Hugh Eakin is the Gilder Lehrman Fellow in American History at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. (November 2017)

Follow Hugh Eakin on Twitter: @hugheakin.


The Swedish Kings of Cyberwar

President Barack Obama with then Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt at Stockholm Arlanda Airport, September 2013. At a joint press conference with then Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt the same day, Obama discussed surveillance by the NSA.
Among the many paradoxes of the recent US presidential election, one must surely be that a wave of anti-establishment, populist anger has brought to power a government that stands poised to embark on what could be the greatest expansion of secret state surveillance since the September 11 attacks.

Ancient Syrian Sites: A Different Story of Destruction

Syrian Army soldiers at the ruins of the destroyed Temple of Bel after retaking the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State militants, April 2016

#CultureUnderThreat: Recommendations for the US Government

a task force report by the Antiquities Coalition, the Asia Society, and the Middle East Institute

The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War

by Robert Bevan
In the account of Palmyra that has been told by the Syrian government and repeated in the international press, the devastation of Palmyra began with the arrival of the jihadists in May 2015. Before the takeover, Syrian officials had managed to remove a large number of free-standing sculptures and antiquities, and Tadmor, despite the collapse of its tourist economy, was considered a safe haven. Then ISIS came and began blowing up monuments and staging mass executions in the site’s Roman amphitheater. According to Syrians themselves, however, the story is more complicated.

Liberal, Harsh Denmark

A cartoon published by the Danish newspaper Politiken showing Inger Støjberg, the country’s integration minister, lighting candles on a Christmas tree that has a dead asylum-­seeker as an ornament, December 2015
Known for its free health care and university education for all, its robust defense of gay rights and social freedoms, and its vigorous culture of social and political debate, the country has long been envied as a social-democratic success, a place where the state has an improbably durable record of doing good. When it comes to refugees, however, Denmark has long led the continent in its shift to the right—and in its growing domestic consensus that large-scale Muslim immigration is incompatible with European social democracy.


Syria: The Threat of Indifference

Syrian refugees rushing through a hole in the fence near the Turkish border, June 14, 2015

Yet one more horror in a war that has delivered them almost daily, the mass exodus of Syrians through a narrow opening in a chain-link fence at the Syrian-Turkish border this past June nevertheless stood out for what it showed about the sheer complexity of the human catastrophe now unfolding in Syria. The US has accepted fewer than one thousand Syrian refugees so far—more made it through that hole in the fence during a few hours.

Why Tunisia?

Salafists calling for Islamic law at the Tunisian National Television building, Tunis, March 9, 2012

How can the Arab world’s most promising and ambitious new democracy also be one of its greatest producers of violent jihadists? For Tunisia, a small North African country with a thousand-year-old tradition of pacifist Islam, a new constitution based on human rights, and a unity government bringing together Islamists and secularists, the question has become a matter of almost existential importance.

Our New Politics of Torture

Satellite imagery of

One of the main findings of the Senate investigation of the CIA’s torture program was not simply the abuse, or the law-breaking, or the moral reprehensibleness of it. It was that there was a fundamental corruption of governance, in which the CIA persistently lied, not only to Congress but to the executive branch to which it ostensibly reported.

A Different Pakistan

The Badshahi Mosque in Lahore's old city, Pakistan, 1988

After more than a dozen years of the US-led “war on terror,” as Pakistan has slid between military and civilian rule, crackdowns and suicide bombings, the cosmopolitan city of Lahore has struggled to maintain its old values. A group of Lahori intellectuals have decided to fight back in the way they best know how: with words and books and open debate.