Illusions of Change in Morocco

For those stricken with thirst in a desert, even brackish water will taste sweet.

Herein lays the strategy of Morocco’s monarchical regime—“regime” here meaning the palace, its security organs, and major players from the sprawling elite network known as the makhzen. Nearly six years after the Arab Spring, this autocracy has made the ultimate gamble: can it indefinitely maintain the vast distance between its democratic promises versus the authoritarian status quo? So long as it contrasts Moroccan stability against collapsing states like Libya and Syria, broadcasts new pledges for future reform, and conducts exercises like this October’s parliamentary elections, so its thinking goes, then the world will applaud Morocco.

To be sure, this ploy is working wonders with foreigners. Western journalists frequently praise the kingdom as a “model” of democratic reform. American think tankers see its monarchy as the region’s most progressive, not least because it cooperates with Washington’s security and economic interests. Yet the problem is the primary threat to any nondemocratic regime is hardly the outside world. It is its own society. Revolutions occur when a popular mass no longer finds its government credible, and would rather accept the uncertainty of a new political order than suffer from the constraints of the old one. And today, there exist two reasons to worry that Moroccans themselves are not buying their regime’s insistence that all is well.

First, the core structure of Moroccan politics has not changed since the Arab Spring, which instigated the historic 20 February Movement, several thousand street protests, and, ultimately constitutional amendments. Yet though now the official government is formed by parliament, all resemblances to constitutional monarchies stop here. This is still a near-absolutist kingship, but for a unique reason. In most other Arab monarchies, autocratic royals either lack religious authority or attempt to claim Islamic credentials based upon their political leadership. In Morocco, by contrast,the head of the Alaouite Dynasty is seen as Commander of the Faithful, embodying the will of the Muslim community—and from that fount of legitimacy flows incontestable political power.

Thus the palace still makes all major domestic and foreign policy decisions, treats the legislative branch as an afterthought, runs a parallel media sector masquerading as the mainstream press, and controls the levers of state repression (which today still smothers critics). This flies in the face of what parliamentary democracy, even in constitutional monarchies, requires—the absence of any unelected tutelary authority, whether they be kings, generals, or priests, who can singlehandedly dictate the political system and veto all elected officials without institutional accountability to society. The 2011 constitutional amendments did not result in this because they never intended to in the first place. Most of all, the public is growing tired of this charade. Less than half of all voters bothered to turn out for the first parliamentary elections after the 2011 amendments, and that number appears to have declined further to 43 percent in October’s contest. Notably, these participation rates are based on the number of officially registered voters. Around eight million voting-age Moroccans have not bothered registering to vote, underscoring a harsh reality: the promise of gradual reform is giving way to open ire that the Arab Spring brought little except more flowery language to the constitution.

The second reason to worry is that the underlying economic problem—a huge youth demographic, and too few jobs—has also not changed since 2011. About 30 percent of the population is between the ages of 15 and 29, and they suffer massive unemployment. Today, four out of five unemployed people fall in this age group. One reason is that the educational system does not meet the demands of the job market. In rural areas especially, education is still inadequate; one-third of the populace remains illiterate, which seeds economic informality and poverty. For the large urban middle class, schools and universities are more attuned to producing paper credentials rather than viable skills, such as training in competitive sectors like technology or else vocational expertise for new industries like automobile manufacturing. In essence, too many students are still encouraged to pursue theoretical degrees in university settings in hopes of landing in a cushy managerial or government office.

Public opinion polls reveal that these issues are not disappearing from the mentality of many young Moroccans. For them, material wellbeing and economic dignity remain foremost concerns. Indeed, a recent Gallup study showed one out of three youths wish to leave the kingdom altogether due to unfulfilled aspirations and lack of opportunities (which, perversely, may help the government since it removes a key protest demographic). Moroccan youths also evoke intense frustration with endemic corruption, including the palace’s own economic ties to the business elite, and bemoan that personal and familial connections still matter more than merit when climbing the ladder of bureaucracy.

These two political and economic realities make a mockery of the promises made in 2011, when the monarchy began formulating its “model” of change. To be sure, as many researchers note, the regime defeated the 20 February Movement and other protest groups during the Arab Spring using a mix of repression, co-optation, and reform promises. Today, though, a more troubling future beckons. Social unrest continues to simmer despite pressure upon the few remaining independent media outlets to avoid these stories. Protests regularly break out whenever hot-button issues trigger communal anger—from rising utility prices to fiscal austerity—and reports of police brutality, arbitrary detention, and torture against critics still leak out, despite the kingdom’s constant ban against human rights monitors.

The economic and political reality of Morocco has become untenably divorced from the rosy picture invoked for Western audiences. Moroccans are thirsty for change, and many are no longer drinking the brackish water from the palace. There is little reason why they should: After nearly six years of “democratization,” things are still the dreary same.

Sean Yom is an associate professor of political science at Temple University.

Fall 2016

Not so long ago, democracy was on the rise. The crumbling of the Berlin Wall brought pluralism to much of the former Communist bloc. Nations from the Philippines to South Africa to Brazil also saw remarkable democratic advances. More recently, the Arab Spring uprisings demonstrated the strong desire for liberty throughout the Middle East.

But in 2016 the world is in a sorry state, hence our Fall 2016 issue’s Special Report: Democracy Deficits. The timing is especially appropriate given the difficulties we witnessed in this year’s presidential election in the United States—a country with 240 years of democratic experience. In “The Meaning of Trump,” Donald T. Critchlow charts how an anti-establishment billionaire reshaped the Republican Party and American politics by mobilizing an angry electorate. Does it make a difference if a woman is the president of the United States? Zillah Eisenstein answers that important question in “Hillary Clinton’s Imperial Feminism.” For an early read on how history will judge the 44th American head of state, read James T. Kloppenberg’s “Barack Obama’s Presidency.”

Our survey of democracy extends beyond America’s shores. In “Unraveling in the Kremlin,” Lilia Shevtsova examines Vladimir Putin’s strategy of using foreign interventions to consolidate legitimacy for the Russian political system. Madiha Afzal offers “Pakistan’s Democratic Opportunity,” a study of the country’s evolving military-civilian political dynamic. In “Toward an Egyptian Open Society,” Nabil Fahmy assesses the country’s progress in the two years since the election of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Hoda Baraka and Payal Parekh, in “After the Paris Agreement,” examine how the climate movement is holding governments and energy corporations accountable for the fate of the earth.

For some further insight, I traveled to the University of California, Berkeley during the American election season to speak with philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler. In a wide-ranging talk in her Doe Library office, she made pointed comments about Trump and Clinton and what the contest says about American society today. “It is a frightening moment, there is no doubt,” she says in The Cairo Review Interview. “I think what is at stake is whether or not we are a constitutional democracy.”

Egyptian Entrepreneurs, Inc.

Amr Hussein attended the Global Entrepreneurship Summit hosted by President Barack Obama in Silicon Valley last June. He and his startup company Koshk Comics left with the Spirit of Tech-I Award, a prize selected by fellow finalists. But the 33-year-old programmer and entrepreneur returned to Egypt after his month-long tour of California with much more than the award and the $1,500 that came with it.

The conference, sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Global Innovation Through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative, was Hussein’s first introduction to the startup culture in the United States. Through mentorship with industry leaders and networking with other entrepreneurs, he discovered what the American entrepreneurial ecosystem offered in comparison to Egypt’s: sound investment structures and a vibrant entrepreneurial community to lean on for support. “There are a lot of entrepreneurs [in Egypt] who are trying to make different things and new things,” he explained in an interview back in Cairo. “Some people give up easily after facing the first obstacles. This is one downside to the system here. On the positive side, I see some key players who are trying to give more encouragement to startups.”

Koshk Comics launched and has been working with the American University in Cairo’s Venture Lab since 2015. Hussein along with co-founder and creative director Mostafa Saadany designed the company to encourage Arab artists to self-publish their work and enable them to find each other easily online and through offline activities hosted by Koshk. Koshk has given a voice to edgy, underground digital comics like “Lamis,” which tells an empowering story of a woman facing the harsh realities of life in the Egyptian drug trade. The company hosts a quarterly exhibition, “Barra El Talaga,” or “Out of the Fridge.” The one last June featured American comic artist Joe Sacco’s work on Palestine and French artist Caroline Sury.

Some of the obstacles a young Egyptian company like Koshk Comics face include limited financing through traditional institutions such as banks and challenges attracting angel investors, which are difficult to find in Egypt because of legal strictures that prevent stock options and limit shareholding agreements, according to V-Lab Director Ayman Ismail. “They are really trying to push very hard,” said Ismail, the Abdul Latif Jameel Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship at the AUC School of Business. “They would have had ten times the outcome if they were in a more friendly environment. That’s the reality.”

Hussein sees Egyptian entrepreneurs facing many of the same obstacles as their American or European counterparts, but Egyptians are up against added overhead costs, such as currency devaluation. “Your ability to scale up, and the probability to scale up, while you’re in this environment is pretty much limited,” he said.

V-Lab was established as a platform to support early-stage entrepreneurs, incubating fifty-five startups since its launch in 2013. Ismail and V-Lab look for startups that take risks and change an existing space or the way people think about certain industries. That’s what attracts him to Koshk Comics.

The company has taken the traditional medium of comic books and hosted the entire process, from production to consumption, under one digital umbrella. Comic book artists are able to communicate with each other through an online network that puts them in touch with writers, painters, editors, and colorists. And the consumer can read the finished product online through the mobile app. “Sometimes people think of disruptive technologies as Elon Musk—the batteries and the Tesla,” Ismail said. “Sometimes they might be as small as, ‘Let me just read my comics from my phone.’ For me that’s actually the most interesting thing.”

Hussein hopes for business matters to stabilize so that he can start writing more comics. His ultimate dream? To attend the premiere of an animated movie whose plot originated and was published on the Koshk Comics platform before making it to the big screen.

Oriental Hall, etc.

The media played a significant role in setting the agenda for the tumultuous 2016 U.S. presidential election, argued David Lublin, professor of government at American University, during a September lecture at AUC’s Prince Alwaleed Center for American Studies and Research. Media bias exists, Lublin explained, but is not necessarily pro-Democrat or pro-Republican; rather, the media just prefers focusing on controversy, bad news, as well as polling and the “horse race” between contenders. The presidential candidates know about these preferences, Lublin said, and take advantage of them to manipulate the media.

“You only need to read the newspapers to see the conflation going on between terrorism and Islam,” said Robert Mason, director of AUC’s Middle East Studies Center, during a talk on “Muslim Minority-State Relations” at AUC in September. Mason called for educational initiatives to inform societies with minority Muslim populations about Islam, as well as greater transparency in relations between states and Muslim groups.

Toward an Egyptian Open Society

Two years have now passed since Egypt elected President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. This is an auspicious opportunity to evaluate and assess progress by Egypt in dealing with its pressing challenges, particularly since the president had publicly said that there would be significant progress within two years.

Before doing so, I feel compelled to emphasize that in the sixty years between 1952 and 2011 Egypt had only had four presidents, while in the five years from 2011 to 2016, it has had another four presidents, and of course two revolutions.

It is therefore important that we do not underestimate the ongoing challenges of transformation in the country or, on the other hand, find excuses for not doing more with dispatch to fulfill the aspirations of the Egyptian people for better governance, inclusiveness, and equal opportunity, be that in political, economic, or social issues.

Consequently, while I fully understand the political value of setting a two-year target for improvement, it may in fact become a benchmark for criticism if achievements do not match expectations even if the target was not realistic.

Over the last two years, the security situation has considerably improved. Public disorder and hooliganism have essentially been redressed. Crime is still higher than prior to 2011 but in relative terms it is on a decreasing trend. Security threats in the Western Desert on the border with Libya and in northwestern Sinai appear to be diminishing somewhat, but remain significant enough to draw substantial security resources and put a damper on the promotion of tourism. Anecdotal real-life evidence in the marketplace suggests that the economy is picking up, particularly with the increase in small and young entrepreneurs. Inflation, however, is rising at an alarming pace. Unemployment among white collar graduates is disproportionately high. It is not clear whether income is more evenly distributed, and revenues from interest, foreign or domestic, are significantly lower than what is required to meet the population’s demands.

Economically, Egypt faces a difficult liquidity problem leading the government to borrow extensively to meet short-term needs, with all the potential ramifications this may have on economic health in the future if loans are not directed properly at productive enterprises. Noteworthy, however, is that Egypt is finally dealing with many of its economic issues candidly and openly. It has reduced subsidies and developed a value-added tax, not only to increase revenue but also to help institutionalize the informal economy. And it is embarking on a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund which is as useful as a reform tool as it is a source of finance.

With the election of the president, the parliament, and the adoption of a new constitution, the July 3, 2014 transition roadmap has been concluded. However, the political process in Egypt remains challenging. Political parties are numerous but generally ineffective. Many media outlets are privately owned and often replete with criticism going well beyond professional norms, and attempts to consolidate outlets are worrisome. More importantly, analytically critical journalism remains weak due to low standards of practice and the absence of transparency or a culture of accountability.

In terms of democratic nation building, recently we have seen the release of a number of activists and there appears to be a readiness to revisit the cumbersome demonstration law. However, the basic argument that civil liberties can only be provided when full security and stability are achieved begs the point. Much remains to be done and can be achieved before crossing or contradicting national security considerations.

On foreign policy, Egypt’s different national security institutions have been more active. And, the president has made serious efforts to explain the country’s challenges and opportunities internationally. The next important step is to transition from expansion to expression and engagement by publicly spelling out policies and suggesting options.

Egypt will start reaping some returns on its efforts during the next two years. However, to fulfill the aspirations of its energized people, it will have to more enthusiastically embrace two of the basic tenets of an open society in a technologically advancing world: transparency and accountability.

Progress will be incremental. However, embracing transparency means clearly enunciating policies, be they economic, political, or social. Frankly, while I see progress in the execution of projects, I find the development and enunciation of comprehensive policies wanting. This needs to be corrected in order to optimally reap the benefits from the execution of projects and to give domestic, regional, and international stakeholders a better understanding of our sustained direction.

Everyone in Egypt seems to feel they can hold everyone else accountable. In fact, some believe we are on accountability steroids. The judgmental nature of debates, however, has generated an industry of ineffective talking heads. Yet, accountability is weak and remains a process alien to most public figures who continue to refrain from providing public data out of fear of being held accountable, or respond to queries and questions as intrusive threats rather than as a right of citizenship. We need to encourage and embrace serious inquisition and legitimate accountability to raise the level of public debate and the efficiency of government.

Two years into President El-Sisi’s term, Egypt definitely has moved forward. Much more, however, needs to be done, particularly in the art and science of policymaking, for Egyptians to feel that their aspirations after two revolutions are closer to fulfillment.

Nabil Fahmy, a former foreign minister of Egypt, is dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the American University in Cairo.

Global Trouble

Judith Butler became a rock star in academia with Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. The 1990 work, which argues that gender is performative, derived from social norms, is a core text for queer studies. She advanced her reputation as a leading gender theorist with subsequent works, such as Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex in 1993. While Butler will always be a queer theory icon, she has been well established in the past two decades as a leading political and social theorist. Her most recent book is Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, in which she discusses how movements such as the Arab Spring are driven by precarity, opposing the destruction of livable human conditions.

Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. Her philosopher’s trajectory toward a theory of democracy has paralleled her evolution as a public intellectual; lesbian and gay rights, human rights, and anti-war politics are among her fields of activism. She became a prominent supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that pressures Israel on behalf of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice. In the 2012 Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism, she argues that Jewish ethics require challenging Israeli policies. Cairo Review Managing Editor Scott MacLeod interviewed Butler in her office at Berkeley on July 21, 2016.

CAIRO REVIEW: How do you view the state of the world right now?
JUDITH BUTLER: I’ve been tracking closely what’s happening with colleagues in Turkey, and of course it’s a complex situation with a complex history. But what does seem clear is that [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan is not only interested in punishing those who participated in the coup or who supported the coup, but using the opportunity of the coup to suppress all dissent and to purge the universities as well. So as we are speaking he is requesting loyalty from all deans and rectors. And whoever doesn’t give the oath will be suspended or dismissed, and then the question is whether the oath obligates those administrators to police their own academic faculty and to report those who are dissenters and who don’t support the government. One could pull back and say, well, we see lots of instances like this throughout the world where open criticism of the state is not tolerated and basic principles of academic freedom and democratic freedom are abrogated all the time. We can see that under various regimes and we can even start to develop a comparative framework for such problems. I think it’s important to do right now. I think that the future of critical thought is really at risk. And critical thought not just as something people do in universities, but critical thought as the term that links, say, academic freedom and democratic freedom—a kind of crossing of the right to dissent and the right to criticize.

At the same time, I’m made a little bit nervous by people who say we are now living in the age of the security state, and then proceed to give us a logic of the security state which applies to all instances. Security operates differently in South Africa than it does in Istanbul or Turkey more generally or than it does in the United States. I think we have to ask how this new securitarianism, if we are to speak that way, how in various settings it intersects with nationalism, with religion, with political party systems, with militarism—in other words, it’s part of a complex constellation, and it doesn’t always work the exact same way [everywhere]. I did find it interesting that various European leaders were saying if Turkey wants to be part of the European Union, it must pledge respect for democratic values—no witch hunt, no return of the death penalty. Then Erdoğan turns around and says, “Uh, declaring a state of emergency—just like France, right?” Insisting on the commonality and the continuity of this securitarian move; security trumps other freedoms, security trumps constitutions, security trumps all other possible concerns, right? And it gets mobilized and exploited as a rationale for the purposes of immunizing a regime from criticism and dissent. So that particular habit has been taken up by a number of regimes as I’m sure you know, but I do think we have to see how it works in particular contexts. I get a little worried in two directions. One would be that we can only think about the particular instances, and we can’t see the links. And then I get worried in another direction, which is that there is a logic that we can outline, and we can declare this new age of security, and the logical form is instantiated in all these particular instances, at which point we obliterate history and context and specificity from the analysis.

CAIRO REVIEW: Turkey is an important example, given how it is such a nexus for the global crisis.
JUDITH BUTLER: We are having a global crisis that takes many different forms. I’m resisting the generalization to some degree. But I think Turkey is important because there is a certain longstanding debate: Is it East? Is it West? Is it democratic? Is it Muslim? Can it be both? How does it figure in relationship to debates about secularism and religion? How does it figure in debates about authoritarianism and democracy? Because on the one hand I read in some European press this week, “Oh, Turkey has just proven it is not part of Europe, it’s part of the Middle East.” As if this particular kind of crackdown is typical of a Middle Eastern state rather than something you can find in Europe. Then Erdoğan of course replies, “Well, I’m doing just what they’re doing in France.” In fact, this sweep in France after the attacks of November 2015 was not just a sweep of any and all Muslims or any and all people who were maybe sympathizers. That sweep included climate change protestors who were put under house arrest during the major climate change conference in Paris, and sometimes shackled to their chairs. What is Guantánamo? Is that the West? Is that a European practice? Is it a U.S. practice? I think there is a tendency to assign authoritarianism and securitarianism to the Middle East, to Africa, to Southeast Asia, in some way that allows for a cleansing of the West’s reputation with itself. It gets to keep its good reputation with itself through these kinds of regional projections.

So I guess I’m suggesting that Turkey is a place where a number of these issues become confused, because people don’t precisely know how to locate it in our conventional ways of locating political power, forms of political power, in the West, in the East, in the South, in the North. I think they break down when they look at Turkey, its complexity and the different ways it can go, right? On the one hand, Erdoğan is a neoliberal, right? He’s got a neoliberal form of Ottoman nostalgia. When there was a popular revolt in Gezi, he was seeking to build an extraordinary marketplace on this public site, which is a site that belongs to all people and holds an enormous set of memories, some of them very terrible, some of them very exhilarating. But he is also building a mosque in that same site, and that particular conjunction is complicated. We all see this in many places in the world now. So how do we think about that in terms of regions? Is that East? Is that West? Is it North? Is it South? I think it is a particular convergence, and maybe it calls into question some of these taken-for-granted ways of thinking about political forms in relationship to regions.

CAIRO REVIEW: You wrote about the Egypt protests in your recent book Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly. Why not “a performative theory of democracy?”
JUDITH BUTLER: That probably would have been catchier. For me, I was interested in the way in which bodies assemble and how they signify certain kinds of political meanings through assembly. So it was the bodily dimension of democratic action—street politics, demonstrations, what’s important about the bodies assembling—that allowed me to draw upon my former work, even some of the work on gender and sexuality, and also link to democratic theory. I suppose I wasn’t prepared to offer a full theory of democracy.

CAIRO REVIEW: How do you interpret the Tahrir uprising in Egypt, and the Arab Spring?
JUDITH BUTLER: I was in Egypt just months before. I remember sitting around a dinner table with colleagues from various universities, and I asked, “What’s the chance that there would be a popular uprising here?” And they said there is no chance, there’s absolutely no chance. And what I enjoyed most about that, upon reflection, was that we do live with very strong kinds of epistemic limits. Like, this is what is thinkable, this is as much as we can hope for, this is as much as we can expect. We have these limits, and they contour the horizon within which we think, and we can’t really think beyond them because it would be a different world than the world we are living in if we were able to think beyond them. So what I did find quite exhilarating about the early days of the Arab Spring was what people thought was not possible was certainly possible. I suppose like many others I was caught up in that exhilaration, and it seemed to me that these were popular democratic uprisings.

Now, of course, all of those words are complex and they’ve only become more complex since the Arab Spring. What is a popular uprising? What is a popular revolution? Does it represent the people? Who represents the people? It seems to me that it didn’t take very long for the question of who represents the people, and how are the people represented, to become really crucial questions. Are the military the people? Do they also represent the people? What about the people who were not at the square? What about the people who supported the older regime, or wish for another regime? Did the people include the Muslim Brotherhood? Do they not include the Muslim Brotherhood? Does the Muslim Brotherhood include the people? Does that include all the people?

So you have all these extraordinary divisions and we know the history and we know the outcome. So the truth is that the romantic moment of believing in a popular revolution is always beset by the question of who decides who the people are, and how is it decided. So for instance, in several uprisings you have one crowd in one square, you have another crowd in another square, or you have one crowd in a square one day and another crowd in the square the next day. A lot depends on photography, media, how the people are being constituted through the public circulation of that event. There is no event that has political significance without its public circulation, and as soon as we are involved in the question of what forms that public circulation takes, who’s orchestrating that public circulation, we see how there are modes of power that are different from popular power, that are deciding what counts as the people, what counts as the people’s power, what counts as democratic, as the popular will. So one has to have a more canny, more complex idea of how power operates, and even how democratic regimes can operate, than relying on the exhilarating force of popular uprising.

I think that even in Turkey when we saw briefly an attempted military coup, they were claiming that they were operating in the name of democracy. Erdoğan in squashing the coup claims he’s operating in the name of democracy. So we have a conflict, and then there are of course dissenters who are not particularly pleased with the military coup, and not particularly pleased with Erdoğan who also claim to be on the side of democracy. One question is how to deal with the military and military power. The military cannot install a democracy. There is no such thing as an installed democracy. We can speak that way but it is a perversion of language. If a democracy is installed, it’s not a democracy. It’s only when the military lays down its arms and demilitarizes itself that there is the possibility of a democracy. And that didn’t happen in Egypt, and it didn’t happen in Turkey, and it didn’t happen in Guantánamo, right? All of the security guards and military personnel in Guantánamo could have refused to do their job but they did it and they still do it to this day.

CAIRO REVIEW: Part of what is at play in Egypt, Turkey, in Europe with the backlash against refugees, seems to be identity politics?
JUDITH BUTLER: Maybe this would sound like a bit of a leap, but I’m so much more interested in coalitions and alliances that background identity claims for the purposes of a common struggle. I think one of the questions that I would have about popular democratic movements is one that Ernesto Laclau articulated most eloquently in his theory of hegemony. How is it that groups which identify with very different kinds of issues—sexual rights, or questions of poverty, or issues of literacy, or perhaps non-violence, or anti-militarism—how do they articulate with one another? How do they come together? Not just physically in the square or on the street, but how do they begin to articulate their political demands in a coalition that demands that they identify what they wish to achieve and who they wish to defeat, having that kind of clear sense of the primary antagonism. And how then do those groups work together even when they do not fully identify with each other, or they do not fully agree with one another? That interests me on the left. We have to assume that harmonious ideas of left unity are not plausible. I don’t believe for instance [with] Michael Hardt that love binds us on the left, or with the late Freud that Eros has this binding character. If only we chose love over hatred, we would come together. My sense is rather that we have to think more about how to live with those we don’t particularly like, and never chose to be in solidarity with, but with whom we are obligated to cohabit the world and enter into solidaristic alliances despite what might be some pretty heartfelt hostilities. I think it is those forms of alliances where people are able to background their hostility, or their strong disaffection for one another, for another purpose. In the work that I have done in Israel and Palestine, there are some who believe that you build up mutual understanding, mutual respect, mutual trust, and you learn to identify with the other person’s pain, or you learn to expand your zone of identification. For instance, in bereavement groups that bring Palestinian and Israeli Jewish parents together who have lost children, they have these kinds of conversations where they seek to identify with the extraordinary sorrow that the other is experiencing. It is through expanding that capacity for identification across religious and ethnic divisions that a certain kind of hopefulness is built. I have great respect for those groups, and I actually think that they are probably living out what Martin Buber thought of as the formation of an organic community, something like a community that starts through smaller acts of identification. But it seems to me that there is a broader issue that those kinds of models can’t quite address, which is longstanding rage, longstanding hatred, against those one holds responsible for the destruction of one’s relatives, or the destruction of one’s people, or the destruction of one’s land. I think it is not the case that we are ever going to see a full resolution, at least in our lifetimes. I might be marking my own epistemic limit for thinking here, but I don’t think we are going to see a full resolution of that enormous rage and enormous sorrow.

I think all we can do is insist that people try to find a political forum in which they live together on land that they share, and defend the rights of everyone to live on that land on the condition of equality, on equal terms, regardless of what they feel about one another. Quite regardless. At some level I have to say, I don’t want to hear, I don’t want to know, how much you feel that you hate the other, or that you are sure the other hates you. I actually think there are global obligations, and also territorial obligations, to live with other people we may not love and to honor their equal right to live there too. So I think it is in spite of love that we have to build our ideas of cohabitation. I think that is maybe linked to the question you asked me, because if you start just with our particular identities, and we hold firm to them at the expense of all else, then we can’t actually think about relations in which we are obligated to live that necessarily put us in contact with others who don’t share those identities. So I’m less interested in expanding the capacities for identification than I am in undercutting identification as the basis of common living or cohabitation. I think you don’t have to identify, you do not necessarily have to fully understand, in order to honor the absolute rights of another group or another person.

I think apartheid South Africa and its aftermath has shown us the difficulty of that. I mean, they did hold out for the truth and reconciliation commission to provide a reconciliation of hearts. A reconciliation that would be to the side of law. But the problem with that is people can give their stories and make their works of art, and they are really important works of art, documenting the suffering, the outrage, the loss, the violence, and brutality. All amazingly important, and I continue to support those efforts. But in fact apartheid was only partially overcome. There are still massive economic inequalities. There are still massive social inequalities. And the apartheid deal that put an end to legal forms of discrimination in no way affected the economic distribution of wealth. In other words, whites got to keep their property and wealth. Blacks got to remain poor, coloreds as well for the most part. And those more basic structures of inequality, which are structures of racial inequality, were nevertheless preserved as apartheid ended. So we can’t look to non-juridical forms of reconciliation to solve all those political problems. At a certain level the problem of economic distribution cannot be addressed by reconciliation techniques. Reconcile yourself to economic inequality? No, no, that’s not something to which people should be reconciled. That’s something about which they are still quite angry. I think the student movements now, the Rhodes Must Fall movement, the movements that have been important in Johannesburg and Cape Town, are all evidence of the unfinished status of apartheid. My hope is that they can find non-violent means to transform society.

CAIRO REVIEW: Economics is the basis of the policy to address these issues?
JUDITH BUTLER: I don’t necessarily think that economics is at the base of all these policies. I think that if we look to modes of mutual understanding, reconciliation, or love, or harmonious cohabitation, we have to ask—well, in the case of Palestine, you know there are groups that try to achieve mutual understanding between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. But those groups very often achieve an understanding on the condition, like Seeds of Peace, that when you come into dialogue you are not allowed to talk about power, you are not allowed to talk about politics, you are not allowed to talk about economics or land. You can talk about how you feel, what you experienced, you speak in the first person, and you seek to have a mutual understanding with other people. You can achieve a mutual understanding if you recognize each other’s pain. But the status quo remains the same. You have someone with colonial powers understanding someone who is a colonized subject, and maybe vice versa, but the structure of colonial power is not addressed within that. So what does that mean to have achieved a mutual understanding on the condition that you don’t talk about colonial power, or the way in which different interlocutors are defined in relation to colonial power? In a way you’re saying mutual understanding occurs on the condition that the status quo is not destabilized. So that means that these kinds of groups don’t work in that organic fashion to go from smaller communities of understanding to larger ones. They are circumscribed in such a way that issues such as economics, politics, continuing colonial structure, none of them can be addressed on those terms. Similarly in South Africa you can have truth and reconciliation and you can actually feel like the history you are suffering under apartheid, especially if you are black South African, has been recognized or seen in a certain kind of venue. But the minute you leave that venue, you see that radical economic inequality along racial lines, that is to say continuing institutional racism, is not affected. So there again truth and reconciliation doesn’t become a model for a future society; it becomes a way of cordoning off this ideal of mutual understanding from lived inequality.

CAIRO REVIEW: So justice is?
JUDITH BUTLER: I think it is really a hard question. Am I willing to live with people who killed my child? Am I willing to live with people who destroyed my village, who excommunicated me? I mean that’s hard, that’s really hard. But that is the challenge for just cohabitation, right? It’s not learning to love. I mean, maybe there is love that comes about inadvertently, that’s great. I’m all for love. I just don’t think we should over-idealize its power to lay the groundwork for a radical democratic vision of equality and justice. I think that’s much harder work.

CAIRO REVIEW: In the Palestine issue, you’ve become involved in the BDS movement. You became destabilized about speaking in public for awhile after a difficult time during a talk at a New York school.
JUDITH BUTLER: It is an interesting issue to raise right now. At the time when I spoke at Brooklyn College in 2012, there was quite an uproar because there were people who argued that to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement was to engage in a form of anti-Semitism. That argument had a couple of different prongs, one of which was that to boycott Israel is to boycott Jews, and boycotting Jews is anti-Semitic. Well, 20 to 30 percent of Israel is not Jewish, by the way. People kind of forget that. But also the State of Israel doesn’t necessarily represent the Jewish people, even though I think that is what the State of Israel claims. As a dissident Jew, which I am, and belonging to several dissident Jewish organizations, which are among the fastest growing and largest in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, at least in the Anglophone world that I live in, that’s a very insulting kind of claim. Jews who have strong criticisms of Israel, who are not Zionists perhaps, or maybe are Zionists with strong criticisms, or who used to be Zionists and now no longer are—it’s a very complex terrain for Jewish people these days. Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, Sephardic Jews from many different locations in the world who are very unclear what relation to take to the State of Israel, and see its militarism, and its own forms of discrimination and occupation, as unjust. How do you make that claim without being called an anti-Semite? Of course, many people will not make that claim because they don’t want to experience that allegation. For a Jew, especially for a Jew whose family partially survived the Nazi genocide and partially did not survive the Nazi genocide, to be called an anti-Semite is horrible. But for those of us who grew up reading socialist Jewish work or even reading Primo Levi and other works on Jewish ethics it was important to say when you see something is unjust, even if it means you will be charged with horrible things. But I don’t think it ever occurred to any of us that we would ourselves be called anti-Semites by the virtue of the fact that we saw and named an injustice that was to some degree being conducted in our names, and therefore we were obligated and remain obligated to oppose.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement was something that I thought about for a long time. I argued with people about it for several years before I decided to join. I joined after one of the more hideous Gaza bombardments, I believe in 2009. I joined as a way of being able to say that no one should have a direct relationship with Israeli institutions unless or until they make clear that they oppose the occupation, that they accept the Palestinian right to return, and that they oppose forms of institutionally entrenched discrimination within the State of Israel as it is currently defined. Yes, I thought that was a good claim to make, it was a way of saying no. It was a way of saying no relations until those things have changed, and trying in its own way, to build an international community of consensus that this is unjust and unacceptable.

Of course it mattered that there were 170 or so Palestinian organizations that made the call that asked the broad international community to please join a non-violent effort which is extremely important. It is the largest non-violent effort of the Palestinian resistance. It is broadly supported within Palestine. It is an explicit request made on the part of Palestinians. I thought that I would answer yes. It may sound peculiar but you know Levinas, who is the great Jewish philosopher and ethicist, says that very often an ethical demand comes to you in the form of a call. You are called up. Someone makes a call, and that was a call. Will you or will you not support us? This is how you can support us. It is non-violent. It is in the name of international human rights. It’s not even a radical Marxist agenda. Some people fault it for being too weak. Basic principles of democracy like freedom of mobility, freedom to own your own land, freedom to vote, freedom of self-determination, political self-determination—yes, all of these are prerequisites of democratic life and the Palestinian people should not be deprived of these basic democratic rights and goods. For me it was a principled decision and one that I continue to stand by.

