World Beat

The Yes Man

It’s a scandal worthy of the Yes Men. Over the course of three years, this band of merry pranksters impersonated World Bank officials and told bemused audiences that Spain should outlaw the siesta, corporations should adopt "compassionate slavery" for workers in Africa, and fast food restaurants could solve the global hunger problem by serving a new hamburger made out of human waste.

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The Self-Hating State

The state, according to classical liberals, is a problem. It meddles in the economy. It over-regulates. Through the tax system, it robs Peter to pay Paul. If only the state would get out of the way, these purists argue, then the invisible hand of the market would magically set things right. Equilibrium would reign, and the gross national happiness of the country would rise like the temperature on a warm, summer day.

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Trading with Vegas

Gamblers in Las Vegas frequently cling to the illusion that they can win. Some do. Most don’t. The casino owners—usually called "the House"—have rigged the system in their own favor. The flashing lights, free drinks, and oxygen-enriched air in the casino distract the gamblers from this elemental rule. Sure, you might hit 21, score big on Black, or finally get three cherries in a row. But over the long term, the House always wins and you always lose.

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Suffocating Consensus

Liberals love a good war. There’s nothing like a bombing run or a missile attack to preempt the perennial criticism of liberals as weak on defense and national security. Take Truman and Korea, Kennedy and Cuba, Johnson and Vietnam, or Clinton and Kosovo. Wars demonstrate "spine" and "leadership" and all the qualities that tell the public that the liberal is no longer that spindly, bespectacled fellow on the beach getting sand kicked in his face.

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No Thanks

The U.S. public wants out of Iraq. The Iraqis themselves want the occupation to be over. What’s a poor U.S. soldier to do?

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Too Big to Fail?

Many Americans look across the Pacific at China and see nothing but a vast digestive tract. A billion-plus people are developing quite an appetite: for oil to run their factories, for sheet glass to sheathe their skyscrapers, for grain to feed themselves and their livestock.

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Tampering With the Evidence

Last year in Hamdania, west of Baghdad, eight U.S. soldiers abducted an Iraqi man from his home, threw him in a ditch, and shot him. The soldiers placed an AK-47 and a shovel near his body. They wanted to make it seem as though he were an insurgent digging holes to plant roadside bombs.

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Just Climate Change?

What is the world coming to when a wonky slide show wins an Oscar for best documentary? The Inconvenient Truth is about just that: what the world is coming to. And Hollywood is sufficiently freaked out by the prospect of eco-apocalypse to bestow its highest honor on such a low-tech cinematic undertaking.

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On Chomsky

Back in the early 1990s, an editor at Harper’s asked me for suggestions of progressive foreign policy analysts who could participate in one of their roundtable discussions. I provided a short list, with Noam Chomsky on top. The editor thanked me politely but said that the Chomsky suggestion wouldn’t fly. In so many words he said that the great linguist and critic of U.S. foreign policy didn’t belong at the table with the sober, even-handed discussants. Chomsky was "too out there."

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