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Foreign Policy - April 01, 2018

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APRIL 2018
The End
of Human
Kenneth Roth on fighting back in the age of Trump
Azeem Ibrahim on Myanmar’s next genocide
David Rieff on the dangers of overreach
Cleuci de Oliveira on the right to kill
“It’s never been more important
to study international relations
at a school that understands
that truth is elusive but real; that
history cannot be rewritten to
suit today’s preferences; that
tradeofs are inescapable facts
of economic life; and that leaders
are those who inspire, not those
who inflame.”
Director of the Philip Merrill Center for
Strategic Studies and Robert E. Osgood
Professor of Strategic Studies
Master of Arts
Master of Arts in Global Policy
Master of Arts in Global Risk
Master of Arts in International Affairs
Master of Arts in International Studies
Master of Arts in International Economics and Finance
Master of International Public Policy
Certificate in Chinese and American Studies
Diploma in International Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
The Freedom
America Forgot
Why Washington should
embrace economic rights.
Human Rights in
the Age of Trump
Washington may have
abandoned its principles—
but the rest of the world
can’t afford to.
How to Defeat
The Right to Kill
The Long Road
to Brexit
Should Brazil keep its Amazon tribes from taking
the lives of their children?
Putin’s War on Women
Why #MeToo skipped Russia.
The Family Feud
Europe wants to prevent refugees from bringing
their relatives. But doing so will hurt both the
newcomers and their host countries.
For Once We Were Strangers
Israel’s move against migrants.
Lessons from Israel’s
war for water.
Britain’s vote to leave
the EU was many years
in the making.
Thus Spoke
Jordan Peterson
A wildly popular
psychologist’s self-help
program is leading young
men to authoritarianism.
Don’t Mention
the War
Germans love historical TV
dramas—so long as they
sanitize their country’s past.
The Arab World’s
Star Student
Zones of
What Tunisia can teach
its neighbors about the
value of education.
A lack of ambassadors
around the world is
damaging U.S. diplomacy.
Books in Brief
First They Came
for the Rohingya
New releases on U.S. trade
politics, India’s rise, and
social media’s role in
modern conflicts.
Myanmar’s next victims.
The Sometime
Nikki Haley’s occasional
fight for human rights.
ON THE COVER: Illustration by Sisal Creative
An early warning the
world ignored.
Photograph by Sean Money and Elizabeth Fay
The End of
Human Rights?
Learning from the failure
of the Responsibility
to Protect and the
International Criminal
© 2018 BY THE FP GROUP, a division of Graham Holdings Company, which bears no responsibility for the editorial content; the views expressed in the articles are those
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2018,, issue number 228. Published five times each year, in January, April, July, September, and December, by The FP Group, a division of Graham Holdings Company,
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from the editor in chief
seem like an odd time for FOREIGN POLICY to
devote the better part of an issue to human rights.
After all, the United States is currently governed
by an administration that seems less interested in
protecting those rights than any in recent memory. Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
often went out of his way to denigrate such freedoms, and his boss, President Donald Trump, has
mused about bringing back torture and promised to “bomb the shit” out of the Islamic State
while praising brutal strongmen such as China’s
Xi Jinping and the Philippines’s Rodrigo Duterte.
So why choose to focus on an issue that the
United States, along with many other governments,
has lost interest in or decisively turned against?
There are two reasons. First, despite the indifference or opposition of many current leaders,
the fight for these freedoms isn’t as dead as one
may assume. Like the dove on our cover (and the
famous images of St. Sebastian and Muhammad
Ali to which Sisal Creative’s wonderful photo recreation refers), human rights are definitely down.
But like Ali in 1968, the rumors of their downfall
have been exaggerated. In “The Sometime Activist,” Colum Lynch, one of FP’s senior staff writers, shows that a few lonely individuals—such as
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations—continue to fight for basic freedoms
within the Trump administration (at least when
it suits their own agendas). And in “Putin’s War
on Women,” Amie Ferris-Rotman, FP’s Moscow
correspondent, tells the story of the brave Russian
women’s rights activists pushing back against the
increasingly misogynistic policies of their cartoonishly macho president.
The other reason to focus on human rights at
this bloody moment is because that’s what journalists are supposed to do. When Myanmar is
slaughtering its own people (with more mayhem
to come, as Azeem Ibrahim argues in “First They
Came for the Rohingya”), Syria and Yemen are
burning to the ground, and more people have been
displaced than at any other time in human history
APRIL 2018
(as Vauhini Vara describes in “A Family Feud”), it is our job to shine a spotlight on the world’s darkest places—to
remind ourselves and our readers just
what consequences policies (or the lack
thereof) made in Washington and other
capitals have on actual human beings.
Even if, as David Rieff argues in
“The End of Human Rights?” the rise
of populism has “shattered the human
rights movement’s narrative that progress is inevitable,” it is at moments like
this one that discussions of basic freedoms become more important than
ever—because they can galvanize
the majority of citizens who still support decent and humane governance.
Indeed, as Kenneth Roth documents in
“Human Rights in the Age of Trump,”
voters and activists around the globe
have responded to the surge in repression, populist politics, and authoritarian rule by fighting back—in the
streets, in courtrooms, and in polling booths. Despite—or even because
of—all the dark tidings, a “vigorous
defense of human rights can succeed,”
Roth writes.
So long, that is, as enough of us are
ready to fight—and not surrender to the
despair on which demagogues thrive.
Jonathan Tepperman
Vauhini Vara is a
contributing writer
for the New Yorker’s
website, and her
stories have been
published in the Atlantic,
Harper’s Magazine,
and Bloomberg
Businessweek, among
other publications. She
reported from Berlin as
a 2017 Arthur F. Burns
Azeem Ibrahim is an
adjunct professor at
the U.S. Army War
College’s Strategic
Studies Institute and
a senior fellow at the
Center for Global Policy
in Washington. His latest
book is Radical Origins:
Why We Are Losing the
Battle Against Islamic
Extremism—and How to
Turn the Tide.
David Rieff is the
author of 10 books,
including, most recently,
In Praise of Forgetting:
Historical Memory
and Its Ironies. He
covered conflicts in
Africa, the Balkans,
and Iraq. He has
published articles in
the New York Times,
Washington Post,
Wall Street Journal, Le
Monde, El País, Harper’s
Magazine, and the
Nation, among other
The Freedom
America Forgot
Why Washington should
embrace economic rights.
By Samuel Moyn
THE UNITED STATES has promoted human rights internationally for decades. But today, at a moment
when support for authoritarian leaders who claim
to speak for those left behind by globalization is
spiking abroad and at home, the U.S. government
must rethink those policies. The rise of populism
threatens human rights—and the promotion of
certain basic rights without a broader effort to
combat the inequality that endangers them is
For 40 years, America’s human rights policy
has focused narrowly on political and civil liberties and has been coupled with a free market libertarian agenda for the world. By neglecting social
and economic rights and the vast disparities both
within and among nations, U.S. policy has exacerbated many of the evils it set out to eradicate. It
needs an overhaul.
IT WAS ONLY IN THE MIDST of World War II, and after
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, that
Americans first started to think seriously about
how to improve people’s lives in the rest of the
world. If there were to be a global New Deal, many
Illustration by ELEANOR TAYLOR
assumed, Americans would have to
think boldly about economics, committing to providing basic goods and
also fair distribution of them.
“When the war ends,” Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles noted in his
Memorial Day address in 1942, “only the
United States will have the strength and
the resources to lead the world out of the
slough in which it has struggled so long,
to lead the way toward a world order in
which there can be freedom from want.”
Welles was alluding to one of the “Four
Freedoms” Roosevelt had famously
promised to promote in a 1941 speech:
protection from the miseries of poverty.
Now Welles argued that inequality elsewhere mattered, too. Indeed, in his view,
remedying inequality within and among
nations beckoned as a task of peace.
In 1944, in his penultimate State of
the Union address, Roosevelt looked
back to the Four Freedoms speech
and imagined a second Bill of Rights
for Americans that would include the
economic and social protections of a
welfare state. But Roosevelt never translated this soaring rhetoric into policy.
And a worldwide New Deal that concerned itself with subsistence—as well
as a modicum of material equality as a
global norm—never came to pass.
As World War II wound down, the
United States agreed to include human
rights in the Charter of the United
Nations and participated in drafting the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
adopted in 1948. But Washington was
careful to ensure that none of the new
international institutions would be
empowered to protect economic and
social rights by providing fundamental entitlements. Spooked by the looming communist threat, President Harry
Truman did expand U.S. development
assistance, but such aid was meant to
serve political (i.e., anti-communist),
not humanitarian, ends.
THREE DECADES LATER, the human rights
rhetoric of the U.N. Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
APRIL 2018
was rediscovered and made central to
America’s foreign policy under President Jimmy Carter. Carter even considered supporting economic and social
rights in the face of demands for a
worldwide New Deal from the newly
independent states emerging from colonial rule. In the early to mid-1970s, after
the oil shock and the end of the Bretton
Woods system (which maintained fixed
exchange rates for more than 30 years),
developing nations in Asia and Africa
banded together with Latin America
to propose a “New International Economic Order” and demanded that
wealthy countries support the project
at a global level.
Policymakers in Washington briefly
acknowledged these demands as they
began to pay attention to global poverty, something wealthy countries had
not taken seriously as a problem before.
In a historic University of Notre Dame
commencement address in May 1977,
Carter spoke of “new global questions
of justice [and] equity.” He reminded
his audience that, alongside free speech
and other civil liberties, basic subsistence cried out for attention since “the
immediate problems of hunger, disease,
[and] illiteracy” were not going away.
At the University of Georgia that same
spring, Carter’s secretary of state, Cyrus
Vance, went further, arguing that U.S.
policy should include “the right to the
fulfillment of such vital needs as food,
shelter, health care, and education.”
Despite their occasional rhetorical
gestures, Carter and his administration never fully developed a policy to
advance economic and social rights.
As State Department official Sandy
Vogelgesang later explained, Vance’s
passing reference to economic and
social rights was a last-minute add-on in
a speech meant to fill a “vacuum in the
early months of the Carter administration.” The statement was issued before
officials “had mapped out a comprehensive policy on human rights.” As that
narrower policy crystallized, pressure
from developing countries was declining, and efforts to include economic
and social rights never again picked
up steam. From the Carter administration onward, U.S. human rights policy
concerned itself with political and civil
rights alone.
Indeed, when Ronald Reagan was
elected president, he nearly scuttled
the fledgling commitment to human
rights by nominating for a State Department post Ernest Lefever, a declared foe
of Carter’s policy who, like many conservatives, rejected any role for moral
concerns in the midst of the Cold War
struggle. Lefever wasn’t confirmed,
and a bare-bones U.S. human rights
policy survived. But concerns for economic rights were gone for good—in
part because the United States was also
giving up its own New Deal commitments to contain inequality at home.
In the decades since, that new trajectory has allowed economic inequality
to spike in many countries—a surge
that has helped fuel the rise of populism around the globe.
Americans who grudgingly began paying attention to economic and social
rights only when the Cold War ended,
might think the 1970s were a missed
Eleanor Roosevelt with
a copy of the Universal
Declaration of Human
Rights in 1947.
opportunity because these principles
were lost. The truth is that the mistake
was even graver: No U.S. administration has ever successfully connected
human rights to global equity by including economic policies that provide not
just for basic subsistence but for equal
outcomes. That’s because Carter’s
presidency coincided with the birth of
an economic orthodoxy that saw the
country prioritize markets above all
else, alongside a narrow human rights
policy privileging free speech and integrity of the body.
Though there was space for aid to provide the foreign poor with basic needs,
it stopped there. As Robert McNamara,
steward of the Vietnam War-turnedWorld Bank president, said in 1977:
“[F]or the developing nations to make
closing the gap [between them and
wealthy nations] their primary development objective is simply a prescription
for needless frustration.” But “reducing
poverty is a realistic objective, indeed
an absolutely essential one,” he added.
A genuine effort to redress disparities
among nations was off the table—and
free market reforms drove a form of
growth that exacerbated inequality
locally, too.
Starting in the Carter years, and especially under Reagan, the United States
set off to promote a free trade agenda
through its direct influence and the long
arm of the international financial institutions it helped control. It never again
came close to a human rights policy that
prioritized economic and social rights.
As late as 2011, Michael Posner, who led
human rights policy at the State Department under President Barack Obama,
adopted Roosevelt’s old rhetoric in a
speech at the American Society of International Law, declaring that “human
dignity has a political component and
an economic component—and these
are inexorably linked.”
But the Obama administration never
made more than a nod toward such
principles. When U.S. officials faced
criticism for their practices in the U.N.
Human Rights Council in 2010 and
2015, Obama’s lawyers rebuffed pleas
to make economic and social rights
binding nationally and internationally.
and social rights with a real effort to
reduce global inequalities, which
once seemed imaginable under Roosevelt and Carter, has since then never
Those who vote for populists around
the world, after all, rarely seem to be
among the most indigent. Rather, those
who see their wages stagnating while others profit wildly are the easiest prey for
contemporary demagogues. The United
States has overseen a form of globalization that deserves some credit for a significant reduction in extreme poverty
worldwide—though China deserves the
most praise for this outcome. But that
same globalization has caused galloping inequality in most countries, which
creates dangerous levels of instability.
Human rights policy then becomes hostage to whether majorities feel globalization is fair for them, rather than a boon
for tiny elites. Indeed, election results
across the globe have shown that pledges
to fight economic inequality appeal to
majorities who are not interested in hearing politicians tell them that the human
rights of the worst off matter more than
their own, especially when they are living paycheck to paycheck.
America’s human rights policy, if it
survives the current president, should
therefore be reframed to focus on helping the poorest around the world. That
may be accomplished through the promotion of economic and social rights,
as well as more ambitious policies
that combat the disparities that have
enabled populists to rise. Otherwise,
the United States risks being remembered as a country that pledged to promote freedom and instead entrenched
inequality across the globe.
SAMUEL MOYN (@samuelmoyn) teaches
law and history at Yale University and
is the author of Not Enough: Human
Rights in an Unequal World.
Human Rights in the Age of Trump
Washington may have abandoned its
principles—but the rest of the world
can’t afford to. By Kenneth Roth
AROUND THE TIME OF President Donald Trump’s inauguration
last year, there seemed to be no stopping politicians across
the globe who claimed to speak for the people but built followings by demonizing minorities, attacking human rights
principles, and fueling distrust of democratic institutions.
Italy’s recent election shows that this threat remains. Yet a
popular reaction, bolstered in some cases by political leaders
with the courage to stand up for human rights, has begun to
take some of the wind out of the populists’ sails.
Even as this struggle has played out, however, many
Western powers have become more inwardly oriented. With
the United States led by a president who displays a disturbing
fondness for rights-trampling strongmen, and the United
Kingdom preoccupied by Brexit, two traditional defenders
of human rights are often missing in action. Meanwhile,
Germany, France, and their European Union partners have
been buffeted by racist and xenophobic political forces at
APRIL 2018
home and have not always been willing
to pick up the slack.
The retreat of many governments that
once championed human rights has left
an open field for murderous leaders and
their enablers. Mass atrocities have proliferated with near impunity in countries
including Syria, Myanmar, and South
Sudan. Authoritarian leaders have profited from the vacuum as well. Russian
President Vladimir Putin and Chinese
President Xi Jinping have embarked
on the most severe crackdowns on dissent in a generation with little Western
pushback. And Saudi Arabia’s new crown
prince, playing on Western fears of Iranian influence, has led an Arab coalition
that has bombed civilians and blockaded aid in Yemen, creating an enormous humanitarian disaster.
The Philippines presents an especially brazen and deadly example of
a populist authoritarian’s challenge
to human rights. President Rodrigo
Duterte has encouraged the police to
kill drug suspects, leaving an estimated
more than 12,000 people dead. The vast
majority of victims were poor young men
President Donald
Trump speaks at
the White House
on Dec. 8, 2017.
from slums. Trump has expressed admiration for Duterte’s policy and his strongman qualities.
Real grievances lie behind the surge
of populism in many parts of the world.
Globalization, automation, and technological change have caused economic
dislocation and inequality. Demagogues
have exploited these issues and the traumatic drumbeat of terrorist attacks to
fuel nativism and Islamophobia. The
result has been a frontal assault on the
values of inclusivity, tolerance, and
respect that are at the heart of the human
rights movement. Indeed, certain populists, such as Trump with his repeated
racist comments, seem to relish breaking the taboos that embody these values.
Invoking their self-serving interpretation
of the majority’s desires, populists seek
to replace democratic rule—elected government limited by rights and the rule of
law—with unfettered majoritarianism.
Responding to this challenge will
mean addressing the legitimate grievances that populists exploit while reaffirming the human rights principles
that they reject. It requires demonstrating that all of our rights are at risk if we
allow governments to select which people deserve rights and which do not.
The willingness of democratic leaders
to take on this challenge and champion
human rights has fluctuated. A year
ago, as the populists seemed to have the
wind at their backs almost everywhere,
few dared. That has begun to change.
France provided the most prominent turning point. During his presidential campaign, Emmanuel Macron
openly embraced democratic principles, firmly rejecting the National
Front’s efforts to foment hatred against
Muslims and immigrants. His resulting victory and his party’s success in
parliamentary elections showed that
French voters could be persuaded to
overwhelmingly reject the National
Front’s divisive policies. The challenge
for Macron now is to govern according
to the principles he campaigned on,
especially when commercial opportu-
nities and the fight against terrorism
are involved.
In the United States, Trump won the
presidency with a campaign of hatred
against Mexican immigrants, Muslim
refugees, and other racial and ethnic
minorities, as well as an evident disdain
for women. In reaction to his victory,
the United States saw a broad reaffirmation of human rights from civic groups,
journalists, lawyers, judges, many members of the public, and sometimes even
elected members of Trump’s own party.
Trump still took regressive steps, but
the reaction limited the harm done by
his efforts, most notably, to discriminate
against Muslims seeking to enter the
United States, threaten Americans’ right
balances on their power at home. But
there has been resistance, too. Large
public protests and the threat of sanctions by the EU challenged Poland’s
efforts to undercut judicial independence and the rule of law. They also
impeded Hungary’s plans to close Central European University, a bastion of
independent thought that stands in
opposition to the model of illiberal
democracy championed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
None of these models of resistance
to populist or autocratic rule guarantees success. Anyone in office has the
considerable advantage of being able to
harness the power of the state. But the
resistance shows that there is a struggle
to health care, expel transgender people
from the military, and end legal protection for children who were brought to
the country illegally.