Now we have new laws being drafted in the United States, which seek to criminalize anyone who supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. The problem with that of course is the right to boycott has long been defended in the United States. If you can show that a boycott is in the service of discrimination, it’s not acceptable. If a shopkeeper wants to boycott black people, that’s not acceptable. But it would be quite a stretch to say that the boycott of the State of Israel, not its people but the state and its institutions, is a discriminatory action.

I’m shocked by the number of state legislatures and even governors, like governor [Andrew] Cuomo of New York, who are defending the criminalization of BDS as a point of view. It’s one thing to argue against it. I argued against for years before I came to accept it. I’m happy to have a robust argument about it. People should argue about it, it should be thought through, it should be forced to defend itself in the strongest possible way. That’s an open, important public debate. But to say it ought not to be debated or that it is not legitimate as a viewpoint is an act of enormous suppression. It makes the United States closer to Erdoğan, because Erdoğan is also trying to suppress dissent.

It’s a worrisome time. As a theorist, I have been involved in defending the BDS movement, although I have never been a leader of that movement. People thought because of the publicity garnered by the Brooklyn event that I was somehow at the forefront. I’m not at the forefront, I maybe speak about it once a year, and I defend the right to boycott, yes I do.

I am part of a group called Jewish Voice for Peace, which is seeking to realize justice in Palestine, and I’m also on the international board of the Jenin theatre in Palestine, which is an extraordinary group again committed to non-violence; BDS is committed to non-violence. The Jenin theatre is committed to non-violence although they debate it there and I have been part of those debates. I’m always trying to find non-violent ways to enter into that particular struggle, but I’m also on the board of the Center for Constitutional Rights in the United States. It’s a group in New York City that has opposed racial profiling, that has sought to defend the rights of the Guantánamo prisoners, that has opposed the death penalty, and also solitary confinement in the U.S. prisons. I am active in organizations such as these and they are an important part of my life.

CAIRO REVIEW: Let’s dive into American politics. What do you make of the Trump movement?
JUDITH BUTLER: It is a frightening moment, there is no doubt. I think what is at stake is whether or not we are a constitutional democracy. I think for someone like [Donald] Trump there are no basic constitutional principles. I never heard him defend the constitution, for instance. He just made a remark that he wouldn’t necessarily agree to defend all NATO allies, the first time that has been said since the inception of NATO. And why does he say that? Because everything is a deal. Everything is a deal to be brokered. If we look more closely at that, we see that he understands politics as brokering a deal, and it’s about who can profit from what, and what will it cost. So there is a cost-benefit framework that is brought to bear. Also a kind of narcissism that is overweening. “I know how to make a deal, vote for me I’ll make a deal with these countries, I’ll make a deal to get rid of ISIS.” He doesn’t say, “I’ll defend this principle,” he says “I’ll make us strong again.” But what is strength? It’s the ability to make the deal, to seal the deal, right? You can just see the exhilarated narcissism when he talks in that way. There is a way that the business model is, as it were, trumping the political model. It might be part of the economization of the political field, if we are to look at it theoretically. But more than that, what Trump has done is unleash forms of hatred that people were largely unwilling to express in public. What he’s done is he’s figured feminism, gay and lesbian rights, struggles for social and economic equality, are all superegos that have stopped us from being able to say what we really feel about women, what we really feel about Muslims, or what we really feel about blacks, what we really feel about the superiority of whiteness, or what we really feel about taxes or being told that we can’t carry a gun. I suppose one might have to be a little psychoanalytic here to get it, but I call them forms of sadistic exhilaration that he has unleashed. And he’s figured feminism and struggles against racism, struggles for social and economic equality, all of them as these nasty superegos who have silenced us for too long.

I think there is also a backlash against [Barack] Obama, there’s a white backlash, and also against Obama’s elegance, his education, his capacity to write and speak in paragraph form, which is nearly a lost art in the United States. I have lots of difficulty with Obama’s politics, but he did and he still does have enormous personal dignity and intelligence. I think there is an attack on that. People say, “Oh, Trump is so vulgar. How could anybody vote for him, he has no chance of winning.” The truth is that it is precisely because he is vulgar that he has a chance at winning. People want the vulgarity. They want the unbridled sadism. They want to be able to make terrible jokes about women again. They want to be able to say how much they hate Muslims. It is a reckless and sadistic kind of unleashing.

CAIRO REVIEW: Where does that come from?
JUDITH BUTLER: It comes from in many ways a large number of people feeling that their economic chances have diminished and they can blame immigrants for that. That their sense of their ability to keep a job, to have longevity in a job, to get a mortgage, to keep their mortgage, to have retirement, many of these opportunities have been restricted over time mainly through the devastation of social democracy. In other words, the devastation of all the social institutions that people have relied upon to have economic well-being. I think we could understand it as neoliberalism to some degree, and the way in which it undermines basic economic structures, but also the outsourcing of public goods. Who runs our prisons? Who runs our retirement? Retirement companies. Do we still have a public post office? Sort of and sort of not. Even libraries are massively underfunded, education underfunded. As we lose a sense that we are living in an economy in which people really have a chance to gain a sense of economic well-being, to feel an economic sense of flourishing or to have a sense of an economic future, a viable economic future, people cast about for scapegoats of various kinds. They don’t always grasp the economic phenomenon. You know the economic processes in which we are living. I do think, quite frankly, that the Occupy Movement was right in saying that we are living in a country of accelerating inequalities and that the rich become richer and fewer and the poor become larger and greater. I mean more poor and greater numbers of people become poor. I think that that took maybe two different populist forms. Some Bernie Sanders people saying the system is rigged, and being able to name it at least as a system. And then some people going to Trump saying what we need is a strong man who will intervene on our behalf and who’s normal like us, who’s like a regular guy. Even though he is not a regular guy, he’s one of the richest people in the entire world, but to the degree that he can communicate the vulgarity of the regular guy. I think there are people who are drawn to that and believe he is an alternative to the existing status quo. What’s surprising for me is to see that there were a certain number of Bernie Sanders people who are willing to vote for Trump before they would vote for Hillary [Clinton], who I think stands for the status quo to some degree.

CAIRO REVIEW: Can we go so far as to say there is a movement that Trump has become a leader of?
JUDITH BUTLER: I don’t know if it is unified enough to be a movement. It seems to me that it’s a movement of resentment.

CAIRO REVIEW: We have the Tea Party movement on board with Trump to some extent.
JUDITH BUTLER: I think Trump will only ever be an unreliable representative of Christian values. But they do seem to be preferring him to the alternative.

CAIRO REVIEW: Because so much of his rhetoric correlates with their agenda?
JUDITH BUTLER: I’m not sure it is a movement. I think it has its internal divisions, and we’ll see how it plays out. From my point of view as an academic it probably sounds very intellectually elitist to say they suspend their critical judgment to support him. But I actually think he is giving them an occasion not to think, an occasion not to have to think. To think is to think of a very complex global world, and he’s making everything very, very simple. I think that there is a kind of suspension of thinking he promises and he delivers.

CAIRO REVIEW: By contrast, the Clinton campaign is presenting Hillary Clinton who understands the world is complex.
JUDITH BUTLER: Hillary is right to say it’s a more complex world, and I’m in the position to handle that. Many things about Hillary Clinton I absolutely object to, so don’t understand me as a fan. I’m not. But when she says it’s a more complex world, and we need someone who can make good judgments about this complex world, that’s actually a turnoff for some people. Because they don’t want the world to be that complex and they don’t want to have to think that hard. They are on a kind of populist high. They want an easier answer. They want law and order. They want someone who will defend the United States and who they are, and who will put the ban on the Muslims, and build the wall against the Mexicans, and keep us predominantly right and return us to simpler times and to simpler visions of the world. So there is a rancor against complexity.

CAIRO REVIEW: Because it goes against American exceptionalism? If the United States is the exceptional nation, then everything just falls into place because of who Americans are as a nation.
JUDITH BUTLER: I think that Trump is revivifying the belief in American exceptionalism. I think that is correct. But you know Hillary could play that card. I mean, she is a hawk. She goes to war in faraway places and destroys lives with impunity. So she also belongs to our illustrious history—that’s ironic, in case it doesn’t come across!

CAIRO REVIEW: Why aren’t you a fan? Is that to say you won’t vote for her?
JUDITH BUTLER: No, I will probably vote for her. I see that my friend Cornel West has come out in favor of Jill Stein. Jill Stein is a principled and interesting person but I think I would at this point vote for Hillary, because I am concerned about the Supreme Court. I believe she will make better appointments. You know unfortunately in the United States we have come to treat elections like Facebook—like, dislike. I don’t care whether you like Hillary or you don’t like Hillary. I have to say this to my 21-year-old son: you don’t have to love any of these people. You can hold your nose and vote for someone. There is a long history of that. I’m sure I voted like that in the past. I’m really not a purist. I think one has to look at the consequences and wage your bets. I haven’t liked Hillary’s foreign policy. I haven’t liked her hawkish impulses. I think she has not always supported public education in the way that it should be. I think her feminism is admirable but I think it is limited. It’s liberal feminism and it doesn’t go deep enough. I think there is a lot more she can do to oppose racist violence in this country. There are a lot of ways in which I see her as part of the new entrepreneurial ethos in the country. The Clintons in general did dismantle a fair number of social benefits when Bill Clinton was in power. So it’s hard to be enthusiastic, for sure. But I do think we will get a better Supreme Court and better appointments. Maybe some of her appointments will be better than she is.

CAIRO REVIEW: You make the case that Trump could be very dangerous.
JUDITH BUTLER: It feels very compromised to vote for Hillary Clinton but Trump is a massive danger. He’s a massive danger to democracy as we know it. And not just internal to the United States, but also in foreign policy. I’m not sure what this man knows. I feel like he’s full of bluster. He doesn’t have considered judgment. When and how would he go to war? What would he do? He’s a loose cannon. He strikes me also as profoundly ignorant. And yes dangerous in his racism and in his contempt for basic rights. So I’m very, very concerned.

CAIRO REVIEW: Are you struck by how one of the great established political parties would be able to nominate such a candidate?
JUDITH BUTLER: I think that what we are seeing is an anti-establishment populism. They want someone outside the box, right? His son said, “This is a man who has never taken a check from the U.S. government,” and people just screamed with pleasure. He’s outside and he also represents someone who is not beholden to anyone because he is so damn rich and they love that idea, like, “Oh, what if I’m not beholden to somebody?” There is that phantasmatic moment where they’re imagining he won’t be beholden.

CAIRO REVIEW: Would the election of Hillary Clinton have any symbolic power or empowerment for women in the United States or around the world?
JUDITH BUTLER: I don’t think it is a sufficient reason to vote for her, that she is a woman. Maggie Thatcher was a woman. Golda Meir was a woman. There are women who conducted brutal wars and caused great suffering in the world. So I don’t think there is anything about being a woman that is important here in terms of understanding what kind of policies she might have. Would it affect her policies? Not necessarily. On the other hand, yes it has a symbolic importance. It was symbolically important that Barack Obama was elected, the first black man in the history of the United States, and it would be symbolically important if Hillary Clinton is elected as, by the way, I expect she will be. Yes, that has a symbolic importance because women can now occupy those positions and if we had thought that those positions were only for men, we can now rethink that category. But beyond that, I am not at all sure. I don’t think we’ll see a difference in values because she is a woman, nothing that follows from that. Without disputing the enormous symbolic importance of Obama’s election, the fact is that racial inequality has increased in the United States under his administration, and that for any number of reasons, but certainly the new forms of the market economy have had devastating effects. And institutional forms of racism have not necessarily been addressed by this massive symbolic overcoming of racism that Obama achieved. So we can say, yes, on a symbolic level he achieved that. But institutional racism, the killing of black men, the enormous form of institutional racism in our prison system—those have intensified. The prisons are a kind of an industry devoted mainly to containing black and brown men and women. So I don’t think we can put too much weight on the symbolic value.

CAIRO REVIEW: Obama is inspirational but you have difficulties with him.
JUDITH BUTLER: I wish that he had compromised less. I wish he had fought harder. I wish that he had stood for all kinds of principles that he does not stand for. I can give you a very long list of my complaints with Obama. I think he is a centrist. I think he plays it safe. I do think he has some principles, even if he doesn’t actualize them. Actualizing them in words does matter but it can also produce a great feeling of skepticism, like “Oh, this person says this at the level of rhetoric but he doesn’t do this at the level of policy.” So you know it could be that he’s produced a scene where we no longer trust words in the way we might have before.

CAIRO REVIEW: Is this Obama’s failing, or democracy’s failing?
JUDITH BUTLER: It’s hard to know how much of anything is Obama’s fault. I mean he’s in a structurally horrible position and I think that that’s clear. The Senate, the House, there are people who blocked him at every step of the way. At the same time, what kind of a fight did he put up? And did he do what he could to avoid compromises that were horrible and to maintain principle in the light of intense antagonism? I think that’s a longer discussion, but my sense is he has compromised too often and perhaps unnecessarily.

CAIRO REVIEW: Out of legitimate fear of backlash?
JUDITH BUTLER: If you look at his entire career he’s always been a centrist. He’s still a centrist. We elected a centrist.

CAIRO REVIEW: He’s been out there on gender issues more than any other president.
JUDITH BUTLER: It has been impressive recently. He recently took a stand supporting transgender people’s rights to use the bathroom of their choosing. He says “transgender.” He supports their rights at some basic level, that’s an enormous breakthrough. At the level of defending individual rights, he can do that. But when it comes to basic economic and institutional changes, such as those required by the prison system, or pervasive poverty, or immigration, he has a much more difficult time. There are substantial failures even according to a basic humanitarian framework. You don’t have to be right or left to say these are failures. I think a lot of people believe that on LGBTQ issues, he’s been great.

We have also seen a kind of separation of some of those issues, which are now concerned more with individual rights, from these other kinds of social movements. Which is why we have queer activism, the queer movement, which reminds us that we are part of a social movement concerned with broader questions of equality, freedom and justice, and not just individual rights. So there’s been an internal division in the LGBTQ community between individual rights and property rights and marriage rights, and those who are part of larger coalitions fighting for broader economic equality against racism and against militarism. So we are a divided movement at this point.

CAIRO REVIEW: You have remarked that your book Gender Trouble is dated. Many people credit you for the advancement of gender identity.
JUDITH BUTLER: I think that is probably not right. I was part of a movement of scholars and activists who made a big difference in the late 1980s and early 1990s but I don’t think it’s me, I’m not at the heart of it. I know that New York magazine said that but I think that’s wrong. Gender Trouble did not make a clear enough distinction between an individual’s freedom and what we could call social freedom, or the struggle for freedom that groups undertake. So it could be read in a very individualistic way. If I had it to do over I would probably try to change that. The work on assembly that I have been doing is a way of thinking about group actions or performative actions that try to bring into being a different reality. I also think that at the time I was most concerned with debunking efforts to criminalize or pathologize not just gay and lesbian sexuality or bisexuality but also modes of gender appearance that were non-normative, people who appear in ways that you don’t know what gender they were, or they were perhaps too feminine for a man or too masculine for a woman. I wanted to combat those forms of discrimination, and I think it was successful in doing that for some groups of readers and their friends. But I think that in fact I had a pretty strong critique of identity politics and thought that we didn’t have to agree on who a woman is, what a woman is, in order to have feminism. You can be a feminist, it doesn’t matter what gender you are, how you identify, you can pledge yourself to strong feminist goals and be part of that movement. I was always trying to move against strong ideas of identity. But a lot of trans people came back later, maybe ten years later, and said “Look, you know what, we want strong ideas of identity, and what you are describing doesn’t actually fit our experience.” So maybe I didn’t in that context provide sufficiently for those communities who feel that their identities are being effaced, or negated, and who actually feel that the assertion of their identity is an extremely important political act, and maybe I’m still weak on that issue. I understood that as a legitimate criticism and something that I needed to think about.

CAIRO REVIEW: You said a moment ago that Hillary Clinton would not necessarily be an advantage for feminism.
JUDITH BUTLER: I think she is a feminist, I think she is a liberal feminist. It could be a problem if her version of liberal feminism comes to stand for feminism in the United States. That would be rough, that would be rough. She does stand for some principles—women can occupy any job that a man occupies, women deserve equal pay for equal work. On basic questions of formal equality she’s good. But feminism it seems to me is dealing with three major issues globally that I’m not sure she has addressed in the way that is required. One of them has to do with differential levels of poverty for women globally. The effect of U.S. policy abroad, like U.S. markets abroad—making use of cheap women’s labor outside of the United States in order to market their goods. What’s the exploitation of women workers that happens outside the United States in the service of American markets? Literacy—in many different countries women are not given opportunities to establish literacy and sometimes also in this country. How are they supposed to exercise basic political rights without literacy? It’s an impossibility. So illiteracy is a crime against democracy. Then of course violence. Violence against women is not just battery and rape but it is also the killing of women in various parts of the world, including trans women. There is an enormous movement in Latin America against what they call femicide. I think that the tools we need to understand the levels of violence against women globally are not provided by the kind of liberal feminism that Hillary Clinton represents. It’s very much about equality on the market. It’s a market-based idea of equality. It’s not looking at what those markets are doing somewhere else, or what the effects of those markets might be on women. Nor is it really taking on a strong global perspective. She has supported various initiatives to provide cooking ovens to women in parts of the world who don’t have them. Which is good, of course. But it doesn’t really represent a strong understanding of global feminism and the broader needs for economic redistribution of wealth, all of which is most urgent.

The Meaning of Trump

Donald Trump’s nomination to head the Republican Party ticket in 2016 stunned and confounded the Grand Old Party establishment, foreign policy experts, conservative pundits, and most of the news media. Trump is a unique phenomenon in American political history. No other presidential candidate, with the possible exceptions of Andrew Jackson in 1824 and Woodrow Wilson in 1912, has experienced such a meteoric political rise. At least Jackson had served as a congressman and U.S. senator from Tennessee, and Wilson came to the White House after two years as governor of New Jersey.

Trump won the nomination with no experience in elected office, defeating sixteen other Republican contenders. At every step, his GOP primary campaign rivals underestimated him. His understanding of policy was nearly absent, he lacked a ground game for campaigning, and his rhetoric was vitriolic, divisive, and demagogic. True to his swashbuckling style in business, Trump’s campaign soared on the strength of idiosyncratic antics such as the constant stream of name-calling tweets that ensured viral exposure in twenty-four-hour news cycles and delighted anti-establishment voters looking for a populist hero. But from start to finish the Trump phenomenon left the Republican Party in total disarray, with even former Republican presidents refusing to endorse the GOP’s 2016 standard bearer. With less than a month before general election day, news reports about Trump’s serial lewd behavior prompted other Republican leaders to retract endorsements and had some GOP leaders desperately exploring ways to dump Trump from the ticket.

The form and content of Trump’s bid for the presidency was set in his June 16, 2015 announcement speech, in which he declared, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And, some, I assume are good people.” His tone was in sharp contrast to that of Jeb Bush, the leading candidate at the outset, who had described illegal immigration as an act of love by people striving to give their families a better life, and to that of Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American senator from Florida, who had supported providing undocumented immigrants with opportunities to remain in the country.

After a series of primaries that saw his rivals drop out one after the other, Trump received the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July 2016. Trump had failed to win a majority of primary voters in any state until it had become clear he was headed to ultimate victory. The crowded Republican field had split the vote. Yet Trump tapped into a deep undercurrent of anxiety in America about a tepid economy, the loss of manufacturing jobs, demographic changes, race relations, and the breakdown of families and social order. Playing on popular resentment is not new to American politics, but never was a leading presidential candidate so unvarnished, so unrestrained, and so blunt in his language. His appeal turned off most higher-income and suburban voters, but attracted other vital voting blocs.

Trump energized a constituency that had not gone Republican since Ronald Reagan twenty-five years earlier: blue-collar workers. A key to his success was attracting working-class independents and Democrats who cast ballots in Republican contests in states with open primaries. Trump received a higher percentage of blue-collar voters than any other Republican candidate, ranging from 40 percent to 60 percent of voters making $50,000 or less, according to the exit polling in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. The only state where another candidate did better among these lower-income voters was in Wisconsin, where Ted Cruz beat Trump by one percentage point, 42 percent to 41 percent.

Surprisingly, Trump also captured much of the evangelical Christian vote that can be critical to Republican electoral success, even though he displayed little religiosity himself, unlike some of his rivals, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, or Cruz, who wore their religion on their sleeves.

From Trump Tower to the White House
Trump has been a well-known celebrity in American popular culture for decades, thanks to his flamboyant activities as a businessman (building iconic skyscrapers and casinos bearing his name), his self-promotion of a billionaire’s lifestyle (of his three glamorous wives, two were fashion models and the other an actress), and his fame as a reality TV host (on NBC’s The Apprentice for eleven seasons). Though it seemed to many observers that Trump came out of nowhere, his political ambitions in fact date back decades. His 2016 bid for the presidency was initially dismissed by most serious observers as another scheme to enhance the Trump brand for merchandizing eponymous products that include, besides his skyscrapers and casinos, wine, apparel, golf resorts, hotels, and a university. However, Trump had considered running for president in 1988, 2000, and 2012, and governor of New York in 2006 and 2014.

Trump contemplated challenging President Reagan’s vice president and heir apparent, George H. W. Bush, for the Republican presidential nomination in 1987. He launched a national advertising campaign chastising Reagan for his negotiations with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and with Japan. Trump ads proclaiming, “There’s nothing wrong with American’s foreign defense policy that a little backbone can’t cure,” appeared in newspapers across the country. He created a press frenzy by flying into the early-primary state of New Hampshire and declaring, “Whatever Japan wants, do the opposite.” Typically touting his own savvy as a negotiator, he added, “The Japanese, when they negotiate with us, they have long faces. But when the negotiations are over it is my belief—and I have seen this—they laugh like hell.” He pushed for a protectionist policy, appearing on the popular Oprah Winfrey television show in April 1988, telling the audience, “I’d make our allies pay their fair share. We’re a debtor nation.”

In 1999, Trump temporarily left the Republican Party, complaining that conservatives are “just too crazy right.” He formed an exploratory committee to run for president under the banner of Ross Perot’s Reform Party. He received the endorsement of Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura and appeared on dozens of television talk shows describing himself as “America’s white knight.” He clamored about the problems with immigration. He proposed universal health care, restrictions on assault weapons, access to abortions, and a targeted tax on the super wealthy. He labeled the leading candidate for the Reform Party nomination, prominent television commentator Pat Buchanan, a former advisor to three Republican presidents, a “Hitler lover,” a divisive figure who was anti-Semitic, anti-Hispanic, and anti-black. He called for the end of gridlock in Washington and condemned the influence of special interests in politics. Trump took the lead in several polls of Reform Party voters, which encouraged him to announce that his future cabinet would include Republican Senator John McCain as defense secretary, General Colin Powell as secretary of state, and Democratic Representative Charles Rangel as secretary of housing and urban development. He told interviewers that he wanted Oprah Winfrey as his running mate. In the end, the Reform Party went with Buchanan, dismissing Trump as a celebrity out for publicity.

Trump kept himself in the limelight. In 2004, he announced that he was considering another run for the presidency, but opted to host The Apprentice instead. In 2006, word got out that he was considering a race for the governorship of New York. After much media speculation, he quelled the rumors. Many, including former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, thought he was deliberately feeding the media frenzy to further enhance his public persona.

In 2011, Trump was back on the political stage again, appearing at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, the main venue for vetting conservative candidates running for office. His keynote talk focused on addressing China’s currency manipulation and making South Korea pay for U.S. troops stationed in its country. He said the rest of the world viewed America as “ineffective and weak.” He accused Republicans in general, and George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul in particular, of weakness. He saved his biggest jab for President Barack Obama by questioning whether he was born in the United States, a constitutional requirement for becoming president. His so-called birther attacks on President Obama attracted considerable media attention, which gave rise to Trump running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015. A Newsweek/Daily Beast poll taken in February 2011 had him trailing Obama by two percentage points if Trump challenged him for the White House in 2012. But just as quickly as Trump’s hot air balloon rose, it fell to earth when Obama publicly released his birth certificate. Trump dropped to eighth in the polls.

Trump’s ambitions had not been dampened, however. After GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s loss to Obama in 2012, Trump kept himself in the headlines by pressing a conspiracy theory that Obama’s released birth certificate was a forgery. He was joined in this accusation by such conservative icons as “America’s toughest sheriff” Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona who even launched a criminal investigation into the validity of Obama’s birth certificate.

An Anti-Establishment Revolt
With few taking Trump’s 2015 candidacy announcement seriously, the candidate immediately struck on the one issue that the Republican Party had hoped to avoid: immigration. The issue is a potential minefield for any Republican seeking higher office; while a tough stand on immigration mobilizes conservatives, it alienates Hispanics and other constituencies important to Republican electoral success. In 2008, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney switched his position on the need for immigration reform to one focused on controlling the southern border. As a first-term senator, Marco Rubio found himself under attack from the Republican right for joining a bipartisan immigration reform effort that included a pathway for citizenship for undocumented immigrants. By focusing on immigration, with what most informed people thought was an outrageous and demagogic vow to deport 11.2 million undocumented people who were living in the United States, Trump appealed to many grassroots Republicans and blue-collar workers. They liked his rhetoric, seeing him as an outsider willing to speak his mind and not fearing politically incorrect language.

Trump’s call for restricted immigration and the construction of a wall on the southern U.S. border, which he said would be paid for by Mexico, fed into economic anxieties, cultural concerns, and brooding anger among grassroots Republicans. Trump connected with an angry American electorate that was discontented with politics as usual, sick and tired of what it saw as cronyism, corruption, and mutual back-scratching in Washington.

Trump presented himself as a nationalist who would protect America from what he described as an “open border” allowing a flood of undocumented immigrants into the United States. His angry rhetoric and sloganeering to “make America great again” drew tens of thousands to his rallies. He did not restrain himself even when talking about fellow Republicans. On a campaign stop in Iowa only a month into his campaign, Trump expressed contempt for Senator McCain, the party’s presidential nominee against Obama in 2008. “He’s not a war hero,” he told the Family Leadership Summit. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who were not captured.” As some in the media pointed out that this attack came from a man who had received draft deferments throughout the Vietnam War, many thought the attack on McCain was the end for Trump’s campaign. It turned out to be just the beginning.

Trump succeeded in sailing to the nomination as an anti-establishment candidate in part because he entered the presidential race just as the Republican Party was experiencing a perfect storm. The Republican base was angry with its leaders for failing to turn back President Obama’s agenda, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Republicans had swept the 2014 midterm elections, taking control of the U.S. Senate with fifty-four seats, extending control of the House with 247 seats, and reaching down to the state level with thirty-one governorships and securing a majority in sixty-eight state legislative chambers. Not since 1928 had Republicans had such complete control of Congress and state governments. Republicans had run and won on a promise of change; when things did not change, grassroots Republicans became angry at the Republican establishment, whose members were derided as RINOs (Republican in Name Only).

The populist anger first erupted shortly after the enactment of Obamacare in 2010. The conservative Tea Party protest movement, inspired by pressure groups such as the libertarian Freedom Works organization, emerged spontaneously when grassroots activists organized rallies against Obamacare and the corporate bailouts after the 2008 financial crisis. Most of the protesters were upper-income, better-educated whites. In many states, leadership had come out of libertarian Ron Paul’s anti-establishment presidential campaign in 2008. In some states there were two and sometimes three groups claiming to represent the Tea Party movement. Republican strategists encouraged the movement as a means of mobilizing voters, but they were playing with fire. These were angry voters who demanded change and an overthrow of politics as usual—including the Republican establishment.

The Tea Party mobilization paid off in the midterm elections in 2010, and again in the 2014 midterms. Republicans had been elected to Congress on promises to repeal Obamacare, enact legislation to secure the nation’s borders, contain the national debt, reform the regulatory state, and redirect the administration’s foreign policy. For their efforts, Tea Party activists got bipartisan support for raising the national debt, a Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriages, and an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, a tragedy that left the American ambassador to Libya dead. For the Tea Party, adding insult to injury was the revelation that the Internal Revenue Service had engaged in a policy of targeting Tea Party groups for tax audits—and had been let off the hook for doing so. Things did not appear to be changing in Washington, even with Republicans in control of Congress. Concepts like acceptance of incremental change and legislative compromise—the foundations of a democratic system—were dismissed by Tea Party rebels as opportunism, cronyism, and betrayal of principle.

Nor did these angry voters seem to comprehend that the Republican Party risked becoming a minority party if its base of support narrowed. Republicans had lost the White House the previous two elections, and while they had made extraordinary gains in Congress and on the state level, Democrats had almost a lock on the Electoral College by controlling large populous states on both coasts. Minority voters—Hispanics, blacks, and Asian Americans—were voting Democrat, and as young minorities reached voting age, Democratic voter rolls would only grow. Although white voters still constituted about 70 percent of the population actually casting votes, they were an aging and shrinking demographic set. Presenting itself as a party of true reform and inclusion, and not just an angry opposition, is essential to the future of the Republican Party.

GOP voter anger was evident by September 2015 as the Trump campaign gained momentum and splits within the Republican House caucus deepened. The crisis within the party pushed Representative John Boehner to resign as speaker of the House and refrain from seeking reelection in his Ohio district. His successor as speaker was Representative Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate in 2012, who agreed to give a greater voice to the so-called Freedom Caucus, which consists of about forty-two House members closely aligned with the Tea Party movement.

At first glance, the large Republican presidential field—Trump’s rivals—looked strong. Jeb Bush is Republican Party royalty, the son and brother of two former presidents. There was a giant sucking sound as money from major Republican donors flowed into Bush’s campaign. Many conservative Republicans initially turned to Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, who had become a hero in conservative circles for taking on the labor unions and winning a recall election and reelection to his office.

Cruz, the firebrand senator from Texas, saw a path to the nomination through the evangelical vote. Rubio, once a protégé of Jeb Bush, thought he could win as a highly articulate policy wonk, and a Hispanic. Carson, a brilliant African American surgeon, played on his fame in conservative circles for having openly attacked Obama at a prayer breakfast. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky—Ron Paul’s son—sought the nomination with strong civil libertarian positions and a neo-isolationist foreign policy. Chris Christie, the governor of the heavily Democratic state of New Jersey, offered himself as a candidate who could attract cross-party voters. John Kasich, governor of Ohio, always a key battleground state in general elections, offered a message of good governance and moderation. The long shots in the race, Carly Fiorina, a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who had won the Iowa primary in 2008, and Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania who had become a perennial candidate appealing to traditional values, filled out the second and third tiers of candidates.

One by one Trump picked off his rivals in the primaries, making the race for the Republican nomination seem at times like a Whack-A-Mole arcade game. In debates and on the stump, Trump was belligerent, thin-skinned, and rude, but he showed a knack for capturing the weaknesses of his opponents. He taunted Bush as “Low-energy Jeb,” dubbed Rubio “Lightweight Marco” and the “Choker,” and labeled Cruz, “Lyin’ Ted.” Trump made fun of Fiorina’s physical appearance, and described Carson as having a “pathological temper.” Viewers turned on their TV sets in huge numbers during the presidential primary debates just to see what Trump might say next.

Some believed that voters had gotten wise to Trump’s antics-driven campaign after Ted Cruz triumphed in the Iowa Caucus in February 2016. In a well-organized ground campaign, Cruz took 51,000 votes, compared to Trump’s 45,000. Not far behind was Rubio. Trump appeared to have hurt himself by boycotting a GOP debate sponsored by Fox News. In the earlier first debate, Trump shot back angrily at Fox newscaster Megyn Kelly after she asked him about his anti-Hispanic comments, suggesting that her question was generated by uncontrollable female hormones. Cruz, though, did not walk out of Iowa unscathed. Accusations by the Carson campaign that Cruz had told Iowa precinct captains that the retired neurosurgeon had suspended his campaign reinforced an image of Cruz as an unscrupulous grandstander who would do anything to become the party’s nominee. Following their poor showings in Iowa, Huckabee, Paul, and Santorum dropped out.

New Hampshire proved to be the turning point. The pack of candidates desperate to become Trump’s main challenger piled on Rubio, who had risen to second place in the polls. Bush launched a massive TV ad campaign against Rubio, bringing up charges that when he had been a state senator in Florida he had misused his government credit card for personal expenses.

In a televised debate, Christie, who was making his do-or-die stand in New Hampshire, blasted Rubio for never having made a monumental decision in his political life. “Marco, the thing is this. When you’re president of the United States, when you’re governor of a state, the memorized thirty-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it does not solve one problem for one person.” He slammed Rubio for spending his time on the campaign trail and not fulfilling his duties as a senator. Sensing blood, Bush joined the attack by saying that Americans should not gamble on a candidate who does not have executive experience—suggesting that Rubio would be another Obama. The Christie charge and Rubio’s apparent flummox left viewers with the impression that he was a hollow suit.

