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Chase Madar: Human Rights Window Dressing

1 July 2015
... for the use of lethal violence. Indeed, the weaponisation of human rights – its doctrines, its institutions and, above all, its grandees – has been going on in the US for more than a decade. Take SamanthaPower, US Ambassador to the United Nations, former director of Harvard’s Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy and self-described ‘genocide chick’, who advocated war in Libya and Syria, and ...
11 October 2012
... abolition of the Caliphate following the destruction of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. A degree of order was effectively restored to it by intelligent nationalist movements which, once in power, promoted a ‘national Islam’, the better to subject religion to raison d’état and curb its more dangerous and sectarian enthusiasms. During the Cold War, both the Western powers and the Soviet ...

Imperial Graveyard

Samuel Moyn: Richard Holbrooke

27 January 2020
Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century 
by George Packer.
Cape, 592 pp., £25, May 2019, 978 1 910702 92 5
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... has become the totem of an American foreign policy establishment now fallen into disarray, less for any genuine achievement than for the ideals he represented – above all the notion that American power could be made indistinguishable from the exercise of American virtue.Holbrooke’s admirers see him as the figure who helped America recover from the Vietnam War and embrace its mission as the ...

Looking Away

Stephen Holmes: Questions of Intervention

14 November 2002
A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide 
by Samantha Power.
Basic Books, 640 pp., £21.99, January 2002, 0 465 06150 8
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War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton and the Generals 
by David Halberstam.
Bloomsbury, 540 pp., £20, April 2002, 0 7475 5946 5
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... against Bush’s strategically unnecessary unilateralism come from the internationalist wing of the Republican Party (Brent Scowcroft, James Baker) rather than from the Democrats or the Left? SamanthaPower and David Halberstam did not set out to solve this riddle, but they have unintentionally provided an important part of the answer. Power was motivated to study the history of disappointing US ...
2 August 2018
The World as It Is: Inside the Obama White House 
by Ben Rhodes.
Bodley Head, 450 pp., £20, June 2018, 978 1 84792 517 6
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... term was taken up with technical fixes for the American economy and the messy legislative process of trying to reform the healthcare system. When looking outwards, he could pay more attention to the power of words. ‘He turned to speeches as a vehicle to reorient American foreign policy, to communicate a new direction not just to the American people and audiences abroad but to his own government ...


Corey Robin: Careerism and Hannah Arendt

4 January 2007
Why Arendt Matters 
by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl.
Yale, 232 pp., £14.99, October 2006, 0 300 12044 3
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Hannah Arendt: The Jewish Writings 
edited by Jerome Kohn and Ron Feldman.
Schocken, 640 pp., $35, January 2007, 978 0 8052 4238 6
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Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil 
by Hannah Arendt.
Penguin, 336 pp., £10.99, December 2006, 0 14 303988 1
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... book on Eichmann, is seldom conducive to thinking. The lodestone of the Arendt industry is The Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 1951 and reissued by Schocken in 2004 with an introduction by SamanthaPower. Divided into three parts – ‘Anti-Semitism’, ‘Imperialism’ and ‘Totalitarianism’ – the book was composed at two different times and evinces two conflicting impulses. Arendt ...

The World’s Most Important Spectator

David Bromwich: Obama’s World

2 July 2014
... Obama’s first term, was the winner of a Nobel Prize in physics, but he promulgated without complaint the ‘all of the above’ energy policy, which included, with ecumenical indifference, nuclear power, deep-sea drilling, Arctic drilling, and fracking. Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, had been governor of Kansas and a loyal supporter of Obama, but was quite untested as ...

Whose sarin?

Seymour M. Hersh

19 December 2013
... told reporters: ‘We are unable to conclusively determine [chemical weapons] use. But we are focused every minute of every day since these events happened … on doing everything possible within our power to nail down the facts.’ The administration’s tone had hardened by 27 August, when Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary, told reporters – without providing any specific information – that ...

After Egypt

Adam Shatz

19 February 2011
... of thought, that have underpinned Western policy in the greater Middle East for more than a half century. The fate of Egypt’s revolution – brought to a pause by the military’s seizure of power on 11 February, after Mubarak’s non-resignation address to his ‘children’ – remains uncertain. Mubarak is gone, but the streets have been mostly cleared of protesters and the army has filled ...


David Bromwich: President-Speak

10 April 2008
... international relations. But these were not IR types or neoconservatives. Young neoconservatives (but ‘young’ is a tricky word: their parents are almost always in it) look forward to careers of power and are subsidised in college by well-funded journals and paid summer internships at prestigious think tanks. The undergraduates I spoke to were interested in political ideas, and I was offering a ...


David Bromwich: Putin to the Rescue

26 September 2013
... another Rwanda’. The domestic campaign for an American attack was marked by a notable innovation from the humanitarian war brokers: messages sent on Twitter by Rice and the US ambassador to the UN, SamanthaPower, to advance through outside influence the aims they were pursuing within the administration. These are people Obama has recently appointed and expressed admiration for. Yet in obeying them and ...

Fue el estado

Tony Wood: Elmer Mendoza

1 June 2016
Silver Bullets 
by Elmer Mendoza, translated by Mark Fried.
MacLehose Press, 240 pp., £14.99, April 2015, 978 1 85705 258 9
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... victim is the son of an ambitious local politico, who seems less bothered by the murder than by the discovery of the bisexual life his son had led. The son turns out to have been a former lover of Samantha Valdés, the daughter of the local narco boss. More victims pile up, but Mendieta has a hard time working out a connection between them or identifying a suspect, despite the killer’s flashy ...

We came, we saw, he died

Jackson Lears: Clinton’s Creed

5 February 2015
Hard Choices 
by Hillary Clinton.
Simon and Schuster, 635 pp., £20, June 2014, 978 1 4711 3150 9
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HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton 
by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.
Hutchinson, 440 pp., £20, February 2014, 978 0 09 195448 2
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... society required acceptance of the norms set by straight white males. Yet even as the public sphere grew more inclusive, the boundaries of permissible debate were narrowing. Critiques of concentrated power, imperial or plutocratic, became less common. Indeed, the preoccupation with racial and gender identity has hollowed out political language, the void filled by an apparently apolitical alternative ...

The Mask It Wears

Pankaj Mishra: The Wrong Human Rights

21 June 2018
The People v. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It 
by Yascha Mounk.
Harvard, 400 pp., £21.95, March 2018, 978 0 674 97682 5
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Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World 
by Samuel Moyn.
Harvard, 277 pp., £21.95, April 2018, 978 0 674 73756 3
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...  , Samuel Moyn wrote last year in Dissent, have never broken ‘with the exceptionalist outlook that cast the United States as uniquely virtuous’, but having Trump in the ‘cockpit of American power’ will reveal ‘just how terrifyingly normal a nation we are, with our populist jingoism and hawkish foreign policy’. The bipartisan support for the president’s bombing campaigns shows that ...


Sheng Yun: Husband Shopping in Beijing

11 October 2018
... generation, and came of age at a time when, thanks to the Cultural Revolution, higher education was unattainable for many. In ten or fifteen years’ time, when the one-child generation ascends to power, the leadership of China is likely to reflect the gender balance of my university cohort. Education matters here. The present party leadership has no particular reason at the moment to object to ...

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