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Global | The Atlantic
The Arbitrariness of Trump’s European Travel Ban
Last night, a few thousand Atletico Madrid supporters crammed into a corner of Liverpool’s Anfield stadium to watch their soccer team knock the reigning European champions out of the continent’s premier competition, the UEFA Champions League. As they woke in their hotel rooms and Airbnbs this morning, they discovered, as Madrileños, or, more important, Europeans who live in the no-border Schengen Area that operates on the continent, they are now barred from traveling to the United States. The 50,000 Liverpool fans who were also in the stadium last night, or at least those who happen to be British or Irish, awoke chastened by their team’s defeat—but not banned.If there is an award for the most absurd spectacle capturing the arbitrariness of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, this surely wins it.President Donald Trump’s decision to ban most European citizens from traveling to the U.S., except those from the United Kingdom and Ireland, appears to make no sense, and to inject past grievances and prejudices into delicate scientific and political equations. In this spiraling thriller cum horror novel, Trump’s emergence, full of hostility and conspiracy, with warnings of foreign viruses, heralds a darkening turn—an early indication of the power of a pandemic to infect global decision making and international relations.Politics, domestic and international, is already morphing under the strain of the coronavirus, and all signs indicate that it will continue to do so. Some governments will rise to higher ideals, to duty and justice, equity and science; others will simply be unable to meet the test or, worse, disgrace themselves. Some systems will allow combinations of various measures, and some political leaders will take decisions in good faith, based on good science, but still get it wrong. This, though, is the stage when politics comes to the fore, where the values of those with power are revealed. More than that, this crisis is becoming a test of the international order, formal and institutional or informal and cultural, to cope with the pressures placed on it by nationalism, quackery, corruption, ignorance, or malevolence.[Read: Trump’s dangerously effective coronavirus propaganda]Yesterday, the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, slashed interest rates in a coordinated stimulus effort with the British government. He declared that 2008 revealed the danger that the new globally integrated financial system posed, but that today this very system could help, not hinder. In his world, global institutions and a culture of coordination had developed. The giants of the financial crash had learned the lessons from the 1930s and moved quickly and globally in the knowledge that a beggar-my-neighbor policy in a global depression beggars everyone in the end. Today, it is sobering simply to wonder whether anyone is applying this lesson to the pandemic—an even more obvious case of the stupidity of petty nationalism.And yet, as ever with the American president, the rationale for his decision carries its own peculiarly Trumpian worldview, exposing both how he sees the world and the weaknesses of who he sees as his adversaries. Trump is nothing if not alive to the flaws of his enemies. In this case, it is not without logic to treat the European Schengen Area as one country. While it clearly isn’t one and doesn’t overlap neatly with either the euro or the European Union (Norway, which is not an EU member, is part of Schengen; Ireland, which is both an EU member and part of the eurozone, is not), it is a core feature for almost all EU member states, a common travel area in which there are no internal checks. Schengen is one of Europe’s core strengths and accomplishments, but also a structural weakness that continues to challenge its legitimacy in the eyes of many of its citizens.The EU is a proto-state. It has the institutions of a state, a central bank and parliament, currency and court. And yet it is weaker than a conventional state, mostly unable to take effective collective action in times of crisis, whether diplomatically, fiscally, or militarily. Its weakness is in handling migration and debts, refugees and Russian aggression. The worry today is that this weakness will be exposed, even though the coronavirus is exactly the type of cross-border challenge that highlights one of the EU’s fundamental strengths: its ability to coordinate continentally.Trump’s logic appears to be that the coronavirus is on the loose in Europe and because there are no restrictions within Europe, the only sensible thing to do is to apply a ban to all those countries without restrictions. That worldview is undermined by the reality of life: European soccer, for example. Ultimately, Britain might not yet be as badly affected as Italy or France, but the U.K. government is under no illusions that it will be. Where does Trump’s logic go then?In 2008, the United States and Britain led the world in the response to the financial crisis. Today, Britain is responding with quiet resolution that some fear is too calm, even if it is led by scientific advice. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government will be judged by the results of its decisions. In the end, though, London is clear that ultimately it cannot control a global outbreak—life goes on, and it is global, whether that be in the realm of soccer, medicine, or financial transactions. It is contained globally or not at all is the mantra. Does America any longer feel the same? Whether it does or not, that’s the reality. The truth, though, is that politics is not ignorant of borders, even if the pandemic largely is.
2020-03-12 13:26:00
2021-05-08T11:19:29.000000
1 y
theatlantic.com
Large-Scale Disinfection Efforts Against Coronavirus
As health workers and governments around the world work to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, large-scale disinfection efforts are becoming commonplace. Using tools ranging from simple hand-wiping to mobile spray cannons, workers and volunteers are attempting to halt the transfer of the virus by touch. While there are questions about the efficacy of some of the broader spraying methods, disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces can help stop the spread of the virus. Collected here, images of recent efforts in Iran, China, Italy, South Korea, and more.
2020-03-11 20:23:08
2021-05-08T11:19:29.000000
1 y
theatlantic.com
China Hawks Are Calling the Coronavirus a ‘Wake-Up Call’
Donald Trump has in many ways made good on his campaign promises to confront China. He’s waged a trade war, urged allies to restrict relations with the Chinese, and reoriented Washington toward long-term competition with Beijing.Now, with the spread of a new coronavirus originating in China and rapidly descending on the United States, another front has opened in the struggle between the world’s most powerful nations. The global outbreak has served as a stark reminder that the human race is all in this together and that collaboration among countries is the only way out of this nightmare. But rather than focus on the demands of interdependence, a number of prominent figures in the Trump administration and Congress are seizing the moment to highlight the dangers of America’s dependence on other nations in general and China in particular.As Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro and Senator Marco Rubio both told me, the crisis is an alarming “wake-up call” about American vulnerabilities in a globalized world—one that the United States has for decades played a leading role in sustaining.[Read: Italy’s coronavirus response is a warning from the future]President Trump has so far refrained from publicly criticizing Chinese leader Xi Jinping and, besides issuing travel restrictions, from taking antagonistic actions akin to the tariffs he imposed in response to China’s trade practices. Yet some of the nationalist hawks in his administration, who are engaged in a long-running struggle over China policy with the president’s more internationalist, dovish advisers, have been outspoken about how the public-health emergency could factor into Trump’s “America first” agenda. In January, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stated that he didn’t “want to talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease,” only to then predict a possible victory: that the outbreak in China “will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”Navarro, the director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, told me that the coronavirus epidemic illustrates how the United States is “dependent on foreign sources” for crucial medicines and medical supplies.Nearly all surgical and most respirator masks used in the U.S., for instance, are manufactured in other countries such as China and Mexico, resulting in shortages during the current crisis. But the challenges extend beyond medical supplies central to the coronavirus outbreak. Yanzhong Huang, a global-health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted that China is the largest exporter of medical devices to the United States, and that about 80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients in American drugs come from China and India. “Chinese pharmaceutical firms have captured 97 percent of the U.S. market for antibiotics and more than 90 percent of the market for vitamin C,” he wrote. “In 2018, 95 percent of ibuprofen, 91 percent of hydrocortisone, 70 percent of acetaminophen, and 40–45 percent of [the blood thinner] heparin imported to the United States came from China.”Navarro argued that the “the Obama-Biden administration” was repeatedly reminded of America’s reliance on other countries but ultimately “did nothing,” whereas Trump has focused on “bringing supply chains, jobs, and production home” and aims to “reduce this dependency, strengthen our public-health industrial base, and protect the American people.” (The Trump administration has yet to prove that its policies have brought about a renaissance in American manufacturing, which was in recession during the second half of 2019.)Navarro proposed that the U.S. government should encourage high-tech domestic manufacturing of medical supplies and ensure that everything it procures across federal agencies “is domestically sourced.” This “buying American” should include “not just the finished products, like the pills and face masks and ventilators,” but also “the critical components, precursor chemicals, and advanced pharmaceutical ingredients we need for production,” he said.His conception of the world in the grips of an epidemic is more dog-eat-dog than lion-lying-down-with-lamb, with America left alone to fend for itself just like every other country. Navarro, an architect of Trump’s “America first” trade policies and author of such books as Death by China and The Coming China Wars, has suggested that while America’s foreign-dependency problem has a lot to do with China, it even encompasses the United States’ closest friends. “In crises like this, we have no allies,” Navarro noted on Fox News recently, alleging that Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom “denied us what we needed” in terms of medical provisions during the 2009 swine-flu outbreak. “We got to get [medical supply chains] back onshore” from China, India, and Europe, he said.Trump has yet to adopt all these policies. But the fallout from the global outbreak, which coincides with his reelection bid, could motivate him to do so. “Coronavirus is the intersection of 3 issues @realDonaldTrump has been right about all along: border control, American manufacturing, China hawk,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted recently, in a preview of a possible campaign message.[Read: The strongest evidence yet that America is botching coronavirus testing]And, if implemented, such policies could upend global supply chains and renew a push to unwind economic integration between the world’s two largest economies, which could significantly reverse globalization. (This had slowed somewhat after the U.S. and China struck an interim trade agreement in January.) “Globalism,” with its unwieldy ... complex systems tied to yet more complex systems,” could be the biggest “casualty in the war on the coronavirus,” Curtis Ellis, the policy director of America First Policies, the nonprofit arm of a pro-Trump super PAC, wrote last month.These arguments have been echoed by China hard-liners in Congress. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Rubio and another Republican senator, Josh Hawley, have proposed separate bills to lessen America’s reliance on China for medical supplies. Whether the administration will support these initiatives isn’t clear. During a congressional hearing last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he shared Rubio’s concern about America’s reliance on China for active pharmaceutical ingredients. Yet he cautioned that disentangling globalized supply chains in favor of domestic manufacturing can’t be accomplished “overnight” and could raise health-care costs for Americans.Rubio has previously warned of the risks that China poses to the U.S. health-care industry and challenged Beijing on numerous issues, including its efforts to suppress pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. He told me that “the depletion of America’s manufacturing sector has left us with a huge national-security vulnerability,” necessitating “a 21st-century, pro-American industrial policy.”The bids to break free from America’s bonds with Beijing, moreover, go well beyond the medical sector. Mac Thornberry, the ranking Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee, has stated that while “we want to get coronavirus contained [and] eliminated as fast as we can … maybe we can also take this opportunity” to reduce America’s reliance on China for defense-related products and components.When I asked Rubio why he was taking a more confrontational approach to China during a global emergency that seemed to call for international cooperation, he maintained that “the Chinese Communist Party has proven it is not a reliable or responsible global power.”China “impeded efforts of international researchers and failed to share information on the source of the virus or best practices,” he said. “Their Communist Party is more interested in ‘saving face’ and stamping out internal dissent [than] in helping [to] prevent the spread of [this] dangerous disease.”U.S. officials have similarly criticized the leaders of Iran, another adversary hit hard by the coronavirus. Richard Goldberg, the former director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction on the National Security Council, told me that these critiques have to do with the nature of the political systems in China and Iran, not simply the fact that both are foes of the United States. Authoritarian governments are especially likely to hinder international responses to global threats, he argued.[Graeme Wood: Coronavirus could break Iranian society]“Anywhere you see a closed, centralized, nontransparent regime, you see the inability to flex quickly as crisis emerges,” explained Goldberg, now a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Democracies, too, “can fail,” he allowed, but they also “can respond to failure and correct [themselves] quickly.” As democracies including the United States struggle mightily to contain the virus, that purported capacity to self-correct is on trial.Explaining on Friday why he calls the new coronavirus the “Wuhan virus,” in reference to the Chinese city where it began, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that the terminology highlights “the risks when you have an interconnected world.”“We create wealth through this interconnectivity,” he said. “But when you have an entity like the Chinese Communist Party who is providing data sets that aren’t transparent and aren’t clear, this is the risk.”The Trump administration still hopes to emerge from this crisis having minimized the downside of globalization while maintaining its upside. But in a 2004 report on what the world might look like in 2020, U.S. intelligence officials forecast that only one development “short of a major global conflict” could stop the relentless advance of globalization. That development? A pandemic.
2020-03-11 13:00:00
2021-05-08T11:19:29.000000
1 y
theatlantic.com
The Coronavirus Makes Politics Look Small
The human ego is programmed to believe that today’s moment is of historic importance—because that makes the people living through it important too. We are constantly experiencing changes that feel significant at the time, but that shrink from the collective view the further we pull away from the immediate drama, as we navigate new crises and challenges. In fact, moments of genuine historic change happen rarely, and most of us will exist during periods of time that future historians will ignore.Still, as the world starts to recognize the scale of the challenge posed by the coronavirus outbreak, the most immediate sensation one has is that this might be a moment that does not fade, but instead grows in importance, putting recent events—particularly those here in Britain—into perspective.For starters, it’s hard not to feel like the coronavirus has exposed the utter smallness of Brexit. With the global economy heading for potentially the greatest shock since the supposedly once-in-a-century crash of 2008, the costs and opportunities of Britain’s exit from the European Union boggle the mind—not because of their enormity, but because of their lack of it. In Britain, we have spent four years arguing about this issue, whether and how to Brexit, for what purpose and what price. Real understanding, however, comes with perspective. And now, as the outbreak spreads, one could be forgiven for asking: What was all the Brexit fuss about?[Read: Why Britain Brexited]If the worst fears are realized, the scale of the health and economic challenges posed by the coronavirus may well dwarf Brexit. Although the hardest of Brexits available, in which Britain and the EU fail to agree on a trade deal by the end of the year, is forecast to cause a recession, the mainstream view is that most other scenarios largely involve bargains of greater British autonomy in exchange for lower rates of economic growth. Take one example: On Monday, The Guardian published a story claiming that Britain leaving the Erasmus student-exchange program would “blow a hole” in its economy. What size hole, one might ask? About £243 million, or $315 million, a year—a tiny fraction of Britain’s £2.8 trillion economy. Equally, the British government estimates that the economic benefit of a trade deal with the United States—the big prize after Brexit—would amount to just 0.16 percent of GDP.The point is not to question the wisdom of Brexit—or even to dismiss the cost of leaving Erasmus, the single market, or the customs union—but to put Brexit in perspective with the challenge of a global epidemic. Ultimately, Brexit is a regional argument wrapped up in power and history, territorial disputes and pride, principles and high ideals. A cynic might argue that this debate has now moved on to the extent to which European economic hegemony is to be expressed in law and in practice. These are not unimportant issues, but they’re hardly the conversion of Constantine. Ultimately, Brexit is not a matter of life or death, literally or economically. The coronavirus, meanwhile, is killing people and perhaps many businesses. Its potential impact, if not managed and contained, is closer to that of the 2008 financial implosion. And like that crisis, it has the potential to radically change societies and even political regimes.Take the small and the big. In Britain, the government’s scientific advisers believe that draconian social restrictions can hold only for a limited period of time—the working assumption being about 12 weeks. If and when the outbreak is deemed uncontainable, the government will inevitably impose restrictions and introduce emergency legislation to ensure that public services and the economy are able to cope. The government has insisted that any such measures will be temporary.Yet the temporary often proves the most permanent. The permanent presupposes human foresight; the temporary has no such vanity. Income tax is the classic example: It was first introduced as a temporary measure in Britain to fund the Napoleonic Wars, and now it’s a fixture of life. The German constitution was written only for West Germany, and specifically stipulated that it would be dissolved upon reunification with the East. In the end, the West simply absorbed the East. Smaller examples include the Eiffel Tower, meant to last only 20 years; the London Eye, which had initial planning permission for just five years; and British pub opening hours, introduced by the Defence of the Realm Act 1914 to last for the duration of World War I, but which have remained in place long after. Ironically, the Northern Irish border—the main point of dispute in Brexit—was not supposed to be a permanent settlement, until it was, and then it almost derailed Boris Johnson’s eventual Brexit deal.So what temporary measures is the British government now considering? News reports have speculated about proxy voting in Parliament, new online teaching methods, flexible retirement to allow doctors and nurses to return to work during the emergency, mass home working, and improved sick-pay rights. The question is not necessarily about the government’s sincerity in returning to pre-coronavirus rules, but whether it is possible to unlearn what has been learned through these “temporary” changes.[Read: Italy’s coronavirus response is a warning from the future]Is it conceivable that electronic proxy voting for members of Parliament will be removed if it has been shown to work well? In the case of flexible retirement, if one can officially stop working but keep open the option of returning should the need arise, might this not be a model for a country with an aging population, outside the current crisis? In child care and working conditions, the revolution might be most intense: Should, and could, the British government’s recent extension of sick-pay rights really be undone? What if new, more efficient, and more effective models of educating children are discovered through necessity? Should they be dropped to arbitrarily return to what existed before?Perhaps the coronavirus will not be as serious or long-lasting as many now fear, and will not bring about any lasting social or political change. Perhaps we are being egotistical. But it’s not unreasonable to suppose that it might, and to prepare for that. After all, neither the virus nor its consequences can be contained in one country. How one government handles the outbreak will also affect how it is perceived, and in turn how its political system is perceived, potentially affecting some regimes, democratic and autocratic. This is a global epidemic with global repercussions that go far beyond the relatively limited economic impact of Brexit, which largely affects Britain and its closest trading partners in Europe.Crises come and go, changing the world by their very fact. For the past four years, a good chunk of Britain has been trying to rewind the clock to a world that existed before the 2016 vote to leave the EU—a task destined to fail even if it had succeeded in keeping Britain in the bloc, because the referendum result changed Britain. Similarly, the world after the coronavirus will be different from the world that came before. The real question is to what extent.
