned and depressed. I decided I needed to start writing and …