TIME Afghanistan

New Afghan President Sworn In After Disputed Vote

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai speaks during a news conference at his resident in Kabul on Sept. 10, 2014 Massoud Hossaini—;AP

"We want to be held accountable. I am your leader but I am no better than you. If I make mistakes, you should hold me accountable"

(KABUL, AFGHANISTAN) — Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was sworn in Monday as Afghanistan’s new president, replacing Hamid Karzai in the country’s first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban.

Moments after Ghani Ahmadzai took the oath, he swore in his election challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, as chief executive, fulfilling a political pledge he had taken to share power and defuse election tensions that had threatened to spark violence between the country’s north and south.

Ghani Ahmadzai, a former World Bank official and Afghan finance minister, wore a dark black turban popular in the country’s south as he swore in his two vice presidents and then Abdullah.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister, spoke first and thanked Karzai for his service and the people of the country for casting votes in the millions despite the threat of attack from Taliban militants who tried to thwart the election process.

“We are committed as one in the national unity government,” Abdullah said. “Our commitment will be fulfilled together as unified team to create national unity.”

Ghani Ahmadzai then congratulated Karzai for a peaceful and democratic transition of power, and he thanked Abdullah for making the national unity government possible.

“We want to be held accountable. I am your leader but I am no better than you. If I make mistakes, you should hold me accountable,” Ghani Ahmadzai said.

Karzai — the only president Afghanistan and the West have known since the invasion — wore a wide smile as he greeted his presidential guards upon entering the palace. Karzai has said he is glad to be stepping down after more than a decade of what the U.S. ambassador recently said was one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

The inauguration caps a nearly six-month election season that began when ballots were first cast in April. A runoff election in June between Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah stretched on for weeks as both sides leveled charges of fraud. The United Nations helped carry out what it said was the most thorough recount in its history, a count that reduced Ghani Ahmadzai’s vote percentage from 56 percent to 55 percent, but still gave him the win.

But the real power struggle was taking place in marathon talks between the two sides, often brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials. The political deal the sides agreed to created the new position of chief executive that Abdullah will now fill.

U.S. officials have said they expect Ghani Ahmadzai to sign a security agreement with the U.S. shortly after his inauguration to allow about 10,000 American troops to stay in the country after the international combat mission ends on Dec. 31.

Even as the inauguration unfolded in the heavily guarded presidential palace, two bomb attacks took place on the road connecting the country’s main airport with the palace. One roadside bomb did not result in any deaths or injuries, but a second attack about a kilometer (half mile) from the airport by a suicide bomber killed six or seven people, police officer Abdul Latif said.

A bigger attack took place in the eastern province of Paktia. Police Capt. Mohammed Hekhlas said that a car bomb exploded near a government compound as gunmen attacked, sparking a gun battle that killed seven Taliban militants. Another police official, who gave his name as Azimullah, said four police officers and two civilians also were killed.

The inauguration took place eight days after the political deal was signed between Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah. Though Kerry played a big role in the political deal, the short notice of the inauguration date and events elsewhere in the Middle East did not allow him to attend. Instead, the U.S. was represented by John Podesta, counselor to President Barack Obama. Other notable guests included Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain and Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari.

TIME Ukraine

Ukrainian Protesters Topple Massive Lenin Statue

Activists dismantle Ukraine's biggest monument to Lenin at a pro-Ukrainian rally in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Sept. 28, 2014 Igor Chekachkov—AP

Police did not intervene as thousands celebrated the statue’s fall

Ukrainian protesters in Kharkiv, a city in the nation’s restive east, toppled a prominent statue of Soviet icon Vladimir Lenin late Sunday night in the central square.

A group of men scaled the massive monument and carved into it the words “Glory to Ukraine” before sawing off the statue’s legs and pulling it down from its pedestal, Voice of America (VOA) reports.

Police reportedly did not intervene as thousands celebrated the statue’s fall and raced to the wreckage to collect makeshift souvenirs. However, RT says that a criminal investigation has been opened into “the destruction of or damage to cultural heritage sites and personal property.”

