I think Andrew hones in one of the reasons why you won't hear much outrage referencing the killing of Al-Awlaki:
My response is to note what the Obama administration seems leery of saying out loud - in line with its general response to al Qaeda which is to speak very softly while ruthlessly killing scores of mid-level and high-level operatives. This administration actually is what the Bush administration claimed to be: a relentless executor of the war in terror, armed with real intelligence and lethally accurate execution. Sure, Yemen's al Qaeda is not the core al Qaeda of Pakistan/Afghanistan - it's less global in scope and capacities. But to remove one important propaganda source of that movement has made all of us safer. And those Americans who have lived under one of Awlaki's murderous fatwas can breathe more easily today.
The same goes for al Qaeda more generally. Obama has done in two years what Bush failed to do in eight. He has skillfully done all he can to reset relations with the broader Muslim world (despite the machinations of the Israeli government) while ruthlessly wiping out swathes of Jihadist planners, operatives and foot-soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has thereby strengthened us immeasurably both in terms of soft and hard power.
There are those of us who were opposed to the War on Terror on philosophical grounds, and then those who were opposed on grounds of competency. It was not simply a matter of declaring war on terror, it was a matter of being bad at it. I understand why Dick Cheney wants an apology; Obama is the man Cheney thought he was.
There is deep temptation to take unreserved and uncritical pride in the fact that the allegedly soft, Muslim, professor from the Ivy Leagues is, in the business of eliminating those who would usher us back into the 8th century, a straight-up killer.
But for those who do not simply think Iraq was wrong because it was poorly executed, who object to machine-gun democracy, it's worth considering Conor Friedersdorf's point:
What is important to add, now that the American government is assassinating citizens without trial or due process of any kind, is how frequently it wrongly asserts that someone is an enemy of the United States. Ponder the track record of the entity that is now judge, jury and executioner.
As far back as the 1996 bombing at the Atlanta Olympics, a bungled FBI investigation and a news media indulging its worst impulses turned heroic security guard Richard Jewell into a prime suspect.
During the espionage case against Wen Ho Lee, the nuclear scientist found himself held in extremely harsh conditions, including a long stint in solitary confinement. As the judge overseeing his case would later say in a formal apology to the defendant, "During December 1999, the then-United States Attorney, who has since resigned, and his Assistants presented me, during the three-day hearing between Christmas and New Year's Day, with information that was so extreme it convinced me that releasing you, even under the most stringent of conditions, would be a danger to the safety of this nation."
As it turned out, that information was inaccurate, as evidence uncovered later proved. And Lee ultimately won $1.6 million in a civil suit against the federal government and several news organizations complicit in its wrongful behavior.
Remember the anthrax attacks on government buildings, media outlets, and the U.S. mail system? "As the pressure to find a culprit mounted, the FBI, abetted by the media, found one," David Freed wrote in a May 2010 Atlantic feature story. "This is the story of how federal authorities blew the biggest anti-terror investigation of the past decade--and nearly destroyed an innocent man." His piece is about the persecution of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill. It's necessary to say so because Army defense researcher Bruce Ivins, who the FBI later fingered as the guilty man, might not have been the culprit either.
There's some sense that killing American citizens on foreign soil is somehow different than killing American citizens here. In fact no such distinction really exist in the law. I recommend the above episode of Maddow for how she teases out the liberal tensions over assassination, but also for this important point made by Spencer Ackerman in response to whether citizenship protects you from assassination:
Ackerman: Under the authority to use military force passed right after 9/11, no. There's no carve-out, there's no mention of American citizenship. It's an exceptionally broad mandate giving the president any power he wants to wage war anywhere around the globe. It's Battlefield earth.
Maddow: How close is this to the government claiming the right to kill first and ask questions later of U.S. citizens here in the United States?
Ackerman: I don't understand what the differentiating criteria could be....Why in Yemen and not Yuma? If the important factor is that an American citizen can be targeted for destruction, why not just fly a drone over the next plot...Why even bother arresting an American citizen?
Call me crazy. But that troubles me. I'm glad that Obama got Bin Laden, and said so at the time. I was equally glad that Bush got Abu-Musab Al-Zarqawi. But this isn't a power that's likely too be scaled back--if anything expect a less prudent president to use it more expansively.
How a strange face in a random 19th-century newspaper ad became a portal to a forgotten moment in ASCII art history
One of the joys of modern technology is how easy it is to immerse yourself in the past. Every day, more libraries and archives are pushing pieces of their collections online in easily browsable interfaces.
For some, meditation has become more curse than cure. Willoughby Britton wants to know why.
