PIVOTING TOWARD PEACE? Let’s allow ourselves to hope, or imagine, for a moment that Barack Obama’s second inaugural address opens the door to a new US foreign policy. There was no saber rattling, and his comments regarding the troops and America’s battle against “fascism and communism” seemed perfunctory. Instead, he stressed that “enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.” And in a line that could be read as a signal to countries like Iran, Obama suggested that, in the past, former enemies have become “the surest of friends.”
Obama vowed that the United States will “try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully,” adding: “We must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice…because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.”
Obama articulated what ought to be the absolute core of US foreign policy: not attacking some small or medium-size country every of couple years, thereby creating bigger enemies; not riling gigantic rivals like China by “pivoting” toward Asia and the Pacific with our air force and navy. Instead, the United States should be organizing global attention on urgent needs, such as clean drinking water, vaccination programs, healthcare clinics, sustainable economic growth, and other achievable goals that could be bought and paid for worldwide at just a fraction of what we now spend on what is euphemistically called “defense.” Perhaps John Brennan, Obama’s nominee to head the CIA, will help the president wind down drone warfare, too. ROBERT DREYFUSS
WE LIKED IT BEFORE IT WAS POPULAR: Editor’s note: Nation contributor Dan Wakefield alerted us to our role in helping to launch the poetry career of inaugural poet Richard Blanco. Dan writes:
When I went to teach at Florida International University in the spring of 1994, I went to a student reading and was especially impressed by one of the poets, a young man named Richard Blanco. I asked if he would give me copies of the poems he read that night. I picked out three that I thought worthy of publication and suggested I submit them to The Nation, where I have been a longtime contributor. Rick said that none of his work had been published yet, and he was happy for me to send the poems to Grace Schulman, then the poetry editor. To my delight as well as Rick’s, Schulman selected his poem “Last Night in Havana” and eventually published it in The Nation (March 31, 1997). So The Nation was the first periodical to accept for publication the work of our new inaugural poet. And as a show of thanks for helping to get his poetry published, Rick gave me my first guided tour of Little Havana, Miami’s legendary Cuban neighborhood.
STUDENT ACTIVISTS RISE UP: In advance of spring, student activists are building intercampus networks to combat austerity-mongering university systems and state governments. On the heels of the Student Power Convergence held in Ohio last summer, students will hold several regional convergences to coordinate their efforts.
North Carolina has seen $414 million slashed from the state university system; the North Carolina Student Power Union will host a statewide conference, Retaking Our Schools, Remaking Society on February 16. “NC-SPU emphasizes the importance of building a diverse, grassroots student movement in the South—a region with a rich history of resistance and student activism,” says organizer Matt Hickson.
In the Empire State, the State University of New York has cut academic programs and diverted money into shady public-private partnerships, while imposing “rational tuition,” a steady yearly increase amounting to more than 30 percent from 2011 to 2016. After two years of campus organizing and protests in Albany, activists from New York Students Rising are planning a Northeast Regional Student Power Convergence to coordinate further action.
In Indiana, the state legislature continues to defund Indiana University. As student debt skyrockets, Student Power IU is planning a systemwide strike against the school administration and state government, scheduled to coincide with the IU board of trustees’ spring meeting. And in Georgia, students are pushing back on both austerity and wanton discrimination. The University System of Georgia Board of Regents effectively bans undocumented youth from attending the state’s top universities; groups like Freedom University are planning actions to demand an end to the ban. For more on these burgeoning movements, check out the Extra Credit blog at TheNation.com. JAMES CERSONSKY and ALEC LUHN
SCAHILL HITS THE BIG SCREEN: On January 18, a remarkable new film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Dirty Wars follows The Nation’s own Jeremy Scahill as he investigates America’s covert wars for our pages, from Afghanistan to Yemen to Somalia. Director Rick Rowley—himself a courageous war correspondent—forces viewers to confront a series of secret, undeclared wars being waged in our name, largely in the shadows and at the expense of defenseless civilians.
The film has been purchased by Sundance Selects/IFC Films, which will screen it in at least fifty US cities. “The fact that these stories, which show the human cost of these wars, will be seen across America means the world to us,” Scahill says.
Much credit is due to filmmaker David Riker, who co-wrote the film, and to producers Anthony Arnove and Brenda Coughlin. Executive producer Scott Roth, a longtime supporter of the film and The Nation alike, also deserves hearty congratulations. THE EDITORS
…AND YET ANOTHER HONOR: Congratulations to Nation contributing writer William Deresiewicz, who has been awarded the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing by the National Book Critics Circle. Bill has been writing about literature for the magazine since 2004, and has also been nominated three times for a National Magazine Award. He is the first Nation writer to receive the Balakian Citation. The NBCC ceremony will be held on February 28 at the New School. JOHN PALATTELLA
William Deresiewicz most recently wrote in our pages about the work of Kurt Vonnegut, in “I Was There” (June 4, 2012).