Bush also made a run at tarring Trump but it didn’t stick. He challenged Trump about his use of eminent domain, a practice by which a government or private entity can appropriate land or property. Trump had used eminent domain as a real estate developer, once forcing an elderly woman from her house next to his casino in Atlantic City. “How tough is it to take property from an elderly lady?” Bush asked. Trump used his stock putdown and was booed by the studio audience. He was booed again when he accused the audience of being made up of party hacks and paid lobbyists.

With 25 percent of the vote Trump was victorious in New Hampshire, and Rubio fell to a distant fifth. Kasich came in second with nearly 16 percent, Cruz third with 11.68 percent, and Bush, the early favorite in the race, fourth with only 11.02 percent. Fiorina and Christie came in sixth and seventh with single-digit percentages and announced they were suspending their campaigns.

The field had been narrowed, and Bush and Carson would drop out two weeks later after further defeats in the South Carolina primary. Trump gained some momentum when he won the endorsements of Carson and Christie, but he and Cruz split the six “Super Tuesday” primaries held on March 1. Trump dispatched Rubio by defeating him in his own state of Florida on March 12, and picked up the critical Michigan primary on March 8. That damaged Kasich’s hopes of turning Rust Belt voters his way (although he would go on to win his home state primary in Ohio on March 15). From there, Trump rolled onward to the nomination with massive victories in the eastern United States—in New York and Connecticut on April 19, and in Pennsylvania and Maryland on April 26. In a last-ditch move before the Indiana primary on May 3, Cruz announced that he had selected Fiorina to be his vice presidential running mate. But Trump walloped Cruz in Indiana, forcing the Texan to withdraw from the race.

Such was the party establishment’s antipathy to Trump and fear he would bomb in the general election against Hillary Clinton that even after Trump had won enough delegates for the nomination, there was talk about making a last stand against Trump at the Republican National Convention. The scheme entailed a change of party rules to allow an open vote and release delegates from binding obligations to support the candidates who had won the primaries. The hope was that if Trump failed to secure the nomination on the first ballot, an alternative candidate could be put forward. But the plan quickly fizzled. Trump had triumphed.

The Trump Factor
Twenty-nine million Republicans voted in the 2016 primaries, exceeding the record set in 2008 when 26.8 million voters cast ballots in GOP primaries. More than 14.8 percent of registered Republicans voted in the primaries, compared to 11 percent in 2008, even though turnout fell off after Trump won the Indiana primary on May 1 and came within sight of clinching the nomination. The turnout revealed that the Republican grassroots voters were fired up. Trump won 1,441 delegates of the total 2,472, surpassing the threshold of 1,237 delegates needed to secure the party’s nomination.

Trump’s full-throated vow to “make America great again” through immigration restriction, trade protectionism, and returning manufacturing jobs to the United States was designed to lure blue-collar voters to the Republican Party.

Trump’s success with working class voters improved his prospects for defeating a Democratic opponent in the November general election. In analyzing Romney’s loss to President Obama in 2012, a few election analysts such as Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics argued that four to six million white males had stayed home from the polls, and if they had voted then Romney would have won the election. These missing voters, Trende claimed, were mostly blue-collar, lower-income voters, many in the Rust Belt spanning the Midwest and Northeast who were disaffected with the political system. Trende’s argument assumed that these absent voters could be turned out to vote. More importantly, he postured that political appeals to bring them into the party would not alienate others in the party.

Political parties are composed of uneasy coalitions. The Democratic Party is primarily a coalition of the wealthy and the poor; highly educated whites and less-educated minority groups; young whites and Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians. White voters in the 2012 presidential election and in the 2014 midterm elections went overwhelmingly Republican. This leaves the Democratic Party with a problem with white voters, while Republicans clearly have a demographic problem with ethnic minority voters. Trende’s argument, while not dismissing the need for Republicans to reach out to these minority voters, suggests that attracting blue-collar whites to the party is the key to victory.

Yet, Trump’s policy views as well as his abrasive style alienated many voters, including those in his own party. His rhetoric was macho, angry, and offensive. His bluster, self-congratulatory chest pounding, and name calling offended many Republicans, ideological conservatives, suburban women, and minorities. Conservative intellectuals and many Republican Party insiders were mortified that Trump seemed to personify what progressives had been saying all along: the Republican Party is racist, anti-women, and xenophobic. Opinion leaders at the National Review and Weekly Standard launched a Never Trump campaign. Conservative commentator George F. Will announced he was leaving the Republican Party, and the entire Bush Dynasty—George H.W., George W., and Jeb—skipped the Republican National Convention and pointedly avoided endorsing the party’s nominee for president.

Whatever Trump had gained in winning blue-collar white males to his cause, he lost suburban white women, Hispanics, and moderates. Exit polls in state primaries revealed the problems he could expect in the general election. In Florida, he received only 40 percent of the female vote and only 26 percent of the Hispanic vote, which went overwhelmingly to Rubio. Trump received 46 percent of the evangelical Christian vote. A similar pattern was seen in exit polls in the key battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Trump’s hyper anti-immigration stance put strong Red states such as Arizona, with a 40 percent Hispanic population, into play. Troubles were also evident in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.

Trump did surprisingly well among evangelical voters, given his equivocation on social issues. Over the course of the campaign, Trump took five different positions on abortion, ranging from women should be punished for having an abortion to “my position has not changed—like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.” Yet in Virginia he won 36 percent of the evangelical vote; 55 percent of the evangelicals in Pennsylvania; and received more evangelical votes than Cruz or Rubio in South Carolina, Ohio, and New Hampshire. These self-identified voters were willing to ignore Trump’s clear lack of knowledge about the Bible and his apparent absence of religiosity. The evangelicals were angry white voters sick of what they saw as the attack on Christians as bigots, homophobes, and racists. They feel hurt by the attacks, especially considering that their churches are involved in drug rehabilitation, afterschool programs, food distribution for the homeless, single-mother counseling, and an array of other community programs. They see in Trump a rare politician who unapologetically shares their contempt for the establishment—and for this alone, they overlooked his spiritual faults.

Outlook for the Grand Old Party
After the Republican National Convention, Trump got a bump in the polls. But his momentum slowed after the Democratic National Convention, which laid out Hillary Clinton’s campaign strategy: Attack Trump. Heavy-hitting and well-received speeches by Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and Bill Clinton reinforced the narrative that Trump was unsuited temperamentally to be president. America was already a great country and Trump’s message was divisive and dark. One evening at the convention featured remarks by Khizr Khan, a Muslim American whose son died while serving in Iraq. He said that by receiving draft deferments Trump had failed to sacrifice for his country, and that Trump’s call to ban Muslim immigrants showed his ignorance of the constitution.

Democrats were baiting Trump, and he took the bait. Instead of recognizing the greatest sacrifice a parent can give to their country—the life of a child serving in the military—Trump went on the attack. He argued that he too had sacrificed by creating thousands of new jobs, and then taunted Khan—noting that Khan’s wife had stood silently by his side during his convention remarks, Trump suggested that Muslim women were not allowed to speak in public.

Some Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senator McCain, and Senator Kelly Ayotte, who faced tough reelection challenges in 2016, quickly distanced themselves from Trump. Even Trump supporter and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that Trump did not seem prepared to be president. Trump responded a few days later by getting into a feud with his fellow Republicans—stating that he was unwilling to endorse Ryan, McCain, or Ayotte in their reelection campaigns.

When Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers jumped after the Democratic National Convention, taking a lead nationwide as well as in key battleground states, many concluded that Trump would have been better off taking a vacation without access to his Twitter account after the Republican convention. Trump did an about-face and endorsed Ryan, McCain, and Ayotte. He pivoted to the economy, giving a speech in Detroit in early August saying that as president he would reduce the corporate tax rate, cut taxes for the middle-class and lower-income groups, and make better international trade deals. He proposed creating a private-public infrastructure bank to fund public construction products. But before long, there was another controversy raging around Trump, this time when the media published recordings of disturbing misogynistic conversations that Trump confirmed as genuine.

And so it went as Americans elected a successor to President Barack Obama. The Republican Party boasts a long and proud legacy in the American political tradition, beginning with its founding in 1854 by anti-slavery activists and others. It quickly swept to victory in 1860, putting Abraham Lincoln in the White House and winning control of Congress. Throughout a century and a half the GOP has weathered ebbs and flows. Seldom has it faced such disarray as in 2016.

History suggests that whatever Trump’s own political fortunes, the Republican Party will survive. After the 1964 presidential election in which Barry Goldwater went down in a landslide defeat and Republicans lost thirty-seven seats in Congress, the party rebuilt itself and regained the presidency in 1968. Following Richard M. Nixon’s resignation from the presidency amid the Watergate scandal in 1974, less than 15 percent of the electorate identified themselves with the Republican Party. Six years later, in 1980, Reagan won the White House in a landslide. Republican comebacks can be partly attributed to Democratic overreach.

But this time the comeback could have its limits. In 1968 and 1980, Republicans were able to tap into new voters. The damage done by Trump with Hispanic and female white suburban voters might have lasting effects on the Republican Party, ensuring that it will remain a minority party. Both the Republican and Democratic parties face an upsurge in populist challenges, but for Republicans with Trump’s nomination, the ramifications are multiple and severe. Trump as the party’s leader is entitled to appoint the next chairman of the Republican National Committee. After the 1964 loss, the establishment ousted Goldwater’s appointee. Goldwater, a lifelong Republican, agreed to the change. Trump the outsider with the outsized ego might be less amenable to giving up the reins. The Republican Party has extraordinary strength at the state level. Win or lose, Trump supporters may see opportunities to go after the Republican establishment throughout the country.

Perhaps the chickens have come home to roost for a party that helped stoke the flames of voter discontent with its support of the Tea Party, with its attacks on the mainstream media, academia, crony capitalism, and the very concept of compromise—even if principled and necessary for the sake of governance. The GOP’s greatest challenge, however, is overcoming its sole reliance on the mobilization of white voters. In the end, Americans tend toward moderation and won’t support a party that projects itself as zany, xenophobic, and intolerant. Trump’s startling political rise points to a major realignment of both parties in which Republicans are no longer a coalition of globalization-loving business interests and globalization-hating white workers, but a party of the dispossessed, those hurt by globalization. Democrats, a coalition of coastal upper-income voters and poor minority voters, might be transformed into the party of college-educated voters who win in a globalized economy.

In 2016, both major American political parties nominated candidates disliked and distrusted by a majority of Americans. The next American president faces serious challenges in formulating and implementing domestic and foreign policies. This sets the stage for the out-party to make huge gains in the 2018 midterm election. American politics is thus certain to experience more volatility in the years to come. Donald Trump personifies the disruption of the American political tradition.

Donald Critchlow, professor of history and director of the Center for Political Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University, is the author and editor of more than twenty books, including Future Right: Forging a New Republican Majority; American Political History: A Very Short Introduction; and When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Policy History. He has appeared on C-SPAN, NPR, and BBC World News, and contributed to the Washington Post, New York Observer, MarketWatch, and National Review.

Hillary Clinton’s Imperial Feminism

Biological essentialism is insufficient when speaking about gender and its power. Being a female exerciser of political power is not one and the same with having women’s interests in mind: an end to sexual violence, the full determination of women’s and girls’ reproductive rights, the right to economic independence and to work for wages, and living wages at that.

There have been women political leaders who have not realigned patriarchal power in their governing, nor improved the lives of women they governed, such as Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meir. Yet, sometimes women in sites of power make a difference: like Michelle Bachelet’s women’s rights agenda in Chile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s embrace of refugees, and the U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor with their support for reproductive rights.

Ever since Hillary Clinton thought of running for president, it has been repeatedly asked if her election would make a difference to and for women. Which women might she help, if any? In what ways would she address the problems that patriarchy and misogyny pose for women of all classes and races, both at home and abroad? In her policy statements and rhetoric, she speaks about cracking and opening ceilings while most women in the United States and around the world remain in the basements.

With the world mired in crises, and in an election colored by the hyper-misogyny of a patently unqualified Donald Trump, the particular significance of Clinton’s candidacy as a woman has lost some of its resonance. In any case it is hard to think of her as breaking a barrier for women when she has been a part of the national political scene for a quarter century, as First Lady during the Bill Clinton presidency, U.S. senator representing New York, and President Barack Obama’s secretary of state.

Although I agree with liberal feminists who think it is time for a woman president in the United States, I also think it is as crucial to keep a mobilized critique of Clinton’s imperial feminism at the forefront. Imperial feminism is a feminism that operates on behalf of American empire building. It has a history of using the Western canon of “women’s rights” to justify American wars, most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq. Imperial feminism imposes rather than negotiates, it dominates rather than liberates, it declares itself the exceptional arbiter of women’s needs. It operates on behalf of the hierarchies of class across the globe, leaving most women out of the mix. Hillary Clinton has become the representation of and decoy for these politics.

Imperial feminism privileges inequality through gender bending that masquerades as gendered equality. Imperial feminism privileges empire building through war. It denies that women lack access or opportunity on the structural basis of their gender oppression. Its view is privatized and individualized with little commitment to the masses of women or non-binary gendered peoples.

Imperial feminism is not intersectional. It assumes a unitary stance of structural misogyny for empire even though discrimination towards women is critiqued. As long as the critical prism is not explicitly multiracial and multiclass, it remains white and privileged. As such, Clinton both articulates and obfuscates these politics.

Clinton’s run for the White House was not an act of post-patriarchy or post-misogyny, nor a statement of gender equality in and of itself. Nor have the female leaders of about a quarter of the world’s countries, across all continents, meant this either. The rise of these women as presidents and prime ministers might be a small reform step towards that possible and eventual goal of gender equity. But the nation-states themselves are what need democratic restructuring. The difference between reform and revolution in these instances is enormous. Instead of repeating more of the same, new democratic imaginings are needed.

I am thinking about progressive feminisms of all sorts, both in the United States and throughout the world, that are anti-racist and anti-militarist. Feminisms in these plural instances require an inclusive embrace of women of all colors in a non-hierarchal rainbow. Such a global view demands peace rather than war. But Clinton disguises militarism with a friendly white female face, read as feminist, as though this feminism were inclusive when it is not. When a woman is president, we––women—will be told that the glass ceiling has been broken. We will hear that we are now in a postfeminist era. But this particular “we” remains too rich, too white, too imperial, too capitalist, too everything that most women (and men) are not.

Most feminisms of the last three decades both inside and outside the United States—whether named geographically, ethnically, ideologically—have become more complicated, more complex, more intersectional, more inclusive, meaning anti-racist, pro-sex, pro-choice, anti-violence, pro-trans, pro-environment, and anti-militarist. It is past time to speak up against policies that continue American exceptionalism, imperialism, colonialism, racism, and sexism. American exceptionalism—that the United States is the arbiter of democracy and universal values—devalues nations elsewhere.

A notable example of what I mean is Clinton’s continual defense of Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s “right” to defend itself. She gives “rights” to a patriarchal, racist, and colonial state, declaring herself a lifelong friend to Israel with an “unbreakable bond.” Women of all kinds and identities across these borders are put at risk and in harm’s way. Their varied and differing rights in this war are ignored, and Palestinian women suffer heartbreak, devastation, and death in outsized proportion.

Underlining how her gender would make little difference in Middle East policymaking, Clinton’s position on Israel endorses the same policies that have failed for decades. She still wants to enforce a singular and exclusive U.S. notion of democracy; one that she claims is universal—American values are universal values, she insists. She embraces Israel in this endeavor, and this pro-Israel position seeps into her policies toward Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others. She says Israel must defend itself and sees the present tragedy in Gaza as the fault of Hamas. She frames a renewed interventionism and calls it “smart power”—using our power “to spread freedom and democracy,” if not in old forms of unilateralism and “boots on the ground.” She may change tactics but not the strategy. The United States remains the arbiter of goodness and righteousness. To fight radical jihadists, she says, “I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat.”

American Exceptionalism
Hillary Clinton says that peace and security are dependent on the participation of women, especially in the labor force, in the formal economy. How do you fix the economy by simply allowing and encouraging women to enter it? This will not fix an economy that is structured with racial and sexual ghettoes and unequal pay for women. Having women enter the labor force is an old strategy that intensifies the triple shift of daily labor for women, but is not tied to their freedom, or equality, or liberation. Jobs did not bring liberation to women in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution, or to women in Venezuela during Hugo Chavez’s reign, or even to the United States today. Supposedly the gross domestic product goes up if women enter the labor force—estimated to increase productivity 34 percent in Egypt, or 9 percent in Japan. But who really gains? Not the women in Egypt or Japan. The corporate class, privileging upper class men, gains instead.

Clinton uses her No Ceilings initiative to advance women and girls around the world. She thinks that “giving women the tools to fully participate in their economies, societies, and governments” is the unfinished business of the twenty-first century. I would be more interested in a No Basements initiative. Feminists need to work from the bottom up where most women are found—hauling water, collecting wood, standing on assembly lines, providing food, working low-paid service jobs.

Clinton assumes the exceptional status of the United States because of its supposed just and democratic practices, especially towards women. Therefore, her imperial feminism sets its sights outside the United States. At the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, she famously said, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” In equating the two, she looks to universalize women’s needs, diminishing their particularity.

Before focusing on the lives of women and girls elsewhere, Clinton might rather direct her attention on the great deficits at home. She should commit to safeguarding abortion clinics, demand a living wage of at least $15 an hour, improve daycare, reduce incarceration rates, and increase contraceptive coverage and paid maternity leave for women of all colors. After all her years in U.S. politics, she has little to show on these fronts.

Too many white feminists—in imperial and neoliberal form—similarly speak on behalf of women’s rights, but for places elsewhere. Critiques of women’s rights in Egypt, in Venezuela, in Nigeria, and elsewhere, in fact overlap with similar indecencies in the United States. Data shows that America is well behind many countries when it comes to daycare policy, family leave, rights to health care, and reproductive rights for women. The United States is hardly exceptional, but trails behind Sweden, Canada, and Ireland. The United States records increased poverty, increased incarceration, and increased health crises, especially for women of color.

The No Ceilings initiative says that there “has never been a better time to be born female.” Really? Tell that to the suffering women of Syria. Or Northern Nigeria. Or to the women in American prisons. Violence against women has reached epic proportions in every single country in the world, according to Lydia Alpizar, director of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development. In the United States, rape on college campuses is an epidemic violating one in five female students. Pregnant women are at their greatest risk in American prisons. Even women serving as peacekeepers—in the United Nations blue-helmet forces—are experiencing a serious rape problem. Clearly the assumptions of the No Ceilings initiative are too narrow and too exclusionary.

The findings by the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women CSW59/Beijing+20 report, twenty years after the 1995 Beijing Declaration to bring about equality, are an outrage. The growing disparities of wealth are a women’s issue for women of every color. When it comes to abortion access, equal pay, hunger, homelessness, a living wage, and available daycare, millions of women in the United States are suffering. This suffering should repudiate the posture of American exceptionalism. American business mogul Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, asks women at the top to “lean in” and not pull back from demanding their due. Meanwhile most women are leaning in fully and working overtime with little to show for it.

Imperial feminism and liberal feminism do not provide the answers in this moment of national and global crises. They downsize the more radical-liberal promise of sexual and racial equality. Opportunity is the new mantra. Equality of opportunity has been erased and denied.

Feminisms must be about so much more than gender. They must embrace the multipronged, multiple, and complex identities of gender—racial, class, sexual, age, ability, and so on. Anti-imperial feminism insists on naming gender and the way it intersects at all these locations without ever becoming singular and/or exclusionary in focus.

Anti-imperial feminists need to mobilize and push for a multipronged agenda after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Anti-imperial feminism imagines beyond separation and singularity to a limitless sense of variety and multiplicity of genders, and races, and sexualities themselves. These feminists must stand in broad coalition with others against neoliberal racist, patriarchal, imperial practices wherever they exist. In particular anti-imperial feminists must join in coalition with others who demand an end to human and ecological destruction—especially at this moment, in Gaza, Yemen, and Syria, and in American cities like Ferguson, Milwaukee, and Baltimore.

Multiple realities exist for women of all colors today—and misogyny still exists alongside upward mobility for some particular women. The framing of women as a sexual and gendered class remains a structural deficit. Women, especially women of color, are struggling against poverty and to earn a living wage. It is these mixed realities that make present forms of patriarchy more complex and multiple. A woman without an inclusive anti-racist, anti-imperial feminist agenda cannot either imagine or create the conditions for a wide and deep peace with justice. A woman American president might make a difference for a few but she cannot make enough of a difference for most people suffering around the world.

Rather—critique the racist, patriarchal capitalist and global market that turns 70 percent of women into migrants and refugees. Stand against the newest expressions of structural racism and misogyny across coalitions to save the planet and the rest of humanity. Begin to create the solidarity and trust that everyone needs to end the misery that too many suffer daily. Anti-imperial feminists can start by creating resistance and revolutionary alliances of refusal against imperial feminism. Having a woman president in the United States is far from enough.

I am among those who do not believe that the electoral arena can deliver the democracy we yearn for, but feel as though we must do as much as we can anyway on behalf of this dream—of a fully humane, free, anti-imperial, anti-racist, feminist, gender non-conforming world.

Let us think beyond imperial, neoliberal, and hyper-militarist feminisms. Let us think beyond a rights-defined feminism that favors existing structures of power and privilege by focusing on the legal underpinning of choice. Legal rights are not enough. They remain ensconced in unequal relations of power that often simply reproduce the right to remain unequal.

When Clinton asserts her women’s rights agenda—one that treats women the same as men—which women is she thinking about? And which men are women supposed to be equal to? Women in power need to deal with the inequalities of class, and race, and gender, and sex, and nation before offering women their rights.

This is what a meaningful politics of gender looks like:

—In speaking about women’s rights include the women of Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc.

—Constitute 50 percent of all political institutions with people of color and women of all colors.

—Formulate new policy to address and reduce sexual violence in everyday life.

—Transform the misogynistic practices in policing and the penal system that particularly harm women and girls of all colors.

—Establish federally paid daycare for anyone needing it.

—Clarify how transgender rights are crucial to the practice of an effective democracy.

—Establish LGBTQ equality as a guide for all gender and race rights.

—Establish paid family leave.

—Establish equal pay for all work and with a living $15-a-day wage.

—Examine the possibility of equal work across gender divides—end racial and sexual ghettoes in the labor force, end pink and blue-collar labor.

—End all forms of sexual violence—domestic, military, policing, war-rape—which means ending wars everywhere.

—Specify the conclusion of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the end of arms trade, especially to Saudi Arabia.

—Implement single-payer health care and free sexual health care—contraceptives, abortion, morning after pill, etc.

—Establish national compliance towards an end to global warming specifying an end to fracking and dependence on all fossil fuels.

—Abolish the prison system as we know it in the United States.

Beyond Gender Politics
I voted for Barack Obama rather than Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary in New York State. I thought he would make more of a difference for more of us: people of color, white women, and the poor. He has made a difference but not enough, and especially not enough for the people who suffer his drone strikes, the detainees still in Guantánamo, and African Americans killed by militarized police forces. His presidency makes clear that no single person changes structures of power.

So does the gender of a president matter? It does as soon as you say or act as though a woman cannot be president or should not be. Of course, being female does not discount anyone from being a fabulous leader, Hillary Clinton included. But if a woman is running in a misogynist election in the first place, one needs to be careful what kind of victory one is claiming. Clinton, running as “the most qualified person, who happens to be a woman,” should have been able to eviscerate the likes of Donald Trump. Instead, continual false equivalences were drawn between them. She proved almost as unpopular with the American people as the misogynist billionaire. Some people hate Clinton in classic misogynist fashion, because she is a woman. Others dislike her because she is part of the old guard albeit in a new female skin. Others dislike her Clinton baggage. Her candidacy both elicited and transcended misogyny. No one could have imagined the level of misogynist rancor mobilized by Trump.

The 2016 American presidential race was the election from hell, between a misogynist racist bigot and an imperial feminist. When a woman is president, at least we can move beyond that demand. The way will be cleared for the women of the world to move past the singular focus of gender to push for an inclusive feminism that is anti-imperial.

We need to make a feminist coalition with better movements for peace and justice—the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter. No one person, no matter what their gender or race, can create the peace and justice we need. Lately it appears that women rule the world. Theresa May is the prime minister of the United Kingdom, Angela Merkel the chancellor of Germany, Christine Lagarde the head of the International Monetary Fund. Yet there is little gender equality for the women suffering sexual violence and war. Women and girls continue to make up a disproportionate percentage of displaced persons, refugees, and the homeless. Violence is devastating the lives of Nigerian girls kidnapped and enslaved by Boko Haram; and Yazidi girls and women are turned into sex slaves in Iraq and Syria.

I am reminded of the comment of my friend, Egyptian feminist Nawal El-Saadawi in response to a question after the Tahrir Square uprising in 2011. When asked at a New York City teach-in what people in the United States could do to support the revolution in Egypt, she replied: “Make your own revolution and change your government for us.”

Zillah Eisenstein is a longstanding activist-scholar and emerita professor in the Department of Politics at Ithaca College. She is the author of The Audacity of Races and Genders: A Personal and Global Story of the Obama Election; Sexual Decoys: Gender, Race and War in Imperial Democracy; and Against Empire: Feminisms, Racism and the West, among others. She has contributed to the Nation, Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, and Feminist Wire. On Twitter: @ZEisenstein.

Barack Obama’s Presidency

As soon as the newly elected United States president, having spent part of his childhood outside the nation’s borders as the son of a discredited father, nominated his chief political rival as his secretary of state, both he and the cabinet member to be held responsible for foreign affairs were condemned by critics as illegitimate and corrupt. Undeterred, the president presented Congress with an ambitious program of federal spending that targeted education and infrastructure.

The purpose of democracy, in his words, was the progressive improvement of the conditions of the governed, and to that end he demanded that members of Congress take up their obligations to the country and the common good. He knew his opponents, particularly those from the states of the South, would protest that the American people opposed such federal initiatives, but he persisted. Representatives elected by the citizenry had a responsibility to act in the public interest, not to be paralyzed by partisan loyalties. He warned the lawmakers not to “slumber in indolence or fold up our arms and proclaim to the world that we are palsied by the will of our constituents.”

A champion of the rights of African Americans, women, and other ethnic minorities, the president became anathema to white males, particularly those with little education. By the time he left office, the United States was even more partisan and polarized than it had been when he assumed the presidency promising moral, political, and intellectual improvement. In the rowdy electoral contest to choose his successor, a tough-talking, rough-edged, self-styled man of the people came to prominence by assailing both the persons and the programs of the president and his secretary of state.

That is a description of John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay back in 1825. Nearly two centuries of American history later, Barack Obama found himself denounced as an un-American elitist, while Hillary Rodham Clinton was branded a crook. Those who supported the man who would eventually succeed President Adams in 1829, Indian fighter and slave owner Andrew Jackson, hailed their hero as the authentic voice of the people. They railed against the antislavery and pro-Indian positions taken by the Harvard-educated son of the aristocratic Federalist John Adams, and they sputtered with rage against those who had stolen the contested election of 1824 from Jackson by striking a corrupt bargain with Clay.

When we attempt to assess the achievements of President Obama, it is helpful to keep in mind that historians’ judgments change over time. For most of the twentieth century, ever since Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s The Age of Jackson, published in 1945, sanctified Old Hickory as the first authentic champion of democracy and the first occupant of the White House to spring from and represent the people, his predecessor has been portrayed as an ineffectual political leader as well as an underhanded schemer who, with Clay’s help, unfairly delayed Jackson’s rise to the presidency. Viewed from this perspective, the election of John Quincy Adams was the last gasp of the old elites who had controlled the government ever since the presidency of George Washington. Now it was time for the people to rule. Adams later in life earned a kind of redemption, defending slaves in the Amistad trial and earning a reputation as “Old Man Eloquent” for the impassioned speeches he delivered against slavery in the House of Representatives; as president, he enjoyed few successes and endured multiple defeats at the hands of Congress. Only in recent years, as the fate of the Indians and African Americans whom Adams defended, and the causes of education and internal improvements that he championed, have resurfaced as important issues in U.S. history, has his reputation begun to change.

An Early Assessment
How will history view the Obama presidency? As the transition from John Quincy Adams to Andrew Jackson and their shifting legacies suggests, a lot depends on what happens in the next eight years, and even more depends on how Americans a hundred years from now look back on the principal events of Obama’s presidency. Now it seems fairly easy to tally up a list of pluses and minuses. Job growth has been steady; unemployment has sunk below 5 percent. More than 90 percent of Americans now enjoy health insurance. Gay marriage has become legal. The nation’s financial system has been reformed and stabilized, and private banks can no longer provide federally financed student loans. Vast areas of land have been set aside as national monuments. The Paris Agreement has committed the United States to addressing the problem of climate change. A new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was signed with Russia in 2010. Diplomatic relations with Cuba have been reestablished. Iran’s development of nuclear weapons has been stopped.

On the other hand, the promise of the Arab Spring has turned to dust, and authoritarian regimes rule much of the Middle East and Central Asia. Despite sanctions against Russia prompted by its annexing of Crimea and its challenges to the sovereignty of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s regime remains as oligarchic and bellicose as ever. Armed conflicts continue in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the civil war in Syria grows ever more murderous. Although the territory controlled by the Islamic State appears to be shrinking, it remains a formidable threat around the world. No progress has been made to ease tensions between Israel and its neighbors. In the United States, large majorities of whites as well as blacks agree that race relations are worse now than they were in 2008, and the open expression of hatred of racial and ethnic minorities has again become acceptable to many people. The words “anger” and “angry” appear with striking frequency in articles concerning the public mood. The real income of most Americans has not risen in decades.

Yet this balance sheet should not be considered the final verdict. It will be a long time before we can confidently assess the successes and failures of the Obama presidency. Consider three early struggles of 2009: the battles over the stimulus package, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Critics on the right condemned all three proposals at the time, and rolling them back remains among the principal goals of the Republican Party. Critics on the left believe that all three were but half-measures, fatally flawed from the start. A closer look complicates those judgments.

Today it seems clear that the $800 billion stimulus worked. It kicked off eight years of unspectacular but uninterrupted economic growth by pumping money into sectors of the economy reeling after the 2007–08 collapse of the housing and financial sectors. Although left-leaning commentators such as Paul Krugman of the New York Times have complained that the unprecedentedly large stimulus was too small, studies such as The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era by Michael Grunwald have made clear that even members of Obama’s own party, notably the fifty-four conservative Blue Dog Democrats, were unwilling to support anything more ambitious.

Obamacare has secured health insurance for more Americans than ever, but it has not slowed the spiraling medical expenses many people face. Even though it follows a blueprint produced by a conservative think tank and enacted first, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, by Republican Governor Mitt Romney, conservatives still brand it a government takeover. They worry openly that if it were to succeed, it would embolden social democrats to expand even further the role played by public authority in domains they consider private. First health care, so the argument goes, next railroads, urban mass transit, free university education, public housing, guaranteed jobs, and eventually the United States will become Denmark! By contrast, left-leaning Democrats have savaged the reliance on private insurance companies. Strangely blind to the obstacles that even this more moderate proposal faced in Congress, they still clamor for a single-payer plan, a proposal that stood no chance of passing even in 2009. Because Democrats enjoyed a small majority in the House and the Senate until 2010, some commentators have argued that President Obama could have rammed through a much more ambitious program had he possessed the skills of, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt or Lyndon B. Johnson.

The result of the protracted congressional debate over health care reform resembles most of the earlier landmarks in American social legislation. Like social security in 1935 and voting rights, Medicare, and Medicaid in 1965, the healthcare reform measure of 2010 is a product of the sausage factory that we call representative democracy. Obviously far from perfect, it will have to be revised as its flaws become clear. It might also be the best bill Obama could have gotten through Congress. The election of 2008, although historic because it gave the United States its first black president and briefly gave his party a slim majority in the House and the Senate, was hardly a landslide. The political scientist William Galston, a veteran of Bill Clinton’s White House, has pointed out that Obama’s own electoral majority was only one percent greater than Clinton’s in 1992, and Obama was running at the time of the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. Democrats held sixty seats in the Senate at least until Massachusetts, in a special election to replace Ted Kennedy after his death, bewilderingly elected an almost unknown Republican (a pick-up truck owner and former model named Scott Brown) to replace the long-time champion of healthcare reform. By contrast, when Franklin Roosevelt began his second term in office, Democrats held seventy-five seats in the Senate, the Republicans only seventeen. When Lyndon Johnson maneuvered the Voting Rights Act through Congress, Democrats held sixty-eight seats in the Senate and a 295-140 majority in the House. Moreover, in the 1930s and 1960s both parties were far less ideologically homogeneous than they are now: more than half the Republicans in the House and more than 40 percent in the Senate voted for Medicare. In his first two years, Obama overcame much more resistance than FDR or LBJ faced, and after the 2010 election an unprecedentedly intransigent Congress blocked everything he proposed.

So how should we judge Obamacare? If the United States moves toward a single-payer system in the coming decades, Obamacare will appear to have been a tentative, toe-in-the-water step down a road that the United States was destined to follow, an unsatisfactory measure that at least moved the nation in the right direction. If, on the other hand, a future Republican president or conservative-dominated Supreme Court succeeds in dismantling the program and the United States reverts to its exceptional status as the only advanced industrial nation that does not provide national health insurance for all citizens, then Obamacare will seem only a mysterious anomaly.

