The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Hey, Just Wanted to Make Sure You Heard How Great Iceland Is

We get it, Iceland. We get it.

yayiceland
yayiceland

Just in case you haven’t heard: Iceland is great. Iceland is so great that, in the past 24 hours or so, numerous non-Icelandic publications have run stories on the variety of ways in which Iceland, which has a population of roughly 330,000, is great.

But a few years ago, Iceland was in the throes of economic crisis. And a few months ago, Iceland was engulfed in scandal, its then-prime minister (who has since resigned) having been identified in leaked financial documents known as the Panama Papers for partially owning an undeclared offshore company.

Now, however, Iceland has come barreling back and is having, as they say, a moment. And its moment, like apparently everything about Icelandic politics, is great.

Just in case you haven’t heard: Iceland is great. Iceland is so great that, in the past 24 hours or so, numerous non-Icelandic publications have run stories on the variety of ways in which Iceland, which has a population of roughly 330,000, is great.

But a few years ago, Iceland was in the throes of economic crisis. And a few months ago, Iceland was engulfed in scandal, its then-prime minister (who has since resigned) having been identified in leaked financial documents known as the Panama Papers for partially owning an undeclared offshore company.

Now, however, Iceland has come barreling back and is having, as they say, a moment. And its moment, like apparently everything about Icelandic politics, is great.

Iceland is a great place to be a woman in politics. Before last Saturday’s elections, Iceland’s was the 11th-most female parliament in the world. But women won 30 seats in the vote, and it is now the fourth. Currently, 48 percent of Iceland’s members of parliament are women.

Iceland is a great place for political participation of populist parties. Iceland’s Pirate Party, which has not a chairman but a captain, which is composed of “anarchists, hackers, libertarians and Web geeks,” and which did not exist four years ago, was able to participate so fully in the democratic process that many (including the prime minister, who resigned) thought the Pirates would sail to victory.

But, oh! Iceland is also a great place to defeat populism. Bjarni Benediktsson, the conservative who will likely be the next prime minister of Iceland, said his party was able to defeat the Pirates and other rivals by not overspending or over-promising and instead maintaining low unemployment and high economic growth. How moderate. How reasoned. How nice for Icelanders, 79 percent of whom exercised their right to vote, because of course they did.

But wait, you say. Iceland has many great things, sure, like this 400-year-old government meeting table, but surely it is ultimately one of a host of flawed countries. But such thinking is a trap set for critics of Iceland, for Iceland is even a great place to criticize Iceland. Early last month, this Icelandic outlet, not content to let the international media sing its country’s praises, convened four Icelanders to imagine what a Utopian Iceland might really look like.

Great. Super. Just what we need — another reason to read about an even better Iceland.

Photo credit: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

More from Foreign Policy

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a commission on military-technical cooperation with foreign states in 2017.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a commission on military-technical cooperation with foreign states in 2017.

What’s the Harm in Talking to Russia? A Lot, Actually.

Diplomacy is neither intrinsically moral nor always strategically wise.

Officers with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) wait outside an apartment in Kharkiv oblast, Ukraine.
Officers with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) wait outside an apartment in Kharkiv oblast, Ukraine.

Ukraine Has a Secret Resistance Operating Behind Russian Lines

Modern-day Ukrainian partisans are quietly working to undermine the occupation.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron wave as they visit the landmark Brandenburg Gate illuminated in the colors of the Ukrainian flag in Berlin on May 9, 2022.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron wave as they visit the landmark Brandenburg Gate illuminated in the colors of the Ukrainian flag in Berlin on May 9, 2022.

The Franco-German Motor Is on Fire

The war in Ukraine has turned Europe’s most powerful countries against each other like hardly ever before.

U.S. President Joe Biden holds a semiconductor during his remarks before signing an executive order on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.
U.S. President Joe Biden holds a semiconductor during his remarks before signing an executive order on the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

How the U.S.-Chinese Technology War Is Changing the World

Washington’s crackdown on technology access is creating a new kind of global conflict.