Germany made headlines when
Alternative for Germany became
the first far-right party to enter its
parliament in decades. That ascent cut
into support for the ruling coalition,
including Chancellor Angela Merkel’s
Christian Democratic Union, and complicated her task of forming a new government. Yet Merkel still emerged victorious
and her principled confrontation of the
far-right turned out to be more politically effective than caving to its agenda.
Central Europe has become especially fertile ground for nativists and
authoritarians, as certain leaders use
fear of migration to subvert checks and
underway and that people will not sit
quietly as autocrats attack their basic
rights and freedoms.
The central lesson of the past year is
that despite considerable headwinds, a
vigorous defense of human rights can
succeed. Populist politicians tend to offer
superficial answers to complex problems, but broad swaths of the public can
be convinced to reject the scapegoating of minorities and leaders’ efforts to
undermine basic democratic checks and
balances. What’s needed is principled
resistance rather than surrender.
KENNETH ROTH (@KenRoth) is the executive director of Human Rights Watch.
This essay summarizes his introduction to Human Rights Watch’s World
Report 2018.
How to Defeat Drought
Lessons from Israel’s war for water.
By Seth M. Siegel
APRIL 2018
Jewish workers
drill for water in
Kfar Monash, a
farm in the British
Mandate of Palestine,
in August 1946.
by showers, dishwashers, and toilets was
predictable, Israel turned its national
sewage supply into an enormous alternative source of water.
By the early 1980s, Israel had
routinized the aggregation and purification of the country’s wastewater
and built a parallel water infrastructure system to transport treated water
to farms. Today, nearly 90 percent of
Israel’s sewage is treated to an ultrapure
level for agricultural use. By comparison, Spain—second globally in sewage recycling—reuses only some 17
percent of its wastewater. The United
States repurposes far less.
Israel’s second grand water initiative—desalination—also began in the
1960s. Around that time, an experimental desalination facility in Israel
produced a cubic meter of water (264
gallons) for $14. Israel now produces
CAPE TOWN, a city of some 4 million people, is on the verge of
running out of water.
Terrifying as it may sound, water scarcity never happens
by surprise. At the national, provincial, and municipal levels, South Africa’s leaders ignored Cape Town’s shrinking
water supply until it became a crisis.
The mistakes were made at every level. Cape Town had no
comprehensive, long-term water plan to match water resources
with the city’s soaring population. No official program encouraged planting water-efficient crops or the use of water-saving
technologies. The city reused only 5 percent of its wastewater
for industrial and irrigation purposes. Its water has long been
free or heavily subsidized, with no market-based incentive to
conserve. And most remarkably, although Cape Town sits on
a long seacoast hugging the southern Atlantic Ocean, officials
delayed building desalination plants for the city.
But solutions to these problems exist. South African officials should have paid attention to a country that long ago
figured out how to deal with water shortages before they
appear: Israel.
From its founding, Israel not only prioritized water conservation but celebrated it. Theodor Herzl, the father of
modern Zionism, wrote in 1902 that water engineers would
be the heroes of a future Jewish state.
Heeding that call, Israel’s pre-state leaders developed an
early ideological commitment to preserving and expanding the water supply.
The challenge of keeping a desert country hydrated lured
Israel’s most talented minds. (In his 1994 Nobel Peace Prize
lecture, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin revealed he,
too, once dreamed of becoming a water engineer.)
In the early 1960s, Israel began two science-fiction-like
water initiatives. Recognizing that the amount of water used
the same volume for about 50 cents.
By filtering seawater through holes
that are about 0.5 nanometers wide,
the desalination process captures all
dissolved material, including salt, while
the fresh water passes through. (The
resulting water is so pure that minerals need to be added back in.)
These two technologies alone could
prevent, or at least postpone, another
Cape Town-like crisis. Yet both are
expensive and sometimes out of reach
for countries on the lower end of the
economic development scale. But Israel
also leads in low-cost efforts to reduce
the use of water for agriculture.
On average, countries use 70 percent of their fresh water to grow food.
Highly inefficient water users—such as
Egypt, Ethiopia, and Iran—use as much
as 95 percent. Adopting drip irrigation,
as Israel has, could reduce those per-
centages significantly. Drip irrigation
uses about half of the water that traditional irrigation does and can also produce larger yields. Liquid fertilizer can
be added along with the water droplets,
minimizing groundwater contamination.
In both India and China, adopting
drip irrigation has increased farmers’
yields and limited groundwater contamination from traditional fertilizer.
India subsidizes loans for farmers as
an incentive for more rapid adoption.
Israel also saves water by not losing
it: Around the world, water systems lose
roughly 30 percent of their water after
it has been transported, mainly due to
cracked pipes and system power surges.
Israel prioritizes keeping leaks to a minimum by fixing pipes or by replacing
them before they require emergency
repairs. The country’s water loss is
now below 10 percent due to the use of
algorithms that predict where leaks will
occur, underground pipe repair tools,
and a sonarlike system that pinpoints
the locations of tiny leaks that have the
potential to grow larger.
What makes Israel such a valuable
model for water management isn’t any
one thing the country does but the range
and integration of its activities. Outside
of technology, Israel offers three other
replicable elements for all countries.
In Israel, professionals, not politicians, determine water policy. Israel’s
most senior water official—the water
commissioner, who oversees the Israel
Water Authority—serves a five-year
term after appointment by a cabinet
minister. The water authority makes all
water-related decisions. The staff comprises highly skilled civil servants who
are protected from the type of political
meddling common in other countries.
Second, the Israeli public bears the
cost of sourcing, transporting, and
cleaning water; there are no government subsidies for water. People are,
therefore, theoretically not only more
careful with what they use, but they are
also happy to substitute lower-cost technology when it helps save water. This
sets off a virtuous cycle of invention
leading to greater efficiency.
Finally, Israel has built its respect
for water conservation into its culture.
Beginning in kindergarten, children
learn about water efficiency.
The United Nations predicts that
by 2025 as much as two-thirds of the
world’s population could be living under
water-stressed conditions. With climate
change, growing populations, and rising
affluence, the demand for water is likely
to grow substantially in the years ahead.
Higher food prices, social unrest, the failure of some fragile states—even mass
migrations and a challenge to the world
order—could all result. But as Israel has
shown, none of those need occur.
SETH M. SIEGEL (@SethMSiegel) is the
author of Let There Be Water: Israel’s
Solution for a Water-Starved World.
Zones of
U.S. President
Donald Trump’s tenure, the State
Department is in disarray. Former
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
embarked on a zealous drive to reform
the department as the White House proposed steep budget cuts. But what he
called a much-needed push to trim and
streamline a vast bureaucracy, many
critics saw as a hollowing out of the U.S.
diplomatic corps. Dozens of key positions, including 38 ambassadorships,
remain unfilled—leaving the delicate art
of diplomacy in too few hands with too
many world crises at the boiling point.
With so many empty posts, the State
Department is relying on lower-level
officials to pick up the slack, even in
embassies of strategic importance. The
State Department claims it has a cadre
of talented career diplomats filling the
gaps in interim roles. But the stand-ins
lack the clout of formal ambassadors,
who are presidentially nominated and
Most ambassadors may not be household names, but they are crucial to
diplomacy, serving as the go-betweens
for foreign governments and the U.S.
government. Typically, about a third
are political appointees. The rest are
career diplomats. Their impact varies:
Some come and go without making a
splash. A few have caused headaches for
Washington with culturally insensitive
gaffes and missteps. Others are diplomatic rock stars, boosting U.S. influence
and prestige abroad, and serving as
consiglieres to the president. Foreign
leaders take notice when the top U.S.
post in their countries sits empty for
too long. Here are some of the most conspicuous absences.
ROBBIE GRAMER (@RobbieGramer) is
a staff writer at FOREIGN POLICY.
APRIL 2018
Position filled
No ambassadors exchanged/
no diplomatic relations
An immigration crackdown,
threats to withdraw from the
North American Free Trade
Agreement, and, of course,
that wall: Perhaps no foreign
country has borne the brunt of
Trumpism more than Mexico. On
March 1, the U.S. ambassador,
Roberta Jacobson, tendered her
resignation. When she formally
leaves the post in May, she will
join an exodus of capable career
diplomats. Her resignation letter
contained few details, but given
the sorry state of U.S.-Mexico
relations under Trump, it’s not
hard to intuit her motivations.
Position filled: African Union, ICAO, NATO, United Nations,
U.N. Conference on Disarmament, U.N. ECOSOC
Nominated: OAS, Deputy U.N. Representative, U.N. Vienna
Vacant: ASEAN, EU, OECD, OSCE, U.N. Geneva, U.N. Human
Rights, U.N. Management and Reform, U.N. Political Affairs,
Though Trump appears to admire Turkish President Recep
Tayyip Erdogan’s lock on power, U.S.-Turkey relations have
taken a nosedive. Erdogan has alienated Western allies
with his autocratic power grab and crackdown on civil
society. In January, Ankara and Washington teetered on
the precipice of a military showdown through their proxies
in Syria, where the United States backs the Kurdish forces
Turkey sees as its mortal enemies.
The United States’ largest trade partner, the
EU represents more than 500 million citizens.
Thanks to political fissures (Brexit), growing
populism, and Trump’s threat to withdraw
from the Iran nuclear deal, tensions with
Washington are growing.
Seoul is squeezed
in a nuclear standof
between Pyongyang
and Washington. The
2018 Winter Olympics
in South Korea helped
dissipate tensions. On
March 8, Trump agreed
to an unprecedented
meeting with North
Korean leader Kim Jong
Un. But negotiations
haven’t started yet,
and tensions could still
flare up. Seoul isn’t
just any old ally: The
United States is treatyobligated to defend
South Korea and
keeps some 30,000
troops in the country
as a bulwark against
North Korea.
D. R. OF
Riyadh, one of Washington’s
top Middle East allies, may be
basking in the glow of attention
from Trump and his son-inlaw-turned-senior advisor Jared
Kushner. But the Persian Gulf
state has run afoul of many other
U.S. officials and experts for its
disruptive diplomatic spat with
neighboring Qatar and its bungled
war in Yemen, which has left more
than 10,000 people dead.
South Africa is one of Africa’s most powerful
economies and diplomatic players. Washington often
drives its larger sub-Saharan Africa policy through
Pretoria. The ouster of scandal-ridden President
Jacob Zuma in February has plunged the country into
uncharted political waters.
*In February, Trump
announced his intent
to nominate Georgette
Mosbacher, a prominent
Republican fundraiser, to
replace career diplomat
Paul Jones as the next
U.S. ambassador to Poland.
Internally displaced
people take shelter
at the Tanai Kachin
Baptist Church
in Myanmar’s
northern Kachin
state in June 2017.
First They Came for the Rohingya
Myanmar’s next victims.
By Azeem Ibrahim
IN RECENT MONTHS, international media coverage of Myanmar
has focused on the plight of the Rohingya people in the west
of the country. And for good reason: Since August 2017, brutal army attacks on this Muslim ethnic minority have sent
more than 750,000 people—90 percent of the Rohingya population living in Rakhine state—fleeing over the border to
Bangladesh, in what can only be described as a coordinated
campaign of genocide.
The numbers are staggering, but the hate isn’t new: The
Rohingya, one of the world’s largest stateless groups, have
long been a favorite target for persecution by the country’s
Buddhist central authorities. The Rohingya have a differ-
APRIL 2018
ent religion, a different skin color, and
speak a different language than most
of their neighbors.
Yet their well-publicized tragedy has
obscured a darker truth about Myanmar: The country is in the midst of one
of the longest multifront civil wars in
the world. Each facet of this conflict
cleaves along ethnic or religious lines—
often both. The assault on the Rohingya
is thus far from Myanmar’s only active
military campaign against a minority
group. And as soon as the Rohingya are
completely removed from the country,
the military will be free to redeploy its
resources elsewhere.
When that time comes, Myanmar’s
remaining minorities are likely to
experience similar treatment. Many of
these groups have been in the military’s
crosshairs for more than half a century.
Yet the persecution to come will far
Photograph by HKUN LAT
exceed anything they’ve suffered
before. The campaign against the
Rohingya has radically expanded the
military’s capacity for ethnic cleansing
and, perhaps more importantly, seems
to have emboldened it, as the bulk
of the population appears to support
the army’s aggression toward the
To understand why all these conflicts
have endured for as long as they have
and why they are accelerating now,
consider Myanmar’s demographic
and political dynamics. Sixty-eight
percent of the country’s population is
Bamar (ethnic Burmese). The Bamar
are primarily concentrated around
the Irrawaddy Valley, the country’s
heartland. Myanmar is also 88 percent
Buddhist, and the majority of that group
adheres to the conservative Theravada
Surrounding the Irrawaddy Valley
are a range of border areas home to
a plethora of ethnic and religious
minorities—almost all of which have
sought independence from the central
government at one time or another
since 1948, when Myanmar, then known
as Burma, gained independence from
the British.
These secessionist movements stem
from the fact that, soon after independence, Bamar Theravada Buddhists
won overwhelming control of the government and the military and soon
stamped theirs as the official identity
of the state. In the years that followed,
as a succession of military dictatorships
attempted to build a unified nation,
they systematically marginalized and
repressed religious and ethnic minorities using a variety of extremely heavyhanded measures. Numerous groups
were denied citizenship, saw their villages demolished, and had their marriage rights curtailed. Authorities in
Rakhine state have limited the number of children Rohingya Muslims
are allowed to have—typically a maximum of two, just below the population
replacement rate.
In the past few years, skirmishes
between the army and the secessionist
movements have intensified once
again as the federal army has found
new resolve. In 2011, battles between
Myanmar’s military and the separatist
Kachin Independence Army in the
country’s north displaced nearly
100,000 Kachin people. Seven years
later, the displaced are still living
in internal refugee camps, with
few prospects for rebuilding their lives.
And in the last two years, the army has
increasingly taken to shelling targets
in or near the civilian camps and
In nearby northern Shan state,
the military and the Taang National
the country elected a civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in 2015,
Western diplomats hoped she would
curb the army’s excesses. Yet the opposite has happened: The violence has
only accelerated.
The problem, it turns out, is that
decades of government propaganda
have inculcated deep prejudices among
Myanmar’s voting public against
non-Buddhists and non-Bamar people. Radical Buddhist monks, and others who champion the so-called purity
of the Buddhist state, dominate social
media. Buddhist civil society groups
advocating for Rohingya rights or the
rights of Christian minorities are virtually nonexistent.
Liberation Army recently reopened
hostilities—a continuation of a conflict
that dates back to 1963. Over the last
nine years, fighting between the army
and the nearby ethnic Kokang Myanmar
National Democratic Alliance Army has
sent tens of thousands of refugees over
the border to China. To the south, the
army has targeted Christians among
the Karen people, driving more than
100,000 refugees into Thailand over
the last couple of decades.
It’s not just such displacements that
darkly echo the Rohingya situation.
Kachin and Karen women have reported
that the military has used rape against
them as a form of repression, much like
the mass rapes reported by Rohingya
Perhaps the most lamentable aspect
of the current violence in Myanmar is
that it is occurring during the country’s
process of democratic transition. When
It should thus come as little surprise
that the military has not been the only
persecutor of the Rohingya. Their Buddhist neighbors have often taken the initiative themselves. Since 2012, civilians
have committed a large share of the village burnings and violent acts.
The ongoing Rohingya genocide is the
result of a confluence of factors: a hostile
civilian public, the tragic complicity of
Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government,
and a lack of meaningful censure from
outside parties and the international
community. With all of these elements
already in place, there is nothing to spare
Myanmar’s other ethnic minorities from
meeting a similar fate.
AZEEM IBRAHIM (@AzeemIbrahim) is a
senior fellow at the Center for Global
Policy in Washington and the author
of The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s
Hidden Genocide.
Sometime Activist
Nikki Haley’s occasional
fight for human rights.
By Colum Lynch
“I WILL NEVER SHY AWAY FROM calling out other coun-
tries for actions taken in conflict with U.S. values
and in violation of human rights and international
norms,” Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina
governor-turned-U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations, assured senators during her January 2017
confirmation hearing. It was a remark primed to
set her apart from the new U.S. president and the
rest of his administration, who have seemed more
inclined to cut deals with the world’s autocrats
than to lecture them for mistreating their people.
Haley has used her current job to make the
defense of human rights part of her political identity. She has denounced Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad as a coldblooded “war criminal,” warned
that Russian President Vladimir Putin could never
be a “credible partner” of the United States, organized U.N. Security Council sessions on human
rights, and traveled to refugee camps to draw attention to civilian abuses. She has also strongly condemned the ongoing atrocities in Myanmar.
Yet critics say Haley, like many of her predecessors, is often inconsistent in her championing of
APRIL 2018
human rights, and her strident “America First”
rhetoric has rankled her foreign counterparts. The
picture that has emerged is of a sometime crusader:
one who seems to believe in the power of America’s moral voice, even in the era of Donald Trump,
but who cannot be consistently relied on to use it.
When Haley is acting as a human rights
advocate, she occupies a space the rest of the
U.S. leadership has all but abandoned. Take
what happened in September 2017. Saudi
Arabia was fighting off a diplomatic offensive
at the U.N. Human Rights Council led by the
Photograph by LUISA DÖRR
Nikki Haley in
New York in
March 2017.
Netherlands, which wanted to establish an openended commission of inquiry probing atrocities
in Yemen by the Saudi-led military coalition
and the Houthi insurgents. David Satterfield, the
acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near
Eastern affairs, was reluctant to support the Dutch
initiative, fearing American backing would chill
U.S. relations with Riyadh. The Defense Department also opposed an open-ended investigation
since the United States provides targeting advice
to pilots in the Saudi-led coalition and refuels the
bombers responsible for the majority of atrocities
committed during the war.
Haley was the sole high-ranking U.S. official to
recommend that the country vote in favor of the
commission of inquiry; in the end, a compromise
preempted a vote.
But her advocacy has been viewed as selfserving. After anti-government protests erupted
in Iran in early January, Haley convened an emergency session of the Security Council to address
the regime’s attacks on peaceful demonstrators.
