Western politicians failed in their response to the Arab Spring. National leaders saw and saluted the emergence of pro-democracy protests in 2011, but they did little more. When they acted, as in Libya, Western leaders did too little and thought not at all about the future; when they did not act, in Syria most notably, they ushered in a state of affairs where war crimes go unpunished, and dictators engaged in mass murder need fear no redress. Continue reading
This week’s march, entitled ‘Unite the Right’, by a collection of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other right-wing extremists in Charlottesville, Virginia, has thrown the United States into turmoil. Continue reading
The city of Raqqa and its inhabitants have suffered enormously over the past half-decade. Most obviously, they have languished under the rule of the Islamic State group. Continue reading
The people disappeared in Syria’s military prisons do not have graves, but they do have names. They may not have been accorded funeral rites, but they have faces and stories and their families have memories of their presence. The war which has destroyed much of Syria can be localised: to a family, to a single person, to a face. And within the wider war lurk stories of cruelty and barbarism which affect individuals but whose effects spiral outwards. These specific instances of savagery become institutionalised. Continue reading
For my generation, 2011 came close to being our 1968. Like the latter, it was a year of political change, change that seemed dynamic and accelerated.
The world was on the verge of being transformed. It seemed as though undemocratic regimes, for too long a regrettable fixture of the Middle East, could be overthrown and replaced. More than that, there was a sense of real optimism. It seemed the weight of history had been lifted. Continue reading
It is widely held that 2016 was a depressing year.
Much of this collective feeling can be attributed to less substantial events such as the deaths of many famous people, and the pall this seemed to cast over the year as a whole.
But there are more serious reasons for believing that what happened in 2016 leaves the world darker than it was before, and less optimistic when thinking about the future. Continue reading