World update: October 11 2018



At least 15 Afghan police officers were killed Thursday in a Taliban attack in Kunduz province, while at least 21 Taliban fighters were killed in an Afghan attack in Wardak province.

Elsewhere, Afghan forces are reportedly chasing a Hazara warlord named Alipur. After they tried and failed to capture him in a gun battle in Ghor province on Friday, Alipur resurfaced in Wardak province this week, speaking to a rally of his supporters. Alipur is one of many warlords who have sprung up among Afghanistan’s many ethnic communities in opposition to the Pashtun-dominated government in Kabul. He formed his militia in response to repeated Taliban and ISIS attacks against the Hazara and then apparently began targeting Pashtun civilians in retaliation. Often these warlords operate with the government’s acquiescence (there’s simply not much the overwhelmed Afghan security establishment can do about these guys) or even support, but Alipur seems to have taken things too far for Kabul.


The Pakistani government on Thursday began the process of securing an International Monetary Fund bailout loan, but at the same time Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seems intent on fulfilling campaign promises to expand social services and welfare. That kind of government spending on stuff that might actually help people is of course strictly anathema to the IMF, so it’s very much an open question whether it will actually agree to issue the loan.


Indian forces killed two members of the Kashmiri rebel group Hizbul Mujahedeen, one of them a well-known intellectual leader named Manan Wani, in a gun battle in the town of Handwara on Thursday. Kashmiri separatist leaders called for a general strike in the province in Wani’s honor. Also on Thursday, one separatist leader was shot and killed by unknown gunmen in Shopian district.


The Trump administration has started blocking US NGO aid workers from going to North Korea, according to the Wall Street Journal. The administration maintains a general ban on travel to North Korea but now seems to be ending the humanitarian exceptions to that ban. The intention seems to be to motivate North Korea to denuclearize by further restricting the flow of food and medical care into the country, quite literally sacrificing people’s lives in the name of pressuring Kim Jong-un.



Three Malian soldiers were killed overnight when their vehicle hit a landmine near the border with Burkina Faso. The government blamed “terrorists” for the blast.


Cameroon’s elections commission says it has received 25 petitions from various parties looking to have the results of the country’s October 7 election annulled due to voting irregularities:

Candidates Cabral Libii of the opposition Universe party and Joshua Osih of the opposition Social Democratic Front are among those who want the polls annulled. They allege massive fraud and ballot stuffing in favor of President Paul Biya’s ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party.

Cleric Rigobert Gabanmidanha of the Live and Peace Ministry also petitioned for the cancellation of the polls. He claims the constitutional council that certifies election results is controlled by Biya and that many opposition supporters like himself were not allowed to vote.



A Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station malfunctioned on Thursday, forcing the Russian cosmonaut and US astronaut aboard to make an emergency landing in their capsule. Both men were OK but Russia has suspended further launches pending an investigation, which is going to be a drag for the three people already on the ISS though they apparently have plenty of supplies up there so they should be fine.


An Orthodox synod on Thursday granted independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church based in Kiev, officially separating it from the Russian Orthodox Church that has been the controlling religious authority in Ukraine since the 17th century. In response, the Russian Orthodox Church announced that it’s severing ties with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul. Obviously the political context here is the whole Kiev-Moscow conflict over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, but there’s a deeper story here involving the creation of the Kiev Patriarchate following the collapse of the Soviet Union. That patriarchate challenged the position of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine but hadn’t been able to get official recognition of its independence until Thursday’s ruling. The Moscow Patriarchate claims that it’s been unfairly labeled by Ukrainian authorities as a tool of the Russian government.


This just in: Germany’s government is really unpopular. New polling shows Angela Merkel’s Christian bloc down 3 points to 26 percent support, while her Social Democratic coalition partner is also down 3 points to 15 percent support. That makes the SPD the fourth most popular party in the country, behind the far right Alternative for Germany at 16 percent and the Greens, interestingly, at 17 percent.



If Jair Bolsonaro’s fascism doesn’t bother you, consider his environmental program, which apparently includes plans to build new hydroelectric dams on the Amazon despite fears that they will damage the Amazonian biosphere and displace indigenous communities. He’s a really good guy. Bolsonaro’s polling is so strong that he’s begun making cabinet picks despite the fact that his runoff against Fernando Haddad is still more than two weeks away. His message ahead of the runoff seems to be that Haddad, a moderate center-leftist, will turn Brazil into another Venezuela. Given Brazilian concerns over Venezuela’s collapsing economy and the migrant crisis it’s created, this is probably going to be a pretty powerful message even if it’s also a pretty absurd one.


The Pentagon has grounded its entire F-35 fleet following a training crash last month, apparently over some sort of fault in the planes’ fuel tubes. What a phenomenal investment of $1.5 trillion. Israel and the United Kingdom have naturally followed suit with their F-35s. Presumably this problem will be fixed and the plane will resume operations–at least until the next problem surfaces. But the grounding could delay the sale of F-35s to Turkey, which would give Congress more time to reconsider that sale altogether. As US-Turkish relations have deteriorated, lawmakers have increasingly questioned the decision to sell Turkey high-end US military hardware like the F-35.

Finally, over at Fellow Travelers, Michael Youhana lays out a left-wing vision of an internationalism that, instead of causing damage around the world, focuses on repairing the damage the US has already done:

Writing separately in n+1 and the New York Times, Aziz Rana and Daniel Bessner propose a set of principles to undergird a better foreign policy. They supplement a standard American leftist commitment to “do no harm” with a number of more detailed imperatives. The American left should work to reform or supplant neoliberal international organizations, like the IMF, and military alliances, e.g. NATO. Revitalized and “inclusive multilateral regional and international institutions” should underwrite social democracy around the world and facilitate cooperation on climate change and disarmament. On the home front, Rana argues that the American left should work to dismantle inhumane and wasteful national security agencies, most notably ICE. Bessner recommends expanding Congress’s role in foreign policymaking and oversight. Finally, both authors recognize the need for legal accountability for Americans, like Gina Haspel, who commit human rights abuses abroad and/or otherwise violate international law.

To this mix, I would add an additional positive principle to guide a left-wing foreign policy. The American left should embrace a reparative internationalism –  we should take responsibility for the United States’s wrongdoing across the globe and endeavor to make amends. A reparative internationalism would reject isolationism by prompting Americans to express concern for individuals beyond our shores. But unlike the variants of liberal internationalism that have dominated foreign policy thinking since the start of the Cold War, this new internationalism would reject militarism and imperialism. It would seek to recompense victims of empire and acknowledge the wreckage caused by an excess of American wealth, power, and hubris.

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