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s U.N. ambassador,
accused Washington of insincerity, and even
France’s U.N. ambassador, François Delattre,
told the council, “It is up to the Iranians, and to
the Iranians alone, to pursue the path of peaceful
Yet Haley has been credited for drawing attention to abuses in parts of the world that the Trump
administration has otherwise overlooked. In October, she was moved to tears when she visited camps
for refugees in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. Haley took
a series of photos and presented them to South
Sudan’s leader, Salva Kiir, warning that his government risked losing further U.S. aid if he did not
allow humanitarian assistance into his country.
When she came back from Africa, she was “eloquent in defense of the need to take care of the
most vulnerable and the victims of these wars,”
says Akshaya Kumar, the deputy U.N. director for
Human Rights Watch.
Advocates say that while they appreciate Haley’s
stance on such issues, they believe her positions
are sometimes calculated to promote the White
House’s goals, enhance her own political fortunes,
and protect key allies, most notably Israel.
Haley has repeatedly threatened to pull the
United States out of the Human Rights Council
unless it changes its treatment of Israel. She’s not
the first to call out the council for its bias against
the country. But her Democratic predecessors—
Samantha Power and Susan Rice—never threatened to abandon it.
“U.S. foreign policy has always had an element of
selectivity, but with Haley the mask has dropped,”
Kumar says.
That said, she adds, “on issues not featuring in
conversations in the White House, she seems to be
driven by a visceral human reaction to tragedy.”
The problems arise when the two impulses come
into tension. Early in her tenure, Haley positioned
herself as a champion of the U.N. Relief and Works
Agency (UNRWA), a humanitarian agency that
serves millions of Palestinian refugees in the West
Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Haley initially defended the agency against attacks from the
U.S. Congress and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu. Privately, she assured her counterparts
at the U.N. that she was working to ensure that
the more than $350 million in funding the United
States provided UNRWA each year would continue.
That changed in December, however, after Palestinian leaders pushed for resolutions in the Security Council and General Assembly denouncing a
decision by Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the
capital of Israel. Haley saw the votes as an insult to
the United States and spearheaded a campaign to
withhold some $65 million in U.S. aid earmarked
for food, schooling, and health care to Palestinian refugees.
That move was a break from a long-standing
bipartisan American tradition that dictated
humanitarian aid should never be withheld
because of politics. Haley’s stance has since
hardened further on providing assistance to
the neediest nations, and she is now proposing
penalizing other poor aid recipients that defy the
United States.
Haley did not hide the fact that she pushed for
aid cuts to the Palestinians because their leaders
had both denounced Trump’s decision to recognize
Jerusalem and rebuffed Washington’s appeals to
participate in U.S.-mediated peace talks.
“The United States will remember this day in
which it was singled out for attack,” she warned the
General Assembly in December. “We will remember it when so many countries come calling on us,
as they so often do, to pay even more and to use
our influence for their benefit.”
COLUM LYNCH (@columlynch) is a senior staff writer
The End of Human Rights?
Learning from the failure of
the Responsibility to Protect and
the International Criminal Court.
By David Rieff
THERE IS NO DOUBT that the human rights movement is facing
the greatest test it has confronted since its emergence in
the 1970s as a major participant in the international order.
A bellwether of this crisis has been the essays that Kenneth
Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, has
written introducing his organization’s annual reports. One
has to go back to 2014 to find Roth writing in a relatively
sanguine way about the future of human rights across the
globe. That year’s report is couched in the positive terms
of its title: “Stopping Mass Atrocities, Majority Bullying,
and Abusive Counterterrorism.” By 2016, he was musing
on “how the politics of fear and the crushing of civil society
imperil global rights.” And the following year, Roth warned
Human Rights Watch’s supporters that the rise of populism
“threatens to reverse the accomplishments of the modern
human rights movement.”
And though in the 2018 report Roth claims that things
may not be as bad as they have been for the previous three
years, he leaves no doubt that they remain very bad indeed.
Roth concludes that a “fair assessment of global prospects
for human rights should induce concern rather than
APRIL 2018
surrender—a call to action rather than
a cry of despair.”
Strip away the activist language
and what emerges is a human rights
movement forced to refight and
relitigate battles it once thought won.
Human Rights Watch is not alone
in calling for an all-hands-on-deck
response from its supporters. In its own
2017-2018 report, Amnesty International
states: “Over the past year, leaders have
pushed hate, fought against rights,
ignored crimes against humanity, and
blithely let inequality and suffering
spin out of control.” But, like Roth, the
authors of the Amnesty report conclude
that “while our challenges may never
be greater, the will to fight back is just
as strong.”
The question remains as to why the
most prominent international human
rights organizations seemed to have
missed the gathering storm until,
with the rise of populism in Europe, it
reached them.
Of course, outside critics and scholars
of the human rights movement—such
as Stephen Hopgood, Samuel Moyn,
and Eric Posner—had already predicted
that the legalism of the human rights
movement no longer sufficed. Implicit
in the liberal human rights narrative
is the idea that once binding legal
norms are set, realities on the ground
will eventually conform to them. It is a
legal approach that simply has no place
for German scholar Carl Schmitt’s idea
of the law as inseparable from politics,
rather than above it. As far as the human
rights movement has been concerned,
once what the writer Michael Ignatieff
called the post-World War II “revolution
of moral concern” got fully underway,
it was a matter of when—not if—
an international system based on
human rights would prevail throughout
the world.
But for the moment, at least, Brexit,
Donald Trump’s presidency, and the
steady rise of China have shattered the
human rights movement’s narrative
that progress is inevitable.
Nothing is inevitable in history—
except of course, sooner or later, the
mortality of every civilization and system—and both Human Rights Watch
and Amnesty are quite right to refuse
to concede defeat. It is possible, though
not likely, that the human rights movement will be more effective with its
collective back against the wall: an
underground dissident church as it
was during its beginnings, rather than
the secular church of liberal globalism that it was at its apogee. What is
clear, however, is that the global balance of power has tilted away from governments committed to human rights
norms and toward those indifferent or
actively hostile to them. Into the latter camp fall, most obviously, China,
Russia, Turkey, the Philippines, and
Venezuela. Roth all but admits as much
when, in the 2018 report, he speaks of
powers that “have withdrawn” from
the struggle for human rights, even if
he holds out some hope that small and
middle-sized nations will fill the void.
What the human rights movement
has been unwilling to do is accept some
of the blame for the greatly weakened
position in which it finds itself. This
is predictable. If your expectations
are millenarian—if you believe there
is a right side of history, yours, and a
wrong side of history that is doomed to
defeat—skepticism about the human
rights project, let alone voices of opposition, is unlikely to sway your position.
Given that perspective, why consider
any change in your approach that goes
beyond tactical adjustments?
This is what Ignatieff, though one of
the human rights community’s most
important advocates, warned of in his
prescient 2001 book, Human Rights as
Politics and Idolatry. “In the next fifty
years,” he wrote, “we can expect to see
the moral consensus that sustained
the Universal Declaration [of Human
Rights] in 1948 splintering still further.… There is no reason to believe that
economic globalization entails moral
APRIL 2018
But this seems to have been exactly
one of the main drivers of what a sympathizer with the human rights movement
would call its moral serenity and a skeptic would call its hubris. Nowhere has
this hubris been more evident than in
the fate of institutional structures and
frameworks meant to allow internationally sanctioned, state-sponsored intervention to prevent genocide, crimes
against humanity, and war crimes or
to bring to account those guilty of such
The first of these frameworks is
the International Criminal Court
(ICC), established in 2002. The second is the so-called Responsibility to
Protect (R2P) doctrine, which the United
Nations adopted at its World Summit in
2005 and reconfirmed in 2009.
R2P sets up an elaborate series of
nonviolent measures that need to be
tried before resorting to international
military intervention on human rights
or humanitarian grounds. Force,
according to proponents of R2P, should
only be used if both a reasonable chance
of success and the proportionality
of the response are possible. But as
an internationally binding norm, it
nonetheless obliges outside powers,
albeit only if sanctioned by the U.N.
Security Council, to intervene to halt a
genocide or crimes of mass atrocity in
countries where either the government
of the country in question is committing
the crimes at hand or is otherwise
unable to prevent these horrors from
The claims made for both R2P and
the ICC were sweeping. One of R2P’s
principal architects, former Australian
Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, wrote
that its emergence brought us much
closer to “ending mass atrocity crimes
once and for all.” The promise contained
in the vow “Never Again”—first coined
by the prisoners of the Buchenwald
concentration camp just after their
liberation and repeated ad infinitum,
if hollowly, since that moment in 1945—
was at last to become a reality.
The promises regarding what the
ICC was going to accomplish were only
slightly less extravagant. When the
Rome Statute, the treaty that paved the
way for the court, was signed, then-U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed it
as a “gift of hope to future generations
and a giant step forward in the march
toward universal human rights and the
rule of law.” Indeed, Annan concluded,
“It is an achievement [that], only a few
years ago, nobody would have thought
But only a few years later, both R2P
and the ICC look like just that: doctrines
that are not possible in the world as it
actually exists. Some of these wounds
were self-inflicted. Politically, it was a
huge mistake on the part of the ICC’s first
chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo,
to appear to focus his investigations
almost exclusively on Africa—even if
he was right on legal grounds, since a
disproportionate number of the early
referrals to the court were from African
governments themselves. The result
has been a widespread perception
that Africa is being unfairly targeted.
In 2017, a number of African countries
even attempted to organize a massive
withdrawal of African Union members
from the ICC. The fact that this effort
was beaten back should not be taken
as evidence that the ICC’s crisis
of legitimacy in Africa is over and
done with.
And the global obligation, articulated
in R2P, to act militarily in extremis to
stop mass atrocity crimes has taken
place only once: in Libya in 2011. But
the intervention in Libya to protect the
civilian population soon morphed into
regime change, as a minority of supporters of R2P have since conceded. The
widely held view among R2P champions is that the Libyan intervention was
right—it’s just that the implementation
was faulty.
Regardless of whether it was right or
wrong, there is very little likelihood of
another R2P intervention in the foreseeable future. Syria, Yemen, and the
ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in
Myanmar have demonstrated that all
too painfully.
Deeper moral and political reasons
explain why the ICC and R2P have failed
to live up to what, in retrospect, seem
like completely outlandish expectations for what they could achieve. In the
case of the ICC, the court was created
without a police force to carry out its
instructions. Moreover, several of the
world’s most powerful states—China,
the United States, India, and Russia—
haven’t ratified or joined the Rome
Statute. A legal institution that is only
in a position to target war criminals who
don’t enjoy the protection of powerful
states is likely to be intermittently effective at most. It will also be of questionable legitimacy no matter how many
other nations officially recognize it.
Legitimacy and legality, of course, do
not necessarily go together. The inter-
vention in Libya was legal; the intervention in Kosovo in 1999 was not. It
is anything but an outlandish view to
believe that the former was morally illegitimate and the latter undertaken on
a far sounder moral basis.
An institution that is based on a double standard, as the ICC seems likely to
remain for the foreseeable future, cannot be seriously considered to be an
important step toward universal justice.
In the case of R2P, the nonmilitary
features of the doctrine have been successful in a number of instances. Annan
invoked R2P in his back-channel negotiations with the Kenyan government after
deadly riots broke out during the country’s national elections at the end of 2007,
which almost led to civil war. But useful
as it was as a negotiating tool to Annan in
Kenya, R2P has not transformed classical
diplomacy. Instead, its moral force came
from its claim to be able to halt genocide
and mass atrocity crimes.
Defenders of R2P and the ICC might
argue that the world is better off in the
long run, as the court and the doctrine
will eventually lead to the desired transformations of reality on the ground. But
this is precisely the same mistaken
assumption that has thrown the human
rights movement into crisis as democracy is rolled back across the globe. Both
the ICC and R2P were, from the beginning, unworkable ideas for the world we
live in, one in which authoritarianism
is growing stronger.
Calls to action by human rights activists, therefore, are not enough, given
that the move away from democracy
and toward authoritarianism may be
resisted but is highly unlikely to be
reversed in the foreseeable future. If the
human rights movement has a future
at all, it should consist of defending
what remains of Ignatieff’s revolution
of moral concern, not pretending that—
for now at least—it can be expanded. Q
DAVID RIEFF’S most recent book is
In Praise of Forgetting: Historical
Memory and Its Ironies.
The Right
to Kill
Should Brazil keep
its Amazon tribes
from taking the lives
of their children?
MORE THAN A DECADE AGO, Kanhu left the homeland
of the Kamayurá, an indigenous tribe with some
600 members on the southern edge of the Brazilian Amazon. She was 7 years old. She never
returned. “If I had remained there,” Kanhu, who
has progressive muscular dystrophy, told Brazilian
lawmakers last year, “I would certainly be dead.”
That’s because her community would likely
have killed her, just as, for generations, it has killed
other children born with disabilities.
The Kamayurá are among a handful of indigenous peoples in Brazil known to engage
in infanticide and the selective killing of older
children. Those targeted include the disabled,
the children of single mothers, and twins—
whom some tribes, including the Kamayurá, see
as bad omens. Kanhu’s father, Makau, told me
of a 12-year-old boy from his father’s generation
whom the tribe buried alive because he “wanted
to be a woman.” (Kanhu and Makau, like many
Kamayurá, go by only one name.)
The evangelical missionaries who helped
Kanhu and her family move to Brasília, the capital of Brazil, have since spearheaded a media
and lobbying campaign to crack down on child
killing. Their efforts have culminated in a controversial bill aimed at eradicating the practice, which won overwhelming approval in
a 2015 vote by the Chamber of Deputies, the
lower house of Brazil’s National Congress,
and is currently under consideration in the
Federal Senate, its upper house.
But what may seem an overdue safeguard has
drawn widespread condemnation from academics
and indigenous rights groups in the country. The
Brazilian Association of Anthropology, in an open
letter published on its website, has called the bill
an attempt to put indigenous peoples “in the permanent condition of defendants before a tribunal
tasked with determining their degree of savagery.”
The controversy over child killing has raised
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a fundamental question for Brazil—a
vast country that is home to hundreds
of protected tribes, many living in
varying degrees of isolation: To what
extent should the state interfere with
customs that seem inhumane to the
outside world but that indigenous peoples developed long ago as a means to
ensure group survival in an unforgiving
IN 1973, Brazil passed the Indian Statute,
which groups indigenous individuals
into three categories: those who live in
complete isolation, those in limited contact with the outside world, and those
who are fully integrated into mainstream society. The statute states that
her Brasília home on March
6. LEFT: Kanhu and her family
in their Brasília neighborhood
that same day.
tribes such as Kanhu’s are only subject to federal laws depending on their
degree of assimilation into Brazilian life.
It is thanks to this language that indigenous people do not face prosecution
for child killing.
The bill intended to crack down on
the practice is informally known as
“Muwaji’s Law,” after an indigenous
woman who rejected her community’s
expectation that she kill her disabled
daughter in 2005. If the bill passes the
Senate, it will be tacked on as an amendment to the Indian Statute and require
the government agencies that oversee
indigenous communities to take a series
of proactive measures. One will be the
creation of an up-to-date registry of
certain pregnant women so that the
Photograph by MICHAEL MELO
government can keep an eye on those
(such as single mothers or women carrying twins) whose newborns might
be targeted for death by their tribes.
Another measure will require that the
public prosecutor’s office be notified
immediately of reports of human rights
violations committed against newborns
or any other stigmatized members of
indigenous communities, including
the elderly. The amendment also stipulates that any citizen who learns that
an indigenous person’s life or safety
is at risk but does not report it to the
authorities will “be penalized under
the applicable laws.”
In 2007, the bill was introduced by
then-congressman Henrique Afonso, a
member of Brazil’s evangelical caucus
and the then-ruling Workers’ Party. It
immediately created tensions between
those who champion universal human
rights, which prioritize the individual,
and those who support cultural relativism, which favors the freedom of
communities to organize themselves
according to their own moral codes.
This dichotomy is actually built into
the country’s 1988 constitution, which
extends “the inviolable right to life” to
everyone within the country’s borders
while also safeguarding “indigenous
peoples’ social structure, customs, languages, beliefs and traditions.” The
ratification of the constitution, after
decades of dictatorial rule, was a watershed moment for the state’s attitude
toward indigenous peoples. (The Indian
Statute, ratified under military rule, by
contrast, opens by specifying its intent
to “integrate them, steadily and peacefully, into the national fold.”) Now, no
longer would a multiplicity of tribes be
forced to conform to external values.
Tribal cultures and worldviews were
suddenly granted, and understood to
be worthy of, their own protections. But
the unresolved contradiction in the constitution has forced subsequent generations of lawmakers to grapple with the
question of how to deal with indigenous
practices outsiders see as inhumane.
groups today is difficult to measure.
Brazil’s National Indian Foundation,
b etter known by its shor tened
Portuguese name Funai, does not
collect data on child-killing rates
and resists publicly acknowledging
the phenomenon. When pressed, the
foundation maintains that the practice
affects a negligible fraction of the total
indigenous population. The Brazilian
Association of Anthropology says child
killing is in decline. To bring up the
issue at all, Funai said in a 2016 press
release, “is in many cases an attempt
to incriminate and express prejudice
against indigenous peoples.”
A missionary organization that
tracks child killing estimates that
some 20 groups, out of the more
than 300 indigenous peoples in Brazil, engage in the practice. As of the
most recent census, conducted in
2010, the number of indigenous people in Brazil was 897,000—one-half of
1 percent of the total population of
191 million.
The scarcity of data may be due to
underreporting. In 2014, when the
Latin American Institute of Social Sciences published a “Map of Violence”
report charting killings across Brazil,
the municipality with the highest relative homicide rates in the country was
Caracaraí, an Amazon town of 19,000
APRIL 2018
residents, many of whom belong to
the Yanomami tribe. The unexpected
first-place ranking reflected the firstever inclusion of data on indigenous
infants, Amadeu Soares, the state secretary of public safety, told reporters at
the time. “It is the culture of indigenous
peoples to sacrifice children who were
born with some problem, some deficiency,” he said. Yet Soares demanded
that the authors remove Caracaraí from
the top spot, arguing that the homicide
rates were inflated by deaths outside of
his jurisdiction. (The study’s authors
did not comply.)
Critics argue that this countrywide
debate over the rights of indigenous
Brazilians, begun by evangelical missionaires, has sinister parallels to the
country’s colonial history and the violence experienced by the indigenous at
the hands of outsiders—violence that
continues to this day. In a public rebuke
to Muwaji’s Law, the Brazilian Association of Anthropology compared it to
“the most repressive and lethal actions
ever perpetrated against the indigenous
peoples of the Americas, which were
unfailingly justified through appeals
to noble causes, humanitarian values
and universal principles.”