2020-03-11 07:00:00
2021-05-08T11:19:29.000000
1 y
theatlantic.com
Italy Shut Down. Which Country Will Be Next?
“We are out of time,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said yesterday evening. “We have to stay home.” With those words, he announced the most stringent restrictions on freedom of movement imposed in Europe since the Second World War: 60 million Italians can now move around only for pressing reasons of work, health, or other extenuating necessity—and then only with written permission.Conte’s announcement was a nationwide extension of measures unveiled the day before for swaths of Italy’s north. And it was nothing less than a game changer. Italy, Europe’s fourth-largest economy, has the highest number of cases of the novel coronavirus outside of China, a figure that is rising sharply. These restrictions are an attempt to combat the outbreak, to help the Italian health-care sector grapple with the virus’s growth. Yet they are also an illustration of the test to democracy that this crisis now poses.What kinds of restrictions can governments reasonably impose on citizens? Who will enforce the new rules? When does denial give way to realism? What types of compromises will countries, and their leaders, be prepared to make? Soon, the rest of the West, the United States included, may have to ask precisely these questions. Italy may not be abnormal here; it may just be first.[Read: Italy’s coronavirus response is a warning from the future]Italy has always been a harbinger of shifts, whether political or otherwise, in Europe and beyond. Countries around the world will also likely make decisions that try to balance protecting the health and welfare of citizens with protecting the economy from grinding to a halt, decisions that balance lives and livelihoods. In some ways, Italy and Europe are well positioned to face this crisis. They have good universal public health care. In other ways, the region is decidedly ill-suited to do so, because of the very reason the European Union exists in the first place: the principles of free movement of people, goods, and information. This virus knows no borders.The list of sites that are closed is long: day cares, schools, universities; museums, cinemas, theaters. The Italian soccer league has canceled all matches; public gatherings are banned—no weddings, funerals, or religious services. Public transportation and trains are still running and airports are open, though with restrictions and a sharp reduction in frequency. The measures are stringent, but the language of the decree is somewhat flexible. To leave their immediate areas, people will need to fill out an “auto-certification”—a legally binding document stating what crucial need requires them to get on a plane or train, and why they can’t defer the trip—or risk arrest and a fine.Goods are still circulating and essential services still functioning. Grocery stores are open, and so are restaurants and bars, but with a 6 p.m. curfew and only if they can ensure that guests remain three feet apart. Today, some Italian politicians from the right-wing opposition League party are calling for even more drastic measures, including closing all shops except grocery stores.Italy is offering some cushions to soften this blow. Mortgage payments will be suspended. The government is exploring proposals to let people delay paying their bills and other taxes, as well as tax breaks for businesses and vouchers for child care. There has been unrest—some runs on supermarkets and riots at prisons after visits from relatives were banned, resulting in the deaths of several people.These measures are testing the contours of what is possible in a democracy balancing freedom with public safety. “China put in place efficient, but not democratic, measures. Iran, which also isn’t a democracy, didn’t manage to do that,” Matteo Renzi, the former Italian prime minister, told La Repubblica today. “Europe is being tested now and Italy, unfortunately, has been the guinea pig.”The rise in the number of cases and deaths in France and Germany suggests that those countries are where Italy was about 10 days ago. Yesterday, French Culture Minister Franck Riester announced that he’d tested positive for the virus, and the Élysée Palace said that the French government was following the country’s health protocols—officials are taking their temperature and isolating themselves if they have symptoms. French President Emmanuel Macron’s chief of staff, Gaëtan Escorbiac, is working from home after coming into contact with someone who tested positive, the Élysée said.If the euro crisis a decade ago showed the risk of economic contagion, the coronavirus outbreak is contagion of a higher order. The nature of the disease is nefarious. Some people have only mild cases. Most deaths in Italy have been people over 70, but one in five who tested positive are ages 19 to 50, according to official data. COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is a viral respiratory infection that takes hold in the lungs. Many patients require intubation and cannot breathe without respirators—more respirators than most public-health systems have. Italy’s “patient one,” an otherwise healthy 38-year-old who fell ill with the virus in January, is now breathing on his own, after nearly three weeks on a respirator.[Read: America’s coronavirus testing still isn’t moving fast enough]Doctors in Lombardy, where the virus has hit hardest, say they are performing triage, choosing which patients they believe they can save. The northern Italian region is responsible for more than 20 percent of Italy’s GDP and has one of the best health-care systems in the country. What happens when the disease spreads to the much poorer Italian south, which is starved for resources during the best of times? This is why Rome extended the quarantine measures nationwide.Last night, just after Conte’s announcement, I got a message from a friend in Milan. She, like many there, had been following the constantly changing statements of the Italian government—which at first sounded the alarm, then told people to carry on as normal, then sounded an even louder alarm. “Tell people,” she wrote me from the ghost town that is normally Italy’s most dynamic city. “All of Europe needs to avoid contagion. At first we were all calm. Now all you hear are the sounds of ambulances and we’re starting to hear cases of people closer and closer who’ve been infected.”There have been a lot of jokes about whether Italians—so unruly, so skilled at the art of cutting in line, at evading the rules—can be counted on to heed these new measures. The mood across the country is one of confusion and concern, but there’s also a kind of national solidarity, a banding together in the face of “an invisible enemy,” as one newspaper put it. Italy may be disorganized; it may not have acted fast enough to prevent the spread of the virus. But it has a culture that generally puts the human first, in which social bonds are strong—which is also how the virus spread so quickly. There’s an Italian expression: l’arte di arrangiarsi, “the art of making do.” I wonder if other advanced democracies will show such flexibility.
2020-03-10 17:03:03
2021-05-08T11:19:29.000000
1 y
theatlantic.com
Confessions of an Ex–Never Trumper
She had to sleep on it. The letter was in her inbox; friends and colleagues, throughout the Republican national-security circles where Rebeccah Heinrichs had made her career, were signing on. It called then-candidate Donald Trump “fundamentally dishonest” and claimed that if elected president, he would use his power “in ways that make America less safe.” She wasn’t crazy about the tone in some spots, but she also didn’t think he was a credible candidate. Only a few other Republicans were left in the primary back then in March 2016—and she thought a letter like this, with its roll call of GOP luminaries, could help nudge voters to pick someone more responsible. “I made the decision based on the information I had,” she told me recently. She doesn’t regret signing the letter, but now thinks that many of the worries she and her colleagues were expressing then—in warning about Trump’s isolationism, the potential economic effects of his trade policies, and his embrace of the “expansive use of torture,” among other things—were unfounded. And she is thrilled about that.Heinrichs is an exception in the old GOP national-security world—which for the most part has stuck to its Never Trump positions—but she’s the norm in the party as a whole, which gives Trump a 94 percent approval rating. The 150-odd names on letters such as the one she signed represent the last major bastion of Republican resistance to Trump; prominent members continue to slam the president for his insulting tweets and his volatile temperament, even questioning his very ability to behave like an adult. But outside of this club—whether for reasons of ambition, genuine approval, or a combination of both—elected officials and operatives have largely fallen in line behind the president. And Heinrichs, unlike many of her peers, decided she could accept the character flaws because the foreign-policy results looked good.[Read: What Democrats aren’t admitting about Trump’s record]“His personal flaws are so transparent that they can distract truly well-meaning people or turn people off altogether,” she told me. But fundamentally, she feels Trump is fighting for a powerful America. “I have long argued for American primacy and President Trump is, even if sometimes clumsily, defending it and fighting for it. I'm not going to yell at the clouds over his tweets or obsess over this or that expression of bad manners.”Trump has done plenty of things the old Republican foreign-policy establishment would cheer for, if someone else were doing them. He has labeled China as a threat, condemning its trade practices and calling for investments to counter the country’s military rise. He ditched a nuclear deal with Iran that many Republicans hated, and has financially devastated the regime instead. His administration has added more troops in Eastern Europe to confront Russia, and ended an arms-control treaty that Moscow was violating—even while Trump himself has confused matters by praising Vladimir Putin’s leadership and questioning whether Russia has really interfered in U.S. elections. Whatever Trump’s own doubts, though, at the insistence of Congress, he has imposed sanctions against Russia for 2016 election interference. Sure, he has said mean things about NATO, but Republicans and Democrats alike have long wanted other members to pay more for their own defense, and now they are.On the flip side, the Trump presidency hasn’t manifested in the precise kind of nightmare the Never Trump letter writers envisioned in 2016. In the first of two alarmed open missives—one that appeared in March 2016 in War on the Rocks and another in The New York Times that August—GOP foreign-policy power brokers warned about specific consequences of a Trump presidency: His wish for trade wars was “a recipe for economic disaster”; his “hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric” would alienate allies in the Muslim world; he could bring back torture. In 2020, the economic effects of the trade war have been mild, cushioned by a multibillion-dollar bailout to farmers; Muslim allies in the Gulf in particular have overlooked his rhetoric and embraced Trump over his harshness toward their archenemy Iran; the use of torture in war remains illegal, even though Trump has granted clemency to three soldiers accused of war crimes.None of this consoles the many signatories who still find Trump unacceptable. Policies can change, but character does not. If your main concern in 2016 was that Trump was “fundamentally dishonest” and “wildly inconsistent,” or that he “lacks the temperament to be President,” as the letters claimed, Trump likely hasn’t convinced you otherwise. And even if the worst predictions haven’t come to pass, you still won’t feel reassured while someone you fundamentally distrust is making life-and-death decisions on behalf of the country every day; there’s no World War III now, but in the words of the prominent Never Trumper and Atlantic contributor Eliot Cohen, “that’s a pretty low bar.” Cohen, a former senior Bush-administration official who helped coordinate the War on the Rocks letter, described the specific kind of unease he felt in Politico in late 2017. “This is about putting lives on the line. These are enormously consequential kinds of decisions that a president makes. And character really trumps, so to speak, everything else.”[Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes: Trump’s Playbook Is Terribly Ill-Suited to a Pandemic]Or maybe power does. Far from being inhibited by the foreign-policy establishment that shunned him, Trump has destroyed it. The list of names on the letters now reads like a memorial wall for the party’s old power brokers. Trump has barred them almost entirely from jobs in his administration, and built a new pro-Trump establishment on the wreckage of the old GOP elite.Heinrichs is the rare young intellectual to have lived in both worlds. By 2016, she had worked on missile-defense issues on the Hill and held research posts at a number of conservative think tanks, headlining panels on issues such as “the future of missile defense” and co-authoring a paper on “deterrence and nuclear targeting in the 21st century.” Now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, she has been described as “one of the leaders of the next generation of experts on nuclear strategy and arms control” and is a regular TV commentator on U.S. foreign policy. She, along with a few other members of the GOP’s most resistant segment—which includes people who have spent their careers devoted to alliances, worrying about presidential character, and banging on about norms and values—have now come around to Trump’s foreign policy.Even in primary season, Heinrichs saw hints of Trump’s appeal. People she knew back home in small-town Ohio found the candidates she was informally advising, including Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, too wooden. “I have some lifelong Democrat friends and family members who, for the first time in their life, supported the Republican candidate and voted for Donald Trump,” she said. “He’s like, ‘I’m tired of Americans dying in Afghanistan.’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, so are we.’”Trump, of course, made it through the primaries despite the Republican opposition, and Heinrichs knew she couldn’t support Clinton, whom she saw as dangerously accommodating to foes such as China and Iran. She had also noticed patterns in what Trump was saying. Just because he wanted to avoid overseas “nation-building” didn’t make him an isolationist—he also wanted better trade deals, so clearly wanted to be engaged in the world. So, she said on a Federalist podcast then, “I was open to this idea of a different kind of commander in chief.”There was something else, she told The Federalist. “I didn’t like the direction that the Never Trump national-security establishment was going.” The suggestion that Trump would start a nuclear war, or a war with Muslims all over the world was “incredibly irresponsible coming from people who I think, and know, know better.”This, after all, was the president that the election had delivered, and clearly many of the notions the old GOP foreign-policy establishment considered sacred were very much open to question. “Ordinary Americans … look at the establishment and say, ‘I don’t think you guys necessarily know what you’re doing,’” she told me. Many in the establishment were the same people who had advocated or helped mismanage wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And anyway, was Trump being ignorant or spooking allies when he asked what the point of NATO was and why the U.S. had troops in South Korea? Or was he asking questions that average Americans wanted to know the answers to?He could be doing both, but Heinrichs found it offensive that elites she knew considered it unreasonable for Trump—and by extension the millions of people who voted for him—to wonder where American resources were going and why. To her, this, and the broader discomfort with Trump’s populist appeal, reflected establishment contempt for public opinion. “I think it's wrong for the professional national-security class to write off common Americans as irrelevant or even nuisances,” Heinrichs said.The matter of Trump himself, however, persists—and whatever good his administration may be doing in his supporters’ eyes, his own words frequently call into doubt where the United States really stands. His Russia comments were one example, and his sudden order to remove troops from northeastern Syria last fall left a vacuum for Russia to fill. He has praised leaders his government formally considers enemies, including North Korea’s Kim Jong Un (“We fell in love,” Trump once said of the dictator), and even the Taliban’s chief (“The relationship is very good that I have with the mullah”). These gestures would be unthinkable for any president from the GOP “establishment”—which excoriated the Obama administration for its Taliban talks and for dealing with Iran’s “mullahs.”[Read: Qassem Soleimani haunted the Arab world]Nevertheless, Trump’s lack of concern for foreign-policy orthodoxy has also unshackled him in ways Heinrichs has cheered, although she admitted to “white-knuckling” over some of the risks Trump embraced. For instance, both George W. Bush and Barack Obama had opportunities to kill the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, but they decided against it. Yes, Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans in Iraq, but Iran and the U.S. were not formally at war, and such a hit could start one. A more typical administration would focus on those risks and hold lots of interagency meetings. “And it’s like, ok, but I would like to kill Soleimani,” said Heinrichs. “So is it just talking points and white papers that we’re trying to do? It’s almost like we were afraid of our own shadow in these policy areas where Donald Trump doesn’t care.”If orthodoxy isn’t always right, though, neither is flouting it. She was uneasy about Trump’s performance at his meeting with Putin in Helsinki, where Trump undermined his intelligence agencies’ findings on election interference. “Across the board, I think for any American president, when you leave your own borders, you take your own side,” she said. She also admired appointees such as James Mattis, who resigned on principle, and a stream of other ex-officials who condemned Trump on their way out the door. While she chalks up the departures to Trump’s comfort with high turnover, she’s also not happy with some of his decisions to fire people.The rift in the old “Never Trump” community has put former allies on opposing sides and destroyed friendships. Heinrichs is baffled by colleagues determined to bash a president who is doing many of the things they used to want, though she says she is cordial with them. Cohen has been harsher, comparing Trump’s sympathizers to those who served the Vichy regime in Nazi-occupied France. The former diplomat Robert Blackwill signed both letters, later reservedly praised Trump’s foreign policies, and still said he would support any of the Democratic candidates over Trump in 2020. Once again, the policies didn’t matter so much as the man himself. “One can correct mistakes in foreign policy, or at least often one can,” Blackwill said. But Trump is “weakening our democratic institutions, and he’s dividing the country. So in my judgment, that has much longer implications than any particular foreign policy that he pursues.”But even if he loses in 2020, Trump is not going away. ”There are too many people inside D.C. who think Donald Trump is a fluke and that the only reason he won was because his opponent was so weak,” Heinrichs said. And their additional warnings about Trump’s alleged damage to American standing in the world, his treatment of the federal bureaucracy, and his violations of long-standing norms, have clearly failed to convince the 40-odd percent of the country that approves of him.It’s still hard to say whether, in the event of a Trump reelection, more signatories will tire of being locked out of the new center of GOP power, and let go of their character concerns.“If I had my way, I would love to have a president who can lift the country and unify it, and has great personal virtue, and [can] carry out all of these policies that I think are necessary to defend and strengthen our security,” Heinrichs said. But voting for the policies means voting for the character. “You don’t get pieces of a candidate; you get the whole candidate,” she said.Leah Feiger contributed reporting.
2020-03-10 13:00:00
2021-05-08T11:19:29.000000
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theatlantic.com
When Everyone Stays Home: Empty Public Spaces During Coronavirus
In cities and regions hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis, quarantine measures and self-isolation efforts have left many public spaces deserted. Classrooms, plazas, malls, sports venues, cafes, houses of worship, and tourist destinations appear eerily empty as people stay home, cancel plans, and await further news.
