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.
For decades the Man of Steel has failed to find his groove, thanks to a continual misunderstanding of his strengths.
Superman should be invincible. Since his car-smashing debut in 1938, he’s starred in at least one regular monthly comic, three blockbuster films, and four television shows. His crest is recognized across the globe, his supporting cast is legendary, and anybody even vaguely familiar with comics can recount the broad strokes of his origin. (The writer Grant Morrison accomplished it in eight words: “Doomed Planet. Desperate Scientists. Last Hope. Kindly Couple.”) He’s the first of the superheroes, a genre that’s grown into a modern mass-media juggernaut.
And yet, for a character who gains his power from the light of the sun, Superman is curiously eclipsed by other heroes. According to numbers provided by Diamond Distributors, the long-running Superman comic sold only 55,000 copies a month in 2015, down from around 70,000 in 2010—a mediocre showing even for the famously anemic comic-book market. That’s significantly less than his colleague Batman, who last year moved issues at a comparatively brisk 150,000 a month. Mass media hasn’t been much kinder: The longest-running Superman television show, 2001’s Smallville, kept him out of his iconic suit for a decade. Superman Returns recouped its budget at the box office, but proved mostly forgettable.2013’s Man of Steel drew sharp criticism from critics and audiences alike for its bleak tone and rampaging finale. Trailers for the sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, have shifted the focus (and top billing) to the Dark Knight. Worst of all, conventional wisdom puts the blame on Superman himself. He’s boring, people say; he’s unrelatable, nothing like the Marvel characters dominating the sales charts and the box office. More than anything, he seems embarrassing. Look at him. Truth? Justice? He wears his underwear on the outside.
The Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers, but neither Peyton Manning nor Cam Newton seemed able to prove their worth.
Now more than ever, the NFL is all about the quarterbacks. The buildup to Super Bowl 50 proved no exception: In the two weeks prior to Sunday night’s game in Santa Clara, the national conversation largely centered on the signal-callers, whose styles of play and off-field personas were pored over in every manner imaginable by an army of reporters and analysts. The game’s two possible outcomes were pre-cast as career-defining triumphs for the passers. If the Denver Broncos won, it would be a rousing sendoff for the potentially retiring all-time great Peyton Manning. If the Carolina Panthers won, it would be a coronation for Cam Newton, this season’s Most Valuable Player.
The Broncos beat the Panthers, 24-10, but the game featured none of the displays of virtuosity fans of Manning or Newton might have hoped for. It was a plodding, mistake-riddled affair, all stuffed runs and stalled drives. Maybe the most miraculous thing about the game was that it ended at all; it seemed for a time that it might simply give out somewhere along the way, leaving the Denver and Carolina players to wander around Levi’s Stadium until the resumption of football next fall.
Immediately, the pings from fellow journalists (and media-adjacent folk) came pouring in, all saying something along the lines of, “Can you actually let me know what you find out? I’m addicted to that stuff.”
They mean “addicted” in the jokey, dark-chocolate-and-Netflix-streaming way, but the habit can border on pathological. For me, rock bottom was a recent, obscenely long workday during which an entire 12-pack of coconut La Croix somehow made it down my throat, can by shining can.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
The charismatic senator’s candidacy was flying high—until he hit turbulence at Saturday’s debate. Will it stall his surge?
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire—Until Saturday’s debate, it was clear that this was Marco Rubio’s moment.
The moment he had waited for, planned for, anticipated for months, for years: It was happening. He had surged into a strong third-place finish in Iowa, outpacing the polls and nearly passing second-place Donald Trump. He’d ridden into New Hampshire on a full head of steam, drawing bigger and bigger crowds at every stop, ticking steadily up into second in most polls, behind the still-dominant Trump. The other candidates were training their fire on him, hoping to stop the golden boy in his tracks.
And then, in the debate, he faced the test he knew was imminent. They came right at him. First it was the moderator, David Muir of ABC News, leveling the accusation put forth by his rivals: that Rubio was merely a good talker with nothing to show for it, just like another eloquent, inexperienced young senator, Barack Obama.
Thenew Daily Show host, Trevor Noah, is smooth and charming, but he hasn’t found his edge.