One anthropologist at Funai, who
asked not to be identified because he
is not authorized to speak on behalf of
the foundation, argues that child killing among indigenous peoples must be
understood in the context of the Amazon’s incredibly harsh environment.
The anthropologist, who conducted
years of fieldwork on Brazil’s border
with Venezuela, says he heard stories
about child killing, which were difficult and tragic. But he says the context
is critical. “Something like a misshapen
leg can seem like a small thing for us,”
he says, “but it’s not so simple for them.”
Surviving in the jungle could prove an
insurmountable hurdle for these children, leaving them, in the anthropologist’s words, “doomed to failure.”
But many Brazilians find it unacceptable that the government would allow
tribes to kill disabled children in the
name of cultural preservation, rather than
let the state provide them with medical
“Brazil is free to debate the issue academically in universities,” says Maíra
Barreto, a human rights lawyer who
wrote her doctoral dissertation on the
legal and bioethical questions raised
by indigenous child killing. While the
1988 constitution introduces a conflict
between the individual’s right to life
and the right of indigenous peoples
for self-determination, Barreto points
out that the country has since ratified
international treaties that seek to bridge
relative and absolute approaches to
indigenous rights.
She is referring in part to the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention,
To what extent should the state interfere
with customs that seem inhumane to
the outside world but that indigenous
peoples developed long ago as a means to
ensure group survival in an unforgiving
A Kamayurá man and his
children outside their village
in Mato Grosso, Brazil, on
June 6, 2009.
ratified by Brazil in 2002, which stipulates that indigenous peoples “shall
have the right to retain their own customs and institutions, where these are
not incompatible with fundamental
rights defined by the national legal system and with internationally recognised
human rights.”
According to Barreto, under international law the way forward is obvious. “Certain cultural practices here
are incompatible with human rights,”
she says. “They need to be thwarted.
There’s no middle ground.”
Barreto is a board member of Atini, an
evangelical nonprofit that, on its website, describes itself as “internationally
recognized for its pioneering work in
defense of indigenous children’s rights.”
Founded in 2006 by Márcia Suzuki and
her husband, Edson, missionaries who
spent decades living among isolated
indigenous groups, the organization
operates a shelter in Brasília for indigenous parents who escape their communities in order to preserve the lives
of their children who would otherwise
have been slated for death. The organization also leads an awareness campaign surrounding indigenous child
killing. Its members were advisors for
the drafting of Muwaji’s Law.
Their advocacy surrounding child
killing began unintentionally, Suzuki
says. In the late 1990s, she and her
husband was living among the Suruwaha—a tribe with fewer than 200
members that first made contact with
the outside world in the 1970s—in order
to study their language. (Atini, according to the Suzukis, means “voice” in the
Suruwaha language.) Some critics say
the couple was also there to proselytize.
The tribe had long practiced both
suicide and child killing. The former
is an essential part of its cultural tra-
dition and is considered a spiritually desirable death, while the latter
has served as a form of population
At one point during the Suzukis stay
with the Suruwaha, the tribe apparently
decided that two children who did not
appear to be developing properly should
die. The children’s parents committed
suicide rather than kill the two. The tribe
then buried the children alive anyway,
as was the custom, Suzuki says. One, a
girl named Hakani, survived the ordeal
but was subsequently left to die by starvation. Her older brother kept her alive
for a few years, smuggling her scraps of
food, before eventually depositing her
at the Suzukis’ feet.
“We got in touch with Funasa by
radio,” Suzuki says, referring to the government agency that oversaw health
care in indigenous territories at the time.
“We told them, ‘There’s a kid here who’s
ABOVE: Márcia and Edson
Suzuki walk with their adopted
daughter, Hakani, on the
Navajo reservation in Arizona
where they now live and work as
linguists, on March 7.
LEFT: Hakani holds a photo of
herself as child, when she still
lived with the Suruwaha, on
March 7.
APRIL 2018
Photographs by JAKE BACON
dying.’” A month went by without the
health service retrieving the young girl.
“They would say, ‘This is really complicated. To take the child out of there
would cause her to lose her culture,’”
Suzuki recalls. “And I’d say, ‘Either she
loses her culture or she dies.’”
In 2000, the Suzukis decided to take
Hakani, then 5 years old, for treatment
themselves. After a long boat ride, they
took a chartered flight to Porto Velho,
the capital of the state of Rondônia in
northern Brazil. There, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a treatable
condition. The Suzukis nursed her back
to health and then attempted to return
her to her tribe. “We wanted to show
them that she was not cursed,” Suzuki
says. “But nobody wanted her.” With
Hakani’s parents gone, “nobody wanted
to take care of her.” So the Suzukis chose
to adopt her.
Suzuki may have believed her
actions were altruistic, but they
triggered a recommendation by
the public prosecutor’s office in the
state of Amazonas in 2003 that all
nonindigenous people be banned from
the land inhabited by the Suruwaha.
The prosecutor also noted that the
Suzukis had never sought the requisite
authorization to live with the tribe.
A report by the anthropologist
Marcos Farias de Almeida undergirding
the public prosecutor’s injunction
charged the Suzukis with advocating
for Western values to the detriment
of those held by the Suruwaha. By
removing Hakani, the Suzukis “stood
in the way of the realization of a cultural
practice filled with meaning,” Almeida
wrote. Bringing her back once she was
healthy resulted in a “big mistake.”
That was the “introduction in the
Suruwaha’s symbolic universe of a
possible resolution to a problem, in their
lives, by means other than those under
their control by traditional practices.”
In other words, according to Almeida’s
report, the Suzukis had done irreparable
Critics argue that this countrywide debate
over the rights of indigenous Brazilians,
begun by evangelical missionaires, has
sinister parallels to the country’s colonial
history and the violence experienced by
the indigenous at the hands of outsiders.
damage to the Suruwaha way of life by
showing that certain physical disabilities
didn’t necessitate killing. (Elsewhere
in the report, Almeida lamented that
the Suzukis, having encouraged
a Suruwaha man to get medical
treatment for his chronic pain, kept
him from resolving the problem the
way he originally intended, which was
to commit suicide.)
Suzuki agrees that taking Hakani
back to the tribe one year later disrupted
the Suruwaha worldview—although she
considers that a positive development.
Because of what happened to Hakani,
Suzuki says, other parents began to seek
help. In 2005, two Suruwaha families
requested medical assistance for their
children. They were airlifted out of the
Amazon and eventually taken to São
Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, where they
received treatment. The missionaries
were summoned before a congressional
hearing in December 2005 to explain
their role in the affair. The Suzukis testified that Funasa had provided them
with the necessary authorization to
travel out of the state. (Funasa never
explicitly confirmed the claim.)
in indigenous tribes goes back far
enough that it is now possible to discuss the issue with some of the children
Kanhu and her family left their tribe
around 10 years ago with the Suzukis’
help. Today, the family lives in a mod-
est house on the outskirts of Brasília.
Adapting to their new reality hasn’t
always been easy.
“I had never been around people who
weren’t my own. I was terrified. I didn’t
even know how to speak,” Kanhu says,
recalling her first weeks away from the
Amazon. “The food was strange, the
clothes too. Everything was so weird.”
Kanhu’s parents express sadness for
having abandoned their way of life.
“Everyone here stays shut off in separate spaces,” her father, Makau, says,
pointing to the rooms in their house.
Now in her last year of high school,
Kanhu wears her hair in a stylish bob
with a ring in her nose; she’s considering higher education and uses a
In May 2017, Kanhu gave an impassioned speech during a congressional
hearing on disability rights. “When
the subject of child killing comes up,
there are people who will say, ‘Oh, but
that’s their culture. We have to respect
it.’ Folks, for God’s sake! A culture that
involves the death of innocent people
has to stop,” she said. “It’s sad to think
about how we are ignored. You abandon
us, you pretend we’re invisible, since
we’re way out there in the middle of the
jungle. You pretend that we’re nothing
and use the culture excuse. I ask you
one more time to rethink that. We’re
here.… We’re screaming for help. We’re
screaming for rights.”
journalist based in Brasília, Brazil.
APRIL 2018
Natalia Pankova,
the director of
the state-run
domestic violence
organization Sail of
Hope, in Vladivostok,
Russia, on Jan. 30.
Photograph by JOEL VAN HOUDT
hen Russia decriminalized domestic
violence in February 2017, civil
servants tasked with protecting
women in the country’s far east were
dismayed by the new vulnerability of their wards.
Yet few officials opposed the measure. President
Vladimir Putin signed off on the bill after the
lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma,
overwhelmingly approved it by a vote of 380 to 3.
The new law recategorized the crime of violence
against family members: Abuse that does not
result in broken bones, and does not occur more
than once a year, is no longer punishable by long
prison sentences. The worst sanctions that abusers
now face are fines of up to $530, 10- to 15-day stints
in jail, or community service work. That’s if the
courts side with the victim. They rarely do.
APRIL 2018
scorn. Many saw it as an aggressive
Western attack on femininity and a
Russian belief system in which women
are encouraged, and expected, to see
motherhood as their first priority. It also
seemed redundant, as women in Russia had long since gained many of the
rights their Western counterparts were
still clamoring to win.
The right to vote, for example, was
granted to all Russian men and women
in 1917 in the run-up to the October Revolution. After taking power, the Bolsheviks granted women numerous
additional freedoms, some of them
unheard of anywhere else, such as the
right to abortion. The Soviet Constitu-
tion of 1936 declared men and women
to be equal and also introduced paid
maternity leave and free child care in
the workplace.
But these historic victories should
not obscure an ugly modern truth about
present-day Russia. Here, “women
have a single role: that of a subservient and silent subordinate who knows
her place,” wrote Yevgenia Albats, the
editor of the liberal New Times magazine, in January.
Of course, Putin, backed by the
resurgent Russian Orthodox Church,
has made his country more conservative in numerous ways. Under
this new patriarchal order, gender
The change made it “that much
harder for women” who had suffered
abuse, says Natalia Pankova, the
director of a state-run domestic violence organization called Sail of Hope.
Pankova, based in the city of Vladivostok, oversees 10 crisis centers for
women and children across the surrounding region, Primorye, a heavily
forested area hugging the Sea of Japan.
Pankova and her colleagues have
painstakingly searched for a silver
lining in the legislation. “At least the
issue of domestic violence is being discussed at the government level,” she
says during an interview at her office,
decorated with model ships and oil
paintings of the open sea.
But family lawyers and women’s
rights workers believe the legislation
represents a turning point in the freedoms of Russian women, a dark signal from the very top of government
that their lives are losing value. At least
12,000 women in Russia die at the hands
of their abusers each year, according to
Human Rights Watch. The real number
is likely higher.
Over the past half-year, the #MeToo
movement has swept across Europe, the
Americas, and parts of Asia and Africa.
But many Russian women’s rights activists fear the global reckoning has simply
passed them by.
Feminism here has a complicated
history laden with paradoxes. Until
recently, the average Russian woman—
even those who believed in gender
equality—treated the word itself with
Women protest a
bill decriminalizing
domestic violence in
Moscow’s Sokolniki
Park in February 2017.
stereotypes are thriving, according to
Oksana Pushkina, a lawmaker with the
ruling United Russia party. Describing
current attitudes, Pushkina, who heads
the Russian parliament’s committee
on family, women, and children, says,
“Men must be masculine and strong,
and women should be feminine mothers.” Such social mores, she says, represent a “massive impediment in the
development of women’s rights … and
completely [hold] back the strength and
position of Russian women in society.”
When the time came to vote on
the changes to domestic violence
legislation, the thought of looking
into her fellow deputies’ eyes made
Pushkina physically ill. She stayed
at home. “I crumpled!” she says. She
is now working with like-minded
politicians and activists to try to
overturn the law by passing a brandnew measure aimed specifically at
preventing domestic violence.
Theirs could be an uphill battle,
for Putin’s bare-chested machismo,
while a source of humor abroad, has
been accompanied by a sharp rise in
misogyny at home. The Russian leader
joked about rape as recently as February, has boasted that his country’s prostitutes are the best in the world, and
has put down women for menstruating.
Perhaps it is little wonder, then, that
when the Harvey Weinstein scandal
broke in October 2017, the general Russian attitude, on the part of both men
and women, was overwhelmingly one
of bemusement and victim shaming. A
group of women even stripped naked
near the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. One
hoisted a placard that read, “Harvey
Weinstein Welcome to Russia.”
Those who have attempted to tell
their own #MeToo stories have been
met with ridicule or threats of violence.
In January 2017, Diana S., a 17-yearold, appeared on a popular Russian
talk show and described her rape by
a 21-year-old man. Online commentators, bloggers, and the state-run media
promptly blamed her for the attack.
Russia’s Burger King franchise even
created a parody, turning an image of
Diana explaining how much alcohol she
consumed on the night of her rape into
an advertisement showing how long a
meal discount would last. (Burger King
later withdrew the ad but did not apologize.) Then, in October, a 12-year-old
named Anastasia appeared on a nationally televised dating show in support of
her single father. She told the audience
that the two often discuss issues such
as feminism. She later received death
threats from viewers.
Despite the intimidation, some Russian women—particularly millennials
in Moscow and St. Petersburg—are continuing to fight back. After the grisly
murder of 19-year-old Tatiana Strakhova at the hands of her ex-boyfriend
in January, hundreds of Russian women
posed on social media wearing only
their underwear alongside the hashtag
Still, attempts to create a Russian form
of #MeToo are embryonic, at best. In
February, after female reporters complained that lawmaker Leonid Slutsky
had harassed them in parliament, not
only were there no demands that he step
down, but a deputy speaker of the Duma,
Igor Lebedev, called for these journalists
to be barred from covering the legislature. Slutsky and other male lawmakers then took to Facebook, where they
openly boasted about how many female
reporters they could “take.” Q
FOREIGN POLICY’s Moscow correspondent. She reported this story while on
a fellowship with the International
Reporting Project.
APRIL 2018
Staif and Ayla Haddad, together
with their two young daughters,
set off from Damascus, Syria,
to Istanbul in May 2015.
The journey began with a taxi to Beirut, where
they boarded a flight to Turkey. Their plan was
for Staif to continue on to Germany and seek
asylum. His wife and children would travel back
to Syria and wait for him to send for them. At
the time, Germany was granting refugee status
to the vast majority of new Syrian arrivals and,
crucially, also allowing them to send for their
immediate families. The trip was a send-off as
well as a vacation. One morning, after just over
a week in Istanbul, Staif kissed his 4-year-old
daughter, Layla, goodbye. His 6-year-old, Rana,
was still asleep. As he prepared to leave, Ayla wept.
Staif told her that he would see her soon—next
year, at the latest. (The family’s names have been
changed for safety reasons.)
Staif traveled first to Düsseldorf, in western Germany. In Syria, he had studied electrical engineering and later worked as a technical manager for
a cell-phone operator, so he was thrilled to see
office buildings emblazoned with the names of
German engineering companies he recognized.
He was sure he would find a position at one. The
German government assigned Staif to live in Berlin, where, that summer, he began the process of
filing for asylum. By then, his family had returned
to Syria, where conditions were worsening. Then,
APRIL 2018
in August 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel
fully opened German borders to asylum-seekers,
insisting, “We can do it.” In the months that followed, thousands of new refugees arrived, lengthening processing times for asylum claims and
souring public opinion.
In the winter of 2015, Staif moved into a hostel
for migrants on the outskirts of Berlin. He began
learning German and applying for jobs. He didn’t
put up photos of Ayla, Layla, or Rana in his single
modest room. Seeing them, he said, would only
remind him of their absence. “When we come to
Germany, we want to go to the sea,” his daughters
told him over the phone. “We want to go to the
mountains. We want to buy bicycles.” Staif told
them that they’d do it all. But the prospect of any
of it happening soon was about to become much
more remote.
he family,” the U.N. General Assembly proclaimed in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights in
1948, “is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is
entitled to protection by society and the State.”
Three years later, haunted by the Holocaust and
facing an exodus of people fleeing newly communist Eastern Europe, a U.N. diplomatic conference adopted what became known as the Refugee
Convention. This document accorded refugees
both a clear definition—any person with a “wellfounded fear of being persecuted for reasons of
race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion”—and a
clear set of protections. A nonbinding recommendation attached to the declaration urged governments to ensure that “the unity of the refugee’s
family is maintained.”
The need to keep refugee families together,
or allow them to reunite, soon became a standard plank of human rights ideology. But this
idea was rooted primarily in the clear benefits of
family reunification for refugees themselves, not
in terms of the benefits unified families afforded
their hosts. It was not necessarily clear yet just
how much these social networks actually help a
refugee’s adopted country.
Over the next several decades, allowing refugees to reunify with their immediate families
became routine practice. The United States codified a refugee’s right to be joined by his or her
spouse and children in the 1980 Refugee Act. In
2003, the European Union legislated protections
for migrant families seeking to be reunified, with
special consideration for refugees; Germany (as
well as several of its neighbors) incorporated this
provision into its domestic law.
Then came the most recent wave of migration—
the largest since the end of World War II. As of
2016, conflict or persecution had displaced roughly
66 million people worldwide. More than a million of them were living in Germany alone. The
United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Netherlands,
Sweden, and the United States were each taking
in more than 100,000.
Though the refugee problem was a global one,
by far the largest group—nearly 6 million people—hailed from Syria, though the majority of
them never left the Middle East. Still, hundreds of
thousands arrived in Europe and North America
at a fraught political moment. Islamist terrorist
attacks in Paris; Nice, France; London; and San
Bernardino, California, had fanned fears about
Muslims across Europe and the United States.
Concern that low-income immigrant laborers
would replace native-born workers stoked this
growing anxiety and raised the profile of anti-immigrant populist politicians. In 2015, Marine
Le Pen, the head of France’s far-right National
Front party, blamed France’s “crazy, undiscerning immigration policy” for terrorist attacks in
Paris that took the lives of 130 people, and Geert
Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician, spoke of an
“Islamic invasion.”
Politicians were now reframing family reunification for those who had fled home, long seen
as a human rights imperative, as simply more
unwanted migration. As the numbers of asylum-seekers increased, several countries—
including Austria, Denmark, Germany, and
Sweden—began to move away from automatically allowing Syrian arrivals to send for their families. In October 2017, Nils Muiznieks, the Council
of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, wrote
that the “increasingly tough” measures were “often
incompatible with the letter or spirit of human
rights standards.” In an interview, he said the trend
toward restricting family reunification was “the
most urgent human rights issue” facing Europe.
