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
The election of Donald Trump is a stunning, if potentially salutary, event. Ever the outsider, Trump seemed incapable of capturing enough support nationally to defeat Hillary Clinton at the polls. But now he has, and his policies, unencumbered by opposition in either Congress or the Supreme Court, are soon going to become those of the United States. Continue reading
We are in the midst of a refugee crisis. Images of desperate people, many of them making almost unimaginably precarious journeys, fill our newspapers and stare out at us from our screens. The scale of this human drama is immense, both in the numbers involved and the notion that such a thing can still occur in the 21st century. Continue reading
Five years have passed since the beginning of the international campaign against the dictatorship of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. Much was achieved – it cannot be forgotten – within the year. Gaddafi’s forces were defeated, his attempt to slaughter the rebels in Benghazi was foiled, the colonel himself was killed, and it looked as if Libya could begin again, liberated with the help of the wider world from the yoke of a decades-long tyranny. Continue reading
The world owes a great debt to Jeffrey Goldberg. His new contribution to the understanding of foreign policy is a vast and wide-ranging interview, published in The Atlantic, with US President Barack Obama. It is an undertaking which allows the president, soon to be out of office, to explain at length his views on foreign affairs and his programme for the world at large. This setting out of the ‘Obama Doctrine’ is both fascinating and salutary. Continue reading