Dec 9th 2015

Questions that go unanswered as we drift to a State of Permanent War

by David Coates

David Coates holds the Worrell Chair in Anglo-American Studies


As the main US media outlets report and amplify each and every outlandish assertion by Donald Trump and his fellow contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, major damage is being done to the underlying quality of the dominant political discourse in the United States.

That damage has two main characteristics. By giving so much airtime to the Republican leadership battle, the preoccupations of a tiny but vociferous portion of the American electorate is being showcased as though they represented the views of Americans as a whole. And by restricting the response to that battle largely to the counterviews of the leading Democratic Party contenders, a whole slew of arguments of a more profound kind are receiving virtually no air time at all. The democratic process is being inexorably damaged by both these tendencies.

I

The Republican candidates are currently having a field day. Views that once would have been roundly condemned as unacceptably non-American are now treated as simply more moderate responses to proposals that are more outlandish still. Views that once would have been quickly dismissed as factually incorrect are now given traction and legitimacy by their regular repetition. This is the real damage currently being inflicted on the quality of American political discourse by Donald Trump in particular, damage rooted in his apparently consistent search for the evermore reactionary position that leaves simple conservatism looking gloriously moderate by comparison.

In the latest iteration of what is now becoming a regular sequence of events, Donald Trump is currently proposing a total ban on the entry – or indeed re-entry – into the United States by anyone of the Muslim faith;[1] so effectively redefining as more moderate, proposals like those of Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz that priority should be given, when admitting Syrian refugees, to people of a Christian faith.[2] In the process, the entire Republican exchange encourages us all to ignore the fact that America is a country of many faiths and of none, and that the separation of church and state is a core principle of the very constitution to which all leading Republican candidates claim to attach such importance.[3] That was this week. Last week the assertion was different but the effect was the same; with the Donald promising to “bomb the hell out of” ISIS and “to hit ISIS so hard like they’ve never been hit before:”[4] so providing cover for a Ted Cruz who is apparently keen to “carpet bomb them into oblivion. [5]  As Cruz calmly put it recently: “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”  

These assertions by leading presidential candidates play well to a Republican Tea Party base that is hungry for quick and simple solutions to what are in reality deeply-rooted and complicated problems.[6] But they potentially play well too to a wider American audience –one that is aware of America’s increasing involvement in a third Middle Eastern conflagration and one that feels, particularly after the mass shootings in San Bernardino, increasingly unsafe because of that involvement. That is an audience which is likely to look first to the White House, or even to the Democratic Party more generally, for reassurance and action; so it is also an audience  which is likely to be currently disappointed and frustrated by the heavily qualified justifications for war now currently on offer from the Obama Administration.

The President struggled to be heard on all of this in his Sunday night address, his voice partly drowned out by the cacophony of hate now passing as legitimate political commentary on right-wing radio and television talk shows.[7] Yet even if his right-wing critics had been willing to hear him out, what they would have heard was less than fully convincing. For he would have them and us believe that it is possible to fight ISIS successfully without committing large numbers of US ground troops to yet another Iraq-type war; and that it is possible to wage that war without significantly increasing the danger of large-scale terrorist activity here at home. These two claims rest on a linked set of well-rehearsed but still problematic assertions: that airstrikes are effectively degrading ISIS as a military force; that local ground forces are available to complete that degradation if properly trained by the United States; and that a broad coalition of the willing is involved in this fight, happy to accept US political leadership and to share the burdens and dangers involved.

The trouble with all these claims and assertions is that we have heard them before, and seen them fail in both Afghanistan and Iraq.[8] We are seeing the training of local forces in Iraq and Syria failing even now.[9] Little wonder then that, when offered the prospect of foreign war without domestic pain, the Obama Administration should be losing ground to Republican arguments that wars are not won that way, and that if this one is to be won it has to be harder fought.  Little wonder either that the Democratic candidate who is most likely to face this Republican onslaught next November is already sounding more hawkish on ISIS than the Administration that she has both to defend and to replace.[10] The President would have us conduct a surgical war, “strong and smart” as he put it.[11] His opponents want something that is significantly more strident: but both of them seem to be offering us the prospect of yet more war without end.  Both seem to be offering us, that is, what Ira Chemus recently correctly labelled “America’s Reckless War against Evil.”[12]

