Charles Lane

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Demonstrators in Beijing hold up blank sheets of paper to protest coronavirus restrictions and censorship on Nov. 28.(Thomas Peter/Reuters)

According to, the verb “harass” means “to disturb or bother persistently; torment, as with troubles or cares; pester”.

Recent protests in Iran and China suggest another definition: “what tyrannical governments do to their people”.

More than anything else, what seems to have brought the people of both countries into the streets was being fed up with authorities’ incessant but unavoidable demands: In Iran, mandatory wearing of a hijab, or headscarf, for women (among other strictures); in China, endless lockdowns and coronavirus testing, on top of much other systematic surveillance and censorship.

Neither regime seems in danger of falling, though it’s anyone’s guess how the two dramas get resolved.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taisiia Kovaliova, 15, stands Sunday amid the rubble of a playground in front of her house hit by a Russian missile in Mykolaiv, Ukraine. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

To mark its 100th anniversary, Foreign Affairs has put together  a collection of the most influential essays it published over the century. The most eerily relevant first appeared 75 years ago — on the subject of Russia.

Writing under a pseudonym, “X”, State Department official George F. Kennan  analyzed the Soviet Union’s foreign policy in terms of not only communist ideology but also geopolitical “precepts” inherited from Russian imperial history.

Long “centuries of obscure battles between nomadic forces over the stretches of a vast unfortified plain”, Kennan argued, had taught the Kremlin to have “no compunction about retreating in the face of superior force.…  Seguir leyendo »

People watch while smoke rises as banners with protest messages hang off Sitong Bridge in Beijing on Oct. 13. (Social Media/Via Reuters)

The cause of individual freedom has a new hero. He is the Chinese man who stood atop a highway overpass in a busy section of Beijing on Oct. 13 and draped the structure with two large protest banners, in full view of passing motorists.

This was just three days before Chinese Communists assembled for their 20th party congress, the likely outcome of which is to ratify a third five-year term for Xi Jinping as the country’s ruler.

Yet in bold red characters, one of the banners condemned this impending coronation: “Remove dictator and national traitor Xi Jinping”.

Like “Tank Man”, who bravely blocked the path of a People’s Liberation Army tank amid the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising in Beijing, this individual risked all to defy the regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

Twice since launching his war against Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin has assured the Russian people that his “special military operation” is going according “to plan”.

He did so despite the Russian army’s failure to topple the government in Kyiv, or to gain much territory — and despite its substantial losses.

After his most recent such claim, on March 16, reaction in the West ranged from disgust at his blatant lying to speculation over his possible insanity.

But what if the plan for short-term military success in Ukraine is not the one — or the only one — Putin has in mind?…  Seguir leyendo »

One doesn’t often think of Germans as Churchillian — for obvious reasons. Yet the term applies to Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s extraordinary address to the Bundestag in Berlin on Sunday.

Declaring that “Russian President Putin has started a war of aggression in cold blood”, Scholz said Germany must limit economic interdependence with Russia and must bolster its badly neglected military defenses.

What Germans are already calling a “revolution” in their security policy represents a strategic defeat for Vladimir Putin — and a strategic victory for the United States and its European allies. Putin might yet conquer Ukraine, but he has clearly repelled and galvanized the European Union’s richest, most populous country, failing in his long-term effort to co-opt Germany via energy and commercial ties, such as the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.…  Seguir leyendo »

People protest in front of the capitol in Havana, Cuba on July 11. (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

Millions around the world know “Patria y Vida” — “Fatherland and Life” — the scintillating music video that inverted the Cuban Communist Party’s slogan — “Fatherland or Death” — and became the anthem of protests in Cuba on July 11.

Less familiar is “Oe’ Policia Pinga” — roughly, “F--- the Police” — by the rappers Marichal and Daryelo Sánchez. Whereas “Patria y Vida” denounces 60 years of official “lies” and praises dissident artists of Cuba’s San Isidro Movement, “Oe’ Policia Pinga” channels popular fury at the regime’s day-in-day-out enforcers: “You’re the most hated guy in your neighborhood . . . You’ll see what happens to you when the people come for you/ No saint on heaven or earth can protect you”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dos días después de las elecciones, el candidato presidencial peruano Pedro Castillo se dirige a sus partidarios en Lima, Perú, 8 de junio de 2021. (Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters)

Desde 2014, un millón de venezolanos han huido a Perú buscando refugio de la violencia, la pobreza y de una dictadura de izquierda respaldada por Cuba. Pero tras las elecciones presidenciales peruanas del 6 de junio, al menos algunos de ellos deben estar pensando que saltaron de la sartén al fuego.

