People demonstrate in defense of media freedom in Warsaw, Poland, Aug. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

In mid-August, Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice party, or PiS, introduced a bill that would ban non-European ownership of Polish media properties. Detractors saw a blatant attack on TVN, the biggest independent television news source in the country and frequent PiS critic, which is owned by U.S. media conglomerate Discovery. Despite the opposition, PiS pushed the bill through the lower chamber of parliament with the help of some dubious procedural maneuvers and the votes of several MPs from an allied party, sparking widespread—and at times colorful—accusations of political corruption. The resulting political maelstrom leaves Poland with its freedom of […]

President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and others watch as the remains of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, are returned to Dover Air Force Base, Del., Aug. 29, 2021 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

At first glance, the tenacity of vaccine nationalism and the shambolic U.S. departure from Afghanistan appear to be completely unrelated. And yet they both expose the moral costs of a world dominated by sovereign states that consistently place narrow national interest above the ethical imperative of alleviating the suffering of strangers.  This is hardly a news flash. The question of how governments should square their duties to their own citizens with their obligations to those in other countries is an inherent and recurrent ethical quandary in international relations. It is at the heart of debates over humanitarian intervention, foreign aid, […]

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., August 26, 2021 (Photo by Oliver Contreras for Sipa USA via AP Images).

Debacle. That is the only right and proper way to describe President Joe Biden’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden lost every point he’s dropped in national polling this week entirely of his own accord, and history will not be any kinder to his foreign policy legacy. Most Americans might agree with the White House decision to exit Afghanistan. Regardless, August 2021 will remain an indelible stain on the United States’ reputation.  That was already the case before yesterday’s horrific suicide bombing outside Kabul’s international airport, which left at least 100 dead, including 13 U.S. servicemembers, and 150 injured, according to the latest […]

Students wearing Haitian national flags wait for the start of a parade marking Flag Day, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, May 18, 2019 (AP photo by ).

Haiti was already mired in a deep political crisis and humanitarian emergency before a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck earlier this month, killing at least 2,200 people and injuring and displacing thousands more. The country’s acting president and prime minister, Ariel Henry, had been in office for less than a month when the disaster occurred, having assumed power in the wake of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7. Moise had been facing mass protests and widespread demands for his resignation due to rampant corruption and mismanagement of the economy under his administration. Amid the turmoil, a coalition of Haitian […]

A destroyed tank by the side of the road in western Tigray, Ethiopia, May 1, 2021 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Millions of people in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region are currently at risk of famine, a situation brought on by the government’s invasion of the region last fall after a long-running political dispute, as well as an unofficial blockade imposed on Tigray since June by federal troops, allied Eritrean forces and ethnic militias. Throughout the conflict, reports of unspeakable atrocities have been a near-daily occurrence, and the warring parties appear more resolved than ever to seek victory on the battlefield.  With no end in sight to the fighting, it’s time for the U.S. to accept that its efforts to coax the […]

Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye is inaugurated in Gitega, Burundi, June 18, 2020 (AP photo by Berthier Mugiraneza).

On July 1, Rwandan Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente visited Burundi to mark the country’s Independence Day—the first high-level visit between the two neighbors in years. Apparently seeking to turn the page on years of sometimes violent tensions, Ngirente said, “This is the right time for Burundi and Rwanda to build on our existing strong foundation of historical and cultural linkages in order to achieve prosperity and development.” Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimeye issued a similarly forward-looking statement in response: “Let us leave the past behind, and open a new chapter.”  Only a year ago, few observers of the region would have […]

A man searches for his passport among the wreckage of his grandmother’s collapsed house, in Maniche, Haiti, Aug. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Matias Delacroix).

Relief efforts are continuing in Haiti following the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit the country on Aug. 14, causing widespread destruction in the southern peninsula, near the quake’s epicenter. The death toll has surpassed 2,200, with 344 people still missing, according to the Haitian Civil Protection Agency. More than 12,000 people have been injured and nearly 53,000 houses destroyed. The disaster occurred during a deep political crisis in Haiti, which took a tragic and unexpected turn when President Jovenel Moise was assassinated on July 7. Before that, Moise had been governing mainly through executive orders due to his failure to organize […]

An iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger (AP file photo by Jenny Kane).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Kate Jones is filling in this week for Emily Taylor. Efforts to regulate social media platforms are gathering pace in the United Kingdom. In May, the British government published its draft Online Safety Bill, which will be studied by a Joint Committee of Members of Parliament and the House of Lords chaired by MP Damian Collins this autumn. Collins led parliament’s exposé of the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal and is a leading U.K. voice on disinformation and digital regulation. In parallel, the House of Commons’ Sub-Committee on Online Harms and Disinformation will also lead an enquiry […]