The same holds true for Dodd-Frank. If the banking sector remains stable and consumers remain secure from extortionate interest rates and shady products, it will appear a triumph to some historians. But if its regulations are dismantled and the nation’s financial sector returns to the hands of freewheeling, buccaneer bankers who profit handsomely and pay enough to insure political support for their power, Dodd-Frank may appear to have been just another example of misguided, job-killing government overreach. If such regulations are extended, of course, it may appear to have been as tepid and toothless as it now seems to radicals who demanded the privileges enjoyed by corporate America be removed and the banks shackled.

The Obama Doctrine
Consider foreign policy. When President Obama delivered his Cairo speech of June 4, 2009, he was widely hailed for renouncing America’s imperial ambitions and wisely acknowledging the legitimacy of other nations’ points of view. Many commentators judged the speech, which promised A New Beginning, a landmark in U.S. foreign policy, and it helped secure the Nobel Peace Prize for the new president just four months later. In 2016, with the Arab Spring a fading memory, wars continuing in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and the United States mounting but seldom acknowledging murderous drone strikes against multiple enemies, President Obama’s pledge to extricate America from the wars he inherited remained unfulfilled. In Iraq, he has withdrawn American forces, as he promised to do, but it is not clear that stability has returned after the U.S. invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power. In Afghanistan, the president followed the recommendation of his military advisors and increased the size of American forces, but it is not clear that the strategy paid off. In Syria, President Obama seems to have decided, against the advice of some of his advisors, that nothing Washington might do is likely to make a horrible situation less horrible.

Now what? Again, if what has come to be known recently as the Obama Doctrine—“don’t do stupid stuff”—marks the start, over the long term, of a U.S. foreign policy that relies less on invasions and military occupations and more on use of soft power such as sanctions and boycotts, then President Obama’s initial reputation as a visionary peacemaker may yet be restored. If, however, as seems much more likely, nothing the United States tries succeeds in altering the evermore ominous trajectory of escalating terrorist attacks and merciless civil wars, developments that threaten to further destabilize international relations, then President Obama will probably be condemned as the inexperienced naïf that his critics claimed he was from the beginning. Of course those who demand that the United States do something (anything!) in situations such as the civil war in Syria comfortably occupy the high moral ground by opposing death and destruction. Finding reasons to think that any particular policy would succeed better than what has been tried in Afghanistan and Iraq for longer than the U.S. has ever been at war, and at a cost that dwarfs everything else the federal government has done, is more challenging than self-righteous proclamations of horror.

The point is simply that President Obama’s stature will depend, to a degree that those of us reflecting on it in 2016 have trouble seeing, as much if not more on what happens after he leaves office as it does on what has happened since he was elected. Not only will historians have access to documents that will be sealed for decades, documents that will eventually shed light on the decisions made by the president and other government officials, it is also inevitable that developments we cannot foresee will powerfully shape our understanding of the meaning of our past.

When President Obama spoke in Charleston, South Carolina, after the slaughter of the pastor and eight members of the congregation of the Mother Emanuel church, he praised the church for having harbored runaway slaves and for having served as a haven for African Americans seeking shelter from the intimidation and violence that sustained white supremacy. The time had come, he declared, to remove the Confederate flag from public buildings throughout the South because Americans were finally willing to denounce the cause for which the war was fought, the defense of slavery. Academic historians today would agree with everything the president said at Mother Emanuel. Between a century and a century and a half ago, however, U.S. presidents, bolstered by the best scholarship produced by the community of academic historians, saw things very differently. At the height of Jim Crow, propped up by so-called scientific racism, many prominent white historians claimed that slavery was in the best interests of African Americans, and those who enforced the rule of whites over blacks who did not know their place were redeemers who saved the South from the injustices of Radical Reconstruction after the tragic and unnecessary War Between the States. Although today such views seem an abomination, a century ago only a few brave African American historians dared challenge them.

All of us think history is on our side, or at least we hope it is. Those of us who share President Obama’s commitments to a more egalitarian and inclusive nation believe that his ideals will be vindicated when the policies he hoped but was unable to enact—a much higher minimum wage, a much more steeply graduated income tax, programs to address the problems of unequal access to education and health care, and systems of law enforcement and criminal justice that treat different people differently—become part of a social democratic America. Those Americans who cherish a different vision of the nation, oriented more toward individual freedom, inherited traditions, and unregulated private enterprise, perhaps, likewise expect to see their values proven correct. The presidency of Barack Obama is coming to a close. The struggle over its meaning will never end.

James T. Kloppenberg is the Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard University. He is the author of Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought; Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition; and The Virtues of Liberalism. He has contributed to publications including the Journal of American History, Modern Intellectual History, Newsweek, and Le Monde.

Unraveling in the Kremlin

President Vladimir Putin has found a new model for Russia’s political survival in the post-Communist era. It could be defined as “To be with the West, to be inside the West, and to be against the West.” Depending on its survival needs, the Kremlin has been alternating emphasis on various elements of this model. Through 2007, cooperation and partnership with the West were the Kremlin’s priorities. After Putin’s return to the Russian presidency in 2012, the Kremlin pursued a more assertive foreign policy, with the annexation of Crimea and war with Ukraine in 2014. Since then, even amid the Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war in 2015, the Russian leadership has sought a balance between containment and dialogue.

Foreign policy has become a crucial instrument for perpetuating the Russian system and securing the interests of the Russian ruling class. In this regard, it serves overlapping functions. It pursues the goal of justifying the Besieged Fortress model for Russia that has to generate internal support for personalized power in the situation of failure to guarantee effective social and economic policy. And at a time of shrinking internal resources and economic recession, Russian foreign policy seeks to mobilize society and create military-patriotic legitimacy for the regime. The fact that foreign policy has to perform such internal functions, usually the domain of social and economic policies, indicates that the Russian system has lost its equilibrium and sustainability. However, shifting people’s attention from internal problems to issues like the global balance of power, the perceived Western attempts to humiliate Russia, and preparations for war with neighbors suggests illusionary solutions that will likely deepen Russia’s civilizational quagmire.

Today Putin’s Kremlin is employing a three-track foreign policy vis-à-vis its Western partners to assert Russia’s role as a key geopolitical actor. The policy seeks to cooperate with the West (but on Moscow’s terms); integrate the Russian rentier class into the Western community; and contain the West. Containment is reflected in the regime’s efforts to block Western norms, such as the passage of laws that bar civil society from receiving financial aid from the West. All non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that until recently were receiving such aid have to be registered as “foreign agents.” Anti-Western and primarily anti-American propaganda is another effective means of counteracting Western influence and mobilizing the population behind the Kremlin.

The Kremlin is not ready to seal the borders completely and return to the Cold War standoff with the West. There are various factors encouraging cooperation with the West as well as constraining the Kremlin’s aggressiveness: the interests of the comprador elite; Russian economic interests, including dependence on the sale of hydrocarbons to Europe and dependence on Western investment and technology; the understanding that Russian military and economic resources would be limited in the event of a confrontation with the West; the biting effect of the current Western sectoral sanctions and the threat of new sanctions; the fear of losing control over escalating domestic tensions; and the absence of genuine external threats to the regime.

These factors steer Putin toward dialogue with the West, but with the Kremlin setting the modalities. Among the Kremlin’s demands: don’t meddle in Russian domestic life; accept Russian “spheres of influence”; halt NATO expansion in the direction of Russia’s borders; bar deployment of NATO forces in Eastern European and Baltic states; stop inviting post-Soviet states into the European Union (EU); accept Gazprom’s monopoly in the European energy market; recognize Russian interests in the Arctic; bow to the Kremlin’s understanding of the international rules of the game; and accept Russia in the role of “equal” partner.

Russia’s bellicosity and saber-rattling are misleading. Despite the anti-Western hostility and even nuclear blackmail the Kremlin has recently put on display, it is ready to experiment with various forms of engagement, cooperation, and even partnership with liberal democracies. It hopes that the lack of unity in the West will enable Russia to pursue its policy of divide and rule, create loyal allies within the West, and enable Russia to use cooperation for its own interests.

The Kremlin has turned provoking and managing conflict into an art form. It has skillfully played states against one another; co-opted Western elites and penetrated Western organizations in consolidating support within the West; and sparked crises allowing it to often play several roles at the same time—spoiler, intermediary, intruder, and peacemaker. Putin’s elite has managed to go beyond the practice of containment to influence Western decision-making in Russia’s favor—for example, torpedoing the movement of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova toward Europe; forcing European leaders to accommodate the Kremlin’s energy policy; winning Western acquiescence for its military incursion into Syria and even for President Bashar Al-Assad’s continuation in power; and creating a powerful business lobby and coopting representatives of the expert community in Western countries (through participation in Kremlin forums like Valdai Discussion Club).

One can’t ignore the tenacity of the Russian leadership in exploiting Western weakness and disunity. It well understands the current dysfunction of the liberal democratic model: the West’s lack of readiness for new ideological projects and downplaying of the normative dimension in foreign policy; how the comfortable status quo in post-modern Europe discourages political will and quick reaction, lacking any ambition and moral strength for containment and confrontation; America’s willingness to backslide on commitments, and Barack Obama’s “do-nothing” retrenchment policy.

Even in cooperation, Putin’s Kremlin will not mellow. The Russian elite and part of the population interpret the Kremlin’s anti-Western aggressiveness as evidence of power and prowess; thus, any retrenchment will be perceived as a sign of the regime’s—and leader’s—weakening. The still-influential military industrial complex will demand that the state stick with the militarization model. Much of the Russian population has become mobilized and is still willing (albeit with much less eagerness) to compensate for its pathetic living standards by accepting the claims of Russia’s greatness, even if the claims are nothing but bluff. All these factors will set Russia’s militarist and imperial behavioral pattern on the world stage unless the Russian system is transformed.

The Ukrainian Deadlock
In the Ukraine crisis, Putin knocked over the geopolitical chessboard. The crisis arose in February 2014 when Euromaidan protesters succeeded in ousting President Vicktor Yanukovych for blocking Ukraine’s association agreement with the European Union. The Kremlin fueled pro-Russian separatism in eastern Ukraine and then launched military interventions, which led to the Russian annexation of Crimea and the war in the Ukrainian Donbass. Negotiations between Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s François Hollande on one side and Putin and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko on the other led to the Minsk II agreements on February 11, 2015. The West and Russia offered a hybrid solution to a hybrid conflict, which sowed the seeds of future problems. First, Russia was accepted as a peacemaker and broker, and its demands were allowed to become the framework for the truce. Second, Western negotiators under Moscow’s pressure agreed to turn the war and peace issue into a discussion of Ukrainian statehood, in this way giving consent to limit Ukraine’s sovereignty. It was an attempt to strike a compromise between incompatible interests and antagonistic postures—between Ukraine’s decision to move toward Europe and the Kremlin’s determination to keep Ukraine in its tight embrace.

The West became engaged in the Ukraine negotiations believing in the force of arguments, rationality, the power of persuasion, and the mechanism of give-and-take, and looking for a win-win result. Russia got involved and even initiated the process striving for something else: a deal to preserve its military gains and secure control in Ukraine, and to win the West’s endorsement of the Kremlin’s interpretation of the global game. James Sherr of the British-based think tank Chatham House gave the most devastating analysis of the Minsk II accord: “Instead of a diplomatic process reinforced by Western pressure, we have ended up with a series of political retreats under Russian pressure.”

All sides in the Ukraine crisis had their own agendas. When Moscow learned that Ukrainians were ready to fight back and that Russian intervention would be bloody, the Kremlin dropped the Novorossiya (New Russia) project of splitting the Ukrainian state and creating an enclave loyal to Moscow that would include the industrial regions of Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk. The Kremlin had to limit its agenda to the less ambitious plan to preserve two Donbass separatist “republics” as an instrument to undermine Ukraine from the inside.

Ukraine, for its part, has demonstrated both a strong desire to move toward integration with Europe and an inability to do so without assistance from the West. Western negotiators apparently hoped that military de-escalation along with sanctions would result in a political solution, and decided to insist on concessions from both sides of the conflict. The absence of the United States in the negotiations, which would have added military muscle to Europe’s soft power, limited the West’s leverage.

Minsk II apparently was the best the West could achieve following a model of “sanctions plus diplomacy” with America playing an observer role (having outsourced the Ukraine crisis to Germany). To the surprise of many and to Moscow’s shock, Merkel, Minsk II’s key Western architect, put aside Germany’s traditional Ostpolitik cooperation with Russia and enforced European unity on economic sanctions against Russia. On the other hand, Germany revealed the limits of the West’s readiness to confront Russia and of Europe’s capacity to solve its security problems. The Minsk process allowed the West to save face and de-escalate tensions, but it did not yield a sustainable resolution.

The Ukraine crisis remains deadlocked. Despite the military de-escalation, the truce is constantly broken and mainly by the separatists, and the outbreaks of fighting have taken hundreds of lives. Moreover, Moscow has used other means to undermine the Ukrainian state: trade boycotts, “energy diplomacy,” the manipulation of prices to exert political pressure, and other coercive economic mechanisms deriving typically from Russia’s use of the old Soviet patterns of imperial leverage. At the same time, the West could not completely surrender Ukraine to Moscow. That would expose the abandonment of its principles and amount to acknowledgment of defeat, factors that could tempt illiberal states to test their power further. The new American sanctions on Russia in December 2015 for not complying with Minsk II, as well as the extension of EU sanctions through the end of 2016, showed how the West blames Moscow for the continuing crisis.

Bursts of infighting in Donbass through 2016 illustrated the determination of the Kremlin and its proxies to force the Ukrainian government into accepting Russia’s terms for an end to the conflict. Moscow demands that the Ukrainian government endorse a “special” status for two separatist enclaves and legitimize their virtually independent status in the constitution. The Kremlin also insists that Kiev agree to elections on the separatists’ terms, which would create within Ukraine hostile entities subordinate to Moscow but financed by Ukraine. Ukrainian reading of the Minsk agreement is different: Kiev puts an emphasis on the “security package”—withdrawal of all Russian troops and armaments from Donbass and the return of the Ukrainian control over the border, and only after that elections according to Ukrainian law. Real peace is certainly not possible without sealing the open border between Ukraine and Russia that allows Moscow to support separatists with weapons and send Russian troops into Ukrainian territory.

The West is not ready to see the conflict escalate toward a new war—much less to fight for Ukraine. It often looks as if Western leaders are playing along with Putin’s “let’s pretend” game that Russia wants peace, and have been trying to persuade the world (and themselves) that Minsk II will bring a sustainable truce. Ukraine has to pretend, too, that it follows the contradictory Minsk agreement and remains neither at war nor at peace. A broadly shared willingness to pretend hardly makes for a durable peace settlement. So far nobody is prepared to push the necessary strategic breakthrough. But the patience in the West is running out and it is more inclined to pressure Russia to stop militarization of the conflict.

The impression is that all sides hope to freeze the conflict, leaving it open for a future solution. The question is what form the freezing is taking. One possibility is a Ukrainian version of Transnistria, financed by Russia, which would mean that the Ukrainian separatists will be forcibly integrated into Ukraine and financed by the Ukrainian state. This is a scenario for a Finlandized Ukraine, left dangling between Russia and Europe, which would be the equivalent of planting a bomb inside Ukraine and leaving the trigger in the Kremlin’s hands. And Ukraine would hardly agree to this option. But what could be another option of freezing the conflict remains unclear.

Syrian Gambit
“We are shocked!” This has been the leitmotif of Western responses to Putin’s intervention in Syria that began in September 2015. Moscow’s official explanation for the Syrian foray is hardly persuasive: Putin is fighting international terrorism that could come to Russia. The reality is that the Syrian intervention only increased Russia’s vulnerability to terrorism. Some of the conventional wisdom about Putin’s logic is persuasive on its face; for example, that Putin sees it as a means to strengthen Russia’s superpower role and safeguard Moscow’s sphere of influence in the Soviet tradition. Yet, why would Putin choose to flex Russia’s muscles in Syria, where failure is virtually guaranteed? And why would he do so in 2015, when Russia was already reeling from economic shocks caused by sanctions and the fall in the price of oil? The Kremlin isn’t ruled by a kamikaze. Some analysts argued that Putin wants to save Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. This explanation suggests that the Kremlin has some sort of strange sympathy for Syria’s leader. Putin surely understood that he could never justify this motivation at home—especially at the time when Al-Assad’s regime seemed to be on the verge of collapse.

I would argue that Putin intervened in Syria to distract attention from Russia’s war in Ukraine, and to downgrade the Ukrainian conflict. That is an admission of Russia’s failure to expand further into southeast Ukraine and tighten its grip on the country. Another aim of the Syrian intervention was to break out of diplomatic isolation and return to business as usual with the West. That is an admission that Western sanctions were biting. Even more important, Putin understood that isolation does not allow Russia to play the superpower role that remains a crucial pillar of the Russian system of personalized power. Al-Assad’s destiny, oil, military bases, and the balance of power in the Middle East are all factors in achieving this end. Timing was also a critical factor: Europe was consumed with financial and refugee crises, and America’s lame duck president was not looking for another confrontation with Russia. As Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote, “One might have thought . . . that the next phase in coping with the Syrian problem might involve a renewed effort to resolve it . . . Instead, Moscow has chosen to intervene militarily, but without political or tactical cooperation with the U.S. . . . At best it was a display of Russian military incompetence; at worst, evidence of a dangerous desire to highlight American political impotence.” I would add another explanation: Putin’s frustration with Obama’s rejection of a Grand Anti-Terrorist Coalition on the Kremlin’s terms.

The Kremlin announced the withdrawal of Russia’s “main forces” from Syria in March 2016, which proved a deceit, and by August had begun bombing raids over Syria staged from an Iranian airbase. In September, Russian military aircraft joined Syrian regime forces in a massive bombardment against rebels in Aleppo that produced civilian carnage, prompting Washington to accuse Russia of atrocities and suspend talks with the Kremlin on Syria.

The Syrian intervention helped the Kremlin to reassert its superpower role, to return to its dialogue with the West, guarantee its military bases in Syria, put the Ukrainian conflict on the back burner, and persuade the West of its ability to be a spoiler. Yet, the Syria adventure is an extension of the thinking that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union: Russia must remain a global superpower at any price, but the current resources do not allow Russia to continue this gambit indefinitely. Putin’s gamble has paid off so far, but perhaps only because the Russian population is busy struggling to make ends meet, and the West is preoccupied if not paralyzed by its own myriad problems.

World Disorder
The Ukraine crisis and Syrian intervention must be seen in the context of the Kremlin’s new international agenda. The key challenge for Russia, Putin declares, is “the geopolitical struggle” and the need to establish “common rules” based on “international law.” In essence, Putin wants a renewed dialogue with the West about the destiny of the world. The consternation over America’s “pivot” to Asia and the fairytales about the BRICS countries becoming a new pole of geopolitical influence are part of an effort to persuade the West to reengage with Moscow.

Putin’s blueprint of the new world order is intentionally vague. He has constantly floated the idea of another Yalta settlement, a throwback to the conference of Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill that legitimized areas of influence following World War II. But can Putin possibly believe that Eastern Europe can be returned to the Russian sphere of influence? Does he imagine Western capitals, with the cooperation of Iran and the Arab Sunni countries, agreeing with Moscow to divide the Middle East into Western and Russian zones? As Andrew Wood, the former British ambassador to Russia, wrote in a 2015 working paper for Germany’s Federal Academy for Security Policy, any new security architecture “would require some common understanding of the underlying facts . . . That is now absent between Russia and the West.” Besides, Wood adds, such construction “would also require some degree of confidence between the leaders of counties trying to build such a system, and that too is now absent.”

Putin’s quest for a new world order seems to be another game of “let’s pretend”—a scheme intended to draw the world into an endless dialogue with Moscow about the future of the universe and thereby keep Russia in the forefront of the geopolitical game.

There is a tradition in Russian political culture of “coercive dating”—that is, ramping up pressure in order to force the object of desire into a dialogue. Minsk II and the Syrian adventure follow the pattern. The accord with Merkel and Hollande, which tacitly accepted Russia as both an aggressor and a mediator in the conflict, gave the Kremlin the impression that the West will sooner or later endorse Russia’s vision of a new world order where each player is allowed to interpret the rules of the game as he wishes.

This ambiguous order is the best environment for Russia’s rentier class to maintain its links with “Londongrad” while also insulating Russian society from Western idealism; it would also allow the Russian regime to base its domestic legitimacy on anti-Westernism while keeping its seat at the table in the West’s institutions of international governance. This order would allow the Russian system to contain the West without worrying about the threat of containment. This would be a comfortable order for many in the West, too—for those who loathe the normative dogmatism, or who have grown accustomed to the seductive (and profitable) pragmatism in dealings with Russia over the past few decades.

Russia can’t fully return to a Cold War posture. The Kremlin understands that the country lacks the resources to compete with the West. Russia’s rent-seeking elite, its wealth bound up with globalization, can’t survive without the West. And Russia’s population doesn’t want to live perpetually in a military camp anymore.

Yet, nor can the Russian system prolong itself by imitating a liberal democracy. Even partial liberalization and renewed hopes for Russia’s integration into the West would undermine the Kremlin’s military-patriotic legitimacy. Reopening channels of dialogue and restoring freedom to society would seriously undermine a regime that depends on a closed domestic order and foreign threats to maintain control. The dilemma of the Russian system is that it cannot endlessly rely on the centuries-old cycle of militarization, but it cannot survive in peacetime either.

Ironically, over the past hundred years, starting with the Bolshevik revolution, Russia has been dependent on the West for its own survival. The Soviet Union built its legitimacy around the containment of liberal democracy. After the Soviet collapse, Russia turned to imitating the West as its source of revival. Now it has returned to deterring the West once again. This oscillation of survival models—first one, then the other, and now back to the first—should allow us to conclude that the Russian system of personalized power has lost its sustainability. How long can Russia go on like this, keeping a lid on society by feeding it with false images, fake agendas, and manufactured complexes?

It is difficult to predict Russia’s future course, but what we can say with certainty is that the Russian system can’t modernize itself. How else to explain this sudden turn to wars, this schizophrenic search for an enemy when no one is really threatening Russia inside and outside, and the impulse to lash out at anyone or anything who dares to disagree with Moscow and even at those who are afraid to disagree?

The conflict in Ukraine has turned out to be a geopolitical and civilizational clash of great magnitude, and its outcome will tell us how the Russian system will act to prolong its life. Will Russia agree to curb its geopolitical hunger and look for domestic remedies to its growing internal weakness? Or will it continue to invent new adventures with which to keep its adversaries off balance? The eventual outcome will reveal the role the West will play in determining Ukraine’s future trajectory as a European-leaning nation or a country locked within the Russian orbit. More profoundly, the outcome will tell us a great deal about the shaping of European and world order.

Lilia Shevtsova is an associate fellow at Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia Programme. She was previously a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy Program from 2014 to 2016. From 1995 to 2014, she was a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Moscow. She is the founding chair of the Davos World Economic Forum’s Global Council on Russia’s Future. Her books include Yeltsin’s Russia: Myths and Reality; Putin’s Russia; and Russia: Lost in Transition: The Yeltsin and Putin Legacies.

Pakistan’s Democratic Opportunity

Pakistanis have shed blood for democracy. The country’s most recent election in May 2013 was its bloodiest. It was held during the height of the Taliban insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis. The Pakistan Taliban, known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban, made the election an explicit target, calling democracy un-Islamic, “an infidel system.” During the campaign, the Pakistan Taliban targeted candidates and political party supporters at rallies, killing more than 130 people. At first, the targets were secular or left-leaning parties—the Awami National Party (ANP) from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The week before the election, terrorists struck the Islamist Jamiat-ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) (JUI-F) as well, killing at least thirty people in two attacks. The Taliban told people to stay away from the polls, warning of more violence on election day.

The election was ultimately a success. The targeted parties curtailed some of their activities, but they did not stop campaigning. Rallies were held in a carnival atmosphere, especially in the urban areas, and mobilized many who had been unmotivated to vote in previous elections. There was a palpable energy in the air. Pakistanis were ready for a turnaround after years of insecurity and bloodshed, an energy crisis, an economy that seemed in free fall, and continued misgovernance. Citizens had become terribly disappointed with the governing PPP. According to a national Pew poll in 2013, 83 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of the party’s leader, President Asif Ali Zardari (widower of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto). Yet Pakistanis placed their hopes for change firmly in elected government. A Pew poll in Pakistan in 2012 found that it was important to 88 percent of respondents that people choose their leaders in free elections.

On election day, turnout was 55 percent, despite threats of terrorist violence. This was significantly higher than voter turnout in Pakistan’s previous six elections from 1988 to 2008, when it ranged between 35 percent and 45 percent. Election-day attacks did occur: at least thirty-eight people were killed in Karachi and Balochistan, but the violence was contained relative to the Taliban’s threats. Veteran politician Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won an impressive mandate, capturing 188 out of 342 seats in parliament (a tally that includes nineteen independent candidates who switched to the PML-N post-election). Former star cricketer Imran Khan steered his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) into national prominence alongside the PPP and PML-N. The PPP was routed, especially in Punjab, winning only forty-six seats; and the PTI emerged as a solid third party, winning thirty-three seats.

In the three years since then, trends have been less sanguine. The election that brought Nawaz back as prime minister for the third time had been marred by anecdotal evidence of electoral rigging. Despite the finding of international election observers that the election was by and large fair, in the fall of 2014 Khan’s PTI launched a protest against the government, calling for Sharif to resign (with slogans of “Go, Nawaz, Go!”) and for fresh elections. Khan called off the protest only after the December 2014 terrorist attack in Peshawar that killed more than 130 schoolchildren demanded national unity in the face of extremism.

Sharif Versus Sharif
Khan’s challenge significantly weakened Nawaz Sharif’s hold on power. After the Peshawar attack, the need to improve security was vital, and the civilians were (rightfully) not deemed up for the task. This gave the military an opportunity to appropriate total control of security policy and set up military courts for terrorism cases.

Sharif suffered a further blow in 2016 when he was implicated in corrupt activities by the so-called Panama Papers, some 11.5 million documents from a Panamanian legal firm leaked to journalists revealing how the world’s rich and influential use offshore entities to avoid paying taxes and hide ill-gotten money. In Sharif’s case, the papers showed that his children own offshore companies and assets that he had not declared as part of the family’s wealth. He countered that these companies and assets were technically not in his name and that the money was legal, but has been unable to offer a credible explanation on the source of the money. Sharif said he would form an independent inquiry commission to satisfy his detractors, but proposed a vague mandate for the body, which opposition parties rejected. The squabbling over the terms of reference for the commission continues.

While Nawaz Sharif’s approval ratings have taken a hit, he remains popular. As of June 2016, 54 percent of respondents in a national Gallup Pakistan poll said they were satisfied with his performance. This is lower than the 73 percent approval rating on his performance in his first two years in power found in a poll run by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) in June 2015, but is still high.

But the army is also very popular: the June 2015 PILDAT poll found a 75 percent approval rating for the army, and a 69 percent approval rating for Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif. Throughout his troubles, Nawaz Sharif has had the misfortune of being widely and unfavorably compared with his more popular namesake. This must hurt, given Sharif’s personal grievances with the army. During his second term as prime minister in 1999, his army chief, Pervez Musharraf, sacked him and took power in a coup, forcing Sharif to go into exile for years.

The army is basking in the success of its Zarb-e-Azb operation against the Pakistan Taliban that began in June 2014 and is considered responsible for reducing terrorist attacks in the past two years. The army’s operations in Karachi, led by the Rangers, have also reduced violence in that city, although the army has also meddled deeply in the city’s politics.

The army has an aggressive public relations machine, headed by an exceptionally media-savvy general, Asim Bajwa. Its publicity blitz now includes television dramas, music videos, and documentaries. No one benefits more from it all than Raheel Sharif. Posters with his face are plastered all over Pakistan—even as rickshaw art—and he is constantly in the news. The hashtag #ThankYouRaheelSharif became ubiquitous on social media last year.

Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, still makes old-school speeches from behind his desk, beginning them with “my dear countrymen,” always somewhat whiny and listless. He does not wield a compelling narrative. The public perceives him as weak and ineffectual, while Raheel Sharif exudes competence and efficiency. Nawaz and other politicians are considered as out to enrich themselves personally while the army is considered to work only for Pakistan’s interests. This perception is partly warranted (the army delivers in spite of its corruption; the politicians do not deliver because of theirs), but it also follows from the army’s successful command of the national narrative.

As the Panama Papers scandal unfolded, Raheel Sharif weighed in. He dismissed six military officers, including two generals, for corruption—making his army look better than the politicians through a relatively superficial move. He also publically called for a crackdown on corruption, saying that “enduring peace and stability [will not be established] unless the menace of corruption is uprooted.” In a country where the civilians and the military are constantly compared, harping on the worst weakness of the civilians—corruption—was especially effective.

The media issues harsh criticism of the government while largely sparing the army (the army makes clear that it does not tolerate criticism). According to a Gallup analysis of eight prominent television talk shows in May 2016, governance was the main topic discussed, and the majority of the guests were politicians. The media obsesses over political corruption, while sidestepping the army’s hegemony and appropriation of national resources.

It is a particular feature of Pakistan’s democracy that the army chief, a figure who inhabits the background in most democracies, dominates the country’s imagination more than its popularly elected leader. This dominance is no accident, as the story of Pakistan’s democracy cannot be told without reference to the army. Pakistan’s birth as a Muslim nation amid the partition of India in 1947 led to a sense of deep insecurity vis-à-vis its powerful neighbor. This has led to the disproportionate strength of the institution that defends the country and enables it to exercise dominance in politics, and ironically undermine the very democracy for which Pakistan was created. The army has ruled Pakistan for more than half of the seven decades of the country’s existence. During crises in democratically elected governments, the army is viewed as the ready alternative, a savior for the beleaguered country. Accompanying each army takeover was a heady feeling that things would be fixed; in reality, army rule left the country worse off every time. The pendulum of public opinion would swing toward democracy again, only to be followed by disappointment; the democracy-army cycle would repeat itself.

A popular observation during bad times for elected governments is that Pakistan is not suited for democracy—an argument related to the notion that Islam is incompatible with democracy. This is linked to a Pakistani insularity. Pakistanis consider the country’s problems as particular to it, as not comparable with other countries. As a result of Pakistan’s split from and great enmity with India (and the fact that Pakistan defines itself in opposition to India), Pakistanis have not learned from the nation most similar to their own country. Not surprisingly, they have not looked to the West either. Pakistanis prefer non-democratic success stories—the so-called Asian Tigers, for example—for their models. As a result, they don’t grasp the ups and downs of democracy, that its benefits are found in the long term, that it is sometimes a slog. The (military) savior in the shadows confuses people. If Pakistanis had no military alternative to civilian rule, they might think differently about their politics.

Despite the army’s prominence and popularity in Pakistani life, President Pervez Musharraf’s troubled rule from 2001–08 seems to have dealt a severe blow to any return to direct military rule. In 2007, as Musharraf’s fortunes were sinking after he sacked the chief justice of the Supreme Court and engaged in a violent military operation against a militant madrassa in central Islamabad, a Pew poll found that 77 percent of respondents thought it important that honest elections be held regularly with a choice of at least two political parties.

That shift in public opinion in favor of democracy has persisted despite crises in the post-Musharraf PPP and PML-N terms in office and the army’s current popularity. In the June 2016 Gallup poll, 84 percent of respondents said they preferred democracy to dictatorship. In the PILDAT poll the prior year, 64 percent of respondents said that democratically elected governments constitute the best system for Pakistan, and 66 percent of respondents looked favorably on the quality of democracy in the country. Only 20 percent of the respondents said that another military takeover would be beneficial for Pakistan—while not an insignificant figure, a clear minority.

In the post-Musharraf period, the major political parties are united in opposition to another army takeover. The PML-N and PPP essentially function as a “friendly opposition” to each other, protecting each other over corruption allegations and the like (although the PPP has been more aggressive this year with the Panama Papers inquiry). This is a useful strategy against the military’s ambitions—a lesson they seem to have learned from the repercussions of their hostile relationship in the 1990s—but it undermines accountability. Only Imran Khan’s PTI functions as a true opposition to the government, but instead of opposing it on substance or policy in parliament, Khan leads populist rallies and calls for the prime minister’s resignation. While Khan generates significant support (he had a 49 percent favorability rating in the PILDAT poll in 2015) and has loyal followers, the majority of Pakistanis do not seem to agree with his tactics. In the June 2016 Gallup poll, 68 percent of respondents said that it was wrong for Imran Khan to demand Nawaz Sharif’s resignation over the Panama Papers scandal. Pakistanis seem to have reconciled themselves to a corrupt democracy, because that seems to be the only kind they can get.

The army knows that popular and political opinion does not look favorably on a military takeover. It sent a clear signal during Imran Khan’s protracted protest in the fall of 2014 that it would not move against Sharif’s government, though it will gladly appropriate all the power it can, as it did with security matters following the Peshawar massacre. But the army still promotes its image as a savior, actively and through surrogates. This July, posters popped up all over the country, pleading Khuda ke liay (for God’s sake) for Raheel Sharif to take power. The army denied any involvement in the stunt.

