Countries like India founded the Non-Aligned Movement to resist American and Soviet efforts to enlist them in the Cold War, so why is it today championed by the rogue states that most undermine peace?
North Korea's foreign minister waves during the Non-Aligned summit in Tehran. (AP)
"When we say our policy is one of non-alignment, obviously we mean non-alignment with military blocs," Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru explained in a December 1948 speech in Sri Lanka, announcing an idea that began partly in India but, by the Non-Aligned Movement's first summit in 1961, had spread across much of the non-Western world. The Cold War was rapidly dividing nations into two competing camps, enlisting them in another costly Western mission just a few years after they'd broken free of European colonialism. All of Africa and most of Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East joined in the 120-state collective that Indian diplomat V.K. Krishna Menon called "not neutral" but deliberately, assertively, collectively "non-aligned."
Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the Non-Aligned Movement is still here, now gathered for its tri-annual summit, this time in Iran, whose president is now also the movement's secretary-general. While India sent a 250-person delegation, Egypt sent their new president, and even the United Nations secretary-general is attending the summit that technically still represents 120 countries, the event is just not particularly meaningful anymore. It's mostly been an opportunity for Iran to complain about its worsening international isolation. "I've never quite understood what it is they would be nonaligned against at this point," then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sighed just after the movement's 2006 summit, in Havana. "I mean, you know, the movement came out of the Cold War."
Yes, the Non-Aligned Movement is not very meaningful today, a vestige of a bygone era. (And it was rarely what it claimed to be even during the Cold War, as a number of members took sides in the proxy conflict.) Yet the fact that it exists at all -- and that leading member India would make such a big show of its participation -- is a reminder of the degree to which the international system is still defined by the terms of the long-closed Cold War. But it also shows the degree to which those terms have changed since America's overwhelming victory in the half-century, world-shaping conflict.
Despite India's gestures at maintaining the Non-Aligned Movement, another show of stubborn independence that has not always reflected the Indian foreign policy that in actual practice is typically U.S.-aligned, the movement perhaps best represents what we today call rogue states. Prominent attendees this year include the leaders of Venezuela, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, and Sudan, the last of whom is wanted on international war crimes charges; North Korea's Kim Jong Un was a rumored guest but ultimately sent a high-level official in his place.
It might not be a coincidence that the once globe-encompassing, peace-embracing Non-Aligned Movement became such a focal point for the world's nastiest rogue states. In 1985, as the Soviet Union slowly declined, President Ronald Reagan gave a speech decrying what he called the "confederation of terrorist states," declaring, "we especially are not going to tolerate these attacks from outlaw states run by the strangest collection of misfits, Looney Tunes, and squalid criminals since the advent of the Third Reich." He named five countries: Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Libya and Nicaragua. Those "misfits" were either among the closest allies of the Soviet Union or they were truly non-aligned states (most self-professed "non-aligned" nations had long since chosen sides). As the Cold War ended and a handful of the Soviet Union's former allies refused to join the American-led order, the gap between Soviet satellite and rogue state closed.
Nine years later, after the Cold War ended, Clinton administration national security official Anthony Lake warned in Foreign Affairs that five "rogue states" still threatened world peace. His list was almost identical to Reagan's: Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Libya, and instead of Nicaragua, Iraq. All active, highly visible members in the Non-Aligned Movement, all states that undermine the global peace that movement was first meant to protect. As the Soviet Union declined and fell, its client states and allies had either toppled themselves -- Soviet-style communism, it turned out, makes countries poor, unhappy, and unstable -- or turned to embrace the American-style system of democracy, free markets, and cooperate diplomacy; what scholars call the liberal order.
Whether or not the world's countries wanted to line up specifically behind the U.S., they all ultimately aligned with the U.S.-led order. All except for a handful of rogue "misfits and Looney Tunes" that either cling to the long-gone Cold War tensions or hold out from the global order as self-made pariahs. They're still non-aligned. But with the post-Cold War world defined not by global conflict but by global cooperation, the movement has become about opposing rather than promoting Nehru's non-alignment ideals: "progress," "a deliberate policy of friendship," and a "positive aspect of peace." Those ideals won out, but it wasn't through non-alignment.
Take a walk along West Florissant Avenue, in Ferguson, Missouri. Head south of the burned-out Quik Trip and the famous McDonalds, south of the intersection with Chambers, south almost to the city limit, to the corner of Ferguson Avenue and West Florissant. There, last August, Emerson Electric announced third-quarter sales of $6.3 billion. Just over half a mile to the northeast, four days later, Officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. The 12 shots fired by Officer Wilson were probably audible in the company lunchroom.
Outwardly, at least, the City of Ferguson would appear to occupy an enviable position. It is home to a Fortune 500 firm. It has successfully revitalized a commercial corridor through its downtown. It hosts an office park filled with corporate tenants. Its coffers should be overflowing with tax dollars.
Freddie Gray's death on April 19 leaves many unanswered questions. But it is clear that when Gray was arrested in West Baltimore on the morning of April 12, he was struggling to walk. By the time he arrived at the police station a half hour later, he was unable to breathe or talk, suffering from wounds that would kill him.*
Gray died Sunday from spinal injuries. Baltimore authorities say they're investigating how the 25-year-old was hurt—a somewhat perverse notion, given that it was while he was in police custody, and hidden from public view, that he apparently suffered injury. How it happened remains unknown. It's even difficult to understand why officers arrested Gray in the first place. But with protestors taking to the streets of Baltimore since Gray's death on Sunday, the incident falls into a line of highly publicized, fatal encounters between black men and the police. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a reserve sheriff's deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of a man he shot. The deputy says the shooting happened while he was trying to tase the man. Black men dying at the hands of the police is of course nothing new, but the nation is now paying attention and getting outraged.