II

What neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party leadership seems willing to question – in public at least –  is whether this war is one in which the United States should now be so invested. What neither set of leaders seem willing to admit is that being in that war necessarily invites a warlike response from those we attack; and that in consequence being in this war inevitably makes America less safe than if no war was underway.[13] And no one in either party – and that stretches to include Bernie Sanders on one wing of the debate and Rand Paul on the other – is currently making the case for handing this war over to the international community as a whole, even though we are repeatedly told that countries as distant from us in interests and ideology as Russia and Iran wish ISIS gone. If they do, why is the United States leading the coalition? Why is this whole matter not back in the hands of the UN Security Council? And why are we – along with the French and the British – intensifying our bombing campaign against ISIS when other powers in the region – most notably Saudi Arabia – are no longer so heavily engaged?

Why indeed, if ISIS is so evil, are we even allied with Saudi Arabia, whose own modes of punishment are as barbaric as those that so offend us when they are deployed by ISIS?[14] Why do we apparently feel no sense of outrage when our military action causes heavy civilian casualties in the territories that we bomb, and yet immediate and intense outrage whenever our civilian populations are gunned down by individuals linked in some way to those we are already bombing? Do Arab lives matter less than American/British ones?[15] Do we really believe in the legitimacy of one-sided wars: do we really believe that violence is okay if we do it to others, but not okay if it is done by others to us?

In the UK at least, the main opposition leader has challenged the wisdom of yet more bombing,[16] arguing that it can only increase civilian casualties and play into the ISIS song book: reinforcing their claim that western imperialism is the Arab world’s main problem, and that a mighty confrontation is coming soon between the forces of Islam and Christianity in which Islam will inevitably prevail. So prevalent in the western corridors of power is the counterview, however – that the West is engaged in a global war with Evil – that merely by raising those questions Jeremy Corbyn found himself accused by the British Prime Minister of being a terrorist sympathizer.[17] The accusation was quickly withdrawn and apologized for, but the damage had already been done. Our political leaders, on both sides of the Atlantic, are allowing individual acts of terror on their own territory to dictate the trajectory of their entire foreign policy – so inviting more acts of terror from an enemy that actually wants us to fight them.[18] And our political leaders seem now hell-bent on yet more war, as though a decade and a half of such conflicts have taught us nothing;[19]  even though the latest reports suggest that the flow of foreign fighters from America and Western Europe into the ranks of ISIS is still intensifying, in spite of all the efforts to stem that flow.[20]

Maybe the advocates of war are right. Maybe pottery barn rules apply here: if you break it, you own it.  After all, it was George W. Bush and Tony Blair who laid the ground for this horrendous and lethal mess by their illegitimate invasion of a sovereign nation. Maybe we do have to reap the bitter harvest of what they sowed. Maybe blowback terrorism[21] is now too entrenched to be removed by any late-day change in US and UK foreign policy. Maybe we are genuinely trapped in ISIS’s war. But shouldn’t we all be talking about precisely this, to the exclusion of all else? Shouldn’t we be asking precisely these kinds of questions? Shouldn’t we be asking if this isn’t a war within the Arab world that western powers should observe rather than lead? And shouldn’t we be saying to countries with a more direct and immediate stake in the outcome of that war – Russia in the Caucuses,[22] Turkey in Kurdistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East proper – that they deal with this?  That we are done with all the heavy lifting.

III

Such a change in US and UK military strategy may make the Russian and Saudi populations less safe, but wouldn’t it make ours safer?  And wouldn’t we, the United States, increase the pressure on those regional actors to find a genuine political settlement if we told them that we will not, this time, bankroll and staff militarily a struggle against an extreme form of Islam that is more their immediate problem than ours? If global civilization is genuinely as stake, as our war-hawks insist, then international bodies exist to coordinate its defense. If however, civilization is not at stake, if all that is under challenge here is a regional distribution of power and resources, why are we turning a regional fight into a global one by a bombing campaign that can only add to ISIS’ international following? If the Saudis don’t like fundamentalist Islam, shouldn’t they stop funding it?[23] And if Shiite and Sunni Muslims have serious housekeeping problems of their own, problems inherited from their own complex and bloody past, aren’t they the ones – indeed ultimately the only ones – who are best positioned to find some mutual reconciliation?

