Clay Risen

The danger of generals-as-CEOs.
April 03, 2006

, a former assistant editor at The New Republic, is managing editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. On September 10, 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave an address that seemed remarkably prescient. Speaking at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld warned of "an adversary that poses a threat, [a] serious threat, to the security of the United States of America"--one that "attempts to impose its demands across time zones, continents, oceans, and beyond. With brutal consistency, it stifles free thought and crushes new ideas.

Degree Burns
January 23, 2006

It was early 2003, and the newly created Department of Homeland Security was looking for someone to help oversee its vast computer network. The department soon found a candidate who appeared to be a perfect match: Laura Callahan. Not only had Callahan been working with federal IT systems since the mid-'80s, but she came with outstanding academic credentials: bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science, topped by a Ph.D. in computer information systems.

Immigration migrates.
November 07, 2005

It's 8:30 on a recent Monday morning, and the county-sponsored day- laborer site in Shirlington, Virginia--a light-industrial neighborhood just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.-- is bustling. About 60 young Latino men are sipping coffee and chatting in a small parking lot, along one side of which runs an open, green-roofed shelter. Every few minutes, a contractor's truck pulls up and the conversation stops as the men hurry over to see what sort of work the driver is offering. After a bit of negotiating, the contractor picks a few men; they hop into the truck and drive off.

Ground Zero in the Big Easy.
October 03, 2005

Less than a week after September 11, 2001, The Wall Street Journal's venerable architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable, penned a presciently pessimistic essay about the fate of Ground Zero. "Rebuilding on this site requires serious consideration," she wrote. "And yet ...

September 19, 2005

Captain Ty Wiltz normally oversees the narcotics division of the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office. But, since Katrina hit, he has been leading a search and rescue team deep into the parish bayou, which begins just south of New Orleans and runs nearly 100 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

Plus Ca Change
September 19, 2005

The only thing harder to imagine than rebuilding New Orleans is not rebuilding New Orleans. If the notion of reconstructing vast swaths of a city of 500,000 inhabitants, with all the economic and civic functions that go with it, seems daunting, imagine having to do it from scratch, somewhere else.

Road Model
August 22, 2005

Just after dawn on October 19, 1864, a force of 14,000 Confederate soldiers surprised a Union camp along Cedar Creek, at the northern edge of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. The Union troops quickly retreated. But what looked like an easy Confederate victory fell apart when Major General Philip Sheridan arrived on horseback, rallied his troops, and won a crushing counterattack.

Store Lobby
July 25, 2005

On April 5, Wal-Mart did something that would have been almost unthinkable even a year ago: It held a press conference. After decades of rapid growth, the retail giant has recently experienced a wave of activist ire and bad P.R., from campaigns to block new stores to lawsuits over its lower-than- living-wage wages.

Stop Loss
June 20, 2005

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Bill Donaldson was a Marine platoon commander in the Korean War, and he played the good soldier throughout his illustrious business career--right up to his resignation press conference last week. Asked by reporters to comment on pressure from the business lobby for his removal, the reform-minded chairman demurred: "When you talk about the business community, I really don't know who you're talking about. "But even the famously tight-lipped Donaldson couldn't keep up the act.

War Stories
May 23, 2005

It's May 8, the sixtieth anniversary of V-E Day, and I'm standing in Berlin amid 1,000 neo-Nazis, gathered behind a small army of riot police to protest the end of World War II. Of course, any overt expression of Nazism is banned over here (the most common neo-Nazi accoutrement today is medical tape covering various tattoos and t-shirt slogans), and the sponsor of the rally--the extremist Nationalistische Partei Deutschlands (NPD)--disavows any direct connection to the Third Reich. But practically everyone sports a shaved head, and even those who don't, such as a group of buttoned-down, middle