Let him fall,” wrote Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, on his Facebook website, in Russian, according to a VOA translation.

The governor of the Kharkiv region had previously signed an order to demolish the statute, but demonstrators got to it first, the BBC says.

VOA says that more than 160 Lenin monuments have been pulled down since Dec. 8, when demonstrators began toppling the Soviet symbols in the capital Kiev.

TIME movies

Russia Wants to Win at the Oscars With an Anti-Russian Film

Palme D'Or Winners Press Conference - The 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival
Russian director and screenwriter Andrey Zvyagintsev, center, winner of the best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival for his film Leviathan, attends a press conference in Cannes, France, on May 24, 2014 Vittorio Zunino Celotto—Getty

Leviathan follows a Russian man as he duels with a corrupt, pro-Putin local mayor

Russia is betting on an anti-Russia film to win big in Hollywood this winter.

The country has named Andrey Zvyagintsev’s film, Leviathan, as its submission to the Oscars, even after foreign reviewers described the film as skewering Russia’s corrupt politics, reports the TASS news agency.

“We took the decision after a majority vote. Leviathan is Russia’s pick for the Oscars,” Pavel Chukhrai, a film director on Russia’s Oscar nomination committee, told TASS.

Leviathan, which won best screenplay at Cannes, follows a Russian man as he duels with a corrupt (and pro-Putin) local mayor. The film has been widely reviewed as a grim, satirical take on Russian politics: in a review this spring, the New York Times called it “a scathing indictment of Russia under President Vladimir Putin.”

Zvyagintsev also told reporters at Cannes that Russia’s Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky had seen the film but “didn’t like it” — though he did call it “talented,” according to the Times.

Zvyagintsev’s films have done well on the international awards circuit: his 2011 movie, Elena, nabbed top awards at Cannes, and his 2003 film, The Return, garnered the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, Agence France-Presse reports.

Leviathan is expected to open in Russia in November — but, AFP says, with its profanities cut.


TIME Australia

Australia’s Plan to Outsource Its Refugee Problem to Cambodia Won’t Work

Refugee Deal Signed Off By Cambodian & Australian Ministers
Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng hold a flute of champagne after signing a deal to resettle refugees from Australia to Cambodia at the Ministry of Interior on September 26, 2014 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Omar Havana—Getty Images

Impoverished, repressive and corrupt Cambodia is no place for an asylum seeker

“Let them eat cake.” Australia’s Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison did everything but utter the unsavory phrase attributed to Marie Antoinette when he clinked Champagne flutes with Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng, a former cadre of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, at a ceremony in Phnom Penh last week.

The toast celebrated the signing of a controversial memorandum of understanding to resettle in Cambodia asylum seekers intercepted at sea while attempting to make landfall in Australia. Those asylum seekers are currently languishing in an offshore detention center in the Pacific island state of Nauru.

Morrison refused to answer questions from the local and foreign press corps packing the garishly decorated room. However, in a written statement released at the signing, he commended Cambodia for “making countless efforts to develop the country after civil war [and for] demonstrating its ability and willingness to contribute positively to this humanitarian issue.”

His Cambodian counterpart Kheng likewise remained mum but could do little to hide a beaming smile as his government pocketed a $35 million signing fee from Australia plus an allegorical blank check to cover the cost of resettling up to 1,233 predominantly Middle Eastern asylum seekers.

The deal was quickly condemned by a wide range of pundits as a diplomatic stunt that, if actioned, will see one of the world’s wealthiest nations outsource its refugee problem to one of the poorest.

“It’s shameful, despicable and unconscionable. It makes me sick,” Hong Lim, a former Cambodian refugee and MP in the Australian state of Victoria, tells TIME. “Scott Morrison has earned himself the title of the most notorious human [trafficker] of the year.” He adds, “Cambodia has a terrible record of treating refugees.”

Lim points to the 2009 deportation at gunpoint of 20 Uighur asylum seekers to China. On their return, China sentenced 17 of the Uighurs to lengthy sentences in kangaroo courts and rewarded Cambodia with $850 million worth of trade deals — a story that lampoons Morrison’s claim that Australia’s asylum seekers will “now have the opportunity and support to re-establish their lives free from persecution.”

