World Beat

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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Rise and Fall of Nations

At the beginning of Chinese filmmaker Jiang Yimou’s popular movie Hero , a martial arts master arrives at the court of the powerful Xin ruler. The master swordsman, an orphan who goes by the moniker Nameless, harbors a secret desire to assassinate the king on behalf of his own wronged territory, the nation of Zhao. It is the era of the Six Kingdoms more than 2,000 years ago. The king of Xin proposes to defeat the warring factions and unite the country. Only Nameless, it seems, can stop him.

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Targeting Journalists

It’s not been a good time to be a journalist. Outside the United States, reporters literally take their lives into their own hands to cover dangerous stories. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 55 journalists died in 2006, a steady increase over the last several years. The mafia-style hit of Anna Politkovskaya in Russia made headlines. Less well publicized were the deaths of 32 journalists in Iraq. More journalists have died in Iraq than in any other country or any other conflict since CPJ has been collecting statistics. Nor was Latin America particularly safe, as Hernán Uribe writes in a recent Americas Program report.

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The Point of Protest

At Saturday’s anti-war demonstration in Washington, my 84-year-old mother slipped as she stepped off a curb and fell backward. A young man in a small knot of anarchists caught her and gently restored her to the vertical. And on we marched. Leave no grandmother behind!

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Bait and Switch

You’re astride a donkey, and it’s not going anywhere. You’ve got carrots in your pocket and a stick in your hand. Which to use? In the ideal world, the donkey would take a few steps forward to get the carrot that you dangle in front of its nose. If it slows down or gets distracted from the carrot, a couple taps of the switch on its hindquarters get it moving again.

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Don’t Mourn: Annotate

The movie Good Night, and Good Luck depicts how journalist Edward R. Murrow took down the most dangerous U.S. demagogue of his era with a simple, yet elegant, act of annotation. Murrow played excerpts on his CBS news show of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s speeches about the “Communist menace” and then refuted the charges. The lies and half-truths of the Wisconsin senator were laid bare, and that was the beginning of his end.

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Nuking Iran

The headlines this week will be all Iraq, all the time. President Bush will unveil his not-so-secret plan of a military “surge” to rescue Iraq from all its other disastrous surges—in civilian deaths, pervasive violence, and unemployment. FPIF analyst Dan Smith, in Bush to Iraq: More War, argues instead that “Congress needs to act as a surge suppressor and carefully look at what Bush as commander-in-chief threatens to decree.” And, indeed, the Democrats have decided to shift from the largely domestic focus of their 100-hours plan, having realized that 45% of the American electorate wants action on the Iraq War versus only 7% who wants Congress to focus on the U.S. economy or health care reform.

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