2020-03-09 20:42:15
2021-05-08T11:19:29.000000
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theatlantic.com
The Rappers Who Are Breaking Up With Britain
The concept of The Long Goodbye, a new album by Riz Ahmed, is that Great Britain is a girlfriend who threw him out. Ahmed, a 37-year-old rapper with a robust acting career, begins the album with a hoarse spoken-word piece about a romance marked by conquest, battles, dominance, protest, reconciliation. The details could apply to two lovers, or to the British empire and the people it colonized on the Indian subcontinent; it could take place over a few years or over a few centuries. Brexit arrives in the form of an existential crisis for “Brittney”—get it?—that causes her to turn on Ahmed, the London-born son of Pakistani immigrants. “Says she blames me for how lately she feels lost,” Ahmed says. “How she ain’t what she was and our kids don’t show no love / So now she’s taking back control / And she wants me to fuck off.”For the next few songs, Ahmed keeps working at the relationship metaphor, and between-song voicemails feature friends consoling their jilted buddy. “I never trusted that bitch,” the actor Mindy Kaling says in one skit. “Listen, do not let her kick you out of the house that you built. And if you have to go, take half.” But later in the album, Ahmed seems to drop the allegory and turns to out-and-out condemnations of the U.K. The “I” turns into a persecuted “we,” “the mans that Bannon put travel bans on,” who are so often written off as criminals or victims: “All we ever do is die / They either bomb us or we suicide.” The short film that Ahmed created to go with the album has no cute romance metaphor at all. He portrays the cozy home life of immigrants and their children in a U.K. neighborhood, and he portrays white cops suddenly rounding the family members up and shooting them in the head.All in all, The Long Goodbye’s argument is unmissable and scathing: Ahmed thinks that Great Britain has been a hateful and abusive partner to immigrants and native-born people of color, who now must determine whether to flee or fight back. This might seem to be a surprisingly radical statement from a charmingceleb best known for roles in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and HBO’s The Night Of. But Ahmed’s political consciousness has never been hidden. His rap career began with the satirical 2006 track “Post 9/11 Blues” and includes well-received protest music made in collaboration with Heems, of the band Das Racist. Ahmed’s newest work feels part of a wider turn in U.K. rap toward articulating post-Brexit heartbreak, fear, and fury.Ahmed’s sound is very much his own, using blocky beats and South Asian influences for jolting, if sometimes didactic, purposes. But in his inflections you hear traces of British hip-hop’s signature innovation: grime, a frenetic, complex style arising in the early 2000s from impoverished populations residing in public housing. Grime is political in much the same way that U.S. hip-hop, rooted in the lived experience of people squeezed by inequality and racism, has often been. “I’m a problem for Anthony Blair,” Dizzee Rascal rapped on his classic 2003 album, Boy in da Corner, referencing the prime minister whose “urban regeneration” agenda ramped up policing and surveillance.In the 2010s, grime splintered off into drill, a style ruled by wobbling, scanning bass sounds. Drill’s attention to the violence of street life has, in turn, drawn heavy scrutiny from law enforcement.Grime and drill have become big business, generating pop success in the U.K. and among admirers worldwide. Drake has openly raided British rap in recent years. The American rising star Pop Smoke, shot dead at age 20 last month, exemplified the Brooklyn drill boom that was directly inspired by English musicians (who originally drew from Chicago’s drill scene). The irony is that U.K. rap’s global takeover has coincided with Britain’s global retreat via Brexit—which has, itself, coincided with amped-up pressure on the communities that birthed these sounds. The 2016 vote for the U.K. to leave Europe cemented a feeling—the subject of Ahmed’s album—that a multicultural nation’s white residents had reached a toxic level of resentment toward their black and brown neighbors. Rising rates of urban violence in the U.K. have been met by the relaxation of policies meant to counter discriminatory policing. The 2017 Grenfell Tower fire that claimed 72 victims, many of them immigrants, became another flash point for discussions about injustice, racism, and government neglect.This confluence of news events and cultural movementshas made the U.K.’s recent major musical spectacles into political forums, largely thanks to hip-hop. While the past few Grammy ceremonies in the U.S. have generated controversy mainly about the show itself, the headlines out of the U.K.’s equivalent event, the BRIT Awards, have been about the state of the nation. In 2018, the grime star Stormzy directed a freestyle at then–Prime Minister Theresa May for her handling of Grenfell: “You should do some jail time / You should pay some damages / We should burn your house down and see if you can manage this.” Two years later, the rapper Dave—in a year of acclaim for his elegant and richly emotional music—performed his controversial single “Black” with a bonus verse. In it, he called Prime Minister Boris Johnson a “real racist.” He also ticked through various recent offenses to black Britons, including by noting “how the news treats Kate [Middleton] versus how they treated Meghan [Markle].” In both Stormzy’s and Dave’s cases, those callouts were delivered with a potent blend of anger and mourning. In both instances, government officials were moved to reply.That same mix of moods defines Nothing Great About Britain, the buzzy 2019 album from the 25-year-old rapper Slowthai. The title sums up its confrontational message, which draws a direct line between Brexit politics and deeper, day-to-day inequalities. The songs are dense thickets of sound borrowing from both grime and U.K. rock traditions such as post-punk and new wave. Slowthai uses a raw, throaty yowl as he describes the reality of drugs, violence, and discrimination in his hometown of Northampton. One rollicking single, “Doorman,” moshes its way toward its point about class divides. The opening track sees him blithely calling Queen Elizabeth II by the U.K.’s favorite vulgarity. But there’s sensitivity in the album too, like when he visualizes his own mother on the night of his birth: “Northampton General, 1994 / Mixed race baby born / Christmas well a week before / Mum’s 16, family’s poor / Family’s all she needs / How they gonna show her the door?”Indeed, what’s remarkable about U.K. hip-hop in this moment is how deftly it connects personal testimony to a story unfolding globally. Amid the best albums released so far this year is J Hus’s Big Conspiracy, in which the 23-year-old son of Gambian immigrants uses a consolingly smooth voice over music that connects Afrobeats, dancehall, R&B, grime, and drill. Brexit gets no mention, but the dangerous reality created by segregation and failed policy does. As a wave of knife crime has commanded U.K. headlines, Hus has been arrested for carrying a blade, has been stabbed himself, and has been criticized as glorifying violence. This new album, his second, does not shy away from issuing threats or darkly contemplating his own survival. But the mayhem unfolds with a sense of grace and exhaustion, and against a larger social backdrop. In the opening track, he asks, “There’s no law; how can I be law abiding?” Another sing-along chorus goes, “How can you sleep at night when you don’t even fight for your rights?” The melody of that line is lullaby-like, but the sentiment is galvanizing: the ever more familiar sound of hurt turning to resolve.
2020-03-09 16:34:00
2021-05-08T11:19:29.000000
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theatlantic.com
Italy’s Coronavirus Response Is a Warning From the Future
Italians woke up on Sunday morning, and it was already the future. Overnight, the government announced the most dramatic measures yet taken by a democracy to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Other Western countries are watching closely, worried they may soon have to follow Italy’s lead.Rome placed severe travel restrictions on the entire Lombardy region surrounding Milan—the country’s economic, fashion, and media capital—and on 14 other provinces across the wealthy north, including Venice and parts of the Emilia Romagna region. In this area of 16 million people, the coronavirus’s European epicenter, where the number of cases has been rising rapidly, Italy banned all public gatherings—no weddings, funerals, concerts, sporting events, discos, bingo games, video arcades, or Mass—until April 3. While trains and planes are still operational, and running on time, the government is forbidding people from leaving unless absolutely necessary.Restaurants and bars can open but only from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and only if they can ensure three feet of space between each guest. Nationwide, the government ordered the closure of all cinemas, theaters, concert halls, libraries, and museums, as well as the quarantine of anyone with a fever above 37.5 degrees Celsius (99.5 degrees Fahrenheit), and anyone who’s tested positive for the virus. Last week, Italy closed all schools, day-care facilities, and universities, until mid-March at the earliest. Pope Francis, who has been fighting a cold, delivered his weekly Angelus message on Sunday via video from a Vatican library, not, as is typical, from a window overlooking Saint Peter’s Square. “I’ll use a strong expression,” Francis said. “This pope is caged in the library.”These steps are dramatic, and have caused significant uncertainty and growing panic across Italy. They are also quite confusing, and how they’ll even be enforced remains unclear. They came to light in an atmosphere of total chaos, after a draft bill outlining the measures was leaked to the press yesterday evening. The proposal suggested that northern Italy would be on total lockdown, and so thousands of people rushed to hop on overcrowded trains heading south. Finally, at 2 a.m. local time, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gave a press conference, clarifying that Lombardy and the other provinces wouldn’t seal their borders, just that citizens would be “obligated” to practice “reduced mobility” and could leave only for emergencies.What, Italians wondered, does that mean? Who will enforce these new rules? And will they even work?Italy has long been a political laboratory, for better or worse, and a harbinger of developments that later spread. It’s also a rule-bound country where rules are often ignored, a place that often falls short on long-term planning but rises to the occasion in emergencies and has a knack for improvisation that its northern neighbors lack. It is a free society in which information is often unreliable and politicized. Today, it is an experiment in which free movement of people and goods meets free movement of a deadly virus. Countries across Europe and the world are watching how Italy handles an epidemic that knows no borders, has been putting tremendous strain on public-health structures, and is pushing the country’s already fragile economy to the brink. Lombardy alone is responsible for more than 20 percent of national gross domestic product, and tourism is one of Italy’s most important sectors.[Thomas Wright and Kurt M. Campbell: The coronavirus is exposing the limits of populism]The European debt crisis revealed the flaws in a bloc that shares a currency but not a fiscal policy. The migration crisis of 2015 revealed that individual European countries want to protect their own borders and control the number of immigrants arriving, in a zone built on the ideal of visa-free travel and burden sharing. The coronavirus could pose an even greater test for the European Union, which has free movement of people but no standard health protocols across countries. Will the EU’s member states band together to work with Italy, or will they cordon it off? Will richer northern-European countries hoard medical equipment, or partner with poorer southern- and eastern-European ones to slow the outbreak? Is Italy overreacting, or is the rest of the continent underreacting?Each European country is handling things in its own way. Italy has a fragile coalition government and strong regions, and its response has been rapid, if chaotic. Germany, which has 939 cases and so far no reported deaths, has a highly federal structure, in which regions have a lot of autonomy in handling crises of this type. As of this weekend, Germany was still holding soccer matches with tens of thousands of fans—to the distress of some German doctors, who feel the country isn’t taking the threat seriously—though its health minister has urged organizers of events with more than 1,000 attendees to cancel them. He has said he was more concerned about panic stemming from the virus than the virus itself.France has a strong centralized government, and its message has so far been dispassionate concern—President Emmanuel Macron has canceled all public events with more than 5,000 people, though that hasn’t entirely been respected: On Sunday, people gathered in France for a march for International Women’s Day.Even in their behavior, the region’s leaders have differed, at least for now. On Friday, Macron and his wife went to the theater, and encouraged others to do so, too. In Italy, that has changed. Last month, when the government was trying to present a “business as usual” approach, Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of the center-left Democratic Party and president of the Lazio region, surrounding Rome, traveled to Milan to have an aperitivo, and met with young people, promoting the message “#MilanDoesn’tStop.” On Saturday, Zingaretti said he had tested positive, and was staying home to be monitored. (The president of the Piedmont region has also tested positive, as has the head of the Italian army.)Now Milan has stopped. Will the rest of Europe follow Italy’s lead and impose heavy restrictions? Britain’s politicians are debating whether to go into extended recess to prevent members of Parliament from accelerating the spread. The European Parliament has moved a scheduled session away from the French city of Strasbourg over coronavirus concerns. Last week, a spokeswoman for the French government, Sibeth Ndiye, said it was likely only a matter of time before France became a “Level 3,” or epidemic level, country in which all public events would be canceled. (Within Italy, the COVID-19 crisis has taken the wind out of the sails of the League party, whose nativist motto of “Italians First” and criticism of illegal immigration are less convincing now that Italians have become international pariahs: The prime minster of the Czech Republic said Italy should ban all citizens from traveling abroad.)[Read: The strongest evidence yet that America is botching coronavirus testing]In Italy on Sunday, there was confusion about the new measures. If people got in their cars to leave Lombardy, would they be stopped? What kinds of papers would people be required to obtain to leave the lockdown zone, and who would issue those papers? The Italian media on Sunday was filled with questions and little clarity.Even high-ranking officials don’t know exactly how the new measures will work. Can I go to lunch? Can I go to work? are among the questions Italians are asking, Luca Zaia, the governor of the Veneto region, which is part of the affected zone, said in a news conference on Sunday. “These are some of the weaknesses in the decree.” There are political tensions: Zaia and the presidents of the Lombardy and Piedmont regions are from the League, which is the main national opposition party and has been harshly critical of the government’s handling of the crisis.In his overnight news conference, Conte said the heath-care system risked becoming “overwhelmed” and that Italians should not leave the house unless absolutely necessary in order to be mindful of the health of their “grandparents,” given that older people are at greater risk of infection. The issue isn’t just the number of people who have tested positive or even the death rate, it’s the number of beds available in intensive-care units. The head of Lombardy’s intensive-care crisis unit, Antonio Pesenti, told Corriere Della Sera, Italy’s leading daily newspaper, that his region’s health-care system, the best in the country, was “on the brink of collapse” and that they had had to set up intensive care in hallways.Italy has had thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths, far more than any other European country. Pesenti predicted that in less than three weeks, about 18,000 people would be hospitalized in Lombardy, of which about 3,000 would likely require intensive care—10 times the region’s current capacity. “If the population doesn’t understand that it needs to stay home, the situation will become catastrophic,” he said.His words are a warning for public-health officials worldwide. Italy has universal public health care, which protects even people who are unemployed, and salaried employees are generally entitled to sick days. But there’s no doubt that the virus is placing more strain on the system than it can easily handle. What about elsewhere in Europe—are French hospitals prepared? German ones?[Read: Here’s who should be avoiding crowds right now]In Paris, where I live, life goes on, business as usual. There hasn’t been a run on toilet paper or groceries that I’ve observed, although food buying is definitely up. A friend in northern Italy was surprised on Sunday when I told him movie theaters were still open here. France has 949 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and 11 deaths, the second-highest figures in Europe after Italy’s. Two members of the National Assembly have tested positive, as has a mayor in the French Alps. The Val d’Oise region near Paris has become the hardest-hit area in France, and schools have been closed there.My friend in Italy was already adjusting to the new normal. Italy’s measures this weekend may not be the exception. They may soon become the rule.