According the U.N., there are only 68 refugees residing in Cambodia. But the number fails to take into account the country’s 750,000 ethnic Vietnamese who, despite being born in the country, are considered illegal immigrants. Deprived of citizenship and voting rights, shut out of normal jobs, housing and schools, they are regularly subjected to public lynchings and scapegoating by political candidates trying to whip up nationalistic furor during elections.

Life for regular Cambodian citizens is not much better. While cutting my teeth as a cadet journalist in Phnom Penh a decade ago, I witnessed almost daily incidents of violence perpetrated by security forces who exhibited pathological contempt for the working poor. And while Cambodia’s economy has improved significantly over the years, with gross national income per capita rising from $400 per annum in 2004 to $950 in 2014, the culture of impunity inherited from the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime remains wholly intact.

In its 2014 World Report, Human Rights Watch accused Cambodia of repeatedly using “excessive force to suppress” protests following last year’s general election. In January, when tens of thousands of underpaid garment workers marched in Phnom Penh to demand a living wage, police opened fire with machine guns, killing four people and wounding dozens more. As recently as Friday, Cambodian protesters attempting to protest the refugee deal in front of the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh were met by riot police who knocked at least one woman unconscious, as this video appears to show.

“Cambodia is not a place to resettle refugees, because the local people in this country cannot lead decent lives,” Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy told the Cambodia Daily. “They are deprived of fundamental rights and living conditions, so how could we accommodate people from other parts of the world?”

Adds U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres: “It’s crucial that countries do not shift their refugee responsibilities elsewhere. International responsibility sharing is the basis on which the whole global refugee system works. I hope that the Australian government will reconsider its approach.”

If Australia’s last attempt to outsource its asylum-seeker problem to an aid-dependent neighbor is anything to go by, Guterres may get his way. Before he was voted out of office last year, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stitched together a deal with Papua New Guinea (PNG) — an impoverished state where the maltreatment of refugees (in this case West Papuan), police brutality and corruption rival those in Cambodia — to resettle 1,000-odd male asylum seekers currently held in an Australian-run detention center on PNG’s Manus Island.

At the time, then Shadow Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison decried Rudd for “not being upfront,” ignoring the practical difficulties of resettling refugees in PNG and for signing over $400 million in taxpayers’ funds in return “for a blank sheet of paper.”

In the two years that have passed, not a single Australian asylum seeker has been resettled there. The reasons for the failure were manifold, but, as Morrison eruditely opined, PNG was unable to provide anything resembling a durable and secure solution for refugees. The country also lacks a basic legal framework to determine the refugee status of asylum seekers.

The only place where Australia’s Regional Resettlement Arrangement has ever been put into action is Nauru. There, 51 Shi‘ite men from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, recognized by Australia as genuine refugees, are living outside the island’s detention center in a community tellingly known as Fly Camp.

“We are living in a camp in the jungle. This is where they resettled us. This is no place to live. If we are refugees why are we not living in community? We have no neighbors here. Our neighbors, our relatives are mosquitoes and flies and dogs,” a refugee who could not be named for legal reasons told Suvendrini Perera, a professor in cultural analysis at Curtin University.

Said another: “Scott Morrison, he wants to sell us, sometimes to one country, sometimes to another country. But no one is ready to [welcome] us.”

And while Cambodia appears willing to break the status quo, it will do so on the caveat that Australia’s asylum seekers migrate on their own volition. And that’s an unlikely possibility, given that some of those in Nauru have said they would rather die than go to Cambodia — literally. After watching a video where Morrison announced the deal with Cambodia, a 15-year-old asylum seeker drank a bottle of washing liquid. She was one of half a dozen inmates who recently attempted suicide in the offshore detention center and was flown to Australian with her mother for emergency medical treatment.

Seen in this context, the Cambodian resettlement plan, like the PNG resettlement plan before it, is destined to fail and unlikely to help a single asylum seeker find refuge in a safe and productive environment. But here’s what it will do.

