Proxy Warfare

Tom Stevenson

That proxy wars are essentially anti-democratic goes some way to explaining the adoption of a proxy doctrine, traditionally the preserve of the intelligence services, by the conventional US military. Proxy warfare is officially condemned in Washington and London as a device of undemocratic enemies, but it is precisely for its anti-democratic possibilities that the West embraces it. For US allies, rejection of proxy warfare would be a contradiction. At the strategic level, the British armed forces and the armed forces of Australia and Canada have no discernible vision beyond serving as adjuncts to US power. Which in a sense makes them proxy forces too. The armies of many small states are available to the US as proxies under the justification of fighting ‘terrorism’, controlling ‘ungoverned spaces’ and other phantoms. The new model of local proxy ground troops backed by air power, global surveillance and special operations forces has become a fixture of the times. For political leaders, it’s tempting to see this type of military action as the Goldilocks option: neither the heat of full-scale war nor the cool of unmanly indifference. 


At the Shrink

Janique Vigier

Inthe spring of 1972, the poet Bernadette Mayer began to keep a journal for her analyst, David Rubinfine, whose patients included Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins, and who was notorious for having married another patient, Elaine May, a decade earlier. Mayer was 27. In the journal – there were two, in fact; Rubinfine read one while she wrote in the other – she attempted to...

‘Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands’

Hazel V. Carby is the winner of the British Academy’s £25,000 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding 2020! Buy Imperial Intimacies now from the London Review Bookshop. 

Read More
From the blog


Adewale Maja-Pearce

19 October 2020

I am far from alone in admiring the protesters’ growing sense of their own inherent power, gaining in confidence with every passing day. Their dignity and self-possession mock the shamelessness of those who have so carelessly squandered their future; and at the same time they are asking how we could have allowed this state of affairs to prevail, six decades after Nigeria’s independence.


Rummaging for Mummies

Christina Riggs

‘To the Past we must go as a relief from To-day’s harshness,’ the Egyptologist Arthur Weigall wrote in 1923, as illustrated newspapers were bringing Tutankhamun back to life. The First World War was over, but its aftershocks rippled on. Golden treasure, a boy pharaoh and lost tombs in the Valley of the Kings offered readers an escape. The inscrutable Orient and its discovery...

Close Readings


Close Readings

Seamus Perry and Mark Ford’s ‘revolutionary … ★★★★★’ (The Times) podcast about British and American poets from the long 20th century.


Thom Gunn in New York

Michael Nott

ThomGunn spent the summer of 1958 in New York City. ‘It was wonderful, and revelatory as it always is,’ he told his friend Tony White. ‘I learn more about people and myself in NY than anywhere else. I got offered a job in a tough-queer 3rd Avenue bar the day before I left, and if I hadn’t been under contract to Berkeley I’d have accepted it’ (he’d...


Marilynne Robinson’s Perfect Paradox

Anne Enright

In​ the fourth novel in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead sequence, the eponymous Jack spends a long night alone with his thoughts. ‘After a while,’ he observes, ‘light will reveal itself in a very dark room, not quite as a mist, as something more particulate, as if the slightest breath had lifted the finest dust into the stillest air.’ This recalls Milton’s...


Slavery and Revenge

John Kerrigan

In​ Mrs Flanigan’s Antigua and the Antiguans, published in 1844, we are told about a plantation overseer who acted against pilfering slaves. His rigour

caused him to be disliked, and determined one among them, more heartless, perhaps, than the rest, to undertake his destruction. On Christmas day, Mr Brown rode to … a neighbouring estate, and upon his return in the evening...

Talking Politics: History of Ideas

After each episode of the new Talking Politics podcast, brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books, continue your exploration of the history of ideas in our unrivalled archive of essays and reviews, films and podcasts.

Read More

LRB Books: Collections and Selections

Rediscover classic pieces, recurring themes, and the dash the London Review of Books has cut through the history of ideas, for the past 40 years, with LRB Collections and now LRB Selections: two new series of collectible books.

Read More
See more events

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences