NYTimes - KRISTOF: The Evil Behind the Smiles

New York Times Op-Ed Columnist

Published: December 31, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

Western men who visit red-light districts in poor countries often find themselves surrounded by coquettish teenage girls laughingly tugging them toward the brothels. The men assume that the girls are there voluntarily, and in some cases they are right.

But anyone inclined to take the girls’ smiles at face value should talk to Sina Vann, who was once one of those smiling girls.

Sina is Vietnamese but was kidnapped at the age of 13 and taken to Cambodia, where she was drugged. She said she woke up naked and bloody on a bed with a white man — she doesn’t know his nationality — who had purchased her virginity.

After that, she was locked on the upper floors of a nice hotel and offered to Western men and wealthy Cambodians. She said she was beaten ferociously to force her to smile and act seductive.


Sex trafficking is truly the 21st century’s version of slavery. One of the differences from 19th-century slavery is that many of these modern slaves will die of AIDS by their late 20s.

Whenever I report on sex trafficking, I come away less depressed by the atrocities than inspired by the courage of modern abolitionists like Somaly and Sina. They are risking their lives to help others still locked up in the brothels, and they have the credibility and experience to lead this fight. In my next column, I’ll introduce a girl that Sina is now helping to recover from mind-boggling torture in a brothel — and Sina’s own story gives hope to the girl in a way that an army of psychologists couldn’t.

I hope that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will recognize slavery as unfinished business on the foreign policy agenda. The abolitionist cause simply hasn’t been completed as long as 14-year-old girls are being jolted with electric shocks — right now, as you read this — to make them smile before oblivious tourists.


WSJ - BRET STEPHENS: An Endgame for Israel




Israel also has much to gain by avoiding a frontal assault on Gaza's urban areas in favor of the snatch-and-grab operations that have effectively suppressed Hamas's terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank. A long-term policy aimed squarely at killing or capturing Hamas's leaders, destroying arms caches and rocket factories, and cutting off supply and escape routes will not by itself destroy the group. But it can drive it out of government and cripple its ability to function as a fighting force. And this, in turn, could mean the return of Fatah, the closest thing Gaza has to a "legitimate" government.

All this will be said to amount to another occupation, never mind that there are no settlers in this picture, and never mind, too, that Israel was widely denounced for carrying out an "effective occupation" of the Strip after it imposed an economic blockade on Hamas. (By this logic, the U.S. is currently "occupying" Cuba.) If Israel is going to achieve a strategic victory in this war, it will have to stand firm against this global wave of hypocrisy and cant.

Israel will also have to practice a more consistent policy of deterrence than it has so far done. One option: For every single rocket that falls randomly on Israeli soil, an Israeli missile will hit a carefully selected target in Gaza. Focusing the minds of Hamas on this type of "proportionality" is just the endgame that Israel needs.

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TIME: Analysis: How Hamas Wins by Losing

By Bobby Ghosh Tuesday, Jan. 06, 2009

Watching the TV coverage of Israel's ground offensive on Gaza over the weekend, I could have sworn that I heard the ghost of Abdel Aziz Rantissi laughing.

Rantissi was Hamas' political leader in Gaza when we met in a dark safehouse in April 2002. The second Palestinian intifadeh was at its height. The previous week, Israeli troops had bulldozed into the refugee camp in Jenin, in the West Bank, smashing the infrastructure of another militant group, Islamic Jihad, but also killing civilians. Israeli forces were easily beating Hamas forces in Gaza too; in Ramallah, Yasser Arafat was practically under house arrest as Israeli snipers took up position around the seat of the Palestinian government.



TIME: Why Democracy Is Struggling in Asia

By Hannah Beech Thursday, Jan. 01, 2009


That same point can be made today about many Asian nations. After the shackles of colonialism were overthrown, largely after World War II, the 21st century was supposed to herald the ascent of democracy in Asia. While parts of the region — from Burma and North Korea to Laos, Vietnam and China — are still governed by diktat, the past couple of decades have created a region that to all outward appearances is largely democratic. Over the past 10 years, some 20 Asian countries have held elections, and many have undergone peaceful transitions in government.

Yet throughout 2008, many Asians appeared to progressively lose their faith in democratic politics. In Thailand and South Korea, the streets have been convulsed by mass protests, despite elections that ushered in popular leaders in the past two years. Pakistan and East Timor are rapidly veering toward the status of failed states. Malaysia suffers from a paucity of good governance, proof that simply holding polls doesn't ensure a healthy democracy. Postelection riots shook Mongolia, while Bangladesh is trying to exorcise two years of military-backed rule with a strong voter turnout in its Dec. 29 polls that ushered the secular Awami League back to office. The Philippines, which staged the region's first People Power movement back in 1986, recently endured a state of emergency. Taiwan, where presidential elections 11 years ago marked the first time ever a Chinese society directly chose its leader, is turning against a new President in record time.

Even in India, the terror attacks in Mumbai uncovered a deep well of anger against the democratically elected government for its failure to carry out a fundamental function: protect citizens from harm. And Japan, the region's oldest democracy? In recent years the country has cycled through Prime Ministers nearly as quickly as fashion fads.