It is a season of bad government, and of anger toward those who are governing. Americans are frustrated with Republicans’ and even Democrats’ incapacity to address their recession (much less their climate crisis). Protesters are challenging violent dictators throughout the Arab Middle East, and are copied by Israelis living in tents in their own streets, howling about prices, though not about the plight of Palestinians. (It’s Canadians in boats who nonviolently fight for Palestinians.) Even in Wall Street, people are protesting and policemen are beating them up. The new head of the IMF is openly blasting Europe’s leaders for creating the conditions that may lead the euro zone to collapse, thus triggering a catastrophic world-wide depression. Only in Canada are political conflicts subdued, for Canadians are in mourning, grieving for the beloved, charismatic figure of Jack Layton.
Our longest articles in this issue deal with controversies about new ways of waging conflict. For the savvy protester, there are electronic technologies involving worms, black hats, sockpuppets, and astroturfing—methods cultivated by mask-wearing iconoclasts called “Anonymous.” The Libyan opposition, on the other hand, began chaotically with nonviolent street demonstrations, before switching to violence and appealing to the International Community to rescue them (though only from the air, not with ground troops).
Peaceniks around the world are uncertain as to our moral duty: Do we really have a “responsibility to protect” foreigners from their own vicious rulers? If so, what methods should we use, and what are the terms and limits of our involvement? See our article about Anonymous and the conversation about “R2P” with Ernie Regehr and Green party leader Elizabeth May. See also our piece by the Tunisian-born activist Monia Mazigh, who reflects on Canada’s mixed responses to the democracy activists in the Middle East and North Africa. If Canada supports the democratization of Libya, why not Syria or Bahrain? We have no good answers, friends—only good questions.