European Union

On Thursday, President Obama issued a long overdue statement calling for regime change in Syria, declaring that the “time has come for President Bashar Assad to step aside.” But will that call to action amount to anything in practice? The gestures that Obama has made, including ending the U.S. import of Syrian petroleum products—totaling some 6,000 barrels per day—are little more than symbolic changes of policy.

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 One of the consistent features of the gay rights movement over the past five decades has been a belief in progress: Members of the gay community and their allies have insisted that, over time, attitudes about homosexuality will only change for the better. In part, this conviction is based on the power of moral suasion, but it also relies on sheer demographics: Younger people tend to be more supportive of gay rights.

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Last Sunday, legislators and the president, convinced that the United States was facing an imminent risk of default and their sound decisions were needed to wrest global well-being from the jaws of collapse, purportedly scrambled to announce a deal on the debt ceiling hours before the Asian markets opened. Instead of cheering the deal, however, global markets thumbed their nose and turned down within hours of the announcement.

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Berlin, Germany—When the Merkel government abstained from the U.N. Security Council vote on using military force against Muammar Qaddafi, many international observers were shocked. In the election campaign of 2005, Merkel had lambasted then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for damaging the transatlantic alliance by opting out of Washington’s plan to topple Saddam Hussein.

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With Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh holed up in a Saudi hospital, Yemen has settled into a relative calm. But the situation is not so much improved as it is temporarily pacified by uncertainty. Saleh’s aides are insisting that he will return to Yemen soon; meanwhile, diplomats from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, the United States, and the European Union have swooped in to pressure Saleh, even in his hospital bed, to officially resign.

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The Strongman

The Esenyurt District of Istanbul is classic new Turkey: pastel-colored office buildings with plastic-looking facades, rows of high-rise apartment buildings organized into little vertical gated communities, skeletons of shopping malls waiting to be filled with Mango and Starbucks. On a recent May afternoon, the prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, made a campaign stop there. The people who gathered to meet him were both covered and loose-haired, lower-middle class and middle class, and they eagerly sandwiched their way through security checkpoints.

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English Breakfast

English conservatives don’t really take to the streets, at least not with dispatch. In the United States, only eight weeks elapsed between the passage of the 2009 stimulus bill and half the country erupting into Tea Party-themed protests. In Great Britain, the first noteworthy rally in opposition to excessive spending and debt took place this spring, and the offending government, the Labour Party under Gordon Brown, had already been voted out of power a year ago.

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Accept Serbia

In the aftermath of the arrest of Ratko Mladic, all eyes are now on Serbia’s application for European Union membership (see, for example here, here, and here). After all, the arrest of Mladic, whom Time described as “Europe’s most wanted war-crimes suspect”, was supposed to be the major remaining obstacle to Serbia joining the EU.

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Rejoicer Beware

What is it about international justice that impels so many intelligent and politically sophisticated people to spout so much utopian nonsense? Anyone doubting this needs to look at the statements that have been pouring like rain out of the United Nations, and out of the major human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, about the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the commander of Serb rebel forces during the Bosnian War and architect of the Srebrenica massacre, in which 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered in cold blood.

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On May 1, Pope John Paul II was beatified. The second-to-last step in the road to sainthood, beatification occurs when the Catholic Church declares that a deceased person has intervened on behalf of someone who worships in his or her name.

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