War

The Korean Peace Process

The Korean Peace Process

American foreign policy hasn’t done any real thinking in two years

Peace is possible, if just barely, on the Korean peninsula neither thanks to nor in spite of America’s leadership, but because America isn’t leading at all. The country’s ruling party has been thrown into such chaos by Trump’s election that it lacks a coherent geopolitical strategy, and the State Department is a nonfunctioning husk of its former self. What Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in have done is recognize America’s geopolitical incoherence as an opportunity to act on their own behalf. The peace process is primarily of South Korean design, it was underway months before Trump flew to Singapore, and it illustrates the kinds of space that open up, and the kinds of diplomacy that become possible, as the US begrudgingly starts to cede its place at the head of the world’s table.

Dupe Throat

Dupe Throat

Bob Woodward’s self-parody

At the center of this universe sits Trump, like the Blind Idiot God Azathoth in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. If the self-serving narratives of personal accomplishment Woodward’s principals relate are dubious, their descriptions of Trump are not. He is impetuous and erratic, vulgar and incurious. A font of abuse, he showers invective on those around him.

Bad Atrocity Writing

Bad Atrocity Writing

“What’s the difference between a baby and an onion? No one cries when you chop up the baby.”

Why does writing well about atrocity matter? Because the history of the world, a history that is morally unimaginable without atrocity, needs to be written, rewritten, well written. To know what really happened, to know what it really felt like, we need more sentences that are capable of opening readers to events so horrible that the senses and the memory close down; sentences that open multiple perspectives on those atrocities, even if they seem to allow for only one perspective — sentences that do all this without losing their hold on logic and grammar and, for that matter, their rhythm

The Logic of Militant Democracy

The Logic of Militant Democracy

From domestic concentration camps to the war on terror

The pervasive fears over existential threats, the belief that foreign enemies were supported by internal subversion, and the sense that victory required the total destruction of our foes all fueled the conviction that “foreigners” were enemies and thus had no rights. The American concentration camps of the 1940s exemplified the logic of such war. Foreigners were guilty until proven otherwise.

Last Week in Israel

Last Week in Israel

A violent crackdown on protest and dissent

The extreme police violence during protests outside the new US embassy on Monday turned out to be a prelude to the Israeli police’s response to protests on Friday in the mixed city of Haifa. In what can only be described as a police riot, heavily armed border police officers and Special Forces troops charged a peaceful crowd of predominantly Palestinian demonstrators, punching and throttling and kicking chairs at them and throwing them to the ground. By the end of the night, Israeli police had arrested twenty-one people, at least four of whom were hospitalized for serious injuries.

We’re the Good Guys, Right?

We’re the Good Guys, Right?

On the Marvel movies

Marvel’s first hit, Iron Man, was released in 2008, just as the surge in Iraq was coming to a close. This marked the end of the hot wars of the Bush years and the transition to a cooler state of continuous half-war, characterized less by boots on the ground than by eyes in the sky. The Obama era revealed that the war on terror would be unlike past wars, with beginnings and ends. It was a way of life rather than a discrete event, a chronic condition rather than an acute one. The war was routinized and, with the dramatic surge in the use of drones, mechanized.

Bringing the War Home

Bringing the War Home

Gun violence and American foreign policy

Numbers are not everything. The murder of an ordinary person will do little to register in the public imagination beyond a day or two of news coverage, while the murder of a head of state will provoke an international crisis. The symbolic resonance of a violent act matters, and a society that guns down children in school is one in which something has gone very wrong. But as with terrorist attacks, the symbolism of school shootings mutates into spectacle, and if symbolism resonates like a plucked guitar string, the spectacle is the sound of that string fed into an amplifier and then trapped in a feedback loop, increasing in volume and intensity until the only possible response is panic and anger.