Will someone please start asking fundamental questions of this kind, before we all sink into a morass of anti-Muslim sentiment at home and permanent war overseas?

 

See also an earlier posting “Weighing the Arguments on US Military Action against ISIS”[24]

The domestic costs of excessive US military involvement abroad are discussed more fully in David Coates America in the Shadow of Empires (London & New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)[25]

               



[1] Ed Pilkington, “Donald Trump calls to ban all Muslims from entering US,” The Guardian, December 8, 2015: available at http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/07/donald-trump-ban-all-muslims-entering-us-san-bernardino-shooting

 

[2] David A. Fahrenthold and Jose A DelReal, “’Rabid” dogs and closing mosques: Anti-Islam rhetoric grows in GOP,” The Washington Post, November 19, 2015: available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/rabid-dogs-and-muslim-id-cards-anti-islam-rhetoric-grows-in-gop/2015/11/19/1cdf9f04-8ee5-11e5-baf4-bdf37355da0c_story.html

 

[6] E. J. Dionne, “Class War comes to GOP,” The Washington Post, December 6, 2015: available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/class-war-comes-to-the-gop/2015/12/06/d62afe64-9ace-11e5-8917-653b65c809eb_story.html

 

[7] Greg Jaffe, “Obama’s Oval Office address reflects struggle to be heard,” The Washington Post, December 6, 2015: available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obamas-oval-office-address-reflects-his-own-struggle-to-be-heard/2015/12/06/ca9b5976-9c41-11e5-8728-1af6af208198_story.html

 

[8] David Ignatius, “The big hole in Obama’s Islamic State strategy,” The Washington Post, December 7, 2015: available at www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-big-hole-in-obamas-islamic-state-strategy/2015/12/07/04ce2d16-9d01-11e5-bce4-708fe33e3288_story.html

 

[9] Michael D. Shear et al, ‘Obama Administration Ends Efforts to  Train Syrians to Combat ISIS,” The New York Times, October 9, 2015: available at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/10/world/middleeast/pentagon-program-islamic-state-syria.html

 

[10] Amy Chozick and David E. Sanger, “Hillary Clinton Goes Beyond President Obama in Plan to Defeat ISIS,” The New York Times, November 19, 2015: available at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/20/us/politics/hillary-clinton-syria-islamic-state.html

 

[12] Ira Chernus, “America’s Reckless War Against Evil,” Posted on Huffington Post, December 8, 2015: available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ira-chernus/americas-reckless-war-aga_b_8748504.html

 

[13] Jeffrey Sachs, “Ending Blowback Terrorism,” posted on Facts & Arts November 20, 2015: available at https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/islamic-state-blowback-terrorism-by-jeffrey-d-sachs-2015-11

 

[14] Peter Baker, “A Coalition in Which Some Do More Than Others to Fight ISIS,” The New York Times, November 29, 2015: available at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/30/us/politics/a-coalition-in-which-some-do-more-than-others-to-fight-isis.html

 

[15] Gideon Rachman, ‘Why the west’s view of the Saudis is shifting,” The Financial Times, December 7, 2015: available at http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/a33c5e6c-9ccc-11e5-8ce1-f6219b685d74.html#axzz3tlSQkFOH

 

[16] Jeremy Corbyn, “David Cameron has failed to show that bombing Syria would work,” The Guardian, December 1, 2015: available at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/01/cameron-failed-show-bombing-syria-isil-work-jihadist

 

[17] Nicholas Watt, “David Cameron accuses Jeremy Corbyn of being ‘terrorist sympathiser’,” The Guardian, December 2, 2015: available at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/dec/01/cameron-accuses-corbyn-of-being-terrorist-sympathiser

 

[18] Jeremy Shapiro, ‘How not to overreact to ISIS,” posted on Brookings, November 17, 2015: available at http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/order-from-chaos/posts/2015/11/17-dont-overreact-to-isis-shapiro

 

[19] Andrew Bacevich, “An Invitation to Collective Suicide,” posted on TomDispatch.com, December 3, 2015: available at http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176076/tomgram%3A_andrew_bacevich,_an_invitation_to_collective_suicide/

 

[21] Jeffrey Sachs, “Ending Blowback Terrorism,” posted on Facts & Arts November 20, 2015: available at https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/islamic-state-blowback-terrorism-by-jeffrey-d-sachs-2015-11