2020-03-08 19:03:37
2021-05-08T11:19:29.000000
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theatlantic.com
What Could Happen if the Coronavirus Closed Schools for Days, Weeks, or Even Months
On Wednesday afternoon, Pete Lewis—the superintendent of the public-school district of the small town of Colville, in the northeast corner of Washington State—was awaiting the test result that would determine whether Colville schools would stay closed for a fourth consecutive day.Over the previous weekend, administrators had received word that a member of the Colville School District community was being tested for the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19 (for privacy reasons, Lewis did not specify whether it was a student, staff member, or another affiliated person). After consulting with health officials, Lewis and his colleagues decided on Sunday night to close the schools starting Monday, until further notice. Colville schools’ staff and their 1,700 K–12 students stayed home while the schools—as well as administrative buildings, buses, and other vehicles and properties associated with the school district—underwent a two-day deep cleaning.On Wednesday, the cleaning process had been completed, and Lewis was sitting in his recently disinfected office, waiting for the call. “We’re at the mercy of waiting for those results,” he said. In the meantime, he was thinking through the logistics of getting student-athletes back to practice. If negative test results came in soon enough, he reasoned, perhaps some could be back on the field later that afternoon.[Read: The strongest evidence yet that America is botching coronavirus testing]As of Thursday morning, the novel coronavirus had spread to more than 80 countries, and roughly a dozen countries have reported widespread school closures that aim to help contain the spread of the disease. Globally, more than 290 million children between preschool and 12th grade have been dismissed from school due to COVID-19, some for weeks now.Lewis eventually got the result he was hoping for, and schools in Colville reopened on Thursday. But while Colville’s closure was brief, if the virus becomes more widespread in the U.S. it’s likely that many areas will see longer-term closures. This is what is currently happening in Hong Kong, where an abundance of caution has kept schools closed for more than a month already, with no reopening in sight. Gabriel Leung, an infectious-disease epidemiologist and the dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, who traveled as part of the World Health Organization delegation to China last month, said that there was still no definitive answer yet on whether closing schools is an effective measure against the spread of the virus, but “we cannot afford to be wrong. If there is any doubt, let us go with the more conservative option to protect children and protect the more general population,” he told reporters in Hong Kong on Friday.Colville’s schools were some of the first in the United States to confront a question that schools in Hong Kong and other high-transmission areas have been grappling with for some time already: What happens—to students, to parents, to a community—when school is canceled indefinitely? We’ll walk through what’s likely to happen in several scenarios—if schools close for days, weeks, months, or even a year.Three days inWhen American schools have closed for a few days due to the coronavirus, logistical hassles have ensued—but, for the most part, educators and administrators have been adequately equipped to handle them. After a few days of canceled classes, the Colville School District was treating its lost days like snow days: Students would not have to make up for lost class time, Lewis explained, unless the school closure lasted long enough that Colville would not meet the state-mandated minimum number of days in the school year. (In that case, the district would plan to push back the last day of school further into the summer.) The start of the spring sports season, however, was delayed as a result of the closures. On Thursday the district’s website announced that the board of directors would be meeting on Friday to approve a special Sunday makeup practice for March 8.Two weeks inAfter two weeks away from school, kids in the United States would be considerably behind schedule in their learning curricula—and many parents in the U.S. would be acutely inconvenienced without the daily meal service and child care that school inherently provides.A response guide for school administrators published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises schools that dismiss students to avoid the spread of COVID-19 to “implement e-learning plans, including digital and distance learning options as feasible and appropriate,” and to “consider ways to distribute food to students” that won’t facilitate too much interpersonal contact—like meal delivery and grab-and-go lunches for pickup. That said, not every school can realistically provide remote learning or meal service during a closure.Becky Droter, the district school nurse for Colville, explained that while Colville schools were closed this week, the duty to continue providing meal service took a back seat to the urgency of stopping the spread of germs. “If we’re going to work on social distancing, we can’t really do meal service, as much as we’d like to,” Droter said. “We understand that breakfast and lunch are essential for many of our families. We have a high percentage of poverty-level families in our district. It just doesn’t work for social distancing.”[Read: Here’s who should be avoiding crowds right now]Schools’ ability to successfully implement online instruction varies widely, and e-learning would present a monumental challenge for Colville. As a school district in a rural part of the state, Lewis said, “broadband is a huge issue for us.” Students who live high on hills or deep in the valleys of northeast Washington can’t always rely on good Wi-Fi signals, and about 30 percent of the student population has no internet at home. “Some of our teachers don’t have internet, so they would [also] struggle to get that information to their kids,” he said. Other families in the district can’t afford the exorbitant price of the data usage it would require to receive assignments and send in homework every day. “It’s just one of those things where we’ve been thinking about, How can we do this if we have to?” Lewis said on Wednesday, before school opened up again. “I don’t have a great solution yet.”The sudden, forced transition to online-based learning in Hong Kong has proved to be a struggle for both teachers and students, Ip Kin-Yuen, a lawmaker who represents Hong Kong’s education sector, said. The city had previous experience with lengthy school closures: In 2003 the territory was badly hit by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), nearly 300 people died, and classes were suspended for around six weeks. Seventeen years later, new technology and increased internet connectivity have made things easier, but there still have been many difficulties.Distance teaching greatly limits a teacher’s toolbox. Lesson plans drawn up for the classroom, which may include partner work or hands-on projects, do not necessarily translate well to online teaching. Ip said younger students are generally more engaged, but with older students remote lessons risk becoming “one-way indoctrination,” with teachers lecturing while the students get distracted. One parent, a university professor, said she worried about her young son spending so much time in front of a computer screen. “He no longer knows what outside looks like,” she said.The challenges are more pronounced for low-income families who do not have computers, or who have one computer but multiple children who need to use it. Some students, Ip said, are sensitive about their economic situation and uncomfortable letting their peers or teachers see inside their home lives. As some parents return to work, he worries that the divides between families of different income levels will worsen.One month inAfter a month away from their usual school routines, American students would be even further behind schedule in their yearly curricula—and at this point, their performance on standardized tests and entrance exams for the following year could be in jeopardy. Indeed, now that Hong Kong’s schools have been closed for more than a month, some students have expressed concern over their Diploma of Secondary Education Exams, the tests used to gain entrance to local universities. The tests are scheduled to begin later this month. Two student groups this week urged the Education Bureau to postpone the exams, saying the current arrangements pose “great danger to students’ health.” Officials have said the exams will go ahead on March 27, though certain components, like Chinese speaking and music, will be delayed until May.As of 2015, American students were estimated to take about eight standardized tests every year. Although U.S. schools have reportedly backed off of this kind of testing slightly since the mid-2010s, standardized tests remain a regular part of students’ and educators’ lives, as well as a key ingredient in the assessment of schools’ performance. Obviously, a month away from classes, or an abrupt shift to online learning, could jeopardize students’ performance on these tests.[Read: What you can do right now about the coronavirus]The U.S. Department of Education has not yet issued any COVID-19-specific guidance on how to handle test preparation or testing, and declined to comment on the record about this or any other matters. Lewis said before Colville’s schools reopened that this was “not a radar item yet” because the district’s next standardized test was still a few months away. Precedent exists, however, for exempting students from standardized testing in extraordinary circumstances. In the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018, for instance, some students were granted an exemption from standardized tests that May.Two, three, or even six months inIn the United States, little planning is in place at the federal level for the scenario in which coronavirus concerns result in prolonged school closures. The Department of Education reports from this past week suggest that senators have been urging the department to issue more guidance. The situation in Hong Kong, though, could provide a glimpse into what the United States could look like a few months from now.Hong Kong’s school closures will stretch well into next month and possibly beyond. For Justin Fok, 12, and his sister Josie, 11, the weeks spent at home with their father, whose workplace ordered him to work from home, have grown boring. Both said they missed their classmates and friends. Josie’s school launched a new e-learning platform this week, but the virtual classroom filled up quickly; even though she logged on 15 minutes early, Josie didn’t get a spot and planned to try again next week. Adding to the other annoyances, their apartment block is undergoing renovations. Every few minutes, the sound of drilling and hammering echoes through the flat.But there were some upsides. Freed from wearing a school uniform, Justin opted for cartoon-covered pajama pants and hoodie as he edited a video for a project on Friday afternoon. Josie said she was enjoying sleeping in, with a commute of just a few feet from her bedroom to her small desk.When asked if he had any advice for students in other countries who may soon be confined to home, Justin offered a word of caution. Students learned early on that they could shut their cameras off in order to walk away from their computers without their teachers noticing, he said. But recently, teachers had grown wise to these tactics and caught students off guard by springing a surprise attendance check in the middle of class. “Many students were already gone,” Justin said. “The teachers are so smart.”One year inIf school closures extend past the six-month mark, or perhaps even reach a full year, it’s not clear what will happen. State education departments and the U.S. Education Department would almost certainly have to begin developing protocols for how to make up standardized tests or otherwise assess the performances of schools and students. In districts where remote learning has been difficult or impossible, school districts would probably need to develop summer school–like remedial curricula to help students catch up. Some students might have to repeat grades when school recommenced, resulting in entire regional cohorts of students who would be older than their classmates nationally for the rest of their academic lives.At this stage, of course, all one can do is speculate; at present, there is no urgent need for protocols like these to actually be in place stateside. But Hong Kong’s example provides a valuable insight: If American schools close due to the coronavirus, it’s possible, and even likely, that students will be seriously set back by so much time away from the classroom.Rachel Cheung contributed reporting.
2020-03-08 13:00:00
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Life Lived in Exile
Some 3.6 million Syrian refugees live in Turkey, having fled their homeland’s civil war in search of safety. Over the years, Turkey has mostly welcomed them with government-financed programs and a degree of freedom typically unavailable to refugees, many of whom are consigned to camps. As a result, Syrians can be found living and working in cities across Turkey—as far from their country’s border as Istanbul and as close as Gaziantep (indeed, closer still).Gaziantep lies about an hour’s drive from Syria, and refugees here live almost like voluntary immigrants—almost—studying at the local university, working for local businesses, some poor, others wealthy.Since an economic crisis hit Turkey in 2018, xenophobic sentiment toward Syrians has increased, and refugees have been more and more scapegoated for rising rates of inflation and unemployment. As President Bashar al-Assad’s regime wages a brutal offensive against the last remaining rebel holdout, in Idlib, yet more Syrians are expected to cross into Turkey, piling further pressure on both Turks and refugees.Among those most vulnerable, both now and through the course of the war, are young Syrians. Taken out of their country by parents hopeful that a short conflict would soon lead to resolution and freedom, they must now spend their most formative years in exile, living in a protracted limbo of not belonging anywhere, and not knowing what steps to take for their future. (Accurate data are hard to gather, but the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey estimates that about 2.2 million working-age Syrian refugees already live in the country.)To follow them is to witness a generation struggling to find a foothold in a world that is no longer theirs. Over the years, I have met dozens of young Syrians, both in Turkey and in Syria. I have tracked their life under siege, their road to forever exile, and their longing for a homeland they cannot return to.For now, and possibly eternally, they have to go on with their life in subtle defiance of a war that has stripped them of their youth.Mohammed Hassan worked long hours in a textile factory, and sent most of his wages to his family back home.“It’s past my time to learn and be educated,” Mohammed Hassan told me, his head lowered as he mulled his future. Around us, dozens of young men hunched over sewing machines in the textile factory where Mohammed, 19, had been working for the past year.He and his family had been living under ISIS’s extremist rule when an American-led offensive against the terror group began in 2016. Mohammed and his relatives fled their village in northern Syria to a camp for internally displaced persons within the country. A year later, with little money and limited prospects, Mohammed made the risky crossing into Turkey to find work to support his family, who remain in the camp. He now makes about $270 a month, most of which he sends to his relatives.“There is no time, or money, for fun,” Mohammed told me. Every evening, after an 11-hour workday, he returns to the dank one-story house he shares with four cousins. There, they lay out thin mattresses on the floor of the room they sleep in, light cigarettes, and browse the internet on their cellphones for about 20 minutes—a momentary escape before cooking a simple dinner of scrambled eggs, tomato slices, and flatbread, with tea.Life for Mohammed and his cousins is basic, with little time, or money, for the teenager to have any fun.Most young Syrians have little choice but to take seasonal work on farms, or in factories such as the one Mohammed worked in, while accepting significantly lower wages than Turks. Life is one of constant instability: Those with some savings cannot return home, and cannot decide whether to put down roots in Turkey or try their luck abroad. Weeks after I first met Mohammed, he told me he was no longer working in the textile factory—demand for their products, which were sold into Syria, had dried up as the military offensive raged in Idlib. He and his cousins had given up their house, and Mohammed was living with friends while he considered his options.Mira Jerrah would not be out of place in a more cosmopolitan setting than Gaziantep.At a Starbucks across town, I met with Mira Jerrah, who lives a parallel, though altogether more privileged, life. For her 21st birthday, two friends had surprised her with a slice of carrot cake topped with lit tea candles. Mira shrieked happily and opened her gifts. The trio chatted for hours, whiling the afternoon away over coffee; Mira painted her fingernails vermilion red, a change from the baby blue they had been.The youngest of four children, Mira was only 14 when her family traded Aleppo for Gaziantep, and although the early period in Turkey was “really tough,” she told me, she didn’t “want to go back to Syria, ever.”Mira’s life, between classes, shopping, and spending time with friends, is little different from those of other somewhat affluent young people, but her mother finds it harder.Now in her senior year at Gaziantep University, where she is studying for a degree in Cinema and Television, and where half the student body is Syrian, Mira converses flawlessly in Arabic, English, and Turkish, and would not be out of place in a more cosmopolitan setting than this one.Yet her family, her mother in particular, has found the move more difficult. “I grew up here, and it was the age when I formed my personality,” Mira told me. “I don’t belong to either Turkish or Syrian culture, but I live here now.” Her mother, however, struggles with speaking Turkish. At one point when I was with them, she waited outside a shop as Mira entered, fearful of discrimination against Syrians, even wealthy ones. “Stereotyping is really the worst,” Mira said in disgust.Nadra’s parents have yet to meet their granddaughter, Islam.“Our wedding day was horrible,” Nadra Kazmouz told me, laughing. “We got married in this building without electricity, close to the front line because there was less bombing there.” Still, she continued, “the makeup artist made me look like another person.”Nadra and her husband moved to Gaziantep for safety, but are separated from much of the rest of their family.Nadra’s life fits somewhere between Mohammed’s and Mira’s—her husband is an Oscar-nominated producer, yet the couple had to move to Gaziantep for safety without the rest of their family, who were unable to cross into Turkey before Ankara closed off its border with Syria. Nadra’s parents have yet to meet her daughter, Islam. Back in Syria, Nadra had been studying biotechnological engineering, but she is now enrolled in the cinematography program at Gaziantep University.For Nadra, her husband, and millions of other Syrians here in Turkey, life is a quotidian struggle—whether material, psychological, or emotional. Separation from home has created an inconsolable anguish for these young adults, and they carry scars (mental as well as physical) and the weight of an uncertain future.This story was supported by The GroundTruth Project.
2020-03-07 08:00:00
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Why Jihadists Loved America in the 1980s
It was freezing cold with gusting winds in Indianapolis on New Year’s Day 1978. While much of the city was presumably waking to a hangover, the Islamic Teaching Center was busy hosting prominent preachers from the Middle East. Among them was Abdallah Azzam, a 36-year-old rising star of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood. In Indianapolis, Azzam would meet a young Saudi student with a now-famous name: Osama bin Laden. It was a historic moment, one that marked the rise of an extensive jihadist network in the United States.That Azzam and bin Laden met in America is no coincidence. They came because, unlike other countries in the Middle East, the U.S. allowed them and other Islamists to preach, fundraise, and recruit followers without interference. My new biography of Azzam shows that in the 1980s, radical Islamists exploited U.S. territory to an extent not previously recognized. In fact, for more than a decade, America was among the most hospitable jihadist-recruitment grounds in the world.To understand why, one has to look at the Afghan War. A few years after their Indiana meeting, Azzam and bin Laden co-founded the Services Bureau, an organization in Peshawar, Pakistan, that sought to bring Muslim fighters to Afghanistan. As its leader, Azzam spearheaded a worldwide effort to fundraise and recruit, especially from the Gulf countries and the United States.Although based in Pakistan from 1981 onward, Azzam crossed the Atlantic at least once a year, and by the end of the decade had visited New York, Texas, California, Seattle, and several other states in between. The message was always the same: Muslims in America should fight in Afghanistan, or at least donate money to the jihad. He spoke not in underground cellars, but in large, open venues, such as the annual meeting of the Muslim Arab Youth Association, which usually brought together hundreds of people. He stayed in the apartments of young local supporters, impressing them with his charisma and humble lifestyle. U.S. authorities became aware of these activities in the late ’80s, but did not consider Azzam a threat.[Read: Americans are more worried about terrorism than they were after 9/11]In December 1984, Azzam launched al-Jihad magazine, an Arabic-language monthly aimed at raising awareness of the Afghan cause. Within eight months, the magazine had a U.S. distributor—the Islamic Centre in Tucson, Arizona—and by the late ’80s, it had a nationwide network of agents who sold thousands of copies each month and made America one of the magazine’s most important markets.CaptionAzzam’s activities didn’t stop there. In late 1987, a group of activists in Brooklyn approached Azzam with a proposition to make their recently established NGO, the al-Kifah Refugee Center, the American branch of the Services Bureau. Azzam was delighted and later wrote the following in al-Jihad: I was pleased that [the brothers] have opened a Services Bureau, appointed a lawyer, gotten him a government license, and started coordinating trips to Afghanistan … I have opened an account in my name in Brooklyn, and the account number is 016714446, Independence Saving Bank … Whoever wants to send a check, he may send it to this address: Maktab al-Khadamat in Brooklyn (552 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn NY; tel. 718-797-9207). Write my name on the check: “Dr. Abdallah Azzam.” Al-Kifah soon set up regional branches in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Tucson. It even had a national hotline run out of Chicago that people could call to hear a recorded news bulletin about the Afghan jihad.The efforts paid off: Hundreds of Muslims from all over America joined the Afghan jihad, and some even became prominent figures in the nascent jihadist movement. Wa’il Julaydan became a key fundraiser for the Services Bureau in Peshawar, Muhammad Bayazid became one of the co-founders of al-Qaeda, and Wadih El Hage also joined al-Qaeda; he was later convicted for his involvement in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings. Americans were a minority in the Afghan Arab community, but their language skills and high level of education gave them an outsize importance.But how was it even possible that America had become a cherished recruitment ground for Azzam? The main reason was that America offered unparalleled political freedoms. Azzam and his lieutenants were seen as religious activists, something for which there was high tolerance in the United States. Meanwhile, the U.S. government did not consider them a security threat, because at that time, Sunni Islamists had virtually never perpetrated terrorist attacks in the West.The United States was the only country outside Pakistan where Azzam was able to set up an official branch of the Services Bureau. Even Saudi Arabia, which generally approved of Azzam’s efforts, never allowed him to open an office, and it sometimes canceled his talks. Other Middle Eastern countries were even more hostile. Azzam was able to visit only Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Jordan in the ’80s. The rest denied him entry, and Jordan closed the door on him after 1984. America was also a convenient destination. With one visa, you had access to a large, wealthy, monolingual society. Europe, by contrast, was more cumbersome: You needed a new visa and a new language for every country. Azzam visited several European countries, including the U.K., Germany, Spain, and Italy, but he never attempted to build a European recruitment infrastructure like the one he had in America.It helped that the Muslim Brotherhood had a strong presence in the United States, especially in Muslim student societies. For example, the guests at the Indianapolis meeting in 1978 were Muslim Brothers. By the ’80s, the brotherhood had evolved into a nonviolent movement, but it was not pacifist, and it cared deeply about Muslim liberation struggles such as those in Palestine and Afghanistan. Azzam’s own Brotherhood background allowed him to connect easily with activists across America during that decade.We know from declassified documents that Azzam only came to the FBI’s attention in 1989, in connection with the case of a 17-year-old high-school student in Dallas who had gone to Afghanistan. As late as May 1989, a secret cable from FBI headquarters to Dallas said, “Searches of Bureau indices revealed no information that [Azzam], the Islamic Jihad, or the Mujahideen was involved in the recruitment of mercenaries to fight in Afghanistan.” Of course, it mattered that the United States was heavily involved in Afghanistan on the same side as Azzam. Everyone had their eyes on the prize, which was the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Why care about a small number of hotheads joining a war the Americans themselves supported?The jihadist haven in America would not last long, because it soon brought violence. In November 1990, an Egyptian Islamist extremist murdered the militant Jewish nationalist Meir Kahane, and in early 1993, militants detonated a car bomb under the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000. In mid-1993, the FBI foiled the potentially more lethal New York landmarks plot, for which a number of U.S.-based Islamists were convicted in 1995. With these incidents came more scrutiny of jihadist networks in the United States, and after 9/11, the scrutiny turned into a crackdown. Today, America is one of the world’s most hostile areas of operation for transnational jihadists.[Graeme Wood: ISIS is gloating]It was because everyone saw the ’80s Afghan jihad as legitimate that nobody sounded the alarm about the Afghan Arabs and the Americans who joined them. And yet we saw it again in the early stages of the Syria conflict, when most of the international community supported the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Both Western and regional governments were initially loath to prevent their citizens from going, because the cause was seen as legitimate. Later, when European countries saw thousands joining the Islamic State and other Islamist groups and threatening attacks at home, they took stricter measures against foreign fighters.The story of Azzam and his American network ended badly for him. In late 1989, Azzam was assassinated in Peshawar by unknown perpetrators. Soon after, infighting broke out in the al-Kifah center, culminating with the murder of its leader, Mustafa Shalabi, in 1991. In 1993, the center closed down, and the Services Bureau headquarters disbanded in 1995. Osama bin Laden fared differently. He went on to build al-Qaeda, declare all-out war on the United States, and mastermind the 9/11 attacks, ushering in the War on Terror, with all its tragic consequences.
