Opinion polls and regional media coverage suggest that the anti-Assad protests are widely backed the citizens of Arab countries, and they might even support an intervention -- though not one by the West
Foreign ministers at the Arab League headquarters on October 16 to discuss suspending Syria from the Arab League / AP
As atrocities in Syria continue, the question is inevitable: is the international community doing enough? Certainly the Syrian regime is, in analyst-speak, "increasingly isolated," but what does that actually mean? There have been the usual condemnations of violence. Individuals like the U.N. high commissioner for human rights have called for the international community to protect Syrian civilians. It's no surprise, of course, that the Western bit of the international community in particular is increasingly irritated, to say the least, with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. But if you're really looking to nail down what kind of "isolation" we're talking about, perhaps the best indicator lies in the attitude of the Arab world.
The big pan-Arab dailies, at least, appear to universally support the anti-Assad protesters. Furthermore, a new public opinion poll out Tuesday suggests this trend extends to ordinary citizens -- in other words, this is not a case of media elite-public divide. On the one hand, this seems obvious: even over the summer, an Arab American Institute poll found that while a plurality of respondents in their "Arab Attitudes" survey thought it was "too early" to call the Arab Spring, the second most popular response was that the uprisings were leaving the Arab world "better off." On the other hand, consider the particulars: many in the Arab world are sensitive to signs of foreign interference, or even foreign judgment and the infiltration of Western values. Many in the Arab world also want leaders who prove themselves against Israel: Assad has unquestionably done that. Neither Israel nor its European and American supporters has been overly fond of the Syrian regime.
But it appears that favorability to the Arab Spring overrides these concerns. An article at the daily Al-Hayat directly addresses some of these issues, for example the fear of foreign interference, also expressed in an article in Al-Quds Al-Arabi (a notably pro-Palestinian and often anti-Western paper). "What if the people rebel and cannot achieve victory?" the author at Al-Hayat asks. "There must be no foreign interference," runs the refrain. "The problem with this way of thinking," though, the author continues, referring to the hardliners, is that "first, adherents [to this creed] love strategy and geopolitics and their calculations more than they love the people [...] Second, they hate America more than they love the people." Third, the article continues, somewhat redundantly, this view shows insufficient interest in supporting individual Arab communities.
It's interesting to see the pro-Palestinian and generally aggressively anti-Western Al-Quds Al-Arabi also siding with the Syrian people. The paper runs one article questioning dictators' mindsets, another with a Syrian's recollection of his own disillusionment process, and another flatly stating in the first sentence, "It is not correct for one to ignore the great pain of Syria." This last article also talks about "the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who repeats the massacres of his father," comparing those massacres to terrorism. The article argues that the Syrian people "deserve" a chance to build a "modern national democratic Arab state."
Even those articles concerned with regional stability are quick to express horror at Assad's actions. The Egyptian Al Ahram, for example, describes "growing fears that Syria will slide into civil war," but also distastefully refers to the "Syrian regime's excessive use of force" and "opposition leaders who are being murdered in suspicious transactions." Asharq Al-Awsat published an article worrying about regional repercussions, as Syria was once the "corner joint in the relationship between Iran and Turkey." It also dedicates another article almost entirely to expressing skepticism at Assad's feints at reform.
In addition, New York Times readers might note that the Times's Anthony Shadid isn't the only one suggesting Qaddafi's killing might embolden the Syrian opposition. It's also a view widely held in the Arabic-language media: "If there were those who thought that the violent repression of demonstrations would keep Arab rulers from Mubarak's fate," runs an Al-Qudspiece, "the shattered body of Libya's former governor has shown the alternative to the detention cage."
All this isn't to say that the Arab world isn't still highly skeptical of Western attitudes on the Arab Spring -- readers trolling through online articles will come across some pretty aggressive denunciations of NATO's involvement in Libya. But if you're looking for proof of the near universality of support for Syria's protesters, look no further than a report published today by the Arab American Institute.
"The overwhelming majority of Arabs in the six nations covered in the survey side with those Syrians demonstrating against the government (from 83% in Morocco to 100% in Jordan). And when asked whether Bashar Al Assad can continue to govern, the highest affirmative ratings he receives are 15% in Morocco and 14% in Egypt.
Most telling is the scant support the Syrian leader receives in Lebanon. From other results ... we can see that the Lebanese haven't stopped giving Hezbollah a net favorable rating and more than one-half of Lebanese Shia have a favorable view of the role played by Iran in Syria. But in questions dealing with the Syrian leader, it is clear that whatever support he might have commanded in the past is now gone."
