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.


After George Floyd, a Nation in Search of Justice

In the worst of ironies, outrage at the system has, at least for now, made the system more terrifying than ever. Across social media, peaceful protesters have expressed unease that the police are no longer there to protect them, that—as much of the black community has sensed for years—that the police are menacing, heavily armed antagonists. For its part, the city authorities have struggled to maintain a semblance of order, without provoking yet further unrest—even as the president sends inflammatory tweets threatening more lethal force.

Pandemic Journal, April 6–12

Making face masks amid the coronavirus outbreak, Haarlem, Netherlands, April 4, 2020

The latest edition in a running series of dispatches by New York Review writers documenting the coronavirus outbreak with updates from around the world, including Verlyn Klinkenborg in East Chatham, Hugh Eakin in Minneapolis–St. Paul, Dalia Hatuqa in Amman, Zoé Samudzi in Windhoek, Ariel Dorfman in Durham, Nathaniel Rich in New Orleans, Christopher Benfey in Amherst, Mira Kamdar in Videlles, Arthur Longworth in Monroe.

The Khashoggi Killing: America’s Part in a Saudi Horror

A protest in front of the Saudi Consulate against the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Istanbul, Turkey, October 5, 2018

This brazen killing did not occur in isolation. If it was the “game-changer” that many see, it was also the latest, most extreme manifestation of a repressive regime that has acted with virtual impunity while maintaining enviably close ties to Washington. The Saudis did what they did because they assumed they could get away with it. And President Trump appears as keen to let MBS off the hook as the crown prince is to evade responsibility. Yet, with the president’s Iran policy at stake, even an angry Congress may be reluctant to take more drastic steps against Riyadh. If that is the case, the barbaric assassination of Khashoggi may go down as a different kind of game-changer: not the end of the US–Saudi relationship, but the moment when it was exposed for what it really is.

The Ascetic Beauty of Brancusi

Constantin Brancusi in his studio, Paris, 1946

For years, Brancusi made hardly enough money to eat. In 1926, a version of one of his most extraordinary subjects, Bird in Space, was famously held up at the US border because customs officials didn’t think it was art. Sometimes, he even baffled his own cohort. Picasso (or perhaps Matisse) is said to have likened Brancusi’s 1916 Princess X, a glistening bronze torso of Princess Marie Bonaparte, to a large phallus. Yet, by the time of his death in 1957, the increasingly reclusive Romanian was regarded as one of the century’s greatest sculptors. Peggy Guggenheim, who began buying his work in the 1940s and took artist-worship seriously, called him “half astute peasant and half real god.”