First, it will fuel corruption in Cambodia by providing a pool of tens of millions of pilferable dollars.

Second, it will, like the detention centers themselves, provide another cruel and calculated deterrent for other asylum seekers considering riding a leaky boat from Indonesia to Australia, by creating conditions that are just as bad, if not worse, than those they fled from.

And third, it will hamstring Australia’s ability to win international support for the critical foreign policy issues it is championing, like stopping the Japanese from resuming whaling in Antarctica, the war against ISIS and seeking justice for victims of the Malaysia Airline’s MH17 tragedy, 36 of whom were Australian residents.

“Only last month, [Australian] Prime Minister Tony Abbott told off Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Crimea. He told Putin, ‘You shouldn’t do something simply because you can,’” says Cambodian-born Australian lawmaker Hong Lim. “But now Australia is paying Cambodia to take part in this ridiculous, immoral plan just because they know they can get away with it. They are bestowing legitimacy to members of a regime who will just take their money and run.”

TIME Japan

Recovery of Bodies Under Way at Japanese Volcano

Japan Volcano
Rescue workers carry a climber recovered from Mount Ontake into an ambulance in Kiso, in central Japan, on Sept. 28, 2014 Kyodo News—AP

At least 31 people are believed to have died

(TOKYO)— Military and other rescue workers began airlifting more than two dozen bodies from the ash-blanketed peak of a Japanese volcano on Monday morning, as family members of the missing waited at a nearby elementary school.

At least 31 people are believed to have died. Four victims were flown down Sunday, and rescuers returned to 3,067-meter (10,062-foot) Mt. Ontake on Monday morning to recover the remaining 27.

Scenes broadcast live on Japanese TV station TBS showed soldiers carrying yellow body bags one-by-one to a camouflage military helicopter that had landed in a relatively wide-open area of the now bleak landscape, its rotors still spinning.

The first bodies were flown to a nearby athletic field, its green grass and surrounding forested hills contrasting with Mt. Ontake’s ash-gray peak in the background, a reduced plume still emerging from its crater.

There, they were transferred to white police vans, while two dozen officers struggled to hold up long blue tarps under the spinning rotors, blocking the view from the media.

The four brought down Sunday have been confirmed dead, said Takehiko Furukoshi, a Nagano prefecture crisis-management official.

The 27 others are listed as having heart and lung failure, the customary way for Japanese authorities to describe a body until police doctors can examine it.

Saturday’s eruption was the first fatal one in modern times at Mount Ontake, a popular climbing destination 210 kilometers (130 miles) west of Tokyo on the main Japanese island of Honshu. A similar eruption occurred in 1979, but no one died.

Japanese media reported that some of the bodies were found in a lodge near the summit and that others were buried in ash up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) deep. Police said only two of the four confirmed dead had been identified. Both were men, ages 23 and 45.

Mount Ontake erupted shortly before noon at perhaps the worst possible time, with at least 250 people taking advantage of a beautiful fall Saturday to go for a hike. The blast spewed large white plumes of gas and ash high into the sky, blotted out the midday sun and blanketed the surrounding area in ash.

Hundreds were initially trapped on the slopes, though most made their way down by Saturday night.

About 40 people who were stranded overnight came down on Sunday. Many were injured, and some had to be rescued by helicopters or carried down on stretchers. By nightfall, all the injured had been brought down, officials said.

Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency tallied 37 injured people and said it was trying to update the number still missing.

Furukoshi said rescuers gave priority to helping the survivors come down, leaving behind those who were obviously without hope.

Survivors told Japanese media that they were pelted by rocks. One man said he and others went into the basement of a lodge, fearing that the rocks would penetrate the roof. He covered himself with a futon, a thin Japanese mattress, for protection.

“Even small eruptions can cause major damage if people are around, as they get hit by rocks that come flying,” Nagoya University volcanologist Koshun Yamaoka said at a news conference Sunday.

Volcanoes can also kill by spewing toxic gases and lung-choking ash.

Shinichi Shimohara, who works at a shrine at the foot of the mountain, said he was on his way up Saturday morning when he heard a loud noise that sounded like strong winds followed by “thunder” as the volcano erupted.