It’s a psychic law of the American workplace: By the time you give your notice, you’ve already left. You’ve checked out, and for the days or weeks that remain, a kind of placeholder-you, a you-cipher, will be doing your job. It’s a law that applies equally to dog walkers, accountants, and spoof TV anchormen. Jon Stewart announced that he was quitting The Daily Show in February 2015, but he stuck around until early August, and those last months had a restless, frazzled, long-lingering feel. A smell of ashes was in the air. The host himself suddenly looked quite old: beaky, pique-y, hollow-cheeky. For 16 years he had shaken his bells, jumped and jangled in his little host’s chair, the only man on TV who could caper while sitting behind a desk. Flash back to his first episode as the Daily Show host, succeeding Craig Kilborn: January 11, 1999, Stewart with floppy, luscious black hair, twitching in a new suit (“I feel like this is my bar mitzvah … I have a rash like you wouldn’t believe.”) while he interviews Michael J. Fox.
Hillary Clinton’s realistic attitude is the only thing that can effect change in today’s political climate.
Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have something in common. Both have an electoral strategy predicated on the ability of a purist candidate to revolutionize the electorate—bringing droves of chronic non-voters to the polls because at last they have a choice, not an echo—and along the way transforming the political system. Sanders can point to his large crowds and impressive, even astonishing, success at tapping into a small-donor base that exceeds, in breadth and depth, the remarkable one built in 2008 by Barack Obama. Cruz points to his extraordinarily sophisticated voter-identification operation, one that certainly seemed to do the trick in Iowa.
But is there any real evidence that there is a hidden “sleeper cell” of potential voters who are waiting for the signal to emerge and transform the electorate? No. Small-donor contributions are meaningful and a sign of underlying enthusiasm among a slice of the electorate, but they represent a tiny sliver even of that slice; Ron Paul’s success at fundraising (and his big crowds at rallies) misled many analysts into believing that he would make a strong showing in Republican primaries when he ran for president. He flopped.
Will the Democratic Party nominate a candidate who hasn’t been a member of their party, and who has long denounced it?
When a party chooses its presidential candidate, it also chooses its party leader in the election. This year the Democrats face an unusual situation. Bernie Sanders isn’t just an outsider to the party establishment; he’s not even been a member of the party, and has long excoriated it in unsparing language. Although the media haven’t much focused on this history, the early signs suggest it could become a problem for Sanders in getting the nomination—and a problem for the party if he does get it.
According to the entrance polls at the Iowa caucuses, there was a 30-percentage-point split between self-identified Democrats and independents in their support for Sanders. Hillary Clinton won 56 percent of self-identified Democrats but only 26 percent of independents, while Sanders won only 39 percent of Democrats but 69 percent of independents.
How a Mexican gangster turned a cartel into a cult
Nazario Moreno Gonzalez—also known as El Chayo, or El Mas Loco, the Maddest One—first died in December 2010. Mexican federal police claimed they killed Nazario, one of Mexico’s most brutal criminal warlords, during a ferocious battle involving 2,000 federal officers and about 500 gangsters. But his henchmen carried his corpse away.
A grave appeared with his name on it. (Apparently, police didn’t want to dig it up and check.) The president at the time, Felipe Calderon, trumpeted the crime lord’s demise as a grand victory in his war on the drug cartels. But after Nazario’s supposed death, his followers began venerating him like a saint, and statuettes and shrines appeared. Even more bizarrely, people reported seeing his ghost wandering around his home state of Michoacan dressed all in white. Under the leadership of this phantom saint, Nazario’s criminal organization, which took the name Knights Templar after the legendary warrior monks of the Middle Ages, became more powerful than ever.
What happened when 11 exiles armed themselves for a violent night in the Gambia
In the dark hours of the morning on December 30, 2014, eight men gathered in a graveyard a mile down the road from the official residence of Yahya Jammeh, the president of the Gambia. The State House overlooks the Atlantic Ocean from the capital city of Banjul, on an island at the mouth of the Gambia River. It was built in the 1820s and served as the governor’s mansion through the end of British colonialism, in 1965. Trees and high walls separate the house from the road, obscuring any light inside.
The men were dressed in boots and dark pants, and as two of them stood guard, the rest donned Kevlar helmets and leather gloves, strapped on body armor and CamelBaks, and loaded their guns. Their plan was to storm the presidential compound, win over the military, and install their own civilian leader. They hoped to gain control of the country by New Year’s Day.