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.
The Fox host’s insistence that black laborers building the White House were “well-fed and had decent lodgings” fits in a long history of insisting the “peculiar institution” wasn’t so bad.
In her widely lauded speech at the Democratic National Convention on Monday, Michelle Obama reflected on the remarkable fact of her African American family living in the executive mansion. “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn,” she said.
On Tuesday, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly discussed the moment in his Tip of the Day. In a moment first noticed by the liberal press-tracking group Media Matters, O’Reilly said this:
As we mentioned, Talking Points Memo, Michelle Obama referenced slaves building the White House in referring to the evolution of America in a positive way. It was a positive comment. The history behind her remark is fascinating. George Washington selected the site in 1791, and as president laid the cornerstone in 1792. Washington was then running the country out of Philadelphia.
Slaves did participate in the construction of the White House. Records show about 400 payments made to slave masters between 1795 and 1801. In addition, free blacks, whites, and immigrants also worked on the massive building. There were no illegal immigrants at that time. If you could make it here, you could stay here.
In 1800, President John Adams took up residence in what was then called the Executive Mansion. It was only later on they named it the White House. But Adams was in there with Abigail, and they were still hammering nails, the construction was still going on.
Slaves that worked there were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. So, Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well. Got it all? There will be a quiz.
Does the Democratic Party—open to all immigrants, races, genders, and sexual orientations—have enough room for less educated white voters?
The evocative sound of barriers falling was the signal note during the Democratic National Convention’s first two nights.
First Lady Michelle Obama’s riveting Monday-night speech condensed the centuries of racial pain and progress bound up in her husband’s two victories into a single indelible phrase: “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.” One night later, Hillary Clinton shattered another ceiling when she became the first major-party female presidential nominee.
The delegates have displayed understandable pride in these twin social milestones. But there is also an undercurrent of concern that something old is being lost in this celebration of the new. The fear among some is that this polychromatic Democratic Party, open to all races, both genders, all sexual orientations, welcoming to immigrants, and championing diversity, may not have preserved enough room for the working-class white voters who anchored the party from Andrew Jackson through Lyndon Johnson.
His call on a foreign government to hack Hillary Clinton’s email account is a complete subversion of GOP ideals.
The first excuse for Donald Trump’s amazing press conference on Wednesday, in which he called on the Russians to hack and publish the 30,000 emails wiped from Hillary Clinton’s home server, was: He was only joking.
That excuse almost immediately dissolved. When Trump was asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta whether he would call on Vladimir Putin to stay out of U.S. elections, the presidential nominee answered that he would not tell Putin what to do. After the conference ended, Trump tweeted out a slightly tidied up request to the Russians to find Clinton’s emails—but to hand them over to the FBI rather than publish them.
The second excuse, produced on Twitter minutes later by Newt Gingrich, is that Trump’s remark, while possibly unfortunate, mattered less than Clinton’s careless handling of classified material on her server. That defense seems likely to have more staying power than the first—about which, more in a minute.
Psychologists have long debated how flexible someone’s “true” self is.
Almost everyone has something they want to change about their personality. In 2014, a study that traced people’s goals for personality change found that the vast majority of its subjects wanted to be more extraverted, agreeable, emotionally stable, and open to new experiences. A whopping 97 percent said they wished they were more conscientious.
These desires appeared to be rooted in dissatisfaction. People wanted to become more extraverted if they weren’t happy with their sex lives, hobbies, or friendships. They wanted to become more conscientious if they were displeased with their finances or schoolwork. The findings reflect the social psychologist Roy Baumeister’s notion of “crystallization of discontent”: Once people begin to recognize larger patterns of shortcomings in their lives, he contends, they may reshuffle their core values and priorities to justify improving things.
At the Democratic convention, the president framed America as a shining city on a hill—under constant construction.
Barack Obama is a tinkerer and a poet in whose hands the concept of “American exceptionalism” is being reshaped for the 21st century and weaponized against Trumpism.
First used with respect to the United States by Alexis de Tocqueville, the concept of American exceptionalism is that this country differs qualitatively from other developed nations because of its national credo, ethnic diversity, and revolution-sprung history. It is often expressed as superiority: The United States is the biggest, most powerful, smartest, richest, and most-deserving country on Earth.
Obama drew from this tradition in his Democratic National Convention address Wednesday night. “America has changed over the years,” he said, remembering his Scotch-Irish ancestors who didn’t like braggarts or bullies or people who took short cuts, and who valued honesty and hard work, kindness and courtesy, humility and responsibility.
