Human Rights

Rescuing Realpolitik from Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger wrote his doctoral dissertation about Europe’s “long peace” after the defeat of Napoleon, focusing on how conservative statesmen negotiated the Concert of Europe through a mixture of diplomacy and military power. Kissinger was enamored of this approach to achieving an “equilibrium of forces.” The lesson he absorbed, and later applied as a presidential… Continue reading Rescuing Realpolitik from Henry Kissinger

Human Rights, Latin America

The Rise of Self-Hating Politicians

Some politicians just hate politics. They get into the game in order to disrupt it. They have such a visceral hatred of governance that, like suicide bombers, they’ve smuggled themselves into government in order to blow it up from within. Much of the coverage of the multiple attempts to elect Kevin McCarthy as House speaker… Continue reading The Rise of Self-Hating Politicians

Human Rights

Iran: A Winter-Spring Anti-Romance

The young people who took to the streets in 1979 as part of the Iranian revolution are now in their sixties. They haven’t quite aged out of politics, but they’re getting close. It’s a dangerous time for any revolution when the generation that transformed society prepares to exit the stage. The rising generation often has… Continue reading Iran: A Winter-Spring Anti-Romance

Human Rights, Security

The Fateful Fist Bump

The fist bump has been the default method of person-to-person contact in the COVID era. Shaking hands is too intimate and bumping elbows is too awkward. But the brief collision of fists has been deemed just about right to avoid the risks of both mutual contamination and mutual embarrassment. Perhaps Joe Biden’s advisors thought that… Continue reading The Fateful Fist Bump

Europe, Human Rights, Russia and Eastern Europe

Helsinki 2.0

The European security order has broken down. You might think that’s an overstatement. NATO is alive and well. The Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe is still functioning at a high level. Of course, there’s the possibility of a major war breaking out between Russia and Ukraine. But would Russian President Vladimir Putin… Continue reading Helsinki 2.0

Book Reviews, Human Rights, Korea

Dying for Rights (Review)

In 2014, the UN produced a comprehensive report on the situation of human rights inside North Korea.  The result of a year-long investigation by a three-person Commission of Inquiry (COI), the report drew on 240 interviews and the public testimony of 80 people. It is a damning picture of human rights abuses inside a country… Continue reading Dying for Rights (Review)

Human Rights

Saving Democracy by Destroying It

Arizona’s Maricopa County is ground zero in the continuing debate over election integrity in the United States. The so-called audit of the 2.1 million votes cast in that county in last year’s presidential election—by the almost comically inept firm Cyber Ninjas—was supposed to arrive at the Arizona Senate this week. But delivery was once again… Continue reading Saving Democracy by Destroying It

Books, Fiction, Human Rights

Bracing for a Surge of Trumpism in the Twilight of the Pandemic

I went to a birthday party recently. The celebrants greeted each other with hugs on the patio. After an outdoor barbeque dinner, we stood shoulder to shoulder around the island in the kitchen, eating cake from small paper plates. We sang “Happy Birthday.” Ordinarily, an event like that wouldn’t be worth noting, but these aren’t… Continue reading Bracing for a Surge of Trumpism in the Twilight of the Pandemic

Human Rights

Democracy: On the Precipice

Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarussian dictator, snatches a dissident from midair. Military strongman Assimi Goita launches another coup in Mali. Benjamin Netanyahu escalates a military conflict to save his own political skin in Israel. In the United States, the Republican Party launches a full-court press to suppress the vote. Authoritarianism, like war, makes headlines. It’s hard… Continue reading Democracy: On the Precipice

Human Rights, Security

Netanyahu Soldiers On

When Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister for the second time in March 2009, it was not long after Israel had conducted three weeks of sustained air attacks on the enclave of Gaza. More than 1,100 Palestinians died in that campaign. About a dozen Israelis also perished, four from friendly fire, the rest from rockets coming… Continue reading Netanyahu Soldiers On

Human Rights

The Talented Mr. Bin Salman

Mohammed bin Salman is a charming fellow. The tall, dark, and handsome Saudi prince known as MbS has seduced world leaders and eager pundits left and right. To his supporters, MbS became first in line to the Saudi throne by championing reform in a deeply conservative Gulf kingdom, taking on corruption, confronting religious extremists, and… Continue reading The Talented Mr. Bin Salman

Human Rights

Beating Back the Far Right

After four years of shock, confusion, and paralysis, the United States is finally taking action against the far right. Perhaps most dramatic has been the deplatforming of Donald Trump: the suspension of his Twitter and Facebook accounts and the targeting of his prominent followers across social media platforms. Even a few months ago, such a… Continue reading Beating Back the Far Right

Human Rights

People to Autocrats: Not So Fast

Despite all the obstacles, Americans are voting in huge numbers prior to Election Day. With a week to go, nearly 70 million voters have sent in their ballots or stood on line for early voting. The pandemic hasn’t prevented them from exercising their constitutional right. Nor have various Republican Party schemes to suppress the vote.… Continue reading People to Autocrats: Not So Fast

Human Rights

COVID-19 and the End of Autocrats

The outbreak of COVID-19 initially looked like a gift to autocrats around the world. What better pretext for a state of emergency than a pandemic? It was a golden opportunity to close borders, suppress civil society, and issue decrees left and right (mostly right). Donald Trump in the United States, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Rodrigo… Continue reading COVID-19 and the End of Autocrats

Human Rights

Feds Attack!