Julian Assange Speaks in Nantucket — as a Hologram

The face of WikiLeaks spoke about Google, martyrs and political asylum

A ghostly Julian Assange appeared by hologram at the Nantucket Project on Sunday, beamed in from the Ecuadorian embassy where he has stayed under political asylum since 2012 (though he says he will soon leave).

Interviewed by the filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, Assange discussed digital analogues to the shops and services in the old town square: banks, stores, post offices and libraries.

“I am in some ways,” he said, “just a simple librarian who’s very good at saying no.”

However, as his self-appointed WikiLeaks title of editor in chief suggests, he’s also a publisher. And from inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, he’s found it very hard to carry out that role. “I can’t physically meet sources,” he said, noting that this makes for a particular challenge when dealing with others who are also confined in some way, like Ai Weiwei, who cannot leave China.

Labels that Assange will not accept for himself include “vigilante” and “martyr.” He said he made his decision to leak the controversial Chelsea Manning papers with a level head, predicting that it would be “a hard time for maybe five to seven years,” but that there would be some benefits to his risk. Four years later, he stands by that decision.

He believes Tim Berners-Lee’s recent call for a Magna Carta of the Internet “probably should be done,” but he is skeptical that we can actually reach international consensus. “We will create norms as norms have always been created in the past,” he said, “not mainly by belief, not mainly be desire, but by action.”

Assange discussed his new book, When Google Met WikiLeaks, and noted that Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt’s book, How Google Works, also came out this week. “If you see Eric Schmidt’s book, the cover of it is remarkably similar to the cover of this book,” he said, brandishing a hologram version of his own. “So similar that I’m not sure the timing was a coincidence in publication.” Both covers are inspired by Google’s iconic homepage.

Google, Assange said, would pass itself off as a company of “fluffy graduate students,” or, “not even a company at all, but something that gives free services.”

“It’s not that,” he said. “It’s a normal company, just like other normal companies in the U.S. It should be seen as a normal company.”

However, Google differs from other “normal” companies, he said, in its project to “collect as much information about the world as is possible, store it, index it, make predictive models about people’s interests, and use that to sell advertising.” This, he said, is “basically what the National Security Agency is doing.”

When an audience member posed a question about Europe’s ruling that citizens have a “right to be forgotten” by Google, Assange said, “I don’t think the actual right to be forgotten itself is very interesting so I’m not going to talk about that.” But he is interested in the power dynamics of the case, arguing that the E.U. has recognized that Google is not just “something like a publisher,” but because of its enormous size and influence, is “more something like a government.”

Assange and Jarecki closed the talk with a hologram high five.

TIME India

India’s Modi Comes Full Circle at Madison Square Garden

Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India waves to the crowd as he arrives to give a speech during a reception by the Indian community in honor of his visit to the United States at Madison Square Garden, Sept. 28, 2014, in New York. Jason DeCrow—AP

Thousands of Indian Americans turned out to welcome the visiting leader at the famous New York arena

Until this weekend, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had one thing in common with Eric Prydz, the Swedish DJ and electronic dance music star known for his elaborate concerts. Prydz’s shows are audiovisual extravaganzas complete with pulsating lasers, animations and three-dimensional holograms, including one of the man himself. Modi, too, has experience with digital doppelgängers: during the Indian national election in which his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) eventually won a large majority, the 64-year-old used the latest in high-tech wizardry to deploy holograms of himself at simultaneous rallies around the country.

Now, Prydz and the Prime Minister have two things in common.

On Sunday morning, hours after the Swedish DJ finished playing an extended set at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, lines began forming along 31st Street and up 7th Avenue for the next big act at the venue: a “community reception” for Modi, who like Prydz, made his debut at the famed arena this weekend.