Set back on quiet College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, sits a dignified, four story, 19th-century house that belongs to Dr. Willoughby Britton. Inside, it is warm, spacious, and organized. The shelves are stocked with organic foods. A solid wood dining room table seats up to 12. Plants are ubiquitous. Comfortable pillows are never far from reach. The basement—with its own bed, living space, and private bathroom—often hosts a rotating cast of yogis and meditation teachers. Britton’s own living space and office are on the second floor. The real sanctuary, however, is on the third floor, where people come from all over to rent rooms, work with Britton, and rest. But they're not there to restore themselves with meditation—they're recovering from it.
For centuries, philosophers and theologians have almost unanimously held that civilization as we know it depends on a widespread belief in free will—and that losing this belief could be calamitous. Our codes of ethics, for example, assume that we can freely choose between right and wrong. In the Christian tradition, this is known as “moral liberty”—the capacity to discern and pursue the good, instead of merely being compelled by appetites and desires. The great Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant reaffirmed this link between freedom and goodness. If we are not free to choose, he argued, then it would make no sense to say we ought to choose the path of righteousness.
Today, the assumption of free will runs through every aspect of American politics, from welfare provision to criminal law. It permeates the popular culture and underpins the American dream—the belief that anyone can make something of themselves no matter what their start in life. As Barack Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope, American “values are rooted in a basic optimism about life and a faith in free will.”
Three Atlantic staffers discuss “The Door,” the fifth episode of the sixth season.
Every week for the sixth season of Game of Thrones, Christopher Orr, Spencer Kornhaber, and Lenika Cruz will be discussing new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners are being made available to critics in advance this year, we'll be posting our thoughts in installments.
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.
Why aren’t the critics comparing Donald Trump to a fascist acknowledging that the office he seeks is too powerful?
Wake up, establishment centrists: Donald Trump is coming!
After the Vietnam War and Watergate and the spying scandals uncovered by the Church Committee and the Nixon Administration cronies who nearly firebombed the Brookings Institution, Americans were briefly inclined to rein in executive power—a rebuke to Richard Nixon’s claim that “if the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Powerful committees were created to oversee misconduct-prone spy agencies. The War Powers Resolution revived a legislative check on warmaking. “In 34 years,” Vice President Dick Cheney would lament to ABC News in a January 2002 interview, “I have repeatedly seen an erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job. I feel an obligation... to pass on our offices in better shape than we found them to our successors."
Many animated series in the U.S. are hand-drawn in South Korea, but the country’s recent transition to digital tools could spur a transformation in American television.
Animated sitcoms have long offered sharp insight into American culture. The Simpsons is so astute that, 16 years ago, the show predicted Donald Trump’s run for president. A running joke on Bob’s Burgers revolves around the “Burger of the Day,” with past entries including the “Sweet Home Avocado Burger” and “Mission A-Corn-Plished Burger.” The Boondocks follows a black family as they adjust to life in a mostly white suburb. Family Guy—a subversive spin on a family with 2.5 children and a dog living in Rhode Island—has lampooned everything from the legalization of marijuana to summer camp.
Although these primetime series appear as American as apple pie, and are conceptualized and written in the U.S., the bulk of their animation is done in South Korea. Animation requires 12 frames for every second of airtime. Korean studios take the voice recordings and the storyboards, and their artists draw out each frame—on paper. They start with characters’ key poses, then do the “in-betweening,” or the painstaking process of crafting incremental micro-movements so the motion looks smooth. Korean animators can draw 240 pages for a single 20-second scene, and around 7,000 drawings per half-hour episode.
The refugee crisis in the Dominican Republic and Haiti shows the human consequences of extreme anti-immigration policies—and how voters get used to them.
An unprecedented refugee crisis, economic inequality, and fears of terrorism are helping stoke the rise of extreme anti-immigrant politicians across Europe and the United States. Hungary’s Viktor Orban, France’s Marine Le Pen, Austria’s Norbert Hofer, and yes, Donald Trump, are riding a much-remarkedsurge in popular support, with Hofer just losing his presidential bid by a razor-thin margin. All have embraced extreme nativist rhetoric, but meanwhile a different nationalist experiment is already running its course, and uprooting thousands on the basis of their ancestry, under a leader who is by most accounts a moderate technocrat. And the Dominican Republic’s President Danilo Medina just claimed a landslide reelection victory.
FindFace's technology may one day allow anyone to identify you with their phone.
Imagine you’re sitting in a coffee shop. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a stranger pointing his phone in your direction. The next day, you get an email from someone claiming to have seen you at the coffee shop. He’s asking you on a date. You have no idea how he got your contact information, let alone how he identified you.
The power to identify total strangers on the street is the advertising pitch for a new wave of startups hoping to capitalize on rapidly advancing facial recognition technology. But in Russia, it’s already a reality.
FindFace, an app launched by a Russian startup two months ago, lets its users identify strangers from pictures of their faces. It does so by matching the photos against profile pictures from VK—also known as VKontakte—a Russian social networking website similar to Facebook. Its founders have touted the app as great for building friendships or starting relationships with strangers. But the privacy risks are enormous.