Despite his protests, many countries upheld the
new restrictions.
Every country does, of course, have a sovereign
right to protect its borders. And in Germany, as in
much of the rest of the Western world, public opinion has turned against liberal refugee policies. In
December 2017, a poll by the Allensbach Institute,
a research organization, found that only 23 percent of German respondents supported allowing
refugee families to reunite.
As a result, a question that national leaders
seemed to have answered more than six decades
ago—whether host nations have a responsibility to keep refugee families together—is being
debated again by governments, and citizens,
around the world.
The need to keep refugee families
together, or allow them to reunite,
soon became a standard plank of
human rights ideology. But this idea
was rooted primarily in the clear
benefits of family reunification for
refugees themselves.
Politicians who seek to limit family reunification argue that refugees have strained Europe’s
social services, from schools to welfare programs,
and that newcomers aren’t properly screened for
potential security threats. Welcoming the families
of refugees is cast as a dangerous prospect, one
that will expose host nations to peril.
But an emerging body of evidence reveals a more
complicated picture—one in which family reunification actually serves a country’s interests, rather
than harms them.
Family reunification increasingly appears critical to ensuring those refugees integrate into their
new homelands and begin contributing more than
they take.
taif was raised in an elegant old house
in Damascus. His father was a clothing merchant, his mother a teacher.
He studied engineering at Damascus
University, where he met Ayla. Within
three years of receiving his degree, he had found
a job, bought an apartment in the Damascus suburb of Hamouriyah, married Ayla, and become a
father. “We were privileged … being born in the
right families, in the right time, in the right places,”
said Staif’s friend Zayn (whose name has been
changed), who went to college with him and now
lives near Düsseldorf. In 2012, one year after Layla
was born, Syrian rebels gained control of Hamouriyah. Government forces soon began bombarding
the town with artillery and airstrikes. Staif and
Ayla gathered their daughters and fled to central
Damascus. When they returned months later,
parts of their town had been reduced to rubble. At
their apartment, a man opened the door dressed
An emerging body of evidence
reveals a more complicated
picture—one in which family
reunification actually serves a
country’s interests, rather than
harms them.
APRIL 2018
in Staif’s pajamas and explained that he would not
be leaving. It was the last time Staif saw his home.
As Staif waited for his asylum decision in Germany, his wife and children back in Syria bounced
from one relative’s house to another. Staif continued to promise Ayla that their reunion was imminent. But domestic pressure was growing on the
German government to close its borders—pressure
that intensified after New Year’s Eve 2015, when
groups of men, including new asylum-seekers,
sexually assaulted hundreds of women on the
streets of Cologne and other cities.
Frauke Petry, then a leader of the right-wing
Alternative for Germany party, declared that German border guards should be allowed to “use firearms if necessary” to prevent illegal entries. Most
politicians condemned her words, but in February 2016 the German parliament, the Bundestag,
passed a sweeping package of laws aimed at limiting benefits for migrants. One of the new laws
applied specifically to those migrants who were
denied full refugee status. Instead, they were given
something called subsidiary protection—a category used for migrants who didn’t fit the complete
definition of a refugee but still faced significant
dangers back home. Those in that category were
barred from bringing their families to join them
until, at the earliest, March 2018.
At first, the number of asylum-seekers who
fell into this category was small. At the beginning of the crisis, less than 1 percent of Syrian
asylum-seekers were granted subsidiary protection. By the end of 2016, about 40 percent of those
applying for refugee status were instead given
subsidiary protection. Coupled with the new legal
delays on family reunification, this meant thousands of would-be refugees suddeny found themselves in limbo, unable to bring their families to
In July 2016, the German government denied
Staif’s application for asylum. He, too, received
subsidiary protection. Bringing Ayla and the girls
had never seemed more remote.
That fall, Staif met Sigrun Krause, a lawyer at
Jumen, a Berlin-based human rights organization.
Krause and her colleagues were looking for clients
on whose behalf they could sue the government to
overturn its newly restrictive family reunification
policies. The lawyers argued that the new rules
violated the German Constitution, which grants
families the special protection of the state, and
flouted the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights
of the Child, which Germany had signed and
which specifies that if children or their parents
need to cross a border to be reunited, the request
should be handled “in a positive, humane and
expeditious manner.”
In March 2017, Krause filed suit on behalf of Staif’s
wife and daughters, contending that the government had violated its legal obligations by refusing
to admit them. They requested an urgent hearing.
taif’s lawsuit and others like it could set
a legal precedent on a relatively new
question: When migrants from wartorn countries attempt to send for family members, does their right to family
unity trump Germany’s right to limit migration?
But some advocates are taking a different
approach, arguing that the question itself is
founded on a false premise. They argue that preventing unification does not actually serve the
host country’s national interests. After all, how
well a refugee integrates into his or her new home
depends on how well that refugee adjusts both
socially and professionally. Studies of Sudanese
refugees in Australia and of Kosovar Albanian refugees in the U.K. have found that refugees separated from their families experience high rates of
mental health conditions, including anxiety and
depression. And according to the Office of the
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
such stress can “inhibit [refugees’] ability to learn
a new language, search for a job and adapt to their
country of asylum.”
Others who champion the rights of refugees,
such as Muiznieks, the human rights commissioner, point out that separating families causes
additional problems as well. It may increase illegal border crossings, for example—since many
families who can’t reunite legally will try to do so
through illicit means.
Despite such arguments, the political tide
continues to turn against refugees. The wave of
newcomers is already straining social safety nets
throughout Europe. And while Germany’s Federal
Criminal Police Office has not found that the refugee influx has led to a proportional increase in
crime, one much-cited recent report, conducted
by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences on
behalf of the German government, did find a link
between refugees and increased crime in Lower
Saxony, Germany’s fourth-most populous state.
But even the authors of this study suggest that
one way to address the problem is to permit family reunification—which would provide social
support that could temper criminality.
n the summer of 2017, Staif found a job
through a contracting agency as an electrician at a hotel in Berlin. He was overqualified, but it provided a steady income of about
$1,400 a month. (He began earning more in
February, after the hotel hired him directly.) He
started sending some of it to his wife and parents.
Ayla used some of the money to buy tablet computers for the girls. They started communicating
via WhatsApp. Layla once tried video-calling
her father, but when she saw his face, they both
began to weep. The next time she called, he didn’t
In late August, a judge on Berlin’s administrative
court declined Staif’s request for an urgent hearing, questioning the merits of the case. The judge
wrote that Staif appeared to have left Syria voluntarily and that his motivation was economic. “It is
not believed that the family separation occurred
for refugee-relevant reasons,” the ruling read, and
Staif should be able to return home to his family
“without significant problems.”
Staif’s lawyers believed that such language was
in contradiction with his immigration status.
Having subsidiary protection meant, by definition,
that he was in too much danger to go home. The
United Nations had also recently deemed Syria
unsafe for exiles to return. But the administrative
judge was apparently unmoved by such logic.
By the time I first met Staif last fall, at a
coffee shop in East Berlin’s Friedrichshain
neighborhood, the setbacks had clearly taken
a toll on him. Without prompting, Staif said he
should never have left home in the first place and
was seriously considering returning to Syria. “I
haven’t failed in all my life,” he said, “but I’ve failed
in Germany.”
Staif had fallen into a depression. He still held
out hope of finding a better job that would allow
him to obtain a blue card, a form of residence visa
for highly skilled employees, which would make
him eligible to send for his family. Finding a better
job in Berlin would be difficult, though, because
of competition and the complex bureaucracy that
determines refugee affairs. As a result, he was stuck
in a sort of purgatory, unable to integrate or fully
contribute to Germany as a trained engineer. And
he remained dangerously isolated. He was wary of
socializing with other Syrians given the tensions
caused by the civil war at home. He still spoke to
Ayla daily but, out of guilt, had sometimes avoided
the girls. “He’s just a shadow of the man he used
to be—just a devastated, soulless person,” said
Zayn, his old college friend.
By the time I first met Staif last
fall, the setbacks had clearly
taken a toll on him. Staif said he
should never have left home in
the first place and was seriously
considering returning to Syria.
“I haven’t failed in all my life,” he
said, “but I’ve failed in Germany.”
n February, the Bundestag extended the ban
on family reunification. Asylum-seekers like
Staif who received subsidiary protection
are now ineligible to bring their families
before August. As part of a coalition agreement among German political parties, reunification for humanitarian reasons will theoretically
resume at that point—but at a tightly controlled
rate of just 1,000 admissions per month. The German Institute for Economic Research estimated
last year that 50,000 to 60,000 family members
are currently waiting to join their relatives in Germany; at the proposed pace, that backlog would
take about five years to clear.
On Feb. 19, Staif spoke at a two-hour hearing
about his family’s case.
He told the judge that his children were suffering, that his fear for their well-being was making
it difficult for him to concentrate on succeeding in his German life, and that they no longer
asked about their reunion. “They don’t believe
me anymore,” he said. The next day, the court
informed Staif’s lawyers that the judge planned
to rule against the Haddad family. They could
still appeal all the way up to the Federal Constitutional Court and, if that fails, could turn to the
European Court of Human Rights. But that process could take years.
Almost three years have passed since Staif left
home. Ayla has started pressuring him to leave
Berlin and return to her and the girls in Damascus.
A couple of days before our last conversation, in
January, Staif learned that a bomb had detonated
in the neighborhood where his family now lives.
When he called his wife, frantic, she shrugged it off.
Of course she’d heard the blast, she said, but these
things were normal in a war zone. Now it was Rana’s
ninth birthday, her third without her father. When
Staif called her earlier that day, she had handed the
phone to her mother without saying a word. “Every
man sometimes thinks, ‘I’ve made a mistake,’”
he said. “But when I really think about it, I think I
didn’t make a mistake.” Praying about his decision,
he’d come to feel that he’d had no choice but to
leave and give his family a chance at escaping.
“I’m trying,” he said. “I’m keeping on trying.” Q
VAUHINI VARA (@vauhinivara) was a 2017 Arthur F.
Burns fellow in Berlin.
APRIL 2018
For Once
We Were
IN JANUARY, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
gave the thousands of primarily Eritrean and Sudanese
asylum-seekers living in Israel an ultimatum: Take $3,500
and leave for a third country, reportedly Rwanda or Uganda,
or face incarceration and deportation. In the wake of his
announcement, tens of thousands of Israelis and African
migrants took to the streets of Israel in protest. Holocaust
survivors and rabbis compared the plight of the asylumseekers to that of the Jews who had unsuccessfully begged
countries around the world to take them in as they fled
the Nazis before and during World War II. Some protesters
implored their fellow citizens to remember the biblical
injunction to welcome the stranger. A group of rabbis called
on Israelis to hide asylum-seekers in their homes. Hundreds
of doctors, nurses, academics, human rights workers, and
pilots called on the government to
reconsider its plan.
Between 2006 and 2013, more than
64,000 asylum-seekers, most hailing
from Eritrea or Sudan, traversed the
Sinai desert and crossed the Egyptian border into Israel. Since then,
some 20,000 have departed or been
deported. (A border wall completed in
2013 abruptly halted further crossings.)
Now, roughly 20,000 of the remaining African asylum-seekers face ugly
Over the last decade, Israeli photographer Kobi Wolf has recorded images of
refugees around the world. Since 2014,
he has also focused on his own country, documenting a crisis of identity as
much as immigration.
The issue has divided Wolf’s fellow
APRIL 2018
citizens. Right-wing protesters have
also taken to the streets, though in fewer
numbers than those who support the
asylum-seekers. Meanwhile, a group
of U.N. human rights experts has condemned Netanyahu’s decision, citing
the dangers the migrants will face if
they return to Africa, including torture and other serious human rights
Many of the remaining migrants
live in a working-class neighborhood
in south Tel Aviv. Though trapped in
limbo, the asylum-seekers continue to
go to work and school while they await
their fate. “The young ones were born in
Israel. They speak Hebrew. They know
the culture,” Wolf says. “It is painful,
you know, to send them out—it is crazy
really. They are Israelis.”
PREVIOUS PAGE: A crowd gathers at the
Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem
to protest the detention of migrants on
Jan. 8, 2014. Many Israelis first became
aware of the African migrant crisis several
years ago, explains Asaf Weitzen, a human
rights lawyer specializing in refugee law.
“Ten thousand refugees from Eritrea and
[Sudan] arrived by buses,” Wolf recalls of
this demonstration. “They chanted: ‘We
need protection,’ ‘We are not criminals, we
are refugees.’”
ABOVE LEFT: Sheffi Paz, an activist leader
campaigning to remove the asylumseekers, photographed on Jan. 9. The
signs around her read: “The rehabilitation
of south Tel Aviv begins with the expulsion
of the infiltrators.”
ABOVE RIGHT: Israelis gather in Tel Aviv
to raise money for Elifelet, a nonprofit
organization that supports African
refugee children, on Jan. 6. The woman’s
sign reads: “Deportation=Death.”
LEFT: The Holot detention center
in the Negev desert opened in late
2013 to house migrants who entered
Israel illegally from Africa. This man,
photographed on Jan. 4, 2014, was
technically free to leave the facility
during the day because Holot is
considered an open detention center—
but the nearest city, Beersheba, is an
hour’s drive away. The center is now
slated for closure.
TOP LEFT: Migrant families arrive at a small
church in south Tel Aviv on Feb. 10. The
majority of the Eritrean asylum-seekers
are Christian, which may help fuel the
current controversy. Were they Jews, they
would be granted citizenship under Israel’s
Law of Return.
BOTTOM LEFT: Eritrean pilgrims perform a
baptism during Epiphany celebrations at
the Qasr al-Yahud baptism site in the
West Bank, near the city of Jericho, on
Jan. 20. Epiphany celebrates the baptism
of Jesus, which some Christians believe
occurred at this spot.
ABOVE: A refugee girl participates in the
holiday of Purim, which celebrates a Jewish
triumph in ancient Persia, on March 5,
2015. Many of the migrant children are
integrated into Israeli life. They go to Israeli
schools, and some learn Arabic, Tigrinya
(which is spoken in Eritrea), or other
African languages, as well as Hebrew.
NEXT SPREAD: Asylum-seekers
demonstrate against the proposed
deportations in front of the Rwandan
Embassy in Herzliya, a seaside town north
of Tel Aviv, on Feb. 7.
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New York University is an afirmative action/equal opportunity institution. ©2018 NYU School of Professional Studies.
The Long Road to Brexit
Britain’s vote to leave the EU
was many years in the making.
By Garvan Walshe
Illustration by SUSAN YUNG
ON THE NIGHT OF JUNE 23, 2016, the ballots came in
divided across the United Kingdom. The results
looked more like a Bosnian election than a British one: 69 percent voted to leave the European
Union in the ex-mining town of Doncaster, while
in the multiethnic London borough of Lewisham,
it was 70 percent for Remain. Britons’ votes in the
Brexit referendum weren’t so much a response to
EU membership as the expression of a new social
The Brexit debate crystallized identities long
in the making. The narrow final result (52 percent
to 48 percent in favor of Leave) did not mean the
country was willing to split the difference but that
it had been split in two. Then came Britain’s 2017
general election, which marked the final breakdown of the country’s industrial-style politics,
long dominated by a party of bosses and a party
of workers.
The new fault lines run along differences in education and race, not the ownership of the means
of production. Getting a college degree changes
people’s outlooks, making educated members of
the white majority vote more like immigrants and
their descendants. Those who don’t have degrees
have been convinced that their culture is being
overrun by newcomers who exploit educated cosmopolitans’ naive tolerance.
Meanwhile, a small nativist elite, fed up
with being derided as xenophobic, now
finds itself making common cause with
retired industrial workers.
Members of that elite see increasing
levels of education as having created
a class of rootless individuals, denounced by Prime Minister Theresa
May as “citizen[s] of nowhere.”In
David Goodhart’s view, their internationalist orientation, together with
that of immigrant communities, is
undermining the cohesion of the nationstate and democratic consent for the
welfare state. Goodhart, the author of
The Road to Somewhere (Hurst, 280
pp., $18.36), argues that this new class
of cosmopolitans—the “Anywheres”—
has abandoned the white British
“Somewheres,” whose desire to maintain
roots in homogenous communities has
trapped them at the wrong end of an
unforgiving global economy.
Though he is wrong about the effects
APRIL 2018
of immigration, Goodhart is right that
people now identify themselves based
on their attitude toward it: as Leavers and Remainers. These two tribes
already live in different parts of the
country and consume different media.
Now they have neat labels to identify
themselves, and they interpret data
and events in ways that reinforce their
For instance, these two sects have
come to understand the same economic
data very differently. Though British
economic growth in 2017 (at 1.7 percent)
was lower than that of the eurozone
(2.3 percent), according to Eurostat,
the EU statistics office, Leave voters
remain bullish about Britain’s economic
prospects; Remainers are gloomy and
sustain themselves with the belief
that Brexit is so irrational that it will
somehow be stopped. A survey, taken
by British pollster ICM on Jan. 26, is
typical: 75 percent of Remain voters
said they thought Brexit would have
a negative impact on growth, while
58 percent of Leave voters said they
thought it would be positive.
Immigration dominated both the referendum campaign and May’s postBrexit policy. Hostile to immigration
while she was home secretary from 2010
to 2016, May rejected a “soft” Brexit that
would have kept the U.K. in the single
market because it wouldn’t allow the
country to limit Europeans’ freedom
of movement.
Less remembered is how David
Cameron (whose Conservative Party I
advised from 2005 to 2008) also gave the
issue such importance. Cameron made
being able to restrict EU immigration a
major demand of the “renegotiation”
he held before the referendum. The
Leave campaign pounced on his failure
to deliver (he got only a time-limited,
single-use right to delay access to part
of the British welfare system), and
nearly two years after the Brexit vote,
immigration remains the defining issue,
eclipsing even the Leave campaign’s
lie that Brexit would add 350 million
Then-UK Indpendence
Party leader Nigel
Farage celebrates with
Leave voters outside
Westminster after the
Brexit referendum on
June 24, 2016.
pounds per week to the country’s coffers,
which could supposedly be spent on the
iconic British National Health Service.
