fbpx

Foreign Affairs

Big in India

Big in India

Hugeness has been one of the more flamboyant features of the Modi government’s tenure

The afterglow of this communion extends into the final, much-anticipated delight: a “cultural boat ride” promising “ten thousand years of Indian Culture in ten minutes.” This air-conditioned funfair ride begins, appropriately enough, on the mythic “banks of the Saraswati” (a now unknown or extinct river celebrated in the Vedas) festooned with tableaux of ten-thousand-year-old “Vedic” agriculture, Vedic universities, Vedic bazaars, Vedic elections and even the “first conference on embryology.” Never mind that the prevailing historical consensus is that the earliest Vedic “texts” (they were originally orally transmitted) are little more than 3,500 years old. Further downriver, things get weirder as we witness the Indic invention of everything from plastic surgery to the airplane.

The Art of Monetary War

The Art of Monetary War

Sanctions and the new phase of economic combat

More than any armed conflict, the current international monetary system has laid bare the folly of the romantic liberal portrait of globalization. The sanctions against Russia are the clearest manifestation yet of a distinct undercurrent of financial globalization that has become more pronounced in recent in years: geopolitical coercion through the central banking system. Over the past decade there have been a number of instances in which this form of financial compulsion—what one might call monetary warfare—has been used to devastating effect.

Lab-Leak Theory and the “Asiatic” Form

Lab-Leak Theory and the “Asiatic” Form

What is missing is a motive

I could not direct you to the key evidence that exonerates the Wuhan Institute, and it might not exist. But this is also the crucial point. There are too many lacunae in the lab-leak explanation for the theory to stand on its own: proponents must fill the gaps with their own projections and beliefs.

Exodus from Ukraine

Exodus from Ukraine

Along the refugee route

I see them through the fence. The line doesn’t look like a line; there’s a thick crowd inside the holding area, more than a thousand people. Without exception, these are women and children. The crowd spills out into the back. Beneath these people’s feet is the bare earth, or dry old grass ground nearly to dust. Many have blankets around their shoulders. Even the smallest children stand beside the grownups, who hold the babies in their arms. I see a woman place a swaddled baby on top of a duffel bag. Another is crouched a little off to the side of the crowd, sheltering her infant between her knees and her belly.

How to Not Sell Out

How to Not Sell Out

Three accounts of the same conversation

Soon after meeting P in 2011, I read his first book. The overall mood was utopian, yet pragmatic. Fable-like methods were used to depict bleak truths while avoiding finger-pointing: Once upon a time, farmers cleared a forest; the water table fell, so they dug a well, and it fell some more, et cetera. Red herrings abounded. One memorable paragraph lamented the extinction of Steller’s sea cow, a sluggish 30-foot behemoth that could have provided truly socialist quantities of meat and milk.

Border Crises

Border Crises

Five decades of ordinary bipartisan anti-immigrant politics

In May 2018, as Trump’s family separation policy became a major scandal, former Obama speechwriter and “Pod Save America” host Jon Favreau tweeted a photo of two migrant girls sleeping on the floor of a cage. “Look at these pictures. This is happening right now, and the only debate that matters is how we force our government to get these kids back to their families as fast as humanly possible.” As a number of his replies pointed out, the photos were actually from 2014, when his boss was still President. As with Biden’s response to the recent assault on Haitians, Favreau was fixated on the image.

Long, Invisible, and Highly Profitable

Long, Invisible, and Highly Profitable

Before the recent withdrawal, private contractors had greatly outnumbered US troops in Afghanistan

It is worth recalling that “we don’t do body counts” became the Bush administration’s unofficial motto in the early years of the global war on terror, and that reporting on Afghan civilian deaths did not even begin until 2007. In 2017 the Department of Defense stopped reporting the number of US military personnel deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and in 2019, President Trump signed an executive order that revoked the requirement for US intelligence to report on civilian casualties outside of areas of “Active Hostilities.” Taken together, these actions indicate a clear preference to render both the nature of military interventions and their costs invisible.

The Red Ring and the Wrecking Ball

On Yu Miri

Every two years, when the Olympic institution plants its flag in a new city, speculators from metropolitan Lausanne meet with profiteers in the new athletic colony. They hover over the city map with carving knives, repurposing public spaces and re-zoning residences. Together, for the sake of a two-week event, they take over the territory, line their pockets with public resources, bring in outside workers, and push long-established locals aside.