2020-03-06 13:00:00
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Photos of the Week: Model Vostok, Super Tuesday, Fur Rondy
Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters New growth in bushfire-affected Australia, coronavirus precautions around the world, a birthday party in isolation in China, migrants on the Turkey-Greece border, heavy rains in Brazil, a wet world-record attempt in Russia, mule deer in flight above Utah, Tennessee tornado damage, and much more
2020-03-06 07:30:00
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The Truth About Stalin’s Prison Camps
Vera Golubeva spent more than six years in one of Joseph Stalin’s gulag camps. Her crime? “To this day, I still don’t know,” she says. In a new documentary from Coda Story, Golubeva remembers the excruciating details of her imprisonment. When she was arrested, along with her father, mother, and sister, Golubeva was taken to KGB headquarters and tortured. She was eight months pregnant. “I felt as if they were burying me alive,” she says in the film. Shortly before being transferred to a labor camp, Golubeva gave birth to a baby boy, who died just days later while in the care of KGB agents. “It was the worst cruelty,” she says. From 1918 to 1987, Soviet Russia operated a network of hundreds of prison camps that held up to 10,000 people each. When Stalin launched his infamous purges in 1936, millions of so-called political prisoners were arrested and transported to the gulags without trial. The first wave of prisoners were military and government officials; later, ordinary citizens—especially intellectuals, doctors, writers, artists, and scientists—were arrested ex nihilo. At the camps, many prisoners were executed or died from overwork and malnutrition. The death rate often hovered around 5 percent, although in years of widespread famine, the mortality rate could be as high as 25 percent. Historians estimate that as part of the gulag, Soviet authorities imprisoned or executed about 25 million people. “That sum is unfathomable,” Katia Patin, who produced the film about Golubeva, told me. Golubeva’s story is part of a powerful oral-history series called Generation Gulag, which Coda Story created to better understand the gulag experience. “We made a point of not relying on numbers to tell the story of the gulag,” Patin said. “Instead, we focused on individual stories as a way of capturing the gulag’s massive scale, as well as the ripple effect set in motion when the Soviet machine of repression bore down on a single person.” Now is a more important time than ever to examine this dark period of Russia’s history. In a poll conducted in 2019, 70 percent of Russians said they approved of Stalin’s role in history—a record high. And nearly half of young Russians said they had never heard of the Stalin-era purges, known as the Great Terror. In Russian school textbooks, the gulag is either glossed over or mentioned as a footnote. “Russia has misrepresented its crimes against humanity by refusing to address them,” Patin said. “It’s incredible to think that not a single person was ever held responsible for running the gulag.” In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Stalin has been rehabilitated as a figure credited with the U.S.S.R.’s victory in World War II—a narrative that leaves little room for examining his role in the gulag, Patin said. The Kremlin has warned that “excessive demonization” of Stalin is, in fact, an “attack on the Soviet Union and Russia,” and Putin has even gone so far as to praise Stalin as an “effective manager.” In 2015, Putin forced museums to remove evidence of Stalin’s crimes. (This state-sanctioned historical negationism has also included the myth that the gulag created industrial success in Russia. In fact, it was an economic disaster, as output almost never compensated for the cost of running the camp system.) On March 5, the anniversary of Stalin’s death, people across Russia gather to commemorate the millions of people who suffered under his rule. “You can say that gulag survivors have successfully reclaimed the anniversary,” Patin said, “but each year, a crowd also gathers outside the Kremlin walls, where Stalin used to be buried, with flowers and portraits of the leader.” Statues celebrating Stalin have recently been erected in Russian cities. On March 5, people leave flowers by them too. “There are two types of history in Russia: the history that belongs to the state, and history that belongs to families,” Patin said. Putin may promulgate a glorified version of Stalin to promote patriotism, but ultimately, Golubeva gets the last word. “The KGB was committing open crimes against humanity,” she says in the film. “It’s my firm belief that only people with a traitor’s heart went to work for the KGB.”
2020-03-05 23:46:55
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theatlantic.com
Finalists From Smithsonian Magazine’s 2019 Photo Contest
© Conor Ryan. All rights reserved The editors of Smithsonian magazine have just announced the 60 finalists in their 17th annual photo contest, selected from 36,000 entries sent in from 145 countries and territories. They have once more allowed me to share here a selection of images from the competition’s six categories: Natural World, American Experience, Travel, People, Altered Images, and Mobile. Captions were written by the photographers. Be sure to visit the contest page at smithsonianmag.com to see all the finalists and vote for your favorites.
2020-03-05 18:07:41
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theatlantic.com
The Coronavirus Is More Than Just a Health Crisis
Even populists need experts, it turns out.This was the message, at least, from the British government this week as it published its plan to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. At a press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, flanked by his chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, and chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, sought to reassure the public that the country was well equipped to deal with the virus. In the likely next stages of the crisis, Johnson said, the government would follow the science.The irony of the moment was not lost on critics who lambast Johnson as a charlatan who duped the country into Brexit with a series of lies about what it entailed while actively disparaging the “experts” who warned voters not to take the risk. Michael Gove, a cabinet minister who is one of Johnson’s closest allies in government, declared during that campaign, “The people of this country have had enough of experts from organizations with acronyms saying they know what is best, and getting it consistently wrong.” Now in power, Johnson will turn to those very experts to ensure that the crisis originating in a faraway land does not turn into one at home.Yet there is a deeper irony still. Regardless of Johnson’s alleged double standard, experts cannot resolve this crisis, a fact that the scientists themselves explained at the press conference: The challenges of dealing with an outbreak of this scale are not technocratic but political, and decisions must be made in a fog of uncertainty.Standing beside Johnson, his two advisers spelled out the reality, telling reporters that it was not simply a question of ordering the country to do whatever seemed safest—the social cost of draconian measures needed to be weighed as well. If schools were closed, for instance, doctors and nurses might have to take time off work to look after their own children, undermining the health service’s ability to cope. If older people are asked to avoid contact with others, how do their families ensure that they do not become socially isolated in the process? And what about the poor? Not everyone can work from home, so the cost of forcing people to do so would not fall equally. Temporary employees paid only for the hours they work would lose far more of their income than those with permanent contracts. Should the lowest-paid people in society really be expected to bear a higher burden for a national plan designed to protect everyone?[Read: The problem with telling sick workers to stay home]An outbreak like the coronavirus reveals the priorities and values of a society, and how long it can cope without the freedoms it’s accustomed to. Here in London, the government acknowledges that its own power is limited, and that it may have only a small window to impose curbs on a population unused to even basic state restrictions.The first task for governments hoping to lead their countries calmly through the challenge might be to level with the public about this basic fact: that the puzzle of how to respond to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is not solely a scientific one, but a social and political one requiring widespread buy-in.Take, for instance, a report in The Times of London on the British government’s plans claiming that ministers and officials were “considering the trade-off between allowing an acute outbreak, from which the economy would rebound more quickly, and trying to save more lives by imposing restrictions on mass gatherings and transport.” This is the ugly reality of government. As Stewart Wood, once an adviser to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, put it, such questions are exactly “the kind of grave utilitarian calculus we both absolutely need the crisis-planning part of our Government to be thinking about [and] absolutely need our Government not to discuss.”In Britain, decisions of life and death are routinely considered by an institution called the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, a body of experts that uses scientific evidence and data to evaluate whether medical interventions—operations, scans, drugs, therapies, or anything else—constitute “value for money” and should be made available via the National Health Service. If an intervention is deemed too expensive, even if it has some health benefits, such as prolonging life or easing pain, it will not be made available to the public, because that money can be better spent elsewhere. This is medical rationing by experts: finding the best way to distribute the finite pot of government money allocated for health care.The reality, though, is brutal. To decide what is considered “value for money,” the institute uses formulas that measure the length and quality of life added by a medical intervention—“quality adjusted life years,” or QALYs. Each QALY is equal to one year of life in perfect health. Generally, the institute considers medical interventions costing £20,000 to £30,000, or about $25,000 to $38,000, per QALY gained to be cost-effective. Interventions costing more than that might not be sanctioned. In effect, then, the government has already placed a cost on life.The problem, as Wood explains, is that resources are finite and burdened by competing demands. In dealing with COVID-19, the government can’t simply stop addressing everything else, like cancer, flooding, crime, or, of course, Brexit. And while debates that weigh economic considerations against people’s health are uncomfortable, all governments rely on economic growth to fund public spending. In other words, decisions about how to contend with the coronavirus must weigh the wider economic impact, because in the end, the economy will affect the government’s ability to keep people alive.Over the next few months, the challenge for Johnson—and every other leader of a democratic country—is to convince the public that he is making reasonable, fair, and equitable decisions in the short term and striking the right balance among the country’s social, medical, and economic interests in the long term. The challenge is leadership.Henry Kissinger once said that the difficulty of leadership is that, by design, all the easy decisions have already been made before they can reach the prime minister’s or president’s desk. The tough calls are all that’s left. “Real dilemmas are difficulties of the soul, provoking agonies,” he wrote. Many decisions faced by leaders are between two sets of evils; the skill is to pick the lesser.[Thomas Wright and Kurt M. Campbell: The coronavirus is exposing the limits of populism]The dilemma for Johnson is simple: How much time, money, and social upheaval should be spent saving lives from COVID-19? He will have to make this decision in the dark, weighing reasonable expectations of what will happen if he does or does not act in certain ways. He will be presented with scenarios that consider crime rates, drops in consumer spending, job cuts, tax losses, and strains on a health system dealing with other illnesses—as well as deaths from COVID-19.Kissinger explained the dilemma of leadership: “The most difficult issues are those whose necessity you cannot prove when the decisions are made. You act on the basis of an assessment that in the nature of things is a guess, so that public opinion knows, usually, only when it is too late to act, when some catastrophe has become overwhelming.”Johnson, then—and U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel—will be judged in hindsight for decisions taken without that privilege. Did he overreact or underreact? the public will ask. Did he calm a volatile situation or induce panic? Did he show leadership or reveal a lack of it? Is he up to the job? Faced with trying to ensure public confidence in his leadership, Johnson’s first reaction was to turn to experts. Those experts immediately threw the ball back to him.
2020-03-05 08:00:00
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Photos: Tornado Damage in Tennessee
Wade Payne / AP At least one tornado tore through central Tennessee earlier this week, damaging hundreds of houses and larger buildings and killing at least 24 people. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has declared a state of emergency as rescuers search for dozens of people still listed as missing, most of them in Putnam County, east of Nashville. Below are images of the storm’s widespread destruction and some of the rescue and salvage work taking place.
2020-03-04 19:34:27
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theatlantic.com
Boris Johnson vs. British Officialdom
In 1989, the billionaire investor Warren Buffett wrote a letter reflecting on what was then his 25-year stewardship of Berkshire Hathaway. His “most surprising discovery” was “the overwhelming importance in business of an unseen force that we might call ‘the institutional imperative.’” Buffet told investors that he initially thought “decent, intelligent, and experienced managers would automatically make rational business decisions.” In fact, he discovered, this was untrue. The crucial thing was the system.It was almost a law of business, Buffett wrote, that institutions will resist change, waste time, produce evidence to support the whims of whoever is in charge, and mindlessly imitate the behavior of rival companies. The lesson he took from his insight was to organize his company in ways that minimized the dangers of systemic failure and to invest in other companies that also seemed to understand this risk.Buffett’s law has entered the annals of business theory, and been held up by an array of leaders—among them Dominic Cummings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most influential adviser.Cummings’s belief in this worldview goes a long way toward explaining the ongoing tension between the U.K. government and the institution it is asking to enact its agenda: the British Civil Service. The tension exploded into public view this weekend with the abrupt resignation of the most senior official in the Home Office following repeated disputes with his political master, Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has been tasked with introducing an entirely new immigration regime in just 10 months. It was also on display in the revelation that the British government opted to leave the European Union’s pandemic early-warning system, despite calls from health experts to remain. But while the clashes, particularly at the Home Office, appear to have been personal and specific, involving accusations of bullying and leaking, or of placing ideology over pragmatism, they are also systemic and general, revealing a clash of ideas that is only likely to intensify, and not just a clash of personalities.[Read: Why Britain Brexited ]At the heart of the row is the idea set out by Buffett in 1989, that it matters not the “venality or stupidity” of the government minister or civil servant in question (depending on your view of who is in the right), but the hardwiring of the government machine itself. In Cummings’s view, the Civil Service, like every other government bureaucracy, is unable to shake Buffett’s institutional imperative toward inaction, time-wasting, false certainty, and mindless imitation. The machine, Cummings believes, is unable to bring about the kind of change voters want—therefore, the only way to change the outcomes that voters dislike is to change the system. Regardless of who behaved badly in the dispute between Patel and her senior civil servant, this clash of ideas is the key underlying tension.Cummings’s perspective is best understood not through a traditional left-wing or right-wing political prism, but philosophically. It is revolutionary in nature, seeking systemic change, not just policy reform, and means that individual bust-ups are best understood not on their specific merits alone, but as part of a wider battle over the nature of government itself.To better understand this clash, it is instructive to return to Cummings’s writings on previous British governments that have found themselves frustrated by the small-c conservative nature of the Civil Service. Both Tony Blair and David Cameron, for instance, sought ways to more efficiently control the machine, to shake it to life to produce the outcomes that the government wanted. Blair chose to centralize and impose targets; Cameron criticized this approach from opposition, only to imitate it in power.After a crisis following the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease early in his first government, Blair discovered “the wonders of Cobra,” Cummings writes, referring to the U.K.’s disaster-response system, named after the chamber in which it is held—Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. The military response to the crisis showed Blair what could be achieved through command and control, and when further crises emerged, Blair turned to Cobra. Today, Cobra is the go-to response taken by prime ministers when a crisis occurs. Johnson himself was seen to take control of the growing concern over the new coronavirus only when he convened his first Cobra meeting on the matter on Monday.For Cummings, though, the reliance on Cobra shows not a system working but “a symptom of Whitehall’s profound dysfunction.” The problem, in his view, is the very thing the Civil Service is most proud of: its apolitical permanence. The Civil Service’s defenders say this is what makes it the best in the world, producing “Rolls Royce” diplomats and officials who are experts in their field; free from short-term political pressures; able to give honest, impartial advice; rounded by experience across government. Cummings counters that this is exactly what is wrong with the Civil Service, entrenching its destructive imperative to preserve the status quo, unable to imagine an alternative to the way it works, wasteful of time and resources, and ultimately incapable of adapting to sudden change it never foresees—Brexit chief among them.The point is not that the Civil Service should have forecast these events, but that it should confront its inability to predict the unpredictable. To Cummings, politics is like the weather: Forecasts are valuable, but limited. In politics, he wrote: “Unfathomable and unintended consequences dominate. Problems cascade. Complex systems are hard to understand, predict and control.” The key is the ability to adapt—and to adapt, one has to embrace the reality of uncertainty. Government machines instead are built to try to eliminate uncertainty. What is required is a more scientific approach to government, learning from experience as Buffett proposes. The British government should take its cue from the human immune system, Cummings argues, where there is no plan or central control; its strength lies in reacting to attack, experimenting, doing whatever works, discarding what doesn’t. Such a system is messy but adaptable, and therefore stronger.Here we come back to Patel, the theory of government, and Brexit itself.Government supporters argue that the civil servant who quit in protest was acting as a block to democratic change: a post-Brexit immigration system. He has responded that he and his staff were subject to “unreasonable and repeated demands” from the government, as well as personal abuse. Brexiteers therefore have held up Patel as the hero for taking on the system (#IStandWithPritiPatel was trending on Twitter this week); Remainers have held up the official as the hero for standing on the side of the experts warning that such demands were impossible. This argument, though, is meaningless if it is the system that is at fault, not individuals within it.[Read: Brexit has triggered Britain’s most ambitious migration exercise ever]The row also reveals the deeper philosophy of Brexit, which drives this Johnson administration and has yet to be fully grasped by those who routinely show exasperation at its apparent refusal to listen to expert advice. Johnson, they say, is pursuing a future that makes no sense, one in which sovereignty is prioritized over economic alignment with the EU, meaning that Britain will be poorer than it needs to be.But this misunderstands the core of the Johnson-Cummings project. It is not that they disagree with experts’ forecasts, or that they are attempting to be populist. They actively reject this model of government, believing it to be systemically and empirically flawed. They argue that Britain needs to free itself from centralized bureaucratic control, rather than rely on it, to be able to react both to domestic crises and the ever-changing international environment. This is a project to remake Britain into a country agile enough to adapt quickly to the dramatic change that is inevitable and unpredictable, not to perfect an existing system that avoids unwanted shocks.This, then, is not a row about what immigration regime Britain should adopt after Brexit or how quickly it can be put into place, but about the very nature of government and how to be a successful country in the 21st century. It is an experiment. Sometimes experiments succeed and sometimes they don’t. The question, taking Cummings at his word, is whether Britain is institutionally capable of adapting to make it work.