Why then, even after the vote to leave,
has immigration remained so central to
political debates? Immediately after the
referendum, when it became clear that
many Labour Party voters had chosen
to leave the EU, a consensus formed
among Labour members of Parliament terrified of losing support from
their working-class constituents. They
claimed fears of immigration were economic—that poorer Britons, hit by a
double punch of government spending
cuts and Eastern Europeans competing
for their jobs, took their anger out on the
government by voting to leave.
But immigrants did not drag employment down: Although one study suggests they had an effect on wages,
as Jonathan Portes of King’s College
London notes, even that study found
a reduction of just one penny in the
hourly wage. More important, the people most affected by austerity and competition for jobs didn’t vote to leave.
Indeed, most Brexit supporters had
already retired. Not only did they not
have jobs for immigrants to take, but
they were also spared the brunt of public spending cuts. The ConservativeLiberal Democrat coalition of 2010 to
2015 exempted health and pensions
from the ax and forced the young to bear
the costs of austerity through changes in
the student finance system, cuts to nonuniversity training, and a squeeze on
working-age welfare benefits. Despite
this treatment, the young still voted to
stay in the EU.
In other words, Brexit wasn’t about
the economy.
So, what did motivate Leavers’ hostility to immigration? For Paul Stocker,
a young historian of the far-right and
author of English Uprising (Melville
House UK, 224 pp., $15.27), Brexit was
made possible because mainstream
politicians adopted the talking points
of extremists rather than confronting
them. In just over 200 jargon-free but
labored pages, Stocker records the history of the British far-right, beginning
nearly a century ago with the British
Fascisti and Oswald Mosley’s British
Union of Fascists and ending with the
UK Independence Party in 2017.
He shows how both Labour and Conservative politicians have long used
anti-immigrant rhetoric, especially
during William Hague’s 2001 campaign
in which the then-Tory leader launched
a jeremiad against a “metropolitan elite”
turning Britain into a “foreign land.”
Michael Howard, a later Tory leader—
on whose campaign I worked, albeit
on national security issues—revived
this theme in 2005, running on the slo-
defeated; it had simply gone dormant.
The Leave campaign revived it. The
Leavers didn’t mainstream the ideas
of the far-right; they amplified, in
propitious circumstances, a theme that
had always been part of British rightwing politics.
Some of those circumstances, such
as the 2015 refugee crisis, were outside Cameron’s direct control; others,
such as the expectations of what EU
membership involved, were very much
within it. Faced with the incompatible
demands of EU membership (to allow
EU nationals to live and work in Britain
on the same terms as Britons working
in Europe) and British public opinion
gan, “It’s not racist to impose limits on
immigration: Are you thinking what
we’re thinking?”
This wasn’t new. Stocker correctly
traces how opposition to immigration
has pervaded British society since
World War II. Indeed, there has always
been an anti-immigrant section of the
Tory party and a xenophobic branch
of conservatism more generally. But if
racism and xenophobia have been part
of British society for as long as anyone
can remember, they can’t have caused
Cameron’s premiership, despite his
harshness toward Eastern European
immigrants, did attempt to distance
the Conservative Party from the image
of the so-called “Tory Taliban.” But the
worst of Tory nativism had not been
(to prevent them from doing so), Cameron thought it would be easier to shift
the EU’s legal doctrine.
Against the advice of Ivan Rogers,
his chief EU policy official, who warned
that the EU wouldn’t budge, Cameron
demanded a right to restrict EU immigration and threatened to campaign to
leave the EU if Brussels didn’t agree.
The EU called his bluff. Cameron lost
the referendum and his job.
His onetime deputy prime minister and passionate Europhile, the Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, believes this
strategy is worth another go. His book
How to Stop Brexit (The Bodley Head,
160 pp., $9.25) is devoted to plotting
the referendum’s reversal. He begins
by conceding the anti-European narrative: “I accept that the EU must look
Ten lessons
from history
on the dos and
don’ts of analyzing
political risk
“To Dare More Boldly is a monument
to Hulsman’s vast erudition. In this
captivating book, he examines what
has gone wrong throughout history
and uses those insights to formulate
a general set of lessons for those who
have to assess political risk—and for
all of us to better judge the foreignpolicy decisions of our leaders.”
—Teun van Dongen,
Inholland University of Applied Sciences
“This groundbreaking work is must
reading for anyone who hopes to
lead through the complexity
of today’s geopolitics.”
—Robert H. Kahn,
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Cloth $29.95
and feel different, if we are to stay a part
of it.” Feeling the irresistible force of
Euroskepticism, he questions whether
the EU can restructure itself so that it
works for everyone, including the U.K.
What Clegg never explains, however, is why, if Euroskepticism is such
an irresistible force in Britain, the country should try again to avoid leaving
the EU. As Cameron found out, arguing
that “the organization is terrible, so we
should stick around to change it” makes
for a lousy political slogan.
And why would the EU ever want
such a cuckoo back in its nest? The central element of Clegg’s plan is to curtail the free movement of EU citizens to
appease the unfounded fears of British
public opinion. But while such a concession might be convenient for the U.K., it
would be a nightmare for everyone else.
Ending free movement would open
up divisions between immigrantsending countries in Southern and
Eastern Europe and advocates of
restriction in the north. It would provide
a lifeline to beleaguered populists in
France and the Netherlands while
giving anti-European authoritarians
in Poland and Hungary an excuse to
say the EU’s promises of fair treatment
apply only to “old Europe.” It would in
other words destroy the EU in order to
save British membership in it.
Far more wisdom can be found
in Heinz Bude’s Society of Fear
(Polity Press, 160 pp., $22.95). Bude has
defied all stereotypes of German sociology professors and produced a direct,
elegant, and succinct critique of modern, individualistic society, the anxiety it generates, and the populists who
exploit it. He focuses on the insecurity
that comes not from one’s own freedom but from everyone else’s. When
jobs, marriages, friendships, and social
position all become transactional, trust
breaks down.
Bude’s central question is, how do we
know who we’re supposed to be when
nobody recognizes us for what we are?
For many Europeans today, nationalism
provides an answer. Because you
don’t choose your country, it’s the one
relationship that can’t be taken away
from you. That makes it a convenient
starting point for demagogues, who tell
voters they deserve to be treated well,
no matter how they’ve behaved or what
other people who disagree with them
may think.
Yet only the half of British citizens
who voted to leave the EU find such
nationalism reassuring. Remain voters
see it as a threat that could turn their
friends and neighbors into second-class
citizens and see them separated from
their loved ones by administrative edict.
To cope, they have started building
their own communities around their
own tribal, self-reinforcing identity.
Majorities of Remainers now demonize
Leave voters as “closed-minded,”
“selfish,” and “hypocritical” when
speaking to pollsters.
They have money and supporters in
the media. What they don’t have is leadership. The opposition Labour Party
is led by Jeremy Corbyn, who considers the EU a capitalist plot that Britain
is better off without. Meanwhile, antiBrexit campaigners follow the orders
of an old guard dominated by Clegg,
former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and
Andrew Adonis, a pro-European member of the House of Lords. These men
refuse to accept that their strategy to
reform the EU into something British
xenophobes could live with has been
bankrupt from the start.
By conceding the nativists’ main
assertion—that immigration is damaging and has to be reduced—they have
left the cosmopolitan, internationalist other half of Britain leaderless. And
sadly, it appears that their strategy will
have to fail once more before a new British internationalism can be born.
GARVAN WALSHE (@garvanwalshe) is
a former national and international
security policy advisor to the British
Conservative Party and the CEO of
Brexit Analytics.
Thus Spoke Jordan Peterson
A wildly popular psychologist’s
self-help program is leading young men
to authoritarianism. By David Livingstone
Smith and John Kaag
TWO YEARS AGO, Jordan Peterson was a relatively obscure psychology professor at the University of Toronto with but a single book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief
(Routledge, 564 pp., $73.95), and a quiver of scientific papers
to his name on political psychology, personality, alcoholism,
and other mainstream psychological topics.
Today, Peterson is famous. His second book, 12 Rules for
Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Random House Canada, 409
pp., $34.95), published in January, quickly topped Amazon’s
best-seller list. His public lectures are sold-out affairs, his
YouTube videos have garnered more than 40 million views,
and he has more than 500,000 Twitter followers. Some 8,000
supporters give him more than $66,000 a month, or an average of $10.93 each, on the crowdfunding website Patreon.
In return, they receive an exclusive bimonthly Q&A session
with their mentor on YouTube.
APRIL 2018
The psychologist’s mass appeal
hinges on his ability to speak to what
one might call the spiritual crisis of
masculinity in the West: the deep sense
of uselessness and emasculation that
an increasing number of men claim to
feel due to globalization, technological
change, and civil rights gains by feminists and various ethnic minorities.
Pundits including Tyler Cowen and
David Brooks call Peterson the public
intellectual of the moment. They may
be right. But his celebrity is a symptom of the very crisis he claims to help
solve. And his style and its success replicate in miniature form the politics of
authoritarian populism now surging
across the West.
Peterson’s mediocre new book of
rules isn’t especially radical. Most
of them come from ancient ethical
traditions or are just common sense.
Rule No. 3, for example—“Make friends
with people who want the best for
you”—is entirely reasonable but also
a commonplace aphorism dating
back to the writings of Aristotle and
Confucius. Far more interesting
Illustration by WEBUYYOURKIDS/The Jacky Winter Group
than the text itself is Peterson’s
accompanying stage show: the lecture
tour, the self-help website, the internet
memes, and social media presence.
The international marketing campaign to support the launch of 12 Rules
for Life reached a fever pitch over matters largely ancillary to the book itself.
In January, a Channel 4 interview in
which Peterson caught the presenter,
Cathy Newman, flat-footed after she
questioned him about his apparent
refusal to respect pronoun preference
for transgender people went viral. Peterson’s followers quickly spread clips
online, giving them gloating titles such
as “Jordan B Peterson crushes Transgender debate rendering TV News host
Peterson is practiced at such jousting.
A 13-part television series based on his
1999 book, Maps of Meaning, offered
viewers an early glimpse of his thinking and persona, but it was a series of
videos targeting political correctness,
released on YouTube in 2016, that first
drew widespread attention. His rise
to fame continued in 2017, when he
appeared at a Canadian Senate hearing and denounced Bill C-16, which
stipulated that Canada’s 1977 Human
Rights Act add gender identity and gender expression to prohibited grounds for
discrimination. Peterson portrayed it
as the latest attempt by elites to undermine Western civilization. “One thing
I won’t do is use the made-up words
of postmodern neo-Marxists, who are
playing a particular game of gender
identity as an extension of their particular reprehensible philosophy,” he
said at an event sponsored by Harvard
University’s Open Campus Initiative in
April 2017. He soon faced both condemnation as a bigot and passionate praise
as a free speech hero.
Peterson’s philosophy is difficult to
assess because it is constructed of equal
parts apocalyptic alarm and homespun
advice. Like the Swiss psychiatrist Carl
Jung, whom he cites as an intellectual
influence, Peterson is fond of think-
ing in terms of grand dualities—especially the opposition of order and chaos.
Order, in his telling, consists of everything that is routine and predictable,
while chaos corresponds to all that is
unpredictable and novel.
For Peterson, living well requires
walking the line between the two.
He is hardly the first thinker to make
this point; another of his heroes,
the German philosopher Friedrich
Nietzsche, harking back to the ancient
Greeks, suggested that life is best lived
between the harmony of Apollo and
the madness of Dionysus. But while
Peterson claims both order and chaos
are equally important, he is mainly
concerned with the perils posed by the
latter—hence his rules.
In his books and lectures, Peterson
describes chaos as “feminine.” Order,
of course, is “masculine.” So the threat
of being overwhelmed by chaos is the
threat of being overwhelmed by femininity. The tension between chaos
and order plays out in both the personal sphere and the broader cultural
landscape, where chaos is promoted by
those “neo-Marxist postmodernists”
whose nefarious influence has spawned
radical feminism, political correctness,
moral relativism, and identity politics.
At the core of Peterson’s social program is the idea that the onslaught
of femininity must be resisted. Men
need to get tough and dominant. And,
in Peterson’s mind, women want this,
too. He tells us in 12 Rules for Life: “If
they’re healthy, women don’t want boys.
They want men.… If they’re tough, they
want someone tougher. If they’re smart,
they want someone smarter.” “Healthy”
women want men who can “outclass”
them. That’s Peterson’s reason for frequently referencing the Jungian motif
of the hero: the square-jawed warrior
who subdues the feminine powers of
chaos. Don’t be a wimp, he tells us. Be
a real man.
This machismo is of a piece with Jung
but also a caricature of Nietzsche’s philosophy, particularly the thinker’s Übermensch (superman), who escapes the
stultifying effects of a culture in decline.
“I am no man,” Nietzsche once claimed.
“I am dynamite!” Dynamite, from the
Greek dunamis, meaning “power.” That
is what Peterson’s acolytes are after. It
is no accident that one of his video lectures is titled “How to Rise to the Top of
the Dominance Hierarchy.”
But though he decries the ideology of
victimhood, Peterson is apt to literally
weep when talking about the plight of
young men in contemporary Western
culture. He describes them as objects
of a vast postmodernist conspiracy,
cast adrift in a world in which they are
denigrated as embodiments of an evil,
oppressive, patriarchal order by pathological, man-hating harpies.
Peterson’s tears reveal the sleight
of hand involved in the self-help
framework of his work. By insisting
his listeners are in need of guidance,
Peterson sets himself up to make
claims on what social theorists
call “charismatic authority.” Max
Weber, who introduced the concept
around 1920, defined it as a “certain
quality of an individual personality
by virtue of which he is considered
extraordinary and treated as endowed
with supernatural, superhuman, or at
least specifically exceptional powers.”
Charismatic leaders like Peterson
promote themselves as visionary
heroes, lone voices crying out in the
wilderness. Unencumbered by selfdoubt or self-criticism and impatient
with intellectual caution, their rhetoric
is grand, sweeping, and apocalyptic.
This is the style in which Peterson
both addresses and feeds the insecurities of men who see their traditional
identities slipping away and are resentful of the prospect of being displaced
by members of marginalized and subordinated groups. Ensnared in a web
of performative contradictions, he
decries identity politics, championing
In return for these promises, charismatic leaders elicit worshipful, even
delusional, devotion in their followers.
Peterson is no exception. “Taking
a course from him was like taking
psychedelic drugs without the drugs,”
one former student told the Chronicle
of Higher Education in January. “I
remember students crying on the last
day of class because they wouldn’t get
to hear him anymore.” On his Patreon
page, Peterson displays testimonials
from his YouTube viewers, such as,
“It’s heartbreaking to finally see the
light and look back at 41 years of
suffering,” and, “Your lectures are pure
inspiration to me.” Instead of resisting
this idealization, Peterson encourages
it. “I think I have learned and discovered
things that modern people desperately
need to know,” he writes on Patreon.
the “sovereignty of the individual,” but
his rhetoric shores up the traditional
group identity of his white male followers against the muddy tide of “postmodern” chaos. He condemns the (feminine,
postmodern) culture of “victimhood”
while encouraging young men to see
themselves as victims. And he shows
contempt for the so-called academic
echo chamber while reveling in the ways
his devoted fans on Twitter and other
online forums echo his own rhetoric.
But charismatic leadership has never
been about logical consistency or even
rational coherence. Charismatic leaders
serve a function in times of rapid social
change, when long-standing social identities are threatened. They advertise a
glorious future in which the group they
minister to will take its rightful place
and their enemies will be vanquished.
APRIL 2018
“My students, and my video audience,
seem to agree.”
There is, of course, an intimate connection between charismatic leadership
and political authoritarianism. Peterson, as an academic with a deep professional interest in propaganda and
psychoanalysis, ought to be acquainted
with a seminal paper, “The Psychology
of Propaganda,” by the British psychoanalyst Roger Money-Kyrle, who visited
Germany in the run-up to the 1933 election. After hearing Adolf Hitler speak,
Money-Kyrle concluded that charismatic authoritarian leaders first elicit
depression and despair in their audience,
then paranoid terror of a deadly enemy,
before finally offering salvation though a
redemptive order that abjures reasoned
discourse. Money-Kyrle thought that
our anxieties make us vulnerable to this
sort of rhetoric—anxieties that charismatic leaders exploit. Beneath his academic veneer, Peterson in this respect
resembles populists such as U.S. President Donald Trump.
Unlike Trump, Peterson at least
gives lip service to intellectual subtlety, singling Nietzsche out for praise
as a nuanced thinker. But he fails to give
this nuance sufficient consideration.
For Nietzsche, power was a source of
redemption, but he rejected the mindset
of revenge and victimhood. This is clearest in Nietzsche’s attacks on the figure of
the Christian priest, the quintessential
charismatic leader, who appeals to the
downtrodden beaten down by external
forces. Nietzsche understood the temptations of assuming leadership over such
men by encouraging their resentment.
Unlike Peterson, however, Nietzsche
acknowledged the personal and social
costs of doing so.
Peterson would be wise to give a closer
reading to chapter 78 of Nietzsche’s Thus
Spoke Zarathustra, titled “The Ass-Festival.” Here we find Zarathustra, the original teacher of the Übermensch, at the
end of his lecture on self-reliance and
perfectionism, surrounded by a mass
of devotees ready to bow down to their
new master. Zarathustra, at the rostrum,
knows he is whipping his followers into
a frenzy—and he hates everything about
it. At the end of the festival, a disgusted
Zarathustra abandons his followers. But
before departing, he shouts a warning:
“Forget not this night and this ass-festival, ye higher men!” It is a reminder that
a hero’s journey can too easily inspire
blind hero worship.
Forget not, Dr. Peterson.
is a professor of philosophy at the
University of New England and author
of Less Than Human: Why We Demean,
Enslave, and Exterminate Others.
JOHN KAAG (@JohnKaag) is a professor of philosophy at the University of
Massachusetts, Lowell, and author of
American Philosophy: A Love Story.
A scene from
Babylon Berlin, now
streaming on Netflix.
Don’t Mention the War
Germans love historical TV dramas—
so long as they sanitize their country’s
past. By Alan Posener
OVER THE LAST DECADE, German filmmakers have begun churning out lavishly produced movies and television series dealing with the dark side of Germany’s recent history. The
latest, most expensive, and internationally most successful
example is Babylon Berlin, a crime series set in the dying
days of the Weimar Republic, now streaming on Netflix in
Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Germany is not the only country looking backward, of
course. Many recent British and American movies have also
focused on the run-up to World War II and the war itself,
including The King’s Speech and Darkest Hour. But these
films are stories of redemption, culminating in the heroism of the war against Adolf Hitler. Germany, by contrast,
has to deal with a history of guilt and shame.