So what does that mean for those who'd like to see the international community intervene to stop the slaughter of the opposition? Actually, the poll addresses this, too, and the message is exactly what you'd expect from reading the Arabic-language media on the subject:
"Turkey's interventions with Syria to date have won majority support in every Arab country [...] The country receiving the lowest rating for its role in Syria is the United States, which should serve as a cautionary note for U.S. policy-makers. [...] Syria appears not to be a place where U.S. interference will ultimately be welcomed."
Is Syria the place where the countries of the Middle East will finally start policing themselves, calling repressive regimes on their games -- at least the worst of them? Hard to know what CIA analysts would say to that right now, but the public opinion and media message is clear: it's not as far-out a suggestion as you might think.
Late to this for family reasons, but catching up on an actually astonishing development:
Through the campaign, Donald Trump at times seemed more interested in promoting his business interests than in advancing a political campaign. He took time off this summer to fly to Scotland and tout the opening of a new Trump golf resort. He turned what was billed as a major campaign announcement into a promo for his new DC hotel. A surprisingly large share of the money he’s raised for his campaign’s expenditures have gone to his own businesses (notably Mar-a-Lago).
That is why today’s story, in Travel and Leisure, is so piquant and O. Henry-like. What Trump may have imagined would further burnish his personal brand may in fact be poisoning it. T&L reports that Trump’s new hotels will no longer carry his name!!! Instead they’ll be called “Scion.” Groan, given the actual scions, but fascinating in its own way. From T&L:
It’s been rough. No vote will change the tenor of American politics overnight.
Books may seem like small comfort. But in a time like this, when it’s hard to understand how American culture became so hate-filled, reading is probably the best possible option—to put down the Twitter, pick up a hardback, and think deeply about how the country has gotten here.
What use is there today for one of the oldest virtues?
As many Americans go about their days, I imagine they have two little angels perched on their shoulders, whispering conflicting messages about happiness and material wealth. One angel is embodied by James Altucher, a minimalist self-help guru recently profiled by The New York Times. Altucher claims to have only 15 possessions, after having unburdened himself a few months ago of 40 garbage bags’ worth of stuff and never looking back. As I read about Altucher, I rolled the numbers 15 and 40 over in my mind, thinking about the belongings in my bedroom and the garbage bags under my kitchen sink.
The other angel is Tyler Brûlé, the editor in chief of the fantastically high-end lifestyle magazine Monocle and a columnist for the Financial Times. He is the sort of writer who tosses off such lines as “I zipped along the autostrada through the Val d’Aosta with the ever-trusty Mario (my Italian driver for the past 20 years) at the wheel” with little regard for how privileged and pretentious he sounds (especially in his superfluous parentheticals). Still, there is something, I’m a little ashamed to say, that I envy about Brûlé’s effortless cosmopolitanism—which, it’s hard to miss, is only made possible by unusual wealth.
Tristan Harris believes Silicon Valley is addicting us to our phones. He’s determined to make it stop.
On a recent evening in San Francisco, Tristan Harris, a former product philosopher at Google, took a name tag from a man in pajamas called “Honey Bear” and wrote down his pseudonym for the night: “Presence.”
Harris had just arrived at Unplug SF, a “digital detox experiment” held in honor of the National Day of Unplugging, and the organizers had banned real names. Also outlawed: clocks, “w-talk” (work talk), and “WMDs” (the planners’ loaded shorthand for wireless mobile devices). Harris, a slight 32-year-old with copper hair and a tidy beard, surrendered his iPhone, a device he considers so addictive that he’s called it “a slot machine in my pocket.” He keeps the background set to an image of Scrabble tiles spelling out the words face down, a reminder of the device’s optimal position.
Choosing a president isn’t easy in this election, but here are three ways a principled conservative might vote.
The day of decision is nearing. All the talk fades, and one mark must be made beside one box on the ballot. Many Republicans are agonizing. They reject Donald Trump; they cannot accept Hillary Clinton. What to do?
I won’t conceal, I’m struggling with this question myself. I’ve listened to those Republicans, many my friends, who feel it their duty to stifle their anger and disappointment, and vote for Trump; to cast a protest vote for the Libertarian Gary Johnson or the independent Evan McMullin; or to cross the aisle and vote for Hillary Clinton as the lesser evil. On the way to my own personal answer, I found it helpful to summarize the best case for each of these options.
