How Do We Look?

This week: conversations with Marc Weitzmann, Pico Iyer, Tariq Ali, and María José Urzúa Valverde about global perspectives on the US response to the war in Ukraine. Listen today at 2 pm, or anytime at our website.

Among Latin American countries, as international relations scholar María José Urzúa Valverde reminds us this week, most “have condemned the invasion of Ukraine, but are also, at the same time, not willing to be further involved. Not even one Latin American country has joined the US sanctions.” There’s a varied response around the planet, too: India abstained from voting on the UN resolution on Ukraine; so did China.

The reasons, and relationships with Russia, vary — India relies on Russia for weapons, for instance. As for Latin America, Urzúa Valverde says, there’s a general conviction

that international law is relevant, that respect for the principle of non-intervention matters, that a country should should not be invaded by another country, that there’s a juridical equality of states. But at the same time, being always very skeptical of interventionism (even to stop a violation of international law) I would say that Latin American countries are also generally skeptical of US leadership—the discourse that the US is the leader of the free world and that it should have a major part in solving this conflict.

María José Urzúa Valverde.

For the French writer Marc Weitzmann, part of the story is the West’s confusion. This week, he says on our show:

Are we really back? After the withdrawal of Afghanistan, after the pass Putin received in Syria, where he tested his terror method before Ukraine—we let him do everything he wanted to because, first of all, the Americans didn’t want to fight him and because NATO didn’t want to fight him, because there was no legal basis for it, apparently. . . Is the West back? After the Cold War, no one knows if the rules of deterrence are working or not. Everybody is looking for the right test to prove that. So everybody is playing his own game. We’re pretty much back to the ‘50s when no one really knew whether deterrence worked or not, and everybody was looking for the right rules to apply.

Marc Weitzmann.

The writer Pico Iyer describes this week a general out-of-order mood in the United States, in particular:

I’ve spent my life going back and forth between London and New York, and I never thought there would come a time when London (so dull and dreary when I was a boy) seems cooler, younger, much more up to the moment than New York. I never thought there would be a time when India, not the most organized of countries, seems to be getting certain things done better than I could imagine here in this country.

Pico Iyer.

This episode is another installment of In Search of Monsters, our limited-series collaboration with the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft on the perils of empire. Political activist and writer Tariq Ali describes the general faltering of American influence internationally—he explains the opposition to US sanctions against Russia as follows:

These countries are certainly not pro-Putin or in any way countries who have an alternative economic program to that of the United States. In other words, they are all fairly orthodox capitalist countries, and they are now saying to the United States, and this was the first manifestation of it, “Hitherto, we have accepted your power, we have accepted your ideology. We have accepted your political approach to global matters, but no longer. Why no longer? Because these policies have created a huge disruption now in Europe, which affects us all. Sanctions against Russia affect us all because we are trading partners with Russia and have been for many years, so we’re not going to back sanctions.”

Tariq Ali.

Listen: Cosmic Library

Catch up on The Cosmic Library podcast at Lit Hub, which this season follows tangents prompted by the Hebrew Bible—with poet Elisa Gabbert, novelist Joshua Cohen, poet Peter Cole, curator Tom DeRose, and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett.

Episode two (of five) is out now, on the connections between emotions and law, in the brain and the Bible. Find it wherever podcasts are found! Here’s a clip from episode one:

Read: Sarah Jaffe on 1 Million US COVID Deaths

In the New York Review of Books, Sarah Jaffe writes:

The coronavirus pandemic in the US is approaching a grim, world-leading milestone: one million reported deaths. Around the world, the total is over six million. We have become inured to the mind-boggling numbers, separated as they are from human faces. But the refusal to reckon with the losses, and failure to take time to mourn, will haunt us. This has not been simply a failure of individuals, but an aggregated political decision . . .

This week’s ephemeral library

The working-class suburbs of Paris. Plastic paradise in Tokyo. Conversation with a bookseller. For the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Daniel Bessner on “Ending Primacy to End U.S. Wars.” Meet the new, old-school editor of the New York Times. The Situation of Unfreedom. The Defense Industry’s Ukraine Pundits. Elizabeth Kolbert: A Lake in Florida is Suing to Protect Itself. What Happened to the Russian Military?. A Walk Through Frederick Law Olmsted’s Enduring Gift. Moira Weigel: What You Don’t Know About Amazon.




An American conversation with global attitude, on the arts, humanities, and global affairs, hosted by Christopher Lydon.

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An American conversation with global attitude, on the arts, humanities, and global affairs, hosted by Christopher Lydon.

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