In February 2014, men dressed in camouflage, driving armored trucks and carrying military-issue weapons emerged from the Russian military base in Sevastopol and began streaming across the Ukrainian province of Crimea. Within hours, they had occupied town halls and television stations. Within days, they had co-opted local thugs and criminals to create a provisional government. They held a tightly controlled referendum and announced that residents of the region wanted it to belong to Russia. Continue reading “Why does Putin want to control Ukraine? Ask Stalin.”
Think of it like an invisible spider web, silently linking together people and places. Or perhaps it’s more of an invisible road network, or an invisible electrical grid: a system that facilitates transactions, that makes it possible to board an airplane in one country and arrive in another, to trade spare parts across borders, to benefit from international insurance agreements and accepted rates of exchange.
Send a spy to spread rumors on the other side of the front line. Drop leaflets into enemy territory. Debilitate the enemy using its own people, in their own language — Lord Haw-Haw, Tokyo Rose — over their own radios. The tactics of demoralization are as old as politics — as old as war — and now we know what the second-decade-of-the-21st-century version looks like, too. Continue reading “If Russia can create fake ‘Black Lives Matter’ accounts, who will next?”
“They have a horror of abstract thought, they feel no need for any philosophy or systematic ‘world-view.’ ” That was George Orwell, speaking of his countrymen in a famous 1941 essay, “England Your England.” Writing during the Blitz, as “highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me,” Orwell listed the qualities that made the English English: their love of privacy, their almost religious respect for the law, their dislike of uniformed men barking orders. “All the boasting and flag-wagging, the ‘Rule Britannia’ stuff, is done by small minorities,” he wrote: “The most stirring battle-poem in English is about a brigade of cavalry which charged in the wrong direction.” Continue reading “Is it Britain’s turn for revolution?”
The rhetoric of division has always been with us. My tribe against yours; your group against his; our gang against theirs. Historically, tyrants and dictators have often sought to use divisive rhetoric for their own ends, attacking enemies or scapegoats in order to unite their followers, or frighten their opponents, or hold onto power. But nowadays, you don’t need a tribune, a throne or a podium to play that game. Anybody can do it. Continue reading “Las Vegas and the Catalan referendum are fresh fodder for Julian Assange and other Internet demagogues”
It was a scene that could only have taken place in the globalized, interconnected, multicultural world that we now inhabit: Nigel Farage — a former British stockbroker, a Brexit campaigner, a wearer of pinstripe suits, a denizen of elite London eating establishments — appeared onstage this week in Fairhope, Ala., campaigning for former judge Roy Moore. He didn’t argue that Moore, who was tossed off the Alabama Supreme Court for disregarding the law, would actually be good for the people of Alabama. He didn’t have much to say about the Alabama economy or Alabama’s particular problems. Instead, he called on Alabama voters to support Moore because “it’s important for the whole global movement across the West that we have built up and we have fought for.” Continue reading “A Brit’s speech in an American election takes a Stalinist turn”
Back in 2013—an age ago, the calm before the storm— José Manuel Barroso, then the president of the European Commission, gave a speech launching a new project. This was before the refugee crisis, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, before the British voted to leave the European Union, before the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, London, and Barcelona.
Perhaps it’s a useful dose of realism: As it turns out, Germany is not so exceptional after all. It’s true that German voters have just given the ruling Christian Democratic Union yet another majority. It’s true that Angela Merkel will remain chancellor for a remarkable fourth term, according to exit polls. But Germany did not escape the Western populist wave altogether.
Few countries have ever been so closely associated with a single politician as Burma, whose public “face,” for many decades, was the brave and brilliant dissident Aung San Suu Kyi. I remember her appearance — via a prerecorded videocassette, smuggled out of the country — at the international women’s conference in Beijing in 1995. Aung San Suu Kyi had just been released from house arrest, but her speech was not about Burma, also known as Myanmar. Instead she used language designed to appeal to a surreally diverse audience, ranging from Indian activists and German feminists to Saudi women in abayas. Continue reading “Aung San Suu Kyi’s fall from the pedestal is an old story”
Yes, it looks like a foregone conclusion. Chancellor Angela Merkel, the center-right candidate (with an emphasis on center) is comfortably ahead in the polls with 8 days to go in one of the most boring German elections anybody can remember. And no wonder: Merkel leads a country that hasn’t been this relatively rich or relatively powerful in many decades. Unemployment is low. The budget is in surplus. Germany is the undisputed leader of the euro zone, the club of countries that use the European currency. Continue reading “Merkel can’t ignore the far-right echo chamber”