The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy under Obama

Eminent international relations scholar John J. Mearsheimer takes the measure of Obama’s Middle East policy under the lobby’s influence in this highly informative talk delivered at Turkey’s Koç University.

Jewish American Relationship with Israel at the Crossroads

My friend Adam Shatz moderated this debate between Norman Finkelstein and Anna Baltzer at The New School in New York. For the record, I’m with Baltzer.

The New School for Public Engagement is a division of The New School, a university in New York City offering distinguished degree, certificate, and continuing education programs in art and design, liberal arts, management and policy, and the performing arts. | http://www.newschool.edu/public-engagement

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A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey

Al Jazeera’s 2009 documentary about the courageous Swati girl Malala Yousafzai who was critically injured in a cowardly assassination attempt by the Pakistani Taliban.

On October 9, 2012, masked gunmen ambushed a van carrying schoolgirls home in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. They shot 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai at point blank range in the head and neck leaving her in critical condition. The Taliban in Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack and vowed to “finish the chapter” in Malala’s story. Bringing and end to education for girls has long been one of their goals. The young activist was only 11 when she first stood up to the Taliban and despite numerous threats she continued to speak out against them.

This documentary filmed in 2009 follows the journey of Malala and her father as the deteriorating security situation forces them to leave not just their home in Swat Valley but their life’s passion.

The Fall of the House of Asad

This review of David Lesch’s book was written for the Scotsman.

Until his elder brother Basil died in a car crash, Bashaar al-Assad, Syria’s tyrant, was planning a quiet life as an opthalmologist in England. Recalled to Damascus, he was rapidly promoted through the military ranks, and after his father’s death was was confirmed in the presidency in a referendum in which he supposedly achieved 97.29% of the vote. Official discourse titled him ‘the Hope.’

Propaganda aside, the mild-mannered young heir enjoyed genuine popularity and therefore a long grace period, now entirely squandered. He seemed to promise a continuation of his father’s “Faustian bargain of less freedom for more stability” – not a bad bargain for a country wracked by endless coups before the Assadist state, and surrounded by states at war – while at the same time gradually reforming. Selective liberalisation allowed for a stock market and private banks but protected the public sector patronage system which ensured regime survival. There was even a measure of glasnost, a Damascus Spring permitting private newspapers and political discussion groups. It lasted eight months, and then the regime critics who had been encouraged to speak were exiled or imprisoned. Most people, Lesch included, blamed the Old Guard rather than Bashaar.

“I got to know Assad probably better than anyone in the West,” Lesch writes, and this is probably true. Between 2004 and 2008 he met the dictator frequently. His 2005 book “The New Lion of Damascus” seems in retrospect naively sympathetic. He can be forgiven for this. Most analysts (me included), and most Syrians, continued to give Bashaar the benefit of the doubt until March 2011.

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Mishra and Lydon on the Ruins of Empire

Two dear friends of mine, Pankaj Mishra and Chris Lydon, in conversation. Pankaj is easily one of the world’s most important public intellectuals and Chris is the world’s best interviewer. Radio Open Source is the place where all the intellectual synergy happens week after week.

Pankaj Mishra is sounding a wake-up call about “angry Asia” — from an alarm clock that, he’ll tell you, has been ringing for more than a century. He’s made it a story for today on the conviction that de-colonization is still the world’s pre-occupying project: to regain dignity that non-Westerners remember enjoying before the Europeans came. From the Ruins of Empire is Pankaj Mishra’s re-introduction of “The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia,” the god-parents of Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh and Nasser. No less an icon on the East-West bridge than Nobel-laureate Orham Pamauk testifies that Pankaj Mishra is giving us “modern history as it has been felt by the majority of the world’s population from Turkey to China.”

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O’Reilly v Stewart 2012: The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium

Jon Stewart and Fox News host Bill O’Reilly faced off in “the Rumble 2012” debate last night at the Lisner Auditorium on the campus of George Washington University in Washington, D.C.