Ultimately, Pakistan’s democracy will not be complete unless the army stops meddling in political matters and stops projecting itself as Pakistan’s savior. In order for faith in democracy to persist, citizens’ belief in the fairness of elections will need to increase. Most elections in Pakistan have been marred by allegations of some kind of rigging. A sizable minority continues to think that the 2013 election was rigged. In the 2015 PILDAT poll, this number was 30 percent (lower than 37 percent in 2014). On the other hand, 59 percent of the respondents in 2015 thought the election was “free and fair.”

The army also needs to cede its control of security and foreign policy. This may be almost impossible—it goes to great lengths to maintain this control. To be fair, it is also unclear that the civilians are competent enough to assume this control. This month, a front page article by a respected journalist in Dawn, Pakistan’s premier English daily, recounted an unprecedented showdown between Nawaz Sharif and the head of the country’s spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), in which the prime minister asked the ISI to end the protection it gives to Kashmiri and Afghan jihadists. The prime minister’s office—which likely “leaked” the story—issued three vociferous denials of the story, and after a meeting between Prime Minister Sharif and General Sharif, immediately placed a travel ban on the journalist and announced an inquiry into the matter. The military’s Inter-Services Public Relations said that the leaks that led to the story were “a threat to national security.” It seems two matters are at stake: the projection of a shift in the civil-military power equation over security matters, and the reference to an internal acknowledgement of the ISI’s cover for jihadists. The reaction from the military has been intense—although most of it is behind the scenes and can be inferred from the actions of the prime minister’s office. It underscores how difficult a shift of power in the military-civilian equation on security is going to be.

Serving the Citizens?
Elected governments through the 1990s were consumed with paranoia. For them, the best outcome (never achieved) was survival through the completion of a full term. Politicians make poor decisions when they are in survival mode. They focus on the short-term, become circumscribed by crises, and are reactive rather than proactive. While Pakistan’s two main parties, the PPP and PML-N, ostensibly differ in their platforms—the PPP is left leaning and favors the rural poor, the PML-N is right leaning and pro-industry—there was little difference in how they ended up governing in the 1990s. They did not invest in improving governance, or in dealing with Pakistan’s myriad development challenges by broadening the tax base, removing barriers to public services like education and health, and improving the rule of law.

The paranoia and survival mode have been evident in the PPP’s recent term and the PML-N’s current term even as the army’s overt threat to democracy has receded. The biggest achievement of Asif Ali Zardari’s presidency between 2008 and 2013 was simply that he completed his term of office. At different points in his three years in office Nawaz Sharif has shown a resolve to adjust to the changed political climate. He has leaned less to the right than ever before, a positive development for Pakistan, but has suffered from setbacks. He has made overtures to India, only to have them voided after the January 2016 Pathankot attack on an Indian air force base that was blamed on Pakistan-based terrorists. He has taken bold moves like hanging Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of provincial governor Salmaan Taseer, a man supported by Pakistan’s Islamists—only to have Qadri sympathizers camp out in front of parliament for days and wreck the capital’s infrastructure in angry protests. Most recently, he seems to have tried to begin the process of wresting back control of security policy from the army, only to be put in his place.

Sharif has spent too much of his time putting out fires, and his policies have felt interrupted and selective. He invests in big, urban infrastructure projects—easily visible to voters—but has not invested in systemic governance reform, or in improving the lives of the rural poor. He has also shown an inability to ideologically counter extremism.

It is unclear whether Sharif will take such steps; with the PPP significantly weakened in Punjab and the PTI experiencing limits to its political ambitions, the PML-N may be able to win the next election even without doing so. But it would be unfortunate if Sharif does not make use of his political advantage. If democracy is to prevail in Pakistan, democratic regimes will have to start delivering for the average Pakistani.

Juncture of Opportunity
In large part due to the repeated interventions of the military, Pakistan’s democracy remains underdeveloped. That condition dents its effectiveness and perpetuates the cycle that makes military rule attractive at times. Pakistan’s political development needs time and protection from interruptions, whether from the army or from extremists.

By some measures, Pakistan’s democracy can be described as vibrant. A total of 333 parties are registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan. In each general election, 272 constituencies hold direct elections to the National Assembly; the other seventy seats are reserved for women and minorities. For each of the direct election constituencies, parties can field one candidate each, and candidates can run independently as well. Reserved seats are then allocated proportionately to parties that have won more than 5 percent of the vote. The party with the majority of seats in parliament forms the government; if it does not have an outright majority, it needs to form a coalition with smaller parties.

In reality, Pakistani democracy operates with many constraints. Just six out of the 333 parties hold more than ten seats in parliament (out of a total of 342), and only eighteen parties hold any seats at all. Pakistan has four provinces, Punjab, Sindh, KPK, and Balochistan, with 183, seventy-five, forty-three, and seventeen seats in parliament, respectively (the tribal areas and the federal capital hold twelve and two seats, respectively). As the numbers indicate, any party that can dominate Punjab can hold sway over national politics. This means that voters are only left with a couple of choices of political parties that are nationally viable.

Then there is the dynasty problem. The three main parties—the PML-N, the PPP, and the PTI—are all personality- and family-driven. The PML-N is associated completely with Nawaz Sharif (it is no coincidence that Nawaz is an element of the party’s name); the PPP with the Bhutto family; and the PTI with Imran Khan. There is a lack of internal democracy. It remains to be seen whether Imran Khan will succeed in transitioning the PTI into a party that is not completely tied to him.

There are barriers to entry at the candidate level—contesting elections requires wealth. In rural areas, large landowners typically win elections; in return, they use their political power to provide patronage to their constituents. It is not clear that many of them have national-level policy interests—it is patronage that helps them win votes, not their voting record in the National Assembly. The practice of horse-trading, in which politicians switch parties to ally with the party with the greater chance of winning the next election, is widespread in Pakistan—evidence of a candidate-party policy disconnect. By and large, party trumps candidate identity, at least once the candidates pass a threshold level of prominence. Thus it seems that politicians’ policy convictions are malleable. This constituency-federal level disconnect is harmful to the country’s interests. It also means party platforms are not well developed or implemented.

Institutions remain underdeveloped as well. Parliament is rowdy, and accomplishes little. It is a part-time job—if that—for most parliamentarians. Nawaz Sharif’s government has undermined it. Instead of using parliament to discuss issues of national concern—such as peace talks with the Taliban—the prime minister has called “all parties” conferences, forums with no legal basis, to discuss such topics.

Democratic governments in Pakistan tend to rely on a cadre of loyalist advisors instead of professionals, limiting their own effectiveness. The PPP and PML-N are both guilty of this. Nawaz Sharif has been especially loath to appoint advisors beyond his tight inner circle (he has appointed many of the same men this time around that he did in his previous two terms in the 1990s); he even holds the foreign and defense portfolios himself.

It is also unclear that voters understand the responsibilities of parliamentarians versus bureaucrats, or the differences in the roles of national-level parliamentarians relative to provincial and local elected officials. The decentralization of many matters from the federal to the provincial level via the eighteenth amendment to the constitution in 2010 only confuses citizens further. For voters to hold the politicians accountable, they require good information. But accountability is difficult in an environment where the division of responsibilities is murky (sometimes even to the politicians themselves).

Pakistan’s democracy is at a juncture of import. Its citizens have shown faith in it, despite continued corruption and poor governance, and in defiance of long-held narratives that undermined democracy in the country. The army has also indicated that it will not seize control of the government, although it continues to meddle in politics, and commands power over internal and external security matters.

All this gives Pakistan’s democrats space—not complete, but enough—to ensure progress in political development, governance, and delivery of public services. How Pakistan’s politicians choose to behave now will determine whether democracy persists, or whether there is another slide toward disillusionment that emboldens the army to take over once again. The democrats need to let go of paranoia, to stop governing in survival mode, and invest in Pakistan’s long-term development. They eventually need to reassume civilian control over security matters, command a compelling narrative for Pakistan’s future, and ideologically counter extremism—though this will take time and enormous effort. They must hold back on self-indulgence. The critical question facing Pakistan today is whether Nawaz Sharif’s ruling PML-N will seize the opportunity before it.

Madiha Afzal is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution. Her recent publications include “Education and Attitudes in Pakistan: Understanding Perceptions of Terrorism,” published by the United States Institute of Peace. She has contributed to the Express Tribune, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, Washington Post, and Friday Times. She was named to Lo Spazio della Politica’s list of Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2013. On Twitter: @MadihaAfzal.

America’s Misadventures in the Middle East

Two hundred and eighteen years ago, Napoleon was preparing to take Malta. His purpose was to clear an obstacle to his seizure of Egypt for revolutionary France. He was able to invade Egypt on July 1, 1798. Napoleon’s campaign there and in Palestine kicked off a two-century-long effort by the West to transform the Middle East. European imperial powers and, latterly, the United States, have repeatedly sought to convert Arabs, Persians, and Turks to the secular values of the European Enlightenment, to democratize them, to impose Western models of governance on them in place of indigenous, Islamic systems, and more recently to persuade them to accept a Jewish state in their midst.

This experiment in expeditionary, transformative diplomacy has now definitively failed. The next American president will inherit a greatly diminished capacity to influence the evolution of the Middle East. Amidst the imbecilities of America’s interminably farcical election season, it has proven expedient to blame this on President Barack Obama. If only he had bombed Syria, repudiated his predecessor’s agreement to withdraw the U.S. military from Iraq, refused to compromise with Iran on nuclear matters, knuckled under to Benjamin Netanyahu, or whatever, the old order in the Middle East would be alive and well and the United States would still call the shots there.

But this is nonsense. America’s estrangement from the Middle East derives from trends that are much deeper than the manifest deficiencies of executive and congressional leadership in Washington. America and its partners in the Middle East have developed contradictory interests and priorities. Where shared values existed at all, they have increasingly diverged. There have been massive changes in geo-economics, energy markets, power balances, demographics, religious ideologies, and attitudes toward America (not just the U.S. government). Many of these changes were catalyzed by historic American policy blunders. In the aggregate, these blunders are right up there with the French and German decisions to invade Russia and Japan’s surprise attack on the United States. Their effects make current policies not just unsustainable but counterproductive.

Creating More Terrorists
Blunder number one was the failure to translate America’s military triumph over Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1991 into a peace with Baghdad. No effort was ever made to reconcile Iraq to the terms of its defeat. The victors instead sought to impose elaborate but previously undiscussed terms by United Nations fiat in the form of the UN Security Council Resolution 687—“the mother of all resolutions.” The military basis for a renewed balance of power in the Gulf was there to be exploited. The diplomatic vision was not. The George H. W. Bush administration ended without addressing the question of how to replace war with peace in the Gulf.

Wars don’t end until the militarily humiliated accept the political consequences of their defeat. Saddam gave lip service to UNSCR 687 but took it no more seriously than Netanyahu and his predecessors have taken the various Security Council resolutions that direct Israel to permit Palestinians to return to the homes from which it drove them or to withdraw from the Palestinian lands it has seized and settled. Like Israel’s wars with the Arabs, America’s war with Iraq went into remission but never ended. In due course, it resumed.

The United States needs to get into the habit of developing and implementing war termination strategies.

Blunder number two was the sudden abandonment in 1993 of the strategy of maintaining peace in the Persian Gulf through a balance of power. With no prior notice or explanation, the Bill Clinton administration replaced this longstanding approach with “dual containment” of both Iraq and Iran. For decades, offshore balancing had permitted the United States to sustain stability without stationing forces other than a very small naval contingent in the Gulf. When the regional balance of power was undone by the Iran-Iraq War, Washington intervened to restore it, emphasizing that once Kuwait had been liberated and Iraq cut back down to size, U.S. forces would depart.

The new policy of dual containment created a requirement for the permanent deployment of a large U.S. air and ground force in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar as well as an expanded naval presence in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The political and socioeconomic irritants this requirement produced led directly to the founding of Al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. Dual containment was plausible as a defense of Israel against its two most potent regional adversaries, Iran and Iraq. But it made no sense at all in terms of stabilizing the Gulf.

By writing off Iraq as a balancer of Iran, dual containment also paved the way for the 2003 American experiment with regime removal in Baghdad. This rash action on the part of the United States led to the de facto realignment of Iraq with Iran, the destabilization and partition of Iraq, the destabilization and partition of Syria, the avalanche of refugees now threatening to unhinge the European Union, and the rise of the so-called Islamic State. With Iraq having fallen into the Iranian sphere of influence, there is no apparent way to return to offshore balancing. The United States is stuck in the Gulf. The political irritations this generates ensure that some in the region will continue to seek to attack the U.S. homeland or, failing that, Americans overseas.

The United States needs to find an alternative to the permanent garrisoning of the Gulf.

Blunder number three was the unthinking transformation in December 2001 of what had been a punitive expedition in Afghanistan into a long-term pacification campaign that soon became a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operation. The objectives of the NATO campaign have never been clear but appear to center on guaranteeing that there will be no Islamist government in Kabul. The engagement of European as well as American forces in this vague mission has had the unintended effect of turning the so-called “global war on terrorism” into what appears to many Muslims to be a Western global crusade against Islam and its followers. Afghanistan remains decidedly unpacified and is becoming more, not less, Islamist.

The United States needs to find ways to restore conspicuous cooperation with the world’s Muslims.

Blunder number four was the inauguration on February 4, 2002—also in Afghanistan—of a campaign using missiles fired from drones to assassinate presumed opponents. This turn toward robotic warfare has evolved into a program of serial massacres from the air in a widening area of West Asia and northern Africa. It is a major factor in the metastasis of anti-Western terrorism with global reach.

What had been a U.S. problem with a few Islamist exiles resident in Afghanistan and Sudan is now a worldwide phenomenon. The terrorist movements U.S. interventions have spawned now have safe havens not just in Afghanistan, but in the now failed states of Iraq and Syria, as well as Chad, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. They also have a growing following among European Muslims and a toehold among Muslim Americans. We have flunked the test suggested by the Yoda of the Pax Americana, Donald Rumsfeld. We are creating more terrorists than we are killing.

The United States needs a strategy that does not continuously reinforce blowback.

Blunder number five was the aid to Iran implicit in the unprovoked invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003. This rearranged the region to the severe strategic disadvantage of traditional U.S. strategic partners like Israel and Saudi Arabia by helping to create an Iranian sphere of influence that includes much of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It showed the United States to be militarily mighty but geopolitically naïve and strategically incompetent. Rather than underscoring American military power, it devalued it. The U.S. invasion of Iraq also set off a sectarian struggle that continues to spread around the globe among the Muslim fourth of humanity. The U.S. occupation culminated in a “surge” of forces that entrenched a pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad and that only its authors consider a victory.

The United States needs to deal with the reality and the challenges to others in the region of the Iranian sphere of influence it helped create.

Blunder number six has been to confuse the motives for terrorism with the religious rationalizations its perpetrators concoct to justify its immorality. Many of those who seek revenge for perceived injustices and humiliations at the hands of the West and Western-backed regimes in the Middle East, or who are treated as aliens in their own countries in Europe, give voice to their anger in the language of Islam. But their political grievances, not heretical Islamic excuses for the mass murders they carry out, are what drive their attempts at reprisal. Islamism is a symptom of Arab anguish and rage. It is a consequence, not a cause, of Muslim anger.

Religious ideology is, of course, important. It is a key factor in justifying hatred of those outside its self-selected community. To non-believers, arguments about who is a Jew or whether someone is a true Muslim are incomprehensible and more than a little absurd. But to the intolerant people doing the excommunicating, such debates define their political community and those who must be excluded from it. They separate friend from foe. And to those being condemned for their disbelief or alleged apostasy, the judgments imposed by this intolerance can now be a matter of life or death.

In the end, the attribution of Muslim resentment of the West to Islam is just a version of the facile thesis that “they hate us because of who we are.” This is the opiate of the ignorant. It is self-expiating denial that past and present behavior by Western powers, including the United States, might have created grievances severe enough to motivate others to seek revenge for the indignities they have experienced. It is an excuse to ignore and do nothing about the ultimate sources of Muslim rage because they are too discomfiting to bear discussion. Any attempt to review the political effects of American complicity in the oppression and dispossession of millions of Palestinians and the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of deaths caused by U.S. sanctions, bombing campaigns, and drone warfare is ruled out of order by political correctness and cowardice.

The United States needs to work with its European allies, with Russia, and with partners in the Middle East to attack the problems that are generating terrorism, not just the theology of those who resort to it.

Blunder number seven was the adoption after the 1973 Yom Kippur War of a commitment to maintain a “qualitative military edge” for Israel over any and all potential adversaries in its region. This policy has deprived Israel of any incentive to seek security through non-military means. Why should Israel risk resting its security on reconciliation with Palestinians and its other Arab neighbors when it has been assured of long-term military supremacy over them and relieved of any concern about the political or economic consequences of using force against them?

Confidence in Israel’s qualitative military edge is now the main source of moral hazard for the Jewish state. Its effect is to encourage Israel to favor short-term territorial gains over any effort to achieve long-term security through acceptance by neighboring states, the elimination of tensions with them, and the normalization of its relations with others in its region. U.S. policy inadvertently ensured that the so-called “peace process” would always be stillborn. And so it proved to be.

Israel’s lack of concern about the consequences of its occupation and settlement of the West Bank and its siege of Gaza has facilitated its progressive abandonment of the universalist Jewish values that inspired Zionism and its consequent separation from the Jewish communities outside its elastic borders. U.S. subsidies underwrite blatant tyranny by Jewish settlers over the Muslim and Christian Arabs they have dispossessed. This is a formula for the moral and political self-delegitimization of the State of Israel, not its long-term survival. It is also a recipe for the ultimate loss by Israel of irreplaceable American political, military, and other support.

The United States needs to wean Israel off its welfare dependency and end the unconditional commitments that enable self-destructive behavior on the part of the Jewish state.

Blunder number eight has been basing U.S. policies toward the Middle East on deductive reasoning grounded in ideological fantasies and politically convenient narratives rather than on inductive reasoning and reality-based analysis. America’s misadventures cannot be excused as “intelligence errors.” They are the result of the ideological politicization of policymaking. This has enabled multiple policy errors based on wishful thinking, selective listening, and mirror-imaging. Examples include:

—The conviction, despite UN inspections and much evidence to the contrary, that Saddam’s program to develop weapons of mass destruction was ongoing, representing an imminent danger, and could only be halted by his overthrow.

—The supposition that, despite his well-documented secularism, because he was an Arab, a Muslim, and a bad guy, Saddam must be colluding with the religious fanatics of Al-Qaeda.

—The assumption that the U.S. military presence in Iraq would be short, undemanding, and inexpensive.

—The belief that the overthrow of confessional and ethnic balances would not cause the disintegration of societies like Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Lebanon or ignite a wider sectarian conflict.

—The spurious attribution to people in Iraq of political attitudes and aspirations found mostly among exiles abroad.

—The ludicrous expectation that U.S. forces invading Iraq would be greeted as liberators by all but a few.

—The unshakeable presumption that Israel must want peace more than land.

—The impulse to confuse mob rule on the Arab street with a process of democratization.

—The confidence that free and fair elections would put liberals rather than Islamist nationalists in power in Arab societies like Palestine and Egypt.

—The supposition that the removal of bad guys from office, as in Libya, Yemen, or Syria, would lead to the elevation of better leaders and the flowering of peace, freedom, and domestic tranquility there.

—Imagining that dictators like Bashar Al-Assad had little popular support and could therefore be easily deposed.

I could go on but I won’t. I’m sure I’ve made my point. Dealing with the Middle East as we prefer to imagine it rather than as it is doesn’t work.

The United States needs to return to fact-based analysis and realism in its foreign policy.

Moving the Goalposts
All the blunders have been compounded by the consistent substitution of military tactics for strategy. The diplomatic success of the Iran nuclear deal aside, the policy dialogue in Washington and the 2016 presidential campaign have focused entirely on the adjustment of troop levels, whether and when to bomb things, the implications of counterinsurgency doctrine, when and how to use special forces, whether to commit troops on the ground, and the like, with nary a word about what these uses of force are to accomplish other than killing people. When presented with proposals for military action, no one asks, “And then what?”

Military campaign plans that aim at no defined political end state are violence for the sake of violence that demonstrably create more problems than they solve. Military actions that are unguided and unaccompanied by diplomacy are especially likely to do so. Think of Israel’s, America’s, and Saudi Arabia’s campaigns in Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Yemen.

By contrast, military interventions that are limited in their objectives, scale, and duration, that end or phase down when they have achieved appropriate milestones, and that support indigenous forces that have shown their mettle on the battlefield can succeed. Examples include the pre-Tora Bora phase of the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and the first round of Russian intervention in Syria.

The objectives of what was initially conceived as a punitive raid into Afghanistan in October 2001 were (1) to dismantle Al-Qaeda and (2) to punish its Taliban hosts to ensure that “terrorists with global reach” would be denied a continuing safe haven in Afghanistan. The United States pursued these objectives by supporting mostly non-Pashtun enemies of the mostly Pashtun Taliban who had proven politico-military capabilities and staying power. A limited American and British investment of intelligence capabilities, special forces, air combat controllers, and air strikes tilted the battlefield in favor of the Northern Alliance and against the Taliban. Within a little more than two months, the Taliban had been forced out of Kabul and the last remnants of Al-Qaeda had been killed or driven from Afghanistan. America had achieved its objectives.

But instead of declaring victory and dancing off the field, we moved the goalposts. The United States launched an open-ended campaign and enlisted NATO in efforts to install a government in Kabul while building a state for it to govern, promoting feminism, and protecting poppy growers. The poppies still flourish. All else looks to be ephemeral.

Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Syria in 2015 relied for its success on ingredients similar to those in the pre-Tora Bora U.S. intervention in Afghanistan. The Russians committed a modest ration of airpower and special forces in support of a Syrian government that had amply demonstrated its survivability in the face of more than five years of Islamist efforts to take it down. The Russian campaign had clear political objectives, which it stuck to.

Moscow sought to reduce the complexities of Syria to a binary choice between life under the secular dictatorship of the Al-Assad regime and rule by Islamist fanatics. It cemented a Russian-Iranian entente. It hedged against the likelihood that the Syrian Humpty Dumpty cannot be reassembled, ensuring that, whatever happens, Russia will not lack clients in Syria or be dislodged from its bases at Tartus and Latakia. Russia succeeded in forcing the United States into a diplomatically credible peace process in which regime removal is no longer a given and Russia and Iran are recognized as essential participants. It retrained, reequipped, and restored the morale of government forces, while putting their Islamist opponents on the defensive and gaining ground against them. The campaign reduced and partially contained the growing Islamist threat to Russian domestic tranquility, while affirming Russia’s importance as a partner in combating terrorism.

Moscow also put its hands on the stopcock for the refugee flow from West Asia that threatens the survival of the European Union, underscoring Russia’s indispensable relevance to European affairs. It demonstrated its renewed military prowess and reestablished itself as a major actor in Middle Eastern affairs. And it showed that Russia could be counted upon to stand by protégés when they are at risk, drawing an invidious contrast with the American abandonment of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The cost of these achievements has been collateral damage to Russia’s relations with Turkey, a price Moscow appears willing to pay.

But state failure in Syria continues, as it does in Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. Jordan and Bahrain are under pressure. Tunisia and Turkey—once avatars of democratic Islamism—seem to be leaving democracy behind. Israel is strangling Gaza while swallowing the rest of Palestine alive. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain are in a near state of war with Iran, which is in the midst of a breakthrough in relations with Europe and Asia, if not America. Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar are trying to stay out of the fight. Once the region’s Arab heavyweight, Egypt now subsists on handouts from the Gulf Arabs and cowers under martial law. Sudan has been partitioned, sidelined, and ostracized by the West.

Definition of Insanity
The Middle East kaleidoscope has yet to come to rest. We can see that the region’s future political geography will differ from its past and present contours. But we cannot yet say what it will look like.

“More-of-the-same” policies will almost certainly produce more of the same sort of mess we now see. What is to be done? Perhaps we should start by trying to correct some of the blunders that produced America’s current conundrums. The world’s reliance on energy from the Gulf has not diminished. But America’s has. That gives Washington some freedom of maneuver. It should use it.

The United States needs to harness its military capabilities to diplomacy rather than the other way around. The key to this is to find a way to reenlist Iraq in support of a restored balance of power in the Gulf. That would allow Washington to reduce America’s presence there to levels that avoid stimulating a hostile reaction and to return to a policy of offshore balancing.

This can only be done if Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Sunni states rediscover the differences between the varieties of Shiism in Iraqi Najaf and Iranian Qom. The Shiism of Najaf tends to be fatalistic and supportive of Iraqi nationalism. The Shiism of Qom is more assertively universalistic and activist. The Saudis and their allies need to make common cause with Shiite Iraqis as Arabs rather than castigate them as heretics. The limited normalization of Iranian relations with the West, including the United States, is an inevitability. The strategies of America’s Arab partners in the region need to anticipate and hedge against this. And we need to prepare them to do so.

Such an adjustment will take some very tough love from the United States. It will require the Saudis and their allies to back away from the policies based on Salafi sectarianism they have followed for the better part of this decade and re-embrace the tolerance that is at the heart of Islam. It will also require some measure of accommodation by them with Iran, regardless of the state of U.S.-Iranian relations. Without both a turn away from sectarianism and the achievement of a modus vivendi with Iran, the Saudis and their allies will remain on the defensive, Iraq will remain an extension of Iranian influence, and the region will remain inflamed by religious warfare. All this will spill over on America and its European allies.

Islamism is an extreme form of political Islam—a noxious ideology that invites a political retort. It has received none except in Saudi Arabia. There a concerted propaganda campaign has effectively refuted Islamist heresies. No effort has been undertaken to form a coalition to mount such a campaign on a regional basis. But such a coalition is essential to address the political challenges that Muslim extremists pose to regional stability and to the security of the West. Only the Saudis and others with credibility among Salafi Muslims are in a position to form and lead a campaign to do this. This is an instance where it makes sense for the United States to “lead from behind.”

Americans must be led to correct their counterproductive misunderstanding of Islam. Islamophobia has become as American as gun massacres. The presidential candidate of one of the two major parties has suggested banning Muslims from entry into the United States. This is reflective of national attitudes that are incompatible with the cooperation we need with Muslim partners to fight terrorist extremism. If we do not correct these attitudes, we will continue to pay not just in treasure but in blood. Lots of it.

Finally, the United States must cease to provide blank checks to partners in the region prone to misguided and counterproductive policies and actions that threaten American interests as well as their own prospects. No more Yemens. No more Gazas or Lebanons. No more military guarantees that disincentivize diplomacy aimed at achieving long-term security for Israel.

The obvious difficulty of making any of these adjustments is a measure of how far America has diverged from an effective approach to managing relations with the Middle East and how impaired Washington’s ability to contribute to peace and stability there has become. The American mainstream media is credulous and parrots the official line. American politicians are devoted to narratives that bear almost no relation to the realities of the Middle East. Washington is dysfunctional. American politics is, well, you pick the word.

Frankly, the prospects that America will get its act and policies together are not good. But history will not excuse Americans for acting out Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing more of the same and expecting different results. We won’t get them.

This essay is adapted from remarks to the Center for the National Interest in Washington, DC on June 9, 2016.

Chas W. Freeman, Jr. is a senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. He is the former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs (1993–94) and the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia (1989–92). He has served as president of the Middle East Policy Council (1997–2009); co-chair of the United States China Policy Foundation (1996–2009); and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs (1986–89). He is the author of America’s Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East; Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige; and Arts of Power: Statecraft and Diplomacy. He has contributed to Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and National Interest.

After the Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement reached in December 2015 is a milestone in the struggle to address the threat from climate change. All but two of the 197 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed for the first time to undertake efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects. The agreement enters into force in late 2016, having been ratified by at least fifty-five parties who collectively account for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions.

To climate justice activists across the world, the Paris Agreement hardly represents the end of their struggle for a livable planet. Rather, it marks the beginning of a new phase. For the past twenty-one years, world governments have been meeting to discuss the perils of climate change and what to do about it. In December 1997, the Kyoto Protocol required thirty-seven industrialized countries and the European Union to reduce emissions in aggregate by 5 percent relative to 1990 levels. It took until 2005 for the agreement to come into effect. The lag in this process was a testament to how little political will there was to address the issue of climate change, certainly the most egregious case of the tragedy of the commons. Since then, the threat from climate change has advanced at a shocking pace, and with political momentum continuing to lag behind, it has been up to the climate movement to save our planet.

There are glaring examples of the lack of political will. The United States, historically the world’s biggest polluter, never ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Canada did so, but in 2011 decided to withdraw when it realized it would not meet its emissions target due to the extraction of the tar sands in western Canada. There were no adverse consequences for Canada’s reversal; in fact, Ottawa was able to recuse itself of $14 billion in penalties it would have had to pay for not meeting its commitments.

This trend continued in Copenhagen in 2009, when many hoped for a new agreement to go beyond the Kyoto Protocol. Governments failed to reach an agreement due to a deep fault line between developed and developing countries. Developed countries, who had used up most of the carbon space, demanded that limits be placed on developing countries’ current and future emissions. But the developed countries made the demand while refusing to provide the technology transfer or required financing in order to create an alternative development pathway for developing countries.

In the lead-up to the Paris summit, expectations had been lowered. The United Nations, national governments, and civil society were determined to learn from the mistakes of 2009 so as to avoid walking out empty handed. Unfortunately, precious time had been lost. Global CO2 emissions had increased by 28 percent in the twelve years between Kyoto and Copenhagen, making a steeper and more costly decline in fossil fuel emissions necessary. By the time world leaders arrived in Paris last year, the severe effects of climate change on flora and fauna, and on the world’s most vulnerable populations (the least responsible for causing the climate crisis), had become the new normal.

Climate change is causing suffering and death, threatening species and cultures. The year 2016 will turn out to be the warmest on record, surpassing the previous records set in 2014 and again in 2015. Globally, one-third of amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Almost 30 percent of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral has died due to coral bleaching induced by climate change. In East Africa, the worst drought in living memory is affecting more than ten million people and threatening livelihoods in pastoral communities in regions like Somaliland; the drought is known as mulia, meaning “that which erases everything on the ground.”

The Paris Agreement is an important development in spite of the valuable time wasted and the limits to its terms and financing. It calls for keeping the warming of the planet limited to 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial temperatures, and if possible, to go below 1.5 degrees Celsius (though it is important to note that we have already crossed the 1 degree Celsius threshold for the first time), aiming for emissions to peak as soon as possible with a steep decline required thereafter. This will require the biggest polluters—the United States, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, and Australia together generate more than half the world’s greenhouse gas emissions—to drive down the carbon pollution that contributes to global warming. A separate deal calls for at least $100 billion per year in funding between 2020 and 2025 to help developing countries adapt to the extreme effects of climate change and utilize cleaner fuel alternatives in economic growth.

A clear weakness in the Paris Agreement is the lack of a binding enforcement mechanism to measure and control CO2 emissions. While the accord sets overall temperature and financial targets, each country is left to decide on good faith how much it wants to do. There is no requirement to further reduce emissions in order to meet the targets, if the numbers do not add up. And currently the numbers do not add up; we can expect that the average global temperature will have risen by a median of 2.7 to 3.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 if countries actually fulfill their current pledges. As the American environmentalist and co-founder Bill McKibben observed, an agreement like this adopted at the first climate conference in 1995 might have worked. Now it gives us a lifeline, but only if governments take seriously the implications of the ambitious goals they have set—the need to reduce carbon emissions drastically and quickly.

According to research by Christophe McGlade and Paul Elkins published in the journal Nature in 2015, one-third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves, and more than 80 percent of current coal reserves need to stay in the ground if global temperature rise has an even chance of staying below 2 degrees Celsius. Yet the trend toward continued fossil fuel dependency doesn’t look good. If nineteen proposed gas pipelines are built in the eastern United States, then America will fail to meet its proposed target of a 12-19 percent reduction of emissions relative to 1990 levels. Mary Robinson, the former Irish president and Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Climate Change, has publicly chastised the United Kingdom and Germany for not honoring their Paris commitments: Britain has provided tax and oil breaks, while reducing support for energy efficiency and renewables; Germany is providing subsidies to coal producers, while simultaneously committing to a coal phase-out.

There is also reason to question the pledge of financial support for developing countries. The 2016 Finance Adaptation Report of the United Nations Environment Programme estimates that $140-300 billion could be needed by 2030 and up to $500 billion by 2050. In 2014, only $23 billion was pledged for adaptation. Moreover, the longer it takes for emissions to come down, the higher the costs of adaptation due to increasingly extreme effects of climate change. The UNEP report criticizes the Paris summit for not identifying funding sources for the $100 billion, and warns that unless new and additional finance is made available for adaptation there will be a significant funding gap. While the $100 billion pledge is a welcome step, UNEP suggests that it is not clear where that money is coming from, and it will not be a sufficient amount in any case.

Power to the People
The adoption of the Paris Agreement presents environmentalists with an important challenge and opportunity. It is an additional tool for holding governments accountable to the goals that they set, and countering the powerful influence of the fossil fuel industry. The global climate movement has been growing in size, becoming better organized, and clocking up achievements. President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, which was intended to carry oil from western Canada to refineries in the United States. In Oakland, the city council voted unanimously to ban the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke in the city. Mounting pressure forced Shell to close its Arctic drilling operations. In Brazil, sixty-one municipalities banned fracking; Brazil’s federal court prohibited the use of hydraulic fracturing technology to extract fossil fuels in five states. The people of Negros in the Philippines blocked a proposed 50 megawatt coal-fired power station.