Thousands of Indian Americans turned out to cheer the visiting leader, almost filling the giant hall to capacity. Over 18,000 people had been assigned free tickets via a lottery, after more than 30,000 applied to attend. Inside, as the crowd settled in, big screens above the stage flashed stylized portraits of Modi looking out into the far distance that resembled Shepard Fairey’s 2008 “Hope” poster of Barack Obama. Many in the audience wore T-shirts bearing the same image. Accompanying the crowd was a contingent of American lawmakers: New Jersey Democrat and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Senator Bob Menendez was there, along with over three dozen congressional colleagues, and also the Indian-American Republican governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley.

Organized by a newly established group called the Indian American Community Foundation, the whole affair had the feel of an election rally or party convention — so much so that, at one stage, as the crowd anticipated the Prime Minister’s arrival by chanting his name, one of the M.C.s light-heartedly reminded the audience that Modi had already been elected.

His entrance after a series of musical and dance warm-up acts sent the audience into a frenzy. In his speech, delivered from a rotating platform, Modi reiterated his campaign promises to fix India’s ailing economy and announced measures to simplify visa procedures for foreigners of Indian descent. “Since taking over, I haven’t even taken a 15-minute vacation,” he said, drawing yet more cheers.

It was a date nearly 10 years in the making. In 2005, Modi, then chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat, was preparing to travel to the U.S. to address Indian Americans from the same New York stage, when the Bush Administration slammed the door shut in his face. The U.S. denied him a diplomatic visa and yanked his existing nondiplomatic visa under a law barring entry to any foreign government official “who was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom,” pointing to the bloody sectarian rioting in Gujarat on his watch in 2002. His absence at the Madison Square Garden event was marked with an empty chair on the podium

But then, in May this year, the BJP forcefully shoved a Congress Party–led coalition off the seat of power in Delhi. General elections gave the Hindu nationalists the biggest single-party parliamentary majority in three decades, a feat that firmly established Modi as the biggest beast on the national scene. The Congress, blamed for a raft of high-profile corruption scandals and for steering the economy into a ditch, was consigned to the political undergrowth. An invitation to the White House soon followed — Modi heads to Washington, D.C., on Monday — and the visa ban was conveniently forgotten.

And so, quite apart from what it means for Indo-U.S. ties, this week’s visit marks “the culmination of the re-imagination of Narendra Modi, from someone who was denied entry onto U.S. soil to a leader who is being feted by the New York and Washington, D.C., establishment,” says Milan Vaishnav, an associate with the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The size of the Madison Square Garden rally might also prove politically useful as Modi meets President Barack Obama, says Vaishnav. “It’s a politically savvy move. It sends the message that, in addition to a very large support base back home, Modi also has supporters in the U.S. It says to the American government, Look, I have a constituency among your voters, not just mine.”

But the hype and excitement isn’t just about Modi, says Devesh Kapur, the director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s a signal from the Indian-American community that it has ‘arrived.’ There’s a part of it which is about Modi, the rock-star politician. But it’s also a signal by the community to the politicians here in the U.S. to take them seriously.”

Not that everyone is celebrating Modi’s visit. While the audience inside cheered and applauded him, a small group of protesters outside Madison Square Garden on Sunday chanted anti-Modi slogans, questioning his record on religious minorities. And last week, shortly before he touched down in the U.S., a New York court issued a summons for him to respond to a lawsuit accusing him of rights abuses connected to the 2002 Gujarat riots. Though officials from both India and the U.S. stressed that he had immunity as a visiting head of government, the summons was an awkward reminder of Modi’s controversial past as the White House prepared to roll out the red carpet for the new Indian leader.

TIME Military

The War Against ISIS: Operation Fingers Crossed

Airstrikes in Syria
A KC-135 Stratotanker begins a mission refueling U.S. warplanes attacking Syria. Senior Airman Matthew Bruch / U.S. Central Command

History offers a checkered record on its chances of success

For more than a week, U.S. and allied warplanes have bombed targets inside Syria every day. While that may seem an awful lot like war to those being pounded, it hardly feels that way to most Americans. When U.S. troops are in combat, on the ground, they’re generally accompanied by reporters, who in recent conflicts have been able to fill TV screens and the Internet with up-close scenes of the action.

