Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

Will Trump Set a Record for the History Books?

In its own inside-out, upside-down way, it’s almost wondrous to behold. As befits our president’s wildest dreams, it may even prove to be a record for the ages, one for the history books. He was, after all, the candidate who sensed it first.  When those he was running against, like the rest of Washington’s politicians, were still insisting that the United States remained at the top of its game, not an — but the — “indispensable nation,” the only truly “exceptional” one on the face of the Earth, he said nothing of the sort.  He campaigned on America’s decline, on this country’s increasing lack of exceptionality, its potential dispensability.  He ran on the single word “again” — as in “make America great again” — because (the implication was) it just isn’t anymore.  And he swore that he and he alone was the best shot Americans, or at least non-immigrant white […]

I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhennet

My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad

I was told to come alone. I was not to carry any identification and would have to leave my cell phone, audio recorder, watch, and purse at my hotel in Antakya, Turkey. All I could bring were a notebook and a pen. In return, I wanted to speak to someone in authority, someone who could explain the long-term strategy of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. It was the summer of 2014, three weeks before the group became a household name by releasing a video of the beheading of the American journalist James Foley. Even then, I suspected that ISIS would become an important player in the world of global jihad. As a journalist covering Islamic militancy across Europe and the Middle East for the New York Times, major German news outlets, and now the Washington Post, I had watched the group take shape in the world […]

The Race for What's Left

The Petro-Powers vs. the Greens

That Donald Trump is a grand disruptor when it comes to international affairs is now a commonplace observation in the establishment media. By snubbing NATO and withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, we’ve been told, President Trump is dismantling the liberal world order created by Franklin D. Roosevelt at the end of World War II. “Present at the Destruction” is the way Foreign Affairs magazine, the flagship publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, put it on its latest cover. Similar headlines can be found on the editorial pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. But these prophecies of impending global disorder miss a crucial point: in his own quixotic way, Donald Trump is not only trying to obliterate the existing world order, but also attempting to lay the foundations for a new one, a world in which fossil-fuel powers will contend for supremacy with post-carbon, green-energy […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

Into the Whirlwind

He’s huge. Outsized. He fills the news hole at any moment of any day. His over-tanned face glows unceasingly in living rooms across America. Never has a president been quite so big. So absolutely monstrous. Or quite so small. He’s our Little Big Man.  I know, I know… he induces panic, fear, anxiety, insomnia.  Shrinks in liberal America will tell you that, since November 2016, their patients are more heavily medicated and in worse shape.  He’s a nightmare, a unique monster.  It’s been almost two years since he first entered the presidential race and in all that time I doubt there’s been a moment when the cameras haven’t been trained on him, when he wasn’t “breaking news.”  (By May 2016, he had already reportedly received the equivalent in “earned media” of nearly $3 billion in free advertising.)  He and his endless controversial statements, flubs, tweets, lies, insults, boasts, tales from […]

We Meant Well

Was Chelsea Manning Motivated By Moral Injury?

“My guilt will never go away,” former Marine Matthew Hoh explained to me. “There is a significant portion of me that doesn’t believe it should be allowed to go away, that this pain is fair.” If America accepts the idea of fighting endless wars, it will have to accept something else as well: that the costs of war are similarly endless. I’m thinking about the trillions of dollars, the million or more “enemy” dead (a striking percentage of them civilians), the tens of thousands of American combat casualties, those 20 veteran suicides each day, and the diminished lives of those who survive all of that. There’s that pain, carried by an unknown number of women and men, that won’t disappear, ever, and that goes by the label “moral injury.” The Lasting Pain of War When I started Hooper’s War, a novel about the end of World War II in the […]

Base Nation by David Vine

How U.S. Military Bases Back Dictators, Autocrats, and Military Regimes

Much outrage has been expressed in recent weeks over President Donald Trump’s invitation for a White House visit to Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, whose “war on drugs” has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings. Criticism of Trump was especially intense given his similarly warm public support for other authoritarian rulers like Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (who visited the Oval Office to much praise only weeks earlier), Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who got a congratulatory phone call from President Trump on his recent referendum victory, granting him increasingly unchecked powers), and Thailand’s Prayuth Chan-ocha (who also received a White House invitation). But here’s the strange thing: the critics generally ignored the far more substantial and long-standing bipartisan support U.S. presidents have offered these and dozens of other repressive regimes over the decades. After all, such autocratic countries share one striking thing in common. They are among at least 45 […]

Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine

I would be willing to lose my election because I will alienate the Jewish community. . . . Thus, if necessary, be harder on the Israelis. —President Jimmy Carter to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance When Jimmy Carter entered the White House in January 1977, no one expected that he would quickly obtain two of the most significant agreements in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict: the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, and the Framework for Peace in the Middle East, which served as the blueprint for the 1993 Oslo Accord. Essential to Carter’s success was an approach wholly unlike those of his predecessors, one that was not expected by even the closest observers of the former peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia. In his presidential memoirs, Carter wrote that prior to his election he “had no strong feelings about the Arab countries. I had never visited one and knew […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

What It Really Means to Be on a “Flattening” Planet

The closest I ever got to Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, was 1,720.7 miles away — or so the Internet assures me.  Although I’ve had a lifelong interest in history, I know next to nothing about Mosul’s, nor do I have more than a glancing sense of what it looks like, or more accurately what it looked like when all its buildings, including those in its “Old City,” were still standing.  It has — or at least in better times had — a population of at least 1.8 million, not one of whom have I ever met and significant numbers of whom are now either dead, wounded, uprooted, or in desperate straits. Consider what I never learned about Mosul my loss, a sign of my ignorance.  Yet, in recent months, little as I know about the place, it’s been on my mind — in part because what’s now happening to […]