Foreign Affairs

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.

In the Penal Colony

In the Penal Colony

Outsourcing Australia’s detention industry

While private companies should not have been given so much power over Victoria’s hotel quarantine, the program itself illuminates the swiftness with which this country reaches for tools of punitive confinement. Initial evacuations of Chinese-Australians from Wuhan in early 2020 were sent to Christmas Island. Hotel quarantine may be a comparatively benign and expedient manifestation of that impulse, but others during the pandemic have not been so.

English Is Mine

English Is Mine

Dutch people, in live-action Dutchness

This is our English. Brought to us by Playmobil, Intertoys, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Superman and Batman, Michael Jackson, Rocky Balboa, the internet, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, advertisements, clothing labels, Coca-Cola, Big Macs, Nike Air Max, cars, hotel signs, warnings, et cetera, et cetera. Clear and without the secret in-crowd nuances. Every controversial word we use has been pointed out—called out? You should try it: speaking world-English. No hidden or fuzzy meanings. Democratic. Accessible to all. Eat it or starve behind your own bastions, you dialect-speakers. But hé, I don’t care.

Why Did You Throw Stones?

Why Did You Throw Stones?

Palestine Diary 2016

You might be surprised at your own intolerance of the idea of a democracy maintaining an open-air prison for 2.7 million people. Before going there myself, I had heard this phrase, open-air prison, and figured it was not literally a prison. (As someone who spends a fair amount of time in prisons, I’m sensitive to its use as a metaphor.) But everywhere I went I saw guard towers and concrete barriers and razor wire—truly an open-air prison—except where there were settlements, which featured posh, Beverly Hills–style landscaping: little blooming flowers, fragile and bright, the guard towers in the far distance.

The Ambitions of Illiberal Democracy

The Ambitions of Illiberal Democracy

How did the revolutionaries of 1989 become the nativists of the 2010s and 2020s?

Migration shapes nativist politics, but does not suffice to explain the wider crisis of liberalism. Exclusionary policies on immigration are being pursued in most European countries (with some notable exceptions, such as Portugal). Yet despite general anti-immigrant sentiment, it is only in the United Kingdom, Poland, and Hungary that nationalist governments have actively turned away from the European Union, and only in Budapest and Warsaw that open season has been declared on liberal civil society and the rule of law. Kaczyński and Orbán are special among Europe’s nationalists not for their chauvinism, but for their authoritarian actions against domestic opponents and the EU.

Dead Generations

Dead Generations

The coup is a new inflection point, a dark event with no upside, but to see it clearly is to see it within cycles of upheaval

What brought Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, Wai Yan Tun, and Thet Naing Win into the streets? To read most of the coverage of the coup, you’d think they’d found themselves on one side of an old story: liberal democracy imperiled by authoritarianism. Yet Myanmar’s working classes had seethed under the previous National League for Democracy (NLD) government’s concessions to global capital; during five years of NLD rule, strike wave after strike wave convulsed Yangon’s industrial zones. It would be a mistake to read today’s resistance simply as an attempt to restore bourgeois democracy. Even so, it was the old story my dad turned to, which says that time should flow easily beyond authoritarian pasts. As February turned into March, and March into April—and as blood began to run freely, far too freely, in the cities and towns of Myanmar—I found myself wondering about scars past and present, about how they form and how they are carried. I found myself wondering what the old story can accommodate, and what it cannot.

Argument Without Argument

Argument Without Argument

Robert M. Gates and America’s forever foreign policy

The more time one spends in Gates’s head, the more one is struck by the increasingly nihilistic quality of the American exceptionalist creed. Gates and his ilk remain committed to the idea that when there are problems in the world, the United States must “do something.” What is that something? It usually doesn’t matter much.

The Hour of the Barbarian

The Hour of the Barbarian

Which America is the true one?

What happened on January 6 was profoundly American, emerging as it did from our long and very specific history. No one did this to us. But despite the geographic confusion, George W. Bush, Jake Tapper, and Meghan McCain correctly identified that nothing like this has happened here for a long time.