But when the U.S. elects to conduct an air war, Americans generally witness the action from airborne targeting cameras, or social-media posts from the ground. Both of those, of course, have their own problems: footage released by the Pentagon has been edited—scrubbed, if you prefer—and represents only a tiny fraction of what was recorded. The provenance and, indeed, the authenticity of cell phone videos allegedly capturing what is happening on the ground gives a similarly incomplete, and often suspect, picture of what’s happening.

The U.S. military’s assault against targets belonging to two groups of Islamic militants inside Syria has become almost background noise for most Americans. Granted, the airmen involved are at risk, but the nation generally seems to focus on war—and holds its breath—only when U.S. ground troops are involved in combat.

For Americans, that’s a double-edged sword. For sure, it cuts down on the risk to U.S. military personnel. But it also makes accomplishing President Obama’s declared mission—the destruction of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the Khorasan Group—tougher to achieve.

That’s why Pentagon officials have made clear that the aerial campaign is open-ended and likely to be lengthy. Inflicting real pain on the jihadists is going to require ground troops, and U.S. officials say they’re more than a year away from training the first batch of 5,000 to take on an ISIS force estimated at 30,000.

“I don’t see the political strategy, at least a realistic one, in Syria,” Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told CNN Sunday. “That begs the question, how long are we going to be there and is there any end? There’s just no appetite in the American public for an open-ended military conflict in Syria.”

Todd Harrison of the independent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimates that the cost of the U.S. war against ISIS is approaching $1 billion, and could end up costing $6 billion annually for an aggressive, sustained bombing campaign. While significant, that’s far less than the roughly $150 billion the U.S. spent during the peak years of the Afghan (2011) and Iraq (2008) wars.

At best, the daily bombing will likely only freeze ISIS’s grip on eastern Syria. “Combined with our ongoing efforts in Iraq, these strikes will continue to deny [ISIS] freedom of movement and challenge its ability to plan, direct, and sustain its operations,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday. In western Iraq, reinvigorated Iraqi army and peshmerga forces are more likely to regain ground lost to ISIS over the past year.

Such campaigns have a mixed history. When the U.S. and its allies forced Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in 1991 in Operation Desert Storm, it took a 43-day aerial bombardment before ground forces swept in to finish the job.

The 1999 NATO-led air campaign to drive Serbs out of Kosovo in the Balkans, Operation Allied Force, required 28,000 high-explosive munitions. It cost an estimated $3 billion and killed nearly 500 civilians. The 78-day barrage did highlight airpower’s ability change the reality on the ground.

But both of those examples pitted the U.S. and its allies against organized state militaries commanded by dictators: Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. As heads of state responsible for far more than battlefields, they were subject to pressures the zealously-driven ISIS is unlikely to feel.

The air war that most closely parallels what the U.S. is now conducting against ISIS is Operation Unified Protector, the U.S.-led seven-month effort over Libya in 2011. Launched by the U.S., with NATO eventually assuming a larger role, it began as a humanitarian effort to protect Libyan rebels from Muammar Gaddafi’s army. While air strikes played a critical role in Gaddafi’s ouster and eventual killing, the country has since been wracked by conflict among its warring factions.

Two years ago, terrorists took advantage of the chaos to attack U.S. diplomatic outposts in Benghazi, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. “Where you’ve got states that are failing or in the midst of civil war, these kinds of organizations thrive,” Obama told CBS’ 60 Minutes Sunday night, referring to ISIS. But he just as surely could have been speaking of Libya, where the war he launched more than three years ago initially was hailed as a victory for U.S. leadership. Two months ago, the U.S. shuttered its embassy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli and evacuated its diplomats.

“The fate of that country has been largely absent from discussions about the new war,” the New York Times warned Sunday, “which is certain to last longer and unleash a wider array of consequences.”

The Pentagon, thus far, has declined to name that new war.

TIME Hong Kong

See Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protesters Clash With Police

Crowds of 50,000 have gathered in the city streets, and more than 70 people have been arrested so far

Police have unleashed tear gas, batons and pepper spray on crowds in central Hong Kong in ongoing protests there, as demonstrators demanded the right to vote to pick their own city Chief Executive.

