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31 December 2018

The best of the New Statesman 2018: global politics

Reporting and essays on foreign affairs and global events. 

By New Statesman

From Brazil to Italy, 2018 showed the populist wave is not over yet. Meanwhile, in the US and the UK, the human consequences of voting for an anti-immigration populist message became horrifyingly clear. And the world continued to be fascinated by the flirtation between US president Donald Trump and his North Korean equivalent, Kim Jong-Un. 

Abilio’s story: the nine-year-old separated from his father at the US border

Between April and June, more than 2,500 children were separated from their parents by the Trump administration. Sophie McBain tells the story of one such nine-year-old boy, Abilio.

The secret history of Mossad, Israel’s feared and respected intelligence agency

Israeli intelligence from the outset occupied a shadow realm, separate from the country’s democratic institutions, writes Ronan Bergman.  From the beginning, it was kept officially hidden from the Israeli public. David Ben-Gurion forbade anyone from acknowledging, let alone revealing, that this sprawling web of official institutions even existed. In fact, mentioning the name Shin Bet or Mossad in public was prohibited until the 1960s. 

Drinking whisky in the ruins of Idlib, Syria’s last bastion of resistance

The province of Idlib is the last significant piece of ground held by rebels in Syria. Around three million civilians are there, alongside 90,000 armed men. When it falls, wrote Jeremy Bowen from the frontline in October, the war against Assad will finally be lost. 

Britain has gaslit EU citizens like me who loved it. That’s why I’ve left

As a student in France, Pauline Bock dreamed of moving to London. So her family were disbelieving when two and a half years after the EU referendum, she left. “I didn’t leave because I had to. I still have the right to live in the UK,” she writes. “I left because I’d had enough – of the Brexiteers’ total ignorance and rancid rivalities, of the jolly spirit in which one assumes all will be right while the UK is led to the brink of collapse, and of being called an EU citizen like it’s some kind of insult.”

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A close encounter with British Isis jihadis

In an interrogation room in Syria, reported Anthony Lloyd in June, two members of the notorious “Beatles” terror cell joke about hostages and reminisce about life in “cosmopolitan” west London.

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Jair Bolsonaro: The Brazilian Trump leading the far-right’s march to power

In October, Jair Bolsonaro won the Brazilian presidential election, and became the latest populist to gain power. In her October profile, Julia Blunck describes how his followers call him a “legend” in a jokey way that might be recognised by those familiar with the supporters of Donald Trump, “but Bolsonaro is a much more homegrown monster”.

How the journalist captured for two and a half years by Somali pirates survived his ordeal

Anoosh Chakelian meets the American-German journalist Michael Scott Moore who was held hostage. “I think it’s very American to be optimistic, and I stopped doing that,” he says.

Keeping up with the Kims: North Korea’s communist monarchy

Ascending to power soon after the end of imperial occupation and the Second World War, the Kims have flourished both in the blood of others, and of each other, writes Gavin Jacobson in this profile of North Korea’s ruling family. 

In the new climate of fear, our rescue boat turned away from people drowning

This year saw a populist Italian government discourage rescue efforts in the Mediterranean. In June, Peter Martin, who worked on one of the rescue boats, described the consequences. 

Dictator’s playground: inside Viktor Orbán’s Hungary

Once part of a great empire, Hungary has become used to standing alone. But as the prime minister prepares for re-election, his corrupt and puffed up regime is spreading fear and anxiety, writes Matthew Engel.