As the international community continues to debate high-minded principles of national sovereignty, Syria continues its downward spiral into unmitigated chaos. The bitter truth is that the longer this situation continues, the deeper the scars will be once the nation has been freed of Bashar Al-Assad. Increasingly, crimes against humanity are being committed by both sides, as the Free Syria Army struggles to incorporate and maintain control over its armed rebel brigades. But as harrowing as the details of the current situation are, the basic principles at stake are very clear.
Back in July of 2010, TNR asked nine experts to explore what the United States should do next in Afghanistan. In the twenty months since that symposium, much has changed. Tragic developments—such as the downing of a military helicopter that claimed 38 Americans and the recent massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant—have stoked widespread discontent with the current course of action, and have many rethinking their commitments to the mission.
In China, a perennial T.V. favorite is the “rear palace” costume drama, depicting the conspiratorial high politics of bygone dynasties. An analogous kind of half-concealed theatre seems to be taking place today, not behind the sequestered walls of the imperial palace, but in the Chinese Communist Party’s headquarters at Zhongnanhai.
As the violence worsens in Syria, there are no great options for how to respond. The various Syrian factions and sectarian groups are far too intermingled for a Libya-like operation to work. Assad and his army are still too strong for a simple and small peacekeeping mission to succeed. And if we did invade, the specter of an Iraq-style imbroglio would loom, given Syria’s size and the multitude of nefarious actors there. It’s important, though, to think through the available military options.
One of the most prurient aspects of reading the personal emails written to and by Bashar al Assad that were obtained by The Guardian has been the chance to observe the dictator’s strange shopping habits on iTunes. Apparently, the Syrian dictator is a big fan of contemporary party music. But Bashar is far from the first dictator to have a strange relationship with pop culture.
Late last year, as the regime of Bashar Assad was continuing its murderous rampage against the people of Syria, the governments of Iran and Russia offered their diplomatic support. But Bashar also received significant practical assistance from a much more unlikely ally: an Italian surveillance firm by the name of Area SpA. Throughout all of 2011, employees of that company were being flown to Damascus to direct Syrian intelligence officers in the installation of a computer system that would allow the Syrian government to scan and catalog virtually every e-mail that flows through the country.
Istanbul, Turkey—Last week, the Turkish journalist Oray Eğin returned to Turkey to attend his father’s funeral. It was the first time he’d been home in months, and when he arrived at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, he was detained. The news immediately spread, making headlines: Yet another Turkish journalist arrested! It turned out, however, that Eğin was being questioned for an entirely different reason—a benign legal matter unrelated to his profession.
Turkey’s boldest response to the crisis in Syria came last week, when Prime Minister Erdogan called for the establishment of humanitarian aid corridors to help civilians there. But those hoping that Ankara’s aggressive rhetoric will soon be matched by equally assertive action will be sorely disappointed.
When a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit northeastern Japan one year ago, triggering a massive tsunami that claimed close to 20,000 lives and caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the government, relief agencies, and people around the world were quick to offer their support and aid. Many hoped for speedy rebuilding of the devastated region, while others saw the catastrophes as proof that Japan needed to rethink its energy policy.
The economic crisis in Europe reached its latest crescendo last night, as Greece managed, through furious last-minute negotiations, to convince its creditors to give it some more breathing room. But if the Greeks have managed to stave off ruin for a few more minutes, nothing has essentially changed in their situation: Their economy is still in shambles. The burning question on most observers’ minds, and rightfully so, is whether the Greeks will ever manage to pay back their debts. But at this stage, it’s also worth considering how we ended up on the precipice of such catastrophe at all.