History is replete with circumstances that have forced decision-makers at every level to balance the conflicting pressures of military necessity on the one hand and military ethics on the other. In this century, however, western powers that have participated in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations have witnessed an alignment of strategic and ethical demands. In fact, the strategic demands in such operations have often been more stringent than the ethical ones. The proportionality requirements in just war theory and in international law do not prohibit foreseeable civilian casualties, but only those foreseeable civilian casualties that “would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.” In recent conflicts, however, civilian casualties have carried tremendous strategic significance in addition to their moral significance.
In the practically last page of the book Kissinger cautions American policy-makers that “Americans need not agree with the Chinese analysis to understand that lecturing a country with a history of millennia about its need to ‘grow up’ can be needlessly grating” (p. 546). With Trump administration consciously eschewing the Messianism of universal values in favor of a more realistic (but wrongly executed) policy of national interest, Kissinger’s admonitions have less of a relevance than usual. But, as is likely, the US returns, after next election or the one after, to its traditional Messianism such notes of caution may be more apposite.
In the times we are in, we have to redefine “emergency.” It is not about freedom of expression. It is about institutions collapsing and political power capturing everything. I actually had an opportunity to observe the state’s media monitoring intimately from a young age, because my father worked in the Indian Information Service (a cadre of government officers). In fact, during the Emergency, Gandhi gave him the task of keeping an eye on how much space the media gave to opposition figures, in particular JP (Jayaprakash Narayan, a popular opposition leader). And there was pressure (on the media) in subsequent administrations, too. In the concluding years of the Manmohan Singh government (2012 to 2014), his ministers would hand out advisories. Now there is pressure, plus threats to channel management, and action on those threats. When the government stoops to such levels, what do you do?
Some analysts give partial credit to Christians of Middle Eastern ancestry for President Trump’s surprise 2016 upset in Michigan because they voted for him based on his promise to save Christian refugees. Yet not only has his administration cut Christian refugee resettlement, it has attempted to deport hundreds of Iraqi Christians living in the United States without legal status for many years. A federal district court even accused the Trump administration of impeding the Christians’ attempts to challenge their removals in courts and declared that they are “confronting a grisly fate… if deported to Iraq.”
The struggles of North Koreans trying to adapt to the South Korean life.
To blend into South Korean life, many women, like So Won, scramble to change their hair, their makeup, their clothing, their accents. “We want to look like ordinary South Koreans,” says So Won. Standing out as North Korean only invites prejudice. There is a widespread stereotype in South Korea that talbukcha are lazy, ignorant, prone to alcoholism, and a drain on the welfare state. North Koreans who move south are confronted by a people who are unfathomably foreign. The growing cultural and economic divides also mirror decreasing support for reunification. Older South Koreans remember a time when the two countries were one and treat peace talks with more optimism than their grandchildren. (A majority of the South Korean population viewed unification as necessary in 2017, but among those in their 20s, it’s just 38.9 percent.)
Is this a temporary grief?
Brexit may have been a demonstration of the wider country’s frustration at not having its voice heard, but the result is even more centralization of power in London. “Almost all the work of Parliament is built around Brexit,” says Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader who served as business secretary in Cameron’s five-year coalition government. “Big decisions that should be grappled with are all being put on hold because they are difficult and are going to involve some friction between ministers.”
Twitter, the company, retweeted my talk in a call for job applicants to “join the flock.” The implicit understanding was that Twitter was a force for good in the world, on the side of the people and their revolutions. The new information gatekeepers, which didn’t see themselves as gatekeepers but merely as neutral “platforms,” nonetheless liked the upending potential of their technologies.
I shared in the optimism. I myself hailed from the Middle East and had been watching dissidents use digital tools to challenge government after government.
But a shift was already in the air.