Thursday, August 14, 2014

More nuance from Perez Molina

Here is an op-ed by the President of Guatemala offering a very knowledgeable local perspective on the roots of the child migration crisis, and some initial ideas for policies that might end it (namely, freer legal short-term migration, not stricter border controls).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robert Gates and lasting, rippling consequences

This is a long-form book review/historical-political analysis about Robert Gates and more generally the long-lasting, far-reaching aftereffects that ripple out whenever the US intervenes abroad for some current political purpose.  The article links the US-backed coup in Iran in 1953 with the Iranian revolution in 1979, and this with the Afghan insurgency of the 1980s, the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of international Islamist insurgent movements, the US interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq in the 2000s, and finally 2014's complicated Middle Eastern web of ISIS insurgencies and the international reaction to them (which has thrust the US and Iran into the uncomfortable position of de facto allies on certain issues).  The message I take away from the article is that, though no one in 1953 could possibly have guessed that deposing Mossadegh would contribute to the rise of ISIS in Iraq in 2014, we in the US (and any country with wide-ranging foreign policy ambitions) should be more humble in our direct interventions abroad.  Not just because our interventions can lead to the death and suffering of other people, and that's not good, but because in fact these interventions that seem to make sense in the short term inevitably have long-term consequences that end up harming our own country.  It's a point that's been made before in many places and in many ways, but it always bears repeating, and I think that author Mark Danner does a great job here by making this case through the analysis of Robert Gates's political life, as told by Gates himself in two memoirs.  I first became aware of Mark Danner for his writing on Haiti, and recently he has started this series on the Long War in Afghanistan and Iraq, profiling figures like Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates.  I think he offers much more critical thought and analysis than much of the journalism out there right now.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Another light gone

I am really sad about Robin Williams's death.  I found out about it by chance last night from a yahoo news feed, which I normally never see.  It's especially sad because it follows on the heels of Phillip Seymour Hoffman's death.  Both were master artists in their way (despite a lot of really bad movies Williams starred in), both apparently were struggling with psychological demons and addiction.  I'm usually not one to follow or care about the lives of celebrities I don't know, but I grew up with these guys' work--they played a part in shaping my surroundings and who I am.

Here is an old video of Robin Williams from Sesame Street:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Caribbean articles

Here are two interesting articles on the Caribbean.  One is on the rich cultural and intellectual history of the region, especially in its writers and political leaders.  The article makes the point that by subscribing to caricatures of places like the Caribbean instead of being alert to their nuance and human wealth, the rest of the world impoverishes itself.  It's an observation I've often shared as I've come to know Colombia or other exotic developing countries.  Far from being monochromatic lands of uninspired poverty or static, idiosyncratic folklore, every place I've gotten to know in my life has surprised me with the unexpected diversity of thought, of attitude, of personalities, and even of values among the people I meet.  You miss out on this if you just assume that an entire population conforms to the two or three most salient stereotypes of a given place or race.

The second article talks about the importance of the Kreyol language in making Haitian society more educated and more inclusive.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Prescriptions from the Wilson Center

This is a brief from the Wilson Center in Washington, DC regarding the child refugee crisis in Central America. While much of the framing of the brief is from a US, migration and border control perspective, the recommendations at the end are spot on. They all point to making northern Central America safer, more stable, and more prosperous in order to stem the flood of people fleeing the area.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

More on the child refugee crisis

Here is an opinion piece that gives a more nuanced consideration than I have to whether Central American children surrendering themselves to US Border patrols should be classified as refugees or mere economic migrants.  This other articles fleshes out the story a bit, showing that the titles of "refugee" or "migrant" also overlap in many ways here, as parents and relatives already in the US (some prior economic migrants, and others earlier waves of war refugees) send for and pay money for their children's passage to the country. 

In this article, the president of Honduras discusses the portion of blame that should go to the US for the current crisis.  He focuses on the US demand for drugs that finance and embolden brutal gangs, as opposed to pointing out the US role in the civil wars and coups d'etat that created the conditions for and trained the membership of these gangs.  In this sense I believe he's missing part of the story, but the president of Guatemala is very clear about the Cold War roots of the problem.  And these are by no means radical, critical leftists saying this.  Hernandez of Honduras is from the right-wing party and hails from an oligarch family, and Perez Molina of Guatemala was part of the military's brutal counterinsurgency campaign during the Civil War there.  Both presidents are choosing their words carefully so as not to be confrontational or inflammatory, but even so, they feel it is important and necessary to signal the US role in generating the current crisis.