2020-03-04 08:00:00
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theatlantic.com
India Failed Delhi
Violence has become a familiar feature of many of the places convulsed by protests around the world—especially when the government gets involved. Such is the case in France, where clashes with police have resulted in numerous injuries. In Iraq and Chile, they have even led to deaths.The unrest emerging in India, however, is of a different breed. There, the sectarian violence that has resulted in dozens of deaths in the capital city of Delhi follows months of peaceful protests against a new citizenship law. In this case, it wasn’t a government crackdown that spurred the deaths, but rather, the government’s seeming unwillingness to quell the rampage in the first place.The scale of the violence in Delhi, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s muted reaction to it, raises questions about the obligation of governments to stem violence. Is it enough to call for calm, as Modi has done, or is a more robust response required? Is failing to stamp out turmoil any different from being the cause of it in the first place?Compared with some mass demonstrations around the world, Delhi’s have been relatively peaceful. Galvanized by the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which excludes Muslims from the list of religious groups in neighboring countries eligible for Indian citizenship, nationwide protests have largely centered on the law’s constitutionality and what it means for India’s identity. Critics argue that the law implicitly makes religion a criterion for nationality, thereby threatening the country’s status as a secular and pluralist democracy. In Delhi, this opposition has manifested in sit-ins, candlelight vigils, and public readings of the preamble to the Indian constitution.In the last week, however, things have taken a turn. A recently unseated local politician belonging to Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) delivered a speech demanding the police to clear the roads in northeastern Delhi that were being blocked by the protesters—or he and his followers would do it themselves. Within hours of the ultimatum, The New York Times reported, violence broke out, including clashes between Muslim and Hindu groups. To date, dozens have been killed and scores of businesses, homes, and mosques have been burned down.[Mira Kamdar: What happened in Delhi was a pogrom]Sectarian violence of this nature would ordinarily prompt a swift response from the Indian government, Gareth Price, a senior research fellow at the London-based Chatham House, told me. “Historically, when communal violence breaks out, what you do is you impose a curfew straightaway, and you put out a lot of police on the street, and you make everyone go home and calm down a bit,” he said. “If you want communal violence to carry on for a little bit, you don’t do that.”If governments have an obligation to rein in violence, and the necessary resources, then why hasn’t Modi done so? Though some officials have proposed that the army be deployed and a curfew enacted, the government has so far resisted the pressure. Instead, Modi issued an appeal for calm, urging people in the capital to “maintain peace and brotherhood at all times.” The request is likely to fall on deaf ears, though. After all, the government hasn’t been completely restrained in its handling of the anti-CAA demonstrations. During the early days of the protests late last year, it arrested thousands of people in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where its use of force resulted in more than a dozen deaths—in this case, it was opposition to the government’s agenda that prompted the backlash; the violence in Delhi, which has been ostensibly driven by those who support the government’s legislation, did not warrant a similar reaction. In other parts of the country, according to human-rights groups, it shut down the internet and limited public transportation.The government’s willingness to countenance tough measures against those opposing its citizenship legislation, but not against the communal violence in Delhi, has earned Modi and the BJP allegations of complicity. Modi stands accused of having been too preoccupied with President Donald Trump’s visit to heed warnings about the tumult. (A BJP spokesperson told reporters that the party does not support any kind of violence, before making an unsubstantiated claim that the unrest had been “pre-planned” by rival parties trying to damage India’s reputation.) Meanwhile, authorities have been criticized for standing by as Hindu mobs confront Muslim protesters and even participating in the violence themselves. (Delhi’s police department dismissed allegations that it failed to supply sufficient forces as “baseless,” and in a statement last Tuesday said it is “making all earnest efforts … to restore the normalcy.”)Though this scale of violence between Hindus and Muslims in India is rare, the tensions stoking them have been building for a while. When Modi ascended to the premiership in 2014, he campaigned on an agenda to revive the country’s stagnant economy and improve its infrastructure. But he also brought a zeal to transform India from a secular democracy into a Hindu-nationalist state. Since his reelection last year, that goal has manifested in a number of contentious policies, from the decision to revoke the constitutionally enshrined autonomy of India’s sole Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, to the imposition of a citizenship registry that has rendered nearly 2 million people, many of whom are Muslim, stateless. The passage of the CAA was regarded by some as one step too far, prompting the protests.[Read: When is a protest too late?]When it comes to handling communal violence, though, Modi’s response is par for the course. The last time clashes like these occurred in India, it was 2002 in his home state of Gujarat, where he was serving as chief minister. When riots broke out between Hindu and Muslim groups following a deadly train fire, Modi and his state government were seen to quietly sanction the violence, which persisted for months. In the end, 2,000 people—the overwhelming majority of whom were Muslim—were killed and thousands were displaced. Though a court-appointed panel later cleared Modi of responsibility, his role in presiding over the riots proved enough to deny him entry to the United States and Britain for nearly a decade.By not employing measures to curb the rampage in Delhi, Modi can perhaps claim to have avoided the severe government response to protests seen elsewhere around the world. But permitting unrest at the hands of violent mobs—while cracking down on protesters voicing opposition to the government’s legislation—signals where leaders’ priorities lie. The Indian government may not be actively involved in the sectarian violence, but in failing to stop it, leaders become responsible for it.
2020-03-03 04:50:00
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theatlantic.com
Thousands of Migrants Attempt to Cross Into Europe From Turkey
Burak Akay / Anadolu Agency / Getty Last week, the Turkish government announced that it was no longer able to support a deal made with the European Union in 2016 to prevent migrants from crossing into Europe. Shortly afterward, thousands of men, women, and children set off for the border with Greece, attempting to leave Turkey by land or by sea, only to meet barbed-wire fences and security forces. Turkey has been hosting several million refugees from Syria, as well as migrants and refugees from Africa and other parts of the Middle East. Turkish officials said they were unable to cope with a recent increase in refugees, following escalations in the fighting in Syria, while others have accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of “weaponizing” the migrants, pressuring the EU to support Turkey’s operations in Syria.
2020-03-02 21:19:13
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theatlantic.com
The Unreality of the Next Stage of Brexit
Britain and the European Union begin negotiations over a new trading relationship today, but like in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, a strange unreality hangs over everything.The two sides have given themselves just 10 months to agree on a new trading relationship that will supersede the no-tariffs, no-checks system that currently exists. Last week, the U.K. and EU each published a “mandate,” setting out what they wanted from any new deal. Taken together, their opening positions left just about enough middle ground for a final agreement to be struck, analysts said, narrow though it may be.The problem, though, is not that a compromise has become impossible or even unlikely—few believe either is yet the case. The problem is the apparent hands-over-the-eyes failure of either side to accept that the world has changed since Britain left the EU on January 31.London appears to be denying the reality of the price it has already paid to extricate itself from the EU’s legal order: de facto border controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland (both sovereign parts of the United Kingdom). Brussels, in return, appears to be denying the reality of Brexit altogether—that Britain has decided to leave the EU’s legal order, regardless of the economic costs. So far, Brussels’s position is as straightforward as it is unacceptable to London: The price of a new trading relationship is the U.K. abiding by some EU standards, set by the EU and enforced by the EU’s court in perpetuity.As the two sides gear up for the fraught negotiations about to ensue, the unreality is this: The EU seems unable to grasp the nature of Brexit; the U.K. seems unable to grasp the price it has paid to get it. The consequences could be a far more profound rupture than either wants or is necessary—and, for London, a far more difficult relationship with Northern Ireland (let alone Scotland).To understand why all this is happening, going back to basics is important. The EU works as a collection of sovereign states that agree to give up direct national control over areas of daily life, including food standards and fishing rights, and international trade, immigration, and social standards. They do this, pooling national control into a body that sits above them, because they believe the benefits are worth it, whether in terms of prosperity, peace, or regional influence. Many Europeans, including Brits, also believe in the project as an expression of identity; they are European and not just French or Dutch, Irish or Greek.Brexit is a rejection of this bargain. In seeking to “take back control” of Britain’s money, laws, and borders, London is exercising its right to leave the higher jurisdiction of EU law that keeps the organization together, accepting that, as a result, it cannot enjoy the benefits of membership: ease of trade and travel and, fundamentally, influence over the laws made in Brussels.What has complicated the whole endeavor is that the U.K. is not a normal nation-state, but itself a union of nations. One of those—Northern Ireland—cannot even agree on whether it is a nation or not, and sits not on the island of Britain, but on the island of Ireland, sharing a land border with the Republic of Ireland, a separate country and EU member state, to the south.If it weren’t for Northern Ireland, as Angela Merkel is alleged to have told Boris Johnson, Brexit would be more straightforward. But Northern Ireland does exist, and will remain a sovereign part of the U.K.—the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—until a majority of its population chooses otherwise. Yet almost half of its citizens consider themselves Irish, not British, and would resent any post-Brexit disruption to their lives crisscrossing the border with the Republic. To maintain the status quo, London, Dublin, and Brussels agreed to keep the border open as before.Yet the only way to keep the border open was for EU law to apply north and south of it. In other words, EU law would have to continue to apply in a part of the U.K., even after the U.K. had left the EU. London was then faced with a choice: Should the whole of the country accept EU law, or should an internal border be erected? Theresa May chose the former and lost her job, Boris Johnson chose the latter and won a landslide general-election victory.Fast-forward to today and Johnson’s problem is that having paid this significant price to maximize mainland Britain’s freedom from EU jurisdiction, he is refusing to accept that the harder he pursues this freedom, the firmer the divide will be with Northern Ireland. Matthew O’Toole, a former Downing Street official who is now a member of the Northern Ireland assembly, told me the choice for London was clear: “If the U.K. is serious about wanting to diverge entirely from EU rules, that means checks on goods as they cross the Irish Sea between Britain and Northern Ireland.”Johnson’s other problem—more politically pressing than the first, given that Northern Ireland’s plight has not provoked much sympathy among British voters—is that having agreed to a price for the U.K.’s freedom, the EU, from London’s perspective, has now increased the cost, and said that any future trading relationship must be based on EU law. This is the EU as the famed Hotel California: You can check out, but you can never leave.Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the the Centre for European Reform think tank, told me that, at its core, the EU did not accept that its negotiation with Britain was one between equals. He said the EU was “trying to use its economic weight to impose conditions on the U.K. it wouldn't normally ask of others.” Canada and Japan both have similar trade agreements to the one the U.K. is asking for, but Brussels has not required those countries to accept the supremacy of EU law. The economic reality for Britain, though, is that the EU is the regional hegemon, and this is how it behaves with countries on its periphery.Raoul Ruparel, who advised May on Brexit, said the logic worked both ways. "There are elements of denial in the opening positions of both sides,” he told me. “The EU seems unable to accept that the U.K. will no longer be part of its legal and regulatory order [but] the U.K. doesn't yet seem to have fully accepted the trade-offs that will need to be made to secure a deal in such short order."The truth that dare not speak its name is that while Brexit was—and is—about taking back control, Britain ceded total control of Northern Ireland to do so, and the EU lost control of Britain in the process.