Emphasize the word “best.” If your case for Trump rests on the assumption that America is hurtling toward national doom, if your case for McMullin rests on the hope of tossing the election into the House of Representatives, if your case for Hillary argues that she is a large soul eager to work cooperatively with those who think differently from her. I’d say you are not thinking very clearly. Despair and fantasy are misleading counselors.
The shocking lesson of The Prince isn’t that politics demands dirty hands, but that politicians shouldn’t care.
You remember the photograph: President Obama hunched in a corner of the Situation Room with his national-security staff, including Hillary Clinton with a hand over her mouth, watching the live feed from the compound in Pakistan where the killing of Osama bin Laden is under way. This is a Machiavellian moment: a political leader taking the ultimate risks that go with the exercise of power, now awaiting the judgment of fate. He knows that if the mission fails, his presidency is over, while if it succeeds, no one should ever again question his willingness to risk all.
It’s a Machiavellian moment in a second sense: an instance when public necessity requires actions that private ethics and religious values might condemn as unjust and immoral. We call these moments Machiavellian because it was Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, written in 1513, that first laid bare the moral world of politics and the gulf between private conscience and the demands of public action.
Narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity—a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency.
In 2006, Donald Trump made plans to purchase the Menie Estate, near Aberdeen, Scotland, aiming to convert the dunes and grassland into a luxury golf resort. He and the estate’s owner, Tom Griffin, sat down to discuss the transaction at the Cock & Bull restaurant. Griffin recalls that Trump was a hard-nosed negotiator, reluctant to give in on even the tiniest details. But, as Michael D’Antonio writes in his recent biography of Trump, Never Enough, Griffin’s most vivid recollection of the evening pertains to the theatrics. It was as if the golden-haired guest sitting across the table were an actor playing a part on the London stage.
“It was Donald Trump playing Donald Trump,” Griffin observed. There was something unreal about it.
Participants in the Church-sponsored Indian Student Placement Program have filed at least three sexual-abuse lawsuits.
Native Americans who were part of a little-known Mormon program from 1947 to the mid-1990s share much of the same story. Year after year, missionaries or other members of the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints approached these families and invited their children into Mormon foster homes. As part of the Mormon Indian Student Placement Program, Native American children would live with Mormon families during the school year, an experience designed to “provide educational, spiritual, social, and cultural opportunities in non-Indian community life,” according to the Church. Typically, the Mormon foster families were white and financially stable. Native American children who weren’t already Mormon were baptized. And some of them now claim they were sexually abused.
A neuropsychological approach to happiness, by meeting core needs (safety, satisfaction, and connection) and training neurons to overcome a negativity bias
There is a motif, in fiction and in life, of people having wonderful things happen to them, but still ending up unhappy. We can adapt to anything, it seems—you can get your dream job, marry a wonderful human, finally get 1 million dollars or Twitter followers—eventually we acclimate and find new things to complain about.
If you want to look at it on a micro level, take an average day. You go to work; make some money; eat some food; interact with friends, family or co-workers; go home; and watch some TV. Nothing particularly bad happens, but you still can’t shake a feeling of stress, or worry, or inadequacy, or loneliness.
According to Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, a member of U.C. Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center's advisory board, and author of the book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negative, which can make us feel stressed and unhappy even though there are a lot of positive things in our lives. True, life can be hard, and legitimately terrible sometimes. Hanson’s book (a sort of self-help manual grounded in research on learning and brain structure) doesn’t suggest that we avoid dwelling on negative experiences altogether—that would be impossible. Instead, he advocates training our brains to appreciate positive experiences when we do have them, by taking the time to focus on them and install them in the brain.
She is renowned for championing urban diversity, but her real prescience lay in her fears about the fragility of democracy.
The year she turned 18, Jane Butzner traveled from her hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to the Appalachian hamlet of Higgins, North Carolina, where she encountered a mystery that haunted her for the rest of her life. It was 1934, the midpoint of the Great Depression, a difficult time to hold a job, even an unpaid one. Butzner—later Jacobs—had been laid off from The Scranton Republican after almost a year working without pay as a cub reporter. At her parents’ suggestion, she went to live in the mountains with her aunt Martha Robison, a Presbyterian missionary. Robison had come to Higgins 12 years earlier on a mission and was so staggered by its poverty that she refused to leave. There were no paved roads, school was rarely in session, the illiterate preacher believed the world was flat, and commerce was conducted by barter. Robison built a church and a community center, adopted children, and established classes in pottery, weaving, and woodwork. Nevertheless, the townspeople continued to live a primitive existence in which, as Robison’s niece later said, “the snapping of a pitchfork or the rusting of a plow posed a serious financial crisis.”