A man holds a banner showing the eyes of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a protest against the government’s alleged use of powerful spyware to spy on opponents, Budapest, Hungary, July 26, 2021 (AP photo by Anna Szilagyi).

Like picking up a rock in the garden, the NSO Pegasus spyware scandal exposes a repulsive world teaming with life in the muck and mire—so much so that it is tempting to put the stone back in place and pretend that world doesn’t exist. There are many layers to the story: the human cost, the murky ethics of selling powerful spy tools to states with poor human rights records, and the complexities of trying to regulate the global market for such software. They all point to a challenge that will be with us for some time, despite the popular outrage […]

Soldiers patrol during a military operation in Macarena, southern Colombia, Feb. 20, 2010 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

BOGOTA, Colombia—Carlos Martinez joined the Colombian military at the age of 17, a minor who had to obtain his parents’ written permission to enlist. “I didn’t have many options. There aren’t a lot of opportunities in this country for someone like me who grew up poor,” he said, “but war will always be profitable.” Martinez spent almost 10 years on active duty in the army, eventually joining an elite special forces unit that fought armed groups and drug traffickers in the Andean countryside. Colombia, which currently boasts some 250,000 active-duty armed forces personnel, produced millions of soldiers like Martínez during […]

Mounds of rubble, remnants of the battle to retake the city three years ago from the Islamic State group, remain in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 29, 2020 (AP photo by Samya Kullab).

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. MOSUL, Iraq—Last week, the inhabitants of Mosul observed the fourth anniversary of their city’s liberation from the Islamic State, in a cityscape scarred as much by the military operation to dislodge ISIS as by the rule of ISIS itself. The now-defunct caliphate, which governed Mosul from 2014 to 2017, still […]

Supporters of the Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami at a rally against the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas, in Peshawar, Pakistan, April 23, 2011 (AP photo by Mohammad Sajjad).

On June 30, a coalition of 100 NGOs delivered a concise letter to the office of President Joseph Biden demanding “an end to the unlawful program of lethal strikes outside any recognized battlefield, including through the use of drones.” The letter arrived at an important political and symbolic juncture, just as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, initially scheduled to coincide with the 20th anniversary of 9/11, was nearing completion. The attacks of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan that followed kicked off the massive expansion of America’s military footprint abroad, from which the drone program emerged and grew. […]

Indonesian tanks during a parade marking the 74th anniversary of the Indonesian armed forces in Jakarta, Oct. 5, 2019 (AP photo by Tatan Syuflana).

When Japan signed a deal with Indonesia in March enabling it to export defense equipment to the Southeast Asian country, some media outlets highlighted the supposed shared interests between Japan and Indonesia in countering China. According to the Associated Press, for example, the agreement would allow the two countries to “strengthen their military ties in the face of China’s increasingly assertive activity in the region.” But a closer look reveals that Tokyo and Jakarta have very different reasons for signing the agreement.  While Japanese officials stressed the need to deter China and prevent it from making unilateral changes to the […]

Myanmar nationals living in Taiwan hold up the three-finger salute of resistance to express their disdain toward the military regime in Myanmar, during a demonstration in Taipei, Taiwan, May 2, 2021 (AP photo by Chiang Ying-ying).

Back in February, several weeks after Myanmar’s military ousted the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, I spoke on the phone with a 25-year-old researcher in Yangon, the country’s largest city. Having joined popular demonstrations against the coup, he said he was surprised at the scale of resistance to the new junta. The movement, which quickly became known as the Civil Disobedience Movement, had galvanized hundreds of thousands of nonviolent protesters across the country, as massive strikes at public agencies, banks and businesses threatened to grind government functioning and the economy to a halt. The researcher, who asked […]