the conflict was not precipitated by ethnic grievances, nor is it being fanned by explicit tribal rhetoric on behalf of political leaders. The ethnic element is a symptom, rather than a source, of the problem. As Andreas Hirblinger and Sara de Simone explained in a recent article, no protagonist has “openly played the ‘ethnic card.”’ Indeed, the outbreak of violence is closely linked to the political standoff between President Salva Kiir and other leading members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, including former members of the government, who accused Mr. Kiir of “dictatorial tendencies.” It is essentially a rebellion against the concentration of power.
This matters because South Sudan is a country that was midwifed by powerful and committed lobbies in the United States and Europe; its birth was not only a triumph for the South Sudanese, but of Western advocacy. A mere nine days after the first hostilities started, the United Nations Security Council voted on a resolution to send 5,500 additional peacekeepers to South Sudan, boosting its force to 12,500. On Saturday, international and regional pressure also brought Mr. Kiir and his main rival, former Vice President Riek Machar, to the negotiating table in Addis Ababa.
South Sudan is a country where Western perceptions hold sway, and Western aid and power can engineer political deals. A misreading of the crisis could result in resolutions that effectively hand out pieces of the cake tribe by tribe, aggravating and endorsing ethnic fissures, rather than helping to eradicate them.
while it’s tempting to attribute this silliness to a Southern politician’s need to appeal to the Christian fundamentalists prevalent in that region, the Arkansas episode is indicative of how thoroughly Americans from coast to coast let religion permeate public life.
As full of insight and beauty as the Bible is, it’s not a universally and unconditionally embraced document, and it’s certainly not a secular one. Yet it’s under the hand of almost every American president who takes the oath of office.
It’s in classrooms, some of which teach creationism. The Texas Board of Education has been withholding approval of a widely used biology textbook because it presents evolution as more than just a theory. Thus, in the nation’s second most populous state, whose governor essentially kicked off his 2012 presidential campaign with a stadium rally for tens of thousands of evangelicals, religion is trumping scholarship, at least for now…
Three of four Americans are at least nominally Christian. But that leaves one in four who aren’t. One in five Americans don’t claim any binding religious preference or affiliation, and their ranks have grown significantly over the last two decades. Out-and-out atheists remain a sliver of the population, but a restive sliver at that. On some Sundays in some cities over recent months, they’ve gathered by the hundreds for church-style celebrations without psalms, making the point that good will and community don’t depend on divinity.
Franklin Roosevelt bragged about his “bold, persistent experimentation.” Fortunately for the New Deal, Twitter didn’t broadcast every farmer’s sad encounter with the Agriculture Adjustment Act. But the culture of modern Washington, with its hyperventilating media and legislative saboteurs, takes pornographic pleasure in magnifying failures—which in turn erodes the public’s willingness to give liberalism another shot.
Late last week Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made a big show of trying but failing to sign up for Obamacare because of the notoriously buggy website. (Actually he appears to have been using the DC exchange site.) He even did a special tweet noting his hopeless situation. Not terribly surprising given the frustrating experiences so many have had. Actually, it turns out he had successfully enrolled and got a call confirming that about an hour after his tweet. But it gets better…
Relaxing the one-child policy may hurt some Chinese women by reviving patriarchal Confucian practices…
Therese Hesketh, a professor at the Institute of Global Health at University College London, told me this week, there might be some “regression” toward the favoritism of old. “People still want boys,” she said. And “if there is not enough money to go around, it may be that the boy will benefit more than the girl.”
A looser one-child policy may be progress. But it might also allow traditional patriarchal values to rear up again, and keep some women down.
“I realize that neither party has been blameless for these tactics. They developed over the years,” Obama said after the vote. “But today’s pattern of obstruction, it just isn’t normal. It’s not what our founders envisioned. A deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything, no matter what the merits, just to refight the results of an election is not normal, and for the sake of future generations we can’t let it become normal.”