In both the euphoria and the apprehension that have accompanied the popular uprisings in the Arab Middle East that, no matter who succeeds them, have already resulted in the fall of two tyrants and the first credible threats to several more, there has been much talk about freedom and democracy and about secularism versus Islamism. Predictably, if also dishearteningly, there has been an avalanche of the usual cyber-utopian techno-babble about the emancipatory potential of the Bluetooth devices and Twitter feeds for which authoritarian tyrannies are said to be no match.
If you go to the website of the U.S.
In early December, 1989, rioting broke out in the western Romanian city of Timosoara. Within weeks, the Ceaucescu dictatorship had fallen, the self-styled ‘Genius of the Carpathians’ and his wife, Elena, having been shot by an impromptu firing squad after a trial that was little more than a kangaroo court that condemned them for one of the things they were not guilty of: genocide. Before she was killed, Mme.
In “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country,” Randy Newman’s wistful, Bush-era song about the end of the American empire, there is a line about “the leaders we have/are the worst we’ve ever had/but they’re not the worst this poor world has ever seen.” Words to take to heart as we debate whether or not hate speech on the right—above all, on Fox News, in the blogosphere, and on talk radio—has made events like the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords more likely.
The childish panic that has swept the policy establishment over the past few weeks over the Wikileaks revelations themselves will soon subside.
One of the most interesting ways in which the latest Wikileaks release of State Department cables has shone light on American foreign policy today has been the way it has revealed the degree of consensus that exists among policy intellectuals in the United States, regardless of where they hail from along the (mainstream) political spectrum.
Writing in his diary of his erstwhile friend and wartime comrade-in-arms Randolph Churchill’s surgery for lung cancer, Evelyn Waugh noted acidly, that it was a “typical triumph of medical science to find the one part of Randoph that was not malignant and remove it.” The BBC’s recent abject apology to Bob Geldof for the claim made last March 4 on the 'Assignment' program, that the vast majority of the money raised, perhaps as much as 95 percent, during the 1984/85 Ethiopian famine by Geldof’s Band Aid concerts that went to fund relief projects in areas held by the Tigrayan rebels had in fact be
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that leveled much of Port-au-Prince last January 12, there was a great deal of talk among the great and the good that this time it was going to be different. Not only would the Haitian capital be rebuilt and its 600,000 homeless housed once more, but at long last the major international donors would not leave once this (in reality, appalling) status quo ante had been restored.
At what point do the moral claims we in the rich world make for our actions in the poor world stop being just relatively harmless, feel-good stories to which government officials turn when they need to enlist the support of legislatures, and to which activists resort in order mobilize constituencies, and start becoming cognitive stumbling blocks to actually getting the poor the aid they need in ways that serve their interests rather than our own? The way the major private philanthropies, above all the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, now hype their own programs should come as no surprise.
Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid By Peter Gill (Oxford University Press, 280 pp., $27.95) In the fall of 1994, James P. Grant, the executive director of UNICEF, sent a message in the name of his agency to the upcoming Cairo conference on population and development, in which he declared that the world had within its grasp the means to solve “the problems of poverty, population, and environmental degradation that feed off of one another in a downward spiral [bringing] instability and strife in its wake.” Grant was a great man, a giant of the development world.