Leon Wieseltier

Damascus Calling

When the sordid Sergey Lavrov demanded to know “the endgame” of the Security Council’s attempt to interfere with Bashar Assad’s atrocities against his people, Hillary Clinton replied that “the endgame in the absence of us acting together as the international community, I fear, is civil war.” According to many press accounts, there is already a civil war in Syria.

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Fevers

“The list of controversies grows weekly,” Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner, filing from Jerusalem, write in The New York Times.

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Going to Melody

In a country as injured as ours, there is something unseemly about all this sagacious talk of creative destruction. A concept that was designed to suggest the ironic cruelty of innovation has been twisted into an extenuation of economic misery—into capitalism’s theodicy. Where there are winners, there are losers: praise the Lord and pass the Kindle.

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Is there a god?

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Beyond Tahrir

Democratization is not an event in the life of a society, it is an era: a protracted turbulence. There is no other way. Dictatorships are more easily established. But if strong nerves are required for the birth of a liberal order, so, too, are open eyes. In the interval between the fall of a tyranny and the rise of a democracy, a lot can go wrong. Every saga of democratization includes adversaries of democracy, whose objection to the tyranny that fell was that it repressed society for the wrong reason.

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When it was suggested, on an uncommonly busy day, that I could be absolved of my regular visit to the market, because a friend was on her way there and could pick up what I needed, I would have been mad to decline the help. But I did decline it, and I was not mad. The outcome would have been the same: the food would have made it to my table. But I am interested in more than outcomes. I am wary of finding myself in the middle of an existence too busy, too arrogantly busy, for elementary things.

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Against One

Nothing demystifies a dictator like death. The videos of Qaddafi dragged from a drainpipe, addled and bloodied, and then dead on the floor of a large freezer, harshly illustrated the absurdity of tyranny. An entire country held for forty-two years in the grip of this flabby, destructible man? It makes no sense; or rather this particular view of dictatorship makes no sense—the cinematically simple notion of the dictator as shrewdly, almost magically in control of a whole people, a solitary villain at the top whose removal is all that is required for his society to be free.

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What a poor student of Edward Said Sari Nusseibeh is!

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The Casuist

Political argument is never pure. I do not mean that it is always influenced by interests. I do not believe that. Even as the black arts of influence flourish as never before, I quixotically insist upon the possibility of objectivity, because without it this democracy is doomed. Logic and evidence (which must be funded!) will sooner or later thwart the attempts of the powerful—numerically, financially—to define the true. The integrity of argument is one of the requirements of a political order that determines its course by the expression, and the evaluation, of opinion.

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After Nobility

The politics of anti-politics is a great American comedy. Contempt for Washington has become one of the primary qualifications for elevation to Washington. Those who despise government are desperate to join it; those who despise politics are politicians. And those who cherish government and cherish politics are ominously instructed by their consultants to be silent. Inside the system they pretend that they are outside the system, and denounce the institutions as if they are not talking about themselves.

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