February 26th, 2018

world, politics, season

Link Salad, the Bellum Americanae Edition

-- Here’s what war with North Korea would look like - Yochi Dreazen, Vox.com, Feb. 8, 2018

"North Korea’s arsenal is thought to include smallpox, yellow fever, anthrax, hemorrhagic fever, and even plague. They are some of the most frightening substances on earth, and Weber expects some of them to be used against South Korean ports, airfields, and cities as a way of killing large numbers of civilians and troops while causing terror on a nationwide scale."

-- How the U.S. Is Making the War in Yemen Worse - Nicolas Niarchos, The New Yorker, Jan. 22, 2018

"In November, 2015, despite American skepticism toward the Saudi war plan and evidence of heavy civilian casualties, the Obama Administration agreed to a giant weapons sale totalling $1.29 billion. The Saudis were authorized to buy seven thousand and twenty Paveway-II bombs. By the end of Obama's Presidency, the U.S. had offered more than a hundred and fifteen billion dollars' worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, the largest amount under any President, including warships, air-defense systems, and tanks."

-- How the heroin trade explains the US-UK failure in Afghanistan - Alfred W. McCoy, The Guardian, Jan. 9, 2018

"While the American bombing campaign raged throughout October 2001, the CIA shipped $70m in cash into the country to mobilise its old cold war coalition of tribal warlords for the fight against the Taliban, an expenditure President George W Bush would later hail as one of history’s biggest “bargains”. To capture Kabul and other key cities, the CIA put its money behind the leaders of the Northern Alliance, an ethnic Tajik force that had fought the Soviets in the 1980s and then resisted the Taliban government in the 1990s. They, in turn, had long dominated the drug traffic in the area of north-east Afghanistan that they controlled during the Taliban years. The CIA also turned to a group of rising Pashtun warlords along the Pakistan border who had been active as drug smugglers in the south-eastern part of the country. As a result, when the Taliban collapsed, the groundwork had already been laid for the resumption of opium cultivation and the drug trade on a major scale."

-- Why do white people like what I write? - Pankaj Mishra, London Review of Books, Feb. 22, 2018

"The intimate relationship between America’s internal and external wars, established by its original sin, has long been clear. The question was always how long mainstream intellectuals could continue to offer fig-leaf euphemisms for shock-and-awe racism, and suppress an entwined history of white supremacism and militarisation with fables about American exceptionalism, liberalism’s long battle with totalitarianism, and that sort of thing. Hurricane Katrina, coming after the non-discovery of WMDs in Iraq, undermined liberal faith in Bush’s heavily racialised war. American claims to global moral leadership since the 1960s had depended greatly on the apparent breakthrough of the civil rights movement, and the sidelining of the bigots who screamed: ‘segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation for ever’. In New Orleans, black bodies naked before the elements of the world – elements which included trigger-happy Blackwater mercenaries guarding the rich – made it clear that old-style racial separation had been replaced by sharply defined zones of prosperity and destitution: segregation for ever. But the apparent successes of social liberalism, culminating in Obama’s election, managed to obscure the new regimes of racial sequester for a while longer. Since the 1990s, the bonanzas of free trade and financial deregulation had helped breed greater tolerance for racial and sexual variety, primarily among the privileged – the CIA under Obama set up a recruiting office at the Miami Beach Gay Pride parade. Overt racism and homophobia had become taboo, even as imprisonment or premature death removed 1.5 million black men from public life. Diversification and multiculturalism among upwardly mobile, college-educated elites went together with mass incarceration at home and endless military interventions abroad."

Link Salad, the East Asia Edition

-- The Redemption Of Figure Skater Mirai Nagasu - Dvora Meyers, Deadspin, Jan. 4, 2018

"After all, Nagasu hadn’t done anything wrong in 2014. Her “mistake” wasn’t even a mistake—she simply over-performed after a few years of underperforming, and came on strong a little too late in the Olympic cycle. In a subjectively judged sport like skating, skating cleanly is as important as having the reputation for skating cleanly. When you make mistakes in successive competitions, it can become harder to extract the points from the judges. A skater has to create an expectation of success in order to be successful. Nagasu hadn’t done quite enough hitting in the years leading up to Sochi to create that expectation, at least compared to Wagner and 2014 national champion Gracie Gold."