 

[22] Kathrin Hille, “Russia and radicalization: Homegrown problem,” The Financial Times, December 7, 2015: available at http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/77156ed2-9ab0-11e5-be4f-0abd1978acaa.html#axzz3tlSQkFOH

 

[23] Gideon Rachman, ‘Why the west’s view of the Saudis is shifting,” The Financial Times, December 7, 2015: available at http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/a33c5e6c-9ccc-11e5-8ce1-f6219b685d74.html#axzz3tlSQkFOH

 

 


This article is brought to you by Project Syndicate that is a not for profit organization.

Project Syndicate brings original, engaging, and thought-provoking commentaries by esteemed leaders and thinkers from around the world to readers everywhere. By offering incisive perspectives on our changing world from those who are shaping its economics, politics, science, and culture, Project Syndicate has created an unrivalled venue for informed public debate. Please see: www.project-syndicate.org.

Should you want to support Project Syndicate you can do it by using the PayPal icon below. Your donation is paid to Project Syndicate in full after PayPal has deducted its transaction fee. Facts & Arts neither receives information about your donation nor a commission.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jan 21st 2022
EXTRACTS: "The fear is that Moscow is backing itself into a diplomatic corner where the use of force is its only way to remain credible." ----- "The Ukrainian population has also been mobilizing in support of the troops since the seizure of Crimea and the war in Donbas. And according to a poll taken in December 2021 by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, 58% of Ukrainian men and almost 13% of women declared that they are ready to take up arms. A further 17% and 25% more said they would resist through other means. In what would be a classic case of asymmetrical warfare, resistance from Ukraine’s population could therefore prove a serious thorn in Moscow’s side."
Jan 12th 2022
EXTRACTS: "While at the time of writing, the outcome of Djokovic’s visa troubles was uncertain, the double standard of rules raises a much bigger question about the philosophy of law: can the application of a rule be so unfair that we have no valid reason to follow it?" ------ "......a rule that doesn’t treat like cases alike can’t be a law at all. This is because a key requirement of a legal system is that it needs to be stable, which means that people need to know what the law is and when it applies. If a rule doesn’t treat everyone equally, then it does the opposite and increases doubt and uncertainty about what the law even is. And if enough rules exist that create uncertainty about what the law is and when it applies, the system will collapse. A rule that undermines a legal system in this way can’t really be law at all, and legal officials shouldn’t create or uphold them."
Jan 9th 2022
EXTRACT: "Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranking tennis player, has just been granted a medical exemption to take part in the Australian Open. Djokovic, who has won the event nine times (one more victory would give him a record-breaking 21 major titles), refused to show proof of vaccination, which is required to enter Australia. “I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not,” he told Blic, a Serbian daily, calling it “a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.” The family of Dale Weeks, who died last month at the age of 78, would disagree. Weeks was a patient at a small hospital in rural Iowa, being treated for sepsis. The hospital sought to transfer him to a larger hospital where he could have surgery, but a surge in COVID-19 patients, almost all of them unvaccinated, meant that there were no spare beds. It took 15 days for Weeks to obtain a transfer, and by then, it was too late."
Jan 9th 2022
EXTRACT: "The protests that erupted across Kazakhstan on January 2 quickly turned into riots in all of the country’s major cities. What do the protesters want, and what will be the outcome of the country’s most severe civil unrest since independence in 1991? "
Jan 7th 2022
EXTRACT: ".....one wonders how Chinese President Xi Jinping views Russia’s intervention in Kazakhstan, which shares a nearly 1,800-kilometer (1,120-mile) border with China, especially in light of Putin’s earlier comments diminishing the history of Kazakhstan’s independent statehood. (He has shown similar contempt for the independence of Belarus, the Baltic states, and Ukraine.)"
Jan 7th 2022
EXTRACT: "The problem with history as propaganda is not that it makes people feel good or bad, but that it creates perpetual enemies – and thus the perpetual risk of wars."
Jan 5th 2022
EXTRACT: ".....a scenario in which Trump (or one of his allies) is designated president by the House of Representatives after the 2024 election probably belongs in the realm of political-thriller fiction.  Now consider the unlikely event that Trump were nominated and won a clear Electoral College or popular-vote majority in 2024. Rather than establish the white-nationalist dictatorship of progressive nightmares, an elderly second-term Trump would most likely be an even more ineffectual figurehead in a party dominated by conventional Republicans than he was in his first four years. If Italian democracy could survive three terms of Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister, American democracy can survive two terms of Trump. None of this is to suggest that American democracy is not under threat. Populist demagogues like Trump are symptoms of a disease in the body politic. The real threat to American democracy is the disconnect between what the bipartisan US political establishment promises and what it delivers. This problem predates Trump by decades and helps to explain his rise. "