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong in Turmoil: 5 Takeaways From Weekend of Protests

Here are the key things to know about the worsening clashes between police and demonstrators in the city

Hong Kong, one of the world’s most dynamic and orderly cities, has become a battle zone.

On Sunday and into early Monday, police used tear gas and pepper spray to try to disperse protesters from the main government complex downtown. The crackdown had the opposite effect. More protesters joined the demos and sit-ins, which have now spread to other parts of Hong Kong island and to popular shopping districts across the harbor in Kowloon. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets. Clashes between protesters and police are taking place. Traffic is at a standstill. A sense of danger prevails in what is normally one of the safest places on the planet. When citizens awake Monday morning to try to go to work or school, they will find a city in chaos and crisis.

The protesters, who had been in a standoff at the downtown complex for days, want Hong Kong’s authorities to introduce full democracy in the territory, starting with the election of its head of government, or Chief Executive, in 2017. But China, which has sovereignty over Hong Kong, decreed that a narrow “nominating committee” would allow only up to three candidates to contest, effectively screening out anyone whom Beijing opposes.

Maya Wang, China researcher for Human Rights Watch, says Beijing has lost control in trying to grasp more of it. “Rejecting democracy in Hong Kong has dramatically backfired [for them] in that people here have now lost confidence in the central government,” she said. The situation on the ground remains fluid, but here are five takeaways from Hong Kong’s season of unrest:

1. The protests cut across Hong Kong society.
The protests disprove the conventional wisdom that Hong Kong’s citizens care singularly about making money and getting ahead. The protesters represent a cross-section of society: young and old, professionals and small-business people, the low-income and the middle class. As lawyer Audrey Eu, a longtime democracy activist, says: “This is a broad-based movement.”

2. This is as much about inequality as democracy.
While greater democracy is the No. 1 item on the protesters’ agenda, livelihood issues also figure. Once, the Hong Kong dream — rapid-upward social mobility — was accessible to many individuals and families. But in recent years Hong Kong has become an ever more expensive place to live for its citizens. The entry price to buy a home is beyond the means of many citizens, who equally feel that government policies are rigged to favor the elite, especially wealthy property developers. Indeed, Hong Kong has one of the widest income gaps in the world for a developed society. Those agitating for more democracy believe that it will result in a government more accountable and responsive to the needs of the less well-off.

3. The difference between Hong Kong and mainland China is not just political.
Hong Kong citizens resent ever greater numbers of mainland residents and visitors buying up everything from apartments to infant formula, and occupying everything from hospital beds to school places. Locals also find mainlanders can be boorish. Hong Kong social media often spotlights mainland parents allowing their children to urinate or even defecate in public. While this may not seem critical, it shows how far apart culturally Hong Kong and mainland China are.

4. Beijing is clearly mismanaging the fringes of China’s empire.
Both Xinjiang and Tibet are restive, with locals angry at being marginalized by Han Chinese in their own homelands. The territory of Xinjiang, in particular, has been rocked by bomb and knife attacks as extremists turn to violence to fight back. Taiwan, which Beijing wants to reclaim under the same “one country, two systems” formula for reunification for Hong Kong, will be hugely distrustful now of any promises of autonomy from Beijing. And even citizens in Macau, the most obedient of China’s special regions, are now agitating for greater freedom and transparency. Beijing’s tactics might work in the short time to suppress dissent, but the tensions will only build and boil over. As is happening in Hong Kong.

5. Hong Kong faces a tough fight ahead.
Hong Kong is pushing for democracy precisely when China is becoming more authoritarian at home and exercising a sterner diplomatic approach abroad. Beijing is cracking down hard on dissent at home. The latest example: the life sentence handed to moderate Uighur academic Ilham Tohti allegedly for advocating “separatism” for Xinjiang. China has also become more assertive, even aggressive, over its maritime disputes with its Asian neighbors, essentially refusing to negotiate and imposing its own boundaries. Thus, Hong Kong — which, with its 7 million people, is just a tiny corner of China — can expect no quarter from Beijing over its fight for democracy.

— With reporting by Elizabeth Barber / Hong Kong

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