Most Germans today are proud of the way their country
handles this legacy, but many of these recent productions fall
short of what one might have expected from a generation of
filmmakers and TV producers untainted by Nazism. While
the shows dealing with communist East Germany are real-
istic, the Third Reich gets off too lightly.
None of the new productions directly
addresses the Holocaust or other Nazi
crimes. The dramas don’t even focus on
the resistance to Hitler. Instead, most
Germans appear as victims.
This trend began back in 2006 with
Dresden, a two-part TV drama set
against the destruction of the German
city by British and American bombers in February 1945. Some 12 million
Germans watched the show. A year
later, more than 11 million tuned in for
Die Flucht (released as March of Millions in English), which focused on Germans fleeing the Red Army.
The 2013 miniseries Unsere Mütter,
unsere Väter (released as Generation
War in English) continued the trend,
tracing the fates of five young people
from 1941 through to the end of the
Third Reich. None of them are Nazis
or have Nazi sympathies. As the series
opens, the friends gather at a farewell
party: Brothers Wilhelm and Friedhelm
are off to the Eastern Front. Charlotte,
a nurse, follows them. Greta, who stays
home, seeks fame as a singer. Her lover,
Viktor, is Jewish, despite the fact that
Rassenschande—intimate relations
between Aryans and non-Aryans—was
already forbidden in 1935, punishable
by prison and even death. Even more
implausible is the fact that Viktor is one
of the three friends who survive the war.
Advancing through the Soviet Union,
Wilhelm and Friedhelm do come face to
face with the Holocaust—but not in the
form of German Einsatzgruppen and
police battalions mowing down Jews.
Instead, it is Ukrainian peasants who
club Jewish men, women, and children
to death. The German friends watch in
horror, and their fellow soldiers actually
intervene to save one of the children,
though she is then shot by an SS officer.
What we don’t see is Germans screaming their allegiance to Hitler. Charlotte
does expose the Jewish identity of a Russian nurse who has been conscripted
to help in her field hospital, but she
then agonizes over her betrayal, and
the Jewish nurse returns, miraculously
unharmed, at the end of the series. She
is now a Red Army commissar and sends
another Russian nurse to her death
for supposedly collaborating with the
Germans. This twist reinforces antiJewish stereotypes put out by the Nazis,
who equated Jews with coldblooded
All these productions show Nazis as
caricatures of evil, distinct from ordinary Germans. Individual communists,
on the other hand, receive more realistic
portrayals, sometimes even sympathetic
ones. The brilliant series Weissensee,
which ran from 2010 to 2015, is a Sopranos-style family melodrama centered
on a Stasi officer in the 10 years leading up to the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
Tannbach, which ran from 2015 to this
year, is based loosely on the real-life village of Mödlareuth, which was divided
between East and West Germany. And
Deutschland 83—written by Anna
Winger, a British-American—follows
a loyal young East German army officer
blackmailed by the Stasi into becoming
a spy in the West German army.
Each of these programs is crafted with
a realism missing from the programs
depicting World War II. The scenes in
Tannbach that show the dispossession
of the farmers in the Eastern part of the
village are harrowing. Deutschland 83
shows how the Stasi infiltrated the West
German peace movement.
Why do German films and TV series
portray communism realistically but
shy away from depicting the full extent
of Nazi evil? Possibly because it was the
Germans themselves who ultimately
threw off the East German regime. The
Russians imposed communism from
without, and East Germans celebrated
when the wall finally fell. National
Socialism, on the other hand, was a popular movement; Germans continued to
fight fanatically for the Führer for years
after it was obvious that they’d lose the
war. Yet the country has still not come
to terms with this central fact, and these
recent shows perpetuate the self-serv-
APRIL 2018
ing myth that the worst crime their forebears were guilty of was naiveté.
It is perhaps no coincidence then that
Stefan Kolditz wrote both Unsere Mütter,
unsere Väter and Dresden. Born in
East Germany in 1956, Kolditz was a
scriptwriter for communist state TV
until the government collapsed. Like
many East Germans who were quick
to adapt to new realities, Kolditz
advances the narrative that most people
had nothing to do with the dictatorial
regime. Both Nazism and communism
appear as alien forces.
It is also no coincidence that when
Americans appear in these shows, they
are depicted as villains. In Tannbach,
a U.S. colonel ends up working with
ex-Nazis against the communists and
all German TV viewers. But again, most
of them were older than 50. Conversely,
Babylon Berlin only reached 1.2 million
viewers in its first week, but because for
now it is being streamed rather than
broadcast via free TV, it is likely to garner a younger audience.
Babylon Berlin’s viewers will hardly
get a more realistic or critical analysis of the factors that led to the downfall of Germany’s first democracy. The
show derives much of its fascination
from aesthetics: the juxtaposition of
sex, drugs, and swing on the one hand
with red flags and Brownshirts on the
other. When this aestheticizing of the
past is combined with the tendency to
treat Germans as a people more sinned
against than sinning, as the majority of
covering up the death of a child. In
Deutschland 83, German officers in the
East and West are each scared that their
country will become a nuclear battlefield between the cynical Russian and
American cold warriors. In Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter, one of the last scenes
shows a murderous former SS officer
working for U.S. occupation forces,
which are well aware of his record.
How representative are the sensibilities portrayed in these shows? Although
they all got high ratings, that was at
least in part because most of them were
shown by the big public broadcasters.
Millions of people watched each one—
but most viewers were older than 50.
Young Germans, like young Americans, are rapidly abandoning public TV
for streaming services such as Netflix
and Amazon. Some 7.6 million people
watched Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter,
which amounted to nearly a quarter of
these shows do, things become more
problematic still.
Tom Tykwer, the director of Babylon
Berlin, often references German expressionist films of the 1920s—such as
Metropolis, Nosferatu, and The Cabinet
of Dr. Caligari—in the new series.
These movies portray the Weimar
Republic as decadent and beyond
redemption, much as Tykwer does.
The international public relations
campaign for Babylon Berlin trades on
that decadence for understandable reasons. Berlin today attracts millennials
from around the world who are drawn
to its easygoing, multicultural atmosphere—as well as the slightly perverse
frisson of being in what was the capital
of the notorious Roaring ’20s, Nazism,
and the communist regime. Babylon
Berlin, like the Volker Kutscher novels the program is based on, panders
to the thrill of knowing more than the
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protagonists, a brooding sense of coming catastrophe.
This failure of German films and
TV series to deal responsibly with the
country’s past and to appeal to younger
audiences feeds a growing historical amnesia among young Germans.
Some students complain about learning too much about the Holocaust at
school, but they may actually know
very little. A September 2017 study
conducted by the Körber Foundation
found that 40 percent of 14-year-olds
surveyed in Germany did not know what
Auschwitz was. Xenophobia is an ongoing issue in eastern Germany. In some
cases, students are still being taught
by teachers who were chosen for their
loyalty to the communist regime and
indoctrinated to believe that Nazism
was a problem of West Germany, not
the East. At the same time, Germany is
fast becoming a nation of immigrants
who may import anti-Semitic attitudes
from their countries of origin and seldom understand that in becoming part
of German society, they enter into a
collective responsibility for Holocaust
remembrance, European integration,
and support for Jewish life in Germany.
The director of the Jewish High School
in Berlin, Aaron Eckstaedt, told the
prominent Jewish weekly Jüdische Allgemeine recently that every year six to
eight Jewish students apply for admission after having been harassed by Arab
or Turkish students at public schools,
which seem powerless to protect them.
In late 2017, the 14-year-old son of
Wenzel Michalski, the head of Human
Rights Watch in Germany, left his school
after being abused, beaten, and finally
subjected to a mock execution by fellow
students for being Jewish.
With populism and anti-Semitism
on the rise all over Europe, Germany
is telling itself the wrong stories about
its past.
ALAN POSENER (@APosener) is a correspondent and commentator for Die
Welt and Welt am Sonntag in Berlin.
The Arab World’s Star Student
What Tunisia can teach its neighbors
about the value of education.
By Kim Ghattas
TUNISIA MARKED the seventh anniversary of its Jasmine Revolution in January with large protests in response to new
austerity measures, similar to those that followed the self-immolation of a street vendor in December 2010 that first set
the region on fire. This year’s protests also turned violent.
Security forces arrested 930 demonstrators—a worrying
sign that the only Arab country to manage a somewhat successful transition to democracy may be starting to unravel.
But Safwan Masri, a Columbia University scholar on education in the Arab world, sees it differently. For him, the protests are a sign that democracy is alive and well in Tunisia,
as Tunisians use their newfound rights to hold their elected
leaders accountable.
Masri’s new book, Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly (Columbia University Press, 416 pp., $35), explores the factors that
allowed the country to succeed, albeit in a still-tenuous way,
Illustration by CHRIS GASH
where others have failed. He credits
Tunisia’s progress to its size and location, its fairly homogenous population,
its long history of reform and liberal
thought, and finally to Habib Bourguiba,
the enlightened dictator who founded
the nation and ruled for almost 30 years.
This unique confluence of factors, Masri
argues, is what allowed democracy to
take root in Tunisia.
But one key factor stands out above
all others—and it is one that Tunisia’s
neighbors must learn from. In the best
chapter of Masri’s book, he details how
the country’s strong, secular education
system and diverse school curriculums
have fostered openness, critical thinking, and debate. The education system,
he argues, allowed people to ask “why”
even during the time of dictatorship
and endowed Tunisian society with a
foundation to build on after the fall of
the despot.
Much has been written about the stifling impact of rote learning on innovation and critical thinking in the Arab
world. The overcrowded and underfunded education systems across the
region produce young adults who are
woefully unprepared for the modern
job market. Masri identifies some of
the underlying societal factors that perpetuate this trend and ties it to what
he describes as the “closing of the Arab
From Saudi Arabia to Libya, Jordan
to Egypt, Masri writes, education systems are weighed down by religious
or nationalist dogma. For the last few
decades, young Arabs haven’t been
taught to question the religious or political system; they’re simply expected to
submit to authority instead. After years
of authoritarian rule and the ever-growing influence of religion on the education sector—a combination Masri calls
“intellectual despotism”—the muscle of
critical thinking has atrophied.
Long gone are the days of the late
19th and early 20th centuries, when
the region witnessed a cultural and
literary revival and engaged in public
debates, led by reformist thinkers such
as Muhammad Abduh and Taha Hussein, about the role of religion in society.
Tunisia has been the exception to this
stultifying trend. Following independence from France, Bourguiba, who ran
the country from 1956 to 1987, invested
heavily in building up the country’s
education system, maintaining bilingualism in schools, limiting religion
studies to two hours a week, devoting
close to 35 percent of the government’s
budget to education, and appointing
a playwright, Mahmoud Messadi, as
minister of education. (The pursuit of
a secular state did come with heavy
repression, including forcing women
to remove their hijabs.)
Meanwhile, countries such as Libya,
Iraq, Algeria, and Syria, with ostensibly
secular military rulers, imposed party
doctrine and the cult of a leader, banned
the teaching of foreign languages, and
often spent more than half their budgets
on defense. In Libya, students devoted
hours to singing songs about the dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi or studying
his infamous Green Book, a collection of random thoughts and teachings dressed as political theory. Even
after the removal of Qaddafi and Iraq’s
Saddam Hussein, not enough attention
or resources were devoted to overhauling those countries’ education systems,
particularly when it came to undoing
ingrained rote learning.
In countries such as Jordan and
Egypt, rulers used Islam to cement
their hold on power but found they
couldn’t counter the power of Islamists.
In Jordan, King Hussein appointed the
founder of the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood as education minister in the 1970s. Verses from the Quran
can even be found in science textbooks there, much as creationism is
still taught in some American schools.
When the Jordanian Education Ministry recently tried to lessen this religious
slant, even the teachers’ association
protested, decrying what it described
as damage to Islamic values and urging
APRIL 2018
educators to ignore the new textbooks.
Literature and philosophy, subjects
that feed questioning minds and open
new horizons, are absent in most curriculums around the region. In Saudi
Arabia, Masri writes, “[b]etween 20
and 30 percent of weekly hours at the
primary and secondary school levels
are dedicated to [religious study].” And
that’s without counting history and Arabic-language classes, which are shaped
by religion.
In an interview over breakfast in Beirut, Masri identifies a third factor that
contributed to the decline of critical
thinking: the Arab-Israeli conflict. Arab
leaders, he says, “hijacked” the conflict for their own purposes, using it to
silence dissent and alter history books
sive education established by Bourguiba
has survived, and the system is now
set for an overhaul that is expected to
improve the quality of teacher training,
upgrade the curriculum, and promote
more research, with an expanded estimated budget of $2 billion.
Young Arabs in the region may
look at Tunisia with envy, but Masri
is not optimistic that other Arab leaders have the time and political will to
truly reform their own education systems. He points to Saudi Arabia, where
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
is busy changing the education sector
with infrastructure improvements and
more digital training for teachers. But
changes to the actual curriculum are
still sorely lagging behind. As Jordan’s
to impose state-sanctioned narratives
that explain away Arab defeats in the
face of Israel. “When it comes to Israel
and Palestine, there is no debate, there
is no questioning. There is black and
white,” he says. “Where did we learn
to look critically at the history leading
to 1948? Where did we learn about the
mistakes of [the defeat of] 1967?”
Not everything is perfect in Tunisia,
of course. The education system suffered during Bourguiba’s final years
and under Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali,
who was ousted in January 2011. During
the 1980s, religion crept in, academic
standards lowered, and the pursuit of
high university enrollment came at
the expense of quality. The disconnect
between an education system built in
the middle of the 20th century and the
changing job market resulted in rising
unemployment. Still, the basic progres-
example showed, reforming the curriculum requires facing down Islamists and
the clerical establishment, a risk most
rulers aren’t willing to take, according
to Masri, lest their Islamic credentials
come into question.
The role of religion in education will
not be easy to roll back. This remains
true even though more than half of
young Arabs today say religion plays
too big a role in the Middle East and
a majority complain that the education they are receiving does not prepare
them for the jobs of the future, according to the 2016 Arab Youth Survey by
Asdaa Burson-Marsteller.
While they wait for their leaders to
effect change, young Arabs are taking
matters into their own hands. One such
initiative is Afikra—a play on words
for the Arabic expression for “on second thought”—which hosts a monthly
salon-style event of presentations that
encourages participants to question
accepted truths and customs.
Launched in Brooklyn in 2014, Afikra
is the brainchild of Mikey Muhanna, a
32-year-old former public high school
teacher in New Orleans, who then lived
in New York and is now back home in
Beirut, where he grew up. Muhanna’s
efforts to foster critical thinking started
with his students from disadvantaged
backgrounds after Hurricane Katrina.
He then launched Afikra as a way for
him and his friends to explore Arab
culture and history. Afikra now holds
monthly gatherings in Dubai, Beirut,
Bahrain, Washington, New York, Montreal, and London, with more cities to
come—all with the motto of “reigniting curiosity, building a community.”
At each gathering, two guest speakers
present their findings on a topic of their
choice, from “What makes Arabic music
Arabic?” to “How did Gulf Arabs stay
cool before air-conditioning?” Muhanna
and his team help the speakers conduct
their research and frame their presentations to help push the boundaries of
their questions.
“Afikra was born out of my own
frustrations and limits of my critical
thinking,” Muhanna says. “There was
an invisible border,” he adds, beyond
which the mind didn’t venture.
The topics may seem bland or noncontroversial, but beyond heated political debates, what the region needs most
is to rediscover how to question the
obvious. At Afikra, no topic is off limits as long as the speaker isn’t pitching
something. After 100 talks in seven cities and building an online archive that
has attracted 50,000 views, Muhanna
is now looking into how to expand his
initiative, including into schools around
the region.
Such initiatives remain a drop in an
ocean of dogma and rote learning, carried out with little institutional support
and few resources. Too much money is
still spent on defense and ill-conceived
counterterrorism programs, including
by the United States, which gives and
sells billions of dollars in military equipment to Arab countries. Meanwhile,
Arab leaders do too little to shape young
inquisitive minds. They fear their young
populations and see them as threats and
thus fail to treat students as assets who
can help build the future.
KIM GHATTAS (@BBCKimGhattas) is a BBC
correspondent covering international
affairs and a senior visiting fellow at
the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“Through GMAP I was able to pursue my master’s degree
and join a network of accomplished international
professionals, all while continuing to work full time.”
– Paul Vamasiri, GMAP 2017
G3, Director of Operations,
U.S. Army, Department of Defense
Global Master of Arts Program (GMAP)
• A one-year master’s degree in international relations without career interruption or relocation
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of diplomacy, law, journalism, development, security, technology, energy, and finance
The Wealth of a Nation: A History of
Trade Politics in America
DURING THE U.S. CIVIL WAR, in the midst of one of the country’s
many protectionist benders, a man named Joseph Wharton
successfully lobbied for high tariffs on imported nickel. It made
sense for him: He owned the nation’s only working nickel
mine. He also got Congress to mandate a new 5-cent coin so
there’d be a market for his monopoly. But Wharton is perhaps
best known for endowing the world’s first business school, to
which he assigned a clear mission: “to advocate economic
protectionism unequivocally,” writes C. Donald Johnson in
The Wealth of a Nation.
Perhaps it’s due to a certain Wharton graduate that protectionism has stomped back so noisily into the center of
American politics. Or perhaps it’s a national design flaw.
After all, American colonists initially rebelled because of
British mercantilism and then turned around and did the
mother country one better by becoming masters of the tariff
wall and government coddling of industry, nearly starting
their own civil war decades ahead of schedule.
Johnson, who worked as a trade official in President Bill Clinton’s administration and then as a lawyer, set out to chronicle
the central role trade politics have always played in the United
States. He largely succeeds, bringing the historical debates
to life with a cast of characters from Henry Clay to Cordell
Hull, though at times he wades too deeply into the minutiae
of congressional horse-trading and international trade talks.
APRIL 2018
From the outset, Johnson stresses,
U.S. politics have been a variation on a
theme. Economic nationalists such as
Alexander Hamilton wanted high tariffs
to shield certain domestic industries.
Free traders warned that farmers and
workers would end up paying the price
of that protection. Time and again, most
memorably with the infamous SmootHawley Tariff Act of 1930, Republican
Congresses gleefully ignored the cries of
farmers, merchants, big exporters, and
laborers and gave a few well-connected
firms steep tariffs to hide behind. Now,
thanks to expanded presidential trade
authority, Republican presidents get to
do the same thing.
