Are you an Assadist?

Hunkering down: a poster of Syria's president at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus, Jan. 14 2012. (E. Arrott/VOA)

Some people whose interest in the Middle East is recent think that Assad is a uniquely Syrian phenomenon. I think the excessively harsh despotism and the equally excessive ability to cruelly exterminate your own population while believing yourself to be setting your nation on the road to modernity are quite unique in terms of their degree and intensity, but Assadism is nonetheless a more widespread political disposition in the Arab world. It can even be described as a mode of being. How do you recognise an Assadist? Here are some helpful suggestions for the newcomers: • An Assadist is anyone who … Continue reading

Six reasons why we don’t need a new cold war

The Pentagon budget the Obama administration unveiled this week calls for quadrupling spending on efforts to counter Russia. The money would move more troops, tanks, and artillery into position near the Russia border. This last Obama budget would also fund another installment in a $1 trillion and 30-year plan to “modernize” our nuclear arsenal with new land-based missiles, bombers, and submarines. If Congress supports the White House’s request, this budget would have our country spending more, adjusting for inflation, than we did during most of the Cold War. The Republican-controlled Congress wants to add even more. Sounds like we’re gearing … Continue reading

Why has BBC Panorama gone after Putin?

Last week, BBC Panorama exposed President Putin, and allegations of corruption against him. At first the programme focuses on Putin’s lifestyle – his expensive watches and tracksuits – and quickly moves on to hearing journalists, former allies and politicians dredge up old accusations: $40 billion in assets and the Cape Idokopas palace. It notes that the CIA and the FBI agree that Putin may be worth $40 billion in assets. We’ve heard much of this before. However, Panorama does flesh out its coverage with new goodies for its viewers. The US Treasury’s Adam Szubin makes an appearance to call Putin … Continue reading