The strategy of climate activists includes exposing and stigmatizing the fossil fuel industry. Like the tobacco industry’s denials of the harmful health effects of smoking, the energy industry has known about the threat of climate change for more than forty years but sought to deceive the public in order to protect profits. Last May, some thirty-thousand people took part in Break Free protests targeting fossil fuel extraction projects on six continents. Thirty-five hundred protesters shut down a lignite mine and nearby power station for over forty-eight hours in Germany. In Australia, protesters halted $20 million worth of coal shipments from the world’s largest coal port. Ten thousand campaigners marched against a proposed coal plant in Batangas, the Philippines.

Throughout the world, more than five hundred institutions holding assets of $3.4 trillion have committed to divest holdings in fossil fuel companies. The divestment campaign draws inspiration from the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s. It began a few years ago when student activists in the United States began calling on their university boards to divest holdings in fossil fuel companies with the argument that if it is wrong to wreck the planet, then it is wrong to profit from it. The argument was that universities are institutions tasked with educating the next generation; affiliating with fossil fuel companies who are actively destroying the future of students is contradictory and morally wrong.

Since then, the movement to divest from fossil fuels has spread to other universities as well as foundations, sovereign wealth funds, museums, and other institutions across the globe. Educational institutions committed to full divestment include the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, University of Glasgow, University of Sheffield, Newcastle University, Stockholm University, and the New School in New York. More than fifty cities have also joined the divestment campaign, including major capitals in Europe such as Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo. Even the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, the largest sovereign wealth fund whose source of funding comes from royalties paid from offshore oil and gas fields, has committed to divesting from coal companies.

Other campaigners are working to shift government subsidies from the fossil fuel industry to the renewable energy sector. The fossil fuel industry receives global subsidies totaling $1.9 trillion worldwide, the equivalent of 2.5 percent of global gross domestic product, or 8 percent of government revenues, while estimates for renewable subsidies top out at a comparably measly $88 billion dollars globally. If these resources were shifted away from the fossil fuel industry, the world would finally see an end to unsustainable energy systems in favor of an already booming renewable energy sector.

The global climate movement is also campaigning for development banks such as the World Bank and regional multilateral development banks to shift funding from fossil fuel infrastructure projects to renewables projects. The World Bank already advocates decentralized renewable energy, rather than centralized fossil fuel energy, for the 900 million people who live in remote areas with no access to energy. If the development banks see that the age of the fossil fuels is coming to an end, they should seize the opportunity for developing countries to leapfrog fossil fuels and get the majority of their energy from the dawning age of renewables.

For the global climate movement, the fight against climate change is a chance to connect with the workers movement and the anti-poverty movement to build a future that ensures access to sustainable energy for all with livelihoods that don’t destroy workers’ health or undermine their rights. This is why the climate movement is working to articulate a just transition with other movements that incorporates clean jobs, as well as affordable access to clean energy based on renewable energy. It is a terrible irony that some of the world’s poor who have little to no access to modern energy are displaced by coal mines, which neither provide them with jobs (which often go to workers shipped in from other regions) nor electricity.

Everyone on the planet is affected by climate change. But those who are most affected have done the least to create the problem. While 79 percent of historical CO2 emissions have been caused by developed countries (the United States alone is responsible for 22 percent of historical emissions from 1850–2011), the most vulnerable countries in the world are in Africa, followed by Asia and the Pacific Islands. Most of these countries record the least per capita consumption of fossil fuels on the planet as well as some of the lowest standards of living. In order to ensure that the most vulnerable countries have access to funds to address the effects of climate change, some campaigners are demanding a carbon levy on fossil fuel extraction. There is also a drive to hold polluters to account through litigation, similar to the legal moves against the American tobacco industry in the 1980s.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats that humanity has ever faced, but it also presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shift how our economies function to be more just and equitable for all. The Paris Agreement, while weak on enforcement and financing, sets out clear goals that give us a chance of keeping the planet habitable (albeit altered) for flora, fauna, and humans. The global cadre of climate activists will continue to hold governments to their agreements. It will also continue to build the power of a movement that is the hope for a livable planet.

Hoda Baraka is the global communications manager at She has contributed to the Huffington Post, openDemocracy, Common Dreams, Egypt Independent, Al-Ahram Weekly, Daily News Egypt, and Global Voices. On Twitter: @hodabaraka.

Payal Parekh is program director at, where she develops international campaign strategy. Previously, she worked with the National Alliance of People’s Movements in India, Greenpeace International, and International Rivers. She also worked as a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2003 to 2004 and the University of Bern from 2006 to 2008. On Twitter: @payal350.

The Yazidi Genocide

In the early hours of August 3, 2014, fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) flooded out of their bases in Syria and Iraq, and swept across the Sinjar region of northern Iraq. There, hundreds of villages were scattered around the foot of Mount Sinjar, an arid one-hundred-kilometer-long mountain range, which forms the region’s heart. Lying less than fifteen kilometers from the Syrian border, Sinjar is home to the majority of the world’s Yazidis, a distinct religious community whose beliefs and practice span thousands of years, and whose adherents ISIS publicly reviles as infidels.

The ISIS attack was well organized with hundreds of fighters acting in concert with each other as they seized towns and villages on all sides of the mountain. As they moved into Sinjar, ISIS fighters faced little or no resistance. The Iraqi Kurdish forces, the peshmerga, reportedly withdrew in the face of the ISIS advance, leaving much of the region defenseless. As word spread that the peshmerga had left their checkpoints, ad hoc groups of lightly armed local Yazidi men mounted a limited defense of some villages in an attempt to give their families and neighbors more time to escape. By daybreak, Yazidi families from hundreds of villages across Sinjar were fleeing their homes in fear and panic. They took little with them. Others were advised by Arab neighbors to stay in the villages and raise white flags over their houses.

By the time ISIS entered Sinjar, there were few military objectives in the region. ISIS fighters focused their attention on capturing Yazidis. After controlling the main roads and all strategic junctions, fighters set up checkpoints and sent mobile patrols to search for fleeing Yazidi families. Within hours, Yazidis who had been unable to escape to the nearby city of Duhok found themselves encircled by armed, black-clad ISIS fighters.

Those who fled early enough to reach the upper plateau of Mount Sinjar were besieged by ISIS. A humanitarian crisis quickly unfolded as ISIS trapped tens of thousands of Yazidi men, women, and children in temperatures rising above 50 degrees Celsius and prevented them from accessing water, food, or medical care. On August 7, 2014, at the request of the Iraqi government, President Barack Obama announced American military action to help the Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar. American, Iraqi, British, French, and Australian forces were involved in airdrops of water and other supplies to the besieged Yazidis. ISIS fighters shot at planes airdropping aid, and at helicopters attempting to evacuate the most vulnerable Yazidis.

Hundreds of Yazidis—including infants and young children—died on Mount Sinjar before the Syrian Kurdish forces called the People’s Protection Units (YPG) were able to open a corridor from Syria to Mount Sinjar, allowing for those besieged on the mountain to be moved to safety. Together with Yazidi volunteers, they repelled ISIS attacks on the corridor, as it sought to reestablish the siege.

On lower ground, ISIS fighters captured thousands of Yazidis in their villages or on the roads as they fled between August 3–5. Almost all villages were emptied within seventy-two hours of the attack, with the exception of Kocho village which was not emptied until August 15. In the process of capture and transfer, hundreds of ISIS fighters operating across a vast territory in the Sinjar region systematically divided Yazidis into three distinct groups: men and boys aged approximately 12 and above; women and children; and later, drawn from the pool of male children who had remained with the women, boys aged 7 and above. Each group suffered distinct and systematic violations, sanctioned under ISIS’s ideological framework.

Yazidi Men and Boys Aged Approximately 12 and Above

After we were captured, ISIS forced us to watch them beheading some of our Yazidi men. They made the men kneel in a line in the street, with their hands tied behind their backs. The ISIS fighters took knives and cut their throats.

—Girl, aged 16 at capture, held for seven months, sold once

Following capture, ISIS swiftly separated Yazidi men and boys who had reached puberty from women and other children. ISIS fighters summarily executed men and boys who refused to disavow Yazidism and convert to Islam. Most were executed by gunshots to the head; others had their throats cut. ISIS fighters carried out executions of male Yazidis in the streets of towns and villages, at makeshift checkpoints, on roadsides as well as on the lower sections of the roads ascending Mount Sinjar. Other captives, including family members, were often forced to witness the killings. In at least two villages, Kocho and Qani, ISIS executed Yazidi men and boys en masse. The bodies of those killed on capture were often left in situ. Yazidis, captured and forcibly transferred to Mosul and Tel Afar in the days following the attack, described being driven along roads, the sides of which were littered with corpses.

Men and older boys who were forcibly converted to Islam became ISIS captives. Separated from women and children, they were quickly transferred to sites in Tel Afar, Mosul, and Baaj where they were later forced to work, laboring on construction projects, digging trenches, and looking after cattle. They were forced to discard their Yazidi identity, to pray, grow their beards and hair, and follow other religious dicta as interpreted and promulgated by the terrorist group. Those who attempted to escape were executed upon capture.

By the spring of 2015, ISIS appeared to have determined that any conversions that the Yazidis had made were false. Little information is available about the fate and whereabouts of the Yazidi men and older boys who had been forcibly converted after this point.

Yazidi Women and Girls Aged 9 and Above

We were registered. ISIS took our names, ages, where we came from and whether we were married or not. After that, ISIS fighters would come to select girls to go with them. The youngest girl I saw them take was about 9 years old. One girl told me that “if they try to take you, it is better that you kill yourself.”

—Girl, aged 12 at capture, held for seven months, sold four times

After the killing of the men and older boys, Yazidi women and their remaining children were forcibly transferred to temporary holding sites where they remained for between one and twenty-four hours. There, ISIS separated those who were married from those who were not. Only girls aged 8 years and under were allowed to remain with their mothers. For the most part boys were not separated from their mothers at this stage. Quickly surmising that the greatest danger lay in being placed in the group of unmarried females, unmarried women and girls pretended their younger siblings or nephews or nieces were their own children. Married women who had no children to provide evidence of the marriage did likewise.

Fighters recorded the names of the women and girls, their age, the village they came from, whether they were married or not, and if they were married, how many children they had. Some women and girls reported ISIS fighters taking photographs of them. ISIS forced Yazidi women to give up valuables, including gold, money, and mobile telephones. As the fighters did so, women rushed to write and memorize telephone numbers of relatives who, they hoped, might be in a position to assist them later.

They were then moved to designated holding sites in Mosul, Tel Afar, and Baaj, deeper inside ISIS-controlled territory. These sites held hundreds, sometimes thousands, of Yazidi women and children, and were surrounded by armed ISIS fighters. Captives were given little food or water. Many, particularly infants and young children, became very sick. No medical care was provided.

From the moment that Yazidi women and girls entered the holding sites, ISIS fighters came into the rooms where they were held in order to select women and girls they wished to take with them. Interviewees described feelings of abject terror on hearing footsteps in the corridor outside and keys opening the locks. Women and girls scrambled to the corners of the rooms, mothers hiding their daughters. The selection of any girl was accompanied by screaming as she was forcibly pulled from the room, with her mother and any other women who tried to keep hold of her being brutally beaten by fighters.

Yazidi women and girls began to scratch and bloody themselves in an attempt to make themselves unattractive to potential buyers. Some committed suicide at holding sites in Tel Afar, Mosul, and in Raqqah city. Some women and girls killed themselves by cutting their wrists or throats, while others hanged themselves using their headscarves.

While individual incidents of rape committed by ISIS fighters at the holding sites in Tel Afar and Mosul were reported, mass rape of Yazidi women and girls did not occur. Such is the rigid ideology governing ISIS’s treatment of Yazidi women and girls as chattel, as well as the control it exerted over the majority of its fighters. Sexual violence, including the sexual slavery, being committed against Yazidi women and girls is tightly controlled by ISIS, occurs in a manner prescribed and authorized, and is respectful only of the property rights of those who “own” the women and girls.

Captured Yazidi women and girls were deemed property of ISIS and are openly termed sabaya or slaves. ISIS sold most of the Yazidi women and girls in slave markets, or souk sabaya, or through individual sales to fighters who come to the holding centers. In some instances, an ISIS fighter might buy a group of Yazidi females in order to take them into rural areas without slave markets where he could sell them individually at a higher price. Approximately one-fifth of Yazidi women and girls were kept as collective property of ISIS for distribution to military bases throughout Iraq and Syria.

ISIS began to transfer women and girls into Syria for sale as early as August 17, 2014, after which multiple forced transfers of Yazidi women and children took place. Most were taken to either or both of two locations in Raqqah city: an underground prison or security base, and/or a group of buildings densely surrounded by trees, referred to by ISIS fighters as “the farm.” Some—generally unmarried women and girls—were purchased by fighters and removed in a matter of days. Some women, often those with more than three children, might remain at the holding sites for up to four months before being sold.

Yazidi women and girls were sold to individual fighters directly from the holding sites as well as in slave markets across ISIS-controlled Iraq and Syria. A central committee, the Committee for the Buying and Selling of Slaves, organizes the slave markets. Where the central committee authorizes the opening of a slave market in a particular town, it devolves some of its functions to a local committee and commander. In the last year, ISIS fighters have started to hold online slave auctions, using the encrypted Telegram application to circulate photos of captured Yazidi women and girls, with details of their age, marital status, current location, and price.

Some Yazidi women and girls were present at their sale. Most were simply informed by their fighter-owner that he had bought or sold her. Once ISIS sells a Yazidi woman or girl, the purchasing fighter receives complete rights of ownership and can resell, gift, or will his “slave” as he wishes. Fighters who buy and sell Yazidi women and girls, as well as those who arrange the trading of them, come from all over the world.

While held by ISIS fighters, Yazidi women and girls over the age of 9 are subjected to brutal sexual violence. Most of those interviewed reported violent daily rapes by their fighter-owners. Some were handcuffed behind their backs during the rapes while others had their hands and legs tied to the corners of the beds. Girls as young as 9 were raped, as were pregnant women. Many women and girls reported being injured as a result of the rapes, suffering bleeding, cuts, and bruising. Attempts to escape have been met with beatings, and in some instances, gang rape. Many Yazidi women and girls reported that they were forced to take birth control, in the form of pills and injections, by their fighter-owners. Other women were given no birth control.

Fighters routinely beat Yazidi women and girls in their possession. Where Yazidi women and children are injured by rapes or beatings, ISIS fighters do not permit them access to medical care. Yazidi women and girls were often forced to work as domestic servants in the fighters’ houses, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of their children. Living conditions were poor with a pattern of fighters not providing adequate food or water to Yazidi women and children they were holding captive.

From the moment of capture, through the various holding sites and while being bought and raped by ISIS fighters, Yazidi women and girls were verbally abused by ISIS fighters. Insults were specifically directed at their Yazidi faith, saying that they “worshipped stones” and referring to them as “dirty kuffar” and “devil-worshippers.”

As “spoils of war” ISIS does not permit the reselling of Yazidis to non-ISIS members. Such sale is punishable by death. The financial incentives for an individual fighter to break this rule, however, are tremendous. Whereas Yazidi women and children are sold among fighters for between $200-1,500, they are generally sold back to their families for between $10,000-40,000. Many of the families of the Yazidi women and girls who were sold back are now heavily in debt and worry not only about making payments, but also about how they will be able to afford to buy back other relatives that fighters wish to sell in future.

Many of the Yazidi women and girls interviewed bore physical wounds and scars of the abuse they suffered. More apparent, however, was the mental trauma. Most spoke of thoughts of suicide, of being unable to sleep due to nightmares about ISIS fighters at their door, and of being consumed by fears for family members missing or still held by ISIS.

Young Children with Their Mothers

When he would force me into a room with him, I could hear my children screaming and crying outside the door. Once he became very angry. He beat and threatened to kill them. He forced two of them to stand outside barefoot in the snow until he finished with me.

—Woman, held for eleven months, sold seven times

Hundreds of Yazidi children continue to be transferred around ISIS-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria as their mothers are sold and resold. Once a Yazidi girl reaches the age of 9, ISIS takes the girl from her mother and sells her as a slave. When a Yazidi boy reaches 7 years of age, he too is taken from his mother and sent to an ISIS training camp and from there on to battle.

Children held with their mothers are often aware of their mothers being the victims of prolonged and intense violence. The extent of their understanding of the sexual nature of the violence depends on the age of the children, and whether rapes occurred in their presence. ISIS fighters often beat Yazidi children for making too much noise or for clinging to their mothers. Incidents of ISIS fighters killing Yazidi children have also been documented.

ISIS fighters and their families routinely told the Yazidi children that they and their mothers were “kuffar” and that they were dirty.

Yazidi Boys Aged 7 and Above

The ISIS fighters told us, “Children are young. They are like animals. We can change them. But you are adults. We will not be able to change your mind.” They said this to us at the hall in Mosul.

—Girl, aged 17 at capture, held for seventeen months, sold eight times

When Yazidi boys reach the age of 7, ISIS removes them from their mothers’ care, regardless of their location at the time. Mothers and siblings who try to keep hold of the boys are severely beaten. Women interviewed recounted ISIS fighters telling them that they were taking their sons to teach them to be Muslims and to train them to fight. A Saudi ISIS fighter showed some Yazidi women a video of young boys being trained in an ISIS camp, saying, “We are training them to kill kuffar like you.”

ISIS forcibly transfers the boys to training centers or military camps in Iraq and Syria. Many training centers are set up in former schools. There the boys are registered and given Islamic names. From then on, the boys are only called by their new names, and are treated as ISIS recruits. Yazidi boys are mixed with Sunni Arab boys who are also being trained. The boys attend sessions in Quranic recitation as well as military exercises, including how to use AK47s and other weapons. They are forced to watch videos of beheadings and suicide missions. On a general level, the training and indoctrination aim to increase recruitment, and all children are treated as recruits regardless of their background. But on a specific level, targeting the Yazidi boys uniquely, the training and indoctrination serves to destroy their religious identity as Yazidis, recasting them as followers of ISIS-interpreted Islam.

After completing the training, Yazidi boys are distributed according to the needs of the terrorist group. Some have become fighters on the battlefield while others are deployed to guard ISIS bases or to perform other duties as their commanders require.

Determining Genocide
Article II of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which Syria and Iraq are parties, states that the crime of genocide is committed when a person commits a prohibited act with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group as such. Prohibited acts are (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic determined that ISIS was committing the crime of genocide, as well as multiple crimes against humanity and war crimes, against the Yazidis, a protected religious group within the meaning of the Genocide Convention. This finding was particularly notable for two reasons: first, ISIS was committing all five prohibited acts as envisaged by the drafters of the Genocide Convention; and second, though killings did take place, the genocide was perpetrated largely through non-killing, highly gendered crimes, notably acts of extreme sexual violence.

In a lengthy legal analysis, the commission found that ISIS sought to destroy the Yazidis through killings; sexual slavery, enslavement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and forcible transfer causing serious bodily and mental harm; the infliction of conditions of life that bring about a slow death; the imposition of measures to prevent Yazidi children from being born, including forced conversion of adults, the separation of Yazidi men and women, and mental trauma; and the transfer of Yazidi children from their own families and placing them with ISIS fighters, thereby cutting them off from beliefs and practices of their own religious community, and destroying their identity as Yazidis.

The sexual enslavement of Yazidi women and girls has received much focus in media coverage of the genocide and is personified in Nadia Murad, a survivor recently made UN Goodwill Ambassador. Following the jurisprudence arising from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and notably the Akayesu case, the commission found that sexual violence, including sexual slavery, constituted the infliction of serious bodily and mental harm on the victims, and was an integral part of the process of intended destruction of the Yazidi women and girls, their families, and their communities. The commission drew attention to the fact that rape and sexual violence, when committed against women and girls as part of a genocide, is a crime against a wider protected group, but it is equally a crime committed against a female, as an individual, on the basis of her sex. Yazidi women and girls, the commission posited, were doubly victimized on the basis of their religion and their sex.

The crime of genocide requires that the perpetrator have a special intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a protected group. The genocidal acts must be committed against a person because of their membership in a particular group and as an incremental step in the overall objective of destroying the group.

Historically, the special intent to destroy has often been inferred from conduct, including statements. ISIS, however, explicitly holds its abuse of the Yazidis to be mandated by its religious interpretation, and has not sought to reframe its conduct. In an article, “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,” published in ISIS’s English-language magazine Dabiq, ISIS indicated that its plan to attack Sinjar was presaged by research into how its religious interpretation mandated the treatment of the Yazidis, who were found not to be “people of the book” and who, consequently, could not be permitted to exist within the group’s conception of an Islamic State.

This religious interpretation determined the behavior of ISIS fighters during the attack on Sinjar and in their subsequent abuse of Yazidi men, women, and children. ISIS’s killing of the men and boys who did not convert, forced conversions, sexual enslavement and enslavement of Yazidi women and girls, and forced abduction, indoctrination, and recruitment of Yazidi boys to be used in hostilities, de facto converting them, adhered seamlessly to the religious mandates set out by its “scholars” concerning how to treat Yazidi captives.

The notion of ISIS-interpreted Islam as a purifying force was present throughout all ISIS fighters’ interactions with the Yazidis. From schools in Tel Afar to houses in Raqqah city, fighters repeatedly told captured Yazidi women and girls, held as slaves, that they were “dirty Yazidis” and “kuffar.” The Dabiq article continues in this vein: “Their creed is so deviant from the truth that even cross-worshipping Christians for ages considered them devil-worshippers and Satanists.”

The public statements and conduct of ISIS and its fighters in their targeting and abuse of the Yazidis demonstrated that ISIS intended to destroy the Yazidis of Sinjar, composing the majority of the world’s Yazidi population, in whole or in part.

Protection and Justice
The Yazidi community of Sinjar has been devastated by the ISIS attack. In its aftermath, no free Yazidis remained: the community had all been displaced, captured, converted, or killed. Female survivors of sexual slavery have been shattered, with many experiencing suicidal thoughts, and intense feelings of rage interspersed with periods of deep depression and listlessness. There is limited access to psychosocial support. Furthermore, with hundreds of Yazidi men missing or dead, Yazidi women face a precarious existence in a society that has not encouraged their independence, or given many of them the tools to live autonomously. With regard to the youngest female victims of sexual slavery, some the families have had tremendous difficulty acknowledging the crimes committed against them.

Yazidi children, held with their mothers, are similarly traumatized but many have not, to date, received specialized therapy. Yazidi boys who were taken for indoctrination and training by ISIS suffer outbursts of rage, and are traumatized by prolonged exposure to violence, either directly at the hands of their instructors or in combat, or by witnessing it on the battlefield or in training videos.

Families, whether captured or not, are struggling to deal with the trauma experienced by those who were bought back or smuggled out, and by the profound distress of not knowing the fate or whereabouts of relatives still in ISIS-controlled territory. Many are in profound debt having sold all valuables, including land, and having borrowed money to buy back relatives offered for sale by ISIS fighters.

Over one thousand Yazidi women and children are receiving medical treatment, including trauma therapy, under the auspices of a program run by the Federal Republic of Germany. Many more, including female survivors of sexual slavery, are refugees in Europe, having placed themselves in the hands of smugglers and made dangerous journeys by land, and increasingly by boat. Yazidi victims of genocide, including but not limited to victims of sexual violence, must be better identified and treated as a vulnerable group for the purposes of housing, psychosocial support, and with regard to asylum processes.

There is a sense of profound disappointment with the international community. While there is support for organizations doing humanitarian work in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and, abroad, refugee camps, it is perceived that, at best, there is a paralysis, and, at worst, a reluctance regarding the taking of any action to rescue Yazidis still held by ISIS. This is compounded by reports of Yazidi captives being killed in airstrikes on ISIS bases and other military targets.

The ongoing attack by ISIS on the Yazidis is viewed by the community not as a standalone event, but part of a long history of historical oppression and violence against them. While most Yazidis said they wanted ISIS brought to justice for their crimes, few believed that international criminal justice was possible, citing centuries of impunity in relation to attacks on their community.

In its report, the commission made wide-ranging recommendations to the United Nations, the governments of Syria and Iraq, and the wider international community concerning rescue and protection of, and greater care for the Yazidi community of Sinjar. While noting states’ obligations under the Genocide Convention, the commission repeated its call for the Security Council to refer urgently the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, or to establish an ad hoc tribunal with relevant geographic and temporal jurisdiction.

Over 3,200 women and children are still held by ISIS. Most are held in the Syrian Arab Republic where Yazidi women and girls continue to be sexually enslaved and otherwise abused, and Yazidi boys, indoctrinated and trained. Thousands of Yazidi men and boys are missing. ISIS’s trade in women and girls and its recruitment and use of boys have never ceased.

The genocide of the Yazidis is ongoing.

This essay is adapted from “They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis,” a report issued on June 16, 2016, by the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

The United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic was established on August 22, 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council. The commission is mandated to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in Syria as well as, where possible, identify those responsible with a view to ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable. The commissioners are Paulo Pinheiro (chairperson), Karen Koning AbuZayd, Carla del Ponte, and Vitit Muntarbhorn.

Graves of Empire

India’s War: World War II and the Making of Modern South Asia. By Srinath Raghavan. Basic Books, New York, 2016. 592 pp.

Farthest Field. By Raghu Karnad. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2015. 320 pp.

The tombstones in El-Alamein cemetery, the site of a pivotal battle between British forces and the Axis powers for control over North Africa, have recorded the far reach of World War II: Krishna Magdum, of the Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners service. Baz Khan, from the 10th Baluch Regiment. Rachan Singh, from the Royal Indian Artillery. Nearly three thousand soldiers from pre-partition India rest in Egyptian cemeteries. In British Commonwealth cemeteries around the world, Indian soldiers number 87,029. Indians had fought in World War I as well, but by the second war they had become one of Britain’s most valuable military resources.

Collective memory of World War II is guided by a few significant dates—the Nazi occupation of Paris, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. nuclear attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Seemingly separate is another timeline, that of decolonization and the violence around it. The landmarks of India’s own struggle for independence from Britain after some two hundred years, and its ultimate partition in 1947, are on the margins away from the epicenter of the war. But authors on India’s role in World War II are forcing us to shift our gaze. The stories they describe suggest that India’s independence would not have materialized when it did if the war in Europe had not unfolded as it did—and perhaps the Allies would not have won that war in Europe without the promise of freedom for India.

India’s War by Srinath Raghavan is the latest in such scholarship. Meticulously researched, Raghavan’s 592-page book uses letters, government documents, recorded conversations, and figures, to outline the war’s span and human impact. In 1939, at the start of the war, the Indian army comprised 194,373 troops; by 1945, troop levels had risen to 2,065,554. These startling numbers bookend an oft-forgotten narrative of the war that Raghavan carefully outlines here: Britain’s request and recruitment of Indian troops to save the empire, the many international fronts the army defended, and the groundwork for India’s own independence movement.

Repeatedly, Raghavan calls attention to the gross ironies of India’s role in the war, starting in 1939, when Lord Linlithgow, the viceroy of India, announced Britain’s declaration of war. “I am confident that India will make her contribution on the side of human freedom as against the rule of force,” he said on All India Radio. Britain was asking Indians to die for human freedom while denying them the very same. Two years after the war started, an Indian villager was asked if he had heard of Adolf Hitler. He replied no, and then added that Hitler was probably the town’s new accountant. In another episode a young Indian soldier, in a letter home, describes seeing a wounded Italian solider on the road. “I had no enemies, so I helped him and moved away,” he says simply.

This was not India’s war as it was Europe’s, and yet, Indians died in the tens of thousands. While Britain battled to prop up the Raj, Indians were defending crucial international links to maintain the rest of the empire. Their defense forces stretched from Libya to the Suez Canal zone, Iraq, Iran and the Persian Gulf, and as far east as Burma and Singapore. Indian men fought in the treacherous western deserts of Egypt and then the treacherous jungles of Southeast Asia. The campaign in the east was particularly harrowing. At Singapore’s surrender in 1942, Japan took 65,000 Indians as prisoners of war. After Rangoon fell to Japan, tens of thousands of Indians who had been living there fled back to India; as Raghavan writes, fifty thousand Indians may have died along the way.

Beyond the manpower, what made World War II “India’s War” was how it was used in political calculations on the ground. Germany and Japan’s aggressive reach changed the world’s status quo, shifted centers of power, and thereby Britain’s hold on its colonies. That resulted in other quirks of fate on the political stage. For example, one of the leaders of the Indian nationalist movement, Subhas Chandra Bose, visited Hitler to secure his support for the cause (the führer ultimately said the timing wasn’t right for India’s freedom). Another, more tragic quirk was that Indian soldiers who had broken off and joined the Indian National Army established by Bose under the tutelage of Germany and Japan fought fellow Indians who served the British. Here is where non-Western histories like Raghavan’s are crucial in serving to challenge the idealism often associated with narratives of this war. In the Subcontinent, “human freedom” was less a matter of principles than it was of timing and political expediency: Britain conceded it needed Indian support and had to agree—in some capacity—to its independence. Later, the United States decided India’s sovereignty would serve its postwar interests. At the European center of war, patriotism and idealism helped drive popular support, but as Raghavan points out, on the Allies’ international war fronts there seemed to be little glory.

As a political scientist, Raghavan shines in his ability to use numbers to give shape to a chaotic period: the cotton industry, the number of bank accounts, the shifting proportion of British officers to Indian soldiers, how many soldiers came from what province, how many perished in these various campaigns. The aerial view he offers of India’s spread in the war fascinates with its sheer information. But while Raghavan communicates the tragedy of this war for the country, another book on the period, Farthest Field by Raghu Karnad, communicates the tragedy for Indians. While Raghavan provides an academic summary of the war’s effects on India, Karnad offers a narrative look at the cost to India’s spirit. His historical memoir follows the stories of three Indian soldiers—Karnad’s own grandfather, Ganny, and his two brothers-in-law, Bobby and Manek—as they enlist in the army under the Raj and travel to the far throes of battle.

The stories, stitched together from family letters, interviews with surviving veterans, and research, home in on the motivations to enlist, the fear of fighting, the harrowing experience of wartime life, and perhaps most illuminating, the moral ambiguity of the fight. Those ironies of war that Raghavan describes—Indians fighting against Indians, for example—become tragic in Karnad’s rendering. Towards the end of the war, with so much lost, the Indian soldier was without a familiar home and without a future he could see, relying for only so long on faulty heroism to carry him forward:

Their combat through the sacred cities of Western civilization made Bobby’s army look like ants disputing anthills. Second Field Company had been ordered all around the weedy edge of the Empire, farm boys toiling from acre to distant acre, until they reached here, the final field but one. . . .
When the slaughter of Whites by Whites was over, who among them would remember the Black men they sent running and shooting in the jungle? The Empire was ending and they were too late to find a place in that epic. In India how many would know, as Bobby did, the cost of boys’ lives? A new nation was forming, and they were too early to belong in its story. Those who had fallen like Manek and Ganny had fallen in the middle, and Bobby felt himself wanting to fall too.

It’s both poetic and instructive that for various reasons all three figures in Karnad’s book did not survive Indian independence and the ensuing partition. But the tragedy of the Indian soldier echoed loudly over the dawn of India’s next chapter.

Partition is often remembered as an inevitable culmination of longstanding religious tensions, but it was borne out of disastrous miscalculations of Britain’s struggle to maintain control in India and Indian leaders’ push for power on the eve of independence. As Raghavan writes, Winston Churchill, who delayed granting independence to India, wanted to fuel a simmering Hindu-Muslim divide in the country to maintain British control. India, after all, was so far contributing to the war effort. “If [unity] were to be brought about, the immediate result would be that the united communities would join in showing us the door,” Churchill acknowledged, adding that communal tensions were a “bulwark of British rule in India.”

Meanwhile, the war had “injected . . .uncertainties” into Indian domestic politics. One result was that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the All India Muslim League, was galvanized to call for a separate nation for Muslims, which eventually became Pakistan. Perhaps least cited is that World War II directly influenced the logistical project of partition itself. In one of Raghavan’s most alarming findings, he describes “the districts that had higher numbers of men with combat experience saw significantly higher levels of ethnic cleansing.” The result of these factors was the severing of two (and eventually three) countries, a million people killed, fifteen million displaced, and one of the longest conflicts in modern world history.

Both Western and South Asian histories have let this chapter of India’s life gather dust. As Karnad has commented, the war offered little glory for Indians. After independence, collective memory considered soldiers to be fighting for the wrong side of history, their own oppressor. Raghavan and Karnad’s books are parts of an emerging scholarship that is trying to redeem the stories of the thousands of soldiers who died. But while these books describe a dual war, they also illuminate a dual tragedy of history. The first is the human cost of war. The other is that it is only now that a proper accounting of this important period in Indian and world war history is happening. Beyond decorated tombstones, commemorating India’s war starts by simply remembering.