-- Uchi - Kazuo Ishiguro, London Review of Books, Aug. 1, 1985

"There is no doubt that at times Morley goes too far in applying his uchi-theory, and his insistence on it often prevents him exploring other lines of relevant thought. It seems odd to discuss Japanese ethics without giving space to the influence of Bushido, the samurai ethical code, which arguably has had a greater effect on everyday Japanese behaviour than either of the two main religions, Shintoism and Buddhism. Neither does he ponder the role which the patron-protégé relationship plays at every level of Japanese society, and which has been highlighted by many, including the Japanese anthropologist Chie Nakane, as crucial to the understanding of what is peculiarly Japanese about the Japanese. There is a tendency to assume that anything non-European about Japanese culture must be uniquely Japanese. Behind this seems to lie the sadly familiar presumption that white European (or European-based) cultures comprise world culture. I would be happier with his suggestion that the Japanese are peculiarly obsessed with the idea of uchi if I were satisfied that it was not equally dominant in, say, Arab, African or Indian societies. In fact, it is not impossible that it is Western European culture which is distinct from the rest of the world in having a peculiarly diffused sense of uchi. Then again, the concept, as defined here, standing as it can for one’s family or for the whole of Japan, remains hazy. A view of behaviour which cannot clearly distinguish between the next-door neighbour and a foreigner is in danger of grossly simplifying the Japanese attitude towards different kinds of outsider."

-- Han Kang and the Complexity of Translation - Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, Jan. 15, 2018

"In an essay about translating “Human Acts,” published in the online magazine Asymptote, Deborah Smith describes reading Han’s work and being “arrested by razor-sharp images which arise from the text without being directly described there.” She quotes a couple of her “very occasional interpolations,” including the striking phrase “sad flames licking up against a smooth wall of glass.” Charse Yun, in his essay about “The Vegetarian,” declares his admiration for Smith’s work but argues that it is a “new creation.” Smith insists that the phrases she added are images “so powerfully evoked by the Korean that I sometimes find myself searching the original text in vain, convinced that they were in there somewhere, as vividly explicit as they are in my head.”"
world, politics, season

Link Salad, the Refugee Camp Edition

-- The Lessons of Atmeh - Joshua Hersh, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fall 2014

"Of course, the problems at Atmeh were much larger than any one man, just like the problems in the uprising were larger than just Atmeh. One fascinating component of reading about Syria’s history in the 1940s and ’50s was noticing how many of the last names—and lingering family conflicts—ricocheted across the modern-day opposition. Of the many Syrian expatriates with whom Shishakly regularly came in contact were several descendants of people his grandfather had tangled with sixty years ago. The grandson of Muhsin al-Barazi, who was killed in the coup partly orchestrated by the elder Shishakly, now runs an agency similar to Yakzan’s, delivering aid from southern Turkey to distant, rebel-held parts of Syria. The granddaughter of Sami Hinnawi, who Yakzan’s grandfather ousted in the later coup, is an interpreter for the UN in Turkey. Even the head of the Syrian opposition’s humanitarian-affairs wing, Suheir Atassi, has ties to the old days: Her ancestors led the opposition against the elder Shishakly in the final years of his reign, and one of them mounted the mutiny that ended his rule. In public, the descendants talk about the feuds as bygone history, but at least one I met quietly described another family as a “nemesis.” Historical betrayals are not so easily forgotten. “I guess my dad killed his grandfather,” another descendent said when we met in southern Turkey. “But we could also ask him why his grandfather killed my cousin.”"

-- How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp - Mac McClelland, New York Times Magazine, Feb. 13, 2014

"Initially refusing Syrian refugees entry might have been difficult, given the already open border between the two countries and the gaps between checkpoints and a war close enough to bring in stray fire. The Syrians are also mostly Sunni Muslims, and Turkey has a record of embracing refugees with ethnic and cultural ties; it absorbed more than 300,000 from Bulgaria in 1989 and 25,000 from Bosnia in the early ‘90s. Whatever the reason, Turkey decided to open its arms to its war-ravaged Syrian neighbors. Except for intermittent closures, when fighting is too intense or fears of terrorist activity at the border arise, any Syrians with passports can cross through checkpoints. They come and go all day, some of them driving in, others on foot, carrying their belongings in big bundles or wearing dress slacks and trailing roller suitcases. Turkey is building walls along small sections of its border where the Syrian-side clashes involve Kurds, and it sometimes closes the border to those without passports pending security clearance, as happened recently when large numbers of Syrians fled intensive bombing in Aleppo. But when I was at Kilis, even those without passports could move unimpeded around the checkpoint. They streamed steadily in and out of the olive groves, appearing or disappearing among the trees."