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
There we have it, then. AP reports, based on interviews with various super-delegates, that Hillary Clinton has the support of sufficient numbers of them (in addition to the delegates she has won during the primary process) to clinch the Democratic nomination. Excepting any major upset at the parties’ national conventions, the presidential campaign proper will be fought between Clinton and Donald Trump. 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
Libya is now in flames. This might seem to be a rather hyperbolic note on which to begin, but it is true. The country is spiralling out of control, and the city of Benghazi, the former rebel capital in the 2011 revolution against the dictatorship of Colonel Gaddafi, has reportedly been captured by Islamist militants and declared an ‘Islamic emirate’. Foreign diplomatic staff continue their exodus as tensions swirl and the threat of civil disintegration becomes more plausible by the day. Continue reading