Rozina Ali is on the editorial staff of the New Yorker and a contributing editor at the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, where she served as senior editor from 2013 to 2015. From 2010 to 2013, she was deputy editor for management thinking at the Economist Intelligence Unit in New York. She has contributed to Al Jazeera America, Foreign Policy, Guardian, New York Times, and Salon. On Twitter: @rozina_ali.

The End of Stationarity

The End of Stationarity: Searching for the New Normal in the Age of Carbon Shock. By Mark Schapiro. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont, 2016. 240 pp.

In August, a storm system dumped nearly two feet of rain to the coast of Louisiana in half a day. Such a large amount of rain delivered in a short amount of time devastated the state, killing thirteen people, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of others, and leaving a cleanup bill likely to be in the billions of dollars. The flooding raised a host of challenging questions about the politics and economics of living in a floodplain. Should communities in such areas be relocated for their own good? How should flood insurance be funded? How do we get ready for future disasters, especially if we believe climate change will make them more frequent and severe?

The social consequences of climate change like the disruption from the Louisiana flooding lies at the heart of environmental journalist Mark Schapiro’s The End of Stationarity. Stationarity, as Schapiro notes, is a scientific term for the “realm of predictable fluctuation” within a data set. Normally, mean temperature or precipitation may vary from year to year, but it is always within a narrow bandwidth. Climate change, according to the best scientific evidence, promises to upend that trend. In other words, what humans have become used to in terms of weather is changing radically. As Schapiro’s tour d’horizon makes clear, societies across the globe are experiencing radical disjuncture in the normal range of experienced weather conditions. For some places, hot summers are getting significantly hotter. For others, seasonal rainfall patterns are becoming more erratic, with some wet seasons starting later and delivering less precipitation. The deserts in many regions are advancing into places hitherto temperate. The economic consequences of such shifts threaten livelihoods and will produce unintended consequences for social and political stability.

As we have started to understand what the end of stationarity means for how we exist on this planet, we are coming to terms with how the various sectors of the globalized economy need to be readjusted to avoid catastrophe. Schapiro does an admirable job taking his readers around the world: farmers in California worried about the declining availability of water; police in Brazil fighting illegal deforestation in the Amazonian rainforest; bureaucrats in Washington, DC, and Brussels fighting over how to measure and allocate responsibility for emissions from international air travel; and the titans of Wall Street calculating how climate change affects the future profitability of the richest and most powerful companies in the world.

Running throughout these vignettes is the concept of triage, which Schapiro refers to in the context of who gets priority over California’s dwindling water supply, but it is applicable to the complex political and economic decisions needed to adapt to a climate-challenged world. In order to deal effectively with climate change, politicians and the publics they serve will have to become very good at understanding how to deal with winners and losers from decisions taken in the context of fighting climate change. In a region with dwindling freshwater supplies, which end-user gets priority access: farmers, the public works department of a large city, or electricity providers? Underscoring these decisions is the fact that this process will have to be undertaken year in, year out, as baseline conditions shift constantly and in an unpredictable manner.

Also recurring through the course of the book is a refrain from analysts in the climate community about the need for a price on carbon, so that the full cost of greenhouse gas emissions on the atmosphere is properly carried by those emitting it. The concept of a direct carbon tax has been an anathema in the mainstream of U.S. political opinion for a long time; a previous effort to build a cap-and-trade program never made it out of Congress in 2009. Though the official platform of the Democratic Party talks about pricing carbon, the party’s 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, does not plan to put carbon pricing at the heart of her climate change plans. Canada, by contrast, is embracing the idea which British Columbia, one of its provinces, has had in place since 2013. Other jurisdictions, like California and certain areas in China, have adopted cap-and-trade programs. Schapiro is sympathetic to the economic logic of carbon pricing, as it would provide the incentives from what would otherwise be expensive decisions about pursuing low-carbon energy sources. Less realized in the book is how to overcome the objections to the practicality and limitations of a carbon tax, especially as the two largest greenhouse gas emitters, the United States and China, are moving toward different regulatory regimes.

These are important considerations, as integrating carbon pricing globally would also deal with the vexing question of how to deal with the pollution from economic activity that crosses international borders. Schapiro devotes a chapter to a dispute between the European Union and the United States over whether U.S. airlines flying into European airports had to purchase allowances for emissions from their planes. Other examples crop up in the book. Much of the reason that growth in greenhouse gas emissions has slowed in the United States and the European Union is that a lot of industrial capacity has been outsourced to Asia. The consequence of that is that the emissions from producing millions of iPhones are counted against China, even though those iPhones are ultimately consumed in the United States. In an ideal policy world, a coordinated carbon tax regime would make cross-border adjustments to the prices of imported goods so that those emissions are priced appropriately. The status quo, by contrast, gives countries too much credit for having their highest-polluting industries move to a different country. As Schapiro concludes, “In a world without a single carbon price, the emissions outsourcing ladder is an endless one.”

The planet is in the midst of a wide-ranging transition from an era of generating wealth on a foundation of fossil fuels to a new one where carbon is pushed to the wayside. It is a process, Schapiro writes, in which longstanding assumptions are “replaced, transformed, turned around.” How quickly and smoothly that transition occurs is up to us, and the decisions, personal and political, we make. The End of Stationarity sets a comprehensive tableau for what has been working, what has not been working, and the work that remains to be done.

Neil Bhatiya is a former fellow at the Century Foundation. On Twitter: @NeilBhatiya.

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Speech by Donald Trump Accepting the Republican Party’s 2016 Presidential Nomination (July 21, 2016)

Source: Cairo Review of Global Affairs

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Friends, delegates, and fellow Americans: I humbly and gratefully accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Who would have believed that when we started this journey on June 16th, last year, we—and I say we because we are a team—would have received almost fourteen million votes, the most in the history of the Republican Party?

And that the Republican Party would get 60 percent more votes than it received eight years ago. Who would have believed this? The Democrats on the other hand, received 20 percent fewer votes than they got four years ago, not so good.

Together, we will lead our party back to the White House, and we will lead our country back to safety, prosperity, and peace. We will be a country of generosity and warmth. But we will also be a country of law and order.

Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism of our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country.

Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally. Some have even been its victims.

I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon—and I mean very soon—come to an end. Beginning on January 20th of 2017, safety will be restored.

The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.

It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our nation. I will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.

So if you want to hear the corporate spin, the carefully-crafted lies, and the media myths—the Democrats are holding their convention next week. Go there.

But here, at our convention, there will be no lies. We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else.

These are the facts:

Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement.

Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in twenty-five years.

In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.

In the president’s hometown of Chicago, more than two thousand people have been the victims of shootings this year alone. And almost four thousand have been killed in the Chicago area since he took office.

The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50 percent compared to this point last year.

Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens.

The number of new illegal immigrant families who have crossed the border so far this year already exceeds the entire total from 2015.

They are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources.

One such border-crosser was released and made his way to Nebraska. There, he ended the life of an innocent young girl named Sarah Root. She was 21 years old and was killed the day after graduating from college with a 4.0 grade point average, number one in her class. Her killer was then released a second time, and he is now a fugitive from the law. I’ve met Sarah’s beautiful family. But to this administration, their amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting. No more. One more child to sacrifice on the order and on the altar of open borders.

What about our economy? Again, I will tell you the plain facts that have been edited out of your nightly news and your morning newspaper:

Nearly four in ten African American children are living in poverty, while 58 percent of African American youth are now not employed.

Two million more Latinos are in poverty today than when President Obama took his oath of office less than eight years ago.

Another 14 million people have left the workforce entirely.

Household incomes are down more than $4,000 since the year 2000. That is sixteen years ago.

Our trade deficit in goods reached—think of this—our trade deficit is $800 billion. Think of that. $800 billion last year alone. We’re gonna fix that.

The budget is no better. President Obama has almost doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion, and growing.

Yet, what do we have to show for it? Our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are Third World condition, and 43 million Americans are on food stamps.

Now let us consider the state of affairs abroad. Not only have our citizens endured domestic disaster, but they have lived through one international humiliation after another. One after another.

We all remember the images of our sailors being forced to their knees by their Iranian captors at gunpoint. This was just prior to the signing of the Iran deal, which gave back to Iran $150 billion and gave us absolutely nothing. It will go down in history as one of the worst deals ever negotiated.

Another humiliation came when President Obama drew a red line in Syria and the whole world knew it meant absolutely nothing.

In Libya, our consulate, the symbol of American prestige around the globe, was brought down in flames.

America is far less safe and the world is far less stable than when Obama made the decision to put Hillary Clinton in charge of America’s foreign policy. Let’s defeat her in November. I am certain that it was a decision that President Obama truly regrets.

Her bad instincts and her bad judgment, something pointed out by Bernie Sanders, are what caused so many of the disasters unfolding today. Let’s review the record.

In 2009, pre-Hillary, ISIS was not even on the map. Libya was stable. Egypt was peaceful. Iraq was seeing really a big, big reduction in violence. Iran was being choked by sanctions. Syria was somewhat under control.

After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have? ISIS has spread across the region and the entire world. Libya is in ruins, and our ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers. Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, forcing the military to retake control. Iraq is in chaos. Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons. Syria is engulfed in a civil war and a refugee crisis now threatens the West. After fifteen years of wars in the Middle East, after trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost, the situation is worse than it has ever been before.

This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: Death, destruction and terrorism and weakness.

But Hillary Clinton’s legacy does not have to be America’s legacy. The problems we face now—poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad—will last only as long as we continue relying on the same politicians who created them in the first place. A change in leadership is required to produce a change in outcomes.

Tonight, I will share with you my plan for action for America. The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America first. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo.

As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America first, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect. The respect that we deserve. The American people will come first once again.

My plan will begin with safety at home which means safe neighborhoods, secure borders, and protection from terrorism. There can be no prosperity without law and order.

On the economy, I will outline reforms to add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth that can be used to rebuild America.

A number of these reforms that I will outline tonight will be opposed by some of our nation’s most powerful special interests. That is because these interests have rigged our political and economic system for their exclusive benefit. Believe me. It is for their benefit.

Big business, elite media, and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place. They are throwing money at her because they have total control over every single thing she does. She is their puppet, and they pull the strings. That is why Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change. Never ever.

My message is that things have to change and they have to change right now. Every day I wake up determined to deliver a better life for the people all across this nation that had been ignored, neglected, and abandoned.

I have visited the laid-off factory workers, and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals. These are the forgotten men and women of our country, and they are forgotten, but they will not be forgotten long. These are people who work hard but no longer have a voice. I am your voice.

I have embraced crying mothers who have lost their children because our politicians put their personal agendas before the national good.

I have no patience for injustice. No tolerance for government incompetence. When innocent people suffer, because our political system lacks the will, or the courage, or the basic decency to enforce our laws, or worse still, has sold out to some corporate lobbyist for cash I am not able to look the other way. And I won’t look the other way.

And when a secretary of state illegally stores her emails on a private server, deletes 33,000 of them so the authorities can’t see her crime, puts our country at risk, lies about it in every different form and faces no consequence—I know that corruption has reached a level like never ever before in our country.

When the FBI director says that the secretary of state was “extremely careless” and “negligent” in handling our classified secrets, I also know that these terms are minor compared to what she actually did. They were just used to save her from facing justice for her terrible, terrible crimes.

In fact, her single greatest accomplishment may be committing such an egregious crime and getting away with it, especially when others who have done far less have paid so dearly.

When that same secretary of state rakes in millions of dollars trading access and favors to special interests and foreign powers, I know the time for action has come.

I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves.

Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders. He never had a chance.

But his supporters will join our movement, because we will fix his biggest single issue: trade deals that strip our country of jobs and the distribution of wealth in the country.

Millions of Democrats will join our movement, because we are going to fix the system so it works fairly and justly for each and every American.

In this cause, I am proud to have at my side the next vice president of the United States: Governor Mike Pence of Indiana. And a great guy. We will bring the same economic success to America that Mike brought to Indiana, which is amazing. He is a man of character and accomplishment. He is the man for the job.

The first task for our new administration will be to liberate our citizens from the crime and terrorism and lawlessness that threatens our communities.

America was shocked to its core when our police officers in Dallas were so brutally executed. Immediately after Dallas, we have seen continued threats and violence against our law enforcement officials. Law officers have been shot or killed in recent days in Georgia, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, and Tennessee.

On Sunday, more police were gunned down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three were killed, and three were very badly injured. An attack on law enforcement is an attack on all Americans.

I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police: When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country. Believe me, believe me.

I will work with, and appoint, the best and brightest prosecutors and law enforcement officials to get the job properly done. In this race for the White House, I am the law and order candidate.

The irresponsible rhetoric of our president, who has used the pulpit of the presidency to divide us by race and color, has made America a more dangerous environment than, frankly, I have ever seen and anybody in this room has ever watched or seen.

This administration has failed America’s inner cities. Remember, it has failed America’s inner cities. It’s failed them on education. It’s failed them on jobs. It’s failed them on crime. It’s failed them in every way and on every single level.

When I am president, I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally, and protected equally. Every action I take, I will ask myself: Does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, in Chicago, in Detroit, and in Ferguson who have really in every way the same right to live out their dreams as any other child in America?

To make life safe for all of our citizens, we must also address the growing threats we face from outside the country. We are going to defeat the barbarians of ISIS. And we are going to defeat them fast.

Once again, France is the victim of brutal Islamic terrorism. Men, women, and children viciously mowed down. Lives ruined. Families ripped apart. A nation in mourning. The damage and devastation that can be inflicted by Islamic radicals has been proven over and over. At the World Trade Center, at an office party in San Bernardino, at the Boston Marathon, and a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And many other locations.

Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, forty-nine wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist target—LGBTQ community.

No good. And we’re going to stop it. As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me. And I have to say as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.

To protect us from terrorism, we need to focus on three things.

We must have the best, absolutely the best, gathering of intelligence anywhere in the world. The best.

We must abandon the failed policy of nation-building and regime change that Hillary Clinton pushed in Iraq, Libya, in Egypt, and Syria.

Instead, we must work with all of our allies who share our goal of destroying ISIS and stamping out Islamic terrorism and doing it now, doing it quickly. We’re going to win. We’re going to win fast. This includes working with our greatest ally in the region, the State of Israel.

Recently I have said that NATO was obsolete. Because it did not properly cover terror. And also that many of the member countries were not paying their fair share. As usual, the United States has been picking up the cost. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that NATO will be setting up a new program in order to combat terrorism. A true step in the right direction.

Lastly, and very importantly, we must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place. We don’t want them in our country.

My opponent has called for a radical 550 percent increase—think of this, this is not believable, but this is what is happening—a 550 percent increase in Syrian refugees on top of existing massive refugee flows coming into our country already under the leadership of President Obama.

She proposes this despite the fact that there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from. I only want to admit individuals into our country who will support our values and love our people. Anyone who endorses violence, hatred, or oppression is not welcome in our country and never ever will be.

Decades of record immigration have produced lower wages and higher unemployment for our citizens, especially for African American and Latino workers. We are going to have an immigration system that works, but one that works for the American people.

On Monday, we heard from three parents whose children were killed by illegal immigrants: Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden, and my friend Jamiel Shaw. They are just three brave representatives of many thousands who have suffered so greatly.

Of all my travels in this country, nothing has affected me more, nothing even close, than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our borders, which we can solve. We have to solve it. These families have no special interests to represent them. There are no demonstrators to protect them and certainly none to protest on their behalf.

My opponent will never meet with them, or share in their pain. Believe me. Instead, my opponent wants sanctuary cities. But where was the sanctuary for Kate Steinle? Where was the sanctuary for the children of Mary Ann, and Sabine, and Jamiel? It is so sad to even be talking about this because we can solve this problem so quickly. Where was sanctuary for all the other Americans who have been so brutally murdered, and who have suffered so horribly? These wounded American families have been alone. But they are not alone any longer.

Tonight, this candidate and the whole nation stand in their corner to support them, to send them our love, and to pledge in their honor that we will save countless more families from suffering the same awful fate.

We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.

I have been honored to receive the endorsement of America’s Border Patrol agents, and will work directly with them to protect the integrity of our lawful, lawful, immigration system.

By ending catch-and-release on the border, we will stop the cycle of human smuggling and violence. Illegal border crossings will go down. We will stop it. It will not be happening very much anymore. Believe me.

Peace will be restored by enforcing the rules for the millions who overstay their visas, our laws will finally receive the respect they deserve.

Tonight, I want every American whose demands for immigration security have been denied and every politician who has denied them to listen very closely to the words I am about to say: On January 20th of 2017, the day I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced.

We are going to be considerate and compassionate to everyone. But my greatest compassion will be for our own struggling citizens.

My plan is the exact opposite of the radical and dangerous immigration policy of Hillary Clinton. Americans want relief from uncontrolled immigration. Which is what we have now. Communities want relief. Yet Hillary Clinton is proposing mass amnesty, mass immigration, and mass lawlessness.

Her plan will overwhelm your schools and hospitals, further reduce your jobs and wages, and make it harder for recent immigrants to escape from the tremendous cycle of poverty they are going through right now and make it almost impossible for them to join the middle class.

I have a different vision for our workers. It begins with a new, fair trade policy that protects our jobs and stands up to countries that cheat—of which there are many.

It’s been a signature message of my campaign from day one, and it will be a signature feature of my presidency from the moment I take the oath of office. I have made billions of dollars in business making deals. Now I’m going to make our country rich again. Using the greatest businesspeople in the world, which our country has, I’m going to turn our bad trade agreements into great trade agreements.

America has lost nearly one third of its manufacturing jobs since 1997, following the enactment of disastrous trade deals supported by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Remember, it was Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA, one of the worst economic deals ever made by our country. Or frankly, any other country. Never ever again.

I am going to bring back our jobs to Ohio and Pennsylvania and New York and Michigan and all of America and I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequence. Not going to happen anymore.

My opponent, on the other hand, has supported virtually every trade agreement that has been destroying our middle class. She supported NAFTA, and she supported China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization. Another one of her husband’s colossal mistakes and disasters. She supported the job killing trade deal with South Korea. She supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership which will not only destroy our manufacturing but it will make America subject to the rulings of foreign governments. And it is not going to happen.

I pledge to never sign any trade agreement that hurts our workers, or that diminishes our freedom and our independence. We will never ever sign bad trade deals. America first again. America first.

Instead, I will make individual deals with individual countries. No longer will we enter into these massive transactions with many countries that are thousands of pages long and which no one from our country even reads or understands. We are going to enforce all trade violations against any country that cheats. This includes stopping China’s outrageous theft of intellectual property, along with their illegal product dumping, and their devastating currency manipulation. They are the greatest that ever came about, they are the greatest currency manipulators ever.

Our horrible trade agreements with China, and many others, will be totally renegotiated. That includes renegotiating NAFTA to get a much better deal for America and we’ll walk away if we don’t get that kind of a deal. Our country is going to start building and making things again.

Next comes the reform of our tax laws, regulations, and energy rules. While Hillary Clinton plans a massive, and I mean massive, tax increase, I have proposed the largest tax reduction of any candidate who has run for president this year, Democrat or Republican. Middle-income Americans and businesses will experience profound relief, and taxes will be greatly simplified for everyone. I mean everyone.

America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world. Reducing taxes will cause new companies and new jobs to come roaring back into our country. Believe me. It will happen and it will happen fast.

Then we are going to deal with the issue of regulation, one of the greatest job killers of them all. Excessive regulation is costing our country as much as $2 trillion a year, and we will end it very, very quickly.

We are going to lift the restrictions on the production of American energy. This will produce more than $20 trillion in job-creating economic activity over the next four decades.

My opponent, on the other hand, wants to put the great miners and the great steelworkers of our country out of work and out of business. That will never happen with Donald J. Trump as president. Our steelworkers and are miners are going back to work again.

With these new economic policies, trillions of dollars will start flowing into our country. This new wealth will improve the quality of life for all Americans. We will build the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, and the railways of tomorrow. This, in turn, will create millions of more jobs.

We will rescue kids from failing schools by helping their parents send them to a safe school of their choice. My opponent would rather protect bureaucrats than serve American children. That is what she is doing and that is what she has done.

We will repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare. You will be able to choose your own doctor again.

And we will fix TSA at the airports, which is a total disaster.

We are going to work with all of our students who are drowning in debt to take the pressure off these young people just starting out in their adult lives. Tremendous problems.

We will completely rebuild our depleted military. And the countries that we are protecting at a massive cost to us will be asked to pay their fair share.

We will take care of our great veterans like they have never been taken care of before. My just-released ten-point plan has received tremendous veteran support. We will guarantee those who serve this country will be able to visit the doctor or hospital of their choice without waiting five days on a line and dying.

My opponent dismissed the VA scandal, one more sign of how out of touch she really is.

We are going to ask every department head and government to provide a list of wasteful spending projects that we can eliminate in my first one hundred days. The politicians have talked about this for years, but I’m going to do it.

We are also going to appoint justices to the United States Supreme Court who will uphold our laws and our constitution. The replacement of our beloved Justice Scalia will be a person of similar views, principles, and judicial philosophies. Very important. This will be one of the most important issues decided by this election.

My opponent wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment. I, on the other hand, received the early and strong endorsement of the National Rifle Association, and will protect the right of all Americans to keep their families safe.

At this moment, I would like to thank the evangelical and religious community because, I will tell you what, the support they have given me—and I’m not sure I totally deserve it—has been so amazing. And has been such a big reason I’m here tonight. They have much to contribute to our politics.

Yet our laws prevent you from speaking your mind from your own pulpits. An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson, many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views. Their voice has been taken away. I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and to protect free speech for all Americans.

We can accomplish these great things and so much more. All we need to do is start believing in ourselves and in our country again. Start believing. It is time to show the whole world that America is back, bigger and better and stronger than ever before.

In this journey, I’m so lucky to have at my side my wife Melania and my wonderful children Don, Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany, and Barron: You will always be my greatest source of pride and joy. And by the way, Melania and Ivanka, did they do a job?

My dad, Fred Trump, was the smartest and hardest working man I ever knew. I wonder sometimes what he’d say if he were here to see this tonight. It’s because of him that I learned, from my youngest age, to respect the dignity of work and the dignity of working people.

He was a guy most comfortable in the company of bricklayers, carpenters, and electricians and I have a lot of that in me also. I love those people.

Then there’s my mother, Mary. She was strong, but also warm and fair-minded. She was a truly great mother. She was also one of the most honest and charitable people I have ever known, and a great, great judge of character. She could pick them out from anywhere.

To my sisters, Mary Anne and Elizabeth, my brother Robert and my late brother Fred, I will always give you my love. You are most special to me. I have had a truly great life in business.

But now, my sole and exclusive mission is to go to work for our country, to go to work for you. It is time to deliver a victory for the American people. We don’t win anymore, but we are going to start winning again. But to do that, we must break free from the petty politics of the past.

America is a nation of believers, dreamers, and strivers that is being led by a group of censors, critics, and cynics. Remember: All of the people telling you can’t have the country you want, are the same people, that would not stand, I mean they said Trump does not have a chance of being here tonight, not a chance, the same people. We love defeating those people, don’t we? Love it.

No longer can we rely on those same people in the media and politics who will say anything to keep our rigged system in place. Instead, we must choose to believe in America.

History is watching us now. We don’t have much time. But history is watching. It’s waiting to see if we will rise to the occasion, and if we will show the whole world that America is still free and independent and strong.

I am asking for your support tonight so that I can be your champion in the White House. And I will be a champion. Your champion.

My opponent asks her supporters to recite a three-word loyalty pledge. It reads: “I’m with her.”

I choose to recite a different pledge. My pledge reads: “I’m with you, the American people.”

I am your voice. So to every parent who dreams for their child, and every child who dreams for their future, I say these words to you tonight: I’m with you, and I will fight for you, and I will win for you.

To all Americans tonight, in all of our cities and in all of our towns, I make this promise:

We will make America strong again.

We will make America proud again.

We will make America safe again.

And we will make America great again!

God bless you and goodnight! I love you!

Speech by Hillary Clinton Accepting the Democratic Party’s 2016 Presidential Nomination (July 28, 2016)
Source: Hillary for America

Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you all so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all very, very much. Thank you for that amazing welcome. Thank you all for the great convention that we’ve had.

And, Chelsea, thank you. I am so proud to be your mother and so proud of the woman you’ve become. Thank you for bringing Marc into our family and Charlotte and Aidan into the world. And, Bill, that conversation we started in the law library forty-five years ago, it is still going strong.

You know, that conversation has lasted through good times that filled us with joy and hard times that tested us. And I’ve even gotten a few words in along the way. On Tuesday night, I was so happy to see that my explainer-in-chief is still on the job. I’m also grateful to the rest of my family and to the friends of a lifetime.

For all of you whose hard work brought us here tonight and to those of you who joined this campaign this week, thank you. What a remarkable week it’s been. We heard the man from Hope, Bill Clinton; and the man of hope, Barack Obama. America is stronger because of President Obama’s leadership, and I am better because of his friendship.

We heard from our terrific vice president, the one and only Joe Biden. He spoke from his big heart about our party’s commitment to working people as only he can do.

And First Lady Michelle Obama reminded us that our children are watching and the president we elect is going to be their president, too.

And for those of you out there who are just getting to know Tim Kaine, you will soon understand why the people of Virginia keep promoting him from city council and mayor, to governor, and now senator. And he will make our whole country proud as our vice president.

And I want to thank Bernie Sanders. Bernie. Bernie, your campaign inspired millions of Americans, particularly the young people who threw their hearts and souls into our primary. You put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong.

And to all of your supporters here and around the country, I want you to know I have heard you. Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion. That is the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America. We wrote it together. Now let’s go out and make it happen together.

My friends, we’ve come to Philadelphia, the birthplace of our nation, because what happened in this city two hundred and forty years ago still has something to teach us today. We all know the story, but we usually focus on how it turned out, and not enough on how close that story came to never being written at all. When representatives from thirteen unruly colonies met just down the road from here, some wanted to stick with the king, and some wanted to stick it to the king.

The revolution hung in the balance. Then somehow they began listening to each other, compromising, finding common purpose. And by the time they left Philadelphia, they had begun to see themselves as one nation. That’s what made it possible to stand up to a king. That took courage. They had courage. Our founders embraced the enduring truth that we are stronger together.

Now America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect are fraying. And just as with our founders, there are no guarantees. It truly is up to us. We have to decide whether we will all work together so we can all rise together. Our country’s motto is e pluribus unum: out of many, we are one. Will we stay true to that motto?

Well, we heard Donald Trump’s answer last week at his convention. He wants to divide us from the rest of the world and from each other. He’s betting that the perils of today’s world will blind us to its unlimited promise. He’s taken the Republican Party a long way from “Morning in America” to “Midnight in America.” He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.

Well, you know, a great Democratic president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Now we are clear-eyed about what our country is up against, but we are not afraid. We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have. We will not build a wall. Instead, we will build an economy where everyone who wants a good job can get one. And we’ll build a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who are already contributing to our economy. We will not ban a religion. We will work with all Americans and our allies to fight and defeat terrorism.

Yet, we know there is a lot to do. Too many people haven’t had a pay raise since the crash. There’s too much inequality, too little social mobility, too much paralysis in Washington, too many threats at home and abroad.

But just look for a minute at the strengths we bring as Americans to meet these challenges. We have the most dynamic and diverse people in the world. We have the most tolerant and generous young people we’ve ever had. We have the most powerful military, the most innovative entrepreneurs, the most enduring values—freedom and equality, justice and opportunity. We should be so proud that those words are associated with us. I have to tell you, as your secretary of state, I went to 112 countries. When people hear those words, they hear America.

So don’t let anyone tell you that our country is weak. We’re not. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have what it takes. We do. And most of all, don’t believe anyone who says, “I alone can fix it.” Yes. Those were actually Donald Trump’s words in Cleveland. And they should set off alarm bells for all of us. Really? “I alone can fix it?” Isn’t he forgetting troops on the front lines, police officers and firefighters who run toward danger, doctors and nurses who care for us? Teachers who change lives, entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem, mothers who lost children to violence and are building a movement to keep other kids safe? He’s forgetting every last one of us. Americans don’t say, “I alone fix can it.” We say, “We’ll fix it together.”

And remember. Remember. Our founders fought a revolution and wrote a constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power. Two hundred and forty years later, we still put our faith in each other. Look at what happened in Dallas. After the assassinations of five brave police officers, Police Chief David Brown asked the community to support his force, maybe even join them. And do you know how the community responded? Nearly five hundred people applied in just twelve days.

That’s how Americans answer when the call for help goes out. Twenty years ago, I wrote a book called It Takes a Village. And a lot of people looked at the title and asked, what the heck do you mean by that? This is what I mean. None of us can raise a family, build a business, heal a community, or lift a country totally alone. America needs every one of us to lend our energy, our talents, our ambition to making our nation better and stronger. I believe that with all my heart. That’s why “Stronger Together” is not just a lesson from our history, it’s not just a slogan for our campaign, it’s a guiding principle for the country we’ve always been, and the future we’re going to build.

A country where the economy works for everyone, not just those at the top. Where you can get a good job and send your kids to a good school no matter what zip code you live in. A country where all our children can dream, and those dreams are within reach. Where families are strong, communities are safe, and, yes, where love trumps hate. That’s the country we’re fighting for. That’s the future we’re working toward. And so, my friends, it is with humility, determination, and boundless confidence in America’s promise that I accept your nomination for president of the United States.

Now, sometimes the people at this podium are new to the national stage. As you know, I’m not one of those people. I’ve been your first lady, served eight years as a senator from the great state of New York. Then I represented all of you as secretary of state. But my job titles only tell you what I’ve done. They don’t tell you why. The truth is, through all these years of public service, the service part has always come easier to me than the public part. I get it that some people just don’t know what to make of me. So let me tell you.

The family I’m from, well, no one had their name on big buildings. My family were builders of a different kind, builders in the way most American families are. They used whatever tools they had, whatever God gave them, and whatever life in America provided, and built better lives and better futures for their kids.

My grandfather worked in the same Scranton lace mill for fifty years because he believed that if he gave everything he had, his children would have a better life than he did. And he was right. My dad, Hugh, made it to college. He played football at Penn State and enlisted in the Navy after Pearl Harbor. When the war was over he started his own small business, printing fabric for draperies. I remember watching him stand for hours over silkscreens. He wanted to give my brothers and me opportunities he never had, and he did.

My mother, Dorothy, was abandoned by her parents as a young girl. She ended up on her own at 14, working as a housemaid. She was saved by the kindness of others. Her first grade teacher saw she had nothing to eat at lunch, and brought extra food to share the entire year. The lesson she passed on to me years later stuck with me: No one gets through life alone. We have to look out for each other and lift each other up. And she made sure I learned the words from our Methodist faith: “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”

So I went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund, going door to door in New Bedford, Massachusetts on behalf of children with disabilities who were denied the chance to go to school. I remember meeting a young girl in a wheelchair on the small back porch of her house. She told me how badly she wanted to go to school. It just didn’t seem possible in those days. And I couldn’t stop thinking of my mother and what she’d gone through as a child. It became clear to me that simply caring is not enough. To drive real progress, you have to change both hearts and laws. You need both understanding and action.

So we gathered facts. We built a coalition. And our work helped convince Congress to ensure access to education for all students with disabilities. It’s a big idea, isn’t it? Every kid with a disability has the right to go to school. But how do you make an idea like that real? You do it step by step, year by year, sometimes even door by door. My heart just swelled when I saw Anastasia Somoza representing millions of young people on this stage because we changed our law to make sure she got an education.

So it’s true. I sweat the details of policy, whether we’re talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the number of mental health facilities in Iowa, or the cost of your prescription drugs. Because it’s not just a detail if it’s your kid, if it’s your family. It’s a big deal. And it should be a big deal to your president, too.

After the four days of this convention, you’ve seen some of the people who’ve inspired me, people who let me into their lives and became a part of mine, people like Ryan Moore and Lauren Manning. They told their stories Tuesday night. I first met Ryan as a 7 year old. He was wearing a full body brace that must have weighed forty pounds because I leaned over to lift him up. Children like Ryan kept me going when our plan for universal health care failed, and kept me working with leaders of both parties to help create the Children’s Health Insurance Program that covers eight million kids in our country. Lauren Manning, who stood here with such grace and power, was gravely injured on 9/11.

It was the thought of her, and Debbie St. John, who you saw in the movie, and John Dolan and Joe Sweeney and all the victims and survivors, that kept me working as hard as I could in the Senate on behalf of 9/11 families and our first responders who got sick from their time at Ground Zero. I was thinking of Lauren, Debbie, and all the others ten years later in the White House Situation Room, when President Obama made the courageous decision that finally brought Osama Bin Laden to justice.

And in this campaign I’ve met many more people who motivate me to keep fighting for change, and with your help, I will carry all of your voices and stories with me to the White House. And you heard from Republicans and Independents who are supporting our campaign. Well, I will be a president for Democrats, Republicans, Independents, for the struggling, the striving, the successful, for all those who vote for me and for those who don’t. For all Americans together.

Tonight, we’ve reached a milestone in our nation’s march toward a more perfect union: the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for president. Standing here as my mother’s daughter, and my daughter’s mother, I’m so happy this day has come. I’m happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between. I’m happy for boys and men—because when any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for everyone. After all, when there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit. So let’s keep going until every one of the 161 million women and girls across America has the opportunity she deserves to have. But even more important than the history we make tonight is the history we will write together in the years ahead. Let’s begin with what we’re going to do to help working people in our country get ahead and stay ahead.