The Republican presidential nominee appeared to suggest he’d recognize Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian territory in 2014.
Donald Trump’s call on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails Wednesday resulted in widespread criticism. But his comments on Crimea, coupled with ones he made last week on NATO, are likely to have greater significance if he is elected president in November.
The question came from Mareike Aden, a German reporter, who asked him whether a President Trump would recognize Crimea as Russian and lift sanctions on Moscow imposed after its 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian territory. The candidate’s reply: “Yes. We would be looking at that.”
That response is likely to spread much cheer through Russia—already buoyant about the prospect of a Trump victory in November. But it could spread at least an equal amount of dread in the former Soviet republics. In a matter of two weeks, the man who could become the next American president has not only questioned the utility of NATO, thereby repudiating the post-World War II security consensus, he also has seemingly removed whatever fig leaf of protection from Russia the U.S. offered the post-Soviet republics and Moscow’s former allies in the Eastern bloc.
Biology textbooks tell us that lichens are alliances between two organisms—a fungus and an alga. They are wrong.
In 1995, if you had told Toby Spribille that he’d eventually overthrow a scientific idea that’s been the stuff of textbooks for 150 years, he would have laughed at you. Back then, his life seemed constrained to a very different path. He was raised in a Montana trailer park, and home-schooled by what he now describes as a “fundamentalist cult.” At a young age, he fell in love with science, but had no way of feeding that love. He longed to break away from his roots and get a proper education.
At 19, he got a job at a local forestry service. Within a few years, he had earned enough to leave home. His meager savings and non-existent grades meant that no American university would take him, so Spribille looked to Europe.
The billionaire former New York mayor denounced the Republican nominee as a “dangerous demagogue” and a “risky, reckless, and radical choice.”
Michael Bloomberg, a brand-name billionaire far wealthier than Donald Trump, a famously independent voter who derides both the Democratic and Republican parties, endorsed Hillary Clinton on Wednesday and called Trump a “risky, radical and reckless choice” for president.
“Let’s elect a sane, competent person,” he said.
The normally soft-spoken owner of Bloomberg financial-news service excoriated his fellow New Yorker, labeling him a “dangerous demagogue,” a hypocrite, a con, and—slashing at the core of Trump’s self-worth—a horrible businessman.
“Throughout his career,” Bloomberg said in his prime-time address. “Trump has left behind a well-documented record of bankruptcies and thousands of lawsuits and angry shareholders and contractors who feel cheated and disillusioned customers who feel ripped off. Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s run his business. God help us!”
The Green Party candidate wants disillusioned Bernie Sanders supporters to join her—not Hillary Clinton.
PHILADELPHIA—Jill Stein takes public transportation to the Democratic National Convention. On the day after Hillary Clinton made history as the first woman to win a major party presidential nomination, the Green Party presidential candidate is on the subway en route to the Wells Fargo Center. Adoring fans spot her on the way over and demand selfies. A heavily tattooed woman complains to Stein: “It’s been a Hillary party the whole time. It’s like brainwash, like waterboarding. It’s awful.”
Stein is in high demand. The populist progressive tells me that after Bernie Sanders endorsed Clinton two weeks ago, effectively ending his insurgent campaign for president, a lot more people started paying attention to her campaign. “The floodgates opened,” Stein says. “I almost feel like a social-worker, being out there talking to the Bernie supporters. They are broken-hearted. They feel really abused, and misled, largely by the Democratic Party.”
His first Q&A on the site seemed free-wheeling and open to all, but it was actually obsessively controlled.
Cruising the skies above Ohio (and perhaps looking to take more attention away from the Democratic National Convention), Donald Trump tried a new publicity tactic Wednesday night. Instead of his typical podium-and-flag setup, he opened his MacBook and invited users of Reddit to ask him anything.
AMAs—that’s the popular abbreviation—are a staple of the free-wheeling forum site, which has hosted hundreds of celebrities and slightly less famous people who are willing put out a shingle and take questions from strangers on the internet. Reddit—part old-school forum, part meme-machine, part possible-future-of-human-society—prides itself on its community, which moderates itself and (in theory) highlights the best the internet has to offer. Barack Obama hosted his own AMA back in 2012; so have Bill Gates, Patrick Stewart, and a guy who fought off a bear.