How the United States Rolls

Towards the end of September, after declaring war on ISIS, President Obama gave an interview to “60 Minutes” in which he tried to explain the rules of U.S. engagement: “When trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow. They call us. … That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation.” This also holds for environmental and humanitarian disasters: “When there’s a typhoon in the Philippines,[ …]

Is There a Method to the Syrian Madness?

As I have written before, we all remember President Obama’s smiling face, full of hope and trust, when he repeatedly delivered the motto of his first campaign, “Yes, we can!”—we can get rid of the cynicism of the Bush era and bring justice and welfare to the American people. Now that the United States is backing off its push to attack Syria, we can imagine peace protesters shouting at President Barack Obama: “How can you[ …]

Syria is a pseudo-struggle

All that was false in the idea and practice of humanitarian interventions exploded in a condensed form apropos Syria. OK, there is a bad dictator who is (allegedly) using poisonous gas against the population of his own state – but who is opposing his regime? It seems that whatever remained of the democratic-secular resistance is now more or less drowned in the mess of fundamentalist Islamist groups supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, with a[ …]

Sing of the new invasion

The way to test a great work of art is to ask how it survives decontextualisation, transposition into a new context. One good definition of a classic is that it functions like the eyes of God in an Orthodox icon: no matter where you stand in the room, they seem to be looking at you. For instance, by far the best cinema version of a Dostoevsky novel is Akira Kurosawa’s The Idiot, which is set[ …]

A Soft Focus on War

When Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker won all the big Oscars over James Cameron’s Avatar, the victory was perceived as a good sign of the state of things in Hollywood: A modest production meant for independent festivals clearly overran a superproduction whose technical brilliance cannot cover up the flat simplicity of its story. Did this mean that Hollywood is not just a blockbuster machine, but still knows how to appreciate marginal creative efforts? Maybe–but that’s a[ …]

The Military-Poetic Complex

Now that Radovan Karadzic has finally been arrested it is time to recall that Karadzic, a psychiatrist by profession, was not only a ruthless political and military leader, but a poet. His poetry should not be dismissed as ridiculous: it deserves a close reading, since it tells us something about the way ethnic cleansing works. Here are the first lines of an untitled poem, identified by its dedication, ‘For Izlet Sarajlic’: Convert to my new[ …]

The Disturbing Sounds of the Turkish March

On September 16, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner warned the world that when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program: “We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war.” The statement, predictably, caused great uproar, with criticism focused on what Sir John Holmes, head of the U.N. refugee agency, called the “Iraq taint.” After the scandal about Weapons of Mass Destruction as the excuse for invading Iraq, evoking such a[ …]

Turkey is a thorn in the side of a cosy western consensus

Recent days have seen Dick Cheney and Tony Blair point belligerent fingers at Tehran, but both spoke in the slipstream of Bernard Kouchner, who a month ago warned the world that it should prepare for war over Iran’s nuclear programme. “We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war,” said the French minister of foreign affairs. The swell of rhetoric – which culminated in President Bush’s assertion last week that a nuclear-armed[ …]

The Liberal Waterloo

The first reaction of progressives to Bush’s second victory was that of despair, even fear: The last four years were not just a bad dream. The nightmarish coalition of big business and fundamentalist populism will roll on, as Bush pursues his agenda with new gusto, nominating conservative judges to the Supreme Court, invading the next country after Iraq, and pushing liberalism in the United States one step closer to extinction. However, this emotional reaction is[ …]