Jan 4th 2022
EXTRACT: "This month, the world’s major central banks shifted gears and announced plans to tighten monetary policy. But there was one notable exception: the European Central Bank, which says it does not intend to raise interest rates in 2022, even though it is well aware of today’s inflation risks." ----- "Does this mean that the ECB is “soft on inflation,” occupying a dovish outlier position among the world’s major central banks? Is Germany’s bestselling tabloid, Bild, justified in bestowing on ECB President Christine Lagarde the mocking sobriquet “Madame Inflation”? No and no.
Dec 21st 2021
EXTRACTS: "By the grim metric of fatalities in the first 10 years of a dictator’s rule, Kim Jong Un has yet to match the records set by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, or father, Kim Jong Il – the two tyrants who reigned by terror in North Korea before him. For now, the number of people Kim Jong Un has personally ordered killed – such as his uncle in 2013 and half-brother in 2017 – is likely to number in the hundreds." ---- "Concrete numbers of how many have died from starvation and malnourishment-related conditions such as diarrhea and pneumonia under Kim are difficult to come by. But as a scholar of Korean history, I believe the young dictator – who turns 38 next January – has the capacity to surpass even the ghastly death tolls of his two familial predecessors."
Dec 19th 2021
EXTRACTS: "But have enough Conservative backbenchers reached the conclusion that Johnson should be removed as party leader? There is a historical precedent which throws light on the present situation. This was when Margaret Thatcher was sacked as leader of her party – and consequently lost her job as prime minister – in 1990. She had a loyal following in the party and had won three elections in a row, but even that couldn’t save her when polling showed that the Conservatives were heading for a serious defeat under her leadership. ---- "That said, if Thatcher’s experience is anything to go by, at present the Conservatives are not going to sack Johnson. It took 18 months of seriously deteriorating polling for a revolt over Thatcher’s leadership to finally succeed – and she almost survived the leadership challenge. The present hope among Conservative backbenchers will be that the party can recover next year."
Dec 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Although Johnson has a well-deserved reputation for maintaining an arm’s-length relationship with the truth, many voters seem to have priced this in to how they perceive him. Moreover, Conservative Party insiders, and those who previously worked with Johnson in journalism (his career before politics), have always known that he was unlikely to follow any rules that did not suit him. This rather large personal failing was apparent even in his boyhood, as a remarkably prescient school report by his Eton College housemaster noted. “I think,” Johnson’s teacher wrote, “he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.” "
Dec 8th 2021
EXTRACT: "This puts US Democrats in a difficult position. What is a political party to do when the other main party has been taken over by self-appointed holy warriors? To treat them as a loyal opposition worthy of engagement in a spirit of compromise and respect becomes almost impossible. Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama, and Joe Biden have sometimes been criticized by their own supporters for not fighting dirty and giving Republican fanatics a dose of their own foul medicine.  That would be a mistake. All legal means should be used to stop extremists from wrecking democratic institutions, but those institutions won’t survive if all parties turn politics into a matter of life and death. In a quasi-religious war, the far right will almost certainly win; they have more fanatics and, in the US, many more guns."
Dec 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "In contrast to the index for consumer goods, which measures only the prices of final products, industrial producer prices capture all intermediate stages of production. They therefore have a certain prognostic significance for consumer prices, even though the final products won’t show such extreme spikes. ----- These new inflation figures are so extreme that the ECB’s position looks like willful denial. Germany is currently experiencing the strongest inflation in a lifetime. And the situation is not much better in other European countries. In September, France reported an 11.6% annual increase in industrial producer prices, and that figure stood at 15.6% in Italy, 18.1% in Finland, 21.4% in the Netherlands, and 23.6% in Spain."
Nov 30th 2021