Pedro Castillo, quien hizo su campaña en una plataforma de extrema izquierda, parece haber ganado por 48,000 votos de los más de 17 millones emitidos. Su oponente, Keiko Fujimori, está impugnando el resultado, pero dado su historial de presunta corrupción —y su vinculación con el régimen represivo de su padre, un expresidente que está en prisión cumpliendo una condena de 25 años por violaciones a los derechos humanos— una victoria de ella no sería muy esperanzadora, incluso si fuera previsible.…  Seguir leyendo »

Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Castillo addresses supporters in Lima in June 8. (Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters)

Since 2014, 1 million Venezuelans have fled to Peru, seeking refuge from violence, poverty and Cuban-backed left-wing dictatorship. After the June 6 Peruvian presidential election, at least some of them must be thinking that they jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

Pedro Castillo, who campaigned on a far-left platform, appears to have won by 48,000 votes out of more than 17 million cast. His opponent, Keiko Fujimori, is contesting the outcome, but given her record of alleged corruption — and association with the repressive rule of her father, a former president serving 25 years for human rights violations — victory for her would not be much to look forward to, even if it were likely.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israel's Iron Dome antimissile system intercepts rockets from the Gaza Strip, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel, on May 12. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is making the diplomatic rounds in the Middle East, and the cease-fire in Gaza and Israel appears to be holding, as millions in the region and around the world mourn this latest spasm of death and destruction. Next: accountability for it.

Shooting unguided explosives toward civilian populations violates all the norms of warfare. It is unquestionably a war crime, as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), no apologist for Israel, correctly noted on Twitter May 19. From the moment Hamas fired the conflict’s first shots on May 10, ostensibly in response to Israeli police aggression at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, until the fighting stopped roughly 11 days later, the Gaza-based Islamist organization launched more than 4,000 rockets toward Israel.…  Seguir leyendo »

Raúl Castro waves as the 8th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party ends in Havana on April 19. (Ariel Ley/AFP/Getty Images)

The last of the Castro brothers, Raúl, has ceded leadership of the Cuban Communist Party, passing power officially to a new generation of little-known functionaries and unofficially to a new generation of Castro family members who control economic and security matters behind the scenes.

Media coverage has focused on what his retirement might mean for the impoverished island’s future, which is understandable. More attention should be paid to the implications for Cuba’s past — specifically, the crimes and mistakes of the past 62 years of Castro rule.

Cuba’s transition moves the 89-year-old Raúl Castro nearer to the day that he, like his brother Fidel, who handed Raúl full political control in 2011 and passed away at 90 in 2016, may die without ever being held accountable for what he did in power.…  Seguir leyendo »

The National Alpine Skiing Center, a venue of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, in Beijing's Yanqing district on Feb. 5. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

The 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin has passed into history as a grotesque totalitarian spectacle, thanks partly to Leni Riefenstahl’s memorialization of the games in her propaganda film “Olympia”.

Less remembered is the fact that Nazi Germany also hosted the 1936 Winter Games, at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps, between Feb. 6 and Feb. 16. Just five months before this snowy athletic jamboree, the Reichstag had promulgated the anti-Jewish Nuremberg race laws.

And three weeks after the closing ceremonies, on March 7, 1936, Adolf Hitler ordered his army to occupy the Rhineland, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Both the Winter and Summer Games went on despite calls for a boycott from activists concerned that the Olympics would help legitimize Hitler’s regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

Guatemalan migrants deported from the United States wait to board a bus after arriving in Guatemala City on July 31. (Orlando Estrada/AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s the surprising truth behind the fact that 250,000 Guatemalan migrants have been apprehended at the southern U.S. border since October 2018: The mass exodus reflects the tremendous social and economic progress that the Central American country has made in the past half-century.

Life is still hard for most people there, much harder than it is in the United States, so it’s understandable that Guatemala’s poverty and violence figure prominently in the usual explanations for the northbound movement.

Yet the necessary condition for mass migration is sustained population growth, enough to produce a critical mass of youthful would-be emigrants. Guatemala’s 2018 population of 17.2 million represents a quadrupling since 1960, according to the World Bank.…  Seguir leyendo »

Soaring high above northern Venezuela's verdant Mount Avila one day, President Hugo Chávez looked down from his helicopter and saw a city: a new, "socialist" metropolis that he would bulldoze out of the tropical forest and populate with the denizens of Caracas's overcrowded slums. It would be a beautiful place, with shopping malls, parks, schools and enough neat four-story apartment blocks to house 100,000 people. Chávez even dreamed up a name for this utopia, Caribia. He gave the order, and construction began. Crews broke ground just over a year ago, reports The Post's Juan Forero.

In launching this extraordinary project, which he hopes will be the first of many around Venezuela, Chávez joins a long list of rulers who have dreamed of converting nature into orderly living space for the masses.…  Seguir leyendo »