War

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.

Aden Dispatch

Aden Dispatch

Hard times in an uncertain south

He has been fighting for eleven months and talks with bitterness about the conditions in the dry hills where the front line is. He scrolls past pictures of himself posing with his rifle to find the pictures of his daughter, who is back in Aden, back down the road, back where he is from. Visibly upset, he pauses to collect himself.

I Should Have Known!

I Should Have Known!

“Interesting read,” was Kobe’s verdict. “#MuseOn.”

Over the course of several meetings in 2017 and 2018, I taught Kobe and his crew a smattering of ancient history. I had known about him for many years—since he first came to the Lakers. Among my earliest memories of shame comes from his first or second season: I thought that since his team-mate Shaquille O’Neill was clearly somehow Irish, Kobe, too, must be Irish, and so I referred to him (in front of friends, and friends’ parents) as Kobe O’Bryant. I was maybe 8; the memory still stings.