Federal agents poured into Portland, Oregon this month to crack down on anti-racism protests. They beat up peaceful protesters and fired impact munitions at demonstrators, seriously injuring one of them. They drove around the city in unmarked vans pulling people off the street. Oregon officials at every level — the city, the state, and congressional… Continue reading Feds Attack!

Human Rights

The Global Rushmore of Autocrats

Donald Trump would dearly like to add his face to Mt. Rushmore as the fifth presidential musketeer. His fireworks-and-fury extravaganza on July 3 was the next best thing. Trump’s dystopian speech was almost beside the point. Much more important was the photo op of his smirking face next to Abraham Lincoln’s. More fitting, however, would… Continue reading The Global Rushmore of Autocrats

Human Rights, Russia and Eastern Europe

Democracy Desperately Need a Reboot

If you’re a supporter of Donald Trump — or Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil or Matteo Salvini in Italy — you probably think that democracy has never been in better health. Recent elections in these countries didn’t just serve to rotate the elite from the conventional parties. Voters went to the polls and elected outsiders who… Continue reading Democracy Desperately Need a Reboot

Human Rights

The Dictator and the Nihilist

Two major public figures lost their protected status last week. British authorities dragged Julian Assange, the co-founder of Wikileaks, out of the Ecuadorian consulate and into custody. Meanwhile, months of public protests finally dislodged Omar al-Bashir, the long-serving authoritarian leader of Sudan. On the face of it, Assange and Bashir couldn’t be more different. Bashir… Continue reading The Dictator and the Nihilist

Human Rights

World Gives America One Year to Stop Trump or Face Sanctions

The deputy assistant under secretary general of the United Nations has given the United States a one-year warning. If the country doesn’t clean up its act and become a responsible world citizen, Ithell Colhoquon announced yesterday, the international community will impose sanctions on U.S. government officials and tariffs on U.S. goods and services. This announcement… Continue reading World Gives America One Year to Stop Trump or Face Sanctions

Human Rights

#MeToo Goes Global

The famous tenor Enrico Caruso went on trial in 1906 for an incident at the monkey house in Central Park. He was accused of the indecent assault of 30-year-old Hannah Graham. Caruso in turn accused one of the monkeys of pinching the victim’s rear end. Other accusations of sexual harassment emerged at the trial. The… Continue reading #MeToo Goes Global

Art, Human Rights

The Best of All Possible Worlds?

Candide is the first and most amusing example of the powerlessness of positive thinking. In this 18th century novel by Voltaire, the naïf Candide suffers one misfortunate after another – kidnapping, torture, earthquake. Still he adheres to the philosophy of his mentor, Dr. Pangloss, who insists that all is for the best in this best… Continue reading The Best of All Possible Worlds?

Human Rights

The Dictator Dating Game

Voiceover: Here’s the star of the show and your host, Steve Bannon! Applause. Steve Bannon: Thank you! It’s great to be back in the limelight. And welcome once again to the Dictator Dating Game. It’s time to meet our eligible dictators. And heeeeere they are! Dictator number one is famous for all those great photos… Continue reading The Dictator Dating Game

Human Rights

World to Refugees: Go to Hell

It’s a famous story, though perhaps not famous enough. The 1939 voyage of the MS St. Louis, a German ocean liner, was recounted in a 1974 book and a 1976 film (both titled Voyage of the Damned) as well as a 1994 opera. This history is not forgotten. Yet so many unfortunate people around the world are… Continue reading World to Refugees: Go to Hell

Human Rights

Killmonger’s World

Donald Trump has now assembled a cabinet of men that have elevated violence to a supreme virtue at home and abroad. Men like Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, and Trump himself. They are all firm believers in armed domination. In this respect, they share an unlikely bond with Erik Killmonger, the villain of the movie Black Panther.… Continue reading Killmonger’s World

Asia, Human Rights, Russia and Eastern Europe

Trump’s Majoritarian Dream

Washington and New Dehli are having a mutual lovefest these days. Donald Trump is popular in India — where only 17 percent of the population considers the president “intolerant,” compared to a global average of 65 percent — and he has warmly welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House. Both leaders are eager to bump… Continue reading Trump’s Majoritarian Dream

Human Rights

Trump and the Iran Protests

The last time Iranians went out onto the streets in large numbers, they were protesting what they thought was a stolen election. It was 2009, and hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had convincingly won the presidency with roughly 63 percent to reformer Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s approximately 34 percent. Adopting their campaign’s green color, Mousavi’s supporters thronged the streets… Continue reading Trump and the Iran Protests