Foreign Affairs

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.

Knowledge Will Not Save Us

Knowledge Will Not Save Us

Stuck in the mud in South Sudan

One UN staffer, astonished by my knowledge of the kinship networks of the Nuer leadership in Unity, asked me uncertainly: What is fieldwork, exactly? It’s just talking to people, I said. You should try it.

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.

The Militia Question

The Militia Question

The situation is even worse than liberal anxieties about a possible civil war suggest

The idea of white supremacist militias teaming up with federal and state governments for the sake of maintaining “law and order” seems less a radical rupture than the next link in a very bloody chain. The situation, in short, is even worse than liberal anxieties about a possible civil war suggest. It turns out that a certain type of white supremacist vigilantism is wholly compatible with the continued functioning of the American state. The specter of civil war that liberals fear is none other than the same modes of violence that have long been turned against BIPOC communities in this country without at all undermining the state.

Austere Moral Economy

Austere Moral Economy

AMLO’s politics of wanting it, badly

Mexican critics have raised concerns that AMLO and Morena are little more than a recycled PRI, pointing to AMLO’s formative political years and to Morena’s scale of control. What is different about AMLO, however, is his cult of personality and his distaste for the separation of powers.

Belarus Dispatch

Belarus Dispatch

Goodbye, Cockroach?

If you’ve ever compared Fox News commentary on Portland to the hours of video that Robert Evans posts, showing actual events on the ground around the federal courthouse there, then you already understand the dynamic. The past week in Belarus has been as clean a story of good versus evil as exists in the world. It is not a surprise that Belarusian state media took up the cause of evil, but Russian state media was at least faced with a choice. They chose evil too.