2020-03-02 08:00:00
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theatlantic.com
The U.S. Once Wanted Peace in Afghanistan
For George W. Bush, the goal was the destruction of al-Qaeda, the total defeat of the Taliban, and a “stable and free and peaceful” Afghanistan. For Barack Obama, it was a degraded Taliban that could be reasoned with but would have to renounce violence, respect women, and abide by the Afghan constitution. For Donald Trump, it was just a reduction in violence and a clear path to the door—the Afghans themselves would have to figure out the rest.Over nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan, the United States government went from seeking to annihilate the Taliban, to meeting with them furtively, to negotiating with them openly, before, finally, signing a deal with them. And at each juncture, the expectations dropped.The agreement the United States and the Taliban signed today is both truly momentous for happening at all and severely modest for what it contains. In essence, it extends a seven-day truce in which U.S. and Taliban forces refrained from attacking each other, calls for Afghans to talk among themselves, and lays out a plan for a U.S. withdrawal over 14 months. The U.S. isn’t going anywhere immediately, and neither is the Taliban; there’s not even a full cease-fire. Implicit in all of it is the larger recognition that, for the U.S., getting out of Afghanistan will mean lowering the bar.[David A. Graham: Everyone knew we were losing in Afghanistan]Administration officials themselves seem determined to hold down expectations. “We’re not getting to a peace deal,” a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in a briefing days before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to Doha for the signing ceremony. “We’re getting to the start of a discussion about a political settlement, or a peace deal … But we are at the very, very beginning of this process.”The deal specifies that the U.S. will pull all its forces from the country in little over a year, provided the Taliban lives up to its end of the agreement. Yet the Taliban has managed to fudge even two key U.S. goals that remain: The group does not formally renounce al-Qaeda or formally recognize the Afghan government, instead saying that al-Qaeda can’t use Taliban territory to threaten the U.S. or its allies and that it will participate in intra-Afghan peace talks. Women will take part in those talks, but Pompeo said this month that it’s up to Afghans to decide how their rights would be protected—effectively dropping Obama-era demands from the agenda. (The Taliban, which has consistently demanded that the United States must leave immediately, has also fallen short of that goal: The deal says the U.S. will draw down to 8,600 troops within 135 days—bringing troop numbers back around to the level they were when Trump took office.)This agreement may enshrine the more limited ambitions of the U.S. in Afghanistan, but, in fact, the bar lowering started not long after the war did, as three successive presidents searched for victory and instead found more violence. Indeed, American ambitions actually looked deceptively modest in 2001, because the war was supposed to be easy—an overthrow of the Taliban government then running Afghanistan, a bit of humanitarian help, and the election of a new friendly government to ensure that terrorists couldn’t use the country to attack the United States. But by 2006, the Taliban had launched an insurgency, and Bush wound down his presidency in 2008 by sending thousands more U.S. troops to the fight. By then, the most immediate goal was to “restore basic security”—a far cry from his earlier hopes for “a free and stable democracy.”Obama simultaneously raised resources—troop numbers went up from 31,000 at the end of the Bush administration to around 100,000 in 2010—and lowered expectations for what could be achieved. He spoke of the need simply to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda” and prevent its return to Afghanistan. Around the same time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that the administration was pursuing contacts with the Taliban, but insisted that any negotiations required the following outcomes: “Insurgents must renounce violence, abandon al-Qaeda, and abide by the constitution of Afghanistan, including its protections for women and minorities. If insurgents cannot meet those red lines, they will face continued and unrelenting assault.”“Look, this is Afghanistan,” one anonymous American official told The New York Times in 2012. “Is it going to be Switzerland? No.” The paper noted at the time that the mantra around Washington was “Afghan good enough,” and that expectations for the central government in Kabul even to simply control all of Afghanistan’s territory had evaporated. Then National Security Adviser Tom Donilon just wanted “a degree of stability” to keep al-Qaeda from launching attacks, the Times reported, but even that was elusive. Lawrence Nicholson, the now-retired Marine lieutenant general who led a troop surge into the southern province of Helmand in 2009-2010, told me, “A lot of the areas that we had stabilized and cleared of Taliban went right back [to Taliban control] after we left … It was like pulling your hand out of a bucket of water.”So Trump, when he came into office, was not unique in his desire to leave—and then became the third president in a row to decide to send more troops. “My original instinct was to pull out,” he said in 2017, “and historically, I like following my instincts.” But: “The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable.” He offered no affirmative reason for staying, mentioning only the risks of leaving. Ensuring women’s rights was no longer part of the goal.It still took Trump’s envoy Zalmay Khalilzad more than a year of negotiations to get a deal. Last fall, the U.S. and the Taliban were on the verge of signing an agreement when Trump pulled out, citing an American soldier’s death in Kabul. He revealed in a tweet that he had scrapped an extraordinary plan to host Taliban representatives at Camp David, along with the Afghan president, within a few days of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.This time it’s just Pompeo in Doha and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in Kabul, though Trump said last week he would have been perfectly willing to sign the agreement himself. The deaths of two U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan this month didn’t derail the talks; they died not in a Taliban attack, but at the hands of an Afghan in army uniform. Those men brought to six the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year—now 2,348 over the course of the conflict. Some 43,000 Afghan civilians have died, by one estimate; Afghan security forces were dying at a rate of about 9,000 a year for four years until 2018; then the U.S. military said casualties were higher in 2019 but classified the statistics.The senior administration official who held the briefing on the deal ahead of time acknowledged “a healthy skepticism in many quarters” about it and even highlighted risks. “Nobody sees an increasing return on violence in Afghanistan,” the official said. “It may be that circumstances don’t play out the way we want [them] to. But we do believe this is the very best chance.”[Read: ‘We shouldn’t be buying the Taliban’s excuse’]That chance relies on the trustworthiness of the Taliban. Even in the group’s recent appeals to a U.S. public that may be just as eager for its troops to leave Afghanistan as the Taliban is to drive them out, Taliban representatives have refused to acknowledge al-Qaeda’s responsibility for the September 11 attacks. Last September, a Taliban spokesman told CBS that “still it is not known” who was behind those attacks. Just this month, the Taliban’s deputy head declared in a Times op-ed, “Reports about foreign groups in Afghanistan are politically motivated exaggerations by the warmongering players on all sides of the war.”Robert Grenier was the CIA station chief in Islamabad when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan—almost 20 years ago, he tried to prevent the war by the same means Trump is now trying to end it: negotiating with the Taliban. Grenier tried to persuade a Taliban official to give up Osama bin Laden and possibly stop the invasion altogether. But even with the threat of a U.S. invasion bearing down, his interlocutor could not get the movement to sever ties with al-Qaeda or hand over bin Laden. “What’s unusual about my perspective is I’ve been willing to deal with these people,” Grenier told me recently. He said he feared that the president was seeking a face-saving way out of the conflict, and was relying too much on the word of the Taliban—a fundamentalist group—to protect the world from radicals they’ve shown no inclination to renounce, let alone control. He said, “I have no reason to believe that this is a decent agreement.”
2020-02-29 15:44:17
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theatlantic.com
The World’s Refugee System Is Broken
TOKYO—Rose grew up in an English-speaking region of Cameroon, a Central African country uniquely, and violently, divided by language. When she was young, on the instructions of her father, she handed out fliers for a secessionist group opposed to the Francophone-controlled government. But as a teen, after she was sexually assaulted by security forces looking for her father, she swore off politics and became a teacher.Two decades passed. On a visit to her home village in 2016, Rose attended a protest demanding resources for Anglophone schools. Teachers and lawyers were the tip of the spear of a burgeoning independence movement centered on language. At the demonstration, officers hit Rose on the head with something powerful enough to knock her out and land her in the hospital for months. Afterward she was repeatedly brought in for questioning by police. Her family name, linked to the secessionist movement, made her more of a target. (For this story, she asked to use a pseudonym.)As she watched other teachers being hauled off and never heard from again, she decided to leave the country. Over the last three years, the violence in Cameroon has led to more than 3,000 deaths and uprooted half a million people—the fastest-growing displacement crisis in Africa, according to the International Rescue Committee. Asylum seekers from Cameroon often go west, to Europe and the United States. But Rose’s broker, whom she paid nearly $7,000, surprised her with the news that he could get her a visa to Japan, a country she knew almost nothing about. She had little idea of what she would do with her life when she arrived there, and barely 24 hours to decide. Still, she told me, “I just wanted to be in a safe place.”[Read: What happens when Japan stops looking ‘Japanese’?]The leaders who created international refugee policy never envisioned people like Rose, a middle-class 39-year-old woman desperate for safety from a conflict the rest of the world isn’t paying attention to. Violent flash points rooted in all kinds of new phenomena—police corruption, climate change, gang warfare—now dot the Earth, creating the conditions for the worst protracted migration crisis since World War II. The pull to more stable corners of the planet is more potent now, too, given social-media postings from cousins and friends abroad who amplify (and often inflate) newfound opportunity. And given relatively affordable airline travel, plus the ubiquity of smartphones—which ease language, navigation, and homesickness challenges—moving is logistically easier now. This has all turned Japan into an unlikely destination for asylum seekers.The problem is that the refugee system set forth in United Nations documents signed by most of the world’s countries, including Japan and the United States, does not apply to Rose—at least not how it is currently enforced. The 1951 and 1967 agreements were drafted to specifically address European displacement from World War II while more broadly setting rules to protect people from persecution going forward: Anyone who is “unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”But persecution is in the eye of the beholder, with interpretations of “unable or unwilling” varying based on the country of resettlement, the political party in power in that country, and the individual bureaucrat reading the application. To get refugee status and a pathway to permanent residency, asylum seekers generally must prove that they were personally targeted by documenting their persecution with paperwork—ostensibly from the very same authorities they are fleeing from. They are eyed suspiciously as mere economic migrants; poverty and hunger, though defining features of persecution, are not accepted reasons for being granted asylum.We are in an age of mass displacement. Yet the powerful and stable nations of the world have not figured out a humane way to handle the influx of people claiming persecution while balancing domestic concerns about security and cultural change. Instead, doors are simply closing, with asylum protections rolled back seemingly everywhere. In Italy, where the former interior minister denounced “fake refugees,” boats of Africans have been blocked from docking. The European Union pays handsomely to keep asylum seekers away, while Turkey considers sending Syrian refugees back to their homeland, which is still at war. In the U.S., the indefinite detention of asylum-seeking children prompted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to say she was appalled. Thousands of asylum seekers are sent from the U.S. to dangerous sections of Mexico and even to countries they’re not from.Cameroon’s problems may have not attracted international attention, but its people are showing up around the world, including at the U.S.-Mexico border; Rose has a brother in South Korea and a son, who also fled for safety, in Minnesota, living with an uncle. On her layover to Tokyo, someone sent Rose a WhatsApp message with a number for a Cameroonian woman in Japan.Rose didn’t ask for asylum at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, which would have likely gotten her locked up in a detention center. Hunger strikes in Japan over poor conditions for detainees are common, just like in the U.S. Instead, Rose entered Japan on a tourist visa and was lucky enough to find an English-speaking Japanese man who drove her around until she found a hotel room she could afford. She then connected with her compatriot in Japan, who told her about the Japan Association for Refugees, a nongovernmental organization that assists asylum seekers, where she met with a case worker.[Read: How technology could revolutionize refugee resettlement ]“He said, ‘Your case will never be approved,’” Rose recalled. “And I was like, ‘Is this man okay?’” She has a 20-stitch scar stretching from her hairline clear across the side of her skull, and surely Japanese authorities, like the rest of the world, knew about the carnage in Cameroon. “I was shocked. I was speechless. And I was very, very disappointed.”Japan received 19,629 applications for refugee status in 2017; 20 people were accepted. The following year, just 42 people were admitted. The rate at which Japan accepts such applications is the lowest in the G7. Yuki Tamura, a deputy director at the Japanese Foreign Ministry, said in an interview that the number of resettled refugees preapproved to move to Japan via the UN refugee agency will soon increase, from 30 to 60. (That compares to 30,000 last year in the U.S., though this cap has been lowered to 18,000 for this year.) He also defended the low number of asylum seekers who arrive in Japan without prior permission and then win refugee status, as Rose is trying to do. “Japan’s decision to accept or not accept asylum seekers is not politically inclined. We accept refugees after assessing the situation based on domestic laws,” he told me.Domestic laws, of course, don’t reflect the kind of refugee the world is creating. Climate change is expected to displace at least 25 million people by 2050, while sexual violence and gang extortion in Central America are forcing migration to the U.S. and even Europe, yet there’s no international standard on how to deal with such victims. The Obama administration granted asylum to credible cases involving gangs, but that was reversed under President Trump. In Europe, Belgium recognizes gang violence as a legitimate refugee claim, but Spain doesn’t.The irony, says David Slater, an American anthropology professor at Tokyo’s Sophia University who works with asylum seekers in Japan, is that those who appear to have the most straightforward cases of persecution “are the ones who are least likely to have documentation” to prove that it happened. “You don’t stop off at the local police station, especially when the police are part of the people who are persecuting you, to try to get a police report,” he said. (Rose, for example, fled in a rush with two small bags.)Slater is collecting oral histories from asylum seekers, and he told me he has often wondered, “How can I possibly determine the accuracy or the legitimacy of this claim? It’s not possible.” Governments can no longer distinguish between “an economic migrant seeking to better his or her life and a refugee who is just trying to survive,” he says, because “everybody has a little bit of both in them.”And yet that’s exactly what asylum and refugee officers are tasked with doing. “I would say that the system is broken,” Slater says. “The amount of conflict in the world and the number of people who are fleeing are so disproportionately larger now. For us to try to use a framework that was designed under a particular set of conditions and under a particular scale is no longer feasible.”When Rose eventually gets an interview with a refugee officer, inconsistencies in her story—or confusion in the translation—could lead to allegations of fraud and deportation. Rose doesn’t even remember the precise date of the 2016 protest she was involved in, and she hasn’t been able to obtain her hospital records documenting her injuries.[Read: The mystery of why Japanese people are having so few babies]Japan’s low birth rate and undermanned workforce indicate a need for immigrants. But assimilation is viewed as a barrier. Just 18 percent of Japanese, the lowest of any country surveyed in a 2016 Ipsos poll, think refugees could successfully integrate into their country. A myth persists that the Japanese are of a single bloodline connected to the emperor, and that view affects refugee policy, according to Osamu Arakaki, a professor at International Christian University in Japan and an expert in Japanese refugee law. He told me that the common blood is seen as “energy for the successful economic development in the 1970s and 1980s,” and therefore homogeneity is necessary in order to “maintain ethnic and economic harmony.”Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned in 2014 that “in countries that have accepted immigration, there has been a lot of friction, a lot of unhappiness both for the newcomers and the people who already lived there.” So Abe’s policy is to instead direct money to the UN refugee agency. Though its contributions have been declining in recent years, Japan remains one of its most generous state donors, supporting the displaced who are temporarily living in refugee camps. Yet that money only goes so far; the agency is 57 percent underfunded overall.The world’s most neglected displacement crisis, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, is in Cameroon. In 2018, there were 203 applications for asylum from there in Japan and no approvals, according to UN data. Other groups have a similarly hard time: Tokyo has given refugee status to just one person claiming persecution due to sexual orientation, and no Kurds seeking asylum from Turkey, despite thousands of applicants. Syrian refugees have had particular trouble winning asylum, although a handful have been admitted as students.Rose has been hospitalized in Tokyo due to her head injury, and she faces poverty, eating just rice most days. And like refugees everywhere, she suffers from the trauma of family separation.Rose longs for her family, her career, her old life. She worries about her chances at refugee status. But she retains a degree of optimism. “The fact that I’m living in a safe country where I’m not afraid of rape at any time, or gunshots, give me some sort of hope, some assurance, that some things will change for me,” she says. “I’ve never been a refugee before now, so I really don’t know how it works. But I just hope it works well for me. I don’t know how, but I hope it works well.”This story was supported in part by the Abe Fellowship for Journalists, a reporting grant from the Social Science Research Council and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.