After a five-month delay, Loretta Lynch made history last week. On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general, the first African American woman ever to hold this Cabinet position. Her long-stalled nomination sometimes seemed in doubt, held hostage to partisan jockeying between Democrats and Republicans. But one political bloc never gave up, relentlessly rallying its support behind Lynch: the black sorority.
During her initial hearing, the seats behind Lynch were filled with more than two dozen of her Delta Sigma Theta Sorority sisters arrayed in crimson-and-cream blazers and blouses, ensuring their visibility on the national stage. These Delta women—U.S. Representatives Marcia Fudge and Joyce Beatty among them—were there to lend moral support and show the committee that they meant business. The Deltas were not alone. The Lynch nomination also drew support from congressional representatives from other black sororities: Alpha Kappa Alpha members Terri Sewell and Sheila Jackson Lee took to the House floor to advocate for a vote while Sigma Gamma Rho members Corinne Brown and Robin Kelly and Zeta Phi Beta member Donna Edwards used social media and press conferences to campaign on Lynch’s behalf.
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.
A lot of Internet ink has been spilled over how lazy and entitled Millennials are, but when it comes to paying for a college education, work ethic isn't the limiting factor. The economic cards are stacked such that today’s average college student, without support from financial aid and family resources, would need to complete 48 hours of minimum-wage work a week to pay for his courses—a feat that would require superhuman endurance, or maybe a time machine.
To take a close look at the tuition history of almost any institution of higher education in America is to confront an unfair reality: Each year’s crop of college seniors paid a little bit more than the class that graduated before. The tuition crunch never fails to provide new fodder for ongoing analysis of the myths and realities of The American Dream. Last week, a graduate student named Randy Olson listened to his grandfather extol the virtues of putting oneself through college without family support. But paying for college without family support is a totally different proposition these days, Olson thought. It may have been feasible 30 years ago, or even 15 years ago, but it's much harder now.
Hours after a major earthquake wreaked havoc across his country, Nepali Information Minister Minendra Rijal appeared at a news conference on Saturday to announce that schools would be closed for the next five days. "We never imagined we'd face such devastation," he said.
But for geologists, Saturday's disaster—which has claimed over 2,400 lives—was sadly predictable.
"Physically and geologically what happened is exactly what we thought would happen," James Jackson, head of the earth-sciences department at the University of Cambridge, told the Associated Press.
Blessed with stunning natural scenery, Nepal is a popular tourist destination that attracts hundreds of thousands of travelers each year. But the source of the country's beauty is what makes it particularly vulnerable to earthquakes. Much of Nepal's population lives in a valley beneath the Himalayas, a mountain range formed by collisions between the Indian and Central Asian tectonic plates. These collisions—which occur when the Indian plate slides underneath its much larger neighbor—are what cause earthquakes. According to The Washington Post, a chunk of the earth measuring 75 by 37 miles shifted 10 feet in 30 seconds on Saturday, destroying much of what lay atop the surface.
I’m not a dog person. I prefer cats. Cats make you work to have a relationship with them, and I like that. But I have adopted several dogs, caving in to pressure from my kids. The first was Teddy, a rottweiler-chow mix whose bushy hair was cut into a lion mane. Kids loved him, and he grew on me, too. Teddy was probably ten years when we adopted him. Five years later he had multiple organs failing and it was time to put him to sleep.
When I arrived at the vet, he said I could drop him off. I was aghast. No. I needed to stay with Teddy.As the vet prepped the syringe to put him to sleep, I started sobbing. The vet gave me a couple minutes to collect myself and say goodbye. I held Teddy's paw until he died. Honestly, I didn't think I was that attached.
In her new book No One Understands You and What To Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson tells readers a story about her friend, Tim. When Tim started a new job as a manager, one of his top priorities was communicating to his team that he valued each member’s input. So at team meetings, as each member spoke up about whatever project they were working on, Tim made sure he put on his “active-listening face” to signal that he cared about what each person was saying.
But after meeting with him a few times, Tim’s team got a very different message from the one he intended to send. “After a few weeks of meetings,” Halvorson explains, “one team member finally summoned up the courage to ask him the question that had been on everyone’s mind.” That question was: “Tim, are you angry with us right now?” When Tim explained that he wasn’t at all angry—that he was just putting on his “active-listening face”—his colleague gently explained that his active-listening face looked a lot like his angry face.
Soon, thousand of police officers across the country will don body-worn cameras when they go out among the public. Those cameras will generate millions of hours of footage—intimate views of commuters receiving speeding tickets, teens getting arrested for marijuana possession, and assault victims at some of the worst moments of their lives.
As the Washington Post and the Associated Press have reported, lawmakers in at least 15 states have proposed exempting body-cam footage from local open records laws. But the flurry of lawmaking speaks to a larger crisis: Once those millions of hours of footage have been captured, no one is sure what to do with them.
I talked to several representatives from privacy, civil rights, and progressive advocacy groups working on body cameras. Even among these often allied groups, there’s little consensus about the kind of policies that should exist around releasing footage.
In Baltimore, where 25-year-old Freddie Gray died shortly after being taken into police custody, an investigation may uncover homicidal misconduct by law enforcement, as happened in the North Charleston, South Carolina, killing of Walter Scott. Or the facts may confound the darkest suspicions of protestors, as when the Department of Justice released its report on the killing of Michael Brown.
What's crucial to understand, as Baltimore residents take to the streets in long-simmering frustration, is that their general grievances are valid regardless of how this case plays out. For as in Ferguson, where residents suffered through years of misconduct so egregious that most Americans could scarcely conceive of what was going on, the people of Baltimore are policed by an entity that perpetrates stunning abuses. The difference is that this time we needn't wait for a DOJ report to tell us so. Harrowing evidence has been presented. Yet America hasn't looked.