Friday, January 8, 2021

The New Yorker

 The World Shook as America Raged

One of the darkest days in American history played out in a barely two-square-mile area, but it rippled across the globe. Authoritarian leaders were gleeful about the chaos in the world’s most powerful democracy. As armed insurrectionists, white supremacists, and rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela—a failing state with rival claims to the Presidency, and shortages of power, food, and medicine—tweeted a warning about political polarization in the United States. With more than a whiff of Schadenfreude, Jorge Arreaza wished Americans well in finding “a new path towards stability and social justice.”

Officials in Turkey, which has witnessed a dramatic erosion of democracy amid arrests of dissidents and journalists, called on all parties in Washington “to maintain restraint and prudence”—and then warned its own citizens in the United States to avoid crowded places. Iranian state television ran live coverage of the chaos at the Capitol, with a running ticker underneath, as Hossein Dehghan, a former Revolutionary Guard and a Presidential candidate in the upcoming June election, tweeted, “The world is watching the American dream.” The Russian deputy U.N. Ambassador compared the turmoil in Washington, D.C., to the 2014 protests in Kyiv that toppled the Ukrainian government. On social media platforms like Telegram, supporters of isis and Al Qaeda celebrated the turmoil in the United States. An isis publication predicted that America would be consumed with turmoil for the next four years.

America’s allies were also appalled—and posted their own undiplomatic admonitions on social media. Boris Johnson, a long-standing ally and personal friend of Donald Trump’s, chastised the President. “I unreservedly condemn encouraging people to behave in the disgraceful way that they did in the Capitol,” he said. The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, insisted that “the American people’s will and vote must be respected.” In a tweet, the Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, condemned the “shocking” scenes out of Washington. “We must call this out for what it is: a deliberate assault on Democracy by a sitting President & his supporters, attempting to overturn a free & fair election! The world is watching!” Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister, appealed directly to the President. “Dear Donald Trump, recognise Joe Biden as the next president today.”

Worldwide, the broader question was about the impact on the credibility of liberal democracy if it could produce such turmoil in a country known for its strong institutions, laws, and checks and balances. Read on....

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