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The swift return of the Taliban to power has sparked panic in Afghanistan and sent shockwaves around the world. With U.S. military forces taking control of the Kabul airport and the evacuation of foreign nationals and thousands of Afghans proceeding, important questions loom about the future of Afghanistan and the impact of the convulsive events that unfolded over the past few days. Here are some of the major unknowns going forward, the answers to which, as they emerge over the coming weeks, months and years, will determine how exactly the radical group’s return will reshape the country, the region and, […]

Life jackets at the waste disposal site near Molivos, Lesbos, Greece, March 12, 2020 (AP photo by Grigoris Siamidis).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Europe Decoder, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about Europe. Subscribe to receive it by email every Thursday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Six years after the peak of the 2015 migrant crisis, which upended European politics, the European Union is faced with the prospect of another wave of refugees and asylum-seekers, as the continent braces itself for the fallout from the rapid departure of the U.S. and its NATO allies from […]

Then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger speaking with an elderly Afghan refugee during his visit to an Afghan refugee village in northwest Pakistan, Oct. 1, 1983 (AP photo by Moin Ban).

In October 1983, during a visit to New York City from West Africa, where I had recently begun a career as a foreign correspondent, I stood in my uncle’s kitchen and took in the evening news over a drink before dinner. The main story that night was the visit by then-President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, to Pakistan. Weinberger traveled to that country’s border with Afghanistan and there, at the Khyber Pass, vowed that U.S. support for Afghan insurgents would bring down the Soviet-backed government in power in Kabul at the time. “I want you to know that […]

President Joe Biden, right, meets with former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, left, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, June 25, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it.  The return of Taliban rule to Afghanistan 20 years after the group’s ouster by a U.S.-led coalition came as a great shock, first and foremost to the Afghan population. Its many flaws notwithstanding, the now-dissolved, Western-backed Afghan central government allowed Afghans to live under a considerably less repressive system than […]

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

Qatar will hold elections for its national legislative body, the Shura Council, for the first time in October. However, rare public demonstrations erupted this week in response to restrictive electoral eligibility requirements, demonstrating that the planned polls entail a degree of risk for the country’s rulers. While the provision for national elections was included in Qatar’s 2003 constitution, they had been repeatedly postponed until this year, partly due to concerns about the prospect of social unrest.  Under the election law that was approved last week by Emir Tamim Bin al Thani, certain Qataris will be able to elect 30 of the 45 members […]

Afghan security personnel work at the site of a powerful explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul)

This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. This week, the Taliban continued its offensive, which has now overrun 11 provincial capitals in Afghanistan, including in parts of the country outside of the group’s historical base of support. Today’s Weekly Wrap-Up recaps and distills several WPR articles from the past week, including three that take a closer look at the roots of the Afghan army’s […]

Internally displaced Afghans from northern provinces, who fled their homes due to fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security personnel, wait to receive free food in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

From the moment President Joe Biden announced in April that the United States would withdraw all its military forces from Afghanistan within a few months, the level of violence there intensified, negotiations sputtered and the prospects for the Afghan people—especially Afghan women—became grim. The seeming rashness of the decision and lack of planning to handle obvious major contingencies were serious missteps for a president that has so far made mostly thoughtful, carefully calibrated moves. This is not to suggest that U.S. forces should stay in Afghanistan forever. To be sure, Afghanistan is the land of no easy solutions, and Biden […]

Supporters hold banners as they wait for of Zhou Xiaoxuan outside at a courthouse where Zhou is appearing in a sexual harassment case in Beijing, China, Dec. 2, 2020 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox.  The Alibaba Group has once again come under scrutiny this week, after a female employee of the online shopping behemoth accused her supervisor of rape during a business trip, sparking furor on the internet and across China. The allegation is far from an isolated incident, as the problems of […]

A demonstrator protesting against the court order requiring Apple to make it easier for the FBI to unlock an encrypted iPhone used by a gunman in the December 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack, Feb. 23, 2016, in New York (AP photo by Julie Jacobson).

Last Friday, Apple announced that it was implementing measures to combat the distribution of child sexual abuse media, or CSAM, on its services. Apple, the company that famously defied the FBI by refusing to provide technical assistance in hacking its own iPhones after a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, surprised commentators in both the tech and human rights communities with this announcement, and there was a predictable torrent of criticism from both ends of the policy spectrum. The electronic distribution of child abuse images has been a perennial and unsolved issue for more than 20 years. The growing popularity […]

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