EXTRACT: "So it could well be that, despite the faster spread of the infection, its ultimate health, social and economic impact proves negligible. We simply do not know at this point. But detecting more uncertainty than before, financial markets have reacted with panic. For example, the S&P500 tumbled 2.3% on Friday November 26 only to rise 1.1% on Monday November 29. Most markets gave up between 2% and 4%, which is a pretty substantial one-day fall."
Nov 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "Momentous changes are casting a long shadow on China. The country’s political system will soon undergo a profound reform, pending final approval (a quasi-formality) at next year’s congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). President Xi Jinping, the Party chairman and the “navigator” of the country, has decided on a new course, abandoning the principle of collective leadership. Xi is leading China away from the path taken by Deng Xiaoping after the terror of the Cultural Revolution, and back toward a system of absolute rule by one person without term limits, as under Mao Zedong."
Nov 25th 2021
EXTRACTS: "”The biggest disappointment in Glasgow was the last-minute watering down of the proposed (and widely supported) agreement to “phase out” the use of coal in energy production. With India providing political cover for China in vetoing this language, the final conference proposal was to “phase down” coal”. ---- “China accounts for more than half of the world’s coal consumption, and has the largest amount of coal-fired generating capacity under construction. Pressed about why his country would not do more in Glasgow to help save the planet, China’s chief negotiator pointed to the commitments in the Communist Party of China’s current Five-Year Plan. So, our future now depends on the CPC’s program. The tragedy for the world is that the Party cannot be phased down, much less phased out, despite the fact that it is a huge threat to the future of all of us.” ------ “To save the planet, robust democratic leadership must be phased up – not phased down, let alone phased out. Rather than merely keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best, we should start by calling out the appalling behavior of dictatorships such as China and Russia.”
Nov 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The transitory inflation debate in the United States is over. The upsurge in US inflation has turned into something far worse than the Federal Reserve expected. Perpetually optimistic financial markets are taking this largely in stride. The Fed is widely presumed to have both the wisdom and the firepower to keep underlying inflation in check. That remains to be seen."
Nov 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "S&P projects that companies are planning to install 44 gigawatts of new solar in 2022. The year 2020, despite the onset of the pandemic, saw a record-breaking 19 gigawatts of new solar capacity installed in the U.S. So given the bids out there already, it appears that in 2022 solar installers will more than double their best year ever so far. The U.S. currently has 100 gigawatts of solar electricity-generating capacity, so in just one year we are poised to add nearly 50% of our current total. A gigawatt of power can provide electricity to about 750,000 homes. So the 44 new gigawatts we’ll put in next year have a nameplate capacity that would under ideal conditions allow them to power 33 million homes." ----- "Not only is there a lot of good news on the green energy front but there is good news in the bad news for fossil fuels. S&P finds that coal plants are being retired way before the utilities had expected. Some 29 gigawatts of coal retirements are expected from 2020 through 2025. "
Nov 3rd 2021
EXTRACT: "Zemmour’s way of thinking stems from a tradition going back to the French Revolution of 1789. Catholic conservatives and right-wing intellectuals, who hated the secular republic that emerged from the revolution, have long fulminated against liberals, cosmopolitans, immigrants, and other enemies of their idea of a society based on ethnic purity, obedience to the church, and family values. They were almost invariably anti-Semitic. When Jewish army Captain Alfred Dreyfus was falsely accused of betraying his country in the notorious scandal of the 1890s, they were on the side of Dreyfus’s accusers. ---- Germany’s invasion of France in 1940 gave reactionaries of this kind the chance to form a French puppet-government in Vichy. Zemmour has had kind things to say about the Vichy regime. He also has expressed some doubt about the innocence of Dreyfus. ---- None of these views would be surprising if they came from a far-right agitator like Jean-Marie Le Pen. But Zemmour is the son of Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Algeria who lived among the Muslim Berbers."
Oct 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "performed strongly in last month’s parliamentary and regional elections. Officially, Communist Party candidates took 18.9% of the popular vote for the State Duma (parliament), compared to nearly 49.8% for the Kremlin’s United Russia party. But the Communists refused to recognize the results, insisting that the vote was rigged. And, indeed, some experts estimate that they should have gotten around 30% of the vote, with United Russia taking about 35%."