With the Trump administration
starting trade wars and bringing protectionism back, the book couldn’t be
timelier. But then, as The Wealth of a
Nation makes clear, the wonder isn’t
that protectionism returned—it’s that
free traders ever won a few rounds along
the way.
KEITH JOHNSON (@KFJ_FP) is a senior staff
Illustration by DANIEL HERTZBERG
Our Time Has Come:
How India Is Making
Its Place in the World
360 PP., $27.95, JANUARY 2018
IT SEEMS INDIA has been about to take its
place in the sun ever since independence.
In the early 1950s, the country’s first
prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, said
he sensed a “certain leadership is thrust
upon India.” India’s first attempt to build
a blue-water navy in the 1970s led many,
at least inside the country, to herald its
emergence as a great world power. And
when it tested a nuclear weapon in 1974,
India gatecrashed a very exclusive club.
But decades of closed-door economics, endemic poverty, and ambivalence
about exercising military muscle always
kept India from truly reaching greatpower status—until, perhaps, now. Our
Time Has Come is a sweeping analysis of
India’s remarkable recent transformation into one of the world’s biggest economies and militaries and an increasingly
confident player on the global stage.
Alyssa Ayres, a former State Department official now at the Council on Foreign Relations, spent decades tracking
India, from a college study abroad program to her service in President Barack
Obama’s administration. She ably charts
the country’s emergence from the straitjacket of socialist policies, which helped
breed a fetish for self-reliance and stifled
Indian firms’ ability to compete in the
global economy.
While there is still plenty left to
do—labor market and land reform, for
starters—India is finally unleashing
the economic potential of its largely
young population of 1.3 billion. “The
long road from Nehru’s ‘socialistic
pattern of society’ to [Prime Minister
Narendra] Modi’s ‘business runs in my
blood’ captures the epic scale of change
in India,” Ayres writes.
That economic foundation is
midwifing another equally important
change for India: a chance to finally
assume its “rightful place” in the world.
China is a spur in more ways than one.
Like China, India is seeking to revise
a Western-dominated global order in
institutions such as the United Nations
and the International Monetary Fund,
and the two countries are creating
new institutions to supplant the old,
such as the Asian Infrastructure
Investment Bank.
But China’s eruption into India’s
neighborhood—including increased
border incursions in the north and
especially a growing Chinese naval
presence in the Indian Ocean—has
pushed New Delhi to assume a more
prominent security role and nudged it
closer to Washington.
That doesn’t mean India and the
United States are allies, or will be anytime soon, Ayres takes pains to stress.
India may have formally shaken off its
“nonaligned” stance of decades past,
but it still cherishes its strategic autonomy—especially as it charts its newfound place in the world.—KJ
War in 140 Characters:
How Social Media Is
Reshaping Conflict in the
Twenty-First Century
320 PP., $17.99, NOVEMBER 2017
proclaim that conventional military strategy is passé and war is now waged via
smartphones and Facebook feeds. But
what does that actually mean in practice?
Journalist David Patrikarakos’s new book
chronicles in granular detail exactly how
social media has transformed the way
that modern wars are fought.
Patrikarakos argues that narrative
war has become more important than
physical war as a result of new technologies. Crucially, the spread of social
media has brought about a “virtual
mass enlistment” that gives civilians as
much—and sometimes more—power as
state propaganda machines. He is cleareyed about this leveling of the playing
field. “The state will always fight back,”
he writes—and it has.
Patrikarakos goes to great lengths
to show both sides of each conflict he
covers. His chapter on Israel’s 2014 war
against Hamas in Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge, first brings us into
the home of Farah Baker, a 16-year-old
Twitter activist who became the voice
of Gaza during the Israeli bombing campaign. We then follow the author into
the inner sanctum of the Israel military
and see how the defense establishment
adjusted, slowly, to fighting a new enemy
and a narrative war.
In Ukraine, Patrikarakos meets a
middle-aged mother and former public
relations executive who uses Facebook to
source boots and body armor and then
drives them to the front line in subzero
temperatures. The author joins her there,
under threat of artillery fire, as she delivers the supplies. On the other side of the
battlefield, Russia’s state-sponsored
trolls wage a concerted counterpropaganda effort. Rather than simply justifying its actions, Patrikarakos writes, the
Kremlin’s online army aimed to flood the
zone with conflicting information and
“sow as much confusion as possible.”
Virtual mass enlistment can strike a
blow at even technologically savvy states
such as Russia. It was a group of obsessive internet sleuths who proved that a
Russian-made missile likely shot down a
Malaysia Airlines jet in Ukraine in 2014.
What is most remarkable about this episode, he writes, is that “the Russian government was forced to publicly battle a
group of mostly unpaid civilian volunteers … a battle that would have been
both unnecessary and unthinkable just
ten years ago.”
As Patrikarakos is well aware, the social
media weapons described in War in 140
Characters may soon be out of date, just
like the book’s title (Twitter went to 280
characters soon after the book went to
press). But the profound questions this
book raises about the future of warfare
will remain relevant for years to come.
is a deputy editor at FOREIGN POLICY.
Sponsored Report
IMAGE: Shutterstock - Trabantos
Bahrain: The heart of the Gulf
With inward investment increasing by 161% to $733 million in 2017, Bahrain continues
to solidify its reputation as a strategic and business-friendly hub in the Middle East
Situated in the heart of the Persian Gulf, Bahrain is a hotbed for
foreign investment and a hive of
modernity. As a regional pioneer of
smart economic diversification, the
island nation is making substantial progress under its Economic
Vision 2030 program. In 2017, for-
eign investments spanned several
strategic growth sectors, including
information and communication
technologies, manufacturing, tourism and financial services.
This success is largely attributed
to a highly supportive regulatory
environment, advanced infrastruc-
Building the Foundations
of the next chapter of our success
ture, and a productive and talented
workforce that “is among the most
educated in the Gulf region,”
according to Abdul Hussain bin
Ali Mirza, the country’s Minister
of Electricity and Water Affairs.
Companies act as key enablers
A preeminent success story, Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) recognizes
the talents of the Bahraini people
to the extent that 85% of its workforce is local. Alba is consistently
ranked as one of the largest aluminum smelters in the world and
2018 is gearing up to be another
extraordinary year of growth, with
the development of its Line 6
Expansion Project.
Tim Murray, Alba’s CEO, calls
this a “game changer,” that will
transform Alba into the largest single-site aluminum smelter in the
world. When complete, production capacity will reach 1.5 million
HPC: A major contributor to growth in the kingdom
Empowering Bahrain by providing the increasing amounts of water and
electricity it needs to thrive, as well as a cleaner and healthier environment
Hidd Power Company (HPC) | Tel: +973 1767 9479 |
metric tons a year. Alba’s leadership role in the kingdom’s economy has long been recognized and
has flourished under Murray. Its
continuing importance is proven
by its receipt of numerous awards
in 2017, such as the Occupational
Excellence Achievement Award
from the US’s National Safety
Similarly, Hidd Power Company
(HPC) is also a dynamic business
and a major contributor to the
kingdom’s growth. HPC provides
Bahrain with reliable water and
power, and is amply meeting the
increasing demands of a rapidly
developing nation. HPC values
its role as a steward of the environment. According to Executive
Managing Director Yahya Bin
Yunus, “By developing a strong
culture of awareness and responsibility HPC inspires new generations to become environmentally
conscious, thereby creating a successful social ethos of ‘green living’
for a cleaner, healthier Bahrain.”
The company benefits from the
support and experience of its three
major international shareholders:
Malakoff Corporation, Sumitomo
Corporation and Engie.
Sponsored Report
A nation of innovators and entrepreneurs
Tamkeen’s progress in driving economic growth and
diversification by supporting Bahrain’s private sector and
citizens is putting the country’s businesses on the world stage
November 2017 saw over 6,000 participants at Global Entrepreneurship
Week in Bahrain — proof, says Dr
Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi, CEO
of Tamkeen, that it is, “A nation of innovators and entrepreneurs.” During
the event, it was announced that
Bahrain will host 2019’s prestigious
Around 10% of Bahraini
businesses have been
helped by Tamkeen.”
Dr Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi,
CEO, Tamkeen
Global Entrepreneurship Congress, a
result of the country’s open attitude
to global business and promotion of
entrepreneurship, says Janahi.
Tamkeen, a public body set up in
2006, submitted the winning bid,
as part of its role that, “Centers on
contributing to the development of
Bahrain’s private sector, to make it the
engine of national economic growth,”
Janahi explains; “As the world moves
towards significant economic transformation, with an emerging need
to meet demands of new sectors,
Tamkeen takes initiatives to meet the
development requirements of both
individuals and enterprises.”
Working with various agencies
and organizations, as well as advisory
committees that enable input from
the private sector, Tamkeen offers a
wide range of programs for enterprises, in areas including business development, training and wage support. It
also provides grants, investment and
financial help for businesses. In addition, it trains and educates citizens to
help them become the preferred option for employment in the kingdom.
The organization has already invested $904 million into its programs
Dr Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi
CEO, Tamkeen
and the results are impressive. “Since
2007, around 10% of Bahraini businesses have been helped by Tamkeen and 56% of all newly registered
companies. During 2015-17 alone,
Bahraini commercial registrations increased by 28%,” says Janahi. In addition, for every $1 Tamkeen has spent,
companies have been able to access
$13 in financing.
The organization has been equally
effective for Bahraini citizens, Janahi
notes: “37% of all individuals have
passed through Tamkeen’s training
initiatives, our employment schemes
have generated over 9,000 jobs and
there has been an average wage increase of 17%, due to our training and
wage support program.”
To ensure service quality, customer satisfaction and results, Tamkeen
reviews its strategy regularly. 2018-20
will see it focused on diversification,
accelerating delivery and sustainability, while investing more to develop
Bahrain’s business ecosystem, financing mechanisms, innovation, market
expansion and training, for example.
Tamkeen is also reaching out internationally, especially to enterprises
that can offer significant investment
or technology transfer opportunities.
“To maximize development of the
economy, our investment support has
been extended to domestic projects
that are joint ventures with renowned
international players,” states Janahi.
With Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2019 just around the corner,
now is the perfect time for those
players to find out more about the potential in Bahrain’s pioneering private
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Transforming telecommunications
and fostering growth in Bahrain
Since 2010, VIVA Bahrain has been instrumental in providing the kingdom with the most
advanced telecommunications services in the region
As the highest-ranked Arab state
in the United Nations’ ICT Development Index, Bahrain is a
leader in telecommunications.
With a nationwide 4G network,
it has a mobile-broadband penetration rate of over 100% and
almost universal internet use.
One company responsible for
this is VIVA Bahrain, a subsidiary of Saudi Telecommunications
Company, which launched in
2010. “We entered Bahrain with
a vision to transform the national
telecommunications landscape
and lay a robust foundation for
the future. Our success today is
testament to that,” notes VIVA’s
CEO Ulaiyan Al Wetaid.
Since entering Bahrain’s telecommunications services sec-
Ulaiyan Al Wetaid
CEO, VIVA Bahrain
tor, VIVA has seen phenomenal
growth and become market
leader, thanks to “Unrivalled experience, knowledge and vision,”
says Al Wetaid. “In a dynamic
industry like ours, we needed to
invest heavily in infrastructural
development to adopt the latest
technologies and smart solutions
that help strengthen Bahrain’s
global position in telecommunications, and information and
communications technologies.”
Aiming to provide unique services, VIVA is often the first in
Bahrain to offer the latest hightech devices and has introduced
a comprehensive wholesale and
enterprise portfolio with national
and international services.
“VIVA Bahrain has positioned
itself at the forefront of innovation by providing a number of
groundbreaking products and
services to help individual and
business customers. We are a
smart-city enabler. We provide
more than just products, we cre-
ate ecosystems that are helping
the kingdom on its journey to
gradually transform into ‘Smart’
Bahrain,” Al Wetaid explains.
VIVA also boasts one of Bahrain’s largest, most diversified
sales and payment networks, he
states: “We have a user-friendly
web portal, 19 retail outlets, over
700 payment channels and a distribution channel with over 3,700
outlets throughout the country.”
This customer-centric approach
has won international recognition at the Telecoms World Middle East awards and the Middle
East Call Center Awards.
As well as having a positive
effect on telecommunications,
VIVA has a role in Bahrain’s
wider development, by investing in corporate social responsibility programs. It focuses on
initiatives that support the community at large, enable society
through technology, minimize
environmental damage or provide education. As Al Wetaid
says, “We are committed to the
sustainable development of local
communities and spreading our
culture of innovation beyond our
customers and across Bahrain.”
we are Bahrain’s Fastest Network
The perfect islands for
leisure and business
visitors, as well as
investors in tourism
Sheikh Khaled bin Humood Al Khalifa
CEO, Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority
Offering history, modernity, accessibility and value,
Bahrain is now firmly on the map for tourism and events
Tourism in Bahrain is booming.
The first nine months of 2017
saw 8.7 million visitors, 13% up
on 2016, according to the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions
Authority (BTEA). It is also an
investment hotspot, with over
$13 billion being pumped into
the sector by December 2017.
This is no surprise, as the only
island-based country in the region offers diverse ecosystems
on land and sea, plus a rich mix
of historical sites and luxurious
facilities. “When you stand in
our 4,500-year-old fort, you can
see modern Bahrain. We have a
spectacular contrast of old and
new,” says BTEA’s CEO Sheikh
Khaled bin Humood Al Khalifa.
The meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions sector
in particular is flourishing. Al
Khalifa believes this is because:
“Bahrain is easily accessed and
the ideal place to capture the regional market — you get Saudi
and Kuwaiti audiences, for example, as well as the Bahraini one.
Visas for business events are giv-
For further information please visit www.
en in advance and you can stay
in excellent hotels for a much
better price than elsewhere.”
BTEA promotes and oversees
tourism and events, and assists
investors in the sector, with the
aim of “contributing as much as
possible to the Bahraini economy,” notes Al Khalifa; “Our
strategy is based on four As:
accessibility, accommodation, attractions and awareness.”
To improve access, the main
airport is being expanded, port
infrastructure upgraded and
the causeway link to Saudi Arabia improved. “We are trying to
open the doors and welcome everyone,” explains Al Khalifa.
Sponsored Report
Accommodation is seeing significant investment, with fifteen
four and five-star hotels in development. These could be staffed
by graduates from a new hospitality institute, which should
encourage more Bahrainis into
tourism, and develop the skills of
local and international students.
Bahrain has many attractions,
not least its annual Formula 1
Grand Prix, but it is investing in
more. For example, a huge new
exhibition and conference center,
and luxury shopping malls are
being built, the new King Abdullah Medical City will attract medical tourists and it has recently
tendered four major beachfront
development projects.
To increase awareness, the
BTEA has opened seven international offices and is, “developing our international strategy,
focused on where we have direct
flights with Gulf Air,” says Al
Khalifa. Part of this strategy will
be to inform the world about
what makes Bahrain so special:
“The Bahraini people are our
main asset. They are renowned
for being hospitable, authentic
and always welcoming.”
APRIL 2018
decisions of a small oligarchy, made
from day to day, govern. Their decrees
are the law.” She and the other writers
anticipate Hitler’s Anschluss of Austria,
the coming war between fascism and
democracy, and the degradation and
excising of—as well as attempt to
exterminate—an entire ethnic group,
Jews, from German society. They
worry, too, about the potential export
of Germany’s racialized system of
While Opinion can still be found in
the Library of Congress, the extraordinary foresight of its writers is rarely, if
ever, mentioned in the myriad histories
of World War II. The anniversary edition
reproduced here can’t be found online.
That is unfortunate. Though these
pleadings for a prompt and rigorous response to demagoguery went
unheeded, the essays contain lessons
for addressing current crises. Hitler’s
racialist totalitarianism was, in retrospect, an obvious abomination. But
given today’s rising anti-immigrant sentiment, populism, and disenchantment
with democracy, it is ever more important to remember just how far such dark
impulses can lead.
SARAH WILDMAN (@SarahAWildman)
is deputy editor (print) at FOREIGN
IN MARCH 1934, a collection of North
American thinkers from the religious
(Rabbi Stephen Wise, Unitarian Rev.
John Haynes Holmes) to the journalistic (Dorothy Thompson, later the first
U.S. correspondent to be ousted from
Nazi Germany) gathered to observe a
yahrzeit, a memorial of loss, marking
the first anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s
ascension to power. They met in the
pages of Opinion: A Journal of Jewish
Life and Letters, a then-monthly magazine that, these days, is all but forgotten.
Read today, 84 years after their publication, the essays still crackle with anger
and eerie prescience. Terror had come
to Europe, particularly for the continent’s increasingly disenfranchised
Jews. With the resurgence of populism
and xenophobia around the world today,
reading how early 20th-century authors
analyzed the dangers posed by that era’s
demagogues—long before their terrible
plans actually played out—offers some
insight into the present moment.
“There tends to be a misperception
in the general public today that Americans didn’t have any sense of the threat
of Nazism as it was unfolding, and the
opposite is true,” says Daniel Greene, a
history professor at Northwestern University and guest curator of the new
exhibit Americans and the Holocaust at
the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The monographs printed in Opinion
eloquently reinforce that point.
“Law does not govern,” writes
Thompson, then a correspondent for
several major U.S. publications, about
conditions in 1934 Germany. “Force
and the arbitrary and unchallengeable
On a continent that is regarded as the world’s future for the
next 20 years, South Africa continues to show the world the
value of a multi-party democracy. Come to Africa and choose
to invest in a country with a mature, secure democracy.
Choose South Africa.
Go to
Brand South Africa
The Lionel Gelber Prize
2 018 F i n a l i s t s
Destined for War:
Can America and China
Escape Thucydides’s Trap?
Red Famine:
Stalin’s War on Ukraine
in English on
Signal/McClelland & Stewart
international affairs.
should read.
The Internationalists:
How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War
Remade the World
Asia’s Reckoning:
China, Japan, and the Fate of
Simon & Schuster
A unique perspective on the
trilateral relationship that is shaping
The Future of War:
A History
PublicAffairs/Hachette Book Group
The Lionel Gelber Prize is presented
by The Lionel Gelber Foundation, in
partnership with the Munk School of
Global Affairs at the University of Toronto
and )RUHLJQ3ROLF\ magazine.
A riveting account of the people who
created the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928.
Viking/Penguin Random House
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