Now, I don’t think President Obama and Vice President Biden get the credit they deserve for saving us from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. Our economy is so much stronger than when they took office. Nearly fifteen million new private sector jobs. Twenty million more Americans with health insurance. And an auto industry that just had its best year ever.

Now, that’s real progress. But none of us can be satisfied with the status quo. Not by a long shot. We’re still facing deep-seated problems that developed long before the recession and stayed with us through the recovery. I’ve gone around the country talking to working families. And I’ve heard from many who feel like the economy sure isn’t working for them. Some of you are frustrated—even furious. And you know what? You’re right. It’s not yet working the way it should.

Americans are willing to work—and work hard. But right now, an awful lot of people feel there is less and less respect for the work they do. And less respect for them, period. Democrats, we are the party of working people. But we haven’t done a good enough job showing we get what you’re going through, and we’re going to do something to help.

So tonight I want to tell you how we will empower Americans to live better lives. My primary mission as president will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the United States. From my first day in office to my last. Especially in places that for too long have been left out and left behind. From our inner cities to our small towns, from Indian country to coal country. From communities ravaged by addiction to regions hollowed out by plant closures.

And here’s what I believe. I believe America thrives when the middle class thrives. I believe our economy isn’t working the way it should because our democracy isn’t working the way it should. That’s why we need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will get money out of politics and expand voting rights, not restrict them. And if necessary, we will pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

I believe American corporations that have gotten so much from our country should be just as patriotic in return. Many of them are, but too many aren’t. It’s wrong to take tax breaks with one hand and give out pink slips with the other. And I believe Wall Street can never, ever be allowed to wreck Main Street again.

And I believe in science. I believe climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.

I believe that when we have millions of hardworking immigrants contributing to our economy, it would be self-defeating and inhumane to try to kick them out. Comprehensive immigration reform will grow our economy and keep families together—and it’s the right thing to do.

So whatever party you belong to, or if you belong to no party at all, if you share these beliefs, this is your campaign.

If you believe that companies should share profits, not pad executive bonuses, join us. If you believe the minimum wage should be a living wage, and no one working full-time should have to raise their children in poverty, join us.

If you believe that every man, woman, and child in America has the right to affordable health care, join us. If you believe that we should say no to unfair trade deals; that we should stand up to China; that we should support our steelworkers and autoworkers and homegrown manufacturers, then join us.

If you believe we should expand Social Security and protect a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, then join us. And yes, yes, if you believe that your working mother, wife, sister, or daughter deserves equal pay, join us. That’s how we’re going to make sure this economy works for everyone, not just those at the top.

Now, you didn’t hear any of this, did you, from Donald Trump at his convention. He spoke for seventy-odd minutes—and I do mean odd. And he offered zero solutions. But we already know he doesn’t believe these things. No wonder he doesn’t like talking about his plans. You might have noticed, I love talking about mine.

In my first hundred days, we will work with both parties to pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II. Jobs in manufacturing, clean energy, technology and innovation, small business, and infrastructure. If we invest in infrastructure now, we’ll not only create jobs today, but lay the foundation for the jobs of the future.

And we will also transform the way we prepare our young people for those jobs. Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all. We will also liberate millions of people who already have student debt. It’s just not right that Donald Trump can ignore his debts, and students and families can’t refinance their debts.

And something we don’t say often enough: Sure, college is crucial, but a four-year degree should not be the only path to a good job. We will help more people learn a skill or practice a trade and make a good living doing it. We will give small businesses, like my dad’s, a boost, make it easier to get credit. Way too many dreams die in the parking lots of banks. In America, if you can dream it, you should be able to build it.

And we will help you balance family and work. And you know what, if fighting for affordable child care and paid family leave is playing the “woman card,” then deal me in.

Now, now, here’s the other thing. Now, we’re not only going to make all of these investments. We’re going to pay for every single one of them. And here’s how. Wall Street, corporations, and the super-rich are going to start paying their fair share of taxes. This is not because we resent success, but when more than 90 percent of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent, that’s where the money is. And we are going to follow the money. And if companies take tax breaks and then ship jobs overseas, we’ll make them pay us back. And we’ll put that money to work where it belongs: creating jobs here at home.

Now, I imagine that some of you are sitting at home thinking, well, that all sounds pretty good, but how are you going to get it done? How are you going to break through the gridlock in Washington? Well, look at my record. I’ve worked across the aisle to pass laws and treaties and to launch new programs that help millions of people. And if you give me the chance, that’s exactly what I’ll do as president.

But then, but then I also imagine people are thinking out there, but Trump, he’s a businessman. He must know something about the economy. Well, let’s take a closer look, shall we? In Atlantic City, sixty miles from here, you will find contractors and small businesses who lost everything because Donald Trump refused to pay his bills. Now, remember what the president said last night. Don’t boo. Vote.

But think of this. People who did the work and needed the money, not because he couldn’t pay them, but because he wouldn’t pay them, he just stiffed them. And you know that sales pitch he’s making to be president: put your faith in him, and you’ll win big? That’s the same sales pitch he made to all those small businesses. Then Trump walked away and left working people holding the bag.

He also talks a big game about putting America first. Well, please explain what part of “America First” leads him to make Trump ties in China, not Colorado; Trump suits in Mexico, not Michigan; Trump furniture in Turkey, not Ohio; Trump picture frames in India, not Wisconsin. Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again. Well, he could start by actually making things in America again.

Now, the choice we face in this election is just as stark when it comes to our national security.

Anyone, anyone reading the news can see the threats and turbulence we face. From Baghdad and Kabul, to Nice and Paris and Brussels, from San Bernardino to Orlando, we’re dealing with determined enemies that must be defeated. So it’s no wonder that people are anxious and looking for reassurance, looking for steady leadership, wanting a leader who understands we are stronger when we work with our allies around the world and care for our veterans here at home. Keeping our nation safe and honoring the people who do that work will be my highest priority.

I’m proud that we put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot. Now we have to enforce it, and we must keep supporting Israel’s security. I’m proud that we shaped a global climate agreement. Now we have to hold every country accountable to their commitments, including ourselves. And I’m proud to stand by our allies in NATO against any threat they face, including from Russia.

I’ve laid out my strategy for defeating ISIS. We will strike their sanctuaries from the air and support local forces taking them out on the ground. We will surge our intelligence so we detect and prevent attacks before they happen. We will disrupt their efforts online to reach and radicalize young people in our country. It won’t be easy or quick, but make no mistake we will prevail.

Now Donald Trump, Donald Trump says, and this is a quote, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do.” No, Donald, you don’t.

He thinks he knows more than our military because he claimed our armed forces are “a disaster.” Well, I’ve had the privilege to work closely with our troops and our veterans for many years, including as a senator on the Armed Services Committee. And I know how wrong he is. Our military is a national treasure. We entrust our commander-in-chief to make the hardest decisions our nation faces: decisions about war and peace, life and death. A president should respect the men and women who risk their lives to serve our country, including, including Captain Khan and the sons of Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, both Marines. So just ask yourself: Do you really think Donald Trump has the temperament to be commander-in-chief? Donald Trump can’t even handle the rough-and-tumble of a presidential campaign. He loses his cool at the slightest provocation—when he’s gotten a tough question from a reporter, when he’s challenged in a debate, when he sees a protestor at a rally. Imagine, if you dare imagine, imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.

I can’t put it any better than Jackie Kennedy did after the Cuban Missile Crisis. She said that what worried President Kennedy during that very dangerous time was that a war might be started—not by big men with self-control and restraint, but by little men, the ones moved by fear and pride.

America’s strength doesn’t come from lashing out. It relies on smarts, judgment, cool resolve, and the precise and strategic application of power. And that’s the kind of commander-in-chief I pledge to be.

And if we’re serious about keeping our country safe, we also can’t afford to have a president who’s in the pocket of the gun lobby. I’m not here to repeal the Second Amendment. I’m not here to take away your guns. I just don’t want you to be shot by someone who shouldn’t have a gun in the first place.

We will work tirelessly with responsible gun owners to pass common-sense reforms and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and all others who would do us harm.

You know, for decades, people have said this issue was too hard to solve and the politics too hot to touch. But I ask you: How can we just stand by and do nothing? You heard, you saw, family members of people killed by gun violence on this stage. You heard, you saw family members of police officers killed in the line of duty because they were outgunned by criminals. I refuse to believe we can’t find common ground here. We have to heal the divides in our country, not just on guns but on race, immigration, and more.

And that starts with listening, listening to each other, trying as best we can to walk in each other’s shoes. So let’s put ourselves in the shoes of young black and Latino men and women who face the effects of systemic racism and are made to feel like their lives are disposable. Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to do a dangerous and necessary job. We will reform our criminal justice system from end to end, and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. And we will defend, we will defend all our rights: civil rights, human rights, and voting rights; women’s rights and workers’ rights; LGBT rights and the rights of people with disabilities. And we will stand up against mean and divisive rhetoric wherever it comes from.

You know, for the past year, many people made the mistake of laughing off Donald Trump’s comments, excusing him as an entertainer just putting on a show. They thought he couldn’t possibly mean all the horrible things he says, like when he called women “pigs” or said that an American judge couldn’t be fair because of his Mexican heritage, or when he mocks and mimics a reporter with a disability, or insults prisoners of war, like John McCain, a hero and a patriot who deserves our respect.

Now, at first, I admit, I couldn’t believe he meant it, either. It was just too hard to fathom, that someone who wants to lead our nation could say those things, could be like that. But here’s the sad truth: There is no other Donald Trump. This is it. And in the end, it comes down to what Donald Trump doesn’t get: America is great because America is good.

So enough with the bigotry and the bombast. Donald Trump’s not offering real change. He’s offering empty promises. And what are we offering? A bold agenda to improve the lives of people across our country—to keep you safe, to get you good jobs, to give your kids the opportunities they deserve.

The choice is clear, my friends. Every generation of Americans has come together to make our country freer, fairer, and stronger. None of us ever have or can do it alone. I know that at a time when so much seems to be pulling us apart, it can be hard to imagine how we’ll ever pull together. But I’m here to tell you tonight—progress is possible. I know. I know because I’ve seen it in the lives of people across America who get knocked down and get right back up.

And I know it from my own life. More than a few times, I’ve had to pick myself up and get back in the game. Like so much else in my life, I got this from my mother too. She never let me back down from any challenge. When I tried to hide from a neighborhood bully, she literally blocked the door. “Go back out there,” she said. And she was right. You have to stand up to bullies. You have to keep working to make things better, even when the odds are long and the opposition is fierce.

We lost our mother a few years ago, but I miss her every day. And I still hear her voice urging me to keep working, keep fighting for right, no matter what. That’s what we need to do together as a nation. And though “we may not live to see the glory,” as the song from the musical Hamilton goes, “let us gladly join the fight.” Let our legacy be about “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”

That’s why we’re here, not just in this hall, but on this earth. The founders showed us that, and so have many others since. They were drawn together by love of country, and the selfless passion to build something better for all who follow. That is the story of America. And we begin a new chapter tonight.

Yes, the world is watching what we do. Yes, America’s destiny is ours to choose. So let’s be stronger together, my fellow Americans. Let’s look to the future with courage and confidence. Let’s build a better tomorrow for our beloved children and our beloved country. And when we do, America will be greater than ever.

Thank you and may God bless you and the United States of America.

Remarks by President Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention (July 27, 2016)
Source: The White House 

Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. I love you back.

Hello, America. Hello, Democrats.

So twelve years ago tonight, I addressed this convention for the very first time. You met my two little girls, Malia and Sasha—now two amazing young women who just fill me with pride. You fell for my brilliant wife and partner Michelle, who has made me a better father and a better man, who’s gone on to inspire our nation as first lady, and who somehow hasn’t aged a day.

I know, the same cannot be said for me. My girls remind me all the time. “Wow, you’ve changed so much, Daddy.” And then they try to clean it up—“Not bad, you’re just more mature.”

And it’s true—I was so young that first time in Boston. And look, I’ll admit it, maybe I was a little nervous, addressing such a big crowd. But I was filled with faith; faith in America—the generous, big-hearted, hopeful country that made my story—that made all of our stories—possible.

A lot has happened over the years. And while this nation has been tested by war, and it’s been tested by recession and all manner of challenges—I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as your president, to tell you I am more optimistic about the future of America than ever before.

How could I not be—after all that we’ve achieved together? After the worst recession in eighty years, we fought our way back. We’ve seen deficits come down, 401(k)s recover, an auto industry set new records, unemployment reach eight-year lows, and our businesses create fifteen million new jobs.

After a century of trying, we declared that health care in America is not a privilege for a few, it is a right for everybody. After decades of talk, we finally began to wean ourselves off foreign oil. We doubled our production of clean energy. We brought more of our troops home to their families, and we delivered justice to Osama Bin Laden. Through diplomacy, we shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program. We opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, brought nearly two hundred nations together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our children.

We put policies in place to help students with loans, protect consumers from fraud, cut veterans’ homelessness almost in half. And through countless acts of quiet courage, America learned that love has no limits, and marriage equality is now a reality across the land.

By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started. And through every victory and every setback, I’ve insisted that change is never easy, and never quick; that we wouldn’t meet all of our challenges in one term, or one presidency, or even in one lifetime.

So, tonight, I’m here to tell you that, yes, we’ve still got more work to do. More work to do for every American still in need of a good job or a raise, paid leave or a decent retirement; for every child who needs a sturdier ladder out of poverty or a world-class education; for everyone who has not yet felt the progress of these past seven and a half years. We need to keep making our streets safer and our criminal justice system fairer, our homeland more secure, our world more peaceful and sustainable for the next generation. We’re not done perfecting our union, or living up to our founding creed that all of us are created equal; all of us are free in the eyes of God.

And that work involves a big choice this November. I think it’s fair to say, this is not your typical election. It’s not just a choice between parties or policies; the usual debates between left and right. This is a more fundamental choice—about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government.

Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s precisely this contest of idea that pushes our country forward. But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican—and it sure wasn’t conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world. There were no serious solutions to pressing problems—just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate.

And that is not the America I know. The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity. The America I know is decent and generous. Sure, we have real anxieties—about paying the bills, and protecting our kids, caring for a sick parent. We get frustrated with political gridlock, and worry about racial divisions. We are shocked and saddened by the madness of Orlando or Nice. There are pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures; men who took pride in hard work and providing for their families who now feel forgotten; parents who wonder whether their kids will have the same opportunities that we had.

All of that is real. We are challenged to do better; to be better.

But as I’ve traveled this country, through all fifty states, as I’ve rejoiced with you and mourned with you, what I have also seen, more than anything, is what is right with America. I see people working hard and starting businesses. I see people teaching kids and serving our country. I see engineers inventing stuff, doctors coming up with new cures. I see a younger generation full of energy and new ideas, not constrained by what is, ready to seize what ought to be.

And most of all, I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together—black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love. That’s what I see. That’s the America I know!

And there is only one candidate in this race who believes in that future, has devoted her life to that future; a mother and a grandmother who would do anything to help our children thrive; a leader with real plans to break down barriers, and blast through glass ceilings, and widen the circle of opportunity to every single American—the next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton.

Let me tell you, eight years ago, you may remember Hillary and I were rivals for the Democratic nomination. We battled for a year and a half. Let me tell you, it was tough, because Hillary was tough. I was worn out. She was doing everything I was doing, but just like Ginger Rogers, it was backwards in heels. And every time I thought I might have the race won, Hillary just came back stronger.

But after it was all over, I asked Hillary to join my team. And she was a little surprised. Some of my staff was surprised. But ultimately she said yes—because she knew that what was at stake was bigger than either of us. And for four years—for four years, I had a front-row seat to her intelligence, her judgment, and her discipline. I came to realize that her unbelievable work ethic wasn’t for praise, it wasn’t for attention—that she was in this for everyone who needs a champion. I understood that after all these years, she has never forgotten just who she’s fighting for.

Hillary has still got the tenacity that she had as a young woman, working at the Children’s Defense Fund, going door-to-door to ultimately make sure kids with disabilities could get a quality education.

She’s still got the heart she showed as our first lady, working with Congress to help push through a children’s health insurance program that to this day protects millions of kids.

She’s still seared with the memory of every American she met who lost loved ones on 9/11—which is why, as a senator from New York, she fought so hard for funding to help first responders, to help the city rebuild; why, as secretary of state, she sat with me in the Situation Room and forcefully argued in favor of the mission that took out Bin Laden.

You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office. You can read about it. You can study it. But until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis, or send young people to war. But Hillary has been in the room; she’s been part of those decisions. She knows what’s at stake in the decisions our government makes—what’s at stake for the working family, for the senior citizen, for the small business owner, for the soldier, for the veteran. And even in the midst of crisis, she listens to people, and she keeps her cool, and she treats everybody with respect. And no matter how daunting the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits.

That is the Hillary I know. That’s the Hillary I’ve come to admire. And that’s why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman—not me, not Bill, nobody—more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.

I hope you don’t mind, Bill, but I was just telling the truth, man.

And, by the way, in case you’re wondering about her judgment, take a look at her choice of running mate. Tim Kaine is as good a man, as humble and as committed a public servant as anybody that I know. I know his family. I love Anne. I love their kids. He will be a great vice president. He will make Hillary a better president—just like my dear friend and brother, Joe Biden, has made me a better president.

Now, Hillary has real plans to address the concerns she’s heard from you on the campaign trail. She’s got specific ideas to invest in new jobs, to help workers share in their company’s profits, to help put kids in preschool and put students through college without taking on a ton of debt. That’s what leaders do. And then there’s Donald Trump. Don’t boo—vote.

You know, the Donald is not really a plans guy. He’s not really a facts guy, either. He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved remarkable success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated.

Does anyone really believe that a guy who’s spent his seventy years on this Earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion? Your voice?

If so, you should vote for him. But if you’re someone who’s truly concerned about paying your bills, if you’re really concerned about pocketbook issues and seeing the economy grow, and creating more opportunity for everybody, then the choice isn’t even close. If you want someone with a lifelong track record of fighting for higher wages, and better benefits, and a fairer tax code, and a bigger voice for workers, and stronger regulations on Wall Street, then you should vote for Hillary Clinton.

If you’re rightly concerned about who’s going to keep you and your family safe in a dangerous world, well, the choice is even clearer. Hillary Clinton is respected around the world—not just by leaders, but by the people they serve.

I have to say this. People outside of the United States do not understand what’s going on in this election. They really don’t. Because they know Hillary. They’ve seen her work. She’s worked closely with our intelligence teams, our diplomats, our military. She has the judgment and the experience and the temperament to meet the threat from terrorism. It’s not new to her. Our troops have pounded ISIL without mercy, taking out their leaders, taking back territory. And I know Hillary won’t relent until ISIL is destroyed. She will finish the job. And she will do it without resorting to torture, or banning entire religions from entering our country.  She is fit and she is ready to be the next commander-in-chief.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump calls our military a disaster. Apparently, he doesn’t know the men and women who make up the strongest fighting force the world has ever known. He suggests America is weak. He must not hear the billions of men and women and children, from the Baltics to Burma, who still look to America to be the light of freedom and dignity and human rights. He cozies up to Putin, praises Saddam Hussein, tells our NATO allies that stood by our side after 9/11 that they have to pay up if they want our protection.

Well, America’s promises do not come with a price tag. We meet our commitments. We bear our burdens. That’s one of the reasons why almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago when I took office.

America is already great. America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump. In fact, it doesn’t depend on any one person. And that, in the end, may be the biggest difference in this election—the meaning of our democracy.

Ronald Reagan called America “a shining city on a hill.” Donald Trump calls it “a divided crime scene” that only he can fix. It doesn’t matter to him that illegal immigration and the crime rate are as low as they’ve been in decades because he’s not actually offering any real solutions to those issues. He’s just offering slogans, and he’s offering fear. He’s betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough votes to win this election.

And that’s another bet that Donald Trump will lose. And the reason he’ll lose it is because he’s selling the American people short. We’re not a fragile people. We’re not a frightful people. Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way. We don’t look to be ruled. Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that we the people, can form a more perfect union.

That’s who we are. That’s our birthright—the capacity to shape our own destiny. That’s what drove patriots to choose revolution over tyranny and our GIs to liberate a continent. It’s what gave women the courage to reach for the ballot, and marchers to cross a bridge in Selma, and workers to organize and fight for collective bargaining and better wages.

America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us. It’s about what can be achieved by us, together, through the hard and slow, and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.

And that’s what Hillary Clinton understands. She knows that this is a big, diverse country. She has seen it. She’s traveled. She’s talked to folks. And she understands that most issues are rarely black and white. She understands that even when you’re 100 percent right, getting things done requires compromise; that democracy doesn’t work if we constantly demonize each other. She knows that for progress to happen, we have to listen to each other, and see ourselves in each other, and fight for our principles but also fight to find common ground, no matter how elusive that may sometimes seem.

Hillary knows we can work through racial divides in this country when we realize the worry black parents feel when their son leaves the house isn’t so different than what a brave cop’s family feels when he puts on the blue and goes to work; that we can honor police and treat every community fairly. We can do that. And she knows, she knows that acknowledging problems that have festered for decades isn’t making race relations worse—it’s creating the possibility for people of goodwill to join and make things better.

Hillary knows we can insist on a lawful and orderly immigration system while still seeing striving students and their toiling parents as loving families, not criminals or rapists; families that came here for the same reason our forebears came—to work and to study, and to make a better life, in a place where we can talk and worship and love as we please. She knows their dream is quintessentially American, and the American dream is something no wall will ever contain. These are the things that Hillary knows.

It can be frustrating, this business of democracy. Trust me, I know. Hillary knows, too. When the other side refuses to compromise, progress can stall. People are hurt by the inaction. Supporters can grow impatient and worry that you’re not trying hard enough; that you’ve maybe sold out. But I promise you, when we keep at it, when we change enough minds, when we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen. And if you doubt that, just ask the 20 million more people who have health care today. Just ask the marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband that he loves.

Democracy works, America, but we got to want it—not just during an election year, but all the days in between.

So if you agree that there’s too much inequality in our economy and too much money in our politics, we all need to be as vocal and as organized and as persistent as Bernie Sanders supporters have been during this election. We all need to get out and vote for Democrats up and down the ticket, and then hold them accountable until they get the job done.

That’s right—feel the Bern!

If you want more justice in the justice system, then we’ve all got to vote—not just for a president, but for mayors, and sheriffs, and state’s attorneys, and state legislators. That’s where the criminal law is made. And we’ve got to work with police and protesters until laws and practices are changed. That’s how democracy works.

If you want to fight climate change, we’ve got to engage not only young people on college campuses, we’ve got to reach out to the coal miner who’s worried about taking care of his family, the single mom worried about gas prices.

If you want to protect our kids and our cops from gun violence, we’ve got to get the vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, who agree on things like background checks, to be just as vocal and just as determined as the gun lobby that blocks change through every funeral that we hold. That is how change happens.

Look, Hillary has got her share of critics. She has been caricatured by the right and by some on the left. She has been accused of everything you can imagine—and some things that you cannot. But she knows that’s what happens when you’re under a microscope for forty years. She knows that sometimes during those forty years she’s made mistakes—just like I have; just like we all do. That’s what happens when we try. That’s what happens when you’re the kind of citizen Teddy Roosevelt once described—not the timid souls who criticize from the sidelines, but someone “who is actually in the arena … who strives valiantly; who errs … but who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement.”

Hillary Clinton is that woman in the arena. She’s been there for us—even if we haven’t always noticed. And if you’re serious about our democracy, you can’t afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue. You’ve got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn’t a spectator sport. America isn’t about “yes, he will.” It’s about “yes, we can.” And we’re going to carry Hillary to victory this fall, because that’s what the moment demands.

Yes, we can. Not “yes, she can.” Not “yes, I can.” “Yes, we can.”

You know, there’s been a lot of talk in this campaign about what America has lost—people who tell us that our way of life is being undermined by pernicious changes and dark forces beyond our control. They tell voters there’s a “real America” out there that must be restored. This isn’t an idea, by the way, that started with Donald Trump. It’s been peddled by politicians for a long time—probably from the start of our republic.

And it’s got me thinking about the story I told you twelve years ago tonight, about my Kansas grandparents and the things they taught me when I was growing up. See, my grandparents, they came from the heartland. Their ancestors began settling there about two hundred years ago.  I don’t know if they have their birth certificates, but they were there. They were Scotch-Irish mostly—farmers, teachers, ranch hands, pharmacists, oil rig workers. Hardy, small town folks. Some were Democrats, but a lot of them—maybe even most of them—were Republicans. Party of Lincoln.

And my grandparents explained that folks in these parts, they didn’t like show-offs. They didn’t admire braggarts or bullies. They didn’t respect mean-spiritedness, or folks who were always looking for shortcuts in life. Instead, what they valued were traits like honesty and hard work, kindness, courtesy, humility, responsibility, helping each other out. That’s what they believed in. True things. Things that last. The things we try to teach our kids.

And what my grandparents understood was that these values weren’t limited to Kansas. They weren’t limited to small towns. These values could travel to Hawaii. They could travel even to the other side of the world, where my mother would end up working to help poor women get a better life, trying to apply those values. My grandparents knew these values weren’t reserved for one race. They could be passed down to a half-Kenyan grandson, or a half-Asian granddaughter. In fact, they were the same values Michelle’s parents, the descendants of slaves, taught their own kids, living in a bungalow on the south side of Chicago. They knew these values were exactly what drew immigrants here, and they believed that the children of those immigrants were just as American as their own, whether they wore a cowboy hat or a yarmulke, a baseball cap or a hijab.

America has changed over the years. But these values that my grandparents taught me—they haven’t gone anywhere. They’re as strong as ever, still cherished by people of every party, every race, every faith. They live on in each of us. What makes us American, what makes us patriots is what’s in here. That’s what matters.

And that’s why we can take the food and music and holidays and styles of other countries, and blend it into something uniquely our own. That’s why we can attract strivers and entrepreneurs from around the globe to build new factories and create new industries here. That’s why our military can look the way it does—every shade of humanity, forged into common service. That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end.

That is America. That is America. Those bonds of affection; that common creed. We don’t fear the future; we shape it. We embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own. That’s what Hillary Clinton understands—this fighter, this stateswoman, this mother and grandmother, this public servant, this patriot—that’s the America she’s fighting for.

And that is why I have confidence, as I leave this stage tonight, that the Democratic Party is in good hands. My time in this office, it hasn’t fixed everything. As much as we’ve done, there’s still so much I want to do. But for all the tough lessons I’ve had to learn, for all the places where I’ve fallen short—I’ve told Hillary, and I’ll tell you, what’s picked me back up every single time: It’s been you. The American people.

It’s the letter I keep on my wall from a survivor in Ohio who twice almost lost everything to cancer, but urged me to keep fighting for health care reform, even when the battle seemed lost. Do not quit.

It’s the painting I keep in my private office, a big-eyed, green owl with blue wings, made by a seven year-old girl who was taken from us in Newtown, given to me by her parents so I wouldn’t forget—a reminder of all the parents who have turned their grief into action.

It’s the small business owner in Colorado who cut most of his own salary so he wouldn’t have to lay off any of his workers in the recession—because, he said, “that wouldn’t have been in the spirit of America.”

It’s the conservative in Texas who said he disagreed with me on everything, but he appreciated that, like him, I try to be a good dad.

It’s the courage of the young soldier from Arizona who nearly died on the battlefield in Afghanistan, but who has learned to speak again and walk again—and earlier this year, stepped through the door of the Oval Office on his own power, to salute and shake my hand.

It is every American who believed we could change this country for the better, so many of you who’d never been involved in politics, who picked up phones and hit the streets, and used the Internet in amazing new ways that I didn’t really understand, but made change happen. You are the best organizers on the planet, and I am so proud of all the change that you made possible.

Time and again, you’ve picked me up. And I hope, sometimes, I picked you up, too. And tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me. Because you’re who I was talking about twelve years ago when I talked about hope. It’s been you who fueled my dogged faith in our future, even when the odds were great; even when the road is long. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope.

America, you’ve vindicated that hope these past eight years. And now I’m ready to pass the baton and do my part as a private citizen. So this year, in this election, I’m asking you to join me—to reject cynicism and reject fear, and to summon what is best in us; to elect Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States, and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation.

Thank you for this incredible journey. Let’s keep it going. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

Why the Subcontinent’s Dynasties Are Falling

Nearly seventy years after India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh (then part of Pakistan) gained independence, three of the subcontinent’s most prominent political families are in dramatic decline. The Bhuttos of Pakistan, the Gandhis of India, and the Zia-Rahmans of Bangladesh held ruling posts for years, if not decades, but are now at their weakest point since entering politics. Their former voters are increasingly unwillingly to stomach the corruption that has become synonymous with their famous surnames. As democracy in South Asia is maturing, family ties don’t fetch the loyalty they used to.

In their rise to power, these political dynasties followed remarkably similar playbooks. Strong women capitalized on the legacies of their influential (but recently deceased) fathers or husbands to present themselves as a unifying figure at a moment of national transition. Benazir Bhutto led a campaign to restore democracy against Pakistan’s military leader, General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, in the years after the general’s regime executed her father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Indira Gandhi, daughter of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, emerged from a power struggle between the old guard of the Congress Party as a compromise candidate to lead the nation after the sudden death of her father’s successor. And, after the assassination of General Ziaur Rahman, elites from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) coalesced around his wife, Khaleda Zia.

Building on the legacy of their names won each family decades of extraordinary influence but had a fundamental weakness. These women relied on local power brokers—landowners, businessmen, mob bosses—to subvert the old ruling class (often leaders of the independence fight) and these characters demanded compensation. Upon coming to power, all three families were plagued with endemic corruption, driven partly by political necessity and partly by greed. Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, is infamously nicknamed “Mr. 10 percent” for what he allegedly charged contractors for political favors. Indira Gandhi is widely blamed for introducing wide-scale corruption into India’s politics. Graft was so common in Khaleda Zia’s government that Transparency International named Bangladesh as the world’s most corrupt nation.

The younger generation’s decades of living large has tarnished the public images of these families. Photos of Benazir’s son and heir, Bilawal, partying with several women while at the University of Oxford fixed his playboy image for many. Rahul Gandhi has a similar reputation for being aloof and disconnected from the traditions of average Indians (he is open about having a Spanish girlfriend and his unwillingness to get married). Zia’s son Tarique Rahman is seen as hopelessly corrupt and will likely be immediately arrested if he ever returns home from his self-imposed exile in London while his mother is not prime minister.

These weaknesses contributed to catastrophic losses for all three families at the latest polls. Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) not only lost power in 2013, but could not even secure second-place in a popular vote. India’s Congress Party suffered its worst-ever defeat in 2014, winning less than 10 percent of seats in India’s lower house. The BNP, crushed in the last fair Bangladeshi election in 2008, decided to boycott the general elections in 2014, leaving none of its lawmakers in parliament.

The three diminished dynasties have rebounded from political loss before, but this time is likely different. South Asia’s policy inertia and tremendous poverty usually means that several years after an election, voters are fed-up with incumbents and ready to reconsider their options. Pakistanis are challenging the performance of the incumbent government, but they now have a strong alternative to the PPP. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf won more votes than Zardari’s party in the past election and picked up many former PPP districts. The group is led by a political upstart, former cricket star Imran Khan, and has galvanized Pakistan’s educated urban classes. At one rally, he declared, “We will end the politics of dynasty. My sons will never enter politics.”

Two years after booting Congress from power, Indians have repeatedly demonstrated that they are glad they did. The party lost four out of five state elections this year, eking out a victory only in tiny Puducherry. Congress responded to this string of defeats by tapping Rahul’s sister, Priyanka, to campaign for them in the “kingmaker” state Uttar Pradesh. It is unclear why this strategy should work given that voters so resoundingly rejected her mother and brother in the last poll. Instead, Indians are turning to regional parties, caste-based movements, and Hindu-nationalist alternatives. At the national level, voters chose the Bharatiya Janata Party which campaigned on an anti-dynasty platform. Party leader and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi has no children.

The exception to this slow evolution is Bangladesh. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, herself the head of a powerful dynasty, has used increasingly authoritarian tactics to undermine her principal rival. After over eight years of being subject to mass arrests, extra-judicial killings, and financial sanction, the Zia-Rahman political network is dramatically diminished. Although most voters in the country are glad to see them go, their decline has more to do with undemocratic pressure than a change in voter sympathies. Unwittingly, Hasina is paving new ground by demonstrating how to extinguish the influence of a rival family through force. Her peers on the subcontinent are watching closely.

When South Asia embraced mass suffrage after independence, it was still a land of princely states filled with illiterate poor. It is little mystery that elites manipulated the poor to ensure power for themselves and their descendants. The unprecedented deterioration of three such families indicates a new direction for politics in the region. Voters, no longer won over by surnames, are demanding choice. These alternate choices are often illiberal, corrupt, and rely on their leader’s populist charisma, but they successfully cater to the demands of a burgeoning educated class. South Asia’s political masters best pay attention.

Faisal Hamid is a reporter-researcher with the Cairo Review.