2020-02-29 08:00:00
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theatlantic.com
Photos of the Week: Carnival Colors, Medieval Combat, Avalanche Training
Robert F. Bukaty / AP Recovery on Australia’s Kangaroo Island, coronavirus containment efforts in China, Biathlon World Championships in Italy, fashion shows in Paris, fighting in Syria, bobsled competition in Germany, rioting in New Delhi, President Trump’s visit to India, the “Leaning Tower of Dallas” in Texas, and much more
2020-02-28 07:30:00
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theatlantic.com
Scenes From Milan Fashion Week 2020
Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty A collection of photographs from Milan Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2020/21, with runway shows put on by Versace, Gucci, Moschino, Philipp Plein, Moncler, and many more
2020-02-27 19:19:22
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theatlantic.com
Feminism’s Purity Wars
Erin Pizzey ought to be a feminist hero. In 1971, she founded the first women’s refuge in Britain, with no money and no official support beyond the use of a run-down public-housing block with four rooms, a galley kitchen, and a toilet. At that house in Chiswick, West London, hundreds of women received help to escape abusive partners and rebuild their lives. It was also a community center where women could get help with claiming welfare benefits, starting divorce proceedings, and dealing with alcohol and drug abuse.By 2017, there were 276 such sites in England, with 3,798 beds. Pizzey’s work in Chiswick led to the creation of Refuge, which is now the largest charity of its kind in England. It has an annual income of £13.3 million ($17 million) and employs more than 200 people.This post was excerpted from Lewis’s upcoming book. The refuge movement is one of the greatest achievements of feminism’s second wave, not just providing practical support, but also changing the language we use to describe violence inside the home—and with it, social attitudes toward “domestic violence.” For centuries, it had been assumed that since marriage was a form of ownership, a man could “discipline” or “correct” his wife however he saw fit. If he killed her in the process, perhaps she had provoked him, went the conventional wisdom. Maybe she nagged him, or flirted with other men, or withheld sex. He must have had his reasons.Pizzey wanted to change those attitudes. The first of her many books on domestic violence, Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear, led to a TV documentary. She attracted fans such as Boy George and the author Fay Weldon, and rich backers such as the newspaper editor David Astor. The Chiswick refuge itself became famous: Roger Daltrey and Kenney Jones of The Who paid a visit in 1980.But there’s a reason Pizzey has faded from memory, even as the movement she championed endures. From the start, her relationship to the women’s-liberation movement—a loose collection of groups that held an annual conference starting in 1970—was fractious. It quickly became poisonous: In Sweet Freedom, Anna Coote and Beatrix Campbell’s account of the second wave, they noted that four years after the creation of Pizzey’s lone outpost in Chiswick, 28 other groups had set up refuges, and 83 others were working on doing so. But in 1975, they wrote, Pizzey metaphorically “stormed out” of the movement, and has “gone her own way ever since.”“She single-handedly did as much for the cause of women as any other woman alive,” Deborah Ross wrote in The Independent in 1997. But by the time Ross interviewed her, Pizzey was living in a hostel for the homeless in West London, having left behind, in order, a second husband, a career as a writer of bodice-ripping novels, and substantial debts. She was 58.[Read: The hazards of writing while female]Four years later, Dina Rabinovitch of The Guardian found Pizzey poised to release online a book about women’s violence, having failed to find a mainstream publisher. Pizzey was now thoroughly outside the feminist mainstream. Rabinovitch wrote that it came “as a shock to someone of my generation—we grew up hearing about the work she did for other women.” She was left wondering “if a man who’d done so much would be quite so alone.” By 2009, the break was complete. Pizzey wrote for the Daily Mail that she had realized feminism was “a lie” and that “women and men are both capable of extraordinary cruelty … We must stop demonising men and start healing the rift that feminism has created between men and women.”Pizzey is now an advocate for the men’s-rights movement, serving as editor at large of the anti-feminist website A Voice for Men. (The editor of the site, Paul Elam, once vowed that he would never deliver a guilty verdict as a juror in a rape trial, no matter what the evidence was, because the court system has been corrupted by our “false rape culture.”) Her 2011 autobiography, This Way to the Revolution, talks in heartbreaking detail about women who were beaten savagely by their partners. She knew several who went back to an abusive partner—and were killed as a result. So how does a woman go from founding England’s first refuge for domestic-violence victims to hanging out with men’s-rights activists?Pizzey now lives in a top-floor apartment in Twickenham, West London. I thought she might be crabby and guarded, seeing me as an emissary of a political movement that she now views as the enemy. The truth is more complicated. Born in China in 1939, Pizzey says she was deeply shaped by her childhood. Her father’s career as a diplomat took the family around the world, and she attended boarding schools—a relief, she told me, compared with living with her “dysfunctional and violent” parents.This Way to the Revolution depicts Pizzey as a plainspoken housewife who didn’t have any truck with the ideologues she found in the women’s-liberation movement. She wasn’t interested in theory, and felt separated from the feminist movement by class, education, and aspirations. Reading the book, I could feel the familiar grooves of the arguments about feminists versus “ordinary women.” There has long been a tendency to depict feminism as an elite project, and university-educated women are more likely to describe themselves as feminists.I recognized something else, too: Pizzey’s desire to define herself against the most absurd and extreme elements of the movement, the Maoists and lesbian separatists. I recognized it because I’ve felt that urge too. It suits outsiders to define feminism by its extremes—they’re easier to argue against, or to ignore—and so insiders feel continually pressed to reject them. No one “owns” feminism, and no single woman sets its rules. That is both liberating and troublesome. Unlike with a political party, there is no mechanism to kick people out of feminism. That boundlessness is difficult to negotiate.In the 1970s, however, there were formal structures, which Pizzey duly rejected. From the start, she didn’t like the women she met in the wider movement. “They weren’t housewives like us,” she told me. “They were highly politicized.” As she saw it, most feminists who worked in universities, politics, or the media were Trotskyites, Marxists, Stalinists, or Maoists. “But I just kept saying to the Maoists, ‘How can you stand there and tell us that the Chinese Revolution is a huge success when women are being dragged off and [their fetuses] aborted?’ And how can the Russian groups, the Trots and the Leninists and all the rest of them, particularly the Stalinists, deny the fact that Stalin murdered millions and millions and millions of people? And there were no women ever in the Politburo. Oh, jolly good, you’re allowed to drive tractors. But that isn’t anything that we, as ordinary women, believe in.”From the start, she worried that feminism was encouraging women to see themselves as victims, and that political lesbianism—the idea that women should renounce sleeping with men, whatever their personal sexual orientation—was being used as a purity test. “We just all—my little group—just looked at each other and thought, Fuck this.”The purity politics, the petty dictators, the navel-gazing—all this seemed very familiar to me. Except my peers were not the radical feminists of the 1970s but the internet feminists of the 2010s. When Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman was published in June 2011, I was an assistant editor at the New Statesman, a British left-leaning weekly magazine; when the paperback edition came out, I had just been made deputy editor, at the age of 28. It was a big promotion, which surprised both me and the older men in the office, and it involved taking charge of the magazine’s website just as internet traffic was soaring across the British media.Moran’s book ignited huge interest in feminism—and, in turn, something like a civil war. Fair and unfair criticisms blended into one giant screaming mass, fueled by Twitter, and left everyone angry and hurt. Persistent themes emerged: X was too privileged, and her feminism was blinkered; Y had used a “problematic” word or concept and needed to apologize; Z was a transphobe, a “white feminist,” or insufficiently “intersectional,” a word that was rarely heard a few years before, but was suddenly everywhere, with little regard to the original meaning as defined by the American legal scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. Often, the criticisms were valid: Early on, two black feminists asked me to have coffee with them, and explained that my commissioning blitz was leaving out women of color. Scarred by a million Twitterspats, I became defensive, when I should have done them the courtesy of listening. At other times, though, the criticisms were driven by jealousy, or that heady mix of sadism and self-righteousness that characterizes a moral crusade.[Read: To learn about the far right, start with the ‘manosphere’]With the benefit of hindsight, that period was so fraught because it was a gold rush. After Moran’s book was released, several other feminist writers had books commissioned, but the beneficiaries of the publishing boom were disproportionately white, middle-class, and university-educated. That wasn’t their—our—fault, of course, and no one enjoys being a metaphorical punching bag.All of this has happened before. In 1976, a few years after Pizzey founded her refuge, the American feminist Jo Freeman wrote an article in Ms. magazine titled “Trashing: The Dark Side of Sisterhood.” It generated an outpouring of letters from other women who felt that they had also been subject to this practice. Trashing, Freeman explained, was not criticism or disagreement, which were a healthy and normal part of any movement. “Trashing is a particularly vicious form of character assassination which amounts to psychological rape,” she wrote. “It is manipulative, dishonest, and excessive. It is occasionally disguised by the rhetoric of honest conflict, or covered up by denying that any disapproval exists at all. But it is not done to expose disagreements or resolve differences. It is done to disparage and destroy.”Freeman’s and Pizzey’s negative experiences took place in real-world collectives. The online feminism of the 2010s added a new dimension because it was possible to be the target of trashing by several hundred people at once, in real time. Anger is a great engine of change, and activists are often dismissed by those who hold power as “too radical” or “too aggressive” in their demands, but outrage became prized for its own sake, and online feminists lost the ability to distinguish between righteous indignation and mere spite. Worse, self-appointed “allies” went full The Crucible by performatively denouncing their peers.Being trashed is a traumatic experience. I was accused of endangering lives, because my rhetoric was so hate-filled that people reading it would surely kill themselves. I was a racist. I was a transphobe. I was accused of keeping a blacklist of writers and using my immense power to keep them out of British journalism. I was out of touch because I was middle-aged. (Funny: I was not yet 30.) I had dropped my double-barreled name to hide my aristocratic roots. (Painful: My divorce was still recent.) A caricature developed, a shadow Helen who stalked me around the internet: Absurdly posh, oblivious, ruthlessly careerist, and concerned only with fripperies.Everything I did just made it worse. My objections were “white-women tears.” Defending myself was bullying. When I left Twitter for a few days, I was mentioned in an article in the Evening Standard about the phenomenon of the “Twitter flounce.” The most panic-inducing experiences were the attempts to isolate me: Any contact with me was deemed to make other feminists unclean. My existence itself, and my success, was a provocation. I was taking up a space that another, more worthy woman could have held.It was, as Freeman wrote, a character assassination. Any good-faith—and deserved—criticism got lost in a sea of jealousy, resentment, and retaliation. I was far from blameless: I began to hate my new enemies. I was not kind to them. I let my personal feelings cloud my professional judgment, and I defended my own and my friends’ writing on partisan grounds rather than on its merits. The vitriol abated only when I blocked everyone involved and stopped replying to criticism.Pizzey didn’t fall out with feminism only because she disliked other feminists. There was also a fundamental political disagreement: She thought that the mainstream women’s movement treated men as the enemy, that women’s own capacity for violence was being understated, and that in dysfunctional relationships, both sides drive a vicious cycle that leads to “addiction to violence.” (It was her way of explaining why women so often return to men who beat and belittle them; research conducted since she founded the Chiswick refuge has explored instead how victims are coerced and controlled by abusers, eroding their friendships, self-esteem, and independence.)[Read: The Twitter electorate isn’t the real electorate]You can see why the rest of the movement—and Pizzey’s successors at Refuge—wanted so urgently to tidy her out of the way. Today, the charity’s website has a page called “Our Story,” which states that it “opened the world’s first safe house for women and children escaping domestic violence in Chiswick, West London, in 1971.” Her name does not appear.Pizzey’s analysis didn’t mean she thought women who were “violence addicts” should be left to die. On the contrary, those were the women she wanted to help most, using her unorthodox methods. Her refuge was run like a commune, but it had rules. Disruptive women and children were not to be indulged because of the trauma they had experienced. They could be voted out by other residents. Tough love: that was Pizzey’s approach.Still, her diagnosis was appealing to the men’s-rights movement. Its activists believe that it is unfair to assume the woman must be the “victim” if a heterosexual couple’s argument turns violent, because that status leads to sympathy (and government funding). If there is no overwhelming dynamic of male violence against women, just a mass of dysfunctional couples, then men are being wronged by the feminist fight against “male violence.” But the statistics are clear: Self-reported data from the 2018 Crime Survey for England and Wales show that nearly twice as many women as men reported being victims of domestic violence that year (7.9 percent of women, compared with 4.2 percent of men), although the gender of perpetrators and their relationship to the victim were not recorded. The police found that 75 percent of victims of domestic violence were female, while for specifically sexual offenses, 96 percent were female.The extent of male violence, and its effect on women’s lives, is now taken for granted by most feminists. Outside the fringes of the “manosphere,” few would disagree that something called “domestic violence” exists, and that women are its primary victims. That is a problem in itself. When an idea hardens into orthodoxy, campaigners lose the muscle memory built up when making their case. That, in turn, opens up space for opponents to contest the facts.My own trashing did not drive me out of feminism—and certainly not into the arms of men’s-rights activists. But I can see how it could have. Perhaps the surprise shouldn’t be that feminism has experienced so many divisions. The surprise should be that we are surprised. When humanity (led by men) has contested the allocation of scarce resources, or seen a clash between strong personalities, or come up with differing interpretations of a sacred truth, it has often resulted in full-scale war. A few mean blog posts suddenly don’t seem so bad.Toward the end of my conversation with Pizzey, I suggested that she was airbrushed out of the history of the refuge movement because she was too difficult, too unorthodox, too contrarian, too inconvenient to the dominant narrative. She agreed. “I don’t think anybody knows who I am any longer; it’s just all gone,” she said, as the weak winter sun flooded her top-floor flat. “That doesn’t matter. I just quietly get on. I still do see anybody who wants to see me, and … that’s okay.”This post was excerpted from Lewis’s upcoming book, Difficult Women: An Imperfect History of Feminism.
2020-02-27 08:00:00
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Trump’s Intelligence War Is Also an Election Story
“I believe him.”It was November 2017, after a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Vietnam, and Donald Trump was telling reporters he was convinced by the Russian president’s denials about interfering in the 2016 election. “He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump said. “And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.”U.S. intelligence agencies, of course, had concluded the opposite. Shortly before Trump’s inauguration, the office of the country’s top intelligence official published a report saying that not only had Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the 2016 election—he did so in part to help Trump win.From the start of his presidency, Trump has pummeled away at that finding—sending flurries of tweets, sidelining officials who wouldn’t toe his line—in an effort to cloud and undermine it. As Special Counsel Robert Mueller highlighted the magnitude of Russia’s 2016 efforts, Trump stood beside Putin in Helsinki, Finland, in the summer of 2018, and again cast doubt on Moscow’s culpability. He continued to muddy the waters amid warnings about Russian meddling in new elections in 2018 and 2020, questioning Moscow’s involvement and even doubling down on a theory, itself the product of Russian disinformation, that Ukraine interfered in 2016 to help Hillary Clinton.With each move by Trump, the U.S. intelligence community has provided a counter-narrative, putting reports, statements, and congressional testimony into the public record that unequivocally lay out Russia’s role. But Trump’s appointment of a new acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, an outspoken loyalist who now heads the same office that published the 2017 report on Russian meddling, raises a question: Will Trump finally seek to muzzle his spies as he pushes to control the narrative in his reelection campaign?[Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes: Trump’s most dangerous destruction yet]Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, has not yet had the chance to write his legacy in the job. But the circumstances surrounding his appointment have intelligence veterans worried that Trump wants a partisan in the job to do his bidding. It was Trump’s ongoing fixation on the Russia narrative, in fact, that got Grenell’s predecessor removed. Trump reportedly became incensed with Joseph Maguire after an intelligence official said, in a classified briefing to Congress, that Russia is again interfering in the presidential election and again has a preference for Trump.Joshua Geltzer, who was a senior national-security official in the Obama administration, told me that Grenell’s appointment fits with a purge in the executive branch, in which Trump, emboldened by his impeachment acquittal, is determined to install more loyalists. He noted that the U.S. intelligence community has been saying publicly for three years that Russia’s interference efforts are ongoing. “So it’s nothing new,” he said. “What’s new is, Trump believes that he’s at the point where he can strangle the executive branch to keep it from saying things he doesn’t like.”What’s especially notable about Maguire’s ouster is what reportedly made Trump so upset: the fact that the briefing in question was attended by Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, whom Trump accuses repeatedly of press leaks. (Schiff has denied this.) According to The Washington Post, Trump “believed that the information would be helpful to Democrats if it were released publicly.” The same motivation played a role in Trump’s dismissal of two key witnesses from the impeachment trial whose testimony about his conduct in withholding aid to Ukraine cut against his narrative: Gordon Sondland, who was U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Alexander Vindman, a military officer assigned to the White House. These people not only said things that Trump didn’t want to hear. They said things that Trump didn’t want the public to hear.It’s clear that controlling the narrative will be central to Trump’s reelection campaign. The Ukraine scandal centered on his efforts to get its president to announce an investigation into discredited allegations about Joe Biden, then the Democratic front-runner, in hopes of legitimizing the claims about Biden and weakening his candidacy. As my colleague McKay Coppins has reported, Trump’s campaign will rely on a billion-dollar effort to bombard the electorate with not just standard political ads but disinformation. And removing or at least weakening the intelligence community’s resistance by installing a partisan director would potentially help Trump in his efforts to rewrite the facts around Russia’s meddling. The DNI is the principal intelligence adviser to the president and serves as the intelligence community’s main liaison to the commander in chief. In addition to his influence over the information the president receives, though, the DNI can also influence what information is shared and collected elsewhere within the government—and, often, what reaches Congress and the public.[Read: America’s Trumpiest ambassador ]In steps Grenell, who has no intelligence background but has made it clear he will aggressively push Trump’s line. The Wall Street Journal called him “Trump’s favorite ambassador,” reporting that the president is impressed with his combative tone on TV and social media and has called Grenell someone who “gets it.” To be fair, it’s still unclear what kind of DNI Grenell will be or even how long his tenure will last. Under federal guidelines, Grenell can stay in his post only until mid-March, unless Trump nominates a permanent director by then. This would allow his tenure to continue for months as the confirmation process plays out, and as Wired noted, if a “nomination fails or other nominations come and go, Grenell could stay on indefinitely.” Grenell has a history of hawkish views on Russia, though in a 2016 opinion piece for Fox News he minimized Russia’s interference efforts, writing that it has been employing such tactics for decades. One of his first moves as acting DNI was to install Kash Patel, a partisan warrior who played an important role in Republican efforts to push back against the FBI’s Russia probe, as a senior adviser. Patel reportedly has a mandate to “clean house.”Robert Litt, who served as general counsel to the DNI during the Obama administration, told me that if Trump does find a willing partisan for the director’s job—in Grenell or another candidate—he or she would hold the power to interfere with the intelligence community’s work to combat and monitor Russia’s meddling efforts. “The DNI is responsible for setting priorities for intelligence collection. And if you’re not looking for something, you’re not going to find it,” said Litt, now a lawyer with the firm Morrison and Foerster. “The DNI could deprioritize looking for information and direct intelligence assets away from that.”Even without such a clear-cut move, he noted, collection and analysis could see a chilling effect. “If people think their careers are going to be at stake if they talk about these things, there’s going to be a natural inclination to shade your findings,” he said. Hypothetically, for instance, “you might say the Russians are looking to interfere in the elections, and you might omit that they’re trying to help the president, even though the evidence says they are.”The DNI also influences what information reaches Congress and the public. The 2017 report, for example, established a frame of reference on Russia’s 2016 efforts. Intelligence officials’ testimony at hearings, Litt said, “shapes congressional and public understanding of these important issues.” He added: “If nobody’s saying those things, then it’s hard for the narrative to take hold.”A pliant DNI could also go beyond withholding information to “skewing the story,” Douglas London, a professor at Georgetown who recently retired from a 34-year career in the CIA, told me. “This could be picking facts, suppressing what he doesn’t like and emphasizing what he does like”—and in the process building a narrative that “supports the president’s preferences.”[Read: Revenge of the intelligence nerds]This sort of political warfare is already under way—and it predates Grenell’s tenure. The Trump administration’s willingness to bend intelligence was on full display last month, after the targeted killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Trump as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that the killing had been justified because of intelligence showing that Soleimani was planning an imminent attack against Americans, a contention that met with skepticism in Congress; later, it emerged that the White House’s own legal justification for the strike made no mention of such a threat.And the administration’s politicization of intelligence is already factoring into the 2020 elections. On Saturday, Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser, cast doubt on the reported intelligence linking Russian interference and Trump in 2020. Speaking on ABC News, he instead sought to redirect the spotlight to the new Democratic front-runner, Bernie Sanders, noting his infamous honeymoon to the Soviet Union in 1988. Trump had also chosen to highlight this at a rally the previous day: “Wouldn’t [Putin] rather have Bernie?”Both O’Brien and Trump were responding to new reports about Russia interference—this time saying that Moscow is also looking to boost Sanders in the Democratic primaries. Sanders was quick to confirm that U.S. officials had briefed him on this, and issued a statement condemning Putin. Meanwhile, Trump, rather than undermine the intelligence assessment, as he has done so often, chose a different strategy: to amplify it for his campaign.
2020-02-26 14:00:00
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